People ask us all the time how we downsized our home in 9 short months to go live full-time in an RV to travel the Country. Just downsizing our home size is gut-wrenching enough. But the process of getting rid of all of our belongings and crap is truly an eye-opening emotional roller coaster experience.
There’s lots of tears and anger during the whole downsizing our home process. However, we accomplished our goals, stayed married and true to each other. Dreams DO come true! Here’s how we did it!
I’m going to be really honest and candid here. Downsizing our home to this caliper was one of the most difficult things we’ve ever had to do in our marriage.
Now, we’ve been through more PCS transfers than fingers but those seem to be a walk in the park compared to the downsizing journey we were about to embark on.
Looking back, we learned some valuable lessons about downsizing our home, what’s really important in our lives, our marriage and ourselves. To be forthright, I don’t think we ever want to endure this life-changing event again.
So, we’ll show you how downsizing our home we to go live and travel in an RV one tenth the size…and how we survived!
Downsizing and Getting Rid of Our Stuff for Full-Time RV Life!
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Since we only had one child, this made downsizing our home a bit easier, shall I say? We asked our adult son if there was anything in our home that he and his fiancé (then) wanted. However, since they both had their own household goods already, there was very little they wanted.
Removing the emotion, we had to be okay with that. I mean, it would have been nice if he said he’d take all of our furniture and stuff but well, no. But, what they did want, our son rented a small U-Haul trailer to take some small furniture items, all of his childhood keepsakes, memorabilia and his favorite toys we held onto all these years.
Join Local Facebook Marketplace and Yard Sale Group Pages
The next phase of downloading our home was to get our belongings listed for sale. We joined a couple local Facebook Yard Sale groups. Back then, Facebook Marketplace didn’t exist yet so we had to rely on more of a group forum. Since I had already stopped working outside the home, it was my job to get rid of as much as I could.
So, I started listing small pieces of furniture, knick knacks, small kitchen appliances, bedding ensembles, etc. Unfortunately, I received many insultingly lowball offers. I had to learn quickly putting my emotion in check to disconnect from all of our stuff because really, that’s all it was…STUFF.
Now, if you decide go this route, I highly encourage thorough communication with your potential buyers regarding terms and agreed prices. We quickly learned to not haggle price on public forums.
Any offers and negotiations were all done via private messages and email. Why? Because there were some who had no interest in buying that would just haggle down a price just for the sake of doing so. Also, getting it in writing “seals the deal”.
Once prices were agreed on, we made our online-handshakes and met in a public place. I, the seller, was the one who dictated where and what time we were to meet (i.e. police station, grocery store parking lot, fast food parking, etc.).
I’d say 98% of the time, it worked flawlessly. I did have a couple who stood me up but that was a rarity.
We scheduled yard sales; about a month apart. Having been a military family for 30 years and we thought that our belongings were pruned down from all of our PCS’s however.
In the military, when PCS’ing, based on your rank, we had weight limits so each time we relocated we vied never go over that limit; otherwise, we’d have to pay the government huge amounts of money
That said, it was seven years since our last PCS so we got a little lax with our buying habits. Let’s just say I loved going shopping at TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, Marshalls, Home Goods, etc. My bad habit was then punishing me to the point of tears.
Emotion started setting in; not necessarily saying goodbye to all of our stuff but HOW MUCH we really had. I was disappointed in myself for letting it get that far. Oh! And let’s not EVEN get to my craft studio… *sigh*…but we’ll get to that later.
Anyway, our first yard sale netted us about $1700 but holy moly, it didn’t even seem like we made a dent. We both said to each other, ‘we gotta have another yard sale next month’. The month came and gone…another $700 in the pot. It may not seem like much but it was a good start.
We were starting to see some progress, not only from our yard sales but also our social media yard sale groups. Our bank account was growing but sadly, not at the same as what we’ve spent. I just had to keep the ‘big picture’ in the back of my head.
OH, funny thing is we found out at our closing that the people who BOUGHT OUR HOUSE were at one of our yard sales! More about that later.
Downsizing Our Home = Disconnecting From Our Home
By the first month of our home being on the market (it was May), our home started looking like a feature home in House Beautiful magazine; everything perfectly staged without clutter.
Not that our home was cluttered before, just that we had to remove everything that was personal. We had to take down photo frames, memorable items, books, and knickknacks.
By this time, we were moved into our RV fifth wheel toy hauler at the state campground located five miles down the road. We finally reached that important pinnacle; disconnecting from our sticks and bricks home.
Our home was now just a house and the stuff left in it just became someone else’s stuff. The process of downsizing our home instantly became disconnecting from our home. It meant, all of our belongings, stuff, crap or whatever you want to call it was no longer ours.
The Emotional Part of Downsizing Our Home
The hard part (for me at least) of downsizing our home was what to do with my craft studio! My craft studio was part of my identity. I spent many hours in it. Besides my kitchen, it was my favorite place in our large Kentucky home.
I was a creator, craftsman, artist, scrapper, stamper, jewelry maker, draw-er, color-er, painter, glue-er, paper-folding maniac. And, I admit that I was very spoiled. I had practically every scrapbooking and stamping tool and craft supply known to man. I literally had it all….as in…ALL of Hobby Lobby!! (humor me)
In fact, in my craft studio, I had cabinets stuffed with rubber stamps, stamp pads, a crap-ton of scrapbook supplies and paper, acrylic paints of every color and embellishments of every size, shape and theme. Women envied me. Through this process, I’ve come to the conclusion that I may have become a compulsive craft supply shopper. For that, I’m not proud of my hoarder-holic-ism.
Oh! I can laugh about it now. But when it came time for me to sell and git rid of it all, I was angry at myself. It was seriously overwhelming and extremely emotional. I was now serving my punishment for my over-indulgence (sounds so much better than gluttony). But hey, time to move on, right?
Anyways, I set up our finished basement like a store; organizing by different craft supply categories. It looked like a miniature Hobby Lobby. And, it took me TWO FREAKING WEEKS to set up all my CRAP!
When I had it all organized and set up, I had scheduled an indoor craft supply sale by announcing to my crafting friends, social media groups. I also took out an ad in the local paper and posted flowers on local bulletin boards in stores and businesses.
At precisely 7:00 in the morning of my sale, I literally had a line out to the street with ladies with their hands full of shopping bags. I had a bit of an emotional moment because I saw some of my friends in there, but it was short lived. I had serious work to do.
By the end of the first day, I sold a crap-ton but again, a very small dent (yes, I had a crap-ton of stuff!). But, there was still quite a bit of my craft crap still left.
I scheduled another two weeks later. This one, I saw great progress. I had sold the bigger stuff (small furniture, printers, die-cutters, punches, tools, etc.). I also made deals too good to pass up. I cried inside. I was still a bit defiant.
Then, it came to the point that I no longer had time nor energy to have another sale. So I contacted a friend who as a local Girl Scout leader. I told her to bring her mini van…EMPTY!
Needless to say, we filled every inch of that van. She wrote me a letter showing donation for our taxes. I’m embarrassed to say, the written value was in the thousands of dollars. *heavy sigh*
After everything was gone, I sat on the floor of my empty craft studio and cried waterfalls. All of my craft supplies were gone. All I had was the memory of making memory albums and cute handmade gifts. I did keep a few big storage bins of things I couldn’t part with.
The room of which I created so many handmade cards and gifts on sleepless nights was now just a blank canvas of a craft room.
The cabinets were empty, drawers were bare, countertops were cleared and spotless. No more ink stains, paint spatters or glue. It no longer had personality. It was like an empty hulled out school room on the first day of summer vacation
Home for Sale
By late August; we were growing impatient because our home hadn’t gone under contract yet. At the campground, we kept seeing big RV’s with out of state plates come and go.
We kept asking ourselves, ‘when is it going to be our turn to go?”.
September came and went. At this point, we were extremely frustrated that our beautiful five bedroom, three bathroom home in an amazing neighborhood was not budging. We were growing concerned and admittedly angry and sad.
Come to find out, our first realtor was not working for ‘us’ so we fired her. Even though we were breaking contract, she didn’t argue or even try to convince us to continue on. I honestly think she knew were were onto her other marketing venues that took buyers away from our neighborhood. (Can you say “conflict of interest”?)
So, after firing our first local realtor, we took a breather and took our home off the market on recommendation from a friend in California who was a Real Estate Broker.
Two weeks later, we hired Eric Johnson an ambitious relocation specialist realtor out of Louisville. Guess what? We were under contract just 10 days after listing! And, we had a full-asking price offer with no contingencies. We had a closing date of 30 days!
We now entered into the shits-about-to-get-real mode.
NOTE: Eric formerly worked with Keller Williams in Louisville. However, he relocated with his family to California and works with John L. Scott Real Estate)
Donate and Give Away
With less than a month left before hitting the road in our RV, we emptied all of the closets and drawers of what was left. We loaded up our Ram truck with boxes and bags of clothes, shoes, books, households, etc. that we didn’t really want to deal with selling or giving away. So, we drove them down to the local non-profit organization and asked for receipts for our donations.
Getting rid of the rest of our households and furniture was last on our list of downsizing our home. We couldn’t really sell any of this because it’s what staged the home for sale.
So, we interviewed a few local estate sale companies to get estimates, what we needed to do, and what to expect.
Well, damn if I wasn’t a blubbering mess after that.
I had nightmares of people driving around the locale seeing estate sales with lines of them pawing through boxes and mounds, spewing lowball offers. Ironically, we were those same people years before.
But now, we were on the other side of the door. I don’t know why that bothered me so much. But, we set our sights on the big picture.
Then something MAGICAL happened!! Ya’ll might want to sit down for this!
The lady, Wendy, who was buying our home contacted me asking if I could show her how to properly care for the water garden. She also wanted to measure rooms and windows, and to get some decorating ideas, etc.
Something prompted me to say yes. So, I happily invited her over for coffee and pastries.
Welcoming her into our entryway foyer, I guided her to our kitchen island to talk and enjoy a coffee and fresh made pastries from the local bakery.
As Wendy and I sat, there was a quiet moment. She looked around eyeing every nook and wall of our perfectly staged home she was about to move into in two weeks.
She loved the kitchen; saying it was one of the reasons for loving our home. Wendy was excited to be able to continue raising her two daughters in the awesome neighborhood and this home…our home.
Dare I mention that we just renovated our kitchen before downsizing our home. We took out a wall and upgraded everything to mahogany cabinets with seed glass doors, gorgeous granite countertops with complimenting mosaic backsplash, beautiful lighting fixtures, and top-of-the-line stainless steel appliances. You get the picture.
Wendy swiveled around in the counter bar stool to gaze at the perfectly staged family room. Her eyes glided slowly from the furniture and shaggy area rug to the wall art, throw pillows, and the candle holders and unique clock on the fireplace mantle.
But then I overheard her quietly mutter something under her breath.
“Gosh, if only I could just move in. This is exactly what I want in a home!”
She said she absolutely loved the way I decorated and it felt like a home should. Of course, I was deeply humbled by her compliment. I did jokingly return with, ‘well, you know, everything is for sale’.
Wide-eyed, she hastily asked, ‘well, how much for it all’?
I returned a look with raised eyebrows and jotted a price with a nearby Sharpie on a paper napkin and slid it across the island counter. (Note: we had already had figured out how much we would have netted off an estate sale).
She looked at it and tucked it into her purse.
I took her down to the water garden to show her how to take care of it and briefly told her about the landscaping we did. I gave her tips on what and when to prune some of the plants.
Finally, we said our goodbyes and good lucks on our closing that was taking place in a couple weeks.
I kid you not, less than two hours later, I get a phone call from Wendy again, “Lisa, just pack your toothbrushes and suitcases, we’ll buy it all!”
Now, for a minute, I’d like for you to visually stand in my shoes. I just got this phone call that was a TOTAL game changer. I was in utter disbelief. I had to ask her to if she was serious.
She said, “yes, I’m serious!”
Immediately after we ended our phone discussion, I fell to my knees and started bawling (a blubbering mess again). I was thanking God for this most amazing gift that relieved us of this chapter of our lives.
I don’t think ANYONE could ever imagine the huge burden that was lifted from us. They wanted EVERYTHING; even all of the holiday decorations in the storage bins in the basement utility room and stuff up in the garage attic. At that point, we literally can walk away with nothing else to do.
Well, except pack our toothbrushes and suitcases.
The day of our closing, we went over to our home to do a once-over for cleanliness and to see if we missed anything. I placed my handmade gift baskets for their daughters on their beds we gifted to our friends and family who stayed in those same rooms.
All of the towels in each of the bathrooms were clean and hanging like those in a 5-star hotel with pretty soaps in the soap dishes.
I put a bottle of cold bubbly and two champagne glasses in the empty refrigerator for the family who were about to make new memories in our home…our former home.
I baked cookies in my oven one last time. The fresh baked aroma filled the air. After, I placed them on a plate for their daughters with a card with their names on it.
I also set up the coffee brew station. All they would have to do is push the button to make their coffee the next morning. We bought two brand new coffee mugs earlier and placed them side by side with a napkin and spoon with sugar packets and a note. It read…
I looked at the clock on the wall that once told us time for dinner or time to head for work. It now was telling us it’s time to head to the closing. I walked into each room taking one last look at the fruits of our labor for the past 7 years; smoothing one last wrinkle on the already perfect bedspreads and straightening up the towels.
We then walked out of our home one last time. Big sighs of relief yet a sense of sadness overwhelmed us to tears. This chapter of our lives had finally concluded.
Last words on downsizing our home
Now, many years later, as we look back on our downsizing our home experience. We admit we’ve learned not only the emotional process of downsizing to an RV that’s one tenth the size of our house but also ourselves and each other. It was emotional in every sense.
What we did (or are doing) certainly is not for everybody. It takes lots of research, great patience and massive diligence to get through the downsizing process.
And, though downsizing our home was extremely emotionally painstaking at times, we always kept the big picture in the back of our minds.
We finally became those full-time RVers who were leaving the campground to head for our next RV destination. Our RV is no longer anchored to the Kentucky ground where this all started.
The mountains were calling, we had to GO!