By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A common “problem” in making the transition to the fulltime RV lifestyle is STUFF – the stuff that you’ve collected over the years and sits in the attic, the basement, the garage. We hear from plenty of those who are in the planning stages of the fulltime life, and typically the question is: How do I get rid of my stuff? We’ve written on that topic before: having garage sales, wishing the stuff off on relatives, donating it to charity – there are plenty of ways to lighten the load.
But the question we hadn’t heard before is this one: What did you get rid of to enter the lifestyle that you really wish you hadn’t? The question was posted on a discussion forum, and we went through multiple pages of responses. Can you guess what fulltimers missed?
If you said, “Bottom line, almost nothing,” you get your gold star for the day. Here are a couple of exceptions:
“A few decorative items I wish I had kept, ones that were smallish, that I really liked.” Why did they “go” instead of being saved? The RVer hadn’t bought an RV when the old home sold. Not knowing the layout and the size of the future RV made the choices tough.
Hobby materials: One respondent remarked that they had some hobbies that, over time, they just lost interest in. We’re not talking woodworking here, with the need of a utility trailer behind the RV with room enough for the “Shop Smith.” Nope, in this case, the hobbies revolved around small stuff: Knitting, cross-stitch and yoga.
One fulltimer is still kicking himself for having gotten rid of the classic VW that he restored. He says he and his beloved “got rid of everything,” but now – that car just makes him sick. Well, there are plenty of RVers who had a similar “anchor” in their life. So instead of getting rid of the classic ride, they just invested in a car-hauling trailer to tow behind the motorhome. Of those that have done it, one commented that while they enjoy their old ride, towing the trailer restricts where they can travel. Doing any major boondocking away from paved roads isn’t in their travel plans.
Clothing: Some reason, “New lifestyle, new clothes.” After all, I don’t have to go into the office anymore, why on earth do I need a suit? Or, one we liked: “I’m going to winter in the south. Why do I need clothes for a cold climate?” Well, life is funny and has a way of throwing the occasional curve. Yeah, you can show up at a funeral or a wedding in casual, but do you really want to? Having a couple of warm-ups in the back of the closet may spare you the chills when the weather really gets odd in Arizona, but on the other hand, if there’s a nearby Walmart, picking up a jacket, a sweat outfit, even a pair of boots, isn’t difficult, nor particularly expensive.
Furniture: A repeated theme among many now-fulltimers is this one – let’s put the furniture in storage. After all, we may have to go off the road and then we’ll need it for the new house. And just as often repeated – we spent more money on storage to “keep” that furniture than if we’d just sold it to start with, then bought furniture when we needed it. Or the corollary: We paid for storage, went off the road, and when we got our new place, found the furniture was too big, and we had to get new stuff anyway.
The one exception that we heard occasionally was that of furniture with sentimental value. That caned rocker that Great Grampa made. That’s a tough one. Here’s where having a trustworthy family member who wants to adopt it can come in handy. We say trustworthy from experience. We turned over a bedroom set that “came around the Horn by sailing ship,” to a relative, who not too much later sold it and pocketed the money.
Underscoring it all on this subject of making the tough calls as to what to get rid of and what to keep was this gem. Many, many fulltime RVers had a similar story. There were just so many “things” that they couldn’t bear to part with that they either stored or somehow crammed into their RVs. But over time, that “stuff” just somehow seemed to lose its value, and much of it was eventually let go with no regrets. One RVer summed it up this way:
“Within the first six months we got rid of any anything we hadn’t used, or things we figured it would be cheaper to replace later on IF we needed them, than to haul them around with added weight and needed space. Six months later, we did the same. After the first year of fulltiming we found we could open any cabinet, drawer or compartment and actually see inside, without having to dig through stuff. Less is more. One bag in, two bags out. And weigh your rig once a year to keep items in check.”
Keep it simple: Less really is more.
I read their comments and admire their skills. I’m referring to the mechanically inclined RVer’s out there. They can fix and repair their RV, their trucks, or their toads. I took a different path, I went the path of technology. Give me a good IT problem and I got it licked. I can analyze and test to find the source (sometimes) of a mechanical problem, but can’t fix it. So I stay away from “vintage” mechanicals where ever they happen to be. Thank God for fellow RVer’s who are willing to share their expertise. For they truly create a community…..
We have lived in our MH since 2004. The only thing I miss is my w/d. I am so tired of laundromats but have no choice if I want to stay in an RV. I imagine if I wanted to loose space I could put a all in one machine in but that is space I want and weight I don’t want!
Every time we return to our old stomping grounds to visit the grand kids, we check our storage locker. Almost every time, one of us will say, “I didn’t think we kept that”, or “Why did we keep that?”
I got tired of paying for storage and bought a cargo trailer added insulation, shelves a high end solar panel and battery to maintain somewhat of a climate. I now keep some items that I can get rid of later, but the cost of storing a cargo trailer is minimal compared to a storage unit. If I should ever return to a permanent home/apartment the saved stuff can be unloaded and the cargo trailer sold.
I agree about taking pictures. When my parents passed away I took pictures of everything. I even went through and opened all the cupboards and drawers in the house and took pictures of the contents, and all the rooms and the yard from different angles. And especially all of the souvenirs and mementos before I gave them out to family members. You’d be surprised how powerfully those simple pictures bring back the memories and nostalgia. And they don’t take up any room.
We “down-sized” about 2 years ago now…Have we missed anything? Sure. But have we really missed anything? Not really. We took pictures. Like many, after going thru the process, we got a storage unit. It’s a 10′ x 10′ and we pay $70 a month to keep it air conditioned and heated. So…With that info, we have spent $1,680 (so far) to store about $200 worth of stuff. And that’s just how you have to look at everything. It’s JUST “stuff”. Over time, we’ve been whittling down a few items at a time. We’ve taken (3) very large totes with family photos to a relative. We have another (2) smaller totes we need to take to them. Fortunately, they are helping out by digitizing the photos. It’s taken a few months for (2) of the larger totes. Then, there are the tax returns…Who do you know keeps 40 years of records (just in case)? Clothes…When we down-sized, there was no room to store a Vana White and GQ wardrobe. We’re close to retiring so this problem will resolve itself. But when you are still working, you need a certain amount to make it 2 weeks at a time. Then, there is the hobby stuff….Depending on your hobby (like coin collecting), what do you do with all that “stuff”? So…Like many others, when we officially retire and pull out, we can’t take it with us. We also cannot continue to throw good money down the drain. So, like all good things, we’ll take pictures and in the end, it will be discarded anyway. Do yourself a favor and look at it like it is “stuff”. You’ll get a headache trying to decide what to do with all that “stuff”. No one in your family is ever really gonna want it anyway. We found that out when we tried to give it away. For those considering this lifestyle (versus a $3000 a month mortgage, taxes and insurance), just bite the bullet…You can rebuy anything if you really have to have it. List what you can on Craigslist, your neighborhood Facebook pages, and hold garage sales. Sell your books to the book stores. Give away things to family members who need or want them. The object is to get rid of what you can before you have to pay commissions. Plan on 2 months. Next, hold Estate Sales (2 minimum). Another 2 months. You’ll pay 40-50% commissions using this plan. Then, hold an auction. Another 1-2 months. Yet another 40-50% commission sale. Then, donate to your favorite charity. You’ll need a couple of weekends to get it out. And finally, throw away what you could not get rid of. There will be a large pile at the curb. Maybe your local junk man can help the garbage collectors… In the end, you get a few bucks but nothing compared to what YOU paid for it. It’s sickening for sure. If I were a guessing person, I would estimate that for the $100,000 worth of “Stuff” we purchased over the years, we got a total of $10,000 for everything. And we had a lot of good things. $0.10 on the dollar. But then again, it’s just “stuff” and we had a good time with it while we had it. You can’t put a price on memories and fun!
I go thru all the stuff I have every few months and if we have not used it, it goes to storage or gets donated.
I do all my own maintenance and repairs to our 5th wheel and a lot on the truck.
The main thing I miss are specific tools, usually end up getting another item or two for jobs, for instance I now own 3 sets of wood drill bits for drilling various size holes ;-(