As a first time, full-time RVer you realize what a nightmare the transition is! How in the world do you go from a full 1,738 square foot home to a home approximately 240 square feet?!?! There isn’t an answer and this may be one of the biggest struggles you go through when you decide to make the plunge in to living full time.
Many people start off by getting a storage unit and only keeping the stuff that they need immediately in their new home. I opted out of this option. Why in the world would I want to waste money on a storage unit that was going to hold all the stuff in it that I wasn’t going to miss? Why would I waste money on a storage unit filled with stuff that I didn’t think I needed in my everyday life?
I realize for some, getting rid of everything may not be an option. They have mementos that they just can’t part with. Things their kids made for them, trophies from high school, photo albums, items handed down from their long lost grandparents, and whatever they hold dear to them. For me, it was a matter of figuring out what I couldn’t live without, having more money to explore, travel, and for experiences. After all, if you think about it, every time I needed (or thought I needed something) from that storage unit, I would have to spend hundreds of dollars in gas to get to said storage unit to get that item or items and then start my destination over again. If you are laughing right now by the estimate of hundreds of dollars you are in for a drastic punch in the face. On average you are going to get about 8 miles to the gallon. Yes, that is right, 8 miles to the gallon. If you are in a different state and you want your Christmas decorations out of your storage unit, you are not only paying for that storage unit but you are paying for the gas, miles, oil and wear and tear on your Traveling Home. Wouldn’t it just make more sense to buy new Christmas stuff and throw it away after you were done or give it to charity or something of that nature?
That is where my first attempt at downsizing started. Christmas decorations. I LOVE Christmas decorations, Christmas lights, and basically all things Christmas. I had spent years collecting a Christmas village that I vowed to only grow over years and held great pride in. In fact, every year I posted pictures of my beautiful village, my awesome Christmas tree with my homemade glitter pinecone decorations and my house smothered in Christmas lights. I guess you could say that this stemmed from childhood. As a family we always went above and beyond when it came to Christmas and that’s just a really hard habit to break.
Here was my compromise: I got rid of the things that I didn’t decorate with the previous year. Yep, that wasn’t much. The rest of it I put in the compartments of my RV and justified keeping it by the fact that I was giving it to my mother when I got to Wisconsin, who was an even bigger nut at Christmas decorating than I was. I’m pretty sure she was striving to beat National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Seriously! The good news is when I arrived in Wisconsin I left an entire bin of Christmas decorations there.
My next step was going through my house, room by room, and deciding what I hadn’t used in the last 6 months, what I didn’t even know I had, and what would be useless to me on the road and started selling it or sending it to Goodwill. By the time I was done downsizing the people at Goodwill knew me and recognized me when I pulled up. It was always the same questions “When do you take off?” “More? You are doing such a great thing for these people.” “Nice to see you again, let me get a bin.” Yeah, kind of embarrassing when you think about it. I had so much stuff that I didn’t need or use that Goodwill knew my vehicle.
To be completely honest, by the time my purge was complete I was beyond disgusted with myself and sorry to say, with human kind. There are so many things (yes, things) of no real value that we possess. And for what reason? Because we are keeping up with the Jones’s? Because a friend said you just had to have it or it would look good in your reading room that you haven’t been in in the last 5 months. Yes, with downsizing I realized that there were 3 rooms in my house that I had not even used in over 5 months. Why was I paying for that? Why did I think I needed that? There were people who were homeless, struggling or sharing rooms with their siblings or friends just because they couldn’t afford to have that sort of “comfort”. Well, let me tell you, after you start purging and looking at the bigger picture you start to see “comfort” differently. I was no longer comfortable in my own home. It seemed huge and pointless. I was so excited to get in to a small home where cleaning was manageable, I only had the stuff I needed and I would have a blank slate to decorate the way I wanted and the idea of just plain simplicity.
Now before you start asking “But what did you get rid of and need to keep?” stop. What I learned is: No Two Purges are Alike. There may be some similarities and I will give you the basics of what I did but you will do your own form of downsizing and it may look completely different than mine. That’s OK. If there is anything I have learned through this experience is you need to do what is right for you and what you want because what I do, what I saved, what I spend, where I go is what I want and what I do. You will have your own list and you need to first start with that. Take suggestions from people who have been through it but ultimately, look at your lifestyle, how you want to live on the road, what’s important to you and then go backwards from there.
The first thing I knew was that I wanted to cook more. I needed to make sure that I had the minimal amount of equipment in my kitchen that I could learn to cook. Yes, I knew how before but it was the simple things like chicken, spaghetti and hamburger helper. (Don’t judge me.) I decided I needed a couple pans, some Tupperware, some dishes and a couple cast iron skillets. My grandma always cooked with cast iron so I figured since she was an amazing cook that is what I needed as well. I also didn’t want anything heavy or breakable (other than the cast iron skillet). I went online and bought some melamine dishes. PS-These dishes are amazing. They are virtually indestructible, light and they look great. So, if you don’t want to pollute the planet with paper plates or worry about breaking your dishes through traveling, accidents, or life, these are a must have.
The next thing was my clothes and shoes. I realized I no longer needed 15 pairs of 4” heels. I narrowed it down to 1 pair of 4” heals and 3 pairs of 2” heels. I also got rid of 3 pairs of boots leaving myself with 3 pairs of boots. In addition to all of that I got rid of 4 pairs of gym shoes, leaving me with 4 pair left. Hey, I was going to be spending a lot of time being active and outdoors, those are good shoes to keep and not cut corners on. Now, as far as my clothes go, I will let you know that I got rid of a lot of clothes. My “previous” life was as a realtor. So, my attire mainly consisted of dress clothes. I wasn’t going to be needing those climbing up the mountains and laying on the beach was I? I did keep a couple outfits because you never know. Plus I always pictured going out in some of the bigger cities and dressing nicely. For the most part I kept a week or so of outfits and my winter clothes. The stuff that I wasn’t going to be using or wearing I put in vacuum sealed bags. These are a life saver to help make it look like you aren’t keeping as much as you actually are!
The next area was the garage. As you can imagine this was a difficult area for me. As I mentioned in the introduction, I went in to this having never even been in an RV before. So what exactly do I keep that belongs in the garage? What will I need? I ended up keeping the essential tools: screwdrivers, hammer, drill, sockets, rope (because you never know when you will need rope. Ie-Boondock Saints), nails, screws, bungee cords, tape measure, etc. You kind of get the idea. To this point, I have used most of those things as well as had to purchase a few additional tools along the way. I also kept everything for camping because I don’t intend on only staying in my rig and I do plan to have friends and family come to visit throughout time and having another space is always helpful.
Bathroom stuff is where I really realized I had too much “stuff”. Holy cow! Did you know that under your sink is just a storage unit for the stuff that you don’t use, won’t use and have completely forgotten about? Yep, you guessed it. All of that stuff was thrown out. It was hidden for a reason and to this day, there isn’t a single thing I threw out that I miss. At least I don’t think so.
As far as bedding goes I kept a few extra blankets and sheets. I would need them for when people came to visit or because I have a habit of getting insanely cold while others are like “Wow, it is really nice out!”. In larger RV’s the bed is a queen size bed but it is shorter so most of what you have will be too big anyways. I also took this new RV as an opportunity to completely redecorate. So, naturally I needed new bedding to match my new décor.
Now as you look throughout your home you will find things that you will see as essential, things you can’t part with, things that will fit your lifestyle and what you want to do on the road. By all means, take them, but know that the more you take, the less room you have and the more claustrophobic it may feel in your new home. You will also see down the road what you don’t use and should take every opportunity to get rid of those things. After all, the more you have, the heavier the vehicle, the more you spend in gas, and the harder it is to get up those mountains. PS-Don’t get too frustrated when you are going up a mountain and can’t go faster than 20mph. It will happen. You are driving a massive vehicle with a lot of weight. So, keep in mind what you are bringing, how heavy it is, if you truly need it or if there is a more conservative approach.
Happy purging and best of luck!