What Did We Do With All of Our Stuff?
As you know, there are countless articles, blogs, and even companies dedicated to the art of downsizing. A few years ago, my daughter recommended that I read “The Art of Tidying Up” by the now-famous Marie Kondo. My take-aways from that book: yes, I have too much stuff, but no, I will never thank my shoes for holding my stinky feet or my purse for carrying all my crap—is she for real? Different strokes for different folks, I guess.
To be perfectly honest, once we decided to hit the road full-time, downsizing for RV living completely overwhelmed me. I have been carrying around a ton over the past couple of decades. When Ken and I were engaged, we moved my belongings into his house one pickup truck full at a time, filling almost half of his basement. I have no idea how many boxes we moved, but I do remember that we put 20 full boxes on the curb for garbage pickup, as mice had gotten into the shed and chewed/birthed/defecated on their contents. To say I’m sentimental is a gross understatement; I have never thrown away a birthday card or a photograph or—apparently–a piece of paper scribbled on by my toddlers.
I don’t make ‘resolutions’ at the beginning of new years, but rather I choose a ‘power’ word or concept and try to focus on it throughout the year. 2019’s word: DOWNSIZE. I’d love to say that I intended to apply that to all areas of my life, like getting my priorities straight, abolishing time wasters, and only concentrating on what really mattered. No, I literally meant paring down my possessions—but how? I settled on one solid rule for myself: if it was replaceable, we got rid of it. If I could walk into Walmart or log in to Amazon and get a new one just like it or very similar, it didn’t go into storage.
I just said I was sentimental—did you really think I wasn’t going to rent a storage unit? But we did that last, only after we had gotten rid of everything we possibly could. We got a 10’x10’ space that we only filled about two-thirds full. I had already transferred everything from my wrecked up cardboard boxes into 25-gallon Commander totes a year prior, and we purchased more of those, as well as my very first (and last) label maker. So this wasn’t just shove it all into storage; we went through literally everything we owned, to decide what we needed to keep, sell, or toss, which took almost an entire year.
I felt a little defeated when I counted up how many totes of stuff I still have in storage, but when I consider what’s inside of them, I know that it’s my sentimentality, not materialism, that determined what we kept; only the important remain.
This is a short summary of things we couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t part with:
furniture—my large Japanese wardrobe with the cherry blossom carvings; Ken’s cedar chest that he made in HS for his grandparents; a small carved chest from Madagascar that I got from a friend in Japan
collections—my kokeshi dolls; most of my dishes from Japan; some of Ken’s tools; a few pieces of Pampered Chef cookware and stoneware (I used to be a PC consultant, so I had all the gear!)
sentimental items—Keith’s and Claire’s childhood awards, report cards, and other mementos; my late husband Brian’s childhood items, Navy awards, etc.; Ken’s and my childhood/HS/college mementos; photographs and videos, all of which we converted to digital format, as our storage unit is not climate controlled; two totes of Christmas decorations
RV parts—the bunks we removed to make Ken’s office; skirting for cold weather; comforter and curtains (We’ll need to include those with the RV when we sell it.)
I don’t know if/when we’ll be getting everything out and moving it somewhere else, but we went ahead and paid for a year’s worth of storage, so we won’t have to think about it for quite a while…
Here are some images of just some of the many, many items we parted with. Step one was to see if any of our family members or friends could use it. If not (or if it was too large), we listed it for sale or donated it. I did not take pictures of everything, but you get the gist. As we raced (stumbled?) toward the sale of our home; downsizing was such an overwhelming, time-consuming task that I had to quit my job in order to focus all of my attention on it.
We had a huge garage sale, and when it was over, we still had enough for another sale or even two. I called a couple who buys garage sale leftovers for resale to come pick it up. They paid us $100, which was not even a fraction of what it was worth; I hope they made some good money from it! We donated our remaining clothing, linens, dishes, silverware, etc. to our friend who works with a refugee organization, along with Ken’s old truck, which has some issues but still runs.
I have lost track of how many people have said they could never do what we’re doing because they have too much stuff. I understand; I could not have gotten rid of literally ALL my possessions. But I had heard that it felt freeing to drastically reduce, and I can attest that it’s true. In fact, I have already removed items from the RV that I didn’t end up needing, and I plan to downsize further in six months, once I see what I have and have not used. Downsizing for RV living is a never-ending process! I am learning to live with much, much less, and it’s easier than I anticipated. Would you believe that out of sight is out of mind?