You have been thinking about full-time RVing for years. Now, you see a long chapter of your life coming to a close and full-timing is on the list of possibilities of what you might do next. It’s been your dream to “leave it all behind” and travel the country in an RV.
The reality is another matter altogether. You have a house full of stuff and you can’t imagine going through every last item and whittling it down to next to nothing. Not only is it a lot of work, but there are things with which you just don’t think you can part.
Great Grandma Bertha would surely turn over in her grave if she knew that you were even thinking about selling the antique china hutch that she left you in her will. It was brought over from Europe by boat and it has been in the family ever since. How could you possibly get rid of it? What would the rest of your family think if you did that?
Reducing the number of things you own can be a tough thing to do. We attach memories to the items we own and parting with them seems like a betrayal of those memories. More often than not, the memories are about people who are no longer with us and it’s like losing a small piece of them when we no longer have those items.
So, what should you do if you just can’t part with your stuff? The key lies in taking baby steps until you are ready to leap.
Start with the easy stuff
Parting with that china hutch that has been in the family for 5 generations is not where you need to get started. Instead, find unwanted items like that ugly reindeer sweater that you got as a “Secret Santa” gift back in 1985.
You only kept it because it was a gift to you, and you didn’t feel like it would be right to just give it away. It ended up in a box along with 10 pounds of similar items and got put in the attic.
These are the easiest items to discard, so start here. They really have no emotional attachment, so get this out of the way first thing. Besides, even if you change your mind about full-timing after this point, all you’ve done is just tidy up your storage space. No harm, no foul.
The stuff that doesn’t get used
The next step is to locate items that you simply don’t use. For example, you may have an electric egg poacher or iced tea brewing machine that were great for the first 6 months that you owned them.
You haven’t touched them since, and that was over 7 years ago. Doing away with these items can still be viewed as “tidying up” as opposed to ditching everything you own.
Pick a timeframe
So far, you’ve gotten rid of things you really didn’t want or care about. Next, you got rid of obvious things you simply never use that take up space. Now, pick a date in the past—say, 5-10 years ago.
Once you have your date in time selected, locate items in your home that you haven’t touched since that time. Don’t include things like photos or keepsakes.
Focus instead on things like the clothes you fit into 10 years ago that you’ve kept in hopes you will be able to wear them again, or that “As Seen on TV” gardening tool that you used 5 years ago and haven’t picked up since.
Things may be getting a little harder to part with at this point, but you really haven’t gotten rid of anything that you don’t truly need. Once you’ve finished the first round of this, wait a few weeks and then set a more recent date and repeat the process. Then do it again, and again if necessary.
One drawer at a time
In addition to the timeline strategy listed above, try taking it one drawer at a time. Over the course of time, you will inevitably open a drawer or cabinet to get a needed item and spot something you don’t need lying right next to it. Take 5-10 minutes to pull everything out of this drawer or cabinet and put back only the essential items.
What you don’t put back you can sort into two piles: The “I know I’ll never use this again” pile and the “I’m not sure if I might need this in the future” pile. Donate the first pile and put the second pile in a box to be thought about later. Set it aside.
When you repeat this process with another cabinet or drawer, add the items from your “I’m not sure if I might need this in the future” pile to the box you started earlier. Make a deal with yourself that you will go back and review these items when you have 5 boxes of stuff you might need later. Try to reduce that to only 2 boxes.
The final steps
As you have been going through this process you will have found that items are not as precious to you as they might have been before. You may realize that getting a few bucks for Great Grandma Bertha’s china hutch is better than paying to store it indefinitely. Or, you might opt to give it to another family member who would like to have it.
Alternatively, you might find that contributing these types of items to a charity close to your heart may make parting with them easier. Maybe storing these items for a period of 6 months to a year might be an investment you are willing to make to be sure it is ok to let go.
The final step is to pack what you have left into your RV. This is the final round of elimination, which can be challenging, but it is made easier by the fact that you are about to be on the road.
As you are deciding what dishes and towels will be best suited for your new abode, you realize that hanging onto Great Grandma Bertha’s china hutch really wasn’t quite as important as you once thought.