Downsizing: An emotional roller coaster

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By Terri Nighswonger
My husband and I have been living full time in our RV for the last 20 months. We’ve been stationary, we’ve traveled, been stationary, and traveled again. Our lives always look chaotic on the outside but, really, we are pretty stable people even though some may say otherwise.

I was reflecting today on our journey thus far and was thinking to myself, what’s been the hardest part? I think I’d say the hardest part was downsizing to move into our travel trailer. My husband didn’t want to pay for storage. I think men have less of an attachment to “things” than women do to start. I possessed everything from antiques that were family heirlooms, to Mother’s Day cards my kids made when they were little.

What do I do with all of it, was my first question. Todd said, “Throw it away or sell it!” But how could I sell the cedar chest that was a gift for my high school graduation or the shelves that my mother had refinished for me? I had afghans that my grandmothers had crocheted. I certainly wouldn’t sell those. My heart skipped a beat every time I was met with the question, “What do you want to do with this?”

It really didn’t help that time was a factor. We purchased our RV in October of 2018 and were set to move that December. We put items up for sale on Facebook Marketplace and planned to submit the last big items to an auction house. Those were the big things like the bedroom set and a few antiques.

In the end, I just had to keep telling myself that it was “all just stuff.” If, God forbid, there was a fire, there would not have been time, nor would I have wanted to try and save anything but myself and my dog, and husband too.

I do feel that one needs to mourn the loss of some of those “things.” I was told to take a picture and keep those and, of course, I still have the memory.

For those who might be keeping things in storage or just starting this process, it might sound weird, but I had to come to terms with each piece. Once I said, “I’m okay with that being sold,” then I knew it wasn’t a problem. We sold several items through Facebook Marketplace, including the cedar chest, and I was able to meet the new owners and, in several cases, we helped to deliver the item and place it in their house. Seeing where my stuff was going was a big help.

I still have a few items stored at my mother’s house and a few boxes of pictures in my father-in-law’s garage. We hope to get those scanned at some point.

About that auction. Apparently we didn’t do our due diligence because the items only brought in a small amount of money – maybe $50. Someone got a steal on a bedroom set that we paid a lot of money for. For that, we just had to say, “Let’s move on.”

Now I can say that I don’t miss all that stuff. We try to go through the things in our RV every six months or so, or every time we move. If we haven’t even looked at it in that time, we make a Goodwill donation run.

What has been your experience with downsizing? Are you caught between room in the RV and the memories in that item? Tell me in the comments – I’d love to hear from you.

##RVT960

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mike
1 month ago

Went through the process of downsizing many years ago. Decisions, keep and store=cost, sell=at a loss, take it with you=no room. The bottom line was I was going full time. Read many articles on full timing and one comment stood out, if you like it so much take a picture and get rid of it, By storing you will probable be in a position to buy the same thing 3 times over, sentimental about the item, take a picture. Give it to your kids, really, they, they most likely don’t want your stuff, take a picture….Anyways, that was over 30 years ago, and no regrets, and I have gobs of pictures if I get melodically. PS, not longer full timing, living in a stick house and accumulating more junk…..

Jon
1 month ago

Thank you for that article. My wife read it and decided that she would let all of our children know that it was time to downsize, even though we are not planning or permanently living in our RV or even moving from our house. The article has helped her with this process. She has decided that we will let all of our children know what items we are parting with and if they want them we will give them to them now so that we can see them enjoy the “things,” many of which have been in our two respective families for years and even generations. Anything not wanted, will be offered to members of our extended families (i.e cousins, siblings, etc). After everyone has had opportunities to get things that belonged to our parents, grandparents, etc. we will sell them. Your article has helped us remember that we still have our memories.

Sheila
1 month ago

We are planning to sell our house and full-time it by December. I have a very difficult time with some things, others not so much. We had two yard sales, and while I cringed as I watched things go into someone’s car, I never thought of them again. I have been selling on Facebook Marketplace toys and trinkets and things needed in a three-floor, four bedroom house, but not in a 40’ RV. There are things that I will not part with—my religious Lladro collection (which isn’t really worth much now), my photo albums, some artwork, and scrapbooks—but other collections (tea infusers), hats, fish serving pieces (about 100 pieces) are going. Most furniture is going, but not my bedroom set or the living room pieces my husband built. We are working out storage now. As the time gets closer, I know more and more has to go, and I’m going to deal with it. Love reading how others have done it, and how they cope.

Ellen
1 month ago

Interesting to see how others have handled downsizing from sticks-and-bricks to RV square-footage! We made our transition more than ten years ago. After looking for a buyer for our house for at least a year (this was at the start of the recession), we found buyers but they needed to be in the house within a month. We sold large items via Craigslist and had some estate sales. We priced things at rock-bottom (one couple brought a flat bed trailer to load stuff onto….).

Despite thinking we’d miss our Amish-made furniture, Harley motorcycle, collection of Native American crafts and all those clothes, we haven’t missed any of it. I spent the first year or so of full-timing staring at stuff in stores thinking, “What do people DO with all this stuff?!?” As someone said… this lifestyle is either for you or it isn’t.

Dalmom
1 month ago

I could never, ever live on wheels granted we love to travel and see the states, but when it’s time to head home, I’m just as thrilled going home sweet home on acres of green grass and shade trees as I was loading up and traveling.I don’t think my husband could do it either, he would have to downsize to only one set of golf clubs and this would absolutely put him into tears! Haha. We meet full timers and I get why some do it. But it’s definitely not for us. We met a couple that had their 3000 sf home for sale on a lake after 30 years and were going full time in a class A during this pandemic they were first time RVers and we thought boy they got a lot to learn. When we met them they were only camping two hours from home? Hmmmmmm

Bill
1 month ago

We keep upsizing the motorhome because my wife wants to carry more stuff. But we had to clean out my father’s apartment last year when he passed away, my mother had died six years earlier. He had kept lots of stuff with no real pattern. When they moved to a smaller house thirty years ago my mother made a list of things to keep and things to get rid of. They kept the list!

We also found that younger family members didn’t want the “heirloom” items, and large items of furniture don’t sell. The consignment store we took things to drops the price each month and after three months they own it if you don’t go get it back. Most of the silver and china went to Replacements Unlimited. Lots and lots of trips to Goodwill with anything that might still be useful to someone.

Emily
1 month ago

I am currently in the process of downsizing, and I’m taking pictures of the things that have sentimental value. I asked myself why I want to keep those things (many of which I don’t actively use!) and it’s because they hold memories for me. I get the same memories if I look at the pictures, and I can keep those digitally in the cloud so they aren’t even in danger of getting wrecked. It’s working for me so far! 😁

Chris
1 month ago

I lost my husband, which taught me that “stuff” is just stuff. The few important pieces of furniture that I couldn’t part with, I gave to my kids. I gave other family members whatever they wanted to take. I did put some keepsakes in storage, sent a huge amount to the auction house and a van full to a local vintage store.

Diane Mc
1 month ago

”I think men have less of an attachment to “things” than women do to start.” You haven’t met my husband! He’s raced his whole life, loves cars. One of the reasons we ended up together :-). He has a 1600 sq ft shop, 3 20ft huts & 2 trailers…all filled with parts (enough to build lots of race cars) & cars. Keeps saying needs to start selling things. I told him, I’m going to die first, so I don’t have to deal with it…lol. BTW, not just in shop/huts. Saved lots of family stuff (mother was a hoarder too), in the house. Lots of it is pretty cool. His Dad was a mining Engineer during the war. They lived in Nevada (where he was born). But books/magazines/pictures, etc. We never had a desire to full time. Couldn’t imagine making decisions like some have posted. Taking pictures is a good idea.

Bill Flowers
1 month ago

We are about to downsize so your perspective was interesting to read.

In the past we frequented an auction house, even buying some furniture. I know from experience that unless there is something very special about the furniture it goes for pennies on the dollar. The things that meant something to the previous generation and probably to us when we were younger – good china set, crystal, silverware for fancy dinners – means nothing to the younger generations. What cost thousands of pre-inflation dollars might fetch a few hundred at best and then only if you are lucky.

You can spend more renting a truck to move items to an auction house than you will receive!

Kate
1 month ago

It took us 6 months to downsize (what a chore: yard sales, several family trips, Ebay, Market Place we did it all) in the months leading up to my husbands retirement,then another 6 months to sell our home (through 5′ of spring snow and the peak of COVID) and we DO have a storage unit near my brothers house. We hope to down size the storage unit further(smaller unit) this year. Storage has some seasonal items and some things we just could seam to part with at the time. We chose an RV that allowed me to have four large bins for extra clothes or select seasonal items. We are still going through things to see what we need or what we will most likely never use. We have been full timing for 3 months. We are fortunate enough to have found camp hosting positions, and have had our choice of our preferred locations each time (apparently we have excellent resumes for camp hosting).

Ellen L
1 month ago

We were in the beginning of the Covid shutdowns and it was winter in Northern Michigan. So, no garage sale, no travel except for necessary items. We gave away a lot to friends and filled 2 dumpsters we rented. I took pictures of things (photos, certificates, etc.) we could not keep. Pared down the “treasures” to a small plastic storage container. We have no kids, so handing things down was not an option. I feel your pain…

Gary Swope
1 month ago

I would give the family heirlooms to the kids. At least those items would stay in the family to be passed down to future generations. Wish you all the best and be safe out there.

Marty
1 month ago

My husband wants to RV full time. He gets bored easily and driving is a pleasure for him. He’s also a “collector” of a huge amount of “stuff”. He’s a project starter but not so good on finishing. So when he says lets downsize and hit the road he really means build a 60’x80′ pole barn and keep all of his stuff in it that he’d never be able to let go of. I’ve got the inherited antiques that none of the kids want that vex me the most about getting rid of. I’ve given the majority of pictures to the kids as well as their Christmas ornaments. I can let go of lot but maybe I’ll use a corner of that pole barn of his for a few things.

Jimmie Crawford
1 month ago

I spent at least two years cleaning out some space nearly every weekend. I always had 1 or 2 items for sale online. Every weekend it was either a thrift store run, a yard sale, Or a trip to the dump. I gave all my yard tools to my neighbor who was always helpful to me when there were repairs needed on the house. The things I still have in storage are family and personal photos, collectible high quality photography books, & things I want to bring back home when I get off the road. The thing that helped me was a clear vision and a 10 year plan, when I reached retirement age and my kids, who I raised as a single dad, were out of school and ready to leave the nest, those dates coincided so we had a target date for everybody to be out and situated in their new life.

Judy G
1 month ago

First I had getogethers with relatives and friends urging them to take anything they wanted. Second was a ‘garage sale followed by a ‘delivery’ to the local thrift store. That was to prepare for full-time travel in a fifth wheel with lots of storage in the truck. After eight years, I scaled down again to a class C. It works!