Updated: Nov 20, 2021
Downsizing was by far the toughest part of transitioning to the RV lifestyle. I knew it was going to be challenging, but I don’t think I understood how difficult letting go would be. When we made the decision to downsize our belongings and move into an RV to live full-time, I was late 20’s, recently married, and had one small newborn. How much stuff could we have possibly accumulated in those 3 years of early marriage with only one tiny human. The answer is A LOT!
With three stories of living space we had found a place for everything. Stuff was coming in, but it was not going out. It was being stashed, tucked, crammed, or whatever it took for me not to have to let go of it. I wouldn’t call myself a hoarder per say, just really sentimental when it came to stuff. I really struggled struggle with letting go of items, because of the sentimental value attached. Now some of you may be reading this and think, “What is wrong with that?” The problem arrises when you are a sentimental person and EVERYTHING has a memory attached to it.
My first focus was clothing when it came time to start downsizing. I started here because this was going to be the biggest hurdle and the largest accumulation to sort. Clothing may or may not be difficult for you when it comes to downsizing. For my husband, this was easy. I even struggled with him getting rid of his clothes, which makes no sense, but I hate watching “good things” go out the door.
You may not think of clothing being sentimental, but it strikes an emotion for me. I can remember what we were wearing for certain occasions and I don’t want to forget or lose association with the memory. It is hard to separate the memories from the belongings. I had played sports my whole life and accumulated TONS of t-shirts. Those t-shirts were my prized collection. I had worked hard my whole life for championships, awards, tournaments, you name it. I had blood, sweat, and tears behind those shirts. Each one was special and each one unique. Unfortunately there is not room in an RV for 100’s of T shirts, so crate after crate decisions had to be made.
My husband suggested to take pictures of the items to hold onto the memory. Although a great idea, I need to see and feel the memory. A picture would not quench my recollection thirst. I found the idea of making a blanket out of the shirts. I was reluctant at first because the thought of cutting up memories and good clothing was difficult. In the end, I made the decision to go for it and I am happy with the outcome. This can be done with baby clothes, ties, whatever it is that is close to your heart to keep you warm on those cold boondocking nights all wrapped up in your memories.
46. This is how many family pictures we had to take down from the walls and mantels of our home when we sold it. Pictures displayed of memorable moments that were captured in time. The pictures slowly removed and now empty frames placed in a box to donate. Pictures of love, laughter, and joy that are special to our family.
Getting rid of pictures is another tough one. You can’t sell your pictures because to you they are priceless, but to others it is just a piece of paper. You can’t give them away for the same reason (unless other family members would like to have them) and you can definitely not throw them away! That just feels wrong. So what do you do?
The digital world has made keeping pictures easy. Honestly, we don’t even print pictures anymore. We keep them stored in a the cloud always easy to access and free from damage. We took all of our old pictures, even pictures from our childhood and scanned then all to have digitally. Some of the pictures were damaged from being stored over the years. Rips, tears, bends, and water damage had altered the state of some of the photos anyway. Scanning our photos felt like a good way to organize, save space, and preserve future damage to photos. This step did take a lot of time to complete, but we have loved having all our photos with us and protected without being physically stored.
I have fond memories of being a little girl sitting at my great grandmother’s kitchen table eating breakfast. My feet dangled as my legs were still too small to touch the floor, but I can still remember those mornings we had together over Cheerios. I miss her deeply and I cherish those moments. It was special for me to inherit that same table to place in our first home as a married couple. That same table became new memories of breakfast time with my family as I watched our daughter enjoy her breakfast as her feet dangled below. It was a very tough decision parting with this table, even though it went to another family member and continues to be cherished. I had memories associated with this it and it was special to me and my family.
There were many other special pieces of furniture that made me ponder on if we should get a storage unit or say goodbye to, because let’s face it, what if we hated the RV life? If we hated full-time RV living and got rid of all of our sentimental stuff, well that would be heartbreaking. We decided in the end that although storage units are very nice to have and a great option for those things you are not ready to let go of, it was not the right choice for us. We wanted to go all in and not have the payment every month to store unused items.
We were fortunate enough to own a local business with an extra large closet that we kept some things stored the first year. After that year, we sold the business and went through another purge. It was eye-opening going back through the things I thought I could not part with. But after a year of not being needed or remembered, it was another opportunity to downsize. Storing and then revisiting items is a good way for those of us who have a hard time letting go cope with the transition on our own timeline.
Being at an earlier age in our life when we started the RV lifestyle, we had not accumulated many family heirlooms. I lost my father to cancer a few years earlier and had acquired a few sentimental pieces. They truly mean a lot to me, but what good would they do stored up in storage where no one could enjoy them. I had family members who would gladly want the items on display.
I wanted these items to be shared, enjoyed, and loved by those who loved him. I made the tough decision to pass them on to other family members. I was told if in the future I wanted them back, I could have them. This is a very sweet gesture and I would love for that to happen if our lifestyle ever changes, but I had to make peace that these items were no longer mine.
My dad would not want us to give up on our dream of travel and family time for “stuff”. He would want us to live our lives to the fullest and make as many memories as we could as a family. He taught me that among many other valuable life lessons.
When it comes down to it, these are all tough decisions on what to do with your precious things. I can only make suggestions on what worked for us and others we have met along the way, but ultimately you are going to have to make the final decision on what you feel comfortable doing doing with these special sentiments in your life.
I said goodbye to a lot of special things in my life to make it to this point in our journey, but in the end, that is all they were….just “things”. They are only
“treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Matthew 6:19-24
Having less junk, more journey in my life has been a challenge. Especially with memorable items. But as we stack up more and more memories as a family, I know it has been worth it to remember that my treasure is placed in heaven, my family, and new relationships, not in things that wither away in life. Where is Your Treasure?