Everyone planning for full-time RV life faces the same challenge: what do I do with all my stuff? Some have gracious relatives with extra space and others spring for monthly storage. But those options aren’t always available. Sometimes, everything must go!
You’re not here for disclaimers, but I have to give two up front:
- Eric and I had not accumulated a lifetime of possessions before we went on the road. In fact, from the time we were married in 2011, we purposely kept our belongings to a minimum. We already had some idea that this lifestyle might be in store for us, so we only got what we really needed…with just a handful of splurges along the way! All that to say, the amount of stuff we had to get rid of is very likely less than you have – and I want to recognize that!
- Our 40-foot RV has a ton of storage space. I still have drawers with nothing in them, and our basement storage underneath is kind of unbelievable. If you’re making a gas RV your home, you’re facing a challenge I can’t even imagine, with no pass-through storage!
With those notes out of the way, our 700ish square feet of apartment space, plus a storage closet off the patio, held plenty that I couldn’t take with me. And yes, it was absolutely overwhelming.
After a lot of reflection, I decided this is why: I could have bagged everything up and donated it to Good Will in one fell swoop. Done. But many of these things meant something to me. By receiving money in return, I received validation that they meant something to others too. Hopefully you understand what I’m saying from a sentimental standpoint. We’re not talking about spring cleaning. We’re talking about the entire liquidation of a home. It’s a big deal.
In loose chronological order, these are the methods I used to pare down our possessions:
Selling on Craiglist
Craigslist was our starting place. We were eager to get rid of our furniture, the biggest pain to get rid of otherwise, and our best money-makers.
Pros: Austin is a large city and it’s easy to get responses if the price is right. People inevitably want to negotiate, so we recommend starting a little high with your asking price. Craigslist is super easy to use. List a short description, price, your location, and photos. The longer description and more photos you offer, the more comfortable people will feel contacting you. You do not need to list any personal information. Craigslist can create an anonymous email address for you, and you can give buyers more information when you’re ready.
Cons: Scammers are out there. It’s healthy to be suspicious, and to be careful about giving out your personal information. Besides the scammers, there are people who are not serious buyers, and who will waste your time if you let them. It can be a pain to weed through the emails and texts, and to set appointments with people who end up not showing.
Overall, I feel that using Craigslist is worth it. We ended up selling a patio set, deep fryer, patio side table, Baldwin piano (/tear), rug, ottoman, bar stools and recliner through Craigslist.
Selling on Facebook to Friends
And then there’s Facebook. As we posted on Craigslist, Eric also posted about our items on Facebook. Basically, “These are the things we have available. Let me know if you want photos or more info.”
Pros: What’s not fun about relocating your things into friends’ homes!? Plus, they tend to be more reliable than strangers. Cons? Can’t think of any.
We sold our couch and matching recliner, counter height dining table set, microwave, entertainment center, side tables, and coffee table to friends through Facebook.
From our furniture sales, we made about $2,300. We felt that was pretty fair for what we sold (we obviously didn’t shop at Ethan Allen).
We had been so anxious that a month wouldn’t be long enough to sell all of our furniture. One weekend later, we were down to our futon. We moved it from our bedroom to our living room. During the day, we put it up and sat on it while we worked. At night, we put it down and it was our bed! Our TV sat on an upside-down tupperware container. We had no tables, no chairs. For a month.
What We Didn’t Do: Garage Sale
Apartment living made any sort of garage sale concept a little difficult. I did consider an “apartment sale,” but ultimately we ran out of Saturdays, and I didn’t like the idea of having strangers in my home. With their shoes on.
I would think that – for those of you with “real” houses (and driveways) – a garage sale or two would probably be Plan A. What you don’t want to do is feel like you have to sell truly valuable things for a lot less than they’re worth. I think this happens when you run out of time. If you can reach more people through something like Craigslist or even eBay, give yourself time to try those avenues.
For those of you who used garage sales as part of your liquidation strategy (yes, it’s important to use official-sounding phrases), please comment about your experience and any lessons learned! I’m not any help in this area.
Too Many Clothes!
With the big stuff out of the way, it was on to the hard part. We separated everything into four categories:
- To Sell
- To Donate
- To Store (at my parents’ – thank you, Mom and Dad!)
- To Keep (a.k.a., to take with us in the RV)
Both Eric and I got rid of a ton of clothing. Here’s what I did with it:
- Plato’s Closet – Plato’s Closet is a resale store with locations all over the country. You take in your used clothing, and they buy what they want. Here’s the catch: they’re picky. They want barely used clothing, usually name brands, and usually styles from the previous year. I took in our very best stuff and they picked out a few things. I think I walked out with about $33…and a lot of clothing I still had to get rid of! But hey – that’s $33 I didn’t have before.
- Buffalo Exchange – Buffalo Exchange is similar to Plato’s Closet, but it’s more on the alternative/vintage side. For me, it was a total bust. They didn’t want anything I took in.
- Open Door Clothing Store – An Austin friend of mine saw my Facebook posts about having clothing to give away. Turns out she’s on the board of a local non-profit called Open Door, which gives away clothing to those in need (among other meaningful things). I was excited to hear about it, and to have clothing to give to Open Door.
- Good Will – Even after Plato’s Closet, Buffalo Exchange and Open Door, there was still more clothing!! So glad Good Will is there, and that they also have a valuable mission in communities across the country.
I Love My Books
Besides my piano, the hardest thing for me to get rid of was a lot of my books. I turned to Half Price Books. I think I made all of $12 from the gigantic tupperware container I took in. I ended up leaving everything with them anyway. They told me many of my donated books would go to a local hospital, and that made me happy. Buh bye, books!
When All Else Fails, Ask Your Family for Money
My Dad got my 1997 Toyota Avalon for me at the end of my freshman year of university. My sweet Kendra Eadaoin (Eadaoin is Celtic and I found it in a baby name book)! When it came time to downsize to one vehicle, I knew my Dad wanted first right of refusal. I’m so happy that Kendra got to stay in the family!
We also offloaded our huge flatscreen TV to Dad…had to twist his arm on that one. :p
Storage With Family
My parents did kindly offer to store some things for us – the photos, keepsakes and collectibles that we didn’t want to part with. We managed to condense into eight stackable tupperware containers for the garage, and a few other things that fit in one of my old closets. Mom and Dad were surprised at how little there actually was…I felt a little proud about that!
When All Else Fails, Give Stuff to Your Neighbors
On the day of our move, Salvation Army was scheduled to pick up our faithful futon and the rest of our bagged items. Half way through the day, we got a phone call that the truck was broken and they couldn’t come. So stressful – we couldn’t even carry that ridiculous futon between the two of us! Hurrah for our neighbor Dylan, who we hardly knew. Dylan got a free vacuum, shoe rack, coat rack and futon…because he helped carry it all next door.
With one last-minute Good Will run as we were trying to get to our first campground before dark, we FINALLY GOT RID OF ALL OUR STUFF.
Holy cow. What a process, right?!
So glad I never have to do that again! Let me know if you have any questions, or leave a comment with your suggestions so others can benefit.
Thanks for the tips, Brittany. This is definitely going to come in handy one of these days… hopefully sooner than later! I’ve always been skeptical of yard sales, but our neighbor reported just having one that made nearly $3,000! We’re going to try that, ourselves, and invite our friends to sell anything they’d like as well. The more the merrier.
Keep me posted, @ArdentCamperMarie:disqus! I feel like “multi-family/multi-couple” garage sales are really attractive from a marketing standpoint. People are more likely to drive to you because it sounds like they’ll have a lot of stuff to choose from!
Well, I think we made about a third of what our neighbor did through a 2-day weekend sale. Granted, hers was for charity, and ours was purely for downsizing. We were about twice as successful on the day we had it at our house versus the day we had it at our friends’ in a ritzier neighborhood down the road. Even though it wasn’t as lucrative as purely working those hours, we would have had to have gone through the stuff and gotten rid of it eventually, and it was actually pretty fun to host the sale. That being said, would I do it again? Not for a looooong time. The answer: not to have SO MUCH STUFF. Ever again. (I hope!)
I’m glad you went for it! Otherwise you never would have known how it would’ve turned out. Good for you guys.
Ivan and Marie Smith
I am currently in downsizing mode and we hope to purchase our RV next year. I opened up a facebook group (secret one) amongst just friends know and friends I feel that I could deliver to or that can stop over. I felt that I’d have more control over getting the price I was asking for. So far, I’ve only made a dent, but with DVD’s, some holiday decor and some Party Lite items, I’ve made over $300! So, I’m extremely hopeful. I’m actually going to list jewelry as well with the holidays coming up and then move on to the bigger items next and hit room by room. Clothing I’m going to take to a local flea market and list for $1/item, the local one here does very well at that. Same with our books, I hear that they go pretty well, too. Anything that doesn’t go, we’ll stop at Goodwill on the way home with so that we aren’t bring those items back (clothes)… books will probably get dropped off at the local library for their book sale. Other items, I either give away or donate if I don’t feel they are worthy of selling… and we are leaving furniture til last, mainly because we need it to live with til closer to purchase time. At least this is our plan for now… If too many items are left on the fb page, then I’ll then employ use of Craigslist or Ebay.
Just wanted to share. We are downsizing. Just to change our lifestyle. We got rid of most all of our books by going to an ebook system. We went thru what books we wanted to keep, and slowly bought them in e-book form. Then sold thru Amazon or gave away
Photos, etc, we had digitized ( some professional, some by ourselves) and store in the cloud.
Dvds, we opened a vudu.com account and got rid of most of those, but kept some of our favorites. You can download and watch offline later. We have an Amazon account so we have prime, you can download and watch offline also. We don’t intend on buying satellite system for rv.
Knick knacks, I took pictures of and gave away to family members or sold. No more dusting!!!!!
We are an older couple so we had a lot of stuff we were saving for “after we die”, talked to the kids, gave it to them now (get to see them enjoy it!) Or if they didn’t want it sold
We are not planning on rving full-time, but if we do, I do not see a problem. We are fixing up an older one now and I am still constantly getting rid of things
Oh, btw, Amazon.com and local Facebook groups were very good places to sell things. Free cycle is a good place to go before, if you have time
Teresa Rosche Ott
We’ve begun the liquidation process, but I continue to have mild to moderate anxiety about it. It’s not the letting go as much as it’s the sheer number of items for which I must find some kind of new home. We don’t have as much as most people seem to cram into a suburban McMansion these days, but we’ve got way more than you did, Brittany!
Anyway, enough with the pity party – I wanted to say thanks for mentioning Half Price Books. I wouldn’t have thought of them because they’re only just coming to my area, but it sounds they’d be able to take 5-10% of my house contents. Yay.
I see that this is a two-year old post and the purge is a long way behind you. Hope you’re having fun somewhere awesome today 🙂
Love all your tips and the ones in the comments!
My husband is a contractor so we have many building materials we plan to donate to the Salvation Army ReStore that would otherwise go in the trash.
Love your bit about the party after moving in! That’s the only way I get my house cleaned…invite friends over and clean like crazy the day before 😀
So glad to come across your website! We recently decided to finally start our dream of living the RV life. We currently live in a 1200 square foot house, with a full basement, and a barn. And we have a toddler and a dog! That’s why we’re starting early!
@disqus_Y0f2iZ3gqb:disqus, thank you for your comment! All the best to you as you live your dream. How exciting!
Same to you! So excited to read some more and follow your story!
My husband and I have considered the option of living in an RV full time before, and we have revisited said idea many times since. One of my concerns is that I am extremely sentimental about some of my stuff (especially my books! lol) and while my husband is used to a very spartan lifestyle I am not and tend to collect a lot of things over time. I’ve decided to let go of most of my stuff because I came to the same conclusion as you and asked myself “why am I holding on to this?
and have started the process of condensing my belongings to try and see if I am the type of person who can live a spartan lifestyle. I really enjoyed your ruminations on that as it offered some insight into myself and my own motivations, especially when you talked about the validation we receive by buying something society places a value on.
I’ve watched a few YouTube channels that talk about what they hate or love about RVing, how to buy/build and RV, what life on the road is like but at this stage I’m really more interested in the things that happened beforehand. What life was like, why it was a viable option to those who chose it, what stressors I may have to watch out for, preparation (like this article details) and so on are essential to the stage we are at on our journey (Researching Phase 1 is what I call it in my head). I’ve always believed that the journey begins when you are contemplating the choice not when you suddenly have everything all together and are at the resolution part of the plot. Thank you so much for providing people like us with valuable and insightful information.