Downsizing from a 1600 square foot house to 200 square feet of RV space is no easy feat. And there’s nothing more effective at making you face the reality of what material items in your life are truly important. This process proved to be so much different than a traditional move. Instead of packing our belongings, loading a truck, moving to another location and unpacking, we had to decide what was important enough to make room for it in our small space and the rest either had to go away (trash, sell, donate) or go in to storage. When you’re packing things to go in to a storage unit that you’re paying for and you have no idea when they’ll see the light of day again, it really gets you thinking about what’s worth keeping.
Now that two weeks have passed since moving out of our house, there are few things I’m really glad we did that we didn’t even realize when we were doing it. Here’s my tips for decluttering and downsizing from a traditional house to RV living…
BEGIN DECLUTTERING MONTHS IN ADVANCE
We knew the task of downsizing was going to be a big one and so we got to work months in advance. Selling things, donating things and making trips to the dump/recycling is a time consuming process. We tackled that process early so that when it came time to move out we were only concerned with what went in to storage and what would come with us. Two weeks prior to our closing date we began the packing process and were quickly reminded what a daunting, exhausting task it is. Had we not spent time months earlier decluttering I think a lot of stuff we don’t need would have ended up in storage because we would have been too overwhelmed to make the sell, trash, donate decisions. Even if you’re currently only dreaming of RV living, it’s never too early to get started decluttering. Your future self will thank you.
CONSIDER SELLING LARGE PIECES OF FURNITURE TO KEEP STORAGE COSTS DOWN
Large pieces of furniture not only suck to move but eat up storage space fast. We got rid of several pieces of furniture leaving us with only a few large items. Had we not done that, we would have needed a larger, more expensive storage unit.
GIFT ITEMS TO FRIENDS AND FAMILY
You may come across items you know you really don’t need but you hate to see them go. A great compromise is asking friends & family if they might like said item. Someone you know could use or enjoy something you love but does not make sense in your new RV life. All our landscape photography was given away and I love knowing those prints are now hanging in the homes of our friends.
LET LOGIC, NOT EMOTIONS DRIVE YOUR DECISIONS
With so little space in an RV, you end up leaving behind MUCH MORE than what you can take with you. But every single thing you own, you wanted at one time. And at one time, you spent money on said thing, making it hard to admit over and over all the things you don’t really need or never actually used. When it comes to deciding what stays and what goes, if you let your emotions decide, you’ll run out of room quickly and end up taking a bunch of stuff you don’t need. Instead, ask yourself the last time you used or wore said thing. The answer to that question will make it much easier to decide what’s worth taking and what will just take up space.
BE METHODICAL ABOUT HOW YOU PACK YOUR STORAGE UNIT
Not only is everything in our storage unit labeled but it’s organized in a way that we can easily get to just about anything. Instead of packing the thing floor to ceiling, front to back, we left ourselves an aisle down the middle for accessibility. We’ll be spending our summers in Colorado and if we think of something we want, we want to be able to go grab it easily without having to unpack half our storage unit to get to it. If something is in storage that we want but can’t find and so we end up buying a new one, what the heck is the point of having it in storage? And labeling seemed equally important as we’ll never remember what and where everything is.
CONSIDER LIVING IN YOUR RV CLOSE TO HOME FOR THE FIRST FEW WEEKS
For work reasons, we have to remain in our local area for one month after moving out of our house. At first I found this to be inconvenient, now two weeks in I’m so glad we’re getting the opportunity to get settled in to our new RV home before leaving the area. I’ve lost count how many times we’ve been to our storage unit. Whether it be to get things out that we didn’t think we’d want or put things in that we realized we didn’t need to bring, there has been a lot of back and forth. Had we left Colorado right away, we would have ended up carrying around a lot of things we didn’t need and buying things that we left in storage. But you just don’t know exactly what you need and don’t need until you’re doing it.
TRY TO TAKE IT ALL IN STRIDE
Writing this post, I’m so relieved that this process is over. It’s mentally and physically draining. If you’re going thru this process alongside a spouse, go easy on each other and try to take it all in stride. It’s easy to get frustrated and irritated when you’re sleep-deprived and feel like there’s not enough time to do anything but pack. Mark & I laughed a lot over the course of the two weeks we spent packing and moving out. I don’t know if it was out of delirium or what but keeping the mood light definitely helped get the job done.
Most importantly, keep your eyes on your ultimate goal! Downsizing means less to pay for, less to maintain and more time to simply enjoy life. Packing sucks, there’s no way around it but the reward of a simpler life filled with freedom and travel is unequivocally worth it!