The Pare-Down Project

Once you start thinking about selling almost everything you’ve spent years collecting, all of your worldly possessions except for what might fit in a single pickup truck load, the reality of this gargantuan decision sets in.

As you walk through the house in your daily routine, you look at dozens of pictures on the walls, knick knacks on the shelves, bookcases full of books, a kitchen full of dishes and cookware, walk-in closets packed to the gills, the ping pong table and foosball table, outdoor lawn furniture, several rooms of indoor furniture, and you realize the utter magnitude of what you are thinking to do.

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  • The pretty crystal lamp would have to go. The dining room suite would have to go. Bye bye to the chess set collection, and the camera collection, and the seashell collection. And would the dogs even be able to keep their dog beds?

    The linen closet with all of its extra blankets and pillows and sheets… most of it would get the axe. Bathroom toiletries would need to be whittled down to a bare minimum as well, as if you were taking a vacation rather than living somewhere permanently.

    And what about the first aid cabinet? Ours was a women’s make up vanity whose drawers were filled with first aid items, and medicines for colds and the flu. Everything from heat packs, to ankle braces and knee braces packed the drawers to the gills.

    Letting go was easier for me than Bear, as something inside me was already letting go of “things” before we even started talking about moving into an RV. I’d been pushing for us to downsize our home, so the seed was already growing.

    Bear struggled with giving up his many hobbies which took up a great deal of space. The wine closet held at least a hundred bottles of wine that he’d home-brewed. He could still brew in a fifth wheel, but he wouldn’t be able to amass a variety of wines, and this was just one of many hobbies.

    While he struggled with the question of whether the trade-off of exploring the country was worth giving up everything, my Craigslist ads went into high gear as if the universe was moving us toward an inevitable conclusion.

    My ads had already been running with a few sales here and there, but all in one day I had three people wanting to buy three different items, and it felt like a sign coming right on the heels of our initial discussion.

    Still, letting go was hard. Bear had given me a painting for our 12th wedding anniversary. The traditional gift theme was silk and I loved sunflowers, so he found a painting of sunflowers painted on silk. I had a second sunflower painting as well, and both paintings were at least a yard tall and even wider. I didn’t remember seeing that much wall space in an RV, although I did find articles about securely hanging pictures to survive bumpy road trips.

    You go through mental loops of “can we — should we” questions for every single item you own: Can we keep it? Should we keep it?

    Of course you can always rent a storage unit in case it doesn’t work out, and you later decide to move back into a “sticks and bricks” house, but paying a monthly storage fee impacts your ability to rent campground space.

    Storage units rented for $110 a month in the size we’d need, even if we got rid of everything that was easily replaced, and it would need to be climate-controlled to prevent humidity damage. That would take a HUGE bite out of our campground choices, limiting us exponentially in this new adventure.

    Still, the signs kept moving us toward life in an RV: items selling on Craiglist, kitchen sink problems sucking up our free time, an invasion of ants which demonstrated that living in a regular house doesn’t protect us from pests, and incessant noise from the new neighbors.

    Weekends filled with chores took on a new light when we realized that weekends didn’t HAVE to be filled with chores. Bear spent at least two hours a week just on lawn and garden maintenance — that’s a full day a month!

    Another sign came the very same day of my Craigslist meetups. Bear’s birthday was coming up and I’d invited our closest friends to join us for dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant. They were busy. They didn’t have time for us — they didn’t have time for Bear’s birthday.

    They were always too busy any more, ever since they’d purchased a second home on a lake to enjoy with their kids and grandkids. We didn’t have that kind of disposable income. For us, such a change meant giving up one thing to invest in another.

    Two days earlier, I’d predicted that a trigger would happen for Bear, and this was it, the trigger. For years we’d played cards with our friends twice a month, but the lake house had taken over their lives. They’d have been delighted for us to come spend a night or a weekend, but our dogs weren’t welcome which negated the invite. We didn’t have a trustworthy dog sitter so we didn’t travel without our two dogs.

    Dakota and Sierra were excellent travelers, well-behaved in the truck, they didn’t potty in the house or chew things up, nor did they jump up on people. But Dakota was a year-round heavy shedder, and there was no such thing as keeping her hair off of furniture no matter how many times we brushed her. Shedding was the primary reason our dogs weren’t welcome, otherwise, our friends got along well with the dogs.

    Even though our friends had a good reason to be busy that particular day, Bear felt snubbed because they were always too busy any more. They were fully retired and could easily have scheduled trips back to our neighborhood on weekends, but they didn’t. Weekends were for the lake — weekdays were for quick runs back to the main house near us, which eliminated visits with us poor sods who still worked full time and couldn’t stay up for all hours.

    We needed new friends. Sure we could reach out and get to know the many new neighbors who’d joined our subdivision, but that wouldn’t solve the bigger problem of living in a too-big house wishing we could travel more.

    RV forums spoke of campsites which included shuffleboard, billiards, swimming pools, horseshoes, and club houses where people got together to play cards. RV bloggers spoke of how friendly RV travelers were, pretty much everywhere. Adopt the RV lifestyle and you’d find friends all along the way, friends which you’d meet up with again and again. It was common for the bonds to grow so strong that you’d plan an itinerary in conjunction with these new friends to visit the same campground at the same time.

    But we weren’t living the RV life — we were sedentary, and joyous days of laughter and fun seemed fewer and farther between with each passing year. Depression set in as I looked around our once-beloved house, and it felt like an albatross around our necks, pulling us down.

    One isn’t supposed to wallow in depression lest it grab you permanently, and when I tried to brush it off, the little voice said, “No, this time you need to experience it fully. You are going through a process, and you need to let the process play out. If you just let go and allow the feelings to flow even if they seem too negative, then you will find joy in the next phase.”

    I understood. This was me inside, letting go of a material life, a big house, and all the stuff that filled it but which did not bring true joy. For me, joy had always been in the great outdoors, communing with nature, walking on the beach, swimming in a lake, dipping my feet in a stream.

    Joy was in trees and flowers and animals, birds singing in the daytime and frogs singing at night. Joy was in the serenade of insects as they called out to one another, the hoot of an owl, the howling of a wolf. Joy was in kayaking on a sunny day, playing miniature golf, and laying out under a starry sky watching meteors streak from horizon to horizon.

    Out there was joy. In here were the dusty shelves of unused things, forever needing to be cleaned. In here phones jangled the nerves, while out there butterflies skipped along with the breeze.

    I knew that Bear was experiencing this inner gloom as well, although I didn’t know whether his gloom involved letting go of the dusty shelves. This was the period when we joked about selling things, each of us on the opposite side of the issue.

    I’d sold another box of my books on Craigslist, specialty books on computer programming. Bear’s response was, “You are not selling MY books.” He knew that I coveted his science fiction magazine collection to sell. It took up a lot of space and he hadn’t cracked open a magazine in the entire 17 years that I’d known him.

    I’d been having good luck selling non-fiction books in themed bundles, such as the eight hefty programming books in like-new condition, complete with the original software CDs that came with them.

    Even my vintage Macintosh software was selling — software that wouldn’t work on today’s computers. Apparently there are enough vintage Mac computers still on active duty for my mint-condition software to have value. I’d been good about keeping the original box and manual for every item, so for my buyers it was like getting new software off the shelf. Most CD disks had been used only once or twice.

    Bear watched as I sold off items that he knew were important to me, such as a vintage Mac computer with my favorite old games. He was stunned when I mentioned selling heirloom pieces. I didn’t have kids and the heirloom pieces were from my family, and while we did have all of these items named in our will and people to leave them to, my philosophy was simple:

    “This heirloom piece is going to sit around collecting dust until we die. The odds are that whoever gets it in our will probably won’t hang onto it, but will sell it so that they can have things that they covet. Why should we let somebody else sell off our stuff and benefit from it, when we could sell off our stuff and use the proceeds to travel the country? What if selling off the heirloom pieces allows us to visit Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, the Oregon coast, Alaska, the Badlands, the Painted Desert, the Redwood Forest, the best lakes in the country, waterfalls, mountains, deserts, forests, and oceans? What the hell are we waiting for??”

    I kept most of my thoughts to myself, however, because if Bear wasn’t fully on board, this would fail. He needed to come to it on his own terms, in his own way.

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  • Leading up to the Big Move, you flip-flop a lot. I’d open a drawer and see the contents as if for the first time. Why the hell do we have this? Or that?

    When was the last time I wore that shirt? Or used that suitcase? Even some of the dog toys were items I’d never give to a dog, now or later. Stuff… everywhere I looked there was stuff that we’d never ever use. What were we doing with it, really?

    Closets, drawers, cabinets, spare rooms… your eye starts scanning automatically, assessing the contents, ticking items off: eBay, Craigslist, yard sale, give away, trash.

    * * * * *

    Follow along with us as we share the full lead-in for the Big Change to full-timing in an RV, and to what lies beyond…

    In the meantime, join me on a very different journey of high strangeness. Alien Nightmares: Screen Memories of UFO Alien Abductions shares my memories and dreams relating to personal experiences with extraterrestrials, along with the little-known UFO flaps from the time periods which swept me up into an extraterrestrial neverland of high strangeness.

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