If you are all in on this RVing thing and are ready to become a fulltime RVer, then you are also probably considering selling your home. Please know that it is not necessary to sell your home, we have met plenty of fulltime RVers who rent their homes, which supplements part of their income on the road (if they do not have a mortgage). If you own your home and are in a good area, consider renting. Another bonus of this scenario is that then you have no pressure. If after a year, you are ready to settle down again, you still have your home “to come home to”. Unless you have had a lot of prior experience RVing, then the thought of fulltime RVing for ten years would be daunting. Putting too much pressure on yourself or your spouse upfront is a quick way to kill your fulltime RVing dream.
We downsized from a 2,800 sq. ft. home on a 10 acre property, to a renovated one-room schoolhouse from the 1800s, to a hotel room with no belongings, to a new townhome, to our fifthwheel – Aunt Glady…all within 8 months.
For our story, we actually put our home on the market long before we decided to try RVing. We were just simply in need of downsizing at the time, and the house was the first thing to go. We had a unique property on 10 acres, and it took us a full year to sell. During that time, we began tackling the project of sorting through our items and finding new homes for items we would no longer need. We had already moved four times in our married lives, and we always found that the easiest way to begin sorting through items is to start with storage areas…closets, garage, basement and attic. This is especially helpful when you still need to maintain the look of your home for walk-thrus while your home is on the market. It is never too soon to start clearing out your storage areas in your home, and by dealing with your less used items up front, you will free up time later for the inevitable unforeseen challenges you will face in last minute urgency. So, that is your first step, start evaluating, organizing and clearing out your storage areas.
How did we handle the timing of selling our home and moving in to the RV?
We sold our home in October, after a full year of showings, almost 30 of them. Since we weren’t really sure where we wanted to go after our home, we decided to look for apartments, but we did not want to be locked in to a full year lease. Once we were under contract on our home, we reached out to some friends of ours who had just finished renovating an 1800s one-room schoolhouse to rent. The timing worked out for us, and we were able to rent the schoolhouse on a month-to-month basis. By December, Chris was seriously considering leaving his job and the idea of RVing had started to be mentioned around our dinner table. We figured that it would be ideal to be in the RV over the summer, and a three month trip seemed like a good option. Chris and I would leave our jobs, but he had a side business that we suddenly (and for no other reason than providence) began to see new clients interested in hiring Chris. We figured it would be enough to keep us afloat for the three months on the road. So, we decided to begin looking for an RV. We quickly realized that we could afford a used one, and that we definitely wanted to renovate it to look more like an apartment than an RV. We tried several types and decided on a fifthwheel, but we wanted one with a large kitchen, so we began searching the internet for the layout we wanted.
And what about the unforeseen challenges? Get ready, Reader, this ride is about to get bumpy!
We had a bizarre turn of events in February, which forced us to face our very first insurance claim just months prior to hitting the road. We suffered an oil furnace puff back in the schoolhouse. We had never heard of it before, but to sum it up, a small furnace explosion spewed a coating of oil laden dust through the entire house. Said dust shows its friendly nature by forming an unbreakable bond with all the items in the home. It coats the entire home from ceiling to floor and everything in it. Every single item. An unbreakable bond.
Due to the oil, it was something that we couldn’t just clean and wipe away. Every single thing had to be professionally cleaned with special cleaners, and that couldn’t even save it all. It was crazy town. Our insurance covered our stuff, and they sent a cleaning crew to clean the entire home and all of our items, including having every item of clothing dry cleaned. Upon completion of the process, we went back to inspect, and there was still a coating of oil laden dust of everything. Here, they did not clean the furnace system until after they cleaned the home, resulting in a second puffback and a need for an entire second cleaning. During this process, we were put up in a hotel room, and eventually were reimbursed for the items that were ruined, like my favorite white couches. I really can’t explain to you what it felt like to have every item we own ruined in a matter of seconds, from furniture to our toothbrushes. We learned a real lesson in the value of our items and our attachment to them.
After the puff back, we just couldn’t stay in that home any longer. There was a residual smell of oil, and we just needed to move on. So, while we stayed at the hotel, I found another rental on Craigslist that was a beautiful, new townhome; and they allowed us month-to-month rent. We were surprised that they agreed to it, but we also knew that we had impeccable credit scores, were both professionals and had no pets or kids; so we were lining up to be the best tenants they had ever had. Plus, the townhome was for sale, so a short-term lease worked for their plan as well. The townhome was owned by a property company, and we never spoke with the man who owned it, all of our dealings were with a young woman who was the assistant.
All the while, we had befriended a stray cat at the schoolhouse. We aren’t cat people, and I actually have a slight allergy toward them. I can be around them, but if I pet cats, I have to then wash my hands to avoid a rash. Since it was February in Pennsylvania, we had quite a bit of snow on the ground, and the stray was living in the unconditioned garage/shed. We both felt it was our responsibility to provide a good option for her, since it was winter and we had been feeding her. So, we found a home for her for when we left. As a courtesy, we took her to the vet for the necessary shots before delivering her to her new home. We took her to the bet, and the next thing I knew; our vet visit was over and I was standing in the waiting room announcing to all the other pet owners that the cat was pregnant. Evidently, I had to say it out loud before I was convinced of what had happened. Everyone laughed, which helped me to laugh about it too. But, the cat lost her new home.
I was faced with a dilemma: I definitely could not leave this now pregnant cat in the cold, but I had also agreed to no pets with the new rental. So, I had to humble myself and ask the townhome owners if we could now have a pregnant, stray cat live in the basement until she had her kittens and we could find homes for them, trying to maintain my integrity in a process that certainly made me look like a deceiver. Miracle of miracles, they actually said ok. The young assistant was a cat lover!
We moved to the townhome, borrowed a love-seat from my parents and set the cat up in the basement. Fortunately, there was a Petco just down the street for these two first-time pet owners. In the midst of our downsizing, we found ourselves buying cat bowls, litter boxes, and anything we could find to entertain kittens. A week later, to our astonishment and delight, the stray, who we named Lucky (because she was a black cat), had four babies, three that were alive. She was so petite and tiny that even the vet did not realize that she was that far along. To add to the fun, since the house was for sale, we had to explain the cat situation for multiple showings. Reader, can you imagine going to see a house you are considering to purchase and seeing a room full of kittens in it? Additionally, the basement flooded after she had her babies, and she carried them upstairs; so they became part of the family, and I dealt with my allergies on a fulltime basis.
As March and April drew on, the flooding continued with melting snow and Spring showers, and we quickly learned why the townhome was on the market and not selling.
We bought our RV in April and picked it up on our last tearful day of work at the jobs and company we loved. Since we were now living in a development, we could not park it at our home. This was a big problem, since we would be renovating it ourselves. We spoke with our Pastor, and our church allowed us to park the RV in their lot for renovations…another challenge overcome. We did not know it at the time, but what a blessing to have the very last people who said farewell to us, as we left town for the unknown, be our pastor and his wife. It would not have been the same to simply pull away from an empty home.
After three full weeks of renovation at the church parking lot, downsizing the last of our items, finding homes for Lucky and each of her kittens, finishing coaching a softball team, desperately trying to tie up all the last minute loose ends, and giving final farewells to so many friends; dare I relate that we were finally actually kind of ready to go. By that time, we actually thought that RVing seemed like more stability than what we had been living. We left town in our home on wheels on May 30, just three days after the bank posted at least ten foreclosure notices on the townhouse door!
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend all of the steps we had to take to others, I do think our story illustrates how you will have to work hard to downsize and to get on the road. Like us, you will face unforeseen challenges in the process, but you need to focus on overcoming them. Do you think we typically fly by the seat of our pants through life and make last minute decisions? Reader, I am a teacher and a Librarian, and Chris is an Engineer. You couldn’t get two more straight-laced planners if you tried. And, seriously, we don’t even like cats, and we had four of them at once? In a house that the owner was scrambling to sell before foreclosure? And that wasn’t all of it, it went on and on. Our lives never looked that chaotic before, but it was necessary for us to face it all and move forward. And what could better prepare us for fulltime RVing than facing these constant unforeseen changes? And once the mechanism of change is in motion, you will find it becomes easier and easier to keep up with it.
What can aspiring fulltime RVers take away from this?
Selling your home and moving in to an RV can be nuts. Just walk that path one step at a time. Once you put your home on the market, begin going through the storage areas of your home and downsizing. When you are under contract, negotiate to sell big furniture items or maintenance equipment to the buyer. If you need an interim home, then look for something that is month-to-month or short-term. Don’t be afraid to ask for a short-term lease; we asked in both instances, and both times they said yes! Most of you will have more of a plan than we did, but we want you to know that you do not have to have it all figured out before starting the process. More than anything, if you do know that fulltime RVing is the right decision for you, then go after it with all you got. It can rain toxic soot and oil on you with newborn kittens in a flooded basement, but don’t get weighed down in it. Keep your focus.
What can aspiring part-time RVers take away from this?
I still think it is beneficial to go through your items in storage, because for you, there may be items that you already own that will be needed on your RV. Just because you are buying an RV and keeping your home does not mean that you have to buy everything new for your RV. Things like dishes, silverware, storage bins and other items may be able to be taken from your home and delegated to RV use only. Also, don’t allow your RV to become a storage area for things you do not use – downsize the stuff in there too if necessary!
What can everyone take away from this?
In retelling this part of our story, it almost sounds surreal. I can’t believe we faced not knowing where we were going to live twice in just a few short months. And all so that we could try to RV with no experience and just a tiny thread of hope that we would even like it! Remember, RVing was never our dream, we just wanted to travel the U.S. Our timeline cut it so close that we didn’t even have a chance to do a trial run at a campground! When we left that church parking lot, with a final blessing and waves from our Pastor and his wife, we headed to our very first campground. Chris was towing for the second time in his life. We had never hooked up our water or sewer. And we had nothing but more and more campgrounds ahead. Sometimes, I guess you just have to keep moving forward through the chaos. Dig in your heels and hold on to your motivation and passion. And when people say we are lucky, I know luck had nothing to do with it. We chose to be self-employed and work harder than we had ever done before, we were so discouraged as our house sat on the market month after month, we faced all sorts of setbacks and even a puff back, we had months of running on empty day after day; but, reader, we also had provision every step of the way. And now, all of those trials have drifted in to the hazy part of our memory unthought of unless provoked and have long been replaced by visions of the turquoise water of Glacier National Park in Montana, the sound of Indian drums in Spearfish Canyon in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the curious glances of a sea otter on the waters of Monterey Bay in California and the thousands of people we have met on the road or online. Sometimes, Chris and I joke that we still can’t believe this is our life. It is not always great, but man the great things are something we can really hold on to.