May 28, 2014

Where Did All of This Stuff Come From?

When Tim and I returned from our Road Trip Ramble in June 2012, we began to seriously question the amount of “stuff” that we owned.  We had survived for nine months, and had been perfectly content, with the few things that would fit in our small RV.  Although Tim and I could never be accused of having pack-rat tendencies, we began to realize that we had way more things than we needed, or even wanted.

Full-time RVing was not even on our radar when we began the process of downsizing.  Tim and I lack the patience for garage sales, and Craigslist is not big in Estes Park, so we were happy to give away our things to charitable organizations.  By the end of 2012, we had sorted through closets, drawers and boxes and had donated several thousand dollars’ worth of items to local thrift shops and charities.  The Estes Valley Library became the recipient of hundreds of books for its Christmas book sale.  The tax deduction that we received was a nice bonus.

Habitat for Humanity Received Lots of Our Things

One Box of Books Packed and Ready to Donate

We continued in this mode for the first half of 2013 as well, and I was proud that we had whittled down our possessions to what seemed like a respectable number.  Tim and I even donated more books to the library.  We thought that we were getting rid of everything we could!  It wasn’t until we decided to sell the house and start full-timing, however, that I realized just how much stuff we still owned.  And I thought we had been doing so well!

Every future full-timer goes through what we went through, but knowing that doesn’t make it any easier.  I was able to prepare myself emotionally to get rid of almost everything we owned, but the process of actually doing so was not easy.  It really was very hard work.

One of the first things I had to tackle was my enormous slide collection. The slides were still in boxes from my last two or three moves, and I hadn’t looked at them in years, maybe decades.  My first plan was to have them all digitized, but when I realized what that would cost, I decided to be ruthless and get rid of most of them.  Making that decision was probably one of the hardest ones I had to make.  What was fun, however, was viewing each slide before tossing it.  I really enjoyed my trip down memory lane.  Had I not decided to downsize, it’s possible that I never would have looked at those slides.  I decided to keep only the ones with people in them (I used to photograph mostly landscapes or architecture, not people), and sent those out to be digitized.

Just a Tiny Sampling of the Slides I Had to Review

There Were Boxes of Old Family Photos To Go through As Well

The next big job was tackling the file drawers.  Although I thought I had been doing a good job of going mostly paperless, I found an enormous amount of paperwork and memorabilia.  I digitized all of the things that I thought we might need or want and recycled the originals.  Redundant papers went directly to the recycle bin.  The bins were certainly overflowing for several weeks.  Of course I kept original copies of important documents, but most of our past and present life is now in digital form.

Early on, Tim and I decided that we would rent a very small, climate-controlled storage unit, since we didn’t know how long we would be on the road.  We figured that if we stopped full-timing after two, three or even five years, we might not want to start from scratch to furnish a home. The storage unit could actually make financial sense.  Of course, the idea of a storage unit is not for everyone, particularly people who intend to full-time indefinitely.  But for us, it seemed to be a good idea.

Even with a storage unit, we only kept a very few pieces of furniture, our favorite pottery and glass collections and items that would cost a considerable amount to replace.  We were thrilled that Tim’s niece Stephanie was able to take most of the remaining furniture and housewares.  My historic railroad poster collection also went to Stephanie on a long-term loan.  She’ll be able to enjoy the artwork, and we won’t have to store it – a win for everyone.  Tim gave his old, reliable truck to his niece Missy.  Missy, have you learned to drive a stick shift yet?  It really felt good to send our things to people who could use and appreciate them.

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