Couple having trouble downsizing to RV full time

Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
My wife and I have been traveling for a couple of years and have decided we like this RV lifestyle enough to pull the pin and sell our home. The problem is we have many family heirlooms that we just can’t sell. We have been cultivating our detachments for several months, but there are many family items we just can’t part with. Is this a common problem? How should we handle the family jewels? —Family Problems in Florida

Dear Family:
These items are called heirlooms for a reason. You give them to your heirs. Now sounds like a great time to do that. Another way to handle it is to pretend you’re dead. Now that you’re dead, what is going to become of the family heirlooms? That should give you some direction as to where they will end up.

Another more expensive option is storage. For those on the fence in deciding whether full-timing is for them or not, storage seems to be the better choice. You may decide to drop anchor again, buy a house and furnish it. At that time you may miss the family heirlooms. A combination of these ideas would be to let your heirs store them for you for a couple years. You may have a family member that has extra storage space or may want to use some of the items in their home. If you don’t have any heirs, turn these items into oral history. Sell them at an auction and tell stories about them for the rest of your life. I know how you feel. It is hard to give up things that have good memories attached to them. You can also take pictures of the items before giving them up to remind you of the memories.

My dad had stuff. My mother always said he would go to the dump with one load and come back with two. When he died he had three generations of stuff. I had a yard sale just so older people would stop by and tell me what some of the items were.

Even though we live full time in a motorhome, we still have a small place for stuff. You might consider down-sizing. We have a beautiful natural piece of property, low taxes and one of the best campsites in Michigan. We come back a couple months every year to regroup. I enjoy being able to work on the rig and have all my tools handy.

It is surprising how each year things become less valuable to you. It’s like throwing out ballast to keep the balloon airborne. Think of this as an opportunity to be creative with your lifestyle. Don’t do anything rash. There is always more than one way to skin a cat, if you’ll pardon the old but now non-politically correct expression. Take your time and consider all your options before deciding what is most important to you. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Editor: AARP has a very helpful book by Marni Jameson: “Downsizing the Family Home: What to Save, What to Let Go” – which offers “practical wisdom and heartwarming advice so you know with certainty what to keep, toss or sell” for any reason for downsizing. Learn more or order at Amazon.com.

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his new e-book: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.

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17 Thoughts to “Couple having trouble downsizing to RV full time”

  1. 2SheckleNomad

    I took two ministry trips several years ago. These both lasted about 5 or 6 months, and I pretty much toured the southern states. During the second one, my children were cleaning the shed, which helps overflow from a family of packrats. I had already moved into a shed-sized dwelling, and gotten rid of a good chunk then just to clear my head.
    As they were cleaning, they found my old trunk of keepsakes that I let them play in sometimes as children, and called me to ask if they could ‘play’ in the memory box (they were getting by then). Seriously, I couldn’t even remember what was in there anymore. However, I remembered that I was saving all that junk to give to them. So, why not? I told them to split the booty. After quite a discussion, and many promises that I wasn’t dying (again, but never mind that), they cleared it.
    We have had epic conversations about the pieces since, especially with the grandchildren. Well worth the ordeal. 🙂

  2. Earl Balentine

    I always remembered what Ann Ladders once said “If you haven’t used it in a year, you don’t need it. You can always rent it”.
    My brother-in-law had old truck that he put into storage for a few years. During the time in storage the thieves stoled the wiper blades, bumpers, mirrors etc and the money he paid for the storage exceeded what the truck was worth.
    My son-in-law stored a lot of baby keepsakes in the attic. Years later he went to retrieve it and it was all discolored dried out and cracked, totally worthless.
    I had several friends that passed away and before their passing I tried to convince them that they need to get rid of some things while they still had a choice where the items would go.
    My friend’s spouse and her new boyfriend are now selling his stuff and enjoying the money from it.
    My mother passed away several years ago, I remembered that my sisters wanted nothing. We loaded up everything and took it to the Goodwill.
    So if you are at retirement age, now would be a good time to pass on all your photo albums, heirlooms to your family or friends before it’s too late.

  3. Vanessa A Simmons

    In Sweden, it is called dostadning, a hybrid of the words for death and cleaning. The idea is to give away the things you cherish to those you love so they can cherish them and you receive the joy of seeing them happy. That is if your loved ones want any of the stuff you have.

  4. SGM D

    As I had found when downsizing, it was difficult to get rid of everything. So a storage locker was rented. I have grown tired of paying for a storage locker and have taken a second look at what is stored and down sized again as well as buying an insulated cargo trailer that can be sold to recoup storage costs.

  5. Steve

    Retired single man here. Planning to begin full-timing on April 1st this year as a solo. One of the biggest obstacles for me has been dealing with the emotional aspect of parting with family heirlooms, including furniture, that held meaning to me.

    Last summer I read this article about selling stuff and moving on: https://wandrlymagazine.com/article/how-to-get-rid-of-your-stuff/ . Part 1 dealt with overcoming sentimentality. It was the best discussion of the subject I had ever read and was a game changer for me.

    At about the same time I read the book, “Downsizing the Family Home” by Marni Jameson. About half of it deals with the emotional side of parting with stuff. A great book.

    These two resources got me over the hump. The authors said it all in far better ways than I could here. Now I’m planning to keep only one box, maybe two at the most, of items that are important to me. Nothing’s going into storage. And parting with all the rest won’t bother me. I’ve thrown out a lot of old stuff already and it’s a liberating feeling. If I decide full-timing isn’t for me, I’ll buy a small house or condo, some used furniture, lamps and a few paintings and have a happy life by living in the moment and not looking back with regrets.

    1. Mary Woods

      This is exactly my take on this subject but I admit I’m not there yet. Single woman with a dog, going full time in a small RV I just bought. Selling my condo in Boston. Retiring from the job and hitting the road. I plan to eventually move to Mexico as an ex-pat after living in the RV for a while. BUT… I have mostly art work I just cannot let go. Furniture has no meaning, but my art? Really struggling with that one. I keep thinking I”ll just box it all up and store it in Tucson where I’ll eventually land (family there) before setting up a new home in Mexico. Yes I can get good used stuff for a new home.. but my art? So hard to let that go because of my passion for it. I need to get to a place where I can really let it go and be happy about it!

  6. Sam Lunt

    For those things you think you can’t part with just take a picture or two of them and you always have a better memory when looking at the picture yet it takes up no room and can be shared with all of your family easily.

  7. Brenda

    When our nephew and niece parents died they had the responsibility of cleaning out their two bedroom condo. They kept practically NOTHING. All the dishes and other things their parents kept went into a dumpster in the driveway.
    After seeing this we asked our kids if they wanted any of our “stuff”. They took some furniture but that’s about it. We either donated and sold a few things at flea markets.
    Try not to feel sad if your kid’s don’t want your heirlooms. Keep a few pieces that you can’t give up and USE them for your enjoyment.

  8. Michael McCracken

    Follow the RV Shrinks advice. As far as how to handle the “Family Jewels”, that is a personal matter…….lol.

    1. RV Staff

      😯 —Diane at RVtravel.com

  9. Jerry X Shea

    The Shrink hit the nail on the head – “you are dead, what happens to the items.” Pass them on now, while you are alive to see them enjoy the items.
    FYI – Ater you sell that big house, buy a very small one for 2 reasons. First, you have to be “from someplace.” Drivers license, voting, etc. While “roaming the country side” as fulltimers, which we did for 8 years, you are going to want a place “to come home to.” Second, as much as you may be in great health today, what about 10, 15, 20 years from now? What if something happens to one of you. Find a very small one bed/bath place in a Senior community that you can buy today. 15 years from now you may not be able to afford a place. Good luck.

  10. Glenda Alexander

    Another option might be to donate the heirlooms to a museum or, if you think you may want them back, loan them to the museum. That way, many people would be able to enjoy them.

  11. Robbie

    As full timers, we bought a utility trailer years ago for storage. Pretty handy, we have moved it to different locations several times, and have never paid for storage. Usually once a year we’ll go back to it, unload, throw out and reorganize.

  12. Alaska Traveler

    We took several years to empty our house preparing to sell. We had 3 huge garage sales. Since I lived very far from my heirs, I took pictures of our worldly goods and asked my heirs if there was anything they wanted. We owned a 20’ enclosed trailer that we packed with things people wanted and things (like tools) that we couldn’t part with. We had heirs with room to park it after distributing those things others wanted. I still have several boxes of things I couldn’t part with but I’ll probably do that soon. I have never looked back…

  13. Jeannie

    “Skinning a cat” probably originally referred to skinning a catfish. Those things are hard to skin and I’ve seen umpteen methods of doing so (The easiest way I found was to filet the meat with the skin still attached, then slice the meat off the skin. Once I got the hang of it, it took only a few seconds and I had meat without the built in toothpicks.)

    1. RV Staff

      Oh, I like that “interpretation” much better. Thanks, Jeannie! 😀 —Diane at RVtravel.com

      1. lauren oliver

        We have been full-timing for 4 years. Before we left our house we built 2 owners closets, shoved all the stuff in them and rented the house. We also have a 5 x 8 enclosed cargo trailer. When we sell our home next year, we will transfer the owners closet contents to a storage locker. I know, this is not down-sizing, this is cheating, but it keeps us sane!

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