Saturday, November 27, 2021


Full-time RVing: Tips for downsizing your possessions


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

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” into the house on wheels.

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In a recent Minnesota Public Radio post, the issues of “downsizing” came up. While the story wasn’t directed toward the full-time-wantabee 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’ve got 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 chucks: 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 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 sell your treasures for more than a the price of a filling up the generator fuel tank.

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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Judy G
2 years ago

…but bear in mind that things may not turn out as expected. Before hitting the road as a newbie full-timer, I decided to keep my log cabin in the woods as a fail-safe option if the RV lifestyle did not work out. I gave all the family memorabilia to my son – papers, albums and such. Then I had the family members come down and choose the items they wanted to have. Next, I invited my friends down for an evening and let them leave with their choices. A garage sale followed which cleared out almost everything left. What remained but still of some use, I took to the local resale shop operated by a charity. I hired a local property management company to find and oversee renting out the cabin. That all worked out well for a few years. Then, to make a long story short, the renter virtually destroyed the cabin [the inside was unlivable due to extreme mold infestation]. I was able to sell the cabin to a contractor with the ability to restore it to livable condition. After seven years on the road, I downsized again to a class C motorhome and continue to enjoy the nomadic lifestyle after 11 years….

Mike & Louise Bacque
4 years ago

We retired in June 2015 to a full-time lifestyle. We had begun to sell off our belongings in January of that year and by June all was gone. Two years later, there’s nothing we miss or regret selling. To us, it was really just “stuff”. The whole experience brought into question our modern day consumerism. When you sell your belongings for a fraction of what you spent to acquire them, we really questioned buying retail vs used. We now live by the adage that less is more.

Lee Green/ Debbie Stein
4 years ago

We decided in June to become full time RV’ers and then put our house up for sale. It sold in one day and then we hurried to finalize our purchase of a fifth wheel trailer. We paid cash for the 2006 carriage compass and are now living in it (the traveling part will come in about 4 years when I retire) full time. We have adjusted pretty good. Still we have a storage unit that we want to empty within the next few months. The only thing we cannot figure out is how to stop the shimmies and shakes when someone is walking across the trailer. Already put jacks under the trailer and am using X chocks to keep the tires from bouncing. Any ideas?
Other than that we have really made the transition pretty easy.

Russ DeMaris
4 years ago

Some have commented favorably about a stabilizer system that seems to take out the motion you describe. We’ve never tried one, just got used to a bit of shimmy in both our fifth wheel and our travel trailer experiences. Here’s a link:

john stahl
4 years ago

I love to travel. Want to travel all the time. But I do not want to be a full-timer. I want a home to come home to. So I use your tips to downsize and clean house. It is unbelievable how much ‘stuff’ I have. The old saying, ‘If I knew then what I know now, I would not have accumulated so much ‘stuff.’ I think we all fall into the same category. I wish I would have had back then more discernment, wisdom, etc. not to collect so much. And then there was the old saying, ‘I do not want to get rid of it just in case I might need it some day.’ We just have too many things in America that suck us into believing we need it. We have very little self-restraint or self-discipline. So we wind up with so much “STUFF.”