Dealing with stuff is hard. The last two weeks were hard. We were cleaning out our mini-storage. In it was the stuff that we haven’t dealt with until now. The last of the stuff is the hardest to eliminate. Don’t worry or feel sorry for us; we still have plenty of stuff.
This has been an emotional last two weeks. Dealing with stuff isn’t fun. Accumulating the stuff was fun but dealing with stuff isn’t fun. Even after we are done, we are still going to have plenty of stuff so that isn’t a factor. Even after we are done, we are still going to have too much stuff. We had to ask ourselves the question – do we own our stuff, or perhaps it is the other way around?
How did this happen
Bad timing caused some of the problems and the timing wasn’t totally under our control. Our dealing with stuff started more than three years ago. We had good jobs and plenty of toys and enough time to enjoy them. Our stuff resulted in plenty of fun. I was going to say joy rather than fun, but the stuff we owned didn’t bring joy, just fun. So in review for some who don’t know the story, and to help me get the story straight in my head, here goes. Starting early in 2017 we started a plan of taking more extended vacations in our RV and while still working, we were going to downsize, sell the house and live in the RV.
Before we got the RV, we determined that to make RVing financially reasonable, we would have to use it frequently. Getting an RV that you don’t use is a financial disaster. The more time we spent in the RV, the lower the price per day it would cost. So far we have lived in our RV for 1,065 days and counting. The math is working in our favor.
Live in the RV
San Diego is a very nice place, especially in the middle of winter, which feels like late summer in most of the country; so we weren’t going to leave San Diego and quit our jobs. We were just planning on having more fun and not having to fight as much traffic. The plan was to downsize slowly – sell the house – live in our RV and play more. San Diego is also expensive and so was caring for and paying for our house. If we did it right we could eliminate all debt (complete) and cut thousands in taxes (complete). We haven’t missed either of those things.
Our plan was to take extended vacations in the RV to solve our travel bug. Living in the RV, (without so much stuff) seemed like an easy way to have all our comforts and to have our cake and eat it too. One of the worst parts of vacations for me was packing. If we lived in our RV, there wouldn’t be all the packing and unpacking we could just roll and take all our stuff with us.
Light speed (not lite speed)
Everything changed and everything accelerated in July 2017. Our plan was coming together and we were downsizing in a controlled manner. I was putting the finishing touches on the garden to make sure it was beautiful and ready for new owners. Our house was beautiful, and we loved it, but caring for it, and feeding it was something we didn’t want to continue doing.
On July 28 I left work early and jumped on a plane to Denver. My mother was dying. Death changes everything for everyone. Now I didn’t only have my house to empty, but also her house to empty. Emotionally, it was easier to empty her house, even though she had way more stuff. I didn’t have an emotional attachment to her stuff. Between August and December 2017 we first emptied our house and sold it and then we emptied her house and sold it. By the time we were done, I would have told you that we were pretty good at dealing with stuff (not true).
So to make everything faster we crammed the last of our most important, unsorted stuff in a mini-storage. Right after that, we emptied mom’s house, to the point that we were sleeping on an air mattress and eating off a card table. Then we went back to get our RV, with the intent of emptying the mini-storage, and dealing with stuff — but we just couldn’t handle that, so we let it sit, paying monthly to keep the stuff that we didn’t want to deal with. We have had a hard time dealing with stuff, so we just kicked the can down the road, rather than picking it up.
Every full-time RVer has the same story
The stories are all the same and all different. We paid for a mini-storage so that we wouldn’t have to deal with stuff all in one sitting. Secondarily, we paid for a mini-storage because we weren’t sure that full-time RVing was going to be feasible, in the long term. What if we didn’t enjoy it?
Some of the stuff we kept was to set up our next home. Some of the stuff was valuable (to us), and some of it was heirlooms. Indeed some of it was priceless – family photos that couldn’t be replaced. Some of it was documents and other stuff was just in there because we hadn’t run out of room in the mini-storage, so why not cram it in there, it didn’t cost anything extra to keep it.
We visited our stuff
Each year we returned to visit our stuff, to find out what was in there, and downsize again and again. Each year we never finished, in fact, we knew we couldn’t finish so we didn’t even try to polish it off. Two years ago we could have moved from a five-by-ten mini-storage to a smaller unit, but that would have caused an increase in price. Yes, a five-by-five would have cost more each month. So last year, we never even got to the bottom of the pile.
The bigger stuff
No surprise, bigger stuff is not only harder to store, but harder to get rid of. We didn’t understand this thinking that everyone would place the same value on our stuff as we did. The size of each item wasn’t a question we asked when purchasing. Bigger is better– right? We didn’t have a sectional sofa, so I am not sure, but I bet sectional sofas are much harder to get rid of if for no other reason, other than many people don’t have room for a sectional sofa.
More valuable stuff
The more valuable stuff is going to find a smaller market than the expensive stuff. Kind of the same reason as the big stuff. It takes a bigger wallet, to have more valuable stuff. If you are going to sell your stuff, the only way to move it will be to take a loss.
This category is the worst when you have emotions and memories associated with your stuff it is nearly impossible to downsize. Printed photographs fade. Pictures that I thought of as excellent were not all that great, they were very disappointing. The one thing I did save was pictures of the people we loved. Many we will scan so that they too can have easy access to them.
I spent the best part of two days going through and destroying documents that I had thought were important. Some of them are in the scan pile, most didn’t deserve scanning. They were just taking up space.
This category is hard for me. Maybe I will need it someday. So instead of getting rid of it, I save it knowing as soon as I get rid of it, I will need it — and then have to buy the same stuff again.
The right stuff
This is related to the maybe stuff. Are the spare parts I carry going to match the items that break, or are the spare parts just extra stuff?
Your kids and stuff
Your kids probably already have their own stuff and probably don’t want your stuff. Most people are surprised that they saved stuff for their kids… only to find out that their children didn’t value the saved stuff. I can’t say that I valued the plaster cast of Cub Scout arrowhead that my mother saved for me — even if it was hand-painted by me.
Other peoples stuff
Really I have to admit that most of the stuff never needed to be stored. Uncertainty was a big part of it. Love for other people caused a big part in the collection. How do you give away stuff that other people loved enough to give to you, hoping that you would also find it to be a treasure? Other people’s stuff can cause quite the emotions.
Dealing with stuff has been a dominant theme for the last three years and we are finally finishing it. Our mini-storage is empty. Everything in there was valuable (to us). Or at least I thought it was valuable enough to pay for more than three years of storage. Letting go is hard to do. Dealing with stuff is hard to do.
Bad advice about stuff
The most recent bad advice I heard about was from a couple, much like us, who were moving into an RV full-time. Their advice was to get the storage unit early. This is not a good strategy for dealing with stuff.
We didn’t do this, but we still ended up paying nearly $3000 to store things that were not worth $3000. The only good part of this is that we had a very small storage unit and it didn’t cost us nearly as much as it could have. I can’t imagine the expense of dealing with a house full of stuff.
Better advice would have been to start sorting early and pack the RV early. Once you run out of room in the RV you are going to have to remove and replace the good with the better. Anything that won’t fit can’t go. Another concern is weight. Are you certain that your RV is able to carry all the stuff you are going to bring? RVs have weight limits.
More good advice would be to eliminate duplicates. Do I really need twenty screwdrivers and three other methods of driving screws into things? I promise to cut the collection at least by half.
Another great piece of advice is that you don’t need all the clothes that you thought you would need. This advice goes triple for shoes. Even after three years, I have too many shoes including nearly new dress shoes that were last worn at mom’s funeral — three years ago.
Addicted to stuff
I had it bad. I still have it bad. All stuff, all the time. I still want more stuff — new stuff, different stuff. I think about stuff when I lie awake in bed at night. All of it involves stuff. Maybe there is a twelve-step program to fix this addiction. Now that I have an empty mini-storage I’m going to have to go through the RV again and again to eliminate the stuff that we still have, are carrying around, and don’t use. *From Tami: Scott does not have that much stuff, nor do I think he is addicted to stuff; maybe coffee, but not stuff!
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