Monthly Archives: September 2016

Deciding what is precious

As we go through life, we collect a lot of things. Some things are disposable, some things are utilitarian, and some things carry special memories. As I look around my home, today, we still have a TON of stuff, most of which will not fit into our motorhome. How do I decide what to carry, and what to eliminate?

In our living room, I use the top of a chest to display prized items – curios and collectables from our world travels. A few months ago, the hanger on a painting just above the chest mysteriously gave way. The painting crashed down,  sweeping off most of the items onto the tile floor, smashing them into bits. The Waterford crystal lamp that we purchased in Ireland. One of the two clay jars we picked up in Peru. A crystal statue given to me by a choir member. Smashed into a million pieces. I swept it all up, secured the hanger onto the painting and re-hung it. A couple of days later, it fell again, smashing most of the rest of the items on the chest!  I should have been upset, but somehow, I just ….. wasn’t. When I searched my feelings, I realized that I wasn’t truly attached to any of the broken items. In fact, I was a bit relieved that it meant a few less “things” to deal with as I purged our possessions.

Do you believe in divine intervention and signs from our departed loved ones? Call me crazy, but I do. I know the whole “painting crashing down” thing was a message to me, not a mean message, but a mechanism to help me realize that I’m really NOT attached to that stuff. It can all go away, and I’m truly OK with that. Because I’ll tell you that what did NOT get broken was a small bowl made by my deceased son in high school pottery class. It was left completely untouched. That was precious. The other things were not. I got the message. And after re-securing the hanger one more time and re-hanging the painting, it has not fallen again.

A few weeks ago, I tackled our photographs. I had literally boxes of photographs taken over the years before we went digital. I sorted through them and scanned the ones I wanted to keep. It took days! But now, those boxes are gone and I have kept (digitally) the ones that meant something to me. It was interesting how many photos didn’t mean anything to me — after years of trips to the Smoky Mountains, one  mountain photo looks very much like another! The important photos were of people, not places.

I also went through a box of items that I’ve carried around for years, things I’ve kept since I was a teenager. There were cards from my grandmother, little trinkets, and lots of academic awards (OK, I was a good student). I haven’t looked at them for years, so how precious is it, really? I cherished everything, scanned a few items to keep digitally, and let the rest go. I don’t have to keep the things to have the memories.

It’s freeing to let things go. The memories will always be mine.

Losing the “stuff”

When we’re young, we go through an acquisition phase. We rent our first apartment or buy our first home and we need everything. Furniture, décor, linens and housewares of all types. It’s great fun to select and buy new things and decorate our nest.

Then babies arrive and take over your universe. No matter how much space we have, kid paraphernalia and toys end up strewn everywhere and piled into every available space. At least, it seems that way! “Stuff” becomes a headache. Eventually, though, the kids move on and take (most of) their stuff.

As we approach our fabulous RV adventure, we have to deal with all of this “stuff” that we’ve collected in our 2800 square foot 4 bedroom 3 bathroom two story home with two car garage. That’s a lot of room for a lot of stuff. (George Carlin’s routine about “stuff” comes to mind). You can’t fit a four bedroom house worth of junk into a motorhome! So what to do with it?

Well first, we’ve decided NOT to keep a house as home base. We do have two rental properties, but we aren’t maintaining any kind of a house or condo as a place to live part time. We will be living in the RV, full time. It just doesn’t make sense financially to pay for a property that we hardly ever stay in and can’t look after. It would just add stress and cost to our life.

Secondly, we’ve decided NOT to keep anything in storage. We don’t know how long we’ll be on the road. Keeping furnishings in storage for years really adds up, and they will only degrade as they sit, even in an air conditioned space. Plus, who knows what we’ll really need whenever we decide to come off the road? It makes more sense to save up those storage fees and re-buy what we need, when we need it.

So, we are going to lose the stuff. All of it. We are keeping only what we can carry with us. It’s a trade-off. We are trading the anchor of all of the possessions for the freedom and adventure of a life on the road. It sounds like a good deal to me.

Where this all began ….

Hi. We are Jeff and Mary Beth Northrup and this is the beginning of our fabulous full-time RV adventure! Well, at least it will be, once we free ourselves from the daily grind of normal life.

We’ve been dreaming and planning for this adventure for many years. More than 20 years ago, Jeff cut a photo of a motorhome out of the newspaper and put it on the refrigerator. “Wouldn’t that be a great life!”, he declared. At the time I was busy tending a more-than-fulltime job, two small children and an active volunteer life in our church. Retirement of any sort was so far in the distant future, it couldn’t even be imagined. But, as our boys grew, we became increasingly active outdoor adventurers. Our work life provided the means to pursue our real passions — hiking, camping, biking, running, motorcycling, and all things outdoors. RV living started looking very attractive.

So, being scientists, we conducted thorough research. We read books, perused blogs, visited RV shows and watched You-tube videos. We spent hours discussing options and scenario planning. Is this REALLY what we wanted to do? And we always circled back around to the conclusion – yes, it sounds perfect for us. So then, it was just a matter of timing. We would get the boys through school and launched and THEN we could go. We would save like crazy, and by then everything would be in place. It was a perfect plan.

Except things didn’t exactly go according to plan.

On June 7, 2012 our younger son was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 18. It was a freak accident – four teenagers heading out to an Everglades fish camp on a rutted gravel road on the first day of summer. The young driver hit a pothole, skidded, overcorrected and overturned into the swampy canal. 3 boys walked away, our son drowned before he could be rescued. It was the worst day of my life.

At that moment, everything changed. We had to re-formulate our whole life, including all of our plans. After walking through a dark time of grief, we re-visited our retirement plans and decided that we still wanted to go forward. In fact, we wanted to go sooner rather than later. Life is too short not to live it fully and joyfully.

So here we are – 4 years later. We’ve saved like crazy. Our only remaining son is successfully launched. We just need to untangle ourselves from the daily grind, and we can begin.