Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Get Rid of It!

I just read an article from the New York Times about living simpler and smaller.  It hit home with me because for the last couple of years, that is what Deb and I have been doing.  I look back on our extravagant lifestyle and almost feel ashamed.  We are so conditioned to consume in our country that we hardly think about it.  Probably if we could categorize everything we bought into things we need and things we want, I am sure we would see that we need a whole lot less than we want. I agree that some things we want do make life more fun, but a lot of that stuff is just stuff that ends up being thrown away, donated or passed on to others.  Even if you sell the old stuff, you never get back what you paid. 

I grew up in a single mom family with very little.  I literally started working in the third grade by helping the family deliver newspapers in Atlanta, GA.  I lived through the "pay check to mouth" years after college and it wasn't until I was in my forties that life and finances seem to come together.  I found that I had money to spend and that is what we did.  We bought a wonderful old home in Chattanooga and totally restored it.  It had 3,800 square feet, 5 bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths and a huge yard.  We decorated it with antiques, art, and crap you place around everywhere.  I think we were going for that restaurant look where there is something interesting for the eye to settle on everywhere you look.  Cracker Barrel comes to mind.  We really did a swell job on it and it was very rewarding bring this home back to its original glory. 
Home in Chattanooga

We also bought some other old houses and restored them during this time.  We sold these houses once they were completed and did pretty well with them.  This just gave us more money to spend.  I also fell in love with yard work and spent weekends and a lot of money in the yard, planting, cutting grass, pruning bushes and weeding.  There was also a lot of raking during the Fall.

Our life, if you can imagine, was work and spend.  I had a full time job running a software company and managing the restoration of multiple properties and maintaining our home and yard  consumed all our time. 

My lovely wife was the first one to come to her senses.  After completing the remodel of our kitchen, bath and bedroom, she suggested that we sell our house.  I was flabbergasted.  I was so proud of this home.  It was the symbol of our success.  The Chattanooga Times Free Press even did an article complete with pictures of our restoration.  We had sunk so much time, energy and money into the house and it was beautiful.  We had also made great friends and hosted many parties in our house.  During our eight years there, we had created some lasting memories and established lots of lasting friendships.  I was not enthusiastic over the thought of giving it up, not for any price.  But, as usually happens - we compromised and sold the home.  It sold quickly and for more than I had thought possible.  As it turned out, this was an important step toward simplifying our lives.  We moved into a two bedroom apartment, using one of the bedrooms as an office.  From there we purchased a two bedroom condo in downtown Chattanooga overlooking the city and the Tennessee river.  We had far too much stuff for the apartment and the condo.  We sold lots of it and ended up donating tons to Habitat for Humanity, Community Kitchen, Goodwill and friends. 

Dunedin RV Trip and Tarpon Springs, Florida
Out next great reality check came when we got a small RV and took a trip to Dunedin, Florida.  We discovered retired people who followed the weather, living in their mobile RVs.  I pretty sure you can call them "snowbirds".  We were only there a week and, in that time,  gained a tremendous appreciation for warm weather in the middle of Winter.  I would ride my bicycle into Dunedin for lunch or to Tarpon Springs for wonderful Greek cuisine.  Deb and I would ride the bikes over to Honeymoon Island and enjoy the beach and have lunch while watching the pelicans skim the surf of along the Gulf of Mexico shore. 

Since selling our home and starting our journey of downsizing, we were already dreaming of retiring.  We knew we could not do this while continuing our expensive lifestyle in Chattanooga.  Our dreams up to this point had focused on living abroad since it seemed the most affordable solution.  Using the internet we had moved around to the world looking for the best places to live comfortably.  We had even contacted a real estate agent in Merida, Mexico after watching an episode of House Hunters International and were contemplating a trip in the Spring to view properties.  Our trip to Dunedin opened our eyes to a whole new world, one that did not involve learning a new language.

After crunching the numbers, Deb announced that she thought we could retire if we started RVing fulltime.  We did.  We ordered a new 5th wheel, a DRV Mobile Suites, from RVs for Less up in Knoxville, TN.  We ordered a Ram 3500 Dually Longhorn.  I gave my resignation to my partners.  We put our condo on the market and it closed two months later.  We were definitely committed.  Even though we had already downsized, we still  had a lot of nice stuff.  We  thought we would consign it to the Chattanooga Auction House to sell so I took pictures of all the furniture, rugs and art and posted the pictures on a website so they could evaluate
Our DRV Mobile Suite
everything.  The auction house would keep 35% of all sales and there was no guarantee of what things would sell for.  Deb thought it would be a great idea if we also sent the web link to our friends  to see if they wanted to buy anything.  We were pricing everything to go and there were some great deals.  We just wanted it gone and we had very little time to haggle over prices.  It is very liberating to get rid of 90% of your stuff.  We only needed to keep what was essential and would fit into our new RV lifestyle.  Within hours of sending the link to our friends, we were swamped with buyers, all people we knew.  They pretty much cleaned us out without any haggling at all.  We were happy that they were able to use our stuff and we knew that our stuff would be in good homes.  We even sold both our vehicles to friends.  

The dealer who sold us our new RV also took our small motor home on trade and allowed us to live in it until the new unit was ready.  This took about two months for the new RV to be built.  You have to know that this dealer was absolutely wonderful.  We had not planned on the condo selling so fast and we did not want to rent another apartment and go through another move while waiting for the new RV to be built. 

Playing Pickle Ball
We have now been full time RVers for two years.  We do not collect stuff anymore.  We place more value on spending time living life to the fullest rather than spending money on material things. We love traveling to new places and meeting new friends.  We have gotten to know a lot of great folks along the way and have arranged to cross paths with some of them in different places.  We focus on staying healthy, living long and enjoying our journey.  I stay in shape playing tennis and pickleball whenever possible.  We have both adopted a vegan diet and dropped over 30 lbs. each since we began our journey and we feel great.  What I believed to be important when I was younger seems almost childish when compared to where we are today.  I advise my kids to focus on life and not things but know in my heart that they must find this out for themselves.  I can only imagine how much sooner we could have started this wonderful journey had we saved back when we were spending.

Deb at Our Site in Jojoba Hills, California
I really have no regrets at all over our decision to RV fulltime.  Probably the biggest drawback would be missing that constant connection with the kids and our granddaughter.  On the good side however, we are extremely lucky to have cell phones, wireless internet, Skype, Facetime, texting and Facebook.  It makes staying in touch extremely easy.  We post our photos on the internet so our family and friends can see what we are doing.  We Facebook with family and can see what they are up to.  I think it would have been far more difficult to be full timers before all this.

Our advice to all is to keep it simple and do your best to stay healthy. 


  1. An excellent recap of how IT all happened. We have not bought much of anything for years, but still struggle with the burden of some of the stuff we acquired in the past. We also delayed much home repair over the years and must do it now. Someday we will have a good recap story as well.

    Enjoy your life, it is you time.

    1. Hi Merikay, we are older and hopefully wiser. I think we have the right idea of keeping things simple, and staying as healthy as possible. But, it did take a while to get to this point. It is all about our time and quality of life now. Good luck on those repairs! Phil