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How We Downsized From A House To An RV

Now that we’ve been living in our RV for over 8 months, it’s time to look back and reflect on how this whole process began and how we progressed from living in a 2200+ square foot home in Austin, Texas to living in our 36 foot long travel trailer.  

Even before we first started dating, our conversations revolved around eco-friendly housing, tiny houses, earth ships, shipping container homes, etc…  We knew we both had some desire to be able to downsize our lives and travel. We noticed that we continued to rent homes that were huge because we had to have a place for all of this stuff we had been collecting for, well, our entire lives.  We feel like we reached the pinnacle when we moved into our house in Austin.  It was a great house, two stories, four bedrooms, two living rooms, two and a half bathrooms, laundry room, garage, fenced in yard with garden and even a chicken coop!  By all accounts, we had it made and were living the dream.  Except that we actually weren’t living our dream.

The house was gorgeous and everything we owned fit perfectly inside of it, but it was entirely too much house for us. We also severely underestimated the combined rent plus bills of having a home like that.  Have you ever seen an electric bill in the middle of an Austin summer?  We knew we had to make a change but weren’t quite sure what change we wanted to make until Aaron started working from home.  At that moment, we realized that we could sell everything off, buy a truck and an RV, and hit the road full-time while making a living.

Figuring out what to sell

Take a look around you right now, it doesn’t matter the room you are in, but I guarantee there are items that you see that you’ll immediately say “I could never sell that, it’s important / has sentimental value / I’ve had it forever / it was given to me by so-and-so.”  We hear you, we get it, we said the same exact things about at least a quarter of our stuff.  Aaron particularly had these problems because he was an avid collector of video game consoles and memorabilia.  Plus anyone who had seen his office had always come to the same conclusion, that was his command center.  

At first, we were able to prune away a lot of the items that just didn’t matter much to us.  Things like old paper clippings, receipts we were saving for who knows what reasons, game boxes that Aaron had long since lost the discs for.  That part was easy.  Then Aaron took all of our movies and CDs and digitized them.  We were then able to take all of those, plus all of our books, to Half Price Books where we were given a decent amount of money for them.  We could have probably made more selling them individually, but when you have hundreds of each, it’s often easier to just dump them off and take a lump sum.  Aaron had a particular issue (noticing a pattern here?) selling off some of his books because he had almost every single copy of Terry Brooks’ collection that he had been reading and carting around for the last few years.  However, he did receive a Kindle recently and realized that, even though he preferred the tangible book, he could get the Kindle versions.

During this whole time, Hayden was much more relaxed and easy going about the process and dove into it head first.  It wasn’t long before she had multiple piles throughout the house that were ready for donation or sale.  She plowed through her closet, often times flinging things in a frenzy, saying things like “I haven’t worn this since high school!”

We finally worked out a system that worked well for the both of us.  If it was something we absolutely couldn’t part with, it either had to go into our RV or had to be stored somewhere and one of the big things we did not want to have is a monthly storage bill.  So a few small boxes of items that cannot be replaced, such as diplomas and items like that, were sent to our parents’ house for storage.  If an item had sentimental value, we took a photo of it before getting rid of it.  The photo provides just as much sentimental value as the item does, trust us!

Selling off the big ticket items

Hayden's Subaru
Hayden’s Subaru

Right out of the gate, we realized that one of the first things we were going to have to do is sell off one of the vehicles and leave the other for a trade in.  Since we had just purchased our truck about a year prior, we knew we were going to be underneath on the loan which meant we had to use that for the trade in and roll it into the new loan.  We cleaned up Hayden’s Subaru and drove it down to the local Subaru dealership knowing that worst case scenario, a place like Car Max would take it, but we figured we’d get a better deal at Subaru and all we wanted to do was to get out from underneath that loan.  All in all, we ended up being able to sell it to the dealership for what we owed on it, which turned out to be a perfect deal.  That was it, we were at the beginning of our path now.

Next, we had to figure out how we were going to sell off some of our other big ticket items.  Things like our TVs, our damn near brand new king size Tempur-pedic bed with adjustable bases that we’ll be paying on for the next few years still, a solid oak roll-top desk, beds, dressers, couches, you name it.  Thinking back on it now, I’m not sure how we managed to do all of it because it was a giant blur!  In the end, we used a few different tools to sell everything off, some of which worked well, others were hit or miss.

At first, we put everything on Craigslist which was both a blessing and a curse.  The upside of using Craigslist is that people will start responding to your posts almost immediately.  The downside is, you have to weed through a ton of scammers and also people are essentially going to start their e-mail with “I see you have your couch listed for $500, will you take $250?”  At first, we were very willing to work with people and probably got less on some items because we wanted to be the nice guys until we realized that everyone was looking to save a buck.  So then we marked everything up 20% over what we were asking so that we could leave some room to haggle and get what we wanted.  Pro Tip:  If they offer PayPal, sight unseen purchases, mailed checks, or even cashier’s checks, it’s a scam.  Just walk away from it and move on.

The next best place we sold a lot of our items was on a site called Next Door.  If you aren’t familiar with it, we suggest you take a look at it because not only was it a great resource for selling our items, but we also were kept up to date with things like crime, free items, and much more.  Think of it as a neighborhood Facebook group where you have to verify your home address to join the group.  Because there was more of a vetting process, we seemed to get a better response out of our posts through their website from people who lived right in the neighborhood.  While they didn’t come as frequently as they did with Craig’s List, it generally didn’t turn into a haggle war and often times, when they arrived to pick up one item, we would tell them our story and they would want to see/purchase other items.

Finally, we turned to an app called LetGo.  Hayden had much more success using that app than Aaron ever did, so she was in charge of putting our items on there.  The biggest issue Aaron had with the app was that he felt the user experience wasn’t the best and that it was convoluted to try and add items on there.  We did end up selling a few big ticket items through there though, so it ultimately was worth it.

Selling off the rest of our stuff

With a good chunk of the big ticket items out of the way, we were left with the years worth of items that we had both collected before even getting together.  For these items, the only real way to get rid of them is to hold a garage sale (or three).  Garage sales are both great and terrible all at the same time.  You have to painstakingly go through all of your items, gather them in collections that make sense, price them, and lay them out for random people to walk and pick through.  On that same token, however, people at garage sales buy the weirdest combination of items!  Once we got to this point, we really were in the state of mind that we didn’t care how much we made for an item, we would rather have it walk out the door.  We were literally selling entire boxes of items for prices like $5, or $10, or $20 depending on the contents.  Ultimately, we ended up having a total of three garage sales, each progressively selling less and less as all of the best items were being picked up at earlier sales, but all were making progress towards getting us on the road.

There were still a few more items that we wanted to try and make a little bit of money on, so we ended up taking them to the local pawn shop.  We do not recommend this route as you are going to get as little money as you can for these items.  They are going to offer you about a quarter of what you think it is worth and sometimes not even that much.  It’s great if you need immediate cash, but don’t expect to hit the lottery there.

Donations, donations, donations!

Donations!After weeks of Craig’s List/Next Door sales and three full garage sales, we were down to all of the nitty gritty items that nobody wanted.  So we had no choice but to take it to Goodwill and drop it off as a donation.  First of all, you would be surprised what they take at a Goodwill, there were items in there we swore we were going to have to throw away because they wouldn’t take them, but alas, when you show up with 10 boxes they do not want to go through all of those items individually.  Especially when you’re making your third and fourth trip for the weekend!

Now what?

At the end of all of this, we were still stuck with items that we couldn’t get rid of and thus had to recycle or trash the rest.  Luckily this was extremely limited and didn’t generate much more than our normal trash allotment with the exception of a mattress and boxspring.  Which if you’ve never had to get rid of one of these legally without buying a new one, you don’t fully understand just how difficult they are to get rid of.  Luckily we found a place that was able to take it without too much hassle and so that was out the door.  

Everything that was left moved into the RV with us!  We still had too much stuff when we got in there, but there also were a few items that we regretted getting rid of and plenty more items that we had to purchase in order to get going on the road.  But we’ll save that for a later post.

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