Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to Eat an Elephant (Making the Transition to Full-Time RVing)

Selling a house and moving is, no doubt, one of the biggest personal projects one can ever undertake.  No one likes to do it, but when the reward (moving) still seems to outweigh all of these monumental drawbacks, one pushes forward and does it.

My last house move was 12 years ago, and I remember it taking about 4 months to look for and buy the desired new house, get my current house spruced up, listed, and sold, and then get all my household “stuff” packed up, moved, and unpacked.

When I started planning my move to full-time RVing a few years ago,  I spent an eternity trying to find and buy the right new home (RV), and also had multiple major projects to do to the house to get it ready to sell – new roof, new driveway, new kitchen, etc.  Transitioning to full-time RVing was definitely going to take a lot longer than simply moving from one house to another!

When I quit my job late last year to head to Mexico for the Winter, I estimated that most of the time-consuming stuff with the house was now finished and that it’d only take a few more weeks to tie up loose ends and get it listed this Spring.   If I was lucky to sell the house quickly, I’d be on the road full-timing by Summer.

Boy was I ever wrong!

Woman Pulling Hair out

What I failed to appreciate were 2 very important factors---

  1. Getting rid of everything you own takes A LOT longer than simply throwing it in a box and moving it to your next home!
  2. “Primal survival” emotions will kick in when you attempt to move from a permanent fixed home (the place you know & are fully comfortable with), to the new mobile one (which will take you to places you do not know and will not be comfortable with).  No matter how committed you are about full-time RVing, it will take much longer than you think to overcome these emotions and overcome your default “status quo” (which will want to just sit and surf the Net, watch TV, or eat bon bons all day!). 

As I started diving into this final transition in April, I quickly became overwhelmed with the literal tsunami of decision-making to come.

  • List the house empty? Or with some minimal “staged” furnishings? 
  • Move all the stuff to storage to list the house sooner?  Or sell/rid the stuff first and list the house later on? 
  • Turn all the sellable stuff over to an Estate Sale service?  Or try selling things individually on my own?

I had done pretty well last year to already donate or trash most of the non-sellable stuff (looking back—that was the EASY stuff)!  What now remained was the really HARD stuff—what to do with Grandma’s gorgeous vintage 1930s dining room set, her adored china and silver set that she so deeply wanted me to have and cherish?  All the boxes of family photographs? My LP record collection of over 1,000 albums? All the excess camera, camping, and sporting goods gear that I’d always meant to list on eBay or Craigslist years earlier but had never got around to it?

A somewhat easier solution would have been to just pack up all the stuff and send it off to a storage facility, list the house (or even rent it), fire up the Winnie engine and be on my way down the highway to save all these problems for another day.

Well, who knows! That still might be what I end up doing if I’m not finished here before Winter!

howtoeatanelephant2

But for now,  the revised “How to Eat an Elephant” plan #559 (that I finally put into action on June 1st) is to proceed as follows:

  1. Sell the big, bulky stuff out of the garage on Craigslist.  Most of these things are seasonal items that are in very high demand right now.
  2. Box up and move the remaining closets full of treasures down to the garage for temporary storage.
  3. Complete final “staging” work on the house (painting bedrooms/halls, cleaning carpet,  de-clutter/beautify the interior and landscaping).
  4. Get the house listed, and meanwhile sell the remaining boxed treasures via Craigslist, eBay, and/or Amazon; and scan the desired family photos.
  5. Once the house sells (or about 6 weeks before “snow fly” date),  donate and/or sell the staged furnishings to empty out the house.  This will better allow the house to be rented if that ends up being necessary.
  6. Store the remaining boxes of treasures (hopefully only a few by this point) with family or commercially.
  7. Hit the road before the snow flies!

I’m happy to report that Step 1 is now just about completed, and I’ve been having great success with my first month of Craigslist sales (more about that in my next post)! 

It feels GREAT to be able to make trips to the bank with big wads of cash to deposit (rather than always going to withdraw money)!  Good motivation to also move on to the next course of my elephant meal….one bite at a time!!!

Any other tips from you full-timers out there who have been through this arduous process?  Anything else that I might be overlooking (or sequencing wrong)?

30 comments:

  1. I'm impressed that your "stuff" no longer owns YOU! After all, that's all it really is. Maybe a niece or nephew can help you with scanning the photos over the winter. Grandma's dishes are only dishes...

    Good luck with it, the sooner you're on the road again, the better.

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    1. Wish I had a niece or nephew to help, but great idea about taking the photos with me and scanning them over the winter once I've left. I'll do it!

      Oh my poor Grandma would be beside herself at the thought of me getting rid of her heirlooms. But I've tried giving them to family members and no one has room or wants them, and honestly, my dining room has been an unused shrine to her for the last 10 years. Time to just take photos of it and enjoy the memories-- I honestly can not imagine me ever having any dinner parties with real plates and silver in the coming years!

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  2. Lordy....I am doing this not to RV, rather to move to San Miguel de Allende. It's no different really. I too thought it would go much faster and smoother than it's going. Ack! I've been at it 2+ years now. Oy vey! And while I've made great headway oh my Lord is there a ton left to do! I should've started in my 40's (I'm 64). LOL but not really.

    I appreciate hearing from another that the process is more involved and time consuming than they initially thought as well. But we WILL get there! Oh yes we will. Now if I could just figure out what to do with Grandma's silver service....

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    1. Well, SMA will sure be a glorious place to live. Who knows? I might end up there too someday! I had been beating myself up quite a bit these past 2 months for not getting thru this process faster, but then I realized I've been accumulating all this stuff for DECADES, so of course it's going to take longer than a couple months to get rid of it responsibly! Best of luck with your transition. Do you follow Bab's Blog? She's an outstanding resource for all things "SMA ex-pat" (among other things)!

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    2. Yes I've read Bab's since she began her blog. Such invaluable information! You're right - we spent decades gathering our stuff and can't expect to be rid of it in a flash. But oh how great it feels seeing each thing go down the road!

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  3. If you have family who would like Grandma's things I would offer it up, may have to split among several to find a home for all of it! I am making a similar plan but Im going to keep my home since its paid for and taxes here are cheap. I will travel part time. I can retire next yr.

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    1. Unfortunately, I've got a small family with limited housing spaces of their own. Since I always had the biggest, emptiest house, I became the "museum curator" for all the dead relatives' treasures! If I did have a smaller house that was paid for and low taxes, I'd probably keep it for a "home base" too, but alas, the taxes here are nearing 5 figures, and the ongoing maintenance is a complete drain. So, after I full-time RV for a few years, I'll probably look for a little park model or cabin/casita to use as a home base and then switch back to part-time RVing.

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  4. Well this post certainly hit home here in Indiana. It almost describes how I was feeling about the situation I was in with prepping a house to sell. I decided later not to sell it and keep it as a base camp. Still, those last few things of getting rid of in some cases are hard to do. It's also kinda nice to see there is someone else that falls into the default "status quo".

    I look forward to you future posts to see then end result.

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    1. Yes, bucking the "comforts of home" status quo to actually start the transition has been the hardest part. All the little things I did before this were fun and relatively easy (home remodeling, getting rid of unused stuff, selecting an RV, etc). But when you start having to throw the treasures & most comfortable favorite furnishings overboard, the old Status Quo handcuffs you and makes it exceedingly difficult to break free!

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  5. I have been flipping this going full time to no, But like Sondra and Steve said keep the house it's paid for and someday might not be able to go anymore I will have a place to come back too.
    But I have tons of things that must go and will give me extra money in the bank. Mostly Christmas villages, will get posted on Craig's List by Sept.

    Your working on a very hard project and I give you lots of credit.

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    1. Yes, I wish I had sold a lot more of this stuff earlier. Always wanted to, but it never seemed to be enough of a priority. So, yes, do yourself (and your heirs!) a favor, and try to downsize sooner than later!

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  6. Me too. But 4 years into it & I'm still working on the house sprucing. :-( I've solved the family heirloom problem by giving them to the next generation. It's time to pass them on. Each thing I get rid of makes me feel better but it is a long road. Good luck on your schedule.

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    1. Yes indeed a long road! Good luck with your house sprucing. At least you'll get to enjoy it a little before selling!

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  7. It's a very hard and emotional process.. We would like to downsize into a smaller house and keep the Mtr. Home for trips down south.. no one wants our heirloom's in our families anymore, makes it hard but we share memories.. Good luck!

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    1. Yes, indeed. Well, I'm hoping by taking pictures of these heirlooms, it will be a bit easier to let them go. I really never used them-- they were just for the memories of my grandmother, mom, aunt, etc of who gave them to me. Photos should be able to do the same thing I hope! Good luck with your downsizing Susie!

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  8. I do think you meant "virtual tsunami", no? Because, ironically, a LITERAL tsunami makes all your decisions for you :-).

    Thanks so much for the informative post. Am definitely going to pass this around.

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    1. Ha! Oh yes, virtual tsunami! But, hmm, now that makes me wonder...my homeowner's insurance is all paid up, and it's tornado season here in the Midwest....c'mon funnel cloud! come right over here and blow this stupid house away!

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  9. First time commenter here...loved this post!
    We are in the throes of the great downsize and can really understand the "primal survival" stage having gone from "let's throw it all out and get out of here" to "wow, this place really has some nice features..maybe we should just stay here!"
    Our "eating bonbons" is in the form of devouring novels, one after another, making no progress on the Great Downsize for days.
    We will get through it, eventually. Very nice to hear our angst wrapped up so succinctly!

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    1. Oh Lynne-- thanks so much for commenting! So WONDERFUL to know there is another "Lynne with an E" going through this same process and having the same struggles! I just checked out your blog and LOVE IT! I think T@Bbers and Eggers share a lot of the same outlooks on camping, life, and the outdoors-- even though I've not had my T@B for 3 yrs, I'm still "part of the family" whenever I attend their rallies, and have more fun than any big motorhome rally. Hopefully, we'll both be on the road soon and can cross paths and share some great conversation around a campfire some day!

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  10. Maybe you can take one place setting of your Grandmothers China for special days in your MH.

    I am selling my grand parent 1965 Ford Truck (I learned to drive on this truck). It is very emotional. I have decided to keep the original ignition key on my keychain and take the rear view mirror and hang it somewhere in my motorhome. It is my look back to them!

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    1. What a brilliant idea to save a little piece of your heirloom for the motorhome! I'll do that with a few smaller, lightweight, non-breakable things, and hope photos will suffice for the larger, heavier, breakable items that must go.

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  11. Hi Lynne - sounds like you're on the right track. My daughter's friend recently had a house fire and they lost everything. I thought - what if that happened to us? What 'things' would I want to save that could never be replaced? What would I want 10 years from now? Just a thought because life takes us on many paths ... Good luck and let me know if I can help with anything!

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    1. Oh, so sorry to hear about your daughter's friend. It certainly is a good wake-up call! At a minimum, just taking photos of all your stuff and then making sure to keep it backed up (either via the cloud or an external hard drive you store away from the house) is a VERY wise idea. Not only will it help with insurance claims, but also preserve some memories too. The likelihood of an RV fire (or RV theft) is even higher than a house fire or house theft, so I have a lot more awareness about this risk and try to be very vigilant in my backups & cloud data!

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  12. Went through what you're going through now, but 14 years ago to move to San Miguel. Sold everything but some art and books. It all fit in the back of a pickup truck. After I got here I sold most of the books! It IS better to leave the furnishings in the house to sell it. But, what I did was let my friends know I was selling everything and if they wanted to BUY anything they would have to leave it until the house was sold. The house sold to the first person to see it! I had four huge house sales to get rid of more stuff then I can possibly imagine now. I did bring a set of flow blue china and a French dessert set. I now, 14 years later, want to sell them, ha. It's just stuff. STUFF that keeps you from living the life of paradise. You have to have a "ruthless" attitude about the stuff and get rid of it. By the time all the stuff was sold I had close to $30,000USD! in the bank!!! Amazing. My paint crew from the USA drove the pickup truck to SMA with my stuff in it. It was a new season of my life. Different lifestyle - different interests - no need for the stuff.
    Good luck. It took me 5 months to sell my company, my house and my stuff and get to San Miguel. I'm amazed that I survived now that I look back. GOOD LUCK. See you next winter in San Miguel or on the beach north of Manzanillo in a little fishing village called Melaque that has a great little campground, right in town! Woo hoo.

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    1. What an inspiration Barbara! Only 5 months-- you were a dynamo! It took a long time to finally get over the hump and start selling the stuff, but now that I'm rolling, this is becoming kinda fun! Meeting some great folks and making great money too! Poor Millie is worried I might even try to slap a price tag on her soon and post it on Craigslist! Thanks for the continued encouragement, and I'll will certainly let you know when I figure out my Winter plans for Mexico.

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  13. Lynne, I totally get this. I just went through the process myself and it was challenging enough with only a small apartment of stuff. I often wondered how in the world folks with houses do it!

    As usual, you've done an amazing job laying out the steps of the journey and sharing your experience. It is indeed wonderful beyond imagining on the other side. Best of luck to you as you get everything wrapped up!

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    1. Thanks! Just added your blog to my sidebar-- congrats on making it "to the other side"! Hopefully, I'll be out there one of these days!

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    2. Thanks for that, Lynne! I look forward to continuing to follow along on your adventures!

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  14. Having moved 17 times in my life, moving was not a big issue. We were 2.5 years on the road before our house sold, but sure glad we did not wait for it to sell. We spent almost six years full-timing before returning to a house with a lot less stuff than before:) We swapped the full time rig for a Winnie view which we use for our anytime travels. Just returned from a 24 day trip. The View is a great way to travel!

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  15. We tossed, gave away, donated stuff and had an estate sale. We got rid of everything except about 8 boxes of keepsakes, photos and small heirlooms that we've stored in our daughter's attic.

    We don't miss any of it. Funny thought is that sometimes we talk of buying another house when we come off the road someday and how much fun it will be to furnish it. Just like we used to talk about selling everything and hitting the road full time and how much fun that would be (and it is!).

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