By Brenda K. Uekert, PhD
The numbers are in for Black Friday – consumers spent almost $69 billion between Thanksgiving and Sunday, a new record. Those who shopped on Black Friday spent an average of $362. ‘Tis the season for spending!
So how odd that I found myself driving home on black Friday with an extra $150 cash in hand. Instead of buying and accumulating, I am selling and purging. You see, I’m one month away from putting my house on the market and living the RV lifestyle. Downsizing is my holiday theme.
Assessing my Lifestyle
After a highly successful career, I suddenly found myself tossed out on the curb, so to speak. I could have continued my career, but I wanted a different life – one in which I had control of my future and didn’t have to deal with unrealistic demands from the workplace.
But I’ve been unhappy. Each morning I head to my dining room table, which doubles as my office. And this entrepreneurial stuff requires long hours and isn’t exactly free of stress. Now that the hard work of business creation is behind me, I considered the lifestyle I want. It didn’t look like my current life at all!
Honestly, how can I help women live their dream life when I am staring at the same suburban street day after day? If I’m true to myself, I have to admit that working from home is a lonely gig. Plus, I missed traveling and meeting new acquaintances, which had been integral to my old career.
My House is Holding me Back
Being a financial coach and money nerd, I track my net worth on a regular basis. I own my house outright and it accounts for about one-fourth of my total net worth.
The house served its purpose, but I’m done with it. I raised my child in this house, but now it’s just me and three cats. So I’m saddled with an aging house and a beautifully landscaped yard that I can no longer manage on my own. The house has become a burden.
The bottom line? I’m sitting on a large asset that I no longer care about.
When I think about the lifestyle I want, I keep returning to the same image. I want to awaken to a glorious sunrise overlooking magnificent scenery. And as I played through my options, I decided that traveling around the country in an RV might just be the ticket!
I can sell my house, buy an RV, and live off of the proceeds for at least 7 years. And just as importantly, I can run my businesses from the road. My plan is to camp out during the workweek while I conduct business, and slowly make my way across the country.
It’s never easy to sell a house, and I’ve lived here for more than 18 years. But I didn’t want to be a landlord, so renting was out of the question. And as I looked around, I realized that nearly everything I own can be replaced. There’s no need to store it. So here I am, spending my holiday season downsizing.
The Biggest Hurdle is Starting!
The most difficult step is the first step – starting the process! And I didn’t make it easy for myself. My priority was selling my woodturning equipment, and that required that I inventory everything and set a price. What a pain! I kept putting it off – it took me weeks to organize and inventory everything before I could sell it as a bundle. What a relief when that was out of the way!
I started with the biggest stuff because I knew it might take a fair amount of time to sell. I started the sales process by taking or finding photos, writing down descriptions, researching prices, and advertising bundled packages.
The things that took up the most space and had the highest resale value were the first to go: woodturning equipment, photography lighting system, and lawn equipment.
I pushed the lawn equipment up to the front of the line, knowing it would be a whole lot easier to sell in October than in January. My efforts were successful and I made a decent amount of money in the process.
The Battle between Logic and Emotion
I discovered that it was easy to let go of the big items that I no longer used or needed. What surprised me the most was the battle between my logical and emotional self.
For example, initially, I bundled my woodcarving kit with the woodturning package. But the kit is portable, lightweight, and it’s something I’d like to do on the road if I have time. So I’m taking the woodcarving kit with me.
Then there were the Christmas ornaments. I had a list in my head of items I had planned to keep, but when I held them in my hand, there was no emotional pull. Out the door they went! The ornaments I kept were items my child had made and some ornaments I had painted long ago.
Each time I opted to keep something, it was because of the memories and the connection to someone I love.
The only furniture that I struggled with is a pair of handmade Adirondack chairs and ottomans that my two sisters and I discovered at some funky craft place in the Smoky Mountains. Every time I look at those chairs, I can hear us laughing as we debated whether I could fit them into my Honda CRV. I don’t want to sell those to strangers, so I’ll tuck them into my RV to transfer to my sister in Tennessee. I want them to stay in the family.
I Feel Lighter Already
Yesterday, a local charity picked up ten garbage bags of clothing. I’m not a shopper, but yet I had managed to fill my closet.
Upon reflection, I can see that my weight had a lot to do with the mess in my closet. I hated giving away my “skinny clothes,” but by the time I can fit into them again, they would be out of fashion. Now I open my closet door and it’s organized and neat and spacious. What a difference!
I feel good. The more stuff I get rid of, the lighter I feel mentally (and maybe even a bit physically).
I don’t know how long I’ll live in an RV, but should I retreat to a house, it’s going to be a lot smaller and uncluttered. It’s clear to me that stuff, including the house, is keeping me back from the life I want.
Tips on Selling Stuff
- Inventory the stuff you want to sell. If you bought it through Amazon, look up your past orders and get a photo, description, and price of the item.
- Create a flyer or ad that shows the photo, the purchase price, and the price you are asking. If possible, use images that you can find online of each item (the quality is typically much better than photos you take yourself).
- Bundle similarly-themed items into a package and give a hefty discount for the purchase of the package. If you can’t sell as a bundle, then sell individually.
- Let your friends and family know about your sales. Advertise on Craigslist and Facebook marketplace.
- Collect money!