Downsizing: Part II

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This post is about the logistical process of downsizing. If you want to read more about the emotional process, see Part 1.

If you read my first post, then you know we had a lot going on when we were going through this process. Obviously this will not be the case for everyone (but if it does apply to you then call me and we can chat about it over a bottle of wine); this is just our navigation of downsizing. I’ll share the steps we took, along with some tips, and end with a helping of advice so you can learn from our blunders.

Without further ado, let us begin:

Step 1

Begin mentally planning what you will keep and get rid of months ahead of time as you contemplate selling your townhouse and, maybe someday, venturing into vanlife. However, don’t take any ACTUAL ACTION because that would be far too proactive. And we don’t want to be proactive, do we? Nooooo. I thought not.

Step 2
Gently inspire partner a few weeks before scheduled garage sale to think about what he may want to try to sell. Inform him you have been making mental lists in your head FOR MONTHS. Have argument about why you did not include him in said list-making. Because, duh, that would be PROACTIVE. See above point.
Step 3

Have garage sale on ONLY allotted day per year that garage sales are allowed by townhome association. Don’t get me started. Doesn’t matter if you aren’t ready to sell it yet because you still want to sit on it until you move, this is your one chance so you have to make it count. Sit on a pillow. Be happy.

Step 4
List remaining furniture and dishes and such on Craigslist because while your partner is on Facebook, you are not, so you cannot use Facebook Garage Sale or whatever it’s called because, just, it won’t work. Whatever.
Step 5
Simultaneously ask friends if there’s anything they want. If yes, then Yay! Be content knowing thing will live on in happy home. If no, then ask with tears in your eyes if they are willing to keep it on a loaner basis just to be kind. Yes? Thank you!
Step 6

Simultaneously have friends volunteer portion of basement so we don’t have to rent storage space. LIFE SAVING. Again, thank you Seth and Danielle! Our hearts are full! **Sigh of relief** Now I can keep my treasured antique table that my dad refinished. Also, my five LARGE containers of Christmas decorations. Don’t judge.

Step 7
Simultaneously pack remainder of life in THREE separate box categories. Yep, you heard me. THREE. (Laughing now, crying then.) Since we were vacating our home but not yet moving into a van but preparing to someday move into a van, we did things a bit crazy awkwardly. We had already planned a December visit to Stephen’s family in South Africa. Since we were sortof between seasons of life, we had the brilliant idea to stay awhile and visit, because we never get extended time with them and this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So CATEGORY 1 – pack for 3 months in South Africa (mostly summer, mostly clothes). First though, I had to close down my private therapy practice before leaving for South Africa and Brother generously offered his house as an in-between lodging spot. This move required work clothing and various other day-to-day things. So CATEGORY 2 – pack for Brother’s house (mostly fall, mostly work clothes). In theory, this category also included the things we would need while building our van, minus work clothes. Finally, there were the things we assumed we’d need and want in vanlife but didn’t need in the interim. So CATEGORY 3 – pack boxes not needed now OR in South Africa but needed for vanlife.
Step 8
Simultaneously make innumerable trips to Goodwill. May I just take this moment to say that we considered ourselves fairly scaled-down people to begin with. We did not have special holiday china, or antique lunchbox collections, or thousands of family photos on our walls. We did not have 17 pairs of tennis shoes or 44 tea kettles. So how is it that we STILL had SO. MUCH. STUFF? All those hobbies and wine glasses and baking pans – they really add up over time. So do pillows. Kilty Man will tell you that I may have a small pillow problem.
Step 9

Simultaneously call nonprofit organization to donate remainder of furniture. Thankfully they will take mattresses. Happy dance.

Now, as you can see (read?), there are a lot of “simultaneouslys” up there. This brings me to a huge regret in our process… If you know you are entering vanlife, or setting out to travel the world, or just want to de-clutter in general, give yourself ample time to sell things or give them away. We tried to do as much of this as we could given our time constraints, but not nearly as much as we’d have liked.

This brings me to some honest-to-goodness advice about downsizing. Here are some tips to get you started on your very own path to empty hangers and less pillows:

  • Donate things to organizations that you believe in. We gave to World Relief, an organization that helps refugees resettle in America. I like knowing some of my stuff is helping people make a new life here.
  • Seriously, having friends who were willing to take our stuff was such a gift… both to store and to use. My hope for you is that you have such friends.
  • START NOW! If we were less rushed in our process, it would have been more thoughtful, earned us more money, and saved us many fights. I wish we’d had a year to plan and get rid of. I was sorta doing it in my head, but that’s not the same.

Some ways you can START NOW:

  1. Sell something on one of those Facebook garage saley groups. Most people we’ve talked to say they’ve had the best luck going this route, as opposed to Craigslist (what we tried) or Ebay. Take the money you make from selling your dining room table and start your #vanlife or travel fund. Do not buy a latte. Start your fund.
  2. Put a moratorium on spending. Challenge yourself to go to Target and ONLY BUY TOILET PAPER. You heard me. Only toilet paper. You can do it.
  3. Get rid of one piece of clothing for every major body part: one top, one bottom, one pair of shoes, one hat. If you are really up for a challenge, give away a coat too. If you want to be a total rockstar, spend a weekend cleaning out your closet. Take these things IMMEDIATELY to a thrift store. Do not let the bags sit in a pile in the corner. They will either act as horrific bean bag chairs, or, the contents will find legs and walk back into your closet. Bad either way.
  4. While you’re on your way to the thrift store, stop by your kitchen and grab one gadget you haven’t used in a year. You know the one. Take it to the thrift store with your bags of clothes so Macklemore can write a song about it. You’re welcome.
  5. Give some stuff away as gifts. Or non-gifts. Have a giving party. Just give. Here is one of my favorite givings — a neighbor turned this ugly-but-sturdy antique cart into a gorgeous kitchen island. Amazing to see things get a new life in a new home. Again, heart. full.

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