“I just want to rid of all my stuff, quit my job, and live on a boat.”
How often have you sat in your cubicle, in traffic, or in a crammed airplane seat and thought that sounded like a good plan?
In your head, it sounds so easy and romantic, doesn’t it? And for us, making the decision WAS easy. And talking about it and starting to make plans WAS romantic. But once the actual process begins – trust me, the easy and romantic parts are temporarily over.
After we made the decision to sell the house and move onto a boat, we had to do some serious – really, really serious – downsizing.
Over the previous several months, we had cleaned out some things using the steps below. But then the offer for house came in six days after we listed it, we realized we were moving in six weeks – and POW! Reality set in. Trust me, there is nothing like a six week deadline to get the downsizing juices flowing.
Most Americans have packed their entire lives at least once for a move to a new abode. I assume that you, the reader, have had at least one such opportunity, with all the related packing, lifting, loading driving, lifting, unloading and unpacking. If you LOVED the experience – raise your hand. Yeah, I thought so. I hate moving, too.
Moving onto a boat is just like that – except instead of finding boxes to fit all your stuff, you have to decide what to take into your next life. That means picking up every single item and asking yourself these questions:
- Should I keep this? (This comes with a set of corollary questions: Will it fit on the boat? Will it eventually rust? Is there something else I can re-purpose to replace this?)
- Would ________ like to have this?
- Would anybody want to buy this?
- Could this do good for somebody else?
- Will it fit in the household trash can or does it go directly to the city bin in the alley?
Or, as I call it, “the keep-keepsake-sell-donate-toss” decision tree. You may face a similar dilemma sometime in your future even it’s just moving out of the big home into a smaller house for your retirement years. So here’s the thumbnail sketch on how we went about it:
In our case, when we moved out of the house we kept some things in a Tucson storage unit and moved others into a friend’s house where we were staying for a few weeks.
Which means we had the great pleasure of making “keep, gift, sell, or toss” decisions and then moving all the keepers not once, but twice. And what didn’t go on the boat right away, we moved into a storage unit near the marina (3rd move). A couple months later we were able to get a storage unit on the marina property (4th move). On the bright side, with each move we downsized a little more.
Shopper’s bonus: if it doesn’t make the ‘keeper’ pile that may just mean you can start the hunt for a more suitable option. You may be getting rid of the full set of All-Clad because handles take up too much storage space, but you still need to cook. And that full set of Riedel wine glasses? You’ll be on budget, and the cheap wine tastes the same whatever you drink it out of.
What about everything else? Anything that doesn’t make the cut as a ‘keeper’ needs to be gone from your life. And it doesn’t really matter how.
Make it a keepsake
If you think someone else would appreciate this picture, piece of furniture, set of dishes or chotsky from the trip you took together back in the mid-80’s – ask if they would like to have it. Maybe they always said they liked it and wished they could find one. Maybe it’s something they gave to you, and would rather have it back then know it went to Goodwill. This worked well for things like heirlooms passed to me from my mom and the patio furniture that my friend Belinda helped me pick out. The heirlooms are now back in the family farmhouse and Belinda has a new seating area on her patio.
When asked, it’s likely that very few people will say no, and it may be some say “yes” only so they didn’t hurt your feelings. But so what if they put it in a drawer or closet to never be seen again until they move. You’ve achieved your goal – it’s out of your life.
Sell everything else
Become one with Craigslist (this was John’s area of expertise) for the bigger stuff like the full set of All-Clad pots and pans, the Kitchen-Aid mixer, furniture, expensive tools. Everything else goes in a yard sale. No joke – everything.
(Read my yard sale helpful hints here).
If you don’t want it, and you can’t find anybody else who wants to take it off your hands, then you are down to the last two options:
Give it away or throw it away. Either way, you have to make it go away.
Some things are obvious – games with missing pieces, damaged clothing, broken items that you never got around to fixing. Toss ‘em.
Good, now that they’re gone pack the rest up and trot it off to Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or another appropriate charity. Most of my better clothes I gave to a local group that provides a no-charge boutique for women who are working or looking for work.
Whew, that’s done. Back to the fun and romance. Surprise! Not really! Now you have to cram all the other stuff into a boat.