Making Memories & Getting Rid Of Them
Pre-Post Note/ THANK YOU so much for all the great ideas everyone shared on our 2016 travel plans. It’ll take a while for us to digest the 150 or so comments (wow!), but we want to thank you deeply for all the tips! We will most certainly be reading & making detailed notes. I am more excited than ever about this years travels!!
I’ve been thinking a lot about memories recently. What makes a memory, how we recall them and (very pertinent to what we’re doing right now) how we manage them going forward. You see when we went on the road over 6 years ago we made a mistake, or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say we made a miss-calculation. We got a 10′ x 15′ storage and packed it to the brim with everything we thought we wanted to keep.
We had a lot of memories, a lot of stuff that meant something to us, for whatever reason. It’s not that we didn’t downsize when we went RVing. We really did get rid of a ton of stuff! But we also kept a bunch -> old photographs, letters, key pieces of furniture, special knick-knacks. The last remnants of our “old life” which we felt we wanted to hang onto.
Our reason for doing this wasn’t completely moronic either. We really didn’t think we’d be on the road that long! Our plan was to RV for a year, maybe two and then we’d find our “perfect” place and settle down again. Why get rid of a lifetime of stuff when you’re going to need it again within a few years? Especially when you’ve saved and collected such nice stuff over so many years? Of course that plan flew out the window as soon as we passed the 2-year mark, especially since (by then) we knew we didn’t want to settle down anytime soon.
But the storage remained.
Like a big, heavy, dark secret it weighed on our shoulders every single month the storage bill came in. And like a big, heavy, dark secret we totally ignored it. We went to see our storage every year much like passing tourists visiting a monument to the dead. We’d open the door, start hyperventilating at the sight of all that “stuff” and then quickly close it, walking away with a manic “la-la-la-la” and the absolute certainty that we’d ignore it for another year. Then the storage bill would increase…again…and we’d feel the weight of all that stuff all over again.
Our life was in that storage, or so we thought. But after a certain number of years you start to question that whole premise and whether your “life” is really worth the ever-increasing storage $$ you throw at it. 6 years on and we feel this more strongly than ever. In fact I’ve talked about it many times on the blog before and it’s one of the key regrets I featured in #8 on my popular post “10 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Went Fulltime RVing“.
There may be many memories of our life in that storage unit, many things that served their purpose for us at a point in time, but that time has passed. Our life has moved on and so has the physical items we associate with it. Our tastes have changed, our needs have changed. At this point we don’t even know if we’ll move into a “regular” house again (tiny house, maybe…regular, I don’t know?). Plus those old memories don’t disappear when we get rid of our old things, they simply don’t need the stuff to cement them anymore. Why not let those items go so others can make memories out of them?
So, this year….finally….after so many years of completely ignoring the problem we’re attacking our storage. We started 4 days ago and it hasn’t been easy. Anyone who’s gotten rid of stuff knows it’s both an emotionally and physically exhausting process. The sheer magnitude of the task seems overwhelming at first, but all you can do is attack it piece-by-piece, bit-by-bit.
We’ve got another 3 weeks to go and then we’ve GOT to be done. We’ve already sold 5 large items on Craig’s List (which is very active in San Diego), we’ve made 5 trips to the charity shop and we’re sorting thro’ a bunch of remaining stuff taking pics of stuff we want to chuck (but still keep a memory of), archiving and re-sorting anything we think we might keep.
And yes, despite all this we’ll probably still keep some stuff. We’ve got some small knick-knacks and other items that we can’t quite let go of (perhaps we need more time to sort through those remaining memories?), but our plan is to get OUT of that crazy 10′ x 15′ and reduce everything to the space of a small closet. Just a few boxes and (hopefully) that’s all.
In the meantime it’s going to be endless hours at the storage followed by more hours at home posting on Craigs List, following up leads and getting stuff moved. The silver lining in all this? In addition to lightening our burden of stuff, AleSmith Brewing Company (one of my FAV breweries in San Diego!) is only 10 mins from our storage spot. With the help of beer I’m pretty sure we’ll make some new memories and make it through 🙂SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Good for you guys. We are getting close to making the jump to full-timing and it feels great to get rid of stuff.
We should have done this years ago, we really should. But at least we’re attacking it (finally). Good luck w/ your own downsizing & plans!
We are getting ready to retire into some sort of rolling home in June. We are now in the process of selling everything….well, almost :-). We are meeting with Estate Sale folk in order to do so. Anyway. As we do this it can be quite draining emotionally but also very liberating.
I read, cut out and pasted, this quote from a recent AARP article “When you’re up against your memories, remember: You’re simplifying your life, not erasing your past”
It’s my mantra!
Having gone through this exact milestone a little over 2 years ago… we feel your pain, and relief! Wishing you all the best in the weeks ahead, and sending you lots of strength. We know you’ll need it 🙂 But when it’s done.. it’s done. And that dark secret will no longer haunt you. And that my dear, is a wonderful feeling.
I’ve been thinking a lot about you guys recently. I keep saying to myself “if Chris & Cherie could do it, we can do it!”. So, you are most definitely keeping our spirits up thro’ all of this. I know, in the end, the lightening of the burden will be a wonderful thing.
Dianne lax says
Good deal. I chatted briefly with Paul at points of rocks about THE storage unit. It actually made me feel better that as we move toward our FT plan that you both still maintain a storage unit soooooo I’m not crazy for thinking we should too. Well we will probably still get a storage unit at least for just enough to set up a small place in case the FT thing doesn’t work out. The back up plan. Oh gosh I’m such a planner. Anyway I know it’s hard to deal with so congrats on facing it head on. Live your Tavel plans for 2016. Sounds awesome!
Storage is a difficult question, it really is. We love fulltime RVing and it’s definitely been a GREAT choice for us, but for some people it just doesn’t work out. Maybe they find they can’t handle being that close to their partner, or they don’t like moving around as much as they thought they would? Fulltime RVing can be an amazing lifestyle, but there are so many reasons it might *not* work out too. So, I can’t fault folks for getting a storage unit. I totally understand!
If it DOES work out for you though, I recommend getting rid of your storage faster than we did. 6 years is really far too long 🙂 Good luck w/ all your plans & travels!!!
We have “stuff” too. I could easily rid get of a lot of that stuff, Al, not so much. Someday we will have a small house he says, some day we will want all this stuff. Hmmmm, I’m not sure about that.
I can’t deny it’s a difficult question. We’ve avoided answering it for 6 years! I think, in the end, it’s all about letting go. Stuff is just stuff and most of it can be bought or replaced easily enough. It’s the emotional attachment that’s the hardest part IMHO.
hanna soule says
i traveled for over two years in a self-made camper through the US and Canada and I learned that everything i needed was just there in this small space. So when I settled down in apartments/small houses again I had been informed by my minimalist road-experience how little I really wanted/needed – and I stayed with it and it was/is pure freedom!
My memories are stored in my mind and my heart. I can take them with me anywhere and there’s no storage fee.
And Nina: I very much enjoy your writing, your reflections and your courage to look at the ‘whole picture’ – you are honest, funny, emotional connected and very gifted… Lucky Paul!
Happy (baggage free) trails! Hanna
So beautifully said…truly! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Jil mohr says
As you know we really did not have lots of choices of what to keep or what not to…but the stuff we did keep we put in storage..we had it there for one year and then got tid of it all … We realized it was just stuff… What was important to remember we took photos of…although it is not a easy task… Goid on you for doing it…
We’ve been taking photos too. I think it’s a great way to keep memories of stuff.
I do agree with you – to make the decision sooner rather than later to get rid of it “all”.
When I gave up my UK life to emigrate to USA (to get married and stay here) in 2007 I somehow got rid of nearly everything I owned in UK, apart from basic tools and spare parts (being into electronics) I knew I’d use. The bulkiest item I kept and shipped over was (don’t laugh) my Model Railway, since I’d planned that to be my Hobby For Life… Guess what: I’ve still got it, all ‘folded up’, and never used! With hindsight I should never had brought that either.
Moral – You really CAN do without it all! There’s hardly anything I really regret getting rid of.
Pam Wilson says
We sold our forever home and planned on full timing for indefinite period. We knew we would end up in a real home, so rented a POD. The largest available, only one, and packed it with the most important things/stuff. When it was full everything else was sold, donated or tossed. Our biggest mistake was not renting a dumpster, haha! Such a cleansing experience, and when we settled in our new forever home, had only nice things left in POD, and bought lots of new things!
Your cost of storage could probably have replaced everything!
We tried to meet up with you in Oregon in 2013, while you were camp hosting at the lighthouse. You were walking your dog, so we never met. Good luck with the exciting 2016 plans! Keep on blogging and safe travels!
And that’s exactly the thing about long-term storage. Give it a few years and you can replace just about everything in that storage for much less than the $$ you paid to store it. Sounds like you guys took a great approach. Hoping we get there ourselves this year (finally)!
Steve & Gari says
We got rid of everything that wouldn’t fit in our rig. We found that we received the greatest feeling giving the particularly sentimental items away to family and friends. For the rest we found that there is an emotional connection to every single item. And that is the memory of acquiring a specific item, and the memory of owning and caring for it over time. What we learned about getting rid of those things was that we grieved, then felt a great sense of liberation, then realized we still had every single memory! It definitely was the right thing for us. We went from a ten acre farm to a 37′ 5th wheel trailer.
Wow! You guys did an AMAZING downsizing! And you are totally right about that feeling of liberation. Once you let go of the emotional attachment (which is an interesting emotion, for a “thing”) it’s a very liberating feeling.
Alice & Bernie Gilles says
Having read and followed so many full timers, I’ve gotten motivated to get all of our memories scanned so we can hand off the hard copy when we are ready to break away. We’ve been going though each room planning what goes, what keeps and hope we do as good as you did getting it all into a 10×15. Congrats, it must be the right time to do it!
Hello – As far as selling items – is it best through EBay or CraigsList?
It really depends on the item and your local market. Craig’s List tends to be really active in big cities, but not so much in smaller cities or more rural areas. EBay tends to be pretty good for high-end electronics and smaller collectible items, but is not good for larger items (e.g. Furniture).
So it just depends. I suggest going into your local Craig’s List and seeing how active it looks. You can also always try a few small sales to see if stuff moves. Same with eBay. Do searches and watch some auctions on there to see how stuff moves. If it doesn’t look active try other means. In smaller towns and/or more rural areas you may be much better off doing a garage sale or estate sale.
Going into our second year of full timing and we’re just talking about our storage unit and the “stuff”. Haha, I too have opened the door and quickly closed it. Too overwhelming. But, maybe this is the year to finally let go!!!
Jenny Waters says
Well, that doesn’t look fun. I saw poor Paul’s face and thought that he looked like he could use a beer, but then I see that you got to that. 🙂
Thankfully we got quite a few good beers today. It was a loooong day at the storage, so it was much needed. There are definite advantages to having your storage in “beervana” city 🙂
Get rid of it. That’s what I keep telling my wife. We’re probably going to need a storage locker at some point and we still have a home. lol. My wife is a packrat and I hate clutter. Challenging combo. We talk about full timing every once in a while and my wife always tells me I’d hate it. She’s probably right. Still the thought of saying goodbye to all the headaches that go along with being a home owners is very appealing. Especially when I think of all the projects I keep putting on hold. If I ever convince her to give it a go, we’ll need a warehouse to store all the STUFF. But honestly, I’d just as soon donate everything and save the storage $$$’s. Then when it’s time to reenter, I’d have a field day going to all the second hand stores and buying used. It’s probably better quality stuff than they’re selling new today.
Ah yes, it’s tough when you and your partner have vastly different levels of connection to stuff. Neither Paul nor I are pack rats, but I most definitely feel more emotional about old stuff than he does. I’ve had to rein him in a bit during our storage process coz his preference is just to donate it all away and be done with it! Me, I need to go through a process of consideration, maybe let it sit a bit and *then* I can let go. I think every couple has differences that way. Hopefully you guys can find a compromise that works out for you. It’s never easy, but it can be done.
My husband and I are exactly the same as you both. We just downsized from big-ish to small house in prep for fulltiming. Some stuff needed to “simmer” before I could let go. Sometimes I asked him not to show me what he was donating. Too hard. Isn’t it fascinating how we all play these head games? We need to do another big round of more purging but I had to take a break. Was exhausted. Again, over what? I’m with you in spirit and wish you lots of strength. Take plenty of breaks.
Don Thompson says
Great post. Timely for us as we are about to downsize. Thanks.
Cynthia Belowski says
Been going through something similar. Sold the house in FL just over a year ago and got an RV. Stored the stuff we thought we might want later. Did end up buying a very small condo on Maui that came furnished. Current plan is to RV on the main land in the summer and winter on the island — I know tough life, but someone has to live it…
Anyway, the stuff in the condo isn’t our style so we will move some of our stuff here this year and get rid of that storage bill.
Two suggestions to whomever. We have been working with a consignment shop on Maui to sell the stuff here that we don’t want and I have found a consignment shop in FL to sell the stuff in storage that we don’t want to move. For us, this is easier than Craig’s List as we don’t have to be present to sell the stuff, and if it doesn’t sell they will just donate it.
Also, we have gone paperless. This includes our old photos. Digitized them and find that we enjoy them all that much more by displaying on a digital frame. We have a small frame in the RV and a larger one in the condo. Takes up virtually no room, and those memories are preserved!
Good luck with your endeavors and thank you for the blog. Both my husband and I enjoy it.
All great tips! We have a few large items which we’ll likely consign if we can’t sell them on Craig’s List. And I spent all day yesterday scanning in old photos from around 30 old albums. Felt soooo good to get rid of the prints and go digital.
Christi K. says
Nina, I would love to do the same thing with our old photos before we go full time in 8 months as I have just about as many albums. I don’t have a scanner, but wondering if you have any suggestions to digitize them without having to buy any new equipment- or if not, a very inexpensive way? Also curious what you did with the actual prints after digitizing? I don’t know if I’d have the heart to destroy or throw them away! Thanks!
You could always take a picture? It’s not as detailed as a scan, but much easier to do. Paul actually did that with most of the old pics he wanted to keep. He just snapped a shot of them with his phone.
As for the old prints, I just got rid of them. Once I had them digitized, I felt I didn’t need the prints anymore.
Christi K. says
Cynthia, can I inquire if you digitized your old photos yourself & how it was done or did you get it done somewhere? It seems like a great idea, but very tedious. I’m wondering if there’s any companies out there that offer that service similar to ones that transfer anything to DVD’s that are popping up everywhere. Thanks!
I know this wasn’t directed at me, but there are plenty of companies out here who offer photo digitizing services. I haven’t used any and don’t know what the costs are, but if you give it a Google quite a few will show up. Maybe other readers have some specific recommendations 🙂
Dan Leeder says
When I moved to SC from Tucson 6 years ago, I schlepped all my treasures and memories with me in a 40 foot U-Haul. I put it all in a 10 x 15 storage unit until I could transfer it all to the house I was going to get. Well, that never happened and the stuff is sitting there untouched after 6 years at $165 a month. Now, as I prepare to divest myself of the sticks-and-mortar and go full-time in my 32′ travel trailer, I have been waffling back and forth “What to do?”. There’s a lot of memories in there of my time with my late wife, each item with it’s own memory. But, . . . . . . it’s been sitting in there for 6 years, with who knows what kind of living vermin company, and I haven’t been able to look at it or use it.
Thank you for this article, It pushed me over the edge. I had even put the storage fees in my budget, but just think of what I can do with that extra $165 a month! Yeah, yeah, I know. Something will always come up and it will disappear. But at least it’s going to something better than food for rats and silverfish.
Out it goes! The waffle makes its final flip. Thank you!!!
I completely understand what you’re going through. Those old memories are incredibly hard to get rid of.
I’ve found it’s important for me to go through every item in detail, even if it’s just to look at it, touch it (and possibly photograph it) one last time. There’s a process to “letting go” and (for me) it’s important to honor that process. If I follow the steps I can do it. If I just throw the stuff away (or donate it) without giving it a thought, I feel regret. It’s odd that it should be so complicated, but it just is. Don’t know if that helps you, but maybe it will
Lona K. says
In 2003 there was a devastating forest fire in San Diego county, killing 14 people and destroying 2,000+ homes. My husband and I evacuated our house in Pine Valley and slept in our trailer for 5 days, wondering if our town would be spared. We had no time to pack and load our “treasures” (to us), and almost did not make it through the smoke alive. We spent 5 days saying, “Remember the seagull setting on the driftwood that we found in Winchester Bay?”, and on and on. Pine Valley was saved by several out-of-state strike teams of firefighters, and we returned home to our beloved town and intact house. We realized that each family heirloom and object acquired on a trip evoked a special memory. We photographed each item, and then had fun handing them down to the younger generation and friends–No more dusting and worrying about fires when we pack up the mh and take off for months! Photos do replace the treasures–Now we just open a file on the laptop, find the photo and still say, “Remember the seagull we found in Winchester Bay?” There it is, full screen and in color…. no memories lost.
We were full-timers for 13 years. We had 10 days to leave our home after its sale so we stuffed everything in a 10×20 storage unit. After ten nagging years, we downsized to a smaller unit. We had an 8-day yard sale; took scrap metal to a recycling facility (yes–my hubby had old hunting tree stands; “someday we’re going to need it” metal; etc.) and made visits to the local Thrift Stores. Then, we decided to settle down because of my health. The very first home we looked at in our desired area was totally and tastefully furnished and in our price range! The home was a second home to the owners. They walked away with their clothes and food items. We donated more items to the local Senior Citizen Center so they could have a fundraising yard sale. We are still storing “personal treasures.” My advice: Many homes are being sold as furnished because furnishings have little or no value. Just keep your valued items or gift to younger relatives. You’ll still be able to “see” them if that is a desire. I agree that tastes do change. Good Luck!
Oh how well I know this one! I’ve been on the road for about 8 years (in a 10′ vintage trailer) and I still have a less-than-half-filled 5×10 storage unit where I go to visit “my stuff” whenever I’m back in Washington. I really enjoy following your adventures; thank you for sharing your experiences!
David and Kathy says
You guys are amazing.
You’re are writing the playbook on how live in the rv, and you have a 10×15 storage unit. We have been married for over 30, retired and got it down to a 10×10 including the stuff that was going to go into the RV once we got it. After we got the RV and packed it from the storage unit we were left with about half the storage unit empty. They raised the price of the storage unit so we decided to downsize it to a 5×10 in Mesa Arizona.
Oooooh it’s stuffed and I can’t see it going any smaller. The stuff that we didn’t sell or give away to friend or family we donate to the Veterans, just sayin.
Good luck guys!
We went through the exact same thing about three years into full timing. Craigslist, donate, give to friends, toss… it all went. Since then, we’re down to three or four small boxes in Mom’s attic. We have no recollection of what’s in those boxes at this point, and if we ever go through it again, it’s probably all expendable. De-contenting is so freeing, we have no regrets and honestly don’t remember what we chucked any more.
I have to admit we’d forgotten most of what was in our storage unit. It’s an interesting process to go through it again. There are some fun surprises, some good memories and then (lots of) stuff you wondered why you ever bothered storing. How our priorities change!
I can’t wait to get rid of furniture that is sitting in the garage and basement from my mother and my mother-in-law (they both passed away in the last 5 years and they gave this to us before they went into Nursing homes-we didn’t have the heart to say “no”). We actually have Engineering books from the early 1900’s from my husband’s grandfather. My husband won’t let me donate them. Of course he never looks at them. I just started laughing when I read your post. I feel your pain.
My son has just moved to Seattle-a one bedroom apartment. He has a minimal amount of stuff and I have stayed with him for a couple of weeks getting him settled. I love the minimal amount of stuff around! Love it! When I get home-stuff will be going fast!
I truly feel it’s healthy (mentally, personally) to downsize. Stuff can be so heavy, so overwhelming and I’ve always found it liberating to get rid of the stuff I no longer use. It’s not always easy, but always liberating.
Sounds like you have a great plan. I wish you lots of luck with your big de-clutter project!
Sally Gilbert says
Oh Nina, I can’t even imagine the job of going through a storage unit after 6 years!! We have limited ourselves to a 5×5 when we move out of our house (SOON, we hope) and currently have that space marked out in the kitchen, as we have just sold the kitchen furniture. We are packing photo albums and spare clothing and linens into totes, and stacking them into our 5×5 space to make sure we stay within our limits, and everything else has to go!
It is SO exhausting sorting through everything, advertising it on Craigslist etc, going through the hassle of people wanting to pay next to nothing for things, or saying they want to buy an item and then not following through…… but reading your post confirms for us that we have made the right decision in selling almost everything, and just keeping the photos and a handful of small items.
When we have all the space that a big house provides, i think we tend not to realize how much we accumulate, nor how much of it we can do without. I am sure you and Paul will have a great sense of accomplishment and freedom when you have completed this exercise.
Good luck, and don’t take too many beer breaks ; )
Oh how I feel your pain! Going through our storage is taking me right back to our big downsizing 6 years ago, and right back to ALL the problems you listed.
I love Craig’s List, but it can be fickle and hard to get people to commit. Plus you almost always end up selling stuff for way less than you think it’s worth. It’s just the nature of 2nd hand sales. For Craig’s List I always tell people “Start with what you think your item is worth, then take 25-40% off that price. That’s probably what it’ll sell for”.
I think that, in the end, you’ll feel very good with that 5×5 storage. It’s a long, exhausting process to get there, but it’ll feel soooo good when you do. Best of luck with everything!!!
When downsizing I stole an idea from someone who bought a small cargo trailer to store things in. It is parked at our children’s house and can be easily moved. Cargo trailers hold their value so we can sell if we need to. It saved storage fees and doesnt take up space in our children’s homes. We also used it to haul furniture to kids and consignment stores.
Alice & Bernie Gilles says
awesome idea, making a note for that idea, thanks!
Great tip! Cheers for sharing it.
You can always rent more stuff when you need it.
Nina & Paul….After you have purged that storage unit, you will have that burden lifted from your mind and spirit. You will truly enjoy your 2016 travel plans feeling a whole lot lighter! Good for you and your diligence in your remaining weeks in San Diego!
I would only add that some things, especially pictures or documents, can be memories for others. My only relative with memories (pictures, documents, letters) from my great-grandmother became ill and her house was emptied out by strangers who tossed everything. You are a link in a chain.
True, and I do think of that. As we are going through and getting rid of stuff I’m working hard to photograph and/or digitize anything I think might be a personal memory. Some stuff has real sentimental value, but I’m finding most stuff can be equally appreciated in digital form. This is especially true of photographs, letters and such. Hopefully I’ll get it right!
GTK, I’m an amateur genealogist so I love old memories!
Caroline Beck says
My ex worked for an investment firm that pushed rental units because they said it was guaranteed that people would pay the increase in rent every year instead of moving their belongings. I could get rid of almost everything I own since I have already had to do that once before but my husband….not likely at all.
You said, “it hasn’t been easy.”
That’s not really enough to explain that whole process but I really can’t think of a way to say it any better. That was the hardest part of going fulltime.
What bothered me the most was all those ‘treasures’ I’d accumulated over a lifetime (and paid to store for years) had so little value in the real world.
Absolutely true. It’s hard to accept how little our stuff is worth to others. Our emotional attachment, not to mention the $$ we spent when we bought it, is soooo far above what people are willing to pay. That’s part of what makes this whole downsizing project so darn hard!
The way I’m able to justify it (to myself) is that I know my stuff will bring emotional value to others, over time. Plus the cost of all those rental $$ amortize the loss, in a way. I know that may sound silly, but it helps to allow me to let go.
Bear Tracks Blog says
When we sold our home 10 years ago to go sailing, we put our most precious items (no furniture), plus our art and photo albums in storage. After about 6 years, we downsized again when we determined that many of our ‘precious ‘ items weren’t that precious. Haha! We were so so fortunate to buy our new home completely furnished, and I mean completely. And it has been a ton of fun going through the boxes that we did keep for all those years. Still ended up getting rid of about 1/3 of it!
As much as I enjoy following your travels and artwork, it’s post like these that keep me looking forward to the next. We love traveling/camping in our RV, but may never full time. We love our home, our neighbors and our neighborhood. Last year we emptied out our “Beast ” with the expectation of selling to get something smaller. We could not believe how much stuff we had “stored” in her. We never found the right buyer and have started putting back only the things we really use. Hope your purge goes well.
Debbie L says
Oh we understand! Thankfully we closed ours out after two years. Now I’m trying to convince my 92 year old mom to not store her stuff while she travels between my two sisters’ homes (between Florida and Virginia). She was a full timer for a year but they stored their stuff in a climate controlled locker. Ours wasn’t! Anyway – it’s just stuff!
Good for you! Not an easy task but seems as if you are on to something and moving forward. I think everyone is a little different in these things but I admire your willingness to tackle it. Everyone has their own approach and style and my hat is off to you. Looks like your 2016 is off to a great start working through some difficult things. But downsizing even more at this time seems like the right thing for you. Thanks for sharing.
I feel your pain as I sit in my basement surrounded by all our “stuff” and my parents “stuff”. My parents have been gone for 8 years and I am finally able to tackle sorting through and getting rid of things. My parents had a thing of if they couldn’t find something they bought a new one. I now am the owner of at least 4 or 5 of every craft/sewing tool made. I decided since I was getting rid of their things I would clean out my stuff too. You are right it is so hard, but each time I get rid of something the monkey on my back gets lighter. This is the year to move him completely off my back. Good luck with your sorting out of memories and moving forward. I know you will feel so much better when it done.
Oh I feel for you! I started helping my dad go thro’ my mom’s stuff after she passed last year and it was very emotional indeed. Your parents stuff reminds you of them and when they pass it can feel like it’s all you’ve got left of them, which makes it ALL the harder to get rid of anything. But going thro’ my moms stuff and cleansing it out was also an important step (for me) in moving on. I DID feel lighter when it was done and it helped me to say goodbye. I kept a few small knick-knacks, but that was it.
I wish you the very best getting through all those items. It won’t be easy, but I also think you’ll feel good when it’s done.
#8 in the Things You Wish You Knew… list is the reason why I’ve been gradually selling things that I won’t need before going full-time. Getting into the proper mindset takes time. My attitude is gradually changing about things that I thought I couldn’t part with a year ago. I still get caught up in it sometimes, but when I think of where I started, I realize this has been a huge change.
For those tempted to store items, you are basically paying for them twice….maybe more if storage is expensive. If you aren’t using something, it can be useful to someone else who is probably a lot like you, because they like or value the same things that you do.
I am amazed at how many bloggers have said that they decided to travel until they know where they belong. Same here! You’ve made it very clear that somewhere can be everywhere!
Tammy Sajak says
I have 3 more days left at work and then I start the whole process you are describing of sorting through my belongings. In my case, I am going to need to do this in steps just like you have. I have never RVed before and I am doing it alone in a 15 year old motorhome – which is what I could afford without selling my house. I live in Austin, TX so I am lucky that we have a good rental market and I should have no problem renting out my house. So, I’m hedging my bets at this point – I’m going to store the stuff for the first year and then re-assess where I am – am I loving being on the road full time? Do I want to sell my house and buy a newer RV? etc. I have already rented a 10′ X 20′ storage unit and have started to give away stuff. I agree that this is a very painful experience! At one point in my life I downsized to a very small Uhaul trailer that I towed with a little Maverick when I moved from IL to TX over 25 years ago with two little girls – so I know I can do it again if I have to!
Jim and Gayle says
Oh, I am so glad we decided against a storage unit. Good plan to have yours so close to Alesmith!
Barrie Bochoff says
Hi Nina and Paul,
Wow! You have evoked strong memories. As a senior citizen, having had a professional life that included a number of moves, I found myself last year deciding to finally organize my home. I’m not I’ll but as age progresses I didn’t want to leave a cluttered house when I go. I had boxes crammed everywhere. Many had been packed from moves 30 years ago and never opened again. As with you and Paul I concluded I didn’t need ‘stuff’ to remind me and if I hadn’t opened them in 30 years… point made. Photos don’t take up much space so I kept them all. I empathize with your challenge. Have a wonderful and exciting 2016 and thank you for continuing to share.
Melvin Pierce says
We live in SW ND, and are farmers here. We are 17 miles north of Scranton, ND. You are welcome to come and park if you wish. We have 30/50 amp hookups, water hook up, and you can dump sewer if needed. We have a 1990 Blubird Wanderlodge. A REAL working farm, not a few acres!
Be sure to check out Theodore Roosevelt Natl park in Medora. There is a great loop to drive thru.
My sweetie of 40 years and I plan on living the dream in a year or two… It would have been sooner but he had a job offer that was to good to pass up! In any case, we started downsizing a year ago when we decided we wanted to adopt the RV lifestyle. We have sold, donated or given away 85% of our “stuff” much to the amazement of family and friends! The more that goes the easier it is! We have decided there will be no storage unit, just a few boxes in our daughters basement!
I was a power lister on Craigs List and sold over 250 items! Can you imagine? Where did all that stuff come from, and why did we think we needed it? Now that it is gone, I don’t miss it a bit, nor would I want it back! We are committed to living the frugal unemcombered life, we are going green! The house is for sale, and I will not miss cleaning the 2800 square foot beast! We will rent a condo while hubby finishes the contract, but we will never be homeowners again….$7000 property tax bill? No thanks, we can live a couple of months in an RV for that!
We have been following your grand adventure and your travel plans for 2016 look great! Hope you have great times with the family in Florida…more to come, will keep in touch…hope to meet you in person one day! Suzanne & John from Massachusetts
Doug Tally says
(cracks me up) …like passing tourists visiting a monument to the dead. We’d open the door, start hyperventilating at the sight of all that “stuff” and then quickly close it, walking away with a manic “la-la-la-la”…
It’s a big step, and you’ll feel so much better after you’ve taken it I’m sure! Thanks for the post, it helps confirm our decision to unload everything but two antique trunks filled with the few items that made the final cut. We haven’t missed anything so far, so glad we didn’t hold on to more.
Rob Bibber says
We plan on clearing out everything BEFORE we hit the road. 5 months away and we’ve already started. Sold a few things already. The sentimental stuff will be hardest. Also hard will be the stuff that we know would come in handy but won’t have room for.
Sentimental items are most definitely the hardest, and it’s a very personal decision what to do with them. Some can be photographed and appreciated that way while others can be sold or handed down (e.g to family). And there may well be some items you just can’t part with no matter what. No right or wrong answer here. Just take it one item at a time and go with your gut.
We’re in the middle of preparing for the road, but still living in a 3000 sq. ft home. It is a overwhelming task just getting rid of the low hanging fruit. I think we are going to have trouble when we get down to those items that we have a strong attachment to. We’re hoping that our kids will be able to take some things, but they are still young and are making memories of their own. We’ll see…we still have a few years before we can go full time.
It is easier in the digital age. I am scanning all my pictures and posting on the www, so after I am long gone they will live on. If no children, who will care anyway? I packed all my wonderful Christmas ornaments (purchased in Thailand and Germany) and sent them to my niece and her boyfriend, they just bought their first condo. They loved them!
I have original art work, which is my biggest stumbling block.
But otherwise the downsizing is so incredibly freeing.
You guys are an inspiration to me.
Bob Nuttmann says
If you don’t need to get rid of things that give you pleasure why do it? We have a nice house we have lived in for many years plus a very nice 42′ motorhome we have had for a while. We do purge stuff that we don’t like or find useful any more. Ebay and Craigs list plus some local charities and some to the kids works well. We also had a close call in both 2003 and 2007 fires in San Diego. And if our house did ever burn we would just have to deal with it. I guess my point is, narrowing down your things to few is fine if you need to do it or feel burdened by them, but not something you want to do if you don’t. For me anyway.
Today I am headed off to the outdoor organ concert in Balboa Park and going to take pictures of it with my 1953 Voightlander camera I have used since my father gave it to me in the 1950’s. Items like that are not something you get rid of easily or causally. Not everyone can only live in wheel estate alone.
For us our stuff has definitely become a burden, and feels like one. There are select items (e.g. art, special memorabilia) that we’ll want to keep when all this is finished and done, but most of our stuff is not worth anything close to the storage $$ we’ve thrown at it over the years. This process is something we’ve wanted to do for a long, long time.
Bob Nuttmann says
Everyone’s situation is their own. I should have paid more attention to your needs and less talking about my own. And if the truth be told, many times all my things I have collected over the years and have been handed down to me from my family are a burden in many instances if not most. But going without all these things seems, well, scary and hard to think about. Thanks for the personal comments.
Joel LaFontaine says
I had a good laugh at your expense, when I read your blog about your storage unit. We Know exactly and I mean exactly what you are going thru. Long story, short, we did the same thing, we quite Full timing last year after 6 years. We had to face the same storage unit headache and are still dealing with some final details. Anyway We know exactly how you feel. Loved the story. Joel & Diane
The pictures of your storage unit is great. We’re selling the house this spring and have big decision to make. I’m reading, watching and learning. Thanks. Deb
Stephen Agnor says
Nina, There is a law of physics, which I refer to as, “If there is space, it will be filled”. This law of physics is no where more evident in the world than the US. As a nation, we have become shoppers, collectors, and storers. If someone has a one car garage, it will be filled. A two car garage, it will be filled. Etc, etc. there is no such thing as an empty room in an ever increasingly large American home. This is why there has been a huge market for self-storage units. This is why we see reality TV shows called “Hoarders”. I wrote this preamble for a reason. My wife and I had a large house filled with memories before we decided to full time RV about eight years ago. The process of downsizing required us to be brutally honest with ourselves. In short, we had an estate sale. Instead of waiting to die to read the will, we bequeathed to our adult children everything that they wanted. Sold everything that was salable. Gave everything else of value to charity. Took everything else to the dump. Now we have everything we want and need, and are quite happy and content. Even though we travel in a 43 ft motorhome and tow a car, occasionally I will comment to my wife, after observing a homeless man pushing a shopping cart on the sidewalk full of his worldly possessions, “The only difference between us and him is a matter of scale”. Enjoy your happy, worry free travels. Best regards, Stephen Agnor
We got rid of all of it before we started on this, our Airstream life. No storage. Kept a few very special, small items that have found a space in our new rolling home. No regrets.
Jenn Barry says
I love this post! We’ve been on the road almost 10 months. ..and the storage unit…eesh….well, you described it well. I’m hoping to dump much more on our next visit!
If you’re enjoying the lifestyle, definitely attack your storage sooner rather than later! We pretty much knew after our first 12 months of RVing that we weren’t going to settle down anytime soon. After 2 years it was even more obvious. Waiting 6 years (as we’ve done) is far, far too long!
You evidently have struck a chord with this topic with A LOT OF YOUR READERS!
I, too, have been given a lot of food for thought as I’ve been busy for the past few months trying to empty my parents’ home of 50 years in order to sell it. It has been, as they say, a catharsis of immense dimensions.
Clearly, you are courageous — more than I — to confront your emotional attachments. More power to you!
Linda Sand says
It took us two years to get rid of our store room. By then we were living in a small Class A so we were able to store in it the few things we weren’t ready to get rid of. The only things I wish we’d kept were a couple dressy t-shirts and a print blazer that went well with them that I have not been able to replace, our Stressless Recliners, and a few Corningware pieces I could probably replace if I could figure out how to get them in our cupboards. Not bad, I think.
When we took off we had no exit plan other than investing the money from the house. We had no idea how long we’d full-timel but leaving the workplace in our 50’s we knew we wanted to travel. We sold the house and everything in it and full-timed for 16 absolutely wonderful years. We didn’t actively look for a new place to settle but found ourselves returning to the same winter area year after year. When we felt the time was right and our bucket list complete we bought a very small townhouse in a active 55+ community with no yard upkeep. It came completely furnished down to linens and silverware. The furniture was in matching décor that went with our new area and it was in excellent condition. Our old stuff would have never fit into this new house. The appliances would have been outdated. Having no storage unit worked well for us and we save 16 years of storage fees!
You’ll feel good when it’s all over and had a few beers!
That’s a big reason we’re downsizing our storage unit. Who knows if any of our furniture will even fit into whatever kind of house/trailer we decide to live in the future? Or, perhaps we’ll just travel and rent for the next 20 years? There’s so much we *don’t* need and we know we’ll feel much better once we’ve lightened our load.
Fun post that probably all of us who travel full-time can relate to! We also went through the excruciating process of sorting through all of our belongings before taking to the road 2 1/2 years ago. I’m most definitely not a pack rat, but we have a small storage unit in Ashland with all of our art work and other irreplaceable memorabilia that we gathered in our many years of previous travels. It’s still worth it to us, even though we plan to travel for many more years. I think I’ll be happy to unwrap our treasures from storage a decade from now. 🙂
I can totally relate. The art work and other special items that we’ve collected over our years of international travel are the stuff we’re most likely to keep after all this is done. It won’t amount to much, but I’m pretty sure we’ll want to keep those final things, even if it means paying for a small storage for the next who-knows-how-many years.
Jerry Arnold says
As I contemplate moving on, I appreciate Laurel’s comment. We collected antiques, small treasures, and beautiful pieces during our travels, i.e., a 10 kilo brass gong made for us, as we watched, from the last known gong factory in Indonesia; a stunning crystal carving of a polar bear on an ice float we bought in Norway and carried back on our lap on the airplane to make sure it wasn’t damaged; way too many Limoge boxes given as surprises, and the list does on. It is the emotional attachment that is so excruciating difficult. It is tough. Good for you! I like the though of taking photographs of all those things we did together, never to be forgotten.
We’ve decided on an estate auction to rid ourselves of the “stuff” we’ve accumulated in over 40 yrs of marriage. No patience for garage sales, Craig’s list, EBay. An auction is over in one day, a risk, but worth it to us! We have over 3500sq, of stuff, furniture, antiques, tools, & embroidery business.
We are also full timers with intention of having a small home one day. I saw you mentioned you went digital on your photos. Do you have certain scanner you used for good quality or how did you do it? Did you download to computer and then a memory stick? We would love to gain from anyone’s experience on this as we have mulled over it but taken no steps. We would love to pass memories on to loved ones one day.
I just have a basic scanner and did it manually. My old photos weren’t great quality to begin with, so that was good enough for me. I think there are professional services who do this too, if you have a lot of photos to scan and don’t want to do it yourself. All my photos are backed up on a RAID in the RV and 2 external drives that I keep elsewhere.
Jennifer R says
Just an FYI, Amazon Prime now includes unlimited cloud storage of photo files. There is the challenge of getting them uploaded without chewing up too much data, of course, but it can be a useful piece of the storage / backup puzzle.
And kudos for getting rid of the unit. We’re in the middle of getting rid of “stuff” and yes, storing some select treasures and business records, in preparation for selling the house and going full time later this year. The plan is to scan most of it, a box at a time, downsizing the unit when possible. It is NOT EASY!!!!
Oh I feel you! Scanning takes forever, as does shredding (which we did with all our old financial and personal docs -> years worth of them!!!). I think I took almost 3 weeks doing nothing but scanning and shredding before we downsized from our house 6 years ago. What a job!
Oh and good tip on the Amazon electronic storage. Didn’t know unlimited storage was part of Prime now. I may move some stuff there.
I have no problem getting rid of our stuff when our time comes. We actually started keeping it pared down a few years ago and have only the most essential furniture and household items already. I donate to Goodwill on a regular basis and plan on purging like crazy in four years when the countdown really begins! I know/hope we will be on the road enough years to make keeping household items in storage not cost effective and like you mentioned imagine that when/if we do settle down again it will be in a much smaller abode.
Joanne Godwin says
Thanks, Nina, for the timely post and reminder that we don’t want a storage unit. We’re going full-time February 1, and now have only 2 weeks to get rid of the rest of our stuff. We sold the house last year and had a big estate sale, but saved enough that is now crammed into most of a bedroom in our 900-square-foot rental house. I was planning on storing it, but over the last few months those precious last items have become less precious — I really don’t want to pay for storage. So tomorrow I’ll started posting to Craigslist like crazy and taking things to Goodwill. Our sisters have agreed to take a few boxes, so at least we’ll have a place to put the final few things we can’t part with. I imagine that at the end of these two weeks, I’ll be throwing things out on the curb — anything to empty the house so we can get on with our lives.
steve citron says
One way to get rid of stuff you really do not need is to use the old 1 year plan. If you have not used it, or needed it in one year, it goes!
And since I have both a full garage, a two story barn, and a very small house, there is a LOT that I need to take my own advise on!!
Amir Bendayan says
So true Nina and very well said!! Bottom line the cleansing turns out to be more emotional and spiritual than physical in the end!! Good luck!!
Toni Frizell says
I feel your pain! I just spent Nov/Dec sorting and discarding most of what we owned prior to moving into our RV fulltime almost two years ago. We have a shipping container at my sister’s ranch for some keepsakes but we also had a climate controlled storage building that was just too expensive to warrant continuing to store furniture and household items. It was hard, both physically and emotionally to let everything go but some family members received some good stuff and now we are free of the monthly storage bill and that feels great! Keep going…it will be worth it!
We still have a 10×10 storage with some staff after we almost sold everything to go sailing 3 years ago. We came back sold the boat and buy an RV last July … we took some staff from the storage, put back other. We know that eventually we have to go back to it and re-organize and reduced more. Will keep your advice handy for that moment. See you on the road sometime!
Totally reminds me of George Carlins bit on, “stuff”
If you’ve never heard it check it out.
We have all our worldly possessions plus a 4WD in a storage place in Melbourne Australia. When we left many people told us to get rid of it all and start again when we got back. But my thoughts were that if we did that, something would happen and we would need to go back early, so it’s kind of insurance against the odds.
Christy Wilson & Ed Elefante says
We have been through this.It is a total mind bender, until you have done it , you really don’t know. As for the stuff you feel like you want to keep…………….look at it again in another couple months, you may feel like you can let it go, or not.
I was talking to someone about this. If you revisit your stuff every couple of months , you will find it easier to let it go, and /or you will KNOW you must keep it.
Funny thing is , as a couple we started out RV fulltime life in May 2015. We took a “couples job” in Idaho as our first stop on our “see the country” life. We Craigs listed and garage sale all our stuff from a 3 bdrm house in Phx Az. What is our first job???? Site managers at a Storage Unit complex LOL!!!!! I collect storage rent from people who have been hanging on to “stuff” for years, totalling thousands of dollars on emotional baggage. I just thought , HOW IRONIC!!
John and Cindy says
Perfect timing on your article about storage. Our original plan was to FT in an Airstream for 2 years seeking out the perfect place to put down roots. We’ve stuck to that plan but haven’t found the perfect place and doubt we ever will so this past month we moved up to a 40′ Class A diesel pusher with all the amenities. Until we read your post, we still didn’t have the courage to shut down our storage room. This coming week, we’re heading back to Tampa to keep what few possessions have sentimental value and have a charity organization pick up the rest. From what we’ve spent on storage over the past 2 years, we could have replaced most everything we stored. No need to keep on bleeding $$.
This story is very relatable. About 5-6 years ago o downsized from a larger 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with a large yard full of uard work, to a much smaller home suitable for a solo or a couple wanting a small home and very small yard to care for. Minimal responsibilities. But I ended up with a 10’x20′ storage unit at the then cost of about $200 per month plus sales tax. I had this for about a year, and then started selling things off. I went down to a 10’x15′ unit, then a smaller unit, tho I don’t recall the size. Ultimately I got it down to a 5’x5′ unit.
Then I finally got rid of the storage unit altogether. It was an amazing feeling, that is hard to put into words, to finally be rid of so much “stuff” that I no longer needed, no longer used, and ultimately did not miss once it was gone.
Altho I’m not coming from a fulltime RVer perspective, the process and outcome are very similar and relatable. Congrats on your hard work and efforts.
Your experience exactly describes the process. I think many RVers take that same downsizing-over-time route (as we have) and we totally get that “freeing” feeling you describe. We’re happy to be down from a 10×15 to a 5×5. Maybe a few years from now we’ll take the same route you did and get rid of it all-together.
We are about 18 months away from taking the big step. I’m doing a lot of research and would really really love some help understanding how to help my wife through the emotional phase of getting rid of things. She isn’t a hoarder or anything like that, but she is a sentimentalist, and places a very large value on things that were gifts. She still has the (admittedly small) black and white TV she received in college 30 years ago because her parents gave it to her. We still use her grandmothers dressers even though much of the facing wood has delaminated and cracked away. I am much less attached to “stuff” and am struggling with how to help her through this. Any assistance would be appreciated.
Not sure how to help with this to be honest. The personal attachment someone has to their stuff is so individual. What one person may consider unimportant, has immense value to someone else. In many cases there is some deeper psychological reason for it, and if the struggle is causing major issues it can be helpful to talk to a professional. If your wife is amenable to that, I do think it’s worthwhile (we can all use some help to work though our own brains from time to time IMHO). On the other hand, if this is truly the only barrier to your “new” life (and you’re able to afford it) perhaps it’s worth it to pay for a big storage? Sometimes compromises are easier than battles? Just some thoughts. Sorry I couldn’t help more.
Pamela Dooley says
15 years ago when my first husband suddenly died I told my grown sons to come get whatever they wanted and then I packed about 10 boxes including clothes, dishes, pots and pans and a few memorabilia items from 30 years of married life. I sold my house and moved into a new house. I bought new furniture and kept a couple of antique pieces. I remarried 10 years ago and my house is packed to the ceiling with “stuff.” We are planning on selling the house and buying a fifth wheel and travel for the next 10 years. Instead of figuring out what to get rid of, we are concentrating on what we really want to keep. Everything else goes. I have all my photos/music/books/videos digitally preserved and saved to the cloud. We are taking loads of stuff to Goodwill weekly. We don’t plan on leaving for 18 months but when the time comes, we will be ready!
I think that’s a good approach. Congrats on the up-coming travel, by the way! This is an exciting time for you, but also lots of stuff to go through before you get there. Just take it one step at a time, and you’ll get there in the end!