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Tips for downsizing your possessions for full-time RVing

Are you preparing to head out into the new world of full-time RVing? Congratulations! But if you’ve been a sticks-and-bricks dweller for many years, you’re probably face-to-face with a BIG problem: What do I do with all this stuff? Yep, accumulations of possessions can be a major issue when moving out of the “big house” and downsizing into the house on wheels.

tallkev on flickr.com

In a Minnesota Public Radio post, the issues of “downsizing” came up. While the story wasn’t directed toward the full-time-wantabe community, the principles outlined in the story apply well. When it comes to getting rid of stuff, here’s a boil-down of the psychology and practicality of shrinking your possessions.

The psychology involved: When you “downsize” it may not be painless. One professional who engages with folks to help them reduce their stuff says this: “If we’re asked to cast away one half of our things, in a certain sense we’re casting away parts of ourselves. And we’re going to have to become different selves. People have to be ready to do that.” Are you ready to get rid of things?

Hire some help: If you have mountains of stuff to move, think about hiring an estate seller. They’ll definitely take a bigger cut than if you sold it yourself, but they may save you loads of time and stress.

Dealing with emotional attachment: Over the years you’ve probably inherited stuff from your forebears. Keep in mind, while it’s nice to “keep it in the family,” the newer generations may not have the desire or even the physical space for a lot of the big stuff. Is there room in your rig for some small objects with real meaning? And if not, is there possibly room in kids’ homes for the smaller stuff that you just can’t bear to part with?

Here’s to long-range planning: Years ago when our daughter was young and a new mother, we offered some of the bigger stuff to her — and she happily accommodated us. But now, her house is full, and had we waited to make the offer, well, who knows where that World War II hand-made coffee table would have ended up. There’s no time like now to plan for downsizing in the future. If the kids don’t have room — do you have grandchildren who are out on their own?

When you work on it, take it in small chunks: Going through years of memories can be time-consuming — and emotionally draining. Experts recommend you don’t take more than a few hours at any one stretch to work on sorting out what to keep and what to dispose of.

Before you worry about the sell-able, sort out the paper: That means, that big stash of old tax records, insurance policies, medical information. While some of these things may have important value, say stock certificates, you won’t be selling them. Sort out what you must keep, and SHRED the rest.

Have a balanced view of monetary value: Just because it’s an antique doesn’t mean it’s worth a lot of money. Those collectibles that were the “thing” of the day (think way back to Beanie Babies or Hummel figurines) are now worth as little as a few dollars — or a few pennies. Don’t get overwrought if you find you can’t sell your treasures for more than the price of a filling up the generator fuel tank (although these days that’s quite a bit).

Shoot it: If you’re going to get rid of something that has emotional value, by all means, take a picture of it. Yes, the object will be out of your life when it’s gone, but you can still rummage around in those tiny digital files and get back giant-sized memories that won’t take up much space in your RV.


Downsizing The Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go
Whether you’re downsizing to go full-time or for other reasons, this best-selling AARP book will guide you through the process, from opening that first closet, to sorting through a lifetime of possessions, to selling your home. The author helps you create a strategy and mindset to accomplish the task quickly and rewardingly, both practically and emotionally. Learn more or order.


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Stephanie
17 days ago

Taking photos of the important items I sold to keep a memory of them is excellent advise. I know that the new owner of the items will cherish them as I did and I also get the advantage if “going down memory lane” when I view the pictures.

Sue
20 days ago

When we sold our house in 2014 to RV full time, we sold or gave away most of our furniture and “stuff” so there wasn’t much to store. The more we got rid of, the easier it became! (That was the second time we’d downsized but we got rid of more that time.) In 2017 we bought another smaller house and it was fun to furnish it with modern things and not all the antiques we’d accumulated previously. At some point we’ll have to downsize a third time. 😊

Gary Broughton
20 days ago

One year before I retired we sold or got rid of all the junk. The year we left, November 1, we told our, home on leave, son to get or tell us what he wanted, My mother n law had a big room so we put some stuff there. We didn’t want a storage shed for 20 years. One big dresser with all our keep sakes and other bigger items. The kid got my big tool chest and out door equipment,
My mother n law died and we had more stuff. The house would be sold but my good friend’s kid was looking and we sold the house to him. Now I ended up leaving our stuff there. After 20+ years on the road we decided to buy a home in the town our kid and his family live in. We got a small trailer and enjoy ourselves.

Ellen L
20 days ago

When we were downsizing for going full time I took pictures of the important stuff. I even took pictures of recipes with all my notations in my huge cookbook. Now if I can just find that memory card for the camera, I’ll be fine.

Betty D Miller
1 day ago
Reply to  Ellen L

I have often thought I would love to be free of yard and large house commitments.. I am by myself at 70 and still really good health… this article REALLY makes me want a change in my lifestyle. I love the picture of your RV IN THE ARTICLE, You’ll look Perfectly at Home. B Dodd

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