Living full-time in an RV means being able to distinguish between what you truly need for life on the road and what you can live without — a big challenge for most people! Unencumbered though we already were, Matt and I still had to get rid of about 75% of everything we owned in order to make room for the really important stuff. It's unbelievably freeing to have only what you need with no excess, you still want those things that make for a comfortable life — it's all about balance.
When Matt and I hit the road, our goal was to shrink our life down from an 1,800 square foot house to a less-than-200 square foot trailer. We discovered that (once you're honest with yourself and look at things objectively), it's actually not that hard — but even though we considered ourselves “minimalists” and took pride in avoiding clutter, it's amazing how much stuff we had that we really didn't need.
When did we ever have 12 people over to dinner? What were we doing with 500 books when we could hit the library any time we wanted? Why did we need to stockpile canned goods as though we were preparing for nuclear holocaust? This is one of the biggest sticking points with people who say they would like to become full-time RVers but just haven't taken the leap. It's not so much the job, or the money, or leaving their families behind — it's all the stuff. We've been so programmed to equate comfort with material possessions, to define ourselves by what we own — that it's almost impossible for even those who want to make the change to consider letting it all go. Radical simplicity requires that you get real about how you actually live your life NOW, rather than how you would live in a different time or place. Focusing on the benefits that of letting go (the freedom of not being chained to a house and its contents, decreased expenses, less home maintenance, and the joy of spending our time on experiences instead of “things”) makes it much easier to lighten the load.
We systematically scoured every room in our house, dividing things into 3 piles — coming in the Airstream, packing away in storage (only childhood memorabilia and tax records), or getting rid of. It was the most surreal process — I got to ask myself all those annoying questions that I had always saved for my organizing clients. When was the last time you used it? When will you need it again? What's the worst thing that would happen if you got rid of it? Only, instead of helping someone let go of junk they hadn't touched in years, we were cleaning out nearly everything we had used on a daily basis in our home. Anything that didn't go in the “coming with us” and “storage” piles was either sold, given to a loved one, or donated. While our friends and family got some neat stuff that Christmas and the local Goodwill doubled their inventory thanks to my efforts — we still actually made money selling the rest of our discards. We weren't getting rid of a bunch of worthless junk — everything we sold had value, and we weren't prepared to simply give it all away. So for 6 months, Craigslist was my best friend. I learned a lot about why something sells online (and why it doesn't!) I took pictures from all angles, wrote detailed descriptions, found websites that offered specs and videos and testimonials, even included links to retail outlets selling each item — so people could see what a great bargain they were getting buying it used. If it didn't sell the first time, I re-listed until it did. I was patient enough to wait for the right buyer (I had no luck selling my electric wheatgrass juicer for even $15 at a yard sale, but sold it for $80 online). We made about $16,000 off of our stuff — not a bad chunk to put into savings at the start of our travels!
What it boils down to is that, if we can do it, so can you. If your stuff is standing in the way of your being able to travel the way you want, maybe it's time to re-evaluate your priorities. What's more important — the things you own or the experiences you have?
Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream with The Husbert and two fur-babies. Learn more at GettingOrganizedAToZ.com and RamonaCreel.com.
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