“Many people say we’re living their dream, while others say they could not or would not give up their home,” author of the Simplicity Series, Donna Smallin Kuper, shares her insights with us below. Read through seven on-the-road life lessons you can apply to your life whether you’re traveling or not.
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Seven years ago, when my husband retired, we decided to sell everything (including our home), buy an RV, and become full-time travelers. We’ve been on the road ever since, living large in our tiny home on wheels. And you know what? We haven’t missed a thing.
Here’s me in front of our home, parked on my parents’ property in Vermont last summer.
Many people say we’re living their dream. Others say they could not or would not give up their bricks-and-sticks home and a lifetime of acquisitions. Having never owned an RV, it was a bold move for us. We were more than a little scared about trading real estate for wheel estate, but also very excited about the adventure ahead.
Saying goodbye to our stuff
Four months after making a decision to pursue the nomadic life, we handed over our house keys to the new owner.
I won’t kid you. Those four months were the most exhausting months of my life. Selling everything we owned became my part-time job and Craigslist became my new best friend. We lived in a 3,500-square-foot home and believe me, we had a lot of stuff.
My husband was (and still is) a packrat.
He’s had a number of hobbies over the years – and all the stuff that goes with those hobbies. He also had boxes that had been packed by several corporate relocation movers and never unpacked. I was surprised he was so willing to part with it all. But he realized that he had a choice – he could keep it all or have this new lifestyle. But he couldn’t have both.
As for me? I’m a master of letting go. I regularly declutter and organize closets, cabinets, and drawers. I’ve never been all that attached to my stuff. I’m a firm believer that the most important things in life are not things. So while downsizing from a big home to a small space was a challenge, I was mentally and emotionally prepared to do what needed to be done.
That said, after a few months, we still had a pretty full house. I began to worry about what we would do if we couldn’t get rid of it all. And I was starting to feel really frazzled. So I hired an estate sale company. Best. Decision. Ever. They priced everything, set up the house for a three-day sale, and handled all of the transactions for a 35% cut of the sales. With the money we made, we paid off our credit cards and put the rest in the bank for an emergency fund.
How we decided what to keep
Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up encourages her followers to keep only items that “spark joy,” but that wasn’t the right question in our case.
We had to ask ourselves:
Is this something we really need in our new lifestyle or something we love that we can’t live without? If yes, do we have room for it and where?
We had the benefit of having our motor home parked in the driveway while we were downsizing. So we knew exactly how much storage space we had. And believe me, we filled every square inch of our 40-foot motor home as well as the 10-foot cargo trailer we bought to haul my husband’s big chest of tools, bicycles, and a scooter, which we later traded for a 3-wheeled motorcycle.
Yes, we even got rid of our cars!
The hardest things for me to let go of were the works of art I had collected over the years. I chose to keep some smaller items to decorate our rolling home. I also decided to keep a few medium-sized pieces of pottery that I boxed up and tucked away for someday when we decide to get off the road.
7 Everyday Life Lessons Learned While Traveling Full-Time
I share my story with you because maybe you’ll want to join us on the road someday or maybe you just want a less cluttered home. The lessons we’ve learned on our journey can be applied to your situation, whatever that is!
1. We love the life we’ve chosen.
We have everything we need and nothing we don’t want. A simpler life, whether traveling or not, is a life of freedom.
2. Instead of trying to figure out what to get rid of, gather the things you love and the things you use – and then let go of the rest.
It’s easier that way. Sometimes it takes a few passes through your stuff before you realize how little you really need to be happy.
3. Hanging on to stuff you no longer love or use keeps you stuck in the past.
There’s real freedom in letting go of the things that no longer serve you. When you divest yourself of these things, you create space for new things, which may not be things at all, but relationships, experiences, and opportunities that will change your life for the better.
4. Less stuff equals more freedom.
The less stuff you need, the less you spend. The less you spend, the less you have to work and the more you can enjoy life. You may even find that you have more money at the end of the month than you did when you were making more.
5. Fear can keep you from letting go.
Sure, you might need that thing someday. But most things can be re-acquired pretty easily and inexpensively, whether it’s borrowing from a friend or buying used.
6. Question everything.
When decluttering, ask yourself if you would buy that thing today. If not, let it go. And think twice before bringing something new into your home. Do you really need it? Where will you put it?
7. One final caveat for tiny home living.
Finally, if the thought of doing something makes you feel scared and excited at the same thing, do it. It may turn out to be the best thing you’ve ever done. Just remember, if you decide to live in a tiny home with your significant other, you really need to like each other. A lot.
Donna Smallin Kuper is a leading organizing expert, certified home cleaning technician, and author of more than a dozen books. Her tips appear regularly in major magazines and newspapers as well as popular online media sites and blogs.
Here at Becoming UnBusy, we adore Donna’s Simplicity Series. Here are a few of our other favorite books from her collection:
- Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness
- The One-Minute Organizer: 500 Tips for Getting Your Life in Order
- Organizing Plain & Simple: A Ready Reference to Hundreds of Solutions to Your Everyday Clutter Challenges
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