Updated: Jun 7
Let me preface by saying, this was one of the hardest things we ever had to do. We were a military family that moved every 2 - 3 years, and this was so much harder. Being married 24 years and a military family, we collected a lot of stuff. I mean look at this picture I posted, this was just one garage sale. We needed to get rid of a lot of stuff because we didn't want to have a huge storage unit with a huge monthly payment.
I would suggest you start downsizing a year out from your full-time date. However, we did not do that, we started downsizing 6 months from when we were supposed to move into the RV. Six months is still a lot of time, but if you can start sooner. This list can also be used to downsize into a smaller house, apartment, or just minimalizing your life. After we found a realtor the next step was to start going through everything. I suggest you divide this up into manageable timeframes. Because we both still worked full-time, I would set aside every Saturday that we were home to go through a closet, drawer, or room.
When we started discussing downsizing and I did research I was afraid it would be hard for me to get rid of certain items. I was shocked that I was not the one that had a hard time getting rid of items. Shane was the one that had a hard time parting with certain items. I was only sentimental about one item, and it was a Halloween dancing skeleton. Of all the items I owned, I never thought a skeleton would get me teary-eyed. We had it for so long and I just had a lot of memories with the boys and our friend's kids when they were little.
To make this an easier process organization is key. One thing I learned as a military spouse is how to set up different areas of your home when it is time to PCS (move from one base to another). Set up piles/areas somewhere in the house or set up rooms. We had a few empty rooms and set them up as waiting stations. We had one room that was for garage sale items and one that was for storage items. I used black trash bags for donated items, and trash items (which surprisingly was a lot). To do this correctly, you need to go through every single item in your home, either keep in RV, put in storage, donate, or trash. Don't forget, you can't keep too much in your RV, because of storage and weight issues.
One way to get your items ready for storage is to buy large storage bins with lids. We rented a large climate-controlled storage unit, but the items I kept are sentimental and can't be replaced, so I wanted to make sure they were safe. You can find these storage bins at just about any store, Walmart, Target, Amazon, Ikea, and The Container Store. Shane found some large ones on wheels that had handles. This made transporting them to storage and around the house so much easier.
2. Garage Sale
If you have a lot of stuff like we did, you need to have a garage sale. We actually had so much stuff, I had to schedule two garage sales. For a garage sale you need to be organized as well. First thing is put like items together as you are sorting them in rooms or piles. A great time saver is to purchase stickers that have prices already printed on them, and as you sort the items, go ahead and put a price on them. You could also set up an estate sale, this is where you would just leave everything in the house as is and people come through and literally buy stuff off of your walls. Lastly, you could pay someone to do all of this for you.
3. For Sale Pages & Apps
When I say sale pages, I mean social media sale pages. (no one posts in the newspaper any more). You can post on Facebook Marketplace, Facebook neighborhood pages, Craigslist, and Ebay, are just a few. There are so many sales pages now, I can't list them all. Be prepared to meet up with people at other places other then your home. We found this to be a much safer way to meet up for the smaller items. For larger items, make sure you have more than one person at your house to be safe. Some Apps that you can set up on your phone, Poshmark, Let Go, and Offer Up are just a few of many available to sell items right from your phone. Also, download pay apps on your phone to make payments easier, Some pay apps we used were PayPal, Venmo, and Zelle. There are many other pay apps out there, these were the three most people had on their phones.
Donate items to family members first. We our boys come in and pick out what they wanted, and I mailed some items to other family members. We donated all our blankets and pillows to the animal shelter. Everything else was donated to various charities in our home town. There are so many charities as well where you can donate. Salvation Army, homeless shelters, women's shelters, Habitat for Humanity, and many more. Google in your home town the best places to donate clothes, house items, outdoor items, etc.
Last, if you don't even think it is worth donating, just throw it in the trash. Go online and find where to recycle as much as you can before just throwing it away in the trash. I took so many bags to the trash, I lost count. It was around 20 large 35 gallon trash bags. I was able to spread them out over weeks, so as not to overwhelm or be charged by our trash pick-up company. If you have large items that will not fit in the trash cans, you will need to have a bulk pick-up set up with your trash company, or you will need to find a drop-off trash place. Most of the drop-off places will charge. Our HOA had a monthly dump day that was free, so we were able to dump some of our larger items with them for free.
6. Storage Unit
Once you have sold, donated, and trashed all your extra items you will still have some items that you want to keep. The only items we decided to keep were the ones we bought while living overseas. These items would be very hard if not impossible to buy again. At first we went and rented a large storage unit, to later go back and downsize. However, we have not done that yet. It is on the list before we hit the road. We also decided to pay the extra and go with a climate controlled unit. Some of our items are priceless to us, so we thought it was worth it to pay the extra.
Last, we had to move everything we had left into the camper. This is where you might have to get creative. For us everything fit, but we did have to purchase some storage bins, hangers, baskets, and other organizational items. I wanted to make sure everything has it's place and it always goes back into that space. It just helps to keep everything clean and tidy when you live in a small space. This is also a great time to purge again. You will find the things you thought you will need, you actually don't end up needing after all.