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Downsizing to become full-time RVers

By Neil Seidler, CPA, CMA
Today I’m going to talk a little about becoming a full-time RVer – specifically about packing up and selling your home to become full-time RVers. Although we’ve been what I call part-time full-timers for quite a while, we finally decided to sell our sticks-and-bricks home. It’s been a long few months of having garage sales to sell off the things we don’t want to keep, packing up the things that we do want to keep that will go into storage, and deciding what things are in each category. My insight and advice to anyone beginning the process is as follows.

It takes longer than you think to downsize

1. The process of downsizing to become a full-time RVer will take longer than you first think it will. When we went back to Texas to pack up the house, we thought a couple of garage sales, a bunch of plastic storage bins, and two or three weeks was all it would take. Boy, were we off. The process took us more than two months of going at it every day from early morning to well into the evening – they were long days.

2. Deciding what to keep and put into storage and what to dispose of will be harder than you think. We had 30 years’ worth of “stuff” to deal with, most of which we still had because they had memories attached to them. Deciding to part with some of it was difficult. On top of that, because we already spend a lot of time in our motorhome, we have everything we need in there, from clothes, to dishes and kitchen utensils and gadgets, to tools. We really didn’t need three more garlic presses, or four more sets of baking pans, or another three pairs of pants, even if they were like new.

Garage sales are hard work

3. When it comes to garage sales, everyone wants a better deal, and you need to restock daily. You’re basically running your own little retail store. At our first garage sale we sold a lot of the “good stuff” in the first couple of hours and then had to try to fill in the holes as we went along. The next weekend we had more items ready to go. People come back day after day, so having new things out is important.

4. Donating items to a charity or to your church may be a good way to get rid of some items. They can give you a receipt that you can use as a charitable donation on your tax return, and you’re helping out a good cause that helps people in your community that are in need.

Remember that “stuff” is just stuff

5. “Stuff” is just stuff and can usually be replaced fairly easily. Our friends here in the RV resort sold their home a few years ago to become full-time RVers. They put absolutely everything, including furniture, dishes, pots and pans, trinkets, etc., into storage as they planned that one day they would buy another home and could use all of it again. Now, almost four years later, they’ve decided that there are a few things that are valuable or are family heirlooms that they want to keep. However, for the most part, with what they have paid in storage charges they could have replaced everything else and had new things in their new home.

That’s a few things to be aware of or to consider. Do you have other suggestions for downsizing to become a full-time RVer? Please leave your comments below.

*****

We welcome your questions and inquiries. If you have tax-related questions, or any other questions that we may be able to address, please email us or comment below and we’ll try to answer them in a future article.

If you need assistance with your tax filings or other accounting matters please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help. You can email me at Neil@profitprocpa.com. My business website is ProfitPro Accounting and Tax, or call my office at (702) 754-1338.

We present this material for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on, for tax, accounting or legal advice. Therefore, readers should consult their own tax, accounting and legal advisors to discuss their own personal matters.

Read Neil’s most recent post: Tax credit for solar panels on an RV?

Note: This article was previously published in January 2020.

##RVDT1570

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Robert Shaw
5 months ago

Thank you for confirming our experience of downsizing.

What guidance exists about using an RV as a full time ‘primary residence’ (different from domicile) for tax purposes? I receive a tax exempt housing allowance for expenses related to my primary residence. For my sticks and bricks precedence justifies including rent, utilities, furnishings, and repairs. For a Travel Trailer could site fees translate to rent/utilities?

Ron H.
5 months ago

We sold the house and tried full-timing in 2004. Sold the big stuff and put the rest into storage. It didn’t take long to find out that a never-ending vacation was not how we wanted to spend our time. Within a year, we bought another house and returned to part-time RV wandering and part-time doing our home gardening, hobbies and crafts and family and community stuff. It’s a better balance for us. We also enjoy our Northwest winters and don’t need to sit in the Arizona desert in the winter months.

Russell Gould
5 months ago

We are in the downsizing process now. To make it easier and painless we are going to use an auction service to sell our stuff on line. I mean I bought stuff from them for years.

Some of the collectibles that I believe will sell I am listing on eBay.

Rosy
5 months ago

We sold our home in 3 weeks, downsized to a 5th wheel, and became full timers six years ago. Nowadays, if an item comes in, an item goes out! It’s easier at 75 to accept that people and stuff are both just memories, albeit nice ones, when gone. I still miss some of my stuff but I no longer want to dust it, change it with the seasons, and realize that our kids deserve their own stuff! We decided to do as much as we can while we can and consider this lifestyle good practice for living comfortably in a long term care facility! It’s not for everyone, but everyone could be for it!

Sherry Christiansen
5 months ago

We sold nearly everything through Facebook Marketplace. Much easier than garage sales…been there, done that!

Grant Graves
5 months ago

Listen to the advice to downsize more than you think you want to. We went full time in January 2020 but put a few things we want to have when we stop full-timing. Now we are back and downsizing the storage. We are much more prepared to get rid of stuff now than we were a year ago. Some times you just need to have some experience.

Julie
5 months ago

Family and friends thought we were crazy for getting rid of everything in our home of 30 years. The article and comments pretty well cover the ‘how’ we did it in just under 2 months but, for me, the most significant take-away was how liberating and freeing it all became. The more we purged, the more I wanted to purge! I’m done being owned by things and focusing, instead, on living the rest of our lives. When we decide it’s time to settle back into a S&B, it’ll be much smaller and simpler now that we’ve embraced this smaller/simpler lifestyle.

Sue
5 months ago

Lots of good advice already given below. I’ll add that the more we sold, donated, or ditched, the easier it became! Younger relatives didn’t want any of our family antiques so we sold them on Craigslist. We still ended up storing too much during the 3 years we full-timed and wished that we’d gotten rid of even more things. We’re in a house again now and it was fun buying modern furnishings. Even though we’re in our 70s we were tired of all the antiques we had!

Clever Gary
5 months ago

Keep family members/friends like me away when you purge. I can find a clever re-purpose for just about anything. And if you are that clever person, go take a walk while others get down to business. Oh, and keep a lookout for other clever people seeking treasures. Don’t let them sidetrack you, just tell them to take it with your blessings.
(We are full-timers since 9/2020)

MrDisaster
5 months ago

There is a YouTube video you should watch while preparing to downsize. George Carlin has a 7 minute bit on “Stuff”. It is hilarious, and painfully accurate. It got us in the right mood to downsize. If you don’t use it in 6 months you probably don’t need it.

Karel Carnohan
5 months ago

I just guffawed. I am in the process of downsizing and said the exact same words “do I really need 3 garlic presses?” Deciding what appliances to keep has been a constant battle; I discovered my OnePot can make perfect yogurt so out went the two dedicated yogurt makers. The 15 different sized frying pans is whittled down to 2. It is a challenge but it feels very freeing! Thank you for your advice.

Karel

Michael
5 months ago

Yes, it takes longer than you think…. Even longer than that. Start earlier than you think you should.

John Harpel
5 months ago

We found it helpful after all the garage sales, donations, etc, to get a home inspector so you will know what repairs will be necessary to sell and what you will be able to negotiate with when buyers make offers. remember, you don’t have to take an offer if its below your asking price. and yes, it will probably take longer than you think to downsize.. start early but once you are done and done the open road will be yours and you can join the rest of us full timers.
happy trails and safe travels.

Bob
5 months ago

Basically never store anything that costs you money because if you ever decide you will use it again it will be outdated or have cost you way more than its worth.

Marvin
5 months ago

Don’t be afraid of the dumpster. We started working on downsizing almost sixteen months before we handed the keys to the realtor and drove away.

Donate what you can, sell what you can, con the kids into taking whatever they want, but remember that the thing you paid $100 for two years ago is completely worthless now. If you’ve done the hard work, tried your best to find a home for it, and it’s still sitting there in your garage, pitch it.

Now, if you don’t buy it, you don’t have to get rid of it. For the last five years, my wife and I would look at something when we were shopping. There were items we referred to as “DTGS.” “Direct to garage sale.”

If your family doesn’t want your family “heirlooms”, they’re no longer heirlooms, they’re white elephants. Pitch them.

We didn’t put anything in storage. We were ruthless at cleaning thirty-five years of collected stuff, much of which we couldn’t figure out why we bought it in the first place.

When we drove away, we were free.

WEB
5 months ago
Reply to  Marvin

“If your family doesn’t want your family “heirlooms”, they’re no longer heirlooms, they’re white elephants. Pitch them.”
Yup, so true! All you can do is take a few pictures of it and let it go. We are so careful in what we buy now as that day will come when we too will have to downsize.

Marvin
5 months ago
Reply to  WEB

Good for you, WEB. We also dragged along shoeboxes full of photographs and documents. My wife scanned them over the first year of our adventure. They exist in digital format now, both here, and backed up twice to the cloud. When that was done, I donated the scanner to a Texas school district.

Think small.

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