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Sell, Keep or Garbage: How To Downsize To Full-Time RV

by Kate McCallum
Sell, Keep & Garbage How To Downsize To Full-Time RV

Sell, Keep or Garbage. It’s kind of like the childish party game – Kiss, Marry or Kill – but with all of your possessions to help you downsize all that you’ve accumulated over the years. Just take a second and look around the room you’re in and think about having to sort everything you see into three separate piles. One pile for items that you will sell. One pile for items that you will keep. Then finally, one pile that you will sort and quickly toss the contents of that pile into large black garbage bags and place them by the side of the road for weekly collection. This was a necessary exercise to help to downsize for our transition to living in our full-time RV.

Cat in moving box

Paris loves moving

Fortunately for Adam and we had moved 3 times in the past 3 years, so we had already gotten rid a lot of our things, but we still had to downsize so much stuff. If you ever find yourself in the position of wanting to downsize – whether it’s to full-time RV or just general downsizing – this is not a process you want to hurry through. It takes a lot of time to do it properly and to maximize your return instead of just trashing everything. We had to sort through all of our personal papers, things from our childhoods and then try to figure out how we would sell our belongings in the most effective way. It was a full two-day job just to do that. Then we had to catalogue everything and take photos for records and online ads.

It’s a bit overwhelming at first when you look at how much stuff you have. Fortunately, there are two of us, and we came up with a pretty good plan.

Sell

There are some people who are in a position that they wouldn’t need to sell their stuff to have an emergency fund. They already have lots of money in the bank. Adam and I had some money in the bank, but by no means, we were not going to try and sell our stuff. Our plan was to use any money raised from selling our stuff to set aside as an emergency fund. If something breaks on our RV, if something goes wrong with our used truck, if something happens to one of us, or to Bella or Paris, we would have money in the bank to deal with it. This meant we needed to SELL SELL SELL to get as much as we could in that contingency fund.

We originally made the decision to full-time RV in November, so when it came to Sell, Keep or Garbage, we quickly realized that we had to keep necessities to live over the next 4 months in our home and couldn’t just downsize completely. This meant that there was a lot we couldn’t sell quite yet but would closer to our February/March. Because of this, our sell pile was actually divided in two. Things that could be sold right away and bigger stuff (dressers, beds, couch, coffee table, futon and so on) that we would sell later. Our sell later pile wasn’t that big because we don’t own a home, so we don’t have to worry about selling appliances or an actual house. In order to get the most amount of money out of your belongings, you do not want to be in a rush to do this. You need the time to sell things properly and to ensure that you do not have to settle for rock bottom prices. You can’t effectively do that if you only have 4 weeks. Thankfully when we started, we had 5-6 months to our launch date of living in an RV full time.

If the time comes where you decide you want to full-time RV or you just want to get rid of your stuff and downsize, here are some tips to help you sell your belongings.

Books

Some of the many books we sold

1) Indoor Yard Sale. If you can, set up an area of your house for an indoor yard sale. This is what we did immediately after we decided to downsize. We had an indoor yard sale in our basement in November. Of course, most yard sales are held during warmer months where you can just set up shop outside. Even if you are deciding to do a yard sale during the warmer months of the year, setting up a room in your house as a pseudo-store is a good idea. It means that you can hold the sale over multiple weeks and it will never have to be canceled due to weather. It also means that you don’t have to move everything in and out of your garage – a big bonus.

Something that you must keep in mind if you decide to have an indoor yard sale is to make your sale different. Anyone can have a yard sale and most of the yard sales just attract tire kickers instead of serious buyers, because the sales are boring and don’t offer much. We started off as a generic yard sale, then the next weekend after a bunch of items sold, it became a Movies, Music, and Book Sale to attract other people. I’ve heard of Gamer Sales, Geek sales, and Boutique Sales. As we approached February and March and we had to get rid of our remaining possessions, it became an Everything Must Go Sale. Keep it fresh and you will be able to attract new people every weekend.

2) Kijiji. Kijiji is a very popular website where many people go to sell and downsize their belongings. When we decided to sell our belongings, we came up with the idea of sorting certain belongings into lots that we would be able to sell on Kijiji. We also decided that it would be better to sell bigger items on Kijiji as well. Overall, we were shocked at how little Kijiji worked for us. We made some sales via Kijiji but not as many as we thought we would have. We also found that using Kijiji isn’t overly user-friendly for both the seller and the buyer. Posting for the seller isn’t quick and easy and for the buyer, images are usually tiny and useless. Instead, we quickly found most of our sales would come via…

3) Facebook. In our experience, more people use Facebook 24/7 yard sales groups, or other community Facebook groups to sell stuff, rather than Kijiji. Some of these groups you can openly join but there are others that you must ask to join and then wait to be accepted. Generally, we were quickly accepted into most of the groups but there were some that we were also not able to join. Try joining multiple groups if choosing this route to downsize.

The process of selling items on Facebook is pretty simple for everyone. As a seller, you snap a photo and then post it to your group with a description and your desired price. Selling items on Facebook is almost like fishing. You set the bait (your items) and then you wait for someone to bite on your offer. Sometimes even a whole school of people start fighting over your items and outbidding each other, which at times was entertaining. In most cases, unless you’re offering crap, you can get an offer on your items within minutes. We also tried to post items during peak Facebook days/hours such as Friday nights and the remainder of the weekend.

With Facebook, you can quickly sell your items, however, you must make some rules about what you will and won’t do. We would deliver items in our area if it was $50 or more. In most cases, though, we always tried to have the buyer come to our work during our breaks, or to our home during indoor yard sale days.

4) Flea Markets. We had a couple of really successful weekends at a local, weekly flea market that occupied the inside of our former Target store. The cost for a table at the flea market was $15 which we thought was a pretty good price. We didn’t really know if we would have much success at the flea market but in the end, we did really well. Adam sold his entire CD collection and we were also able to unload a bunch of books and other smaller items. In total over 2 weekends, we probably made $1000 which was well worth the $30 total investment.

Kate McCallum Flea Market Fredericton

With many of the items that we sold at the flea market

Other Things To Keep In Mind When Selling Your Possessions

1) Bottom Line. You must know what the bottom line is on an item. Mark it up a little bit so that there is room to haggle. In my experience, most people really don’t like to haggle. Perhaps that was just people in New Brunswick, but if the price was too high, people would just disappear into cyberspace. So, when setting our prices we tried to keep our prices really fair.

2) Be Realistic. When it comes to selling your stuff, you will likely get less than half of what you paid for your things – if that. Sometimes it can be tough to swallow when getting a low offer or no offer at all on something you paid a lot of money for. Be prepared for it and set your expectations low, because it will happen. We found that in a lot of cases, these items cost a lot of money initially but, in the end, they didn’t bring that much value to us. The biggest culprit for us had to be TV DVD sets. Some of these sets initially cost $100 a season and then as a whole series were sold for $50 dollars or less – massive financial loss. The process really opened our eyes to how silly a lot of purchases in our lives had been.

3) Stories. When it comes to selling some of your bigger or more treasured items online try to take pride in what you write about these items. People want the basics, but I also found they liked a story. For example, I had an old cabinet that was my grandfathers. When it came time to sell it, I put it online with this short story about the item: “This cabinet was in my grandfather’s doctor’s office in the 1950’s in St. Thomas, Ontario”. A lady loved that story and bought the cabinet. When she came to pick up the cabinet, she was very impressed and really loved the history behind the item and then told me she would take good care of it. Stories sell. They don’t have to be long but they will help you sell your stuff.

Keep

The tough part about keeping your belongings to full-time RV is that you don’t know if it will fit. This meant that we were very cautious and open about what we would keep. We are lucky that our RV has plenty of storage, but again, you don’t want to have too much stuff, because of the weight. Weight = money out of your pocket. The heavier it is to tow, the more gas/diesel you will burn.

When I was looking at some of the things I wanted to keep, I would show it to Adam and say, “I have to keep this.” He never said, “no, you can’t.” It can be tough to part with some items, especially items that you have had since you were a child. Early on, we each made piles of stuff that we wanted to keep. We initially did this when we first planned to full-time RV, which we would recommend doing yourself. Because we did this early on, we found that as time went on we would change our mind about some items and then sell them.

Flamingo Ring Holder

I couldn’t get rid of this flamingo ring holder that my sister gave to me

Throughout the process, we discussed the notion that whatever we were going to keep that it would have to be something that gets used in the RV. We’ve read many blogs where RVers will purchase storage units to keep the stuff they think they wanted to keep. Years later and thousands of dollars later, most of them discovered that was a giant waste of money. Most of them found that what they held onto they never really missed when it was in storage. With this being said, we each have very small piles of possessions that will have no use in the RV but will not be sold. I will not sell any of my sister’s paintings. She is an incredible artist. We plan on using some of her artwork in the RV and the others we will hold on to until we go through Ontario where we can drop them off for storage at a family members house.

New Rules

We also plan on doing something that other full-time RVers do. If it hasn’t been used in a year, it goes. Unless it has incredible sentimental value, of course. Some RVers minimize this to a month. So, if it’s not used within a month, say “adios” to that item. It’s certainly a good exercise that will help keep our tiny space tidy and clutter free.

Something that we learned from the Minimalists and started to practice is not holding onto just in case items. These are the items that frequent your junk drawers, closets and other storage areas in your home. Items that were purchased and likely only used once. Yet, we hoard these items because you say to yourself, “I can’t get rid of that just in case I need it for (fill in the unlikely scenario here).” If that item can quickly and cheaply be repurchased that one time you actually need that item -get rid of it. Emptying your home, whether it’s an RV or a stick and bricks, of just in case items, is quite freeing and leaves your home tidier and less cluttered. Even if you don’t downsize your entire home, you certainly can downsize those just in case items.

Zen Habits also has some great decluttering tips that we used when going through this process to downsize. Early on, nightly we made a point to take 10-15 minutes to discuss our plans and/or actually sort items. This helped keep us on track and set certain goals when it came to getting rid of our stuff.

In the end, you have to do what works for you. If that little voice in your head says, “No No No, don’t sell,” then don’t do it. Someone will hold on to it for you.

Garbage

We had eight garbage bags full – probably more but we stopped counting. This is stuff we wouldn’t give to anyone, or that anyone would buy. We all have that stuff. Even if you do not downsize, you should go through your house and get rid of that stuff. I felt so much better after. It’s amazing the amount of crap that we all hold on to just because we have the room in our homes to do so. Get a box of garbage bags and start filling them.

We also filled quite a few garbage bags with the stuff that we no longer could use but also wasn’t worth the time to sell. These bags found their way to various charities. Doing this made me feel really good, knowing that our stuff will help other people. We gave our stuff to shelters, church groups, school groups and even gave some bags of clothing that went to some Syrian refugees that had recently arrived in Canada.

We Learned Something

Adam and I both feel that we have learned a lot in this process. Things that we thought were near and dear to us and could never part from were sold – usually without a second thought. Even Adam’s record collection.

Record Collection Vinyl

Adam’s Record Collection

A collection he took years compiling was sold and has not been missed. We live in a consumer-driven world, and we both have the same feeling that life isn’t about what you have. It’s who you have in your life, and how you wake up feeling in the morning. There is no material possession in my life that could ever make me feel as happy as climbing to the top of Mount Carleton with Adam and Bella. No diamonds or fancy cars could make you feel the way I did when Adam and I saw 12 bald eagles sitting on the red dirt beach in Nufrage, PEI. I will take experiences like that over a Michael Kors purse any day. We certainly don’t judge those who love their possessions. If they make you happy, that’s great. We just realized possessions are not as important to us as life experiences are.

 

What is the most successful garage sale have you’ve had? What tips and tricks do you use to downsize? Comment Below.

 

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5 comments

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Steve & Jenn August 17, 2016 - 11:36 pm

Great article! My wife and are in the middle of this very same process. We need to get a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment downsized into a 24-foor fifth-wheel. It’s challenging, but the further we get into the process, the easier it’s getting. Like you, we’ve moved a lot. 12 times in 6 years, so that helps as we’re used to thining out our possessions. We’re getting set to host our own indoor yard sale. Looking forward to following your journey!

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Adam Doolittle August 18, 2016 - 2:48 pm

Hi Steve & Jenn! It definitely seems like you guys have quite a task in downsizing quite a decent sized home into a 24-foot 5er. Our fifth wheel is 30 ft so we have quite a bit more space than what you’ll have but we’re sure you’ll manage to figure it out. We definitely noticed that it got easier and easier throughout the process to get rid of stuff. Once you realize that something is just a material item that holds little to no monetary or personal value, it’s so easy to get rid of. 4 months into our adventure now, we can definitely say that we don’t miss any of our possessions that we got rid of. We’re much happier spending money on experiences and ice cream. Seriously – we’ve spent so much money on ice cream this summer haha. All the best in your adventure – we’ll be sure to follow along.

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Ana Willis at TheyCallMeBlessed.org March 5, 2017 - 9:15 pm

We just started to sell everything and moved out of our 4 beds/4 baths house into a tiny temporary furnished apartment in downtown Charlottetown. We were able to make over 4K selling our furniture, toys, books, and whatever else we cold sell. life feels a lot more light now but we know we still need to get rid of a lot more!

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Laurie Gott April 30, 2018 - 3:27 am

We’ve just sold what we thought would be our retirement home. Made the decision to leave the sticks & bricks behind in favour of travelling in our new to us 24′ class c camper. So now, we’re working on getting rid of ‘stuff”. Our daughters came over & we walked through the house to make a list of what they wanted. The rest will either sell or go to Habitat for Humanity / Goodwill. One month countdown has started. Yikes!

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Cindi February 25, 2020 - 6:57 am

What do you do with the odd sentimental stuff? I am already a minimalist and most of my house I could downsize fairly easily, but I am baffled as to what to do with the odd items in my basement like keepsake baby books (you know, the ones with your baby hair and hospital bracelets), my first teddy bear, christening gowns, knit baby blankets from family members…..you know, weird childhood sentimental stuff that no one else would likely want, is too bulky to bring in a trailer, and has no dollar value.

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