So Close!

It’s been a long time since my last update. The reason is that I didn’t want to lapse into griping about how slowly everything seemed to be going. It’s been slower than I would like, but, it’s proceeding as it’s supposed to. Now that we are starting to see real progress, I want to update you on all the positive things that are happening.

Many rooms in our house are now empty and I cannot express how much lighter we both feel! I would never have believed it just a few years ago when I was caught up in acquiring stuff and anyone who tried to tell me would have been called a hippy. But, once we made the decision to downsize and pursue this dream, a switch flipped. Now, I see stuff as an obstacle to moving forward and I can’t get rid of it all fast enough. I’m almost to the point of leaving boxes of random stuff on peoples’ doorsteps, ringing the doorbell and running away. It actually has become addictive and we find ourselves looking around asking “what else can we get rid of today”!

We found a real estate agent we really like! It’s actually kinda funny how the process played out. We interviewed several agents and the third one was, literally, the charm. Now, with the agent’s advice we have prioritized work on the house to get it ready to sell, doing as much of it as we can before contractors start to come in. Our dining room is now storing new bathroom vanities waiting for installation by the contractors and every weekend finds me covered in paint.

In between house projects and getting rid of stuff we’ve also been doing projects to get the RV ready. We’ve hung pictures, installed additional hooks and a full-length mirror and, yes, we are now addicted to Command strips. We also just got packing cubes to start organizing our clothes to fit into the available cabinets and our spacious foot of closet. I still have other small projects to do, but it’s starting to look and feel more like us.

For our cats, leaving the house usually means a vet visit so it’s a traumatic experience. We brought two of them out to explore the RV while it’s sitting still. There was lots of loud meowing, but after a short time, fear gave way to curiosity and they each calmed down and began to explore their new home until they found a spot to settle down and groom themselves. A sign of momentary success! But, we are waiting to bring our third cat out until we are ready to stay. She is going to need extra support to make the move and it would be too hard for her to go back and forth from the house to the RV, so we have lots of treats and a dispenser of happy kitty hormones on hand to help her make the transition.

Finally, we have been out exploring our options for where to camp once we are out of the house and waiting for it to sell. Some of the best campground options around Nashville don’t open until April which leaves us with a choice of three commercial campgrounds, or if we want to drive quite a bit further to get into town, two state parks. We spent a Saturday driving around the city to visit each one and get a feel for them. The best I can say about that experience is that we had a great lunch out that day! 

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s February and all the trees are bare, the ground is muddy and the skies over Nashville have been iron grey since Christmas. But, they all looked like sad, muddy parking lots with rigs crammed together in as little space as possible and at least one had some rigs that didn’t look like they ever moved. Plus, some of them are expensive! The downside of living in a city popular with tourists. Needless to say, neither of us were initially excited by the available options but maybe they will look better when we get closer to Spring. I know we will feel a lot better!

So even though I’ve felt like we were stuck in neutral progress has been trickling under the surface and now we are starting to see it and we are getting excited! It feels like the dam is about to break and things are going to start moving a lot faster. We are so close, now!

Downsizing Details: A (Smaller, Lighter) Good Night’s Sleep

The ResMed Air Mini is only slightly larger than my hand.

When we talk about downsizing it’s usually about getting rid of things, however an equally important aspect of downsizing is finding smaller lighter alternatives for the things that we must take with us. So, what does getting good sleep have to do with downsizing to live in an RV? Well, for those of us with sleep apnea, good sleep involves help a CPAP machine. I’ve had sleep apnea for most of my adult life. I stop breathing in my sleep which causes me to wake up just enough to start breathing again. Apnea is a Greek word that means without breath. I was never aware that I was awake, but when I was first diagnosed, I learned that it was happening hundreds of times a night causing me to lose hours of sleep! Left untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, or accidents caused by not being alert.

I consider myself lucky that I was diagnosed in my early thirties and was able to get help then. I will never forget the first night I spent using a CPAP because it changed my life. It happened during my very first sleep study. I was covered in electrodes and went to sleep, then at some point during the night I heard the technician say, “you’re scaring me, I’m going to put this on you” then she strapped the CPAP mask to my face. I woke up the next morning and I felt incredible! Colors were brighter, I had more energy than I had ever had and I may have even seen a unicorn! Carolyn noticed the change as soon as she saw me. The feeling stayed with me but slowly faded over the next few days. I couldn’t wait to get my own CPAP! Back then, a CPAP was roughly the size of a cinder block and took up most of my bedside table. If we went on a trip I packed it along even though it took a third of my suitcase. It was totally worth the effort. But, the charm of lugging around a cinder block, even one that makes you insanely happy, begins to wear thin and even though they got smaller over the years, my last CPAP was about half the size and weighs 3 pounds. With size and weight being a concern as we downsize, not to mention if we travel internationally, I asked my doctor about options during my last visit and he told me about something new, and, it’s a game-changer (A term I normally don’t like because it has become so over used but it’s true here).

ResMed has made a travel size CPAP called the AirMini. The device is 5.4 inches long, 3.3 inches wide and 2.1 inches high (just slightly larger than my fist) and it weighs about a half a pound. It fits, along with the power cord, hose and mask, into a bag that is about the size of a football. For comparison, my other CPAP when packed in its travel case is 13”x10”x5” and it weighs 5 pounds. The AirMini is controlled by a smartphone app currently available for iPhone and Android. The app keeps track of all your sleep data, allowing you and your doctor to see how long it’s used per night, whether your mask is maintaining a good seal and how many apnea events happen per hour then combines all of it into a score that lets you know if you are using it effectively. And, best of all, the power consumption of the AirMini is rated at less than one amp which will be important when we are relying on batteries and an inverter.

Now, the best CPAP in the world can be ruined by an uncomfortable mask and I have had a few of those through the years. I have a dent on the bridge of my nose to prove it. But, the mask I got with the AirMini is the most comfortable mask I have ever used. Period. It’s lighter with more flexible connections to the head gear and magnetic connections to make taking the mask on and off much easier. The best part is that it has no plastic bar covering the bridge of my nose so my face stays clear, allowing me to put my glasses on if I need to.

Because the hose is smaller than standard size, there are only a few masks that fit the Air Mini, pictured here is the N20 nasal mask. The others are the F20 and F30 full face masks and the P10 nasal pillow.

The only negative, and it’s a big one, is that it isn’t covered by insurance. However, when I bought my unit, my sleep specialist offered a discount to help offset the lack of insurance coverage and I was able to use my Flexible Spending Account to purchase the unit.

Let me interrupt here to say something important. Getting diagnosed and getting treatment absolutely changed my life for the better. If you have trouble sleeping at night, feel sleepy during the day or your spouse or partner tells you that you snore loudly, stop breathing or choke and gasp during the night, check with your doctor about getting a sleep study done right away. Believe it or not, one of the risk factors is neck size. Men with a neck size over 17 inches and women with a neck size over 16 inches are at greater risk of snoring and sleep apnea and loud snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. My snoring was so loud that, while tent camping at a music festival, I had someone confront me the first morning with, “did you sleep well? Because none of us did!” It wasn’t long after that I got into my first sleep study. Please, don’t wait to get your symptoms checked.

After nearly twenty years of using a CPAP, the AirMini will be invaluable as we downsize toward life in an RV. Not only is it smaller, but it can run on 110 or 12 volt power using an adapter that costs about $70 and a battery is being developed for it, but it isn’t available yet. There is also a kit that allows you to mount it on a wall, over a drawer front, or even on the side of the bed. All of which makes it great for a mobile lifestyle in 175 square feet of living space. If you’re a CPAP user downsizing to a smaller living space, the ResMed AirMini is well worth discussing with your sleep specialist.

Still Endless

So how is the endless process of downsizing?  Still endless. Many trips to Goodwill, many bags of stuff taken to the office and left out for co-workers to scavenge, multiple listings on EBay, Let It Go and Facebook Marketplace, and we still have TOO. MUCH. STUFF!!!  We have sunk so low as to crash our friend’s community yard sales.  Crashing other yard sales is really a lot of fun and I highly recommend it.  We drive up with a couple of Element’s worth of crap (our car is a Honda Element, so it holds a lot of crap), set it out, break out the coffee and snacks, and basically have a bit of brunch while we collect a profit.  All in all, not a bad way to go about things.

However, for all of our progress, we still have not tipped that edge to the side of an emptyish house.  Yes, there are gaps and empty cabinets and shelves and such, but overall, the house still feels mostly intact.  I swear the cats are dragging more crap into the house while we sleep!  Each day we try to make a bit of progress, sometimes big, sometimes small.  Tonight, we rolled coins…lots and lots of coins.  We will be very well prepared for coin operated laundry machines once we hit the road, that is for sure.  In the process  we also found quite bit of Philippine, Hong Kong and Singapore coins from our past travels as well as surprising number of Sacajawea dollars, which we have absolutely no clue of how we obtained them….probably part of the cats’ nocturnal house restocking program. It is interesting how often we look at something nowadays and ask ourselves, “now where did this come from?”

This week’s lesson learned – Lots of folks give advice about how to deal with boxes of photos.  Take pictures of the pictures and then pitch the original they say.  To this I say hogwash.  Taking pictures of pictures so that you can get rid of the originals is an aggravating process.  There is always an issue, either with light bouncing off of the photo or cropping or a curl, something to make me want to toss the photo back in the box and the box in the trash.  Maybe scanning will work better.  In the meantime, I will eat ice cream.  I mean, really, someone has to clear out the freezer, and it may as well be me.

What’s next?  Coming up next is another yard sale, this one actually at our own house, closely followed by another trip to Goodwill with the items that do not sell, and then my sister and her husband are coming with a moving truck for the furniture.  We are giving most of our furniture to one of her sons who is setting up his first adult household after graduating from college.  Some other items are going to my sister’s place for set up in a spare bedroom.  They have also graciously offered us some of their spare attic space, as apparently their attic is the Taj Mahal of attics and their stuff is lonely up there all by their lonesomes.  We are grateful in the extreme for this offer, especially knowing that my sister likes clutter about as much as I do, which is not at all.

Since our RV has been delayed until September, we are going to hold back a couple of comfy chairs for now, but I am hoping that this will do the trick to finally make it feel like we are making the kind of progress we want to be ready for the RV. If not, there is always more ice cream in the freezer that needs to be cleared out.

Cheers!

Carolyn

Downsizing Details: My Fujifilm Love Story

As downsizing means saying goodbye to more and more things, whether through sales, donations, or simply being thrown away. I wanted to address a hobby of mine that I’m unwilling to give up. My challenge has become how to reduce the size and weight of all the components that I need so they will fit in our new life. And, that is what I want to address today.

I have been a photographer since the tenth grade. I was on the yearbook staff and we had no one to take pictures of all the events that happen around the school, so I decided to give it a try. I had no idea how to operate a 35mm camera but I pulled out the old family Argus with its giant flash with replaceable bulbs the size of a fig and worked my way through my mom’s photography textbook. I was instantly hooked!

I eagerly blinded large groups of people with that flash while I shot pep rallies and other events. I became so obsessed my parents bought me a Canon AE-1 for Christmas and my brother gave me some of his older lenses. They also signed me up for a photography course at the local community college. From there, I went on to shoot for the yearbook, the school newspaper and occasionally the local paper for the rest of the time I was in high school. I would also save up my lunch money all week then go buy rolls of film just so I could go shoot. I was in love and I have held on to my AE-1 and all my lenses even though I haven’t shot on film for many years.

I switched to digital and got a DSLR. I’ve been a Canon shooter all these years, but the cameras and lenses have grown absurdly big and heavy. Carrying my camera on trips was literally a pain in the neck and sometimes it stayed behind in the hotel because I simply didn’t want to bother with it. Not to mention that I found myself having to dig through menus to set basic functions on the camera, leaving me feeling like I was fighting the camera to take a picture. I resigned myself to leaving some functions set to auto just to cut down on having to find the right menu and the number of pictures I took that I was happy with decreased sharply. For someone who had been taking pictures for thirty-plus years it was deeply frustrating. But, I continued on the same path because I had sunk so much money into the camera and lenses and I couldn’t find an attractive alternative.

Then, quite by accident, I became aware of Fujifilm in 2015 when I saw a photographer rave about his Fujifilm X-T1 in a YouTube video.  Intrigued by what I saw, I visited my local camera store and spent some time playing with one. It was MUCH smaller and lighter than my Canon, though it felt incredibly solid in my hands. It felt almost exactly like my beloved Canon AE-1. In fact, it’s close to the same size. Looking at the specs I learned that the camera and kit lens together weighed less than my Canon 7D body alone and only slightly more than my Canon lens alone. And, being mirrorless, you see exactly what your picture will look like through the electronic viewfinder. But, the feature that made me fall in head over heels in love was that all the exposure settings, except for the aperture, were on dials on top of the camera body. The aperture setting was inside the viewfinder, but it could be set using the aperture ring on the lens. (Some of the Fuji lenses actually have an old style aperture ring) I instantly knew all my settings simply by glancing down at the top of the camera. I wouldn’t have to fight the camera!

It took some time, but I eventually bought the X-T2 and the 18-55mm “kit lens” and I am utterly and completely in love with my camera again! Since I’ve had it I’ve shot every picture using manual settings because the camera is so encouraging. And, I need to qualify the term “kit lens”. It usually refers to a lens that’s mostly plastic and not particularly good. However, Fujifilm apparently didn’t get that memo. The 18-55mm has a metal body and is a very, very good lens. I am constantly amazed at how sharp my images are and how little work I have to do to fix lens problems on my computer. I find myself shooting things I never tried in the past like shooting pictures of the Milky Way, and best of all, I look forward to carrying my camera with me.

Of course I purchased a second lens, a 14mm wide angle lens with a wide aperture an old style aperture ring AND depth of field markings above the focus ring. It looks like an update of my old Canon FD lens. And, speaking of my FD lens from the seventies. I was able to purchase a $20 adapter to attach my old Canon lenses to my Fuji camera. They are completely manual, but Fuji has a very good system for manually focus called “focus peaking”. It outlines your subject in white (or red, in my case) when it’s in focus. So I expanded my range of lens for $20! It’s not a permanent solution because digital tends to show the shortcomings of the old lenses, but it sure has come in handy when I needed a telephoto lens or risked losing a photo opportunity.

So, what does this do for me in terms of downsizing? Here are some numbers:

Size Weight
Canon 7D 5.5”x4.4”x2.9” 32.2 oz
Canon EF-S 17-85mm lens 3.1” x 3.6” 16.75 oz
Tamron 17-300mm 3.02” x 4.6” 15.34 oz
Size Weight
Fujifilm X-T2 5.24” x 3.62” x 1.93” 17.88 oz
Fujinon 18-55mm 2.56” x 2.8” 10.6 oz
Fujinon 14mm 2.6” x 2.3” 8.3 oz

The Fuji kit is over almost two pounds lighter, and that makes a big difference when you carry it around!

So, I sold my Canon gear and I also my heavy Manfrotto tripod which I replaced with a carbon fiber tripod that is two pounds lighter without sacrificing height. It also folds down much smaller, making it easier to bring along. And, that is really the key point of all the changes I’ve made. By making everything smaller and lighter I’ve made it less of a pain to bring along which increases my opportunity to shoot.

One step forward…

Two steps back.

So it has been a while since we have posted.  Life decided to get on stage and take over for a bit.  Lee finished up an exhibit at work which pretty much sucked all of the energy out of him.  My office continues to evolve as I bring up my new team.  All good things, but it has made our progress a bit slower than we originally planned.  With the exhibit up, we have a bit more mental space to push ourselves forward on our journey to location independence (also known as running away…we have our own circus already, no need to join one).  It is vacation time.

Vacations for us have always been tricky.  Lee and I are both involved in project work, and finding time when we are both between projects, or more accurately, in the lower intensity phases of our projects gets tricky.  Lee’s projects have less flexibility than mine.  When he finishes a big exhibit, we try to go on vacation, as long as one of mine (think system implementations) isn’t at a crucial stage.  More detail than you wanted to know, I am sure.

We originally booked a week at the beach, but when we reviewed our finances, we decided that we had not made enough progress on savings to justify the trip.  Sacrifices must be made.  We also had put off the first of our yard sales, and if we stayed home, we could have the yard sale on the first Saturday of the month (when people often have a bit more money) and we could spread the prep work over several days so we would not be so tired afterwards.

Staying home turned out to be the BEST decision and here is why…

  1. Our 12 year old Honda decided that it needed some spa love, and went nuts in the middle of rush hour traffic on one of the busiest streets in town. Lights blinked, the engine stuttered and the car would not go forward.  Being residents of Music City, this town is full of frustrated musicians and they were all on the road right behind us when the car took a powder.  Using the instruments they had at hand, their car horn, they treated us to a symphony of displeasure for blocking a major street.  Having this happen seven hours away from home would have been a nightmare, so we are grateful that it happened at home.
  2. My work went a bit sideways and I ended up working a couple of days out of my planned week off. If I had been at the beach, that would have been much harder.
  3. Prepping for a yard sale is a lot more work than I remember it being. Since we were forced to stay home for couple of days (we only have one car, so when ours was towed to the dealership, we took an Uber home and stayed there), it took care of our procrastination problem.  We were well prepared for the yard sale.

The result?  Our first yard sale was a success!  We sold a lot of stuff.  We did not sell everything, and the big, old computer desk that we REALLY wanted to go away is still with us, but overall it went better than we anticipated.

What we did right

  • Balloon signage – We picked up balloons at the dollar store up the street, and for a couple of dollars, we feel they did the job of attracting folks into our sale. People speed around the corner where we live, and the shiny helped.  After the yard sale was over, we went to pick up our Honda from the shop, and when we came back, the yard sale sign was still there, but the balloons had been liberated.  As we had no further use for them, we were happy that someone wanted them.
  • Reusable Signs – Do not put the date on your signs. Our yard sales will all be on Saturdays, so we put that on the signs, but not putting a date on the signs means that we can use them again.
  • Plenty of Change – We started with 25 ones, 10 fives and 4 tens, with an additional group of ones, fives and tens in reserve. It was a good thing, since one of the first sales we made, required giving change for a fifty….grrrrrrrrr.
  • It was HOT! We tag teamed and we hydrated.  While we had seating in the shade of our porch, we needed those planned breaks.  We also had frozen grapes and frozen fruit slushies for snacks.  These were especially helpful when I made the brilliant decision to multi-task and do yard work during the slow periods.
  • Stuffed animal baskets. We both love stuffed animals.  We are not collectors by nature, but the cute little buggers have crept into the house over the years.  When we started gathering up stuff to sell, we realized that we had a loads of stuffed animals (mostly Lee’s…he’s a big softy).  We discussed donating them, as they were in great shape but decided to put them out in the sale first.  We did not sell a single one.  Instead, every time a family with small kids came by, the kids were drawn to the basket o joy (I mean really, who wouldn’t be?) and played while their parents shopped.  Because they were not bored, they were not wandering around bumping into fragile items.  They were so drawn to them, that we made a spot decision to just give them away.  We gave each child their pick of the toys (whether their parents bought anything or not) and the joy we saw on those little faces was a total high. Best. Decision. Ever.  I really wish we had gotten a picture of the one little boy dragging away a moose that was as big as he was.  It was priceless.

Things we would do differently next time

  • Pricing – We had folks looking over the merchandise before we even had it all out. They were digging through the bags we had not unpacked yet.  We should have pre-priced the items, because for some folks English is a second language, and they couldn’t ask.  Numbers tend to be universal.
  • Pricing some more – Next time, Lee will price my items and I will price his. Even though this is the first of several planned yard sales, there were items in it that we both were attached to and so we overpriced some of those items…including said behemoth desk.  The goal is for it to leave without us having to take it away ourselves.
  • Advertising – We purchased an ad in the local newspaper and posted an ad in Craigslist for free. While for others, it may make sense to advertise; our neighborhood is blue collar and is not one to attract outsiders.  Our visitors were overwhelmingly drive-by.  We would not pay for another ad.  We will still do Craigslist, because it is free.

Other things we learned

  • Learn your market – As I mentioned previously, our neighborhood is blue collar. Lots of immigrants looking to build the American dream, and these folks do not have a lot of extra money.  They focused on the basics.  Tools, clothes, exercise equipment, kitchen tools, sewing equipment, etc.  What did not sell as well were decorative items.  I was REALLY surprised at the clothing and shoe sales.  I was not originally planning to sell clothes, but I had a pile for Goodwill, so we put them out.  They sold like crazy.  We charged a couple of bucks each, and away they went.  Our next yard sale will focus more heavily on those items and we will discount decorative items more heavily.  If we were in a higher rent area, decorative might have sold better.
  • Yard work and yard sale do not mix well. During a lull I got bored, and started pruning bushes and pulling weeds and that was a bit of a mistake because it was so hot and sunny, and in no time at all, I was bright red, soaked in sweat and scary gross.  Also, even though I wore gloves, my hands were dirty.  I had to take a pause and Lee had to take over so that I could clean up enough that people didn’t want to avoid me.  On the plus side, my yard looks way better.
  • Sunscreen – Really, you would think that we had learned this by now…Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!

Final Thoughts

We made good money on our yard sale, though that profit was completely wiped out (and then some) by the bill for our Honda.  While it was a lot of hot, hard work and we ended up net down financially, we have cleared a lot of stuff out and learned a lot.  Now we are on to gathering stuff for the next one.

Cheers!

Ways to Stay Motivated when the Work Seems Overwhelming – Part 1

I’m sorry it’s been so long since I last posted. We’ve spent the last couple weeks tearing our house apart and getting ready to have a yard sale if it ever warms up. We’re doing this while working full-time and Carolyn is also working on a Master’s degree. We’ve cleaned out bookshelves, cleaned out the attic, made trips to Goodwill and to the dump. I’ve posted items online to sell through eBay and Facebook marketplace, which means photographing, measuring and describing everything, then answering questions and making trips out to meet buyers. We have been spending a lot of time skulking around in fast food parking lots unloading our possessions for cash, a very shifty endeavor if I do say so myself. A major life change is not a simple project. So what do we do when the amount of work ahead of us feels greater than the amount behind us and that work means letting go of things you’ve collected, in some cases, since childhood? How do we not get discouraged when winter seems unwilling to give way to spring? The fact is, we have to look outside ourselves for inspiration and motivation. I am NOT a fan of self help books but we can’t do this without help. And that is what I want to tell you about. These are some of the things we’ve found that help us when we feel discouraged. I thought, some of them might help you, too.

I’ve learned that anything you want to do, simply search YouTube and you can find a video about it. A search lead me to videos by a community of people who’ve done exactly what we are doing now. They’ve sold everything, moved into an RV and adopted a nomadic lifestyle. We have a number of favorite creators and we look forward to new episodes each week. Some of the community of folks we discovered on YouTube also have blogs where they can provide more information than a short video allows. Exploring blogs has lead to tips, product recommendations, recipes and to many other folks who are doing the same thing and writing about their experiences as well. In fact, they were the inspiration for beginning this blog.

Podcasts recently came back into my life. I’ve listened to the occasional podcast on and off through the years. Mostly, I would drift in and out of subscriptions. But, recently, I’ve drifted back in and I’ve become a fan of several inspiring podcasts. Keep Your Daydream is one I listen to regularly. The host is so enthusiastic and the guests are always engaging. They are a family who moved into a travel trailer and have been on the road to almost two years now. Their podcasts though, are about other people who have followed their dreams, whatever they may be. For the 100th episode she was joined by her husband and they shared the story of how they got on the road. Their YouTube channel is also one of our favorites.

Instagram is always a quick dose of inspiration. I follow a number of travelers and travel photographers who share photos from their adventures around the U.S. and around the world. When I need to be transported but I can’t devote time to a video, Instagram provides what I need.

The funny thing is, I was never a big reader. My wife made me a reader in college by introducing me to her favorite authors which lead me to a totally unexpected love for books. Through YouTube, I discovered a book called Take Risks by Joe Russo that has provided a lot of inspiration by telling the story of how he and his wife decided to give up their stationary life and hit the road. The book details the entire process and ends with their first day on the road. The author and his wife also have a YouTube channel and blog called We’re the Russos where they share videos about their life on the road. Another recent discovery came from an very unexpected source. I read a photographer’s website which led to a video of a Ted Talk by the author of a book I had no desire to read at all. Eat, Pray, Love was also made into a movie which just looked irritating. But, I watched the author’s Ted Talk because I didn’t recognize her name and by the time she mentioned the book I was hooked so I continued to listen and fall head over heels in love with her talk. It was about how to lead a creative life without going mad. Listening to her lead me to buy her most recent book “Big Magic” which expands on the topic of leading a creative life. It deals a lot with fear and how to manage, but not necessarily conquer, it. Because that may not be possible or even advisable. Her words and her voice have been incredibly encouraging as things have gotten harder.

Finally, a another recent discovery is a Facebook group started by another couple who gave up their stationary life and now they want to guide and inspire others by building a community. It’s amazing how many people are aiming to do the same thing! We’ve learned a lot. Mostly by lurking and reading everyone’s posts. The moderators and other more experienced members are incredibly encouraging and they provide a lot of advice to newbies!

So, these are some of the ways we’ve found inspiration to keep moving forward when the work seems overwhelming. But, I also want to leave you with a piece of advice that we’ve learned along the way. When you are planning a major change in your life; and especially if that change is outside the typical pattern of getting a job, buying a house and filling it with stuff; be careful who you share your plans with. Many well intentioned people will try to talk you out of taking the unconventional path and at times when the work is hard their words carry additional weight. Derailing plans is FAR easier than following through with them, that’s why there is never a shortage of critics. Instead, seek out those who are farther along the path you wish to travel and learn from them. Look for ways to keep your own fire burning and keep yourself on the path you have chosen. Whatever your path may be.

If you have other ways of keeping yourself inspired, share them in the comments below.

Letting it All Go

After living in our house for nearly twenty years, it’s safe to say we’ve filled it up. As we begin the process of downsizing, though, I find myself wondering where all this stuff came from and what I can do to get rid of it. Which leads me to today’s topic, rehoming our stuff. Some of it is simply stuff that should have been thrown away long ago, such as instruction books and warranty information for appliances we no longer own, gadgets that have come apart and the parts have been separated over the course of years and the 2 dozen hair picks in a bowl in the bathroom (only one of us has hair).  These were the easy things to deal with, the next part is trickier and, if you are in a similar position, I wanted to tell you what I’ve learned thus far.

If you are like a lot of people in the 21st century you probably have a collection of old electronics. The question is what to do with those old cell phones, iPads, laptops, desktops computers, and cables. Amazon has a trade-in program for tablets, Kindles, cell phones and video game consoles where you get Amazon credit for each item. But, to take advantage of the program, they have to be in VERY good condition. This might be better suited to the person who looks to upgrade as soon as a new version comes out. If, however, you are like us and you use your electronics until they literally die of old age then you may have to look for another solution. For a smart phone, check with your service provider about a trade-in. We were able to trade in our iPhone 5S’s through AT&T when we upgraded to the iPhone 10. We got enough to pay for two cases so I considered that a big win. For an old laptop, like my 2008 MacBook Pro or my iPad 2, there are people on Ebay who will buy computers for parts, so I may get a small amount of money that way.

Speaking of eBay, they will charge you a fee for enabling you to sell your stuff.  Craigslist doesn’t, but it comes with other well publicized risks. A better way is to use Facebook Marketplace. Like Craigslist, you won’t be charged a fee for selling and you’ll have to set up a place to meet your buyer, but unlike Craigslist, you have access to your buyer’s Facebook profile so you have a way to get info about your buyer before you meet to close the sale. Just remember that you will almost never get the price you ask for, so take that into consideration when setting your price. I’ve sold a number of items this way and I’ve found it a lot less of a headache than using eBay and I’ve met a few very nice people in the process.

The problem with selling items one by one online is that it takes a lot of time. If you have a lot of items you might want to explore an online consignment service such as EBTH (Everything But the House) that will take your items list them online and take a percentage of the sale. You can also look for a brick and mortar consignment shop. There are shops that specialize in everything from children’s clothing and toys to designer wear for men and women. This is a great way to make room in your closet and get a little money in the process, just don’t expect others to pay top dollar for your 1980s big shoulder padded jackets. The challenge when downsizing  is to avoid the temptation to put that money into more clothes. Lord help me, I do love beautiful fabrics! If you have books, cd’s or dvd’s to get rid of, look for a consignment store that specializes in media. Here in Tennessee, we have a chain called McKay’s that will buy books and discs for cash or store credit. They generally offer more in store credit than they do in cash, so, if you’re like us and you don’t want to be tempted to buy more be ready to accept less.

As the weather warms up, plan a yard sale. It’s a great way to get rid of a lot of stuff quickly, but it also requires a lot of preparation. Depending on where you live it might make sense to plan your yard sale for the first weekend of the month since that’s when a lot of folks get paid. Also, check to see if you need a permit because rules vary from place to place. Don’t forget to advertise in the newspaper AND online and make street signs to help traffic find you if you don’t live on a main thoroughfare. Even better, talk your neighbors into ganging up for a neighborhood yard sale.  Everyone splits the costs of signage, and crowds are bigger because they can hit lots of sales in a short time period.  On the day of the sale, don’t forget to have lots of small bills and change on hand! If you need help planning a yard sale, there are lots of resources online to help you. Simply Google “how to plan a yard sale”.  Also have plenty of coffee on hand…the best yard sales start EARLY and people will pick through your stuff at the butt crack of dawn while you are still setting it up.

Carolyn works with a fair number of young adults who are just starting out and who have limited funds, so a considerable amount of our kitchen equipment has been taken to her office and given away there. Several of her nephews have also benefitted from the great kitchen purge of 2018. (Really, how many iron skillets does one couple need?) Another donation opportunity to consider if you still have an iPod, check with local senior centers and assisted living facilities because many of them use iPods in music therapy programs for dementia patients. Finally, as you plan, strongly consider helping others by donating clothes, shoes, hats, scarfs and gloves to a local homeless shelter. These are items that are always in need as are toys, reading glasses, towels, sleeping bags and blankets. Check with shelters in your area to see what they need and how to donate. Your items may mean the world to someone in need.

Lastly, what do you do with the stuff you can’t trade in, sell or give away? Check with your local public works department to see if they have places to dispose of old electronics.  Our county operates an electronics recycling center where residents can dispose of computers, phones, cables, tv’s or even cd’s and dvd’s. They only require you to bring your ID to prove county residency so I have a box packed and ready to go there.

Our downsizing process has only just begun, and these are the things we’ve learned so far. If you have other sources that you’ve found helpful, let us know in the comments below. We need the help!