Leaving the Job and Camping in Our Home State

For the most part the emotions of leaving the job and house are starting to slip away. We are settling into this lifestyle and learning new stuff all the time. The move has been a process that’s getting easier at times but certainly has it’s ups and downs at this point.

My last day on the job was October 4th. By then Karen and I had been camping in a long-term spot for a month or so. We left that spot in Platte City Missouri and moved on April 9th to southern Missouri. Before we left the immediate area of our hometown – for the winter – there were several things to finish up. If I had to do it again, I would have stayed an extra week in the area after retirement (or retired earlier) to allow more time to wrap things up. Oh well, flexibility is the name of the game now and we really need to get on with traveling to interesting places.

It’s best to break this blog post down into headlines so you can skip around to topics of interest.

Retiring from a Job

Law enforcement is more than a job; it’s a way of life. The phone can ring at any time calling you back for whatever. You go home thinking about it while awake and while asleep at times. In the end the hardest part for me was leaving the relationships with co-workers. The day before I left, I was asked if I was going home earlier on my last day? I said I’ll leave when I’m ready. By then I had purposely completed most of the process of turning in equipment and the paperwork. I’d parked our Ram 3500 dually truck at a co-worker’s house. He was to give me a ride to his house the last day as I had turned in the company car.

Leaving that last day was like pulling a Band-Aid off. You know when it’s the right time and then just jerk the Band-Aid off and feel the moment of pain. Early afternoon on the last day I suddenly told my co-worker it was time to leave. There were hugs out the door. I refused to have a large going away party. I’m just not good with goodbyes. Earlier I had walked around to different departments and told everyone goodbye and recalled stories of good times and jobs well done together. The night before my immediate workgroup had dinner with Karen and me.

Retirement photo with a few of the guys

Emotional moments came to include when deciding it was okay to send an email out to about 40 of the many people I’d met on the job. I wanted to let them know the day had finally come for me to leave, to pass the word around and provide a new contact person for our agency. I used my email contact list for some of the names. Over the years I made it a habit to keep business cards where I wrote on the back when and where I’d met the person. Those contacts came in handy over the years. Those who do a good job and are helpful also tend to meet others of like mind. That creates a tight group of friends and contacts. I’ve not wanted to delete email contacts or throw away business cards for friends who died over the years. Flipping through those business cards sure was emotional.

I want to pass along something very important about my co-workers. It will be a glimpse into our mindset. I don’t think I’m breaking any rules – as if it matters! I was sitting in our patrol area talking with the dayshift. It’s a recently remodeled area of the building that’s decorated with posters by the officers. The writings on the wall say it all. I took some photos which are as follows:

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

Wall at Sheriff’s Office

We always have each other

Setup Mail Service with Escapees in Texas – Insurance Companies Panicked.

One thing we had to finish up while in town was establishing our mail service with Escapees in Texas and then driving to the post office to fill out mail-forwarding to the new address. In those final days I also did the best I could to change our address online or by phone. Of course, going paperless as much as possible for bills. I was not aware the post office will send a notice to various places if you change your address. The post office notified our insurance companies which prompted the insurance companies to send a letter asking what was up. Also one of the pension companies received a notice and called asking what was up.  Our insurance agent knew what we were up to and that we had to first setup a PO Box to collect mail from our old sticks and bricks house and then on to Texas when our final mailing address was established. I had the agent handle the insurance companies who apparently get concerned that you might be living in another state while having insurance in another.  He told them we are leaving as snowbirds early and just want our bills sent to Texas.  He also set us up for paperless billing. Once we get to Texas maybe the first of December, we will be changing insurance companies. Sorry to be loosing my agent whom I’ve been with for more than 20 years.  I’m thinking we will find another agent in Texas who is an insurance broker rather than going directly to individual insurance companies. I’ve got a list of several brokers whom are frequently recommended by others in the area.

I’m extremely happy with the Escapees Club customer service! They even have a feature when you call and find the wait for an operator is too long. You can select an option to have them call you back.  When the computer calls you back and if you are not ready for the call there is an option to have them call back in 20 minutes.  For now we are paying the extra $10 a month for the option to have mail scanned and available online if needed.  You have to join Escapees first to enroll in the mail service. So far, we have saved about half our annual Escapee Club membership fees with campground discounts at none Escapee parks. And as I type this we are camped with a local Escapees Club chapter where experienced RV members are as helpful and friendly as can be. Friends from the chapter invited us to attend their monthly camping rally as their guests.

Saying Goodbyes to Family and Friends

I wrote in my last post that we are not leaving friends and family as part of this fulltime RV journey. We expect to see them more than before and spend quality time with them. Just after we purchased our RV we took an extended trip to Michigan to visit part of Karen’s family. We are in southern Missouri now and among other things we are getting with family. Before we left Kansas City we spent the day with our daughter. It’s good to see she has a good group of friends and modern methods of communications keeps her in touch with her mom. 

Karen has been shopping for post cards she says she will enjoy mailing out. In an RV there is not space to buy and store stuff. If you like shopping then post cards are a brilliant way to get that urge out of your system. Personally, I can’t wait to shop at farmers markets all over the country.

360 degree photo my sister Lisa took with her iPhone. On the phone you can pan around and see the interior of the camper.

After my retirement day in our hometown my sisters, friends, niece and nephew came from three directions to see us. My sister Mary was the first to sleep on our sofa bed and approved of its comfort (it’s an actual mattress and not an air bed). My sister Lisa rented an RV spot for her wonderful Class C. My sister Deanna brought us a big bag of Jelly Belly candy. I thought of her every time I get a cup full to enjoy. Karen and I are enjoying the new zero gravity chair the family got us as a retirement gift.  Glad we waited to replace our existing chairs. We have our eye on a rocker style as well.  There are plenty of examples of good chairs to sit in at other’s campfires.

When folks write about all the new friends they discover on the road it’s no lie. Karen gets text messages from some of them and is now added to her Facebook friends list. I’m thinking about adding a new column in my spreadsheet to include home addresses for new friends who want us to stop by if we are in the area. I can import the spreadsheet into Google Maps and add pins on the map for friends. We have new ones in North Carolina, Colorado and more. The last night we were in Kansas City at the RV park Karen dog sat for the neighbors until midnight while they were at a concert. Karen loves dogs. She gets five new dogs every day it seems as people move in and out of the parks. She meets all the dogs and their owners in short order.

The final step in leaving the park back home was to check to see if a package had arrived in the office. Outside I ran into Gary whom I worked with for a long time. He retired a year ago and it sure was nice having him and Connie camping at the same park as they are also fulltime RV travelers. See ya next time guys.

Living Together in Small Spaces

I’m probably going out on a limb to write about this topic as I’m clearly no expert but am willing to learn and change. We are a ways from having this done. We continue with our rule that the first person to a spot has the right of way in our tiny home.  Like everyone else, we both have our emotional moments. Just give the other person some time and space and it all works out.  Treat others as you would like to be treated for sure. All good advice or what I’m thinking will work in the long run. I love – love – love the time with my wife. I can now even leave that darn cell phone wherever and just enjoy the moment. 

Trips to the grocery store are perfect for rainy days when getting outside is less appealing.  As we get closer to wrapping up all the administrative tasks with becoming fulltimers there will be increasing time for touring the local sites. We both agree doing one thing a day is plenty for now. Today we met the Escapees Chapter group we are camped with for lunch and games. Now we are sitting typing a blog or reading a book under the canopy of our fifth wheel while sun shines around us.

There are opportunities to have our own space. RV and truck maintenance, walking the dog, watching TV in the bedroom, visiting with neighbors, walking to the laundry and just the daily tasks offer opportunity to do our own thing. I’m learning to cook on the grill as a hobby and eventually I’ll be learning to use the cast iron covered skillet Dave gave me as a gift at work.  I’m planning to master all forms of cooking outside. 

I’ll quickly add something else you have to work out is what kind of place you want to park your home. I’m not that particular at this point. Karen definitely has an interest in picking spots so she looks a few up in the area and then I get a pick with special attention to trip routing. We really do enjoy parking for days at a time and spreading out in the space a fifth wheel offers. The weekly camping rates are easier on the budget which so far, for us, is closer to $30 a day on average with discounts.

Electronics, Internet and TV Access

I left most of the electronic decisions for the year we went fulltime. Technology changes fast and the options are way different than years ago.  We increased Karen’s AT&T phone account to unlimited data with a hotspot to link her tablet or my laptop computer to.

I still have an unlimited data plan on a T-Mobile account which is provided to me with the part-time remote office job I took on the road. WIFI internet at campsites has been better than expected but there are periods of times when connection is lost or slow. If needed we may add a mobile cellular device on the Verizon network offered by my employer at the office job. Redundancy is the key.

I’m finding AT&T data will often work better than the Verizon phone (hotspot) I turned in when I left the Sheriff’s Office. Probably because so many people are on the Verizon network there are times it slows down.

I’ve read and researched where one best understand how adding antennas or signal boosters can effect cellular data if that’s an option you decide on. It might not always be the best thing to do. I’ve not added any boosters or external antenna for the time being. We are just using whatever signal we can pick up.

Togo Roadlink is a new device available with AT&T unlimited data for the cost of the roof mounted device and $360 a year for unlimited data. This looks interesting especially as you only have to run a 12 volt line to the box on the roof rather than a bunch of cable. We are fine with what we have for now.

I bought a Roku stick to add to the television. We kept our Amazon Prime account for fast delivery of packages while parked.  Prime video is something we use as we left the cost of satellite TV behind several years ago. If I was to add satellite TV I for sure would have a device that finds the satellites automatically. A guy parked nearby was adjusting his manual satellite and yelling to his wife inside the trailer to see if the picture was good. I understand you can get a handheld device to help point the satellite dish if needed. Automatic sounds better to me.  With the new digital television channels we find plenty to watch just using the trailers over the air antenna.

Beware – using campground WIFI internet can make you vulnerable to hackers seeing what you are doing. I use our cellular connections for confidential access. I’m no expert but understand setting up a virtual private network (VPN) is a security solution for campground WIFI. I’m still researching and for now, right or wrong, am using the free Hotspot Shield program for a VPN.  I’ve got more research to do on this so don’t have any good recommendations for a solution.  I know running the campground WIFI through a router device would also help with security. If you know more about campground WIFI security please comment so we can all learn from you.

How is Our 5th Wheel Holding Up

Our Vanleigh Vilano is holding up wonderfully. So far there has been nothing break that left us stranded or inconvenienced such as having something like a slide, air conditioner, furnace or whatever go out. I’ve called the factory service center twice now to have small parts shipped and they arrived the next day with zero hassle. I’ve got a list of minor stuff for Vanleigh to fix once we migrate to the service center in northern Mississippi probably next spring. We will probably have them install some upgrades at the same time. After living in the fifth wheel for awhile we will figure out where extra shelving might come in handy. And by spring we might have a list of other upgrades like suspension, washer/dryer and electronics. I suspect I’ll get them to do the annual mantainance items if needed.

Karen is having issue with the dry air as a result of the electric fireplace heat and gas furnace. We talked about getting a small room humidifier.  Any thoughts about that would be appreciated.

We really are happy to have ordered the rear living room air conditioner with the heat pump option. The front bedroom heats up a few degrees warmer as heat rises. I still don’t understand why anyone would put a heat pump on the front bedroom AC unless they figure the cost is minimal. We also appreciate the second awning that covers the large rear window on the passenger side. It’s a nice place to cook or eat at the picnic table in the rain. More importantly the second awning keeps the sun off that side of the trailer. I’m most likely being over cautious about leaving the awning out in any wind condition even if we are home.

We love our new home! But just like buying a new sticks and bricks house you will find minor flaws that have little to do with the important quality aspects. Tightening a screw, gluing something down is no big thing.  I’m still reading on the owner’s Facebook page about maintenance and developing my list. Watching others and talking with them about maintenance when we are parked is helping. I believe I now have most of the cleaning supplies, grease and more that is needed. 

Places We Have Been and Old Friends We Met Again

I figured this would be a good section to wrap up what our travels have been since going fulltime on 8/22/19.  As I’ve written before we first stayed at the local county park at Smithville Lake Missouri and got some practice with our waste water tanks.

Then we moved for five weeks to an RV resort near Platte City Missouri. I worked most of those five weeks. Karen and I developed several friendships which I’m thinking helped with the stress one might experience when you are new to this lifestyle. Our good friends Russ and Kay from the Destination Unknown blog travel through Kansas City from the east coast and this would have been I think the third time we have met up. They travel in a toy hauler pull behind trailer and frequently use their Harvest Host campsite membership. They rerouted to another overnight spot closer to us which turned out to be a church parking lot. It was a good visit.  Forgot to take photos as usual. While in Platte City we met several fulltimers and part-timers. Even met a couple who were from Canada, having immigrated there from Germany. That one campsite netted at least two other couples we got to know well over a week or two. Sure we will see them again someplace on the road.

From Platte City we moved for five days to a campsite near family at Mt. Vernon Missouri for a visit and to attend the usual annual Apple Butter Making Days festival. My sister Mary has given considerable thought to becoming a fulltimer someday and right now would go as a solo (meaning with no partner). I sent her a few resources regarding camping as a solo but if you have any good links send them our way in a comment. We stayed at Beagle Bay RV Haven in Sarcoxie Missouri. It was a spot in the trees and met our needs. If you are traveling down Interstate 44 between Springfield and Joplin in Missouri it’s a nice spot for a few days that includes all shaded areas with full hookup pull-throughs.

From Mt. Vernon/Sarcoxie we moved just 15 miles to Carthage Missouri for a week long Escapees Ozark Chapter campout. We are there currently for another week and staying at Coachlight RV Park. It’s right behind an RV dealership and way easy to get in and out of. Unfortunately I’ve got to travel back to Kansas City for a murder trial next week. Karen is going with me. We will leave the fifthwheel behind and just make the drive to a motel. While here at the rally we get time to spend with our wonderful friends Dean and Cheri of Travels with Bentley blog. Come November they will have been fulltimers for two years. They and others in this Escapees group are a wealth of information. I’m watching and listening to everything about the lifestyle the group has to offer. 

With the part-time office job I kept there are frequent chances to visit local post offices to mail work related stuff. I should have started a list of all the post offices I’ve visited. While here in Carthage I visited a unique older building. I did not take photos inside as I did not want to alarm anyone. Later we are going to visit some Civil War sites in town.

Carthage Missouri Post Office

Well that’s about it for now. Our immediate travel plans appear to be Branson Missouri for vacation.Then on to maybe Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. Then on to Livingston Texas which is the headquarters for Escapees and where we will get our driver’s license and truck/trailer license plates. As our rig totals more than 26,000 gross max weight I’ll be taking a driving test which is the law in Texas.  We will most likely make a stop between Arkansas and Texas before arriving in Livingston. Between now and then I’m going to finalize our healthcare options and more.

Evolution of Emotions

I just found the time to sit down and put thoughts together regarding Karen and my effort to finish up with the house sale and move into our Vanleigh Vilano 320GK fifth wheel. As I begin writing this post, I’ve got no idea what to title it.

I’ve been trying to come up with a general outline which covers a few tips we have learned and the emotions of the past couple months. I don’t want this post to come out overly negative but many of the points will include the not so pleasant emotions of it all. In the end we have moved into our new home and are adjusting well.

Continue reading

Tools

Selecting what tools to hit the road with has been a harder decision than I expected.  Watched all the YouTube videos as to what others are using and talked to a lot of friends in the process.  It became apparent that until we are on the road we may not have a great idea of what tools will come in handy. For sure, the types of tools one keeps depends on how much of the truck/RV maintenance and modifications one plans to perform on their own compared to hiring it out. For me, I plan to learn as much as possible and do as much as possible.

For me, the starting point is taking inventory of what tools I already own. I sold off some of the larger items in our first garage sale, keeping for sure what I know I’ll need to finish home repairs before our house goes on the market.  Then I looked around at all the boxes and bags, sorted by tool type, and wondered how to consolidate all those into just a few bags for the road.

After years of reading other’s blogs and the Facebook users group for our trailer brand I’ve got a reasonable idea of what to expect. For example, common problems where bolts were not checked and may have led to mechanical failures in the suspension systems.

As our 35′ fifth wheel has a smaller basement than a 40′ model, I suspect the bed of our truck will someday include a larger container for whatever will fit in it.  Here are a few of my tool decisions and what I’m wondering about keeping or not.

Tree branch trimming and wood cutting:  This is a hard one for me. Do I keep the battery operated Sawzall, longer axe or hatchet, buy an electric chain saw or just keep the ratcheting  loppers?  I suspect, but am not sure, there will be times when we at least collect small dead tree branches to start fires and for sure there will be those times when low hanging tree branches may need to be cut from the roof of the fifth wheel before we back in?

Hand tools and electrical stuff: This was an easy decision. I took my two boxes and consolidated what I thought I would need into a single bag. I should have done this a long time ago because more times than not I ran back to the garage for yet another small tool that happened to be stored in a different bag than what I had with me.  I kept a couple extras of some tools, such as a screw driver, for a drawer in the fifth wheel for quick work and a spare set of pliers to store outside with the RV water hose connection rather than having to get the entire bag of tools out. I ended up buying this bag to consolidate everything into:


Mechanics Set of Tools:
  Over 30 years ago I purchased my first set of 3/8″ sockets. Over time I bought a small 1/4″ socket set and had amassed dozens of miscellaneous sockets which I kept in a box, bought more than likely at yard sales.  I would purchase a wrench here and there.  It was time for something more substantial and all inclusive.   Something in a single box I could grab and run with.  Adding a mechanics tool set, along with my new single bag of hand and electrical tools, brings together 90% of what tools I think I’ll need.  Keeping weight in mind, or something reasonable to carry around, I researched a new mechanics tools set. I decide on a 1/4″ and 3/8″ set.  I just do not think I’ll need a full 1/2″ drive set so why add the weight to the box.  I discovered mechanics sets after watching a YouTube where a guy was changing fuel filters on his diesel truck. This is what I purchased:

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Dewalt DWMT73802 142 Piece Mechanics Tools

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Lifetime Guarantee

 

Tool 1 (800x600)

No One Builds Better Latches than Dewalt

Power Tools:  Of course I’ll take along a cordless drill. But what about the remainder of the set I already own that include even a small skill saw?  I’m still undecided and might just keep what I don’t take in our 5’x10′ storage unit until I see if I miss them.

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Not Sure If I’m Keeping These?

Other ToolsFor More Specific Usage: Following the Facebook user’s group for our brand of fifth wheel has netted some great advise. Folks provided specific recommendations for various tools and sizes of wrenches. Adding a torque wrench and one single 1/2″drive deep socket with 6″ extension is apparently all I’ll need for the major suspension components. I’m hoping to avoid bolts backing out while bumping down the road by keeping them tightened at the manufacturers recommendations. Of course take a caulking gun and make sure to have tape and caulk for repairs. I’m also wondering if it’s worth keeping my electric buffer for waxing the trailer? And what about a small shovel, maybe a folding entrenching tool would work. I’ve got a heavier 25′ extension cord which will work, especially as I can pull out the generator if I need to be closer to something. Here is what I bought:

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Tekton 24335 1/2″ – 10 to 150 Pound Torque Wrench

Air Compressor: I own a pancake model with a small tank that is capable of the air pressures I would need. But it’s heavy and takes up space. I’ve looked at the popular Viair portable brand, but they are expensive and slow to inflate. I might get a smaller pancake model that has a tank now that I’m not running any air nailguns nor plan to use air tools. Finally figured out how to air up dual wheel tires and have the basic chucks for that, along with a quality air gauge attached to the air hose. Might write a blog post later on that. I’m not concerned with having a model that hooks to a car battery because we have a generator if needed. I’ll be taking another look at the hoses that are available, especially the space saving type. Although it makes since to go with what I have for now.  I also have a gun attachment that blows air which is invaluable for cleaning dusty parts and even blowing out the garage floor. Wonder if that might work for blowing off the tops of slides? (update 6/19/19 need to replace current pancake model which apparently is to old to inflate anything higher than 104 pounds.  I’ll sell the old one grouped with my nail guns).

Gas Powered Equipment: Figure these are not coming along but not sure yet.  We have a 3500 Watt gas generator already so will already be hauling around a few gallons of gas.  What about keeping my gas leaf blower and collapsible weed trimmer?  These two items come apart for storage. The leaf blower could come in handy for blowing off the slide tops or outside mat. I’ve stayed in more than one camping area that needed weeds trimmed.

Ladder and Stool:  Not technically a tool but something to consider. We have a two step folding stool to be used to reach high shelves in the RV and I use it to get in and out of the truck bed. Really thinking about keeping the two step stool in the camper and buying a shorter three step model to keep in the back of the truck. I also have a 12′ heavy folding Werner ladder. I’ve considered going to a collapsible ladder in place of the folding ladder:

Two steep

 

LadderLAdder 2

 

I’ve got a place at home we are storing tool and camper accessories we are not using right now. We plan to take several boxes with us when we pick up our fifth wheel from the dealership. There is time now to put all this together.

Karen and I were talking yesterday about pricing items for sale. We both agreed although we had paid X amount for something new we had, for lack of a better word, joy in using it. That joy cost something and the item is now worn. For me, some tools are harder to dispose of because even after years of usage they are not even close to worn out.  So when you are downsizing it might be helpful to keep in mind you had joy in owning and using something. You can always buy the same worn item again later at a yard sale or any of the same places you used to dispose of them.

Thanks for following along and providing comments. I’ve been shopping for a new truck hitch and still considering a truck bed cover for all the stuff we want to secure. More on all of that later.

Downsizing Update: Boxes and Boxes

We are running out of things to throw out with the trash. For the past few years, and more so in the last year, we having been drifting through the house looking for items that can’t be sold, given away or taken on the road. Filling the large trash receptacle on as much of a weekly basis as possible. The successful garage sale last summer and selling off larger items since then has opened up spaces in the house.

Karen and I made the final decision that we will be renting a 5×10 storage unit which will most likely be in a climate controlled facility. Knowing we will have this available small space has made it easier to deal with the emotions of downsizing. To some extent we are not forced to part with things that are most important to us.  We might also place a few things in storage where we aren’t sure if they are needed on the road or not.

I’m really trying to avoid buying anything new to include storage totes. I’ve read plastic boxes may not be the best thing to use for long-term storage because of issues with condensation.  I’m assuming with a climate controlled storage area the condensation will not be bad.  I’ve been bringing cardboard boxes home from work that might be a better solution for items in storage we don’t plan to access, thereby saving the plastic boxes for the camper depending on their sizes.

Our homes storage spaces are nearly free of everything we have not touched for years. That’s making it possible for staging areas we use for sorting and storing  in anticipation of a large springtime sale. We have decided not to hire an estate sales company. I was not sure at first how to display larger items upstairs in our home during the sale. Our driveway is larger and I may just move larger items to the driveway for the sale. Especially as we would need to move things to the truck should something not sell. Karen and I have both been busy listing larger stuff on Craigslist and our local Facebook swap and shop page. We are lucky to live just outside the city so the customer base is larger than if we lived further outside of town.

We finally have at least one room in the house where we can move everything remaining into the center of the room for painting. So far, and subject to change, we are leaning towards just keeping a minimal amount of furniture and accessories to live with while the house is on the market? Although I suspect the realtor may want us to stage a few items? Karen would rather move into the fifth wheel once the house is on the market. I’d be open to giving that a try for a month and see how it works. Repairs and upgrades inside our house are hit and miss. I suspect there will be a mad rush to finish it up before the house goes on sale right after we replace our very old and stained carpeted areas.

We have setup a few boxes with labels for sorting. These include items going to family, keepsakes for storage and items to sell on Ebay. After our experience with the last garage sale I know there are smaller collectables and specialty items that would never bring a fraction of what they are worth. I suspect we will end up with one or two medium sized boxes of items that would be easy to ship as they are sold off. So we have decided to give Ebay a try once we are on the road?  Again, with a storage unit back home, we have an advantage of keeping a few sale items there. Personally, it will be fun to sell off a few things on Ebay, especially having more time on our hands by not have a nine to five job. So far, I’ve decided not to bother with trying to Ebay anything worth less than $50.

We have considered the total cost of a storage unit over a six year period and it’s worth it to us. I’ll have to figure that into our annual budget.

Because we decided on a 35′ fifth wheel, compared to a forty-footer, our basement storage area will be a little smaller. Opting to not have a larger on-board generator will free some space up in the front storage of the trailer. If we end up ordering a trailer I may not even spend the several hundred dollars for the generator prep option? Our trailer will have great inside storage and a better than average cargo capacity. But still, we already know space will be at a premium. We have started stacking things we are taking on the road within some of the freed-up space at home. We want to start off with that pile being as small as possible for sure.

Thank you to everyone for the comments and conversation on the last blog post concerning which camper we have selected. I’m working on a multi-part post to over-explain the reasons for that selection. I’m hoping it will be informative. If you want to bounce ideas off each other offline my email is mseneker@hotmail.com. Karen says it’s okay to email her as well at ksseneker@hotmail.com

Favorite Downsizing Tools

I’ve got a couple downsizing tools that are not typically mentioned. Or at least they have not been discussed in blogs I’ve read. A  skill saw and reciprocating saw.

Mine happen to be battery operated. I keep a multipurpose blade on the skill saw. As reciprocating saw blades are easy to change out I have one for wood and another for metal.  I’d suggest buying good metal blades which decreases the time and effort needed to saw something up before the battery runs out. I might take the reciprocating saw on the road for cutting tree limbs, camp fire logs or whatever. The saw is wonderful for general purpose.
I’ve cut up a metal swing, flat screen television, furniture and more with these saws. There is not one safe thing in the house that will not fit in a our large trash can!

Around our house we always remember trash day is Tuesday, making sure to top the can off for the trash man. As our service will only take one large can, I keep a spare to fill up when I get a wild hair to cut-up stuff. Then transfer that to the normal can for the next week.  Works for me.
Found a few things around the house that don’t make it to the trash can without a second usage. The bottom of a plastic cat litter container or a coffee container make great paint pails.

We don’t have our truck yet so hauling loads to the dump is impossible. Once we have the truck there will be a couple larger items such as couches, which are junk now, to haul to the local large trash dump off site. Lucky for us the city runs a large item waste drop off point located a mile from home. They charge by the piece or truck load. Till then – I’m cutting it up for the trash man!

Karen and I just got back from a 2,300 mile trip from Missouri to Tennessee to Michigan and back. Visited family,  new full time RVers and a RV dealership. So lots to report on later.

Weekend of Downsizing and Painting

Today was our family reunion which is held annually in Southern Missouri. I decided to stay home this year. Weekends are valuable commodities around here. Especially with just about a year left before we move on to the great RV adventure. Spent the time downsizing and painting.

Selling the motorcycle is among four things I’d like to get done before purchasing our dually truck.  Selling the hot tub happened a few weeks ago. Yesterday the motorcycle left the driveway and I was not riding it!   SOLD…

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This was one of many bikes I’ve owned. Had one since I was 18 years old. This latest bike was a big 1500cc which Karen and I much enjoyed riding through the scenic hills that surround our home. Sold it to a friend of a friend. I’ve actually had good luck selling stuff to co-workers and their friends. They all know we are leaving next year.  Sold a freezer to a co-worker’s daughter. She thanked us for the great deal, how clean the freezer was and the fact she had a young family and can now shop for bulk foods.  Win – Win deal for sure.

I should add an update regarding the truck I found in Springfield Missouri. It sold before I had a chance to make a move on it.  Was not meant to happen I’m sure. A part of me really wants to stick to a schedule leading to the purchase. However, after a lot, and I mean a lot, of shopping around I can say it’s fairly difficult to find a decent used truck equipped the way you want for hauling heavy loads. If I had to do it all over again, I’d figure out a way to be in a better position financially to buy a truck when I find it. We are debt free as of last January and I really don’t want to change that with a truck loan.  Meanwhile, our truck fund is growing so that’s a good thing.

I’ve been surfing the web for new blogs to read.  It’s an easy search in that for the most part I just hop over to blogs I follow and look at their list of other blogs they happened to follow. Especially from the list of bloggers who happened to be over-planners like myself. Here is a list of blogs I follow in case you are looking for a few to read.  I have several more bookmarked and check in on them every couple months.

At this point in planning what works good for me is to take a look at a blogger’s lists of past postings, selecting one that is written in the same time period we are at right now. For example, as we are into heavy downsizing and selling stuff off, I tend to be attracted to those pages. Finding all kinds of tricks and hints others are using. A blogger mentioned using Freecycle.org to get rid of personal belongings. Although the program is international, our local group does not appear to be very large. Check it out for your area. Basically, Freecycle is a not-for-profit created years ago to reduce the amount of materials going to landfills. Everything listed is free for the taking or giving. Another lead I got off a blog was Bagster.com. Here you buy very large bags and a boom truck comes around to haul them off.  Might be cheaper than a dumpster. Personally, I may just borrow a dump trailer from a friend once we have our truck for a trip to the local landfill. Already did the dumpster thing back in June when at the time we had plenty to fill it.  Dumpster are so convenient.

As I wrote earlier, we skipped the family reunion this year and spent time painting on the outside of the house. Believe I’ll never use a paint brand again other than Sherwin-Williams. It may sound funny but I had it down as a goal to paint one side of the house each year for the past four years. I’m behind schedule. Thankfully we are painting everything the same color and using a high quality paint so one coat coverage may be the time saver we are needing.  Karen read where if you paint something blue it will cut down on the number of bugs that cling to a surface. It works.. She painted the ceiling of our porch as an experiment a few years ago. 

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I repainted the blue ceiling with the local Ace Hardware paint she had originally used. Took about 25% more effort compared to the better Sherwin-Williams paint I’ve been using on the remainder of the house. You can’t see the blue ceiling from the street or sidewalk for that matter. So it does not stand out unless you are underneath it. Then it’s rather attractive.

I’ve sold three houses I’ve lived in. I painted all three.  A brush and roller are the main tools in my opinion after trying all the gadgets.  I really like the How to Paint a House Videos for tutorials. And here is a video on cleaning a roller and paint brush. This guy has it right. I personally don’t use a wire brush to clean a paint brush unless it has a lot of dry paint on it and then I also apply paint thinner. If you trust your method to clean a brush and roller completely then it’s not so hard to swallow the price of a decent roller and brush.

We are hiring a contractor to paint a taller side of the house because I don’t have the proper ladders for that. And now that I’m old I don’t bounce very well when falling off ladders.

We have one other blue ceiling in our home. I know it can be risky to “experiment” with colors in a home when you are looking to sell. We certainly have appreciated the differences while living here.  We added the sunroom maybe 10 years ago. The ceiling is vaulted so you don’t see it until you are in the room.

It’s a little difficult to see in these photos. From our kitchen you walk into the sunroom through a cased opening seen in the left photo. The photo on the right is the blue ceiling. This is actually a relatively expensive option for paint. Because it’s applied by the drywaller. First you paint the ceiling a flat color. Blue in this case, although a pale yellow is beautiful as well. Then the drywaller adds white paint with his ceiling texture before spraying it on the ceiling. Really gives the room an open and airy feeling.

Karen enjoys this room on a daily basis. When we starting using our third bedroom/office for a staging area to sort junk, she moved her desk into the sunroom. Now she gets to look across the back yard towards the treed hillside. Next year we both should have views like that – out our future RV windows.

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Karen’s view from her desk – Nice

Karen says our cousin Kathy posted photos of the family reunion. Believe I’ll head over to Facebook to check them out.

Garage Sale Success

Well, we finished up our two day garage sale and deemed it a success. Both financially and just getting rid of stuff.  We had purchased a package with 1000 stickers that had prices stamped on them. I’d say based on the number of stickers remaining we sold off at least 400 items of various sizes. Thought I’d share a few observations about the sale.

We actually found it less of a challenge to decide what would go in the sale than we thought it would be. Especially on the emotional side of giving up stuff. That may have been made easier because it’s not our final sale and we have come to an agreement a 5×10 storage unit could later house, at least for a while, items we are not willing to part with or are not sure if we will need it on the road. Boy did I have a few questions to ask others about what we should keep for the road. Fortunately, an opportunity came up where I had to travel to Joplin Missouri for work. Our good friends and full time RV’ers Cheri and Dean were parked in their home town. Cheri writes the Travels with Bentley Blog. I took a detour on the way home to pay them a visit. Not just to ask questions but to see how they were doing. They kept a larger storage unit after selling their house. I ran a list of items past Dean, asking if we should keep them for the road. The couple are doing good and preparing for their trip north to see family and more.

I’ll just bullet point a few comments about the sale:

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  • We advertised on Craigslist, Facebook and the local paper. Taking into account the households within a 10 mile radius of us, I’m thinking the advertising could have reached up to 35,000 homes.  We are also fortunate to live on a corner lot with a major street so a well placed sign pointed folks to our home.  We had plenty of customers. Surprisingly this also turned out to be a great way to meet neighbors we had never spoken with in the past. We also received cards in the mail from local realtors asking to be interviewed or considered as an agent once we get ready to sell the house. One of our adds mentioned we would be selling the house next year.  That add also had an unanticipated effect at work! Several fellow employees apparently read the add and asked others what was up, was I leaving now. Not a big deal for me but something you might want to think about should you advertise for your own sale someday.

 

  • Items over $60 in price did not sell well. People were looking for deals. I’ll not go into the details of how to setup garage sale displays as I’m sure you can find that advice online. We moved all the leftover large items to one side of the garage and will post them individually on Craigslist.  That got me to wondering if it would have been a good idea to have posted them for sale on Craigslist or Facebook, individually, prior to the sale. Then just use the sale date to have people show up to buy. The lack of selling more expensive items has us worried how we should plan our final sale, when way more expensive or larger items are to be sold off. I’ll talk about that in a few moments.
  • A good way to look up what you might want to price something at is not to use a laptop for searching. Use you phone’s voice to text feature and just ask “eBay or Home Depo (fill in the blank)”. The Google search should pull up what others are selling the same item for and if they had any bids on the item. We priced most everything below the online price because we wanted to get rid of it.
  • We essentially have a three car garage with two overhead doors. We moved everything that was not for sale behind an area draped with tarps hanging from a soffit. We moved all our shelving from inside the house to the garage to setup displays. The shelving will be sold in the next sale. I sent a text to a neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use. He volunteered to get four 10′ tables from his church where only a small deposit was needed to insure the tables came back in good shape. Steve even hauled them to and from the church for us. Karen and I plan to take Steve and his wife to dinner as a way of saying thank you. He also has a power washer I can clean our concrete with – score!
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Cleaning Station

  • By far the most time consuming part was cleaning everything. We setup a washing station outside and a bucket with stool in the garage.  I used Windex and a rag for a few final touches. I also bought a can of black spray paint for a couple lawn mower attachments that had been in one of our two storage sheds.
  • We planned for the sale to begin at 8:00 am but opened the doors earlier. Friday was full of what I’d call professional garage sale shoppers. I asked a couple if our prices seemed reasonable based on their experience. The answer was yes and they were impressed how we organized everything.
  • Here’s a big reason the sale was so successful – we started Saturday morning by posting signs that everything was 50% off the labeled price. We had watched people looking over items on Friday that had not sold. We also wanted to give the people who were at work on Friday a chance at finding a few bargains. As expected, more than once I heard someone on Saturday say something similar to; “well I don’t need this but for the price I’d better buy it.”  After all, the goal was to get rid of stuff!
  • We decided not to make any donations to charities who resale goods – yet.
  • We pushed our shelving together and put a tarp over the leftovers for the next sale. There are a few other leftovers stored in boxes in our basement as well. Lot of totes were freed up to go in our future fifth wheel basement later!
  • A good trick to get ride of stuff that might not sell individually is to throw it in a box with other stuff. Charge a single price for the entire box.  Good thing we saved up a few boxes for that. During setup I had several boxes pre-marked for sorting. Those boxes were labeled HVAC and Plumbing,  Electrical, Nuts and Bolt, Electronics.  I made sure to have at least one good item in plain view in the box to encourage someone to buy the entire box just to get the good item.
  • Another special category worth mentioning is books.  We priced hard covers at $2 and soft covers at .50 cents regardless of actual value.  Karen loves her books and said they are hard to let go of. We arranged them by subject, sometimes stacked on the top shelf. We found people would buy most of the same group of books by subject. We have thought about donating some to local RV parks where we know they have books in their library for campers to enjoy or trade other books for.

A few final points:

I was worried we might sell something that was a gift from a family member. That stayed on my mind because I don’t want to be ungrateful. One suggestion I’d heard was if this is an issue then call the family member and let them know you enjoyed the gift but now our lifestyle had changed. Offer to give them the gift back or see if they would be offended if we sold it.  That might come up in our final sale.

I should not have put any money into fixing anything up. I should have just sold it as is. Specifically, I’m thinking adding new parts to an old BBQ grill would not have been required to sell it. People who know a good grill when they see it already are aware they can order the replacement parts and could have looked up the price for those parts. I made $10 on a great grill that would have sold for maybe $50 as is.

I want to thank my sister Donna, who lives hours away from us, for sending her friends to the sale via Facebook Messenger.  And Mary, thank you so much for the offer to help setup the sale. We had it under control or would for sure have needed the help. There is a chance we will take you up on the offer at our next sale.

And speaking of our next sale. A dilemma has developed. Do we host a larger “garage sale” or hire/hold an estate sale?  Knowing now that more expensive items do not sell, in our area at least, at a typical garage sale? Also knowing an estate sale requires more extensive and experienced setup? I’m worried if we hold another “garage sale” too much will be sold off and an estate sale business would not be interested in setting up an estate sale should we want to later hire them? And I’m worried if we held an estate sale we might have to allow people in our house after spending the winter fixing up the inside for the pending home sale?

One final step or idea that’s worth mentioning. Some time ago Karen moved her cooking utensils into lower kitchen drawers. As she used them she would move them to drawers above. After awhile, the utensils that still remained in the lower drawers became obvious ones to get rid of. Smart…..   Bet the process would work equally as well for clothes.

Downsizing – Garage Sale Preparation

Just finished up a couple 60 hours weeks at work. Karen has been busy working on garage sale preparation back at home. Thankfully I’ve got two vacation days planned for the end of this week. Just in time to finish the setup for our first large garage sale.

Perhaps the best advice I would give to anyone who is in the initial planning stages to move into an RV is to STOP BUYING STUFF NOW!  And the second advice I would give is hold a garage sale now, clean out some corners of the house. It will boost your morale and perhaps solidify the fact “this is really going to happen, we are really going to take the leap to a great journey.”  Karen and I are touching about everything we own, asking ourselves, do we need this in the next year? Do we think we might use it in an RV or give it away to a family member? Are we not sure and have to think about if we need/want it?  And is this something worth putting in a 5×10 storage unit we plan to rent?

Every Room is a Mess from Sorting

Sorry, not sure we can have any guests at the house for the next year. Most every room has a pile of stuff in it. We have been busy sorting and filling the trash receptacle each week. Thank goodness neither of us are particularly clean freaks. This would drive us crazy if that was the case. 

Sent a text to the neighbor to see if he had any tables we could use for the garage sale. His church loans them out for a small deposit. He even volunteered to take his trailer and pick the tables up with me.  Damn glad Steve moved in across the street.  Wonderful guy and hope to be able to return the favor. 

We cleared out some of the bookcases in the house and are moving those to the garage sale area to setup displays. I’ve been shopping around for camping tables we would want to take on the road. Buying at least one early so we can use that in the garage sale as well. Leaning towards a 5′ table that folds in the middle. Should be easy to store in the fifth wheel basement.

As for non-garage sale events there has been a little progress in planning. We are still trying to buy our truck by September. Darn, found the perfect one, used with 4,000 miles, about three hours from home. Just not ready to buy yet. So, I sent the owner an email and told him don’t worry if he does not sell it by September, I’d come over and give him an offer.  It’s a 2017 Ram Laramie Longhorn with a B&W hitch, nice bed cover, 3.73 gears, Aisin transmission and air bags. Well within our budget. Karen says to buy it now. I still have three goals to accomplish before the truck and I’m sticking to it.

Friends I’ve met online, some moving to an RV this year and others in 2019, have been communicating with us regularly. Thank you to all who are sending the emails and text message. Really learning a lot from you!

And finally; I sent in the paperwork for my first retirement check. This is from a corporate job I held years ago. First check should arrive in September:)  Also figured out technically I only have to be at work 71 days next year. Karen and I have not formally moved up the retirement date from November of 2019. However, we sure are looking at what month would be more practical which is not the first part of winter as planned. Maybe we will head north from Missouri, where the RV prices are better, as early as April of 2019 and see what happens if we find our new home on wheels.

I was looking at Craigslist to see how people were posting garage sale adds and found this one.  Funny stuff.

Garage Sale Preperation

Karen and I are thinking we will conduct up to three garage sales before we finish downsizing. The first of which we have planned for next month.

We moved the cars outside and have started packing stuff into the garage. Karen wants time to make sure everything is clean before we set it up for the sale.  The week before the sale I’m going to contact the two local sources for advertising garage sales and place a well written add.  We live on the corner of a major street so I’ll put a sign up pointing to our house.

For months now, we have been boxing stuff around the house that we intend to sell. It will be nice to get that all moved out of the way. We are both keeping in mind the purpose of the sale is to get rid of stuff and not make a lot of money.

For months we have been disposing of stuff in the trash (trash day is Tuesday) by topping off the barrel. A few years ago we stopped, for the most part, buying anything we would have to later sell. That has saved us much $$$$.

I considered an estate sale but decided against it. And we have decided to keep up to a 5×10 storage unit which is the size of our guest bathroom.  If we keep our artwork or not will dictate if the storage is climate controlled or not. And we are hoping to leave two totes of valuable stuff with family.  The hard part is deciding what we need to keep for the road, especially tools and kitchen stuff. Although we have RV experience which gives us a few ideas.  And if we keep a storage unit we can keep a few items that we are undecided as to if we will need them on the road or not.

A couple blog readers are ahead of us in planning and I’ve really appreciated the emails, comments and text messages passing along what they are discovering. My email is mseneker@hotmail.com if you are interested in corresponding. Or you can text me at 816-854-0684. I don’t carry my phone everywhere but will eventually get the text. Or better yet, post a comment so others can learn from you.

I have a buyer for the motorcycle which is going in the shop next week to have the carburetor cleaned before the sale.  That’s good news and step two before we buy our truck.  I highly recommend selling off stuff you are paying insurance and property tax on as early as possible.

I’ve also contacted three contactors regarding a few things I’d like their help on at the house. Although I can fix about anything myself, I’ve not got time for it while I’m still working.

Life in Kansas City – Downsizing and Family Time

May and June have been busy months as we occupied our time with family and getting the homestead ready to sell.  For those already on the road I’m sure this will bring back memories. For those thinking about, or in the clutches of preparing for a life on the road, my advise is get started as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what it would be like to do this in less than a couple years.  Although the prize of freedom is quit large and certainly is a motivator.

Officially I’ve left our take off date as November 1, 2019. However we got to thinking; does it really make sense to leave as winter is starting? Especially as we want to see family in what would be colder climates before Karen and I crawl off into our winter hibernation in a deep southern state. That date of November 1 will more than likely be adjusted up a little.  Recently Karen and I have began talking at a very conceptual level about what we want to do the first couple months on the road. More on that later for sure.

For two years now, family has gotten together for a three night campout at Pomme de Terre State Park and Lake. Ninety degree weather each day was a bit hard to endure but we found ways to make it work. Such as building a tent city under the best shaded spots. I gave our tent to a nephew once the trip was over. No need for it next year as we will have our fifth wheel by then – and air conditioning!

Start of Tent City

Add on eating area. We also had three other spots full of tents and family.

Setting Jug Lines for Fishing

Ringo Likes the Water

Back at home I’ve been working to over-haul the front yard landscaping. Building curb appeal I’m hoping. Two years ago the front yard grass was re-seeded and this last spring I spent a lot of time controlling weeds to build the yard up.  I cut out all the overgrown bushes and tilled the planting beds. I’ve been driving by my favorite plant store waiting for plants to go on sale and finally scored a 50% off deal for a trunk load of replacement plants. We have 13 planting beds scattered through-out the property and along our wooded walking trail. Those are looking good as well. Most importantly, we have been spending time enjoying the place as much as possible.

I’ve also been painting on various sides of the house over the last couple years and have a contractor coming in to help with the two-story side. Karen has always taken photos around the property, especially when the flowers and trees are in bloom. A couple years ago I started adding to the collection in an attempt to capture the hills behind and in front of the home in photos. Our plan is to print off the best photos for an album which we are going to leave out for potential buyers to view. The scenery changes so much with each season that I’m thinking it would be a good idea to document it.

Hills out back with no leaves on trees.

Zoomed in view from the front yard.

And the purge continues. I gave myself a goal to complete four major tasks before purchasing our truck, preferably by around September. Well the first of four is done as the hot tub was carted off by it’s new owner last Friday.
We have a list of contractors to call, such as our alarm guy to move and repair some connections, carpet guys and such. Contractors should speed things up a bit.  The plan is to finish all the outside work before winter so we only have to spruce the yard up before the house goes on the market. Over this winter we are finishing up the inside stuff. Next month is our first of at least two garage sales and we have been selling off more expensive items on Craigslist.