Downsizing Efforts

Took a “break” to finish up scanning my final business documents. Beginning with 2016 documents, the scanning went much quicker as I had stopped using staples for the most part.  If you have done any heavy scanning, then you know STAPLES SUCK.

Karen has been going through a lifetime of photos and is about ready to start scanning those. A couple months ago she must have had a wild hair because she scattered then sorted paperwork all over the living room floor.

Here is a link to my December 2015 update post regarding going paperless. Yet another benefit of planning so early is having time to adjust our paper habits to include having a reason to convert to digital services for bills, banking, the part-time office job and more. I’ve also added a small external hard drive to our arsenal of computer appliances. It’s a very fast drive that connects to our tablets for mass storage of all our scanned documents, old and new photos.

Karen decided to move her desk from our study to the sunroom. The view out the window is a lot nicer as the trees have dropped their leaves, revealing the rolling hills beyond them. Should have done that years ago as it’s a nice space to work out of.  A side benefit was clearing more room in the study (our third bedroom) to make room for sorting through stuff.  There are pills of stuff out in the open in several other rooms. No big deal as long as we can walk around it 😊.

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Started a few garage sales boxes and planning for maybe one sale next year.  I’ve also started posting more expensive items on Craigslist with more regularity. Maybe this winter we will learn how to eBay and Karen has used the local Facebook swap and shop page where she sold some purses. There are lots of benefits to taking years to plan for our mobile future. Among which is saving money by not buying anything that we can’t take on the road later.  And “trash day is Tuesday” so we often fill the bin weekly with what we can’t sell. Before all this we might have cleared some space only to fill it with junk stuff later.

I’ve also been sorting through older scanned or digital photos of views outside our home. We live on a flat hilltop where the views out back and front change dramatically with the seasons. I’m hoping to take one of our old photo binders, which was freed up by scanning photos, and fill it with outside landscaping photos for potential buyers of our home to see when touring the house. Our current plan is to put the house on the market the spring of 2019.

I’ll bet for you on the road, all this sounds familiar!  I’m working on a blog post regarding budgeting. I’d done some earlier estimating for the sake of financial planning. And know our first year on the road may be the most expensive. I’m hoping to bring together all the notes and such I’ve tracked down from other’s blogs and the great advice I’ve received over the past couple of years.  Figure I’ll come up with a first-year budget and then adjust it while on the road from then on.  I’m hoping you will get something out of the upcoming post on budgeting.

I’d also like to take a moment to thank you all for the comments on my last post regarding emotions. There was much advice passed along which I’m taking to heart. If you are not one to read the comments section, the ones from that post are worth it. I felt comfortable putting it out there because I consider you all friends. And being as honest as possible brings the issues as close to the root problem’s as possible so the advice really hits home.  Thank you again.

I’ve also been picking away at the 2017 list of things to do and decisions to make.  As we moved our takeoff date from 2023, to 2020 and then to 2019 I had to move a few decisions forward to earlier years.  Got to get busy with those items during this winter. We will let you know in 2019 if we plan to rent a storage unit or not.
is a website Karen found.  It contains a tremendous amount of information on outdoor journeys such as hikes, national parks and more which are included in its 6,152 adventures (and growing).


Cargo Capacity

One specification that will get a fifth wheel knocked off the short list of what we would buy are those with a lighter cargo capacity. Since first starting to research trailers in late 2014 I consistently read 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity or more is suggested for fulltime RV living. A quick check of nine full-timer rigs, who weighed their trailers and posted results, averaged closer to 3,448 of cargo capacity.  Some say their next trailer will have way more than that. I would really appreciate your opinions on the matter!

For us we might be hauling around the following “extra” items:

  • Full grey and black tanks at times: We plan to boondock at times so I could see hauling in fresh water and adding to that tank from jugs. If we are looking at trailers having in the range of 75 grey water capacity and 45 black water I suppose just the water in these tanks if full would be 996 pounds. What’s the chances of having to haul that any distance outside a camping area to dump? I have considered we might purchase a blue boy. We have stayed at electric only sites and found not having to worry about water or sewer connections for shorter stays is a bonus.
  • Hobby items for entertainment: We are not yet sure of what hobbies we might haul around with us. Board games, bikes and tent camping equipment. We already own an inflatable kayak and love it. I’d think all that could add up to less than 200 pounds. And Karen loves real books she can hold in her hands so we are going to haul a few around.
  • Extra battery and maybe solar someday: Although we are leaning towards an RV gas/electric refrigerator we might go with a residential. For sure we are starting off with at least two batteries. If we add a solar system we could see adding several more batteries. At 60 pounds apiece or so that can add up. Six batteries could be around 360 pounds plus the solar panels and components.
  • Washing machine: Karen wants at least a combo washer/dryer for smaller loads of laundry. We have used the ones in campgrounds and she is thinking it would be convenient to have a unit in the trailer. I’d rather just have two weeks worth of clothing and haul it to a laundry twice a month. That adds 148 pounds. I don’t view any compromise as reasonable if both persons can’t live with it. In this case if she wants a combo unit then we are getting it.
  • Generator: For sure we will have at least a portable setup that can power up to one air conditioner. That adds about 94 pounds. And if we were to go with a full size 5500 watt propane unit that would add about 279 pounds.

These above items total at least 1,973 pounds. We could see having a few other lighter weight amenities we read about such as solar shades that hang from the edge of the awning, a screened room for the picnic table and such. From what I understand when an RV manufacturer lists the estimated cargo capacity in their advertising the weight assumes what comes with the basic build. The advertised cargo limit does not include optional equipment such as a second outside awning, backup camera and more that are of lighter weight. But what about upgraded insulation packages, larger propane tanks, a heavier pin or whatever?

Realistically one should be able to compromise and just be willing to give up what would not fit within the weight limits. We can do that. But I’ve read where people can’t fill half their cabinets because of weight capacity limits. Or they found out they enjoyed Rving so much they were going full time and only had a couple hundred pounds capacity remaining, having used their trailer for extended stays.  In one extreme I read where a motorhome technically did not have the carrying capacity to haul all the passengers.

I started this year looking at 38 trailers with the basic floor plan we were interested in which is a rear living room fifth wheel. The list is now 24, chiefly because the floor plan comes with less than 3,000 pound of cargo capacity. More importantly, this knocked out a few serious brand names which are trailers commonly used for full timing.

We are going with a dual wheel truck and I suppose one needs to research methods of storing items on the truck rather than the trailer.

Am I thinking in the wrong direction on this one?

(8/17/17) Update: The more I read about possible upgrades to a trailer and the stories people tell about being over weight, the more I want to go with a high cargo capacity trailer. For example, for those of you who might want to upgrades your suspension, tires, axles brakes and such, read this forum thread.

(9/3/17) Another update: I’ve been zooming in on the labels for various trailers as I pull up photos. I’ve found a few that advertise X amount of cargo capacity on the manufacturers website, which I know is an average figure. However, the actual labels of any given trailer might show less cargo capacity. I assume this is because of all the options such as heavy dual pane windows. It still remains reasonable, I’d think, a trailer that starts with a larger cargo capacity will be left with the greatest capacity after the options are installed.

July 13, 2017 the 100,000th Keystone Montana rolled off the factory line.

Good video compilation on what we wish we knew before we started Rving from seven full-timers.

Sales Chart for 2015/2016 Fifth Wheels

At the local RV show I took a photo of this chart on the side of a Keystone Montana fifth wheel:


A factory representative had posted this chart.  He also had a list in a file comparing the Keystone Montana’s features against the Grand Design Solitude. He would not let me take a photo of that! I nearly missed it on the chart but noted it represents the top 20 models by sales. The charts source of information is listed as Statistical Surveys Inc, Grand Rapids Michigan. Per their website, Statistical Surveys (founded in 1958) is a provider of market research for marine, manufactured housing, trailers and recreational vehicles. They report an impressive list of publications where their research has been posted to include RV News, Trailer Life and the Wall Street Journal.

From what I could gather at the Statistical Survey’s website, companies can purchase the data. It might be reasonable to assume those companies would then present the data in whatever light they feel might shine brightly on them. It is however common knowledge the Montana has been the best-selling fifth wheel for years. The above chart combines three different full profile trailers from Heartland those being the Bighorn, Landmark and Big Country.  I thought it important to note the Montana full profile line includes the High Country which was not listed next to the Montana. Nor was the Cedar Creek Silverback listed next to Cedar Creek. To me, it’s important to note the High Country has a drop frame basement and the Silverback does not. I understand drop frames are more expensive to build and the basement space is considerably larger. One obviously needs to keep these construction variations in mind when comparing trailers in each price point. It is good to see some of the relatively lighter weight trailers on the list such as the Forest River Sierra and Sandpiper. The

Here’s what else we have been up to: I’ve been busy studying up on one ton trucks. Real glad the selection is limited to the big three. The hard part has been trying to figure out all the equipment options available that influence their towing/cargo capacity.

Karen and I are steadily working on downsizing. At this point selling larger items on Craigslist and trying to fill the trash can each week. I just ordered three large capacity CD/DVD wallets to reduce the footprint of our music and movie collections. I’m also getting close to having important personal and business documents completely scanned as part of going paperless. My photos have been scanned and Karen wants to get her’s finished up soon. It’s been very convenient to view old photos on the computer that I’d not taken the time to look at for years as prints.

And for the first time I’m working with a financial planner and may write about the decision and how it has been going in a future blog post.


new flash  Today Show video about workampers where the average age of workers is 53.

new flash  Highland Ridge fifth wheels recently put out a new factory tour video.

Life in Kansas City – Sold a Truck and Kitchen Remodeling

One of the benefits of long-term planning is the ability to spread-out time consuming tasks over several years. Another benefit, as it relates to saving for our future in an RV, is cutting expenses now and reaping the savings over a longer period.

Among my list of tasks to complete in 2016 was to sell off a vehicle or two. Karen and I had talked about downsizing to one family car which is still something we might do. However, she started a part-time job at the Crescent Inn Bed and Breakfast and is making use of the spare car. She is excited to be working again. Her tasks at the Inn include checking customers in, housekeeping, serving breakfast and customer service. I told her the new job would look better on a workamping resume then anything I had to offer on mine! So for now we are keeping the second car.

I’m happy to report another monthly expense is gone! We sold our old 2002 truck and the money raised is going right into our RV/truck fund to join the money collected with the sale of our boat earlier this year.  Next spring, the motorcycle is going to share the same fate.

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Old Truck is Sold and Money is in Savings

Over about three years, or maybe five – I forget, we have been remodeling the kitchen. Early in the year we installed ceramic tile floors to go with the tile backsplash. I’d been trying to talk Karen into replacing the appliances. They are dented and in various stages of disrepair such as broken buttons and cracked plastic. The refrigerator finally gave out so now we are using a smaller spare unit located in the basement. I consider it our new exercise plan which requires we run up and down the stairs for food.

Next Thursday the new fridge is to be delivered free of charge as part of the purchase. So not having a truck was a non-issue the first time we needed one.  I’m surprised in learning from a knowledgeable appliance salesman the anticipated life of a “modern” refrigerator is only 15 years and a dishwasher is eight years.

I’ll spare you the details but we decided on going to Maytag appliances which are middle of the road in terms of expense, construction and amenities.  Maytag uses smudge resistant stainless steel which was a must have per Karen. I had looked into Whirlpool, who also build the Maytag and their upper end KitchenAid brand. I was shocked to discover Whirlpool are now builder grade level appliances, best suited for apartments or moderate priced spec homes.  Here in 2016 I notice a lot of fifth wheels in the $60 to $80,000  MSRP price point use Whirlpool for residential style refrigerators. Trailers about $10,000 more expensive is where I’m seeing better brand names are used such as LG and Samsung.

We ordered the refrigerator and microwave now as both were on sale with free delivery into our home and only a $15 fee to haul off the old fridge. After giving consideration to buying from three local stores or two online appliance sites, we went with Home Depot. What I discovered could be a big change in the way these larger stores do business, given the competition from internet sales. We looked over the appliances we were interested in at the store and then went online to buy them from Home Depot as they were not stocked in the store.  Part of good marketing is to make it easy to buy something. I was impressed with the ease of doing business with Home Depot. They even had a phone number to call after hours with questions. Installation was scheduled only four days after the purchase and they sent us a tracking number to follow the shipment. The sale price was the same or less than advertised at discount websites such as AJ Madison who don’t haul off old appliances.

I should also add we decided on a French door refrigerator with the freezer in a bottom drawer. According to a salesman who we trusted, more of the units built and sold are French door rather than the side by side unit we are replacing. The salesman said 90% of what they sell are French door versions which make better use of inside space and don’t cause you to bend down to get in the least accessed portion of the fridge which is not the freezer section. In other words, the freezer is on the bottom because you access it less than the cold food storage area. Karen and I are trying to pay attention to what the future owner of our home might want. We did not go with a convection microwave but are getting a convection stove which again were more than half of what are selling at Home Depot. I’m thinking the standard electric stove/oven is a thing of the past. We plan to replace our current stove and 14-year-old broken knobbed dishwasher once they go on sale at a discount and we have saved up the cash to pay for them.

On the RV front I’ve been reading up on what are the best truck colors for ease of maintenance. I’ve also been giving some thought to if we can justify full body paint on the trailer and if so what would be the best colors for heating and cooling concerns. More on that later.

Ordered a Dumpster and Sold the Boat

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Parked beside a shed for more than 13 years has been our aluminum fishing boat. The last time the motor had been ran was eight years ago.  If I’d known it would be so easy to sell I would have done it years ago.  After spending a day cleaning it up I posted the boat on Craig’s List and had five emails by the next morning. Sold it to the first person who showed up with cash. The interior of the boat needed refurbishing, new tires and some work on the trailer. Priced it less than what I would have paid for it if I had planned to fix it up.

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A friend who is a home builder ordered us a dumpster at his discounted rate. We were also able to order a size larger at no extra cost.  Karen and I are going to walk through the house selecting items to dispose of that would not fit in our normal weekly trash container.  We agreed to select items together using the following rules for disposal: If we have not used it in four years, can’t give it away, can’t sell it or we are not going to use it in the next three years, then it goes in the dumpster. We also have two old sheds that are coming down so those are going in the dumpster.

If you are feeling like you stalled out with your downsizing efforts – order a dumpster and pitch some big items. It really is liberating.  I’m sure we will order another just after retirement. For now, the extra space in the house will be more usable while we still live here.

One of the sheds has already been torn down. The floor was built using treated lumber. We are planning to turn the floor into a deck which is attached to a remaining shed and in the shade of our woods.  Going to be a great new gardening area. (Update, we decided to pitch the rest of the shed floor rather than buying more lumber to finish a deck we would never use.)

Yet another advantage of starting so early in planning for retirement to an RV.

Plan C – Preparing just in case our RV dream does not work out.

I spend much of my planning time getting things in order for Plan A. That is planning to retire and going fulltime in an RV. I have also been keeping notes on a blog page when I learn how others eventually implemented their strategy, for those that had one, to come off the road.  Here is a link to my page on exit strategies if you’re interested.

I’ve had conversations with people describing how their time in an RV turned out to be the dream life they thought it would be. I’ve also appreciated other’s views on the events that went wrong, and in a couple cases, did not work out much at all.  Perhaps any big change in life, regardless if it’s related to retirement, a trip around the country in an RV or starting a new line of work, have similar risks involved. For me, those risks have always been minimized by planning. Frankly, I don’t regret a single big change I’ve made in life and for the most part they worked out. And a few of those big changes were made after less planning than I’ve been doing as related to an RV lifestyle. The whole retirement thing comes in time regardless. It’s just something a person needs to start thinking about very early during a career despite what you eventually plan to do in your retirement years.

If Plan A is to retire to the RV lifestyle, then perhaps Plan B is simply what to do when you come off the road.  OR – is there a need to think about a third option which consists of what to do if the RV dream is not what we thought it would be only a few months into it.  I’ve mentioned before we never planned to retire in our current home for various reasons.  I even have a house plan stashed away which I had considered years ago as a retirement home.  So, for us, I’m thinking it’s no big deal to sell the house and attempt a life in an RV traveling around this country. Karen has already made it clear she does not want to live in a trailer unless we are traveling. I respect her wishes and am glad she tells me what she thinks.

After much research it has become apparent to me that others had a plan in case the RV dream did not work out. That’s why they might have rented out their homes rather than selling, decided to keep a large storage locker or spent less on their rig and kept more in the bank for the future. Especially in old age when it’s hard to replace a lifetime of accumulated wealth. We all know an RV is a rapidly depreciating piece of property. Spending a retirement nest-egg on an RV might not be a wise thing to do. Going back to my research I’ve made note that experienced travelers suggest it takes a year to work into the lifestyle which is another consideration.

So enters Plan C or whatever one wants to call it. I’ll call it insurance in case the RV dream does not work out.  For me, I’ll still be young enough to re-enter the workforce. My skill sets are easily transferable to a new job. We don’t plan to go all-in financially with our truck and fifth wheel. And I believe we have both moved past thinking our current house is the end-all of homes.  Some of the smaller decisions, such as do we take out “insurance” in the way of a storage unit, have yet to be made.

Thinking through these possibilities is influencing some of my research. Such as do we go with an expensive rig or not.  I’ve been paying attention to blogs where folks are pulling around a four season rig that did not cost them an arm and a leg to purchase. They seem to be having a great time! Besides, even those expensive, would-be top of the line rigs are often nightmares. Having owned a 30 foot travel trailer and rented a 25 foot class C in the past, we have a better understanding of what our minimum standards are. I’d not want to sabotage our chance of success in an RV by settling on a unit that is below those standards of comfort.

In our staff dining area at work one of the cooks posts several daily bits of information on the wall. Recently one poster stated a leading cause of depression was over-thinking.  Hmm, I had to stop and think about that one…..

tornadoPart of my plan is to keep getting better at going with the flow and make use of problem solving skills rather than getting frustrated. I’ve got a good friend that’s a master at it. Perhaps I should pay attention more often. Perhaps running into small problems are just an opportunity to practice being easy going? Or by definition to be able to accept or tolerate delays, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.

I read an America Indian story once. It went something like this. A large storm came to their camp. A man’s wife was taken up into a tornado funnel. For months he followed the tornado over the vast plains while overcoming great personal suffering. In the end the tornado ran out of energy and released his wife thereby rewarding the man for his efforts.  The man learned to be patient.  Or course, by embellishing the story the man was able to keep his children’s attention while teaching them the lesson.

Maybe that man should have planned ahead and built a storm shelter! Now I’m overthinking the story and it’s depressing me. smiley face

P.S. Here is a timely article and video by Technomadia titled The Sucky Sides of RVing. Here is another timely post by Camper Chronicles. I’ve been following a few from the class of 2014 to see what they are learning and what happens.

Be safe in your travels and at home.

Decision to Downsize to One Family Car

(Update 4/23/17 – We decided to keep a second car until we buy the new truck. We will be buying the truck a year before we go full time in an RV. We will decide at that time if we will sell Karen’s car based off if she feels comfortable driving the new truck. I have already sold our old truck, still have a company car and two family cars. One of the family cars will be traded in for the new truck.)

One of the great things about planning years in advance of going fulltime in an RV is the opportunity to realize cost savings that might not otherwise be available.  One of these major decisions for us is do we keep the three family vehicles we have now or downsize to one.  We have decided to downsize to one car.  Here is a link to my blog page on the subject if you are interested in more details.

Last year I had posted in several forums asking what others would do if they had eight years to plan for a future in an RV. One of the common suggestions was to downsize now. Well, as is the case for many, we moved up our expected departure date a few years. However, there remains ample time to make a few major decisions now that will benefit us over the next few years.

I’m hesitant to post about big ideas before the labor part is done. In this case, that would be selling two of the three family vehicles. This gives us a chance to solicit comments from you guys that may be thinking about the same ideas.

A short summary of what we are going to do is sell our old truck and one car. Keep the other and rent a truck or car for the few times one of us takes the remaining car out of town or we want to haul something. We have the benefit of a company car which I drive for work purposes. I’m also required to drive the company car at all times one week a month while on-call. Downsizing to one car might also not have been an option if Karen was not already retired or at worst case, maybe getting a part time job close to home.

Our schedule to make this change is in the not to distant future.  We have need of the old truck for a few more tasks to include hauling off an old boat and debris from the yard as we tear down an old shed and update our landscaping. We will be left with the inability to haul around our existing 5×10 utility trailer but have a plan for that as well. This could include renting a truck at times. I’m thinking about selling the trailer to a friend with the ability to use it should we need it.

(Update as of 9/18/16): We sold off our old truck but still have two cars. Karen decided she wanted a part-time job now that she is “retired.” Her work is just down the street from the house a couple blocks. We are selling off stuff that requires expenses such as maintenance and insurance.   This year the boat and truck are gone. Next spring we are selling off the motorcycle and then revisiting the idea of going to one car. The theory is that we would have a couple years before leaving in an RV to save more by having reduced expenses. Just another benefit of long-term planning.