Oh Lord… What Have I Done?


First full day is today, but yesterday was technically the first day.  I cheated!  I had every intention of writing a blog post on our very first day with our mobile house but instead I was curled up in fetal position, crying “Oh Lord, what have I done?”

So, we’ll just call today the first day instead, since it is much prettier.  I suppose in the interest of full disclosure and honesty, however, I should report on our yesterday.

Well, Dawny and I left a dear friend’s house on Sunday morning.  Our visit was a lovely transition from nine days of hotel living after the house closed, nine days of burgers and fries, nine days of nervous anticipation.  We eagerly set out, full of adrenaline and coffee and drove straight through, arriving in Elkhart, Indiana at midnight.

I was so bleary eyed by then that I chose to check into a hotel that I thought was a Day’s Inn.  Turned out it just had the word Day in it.  It should have been called Nightmare’s Inn.. on Elm Street… where The Exorcist welcomes The Shining Freddy Krueger!  I won’t belabor the nasty details but we fled after 30 minutes and ended up in the parking lot of Phoenix USA, our mobile house’s manufacturer, dog-and-cat napping fitfully until the sun rose, at which time we wandered around town killing a few more hours until our appointment for the walkthrough and purchase.

By this time, I looked like Bozo the Clown’s graying, gender-confused sibling–a result of a haircut stuck at that perpetually awkward stage of growth, humidity, and nasty sweat.  I must say, the people at Phoenix USA were amazingly patient and kind as they efficiently completed the transaction.  They artfully managed to get back on topic whenever I strayed off into babbling tangents like a delirious dog tracking a bouncing bunny.

Now the hard part.  As if 3 hours of sleep in 30 and a looming monster case of dehydration weren’t enough.  It was time to unload.  Transfer.  Toss the result of months of downsizing from a 1600 square foot house into the 200 square feet (including the engine, which is hardly fair, but so be it) that comprised our beautiful new RV.  (Oh, did I forget to tell you?  It is beautiful!)

Working furiously so that I could complete the task before collapsing, I managed to get all the tote bags, plastic bags, boxes, and multitudes of assorted plastic containers loaded in.  All over the floor, the bed, the dinette.  Some still outside.  There was barely room to crawl into bed, stomach nauseous, head throbbing, crying out loud, “Oh Lord, what have I done?”

Sick, alone, far from family and friends, when my pounding skull would allow, I peeked at all my… stuff… knowing that I just had to make myself unpack.  As I rested and gradually rehydrated, I slowly started in, mostly just tossing things into approximately logical places, and cursing at myself:  “What was I thinking packing all of these breakables??  Insane!  Oh Lord, what have I done?”

But I kept moving, a step a box a drawer, a bag a shelf a prayer at a time.  Eventually had enough put away that I rewarded myself and Dawny with a Subway sandwich–in an earnest attempt to wean ourselves from those intestine-clogging burgers–took a shower, and collapsed into bed.

Which brings us to today.  A pretty day.  A healthy day.  A day framed in rational, rested perspective.  And a day of humble gratitude.

By day’s end, I have everything in its place and not only does it all fit, there is room to spare.  Those breakables that I resented yesterday are today sitting in places where they warm my heart with their sentiments and memories.  It feels like home.  It is home.

I practiced driving a lot today and got the stamp of approval from Phoenix’s owner, who was brave enough to ride shotgun and give me tips and confidence.  I’ll probably head out in a day or two, ready to continue the journey in earnest.

Meanwhile, now that the dream has met reality, I am thankful that it has come out of the experience stronger, polished, and with an important footnote attached that reminds me that dreams are best when they come alive… really alive… the good, bad, beautiful, and ugly parts all tossed together… like a gigantic veggie salad… with NO burgers and NO fries!

P.S. Dawny has been bugging me to let her get a word in edgewise soon.  Next post will be hers.


Downsizing:  An emotionless term for an emotion-laden process.

There’s a ton of great information out there on decluttering, downsizing, and preparing for a move.  This is just my personal take on it, with a few tips that helped me depart a home of 21 years with only enough belongings to fit into a 24 foot RV, close a business, and change my state of residency–all in about five months.

Lists!!!  Master lists, sublists, daily lists, sticky-notes-on-your-forehead lists… you get the picture.  Keep pencil and paper close at hand in multiple places so no matter where you are, you can quickly jot down the new critical task you just thought of, then get it on the appropriate master list later.  Don’t forget to reward yourself by checking completed items off with a flourish!

Keep Moving.  Every day get something significant accomplished.  Even a small task that may only take an hour can be significant if it is something that is emotionally charged and repeatedly delayed (such as going through a box of family photos or mementos).  If you are stuck one day and don’t want to dig in, do something simple.  For me, that was working on trashing things.  Don’t forget to reward yourself with your favorite cookie or something!

Undress in Layers.  The top layer is literally the easiest to reach.  Sort into piles:  Trash, Gifts, Donations, and Keep.  Work down layer by layer, room by room, drawer by drawer.  Return later to layers you already worked on, and you will be amazed what you can take out of the “keep” pile and put into another pile, letting go of things that, at first look, could not be released.  Don’t forget to reward yourself by taking a break for lunch with a dear friend (bring them something from the gift pile!).

The Trash Men Are Your Friends.  Every trash day, maximize your load.  Once you have a good grasp of how much trash you have that is too big or too much for your regular pickup, hire a trash removal service (I used 123 Junk and they were awesome).  They will haul out whatever you direct them to, and some of them will donate usable items and send you a receipt.  Don’t forget to reward these hard working fellows… offer cold drinks, cookies, tips if you can.

Cherished Items for Cherished People.  Have family and friends come claim whatever they may want, unless it is something you know you want to keep.  The more they take, the lighter your workload will be as you continue sorting and disposing of the rest.  Don’t forget to reward yourself and graciously accept any offers of help they may give in return.

Make Donations… Make New Friends.  I called places like Goodwill and Habitat Restore, and my items were not up to their standards.  I was amazed when one said that they don’t even take desks because everyone uses a laptop nowadays.  So I just started putting things down by my front curb for people to take.  I had lots of nice chats with people this way.  Heck, if I saw someone down there checking things out, I’d run out and invite them in to see what else they might want!  My favorites were two hard working sisters, Cecelia and Abbie, who ran a low-cost preschool/daycare in our neighborhood.  They took tons of toys, legos, and puzzles for the children and some of my knickknacks for themselves and their families.  Don’t forget to reward yourself and accept any hugs and gratitude you are offered with grace and thankfulness.  (Oh, and don’t forget to support your local library, a great place to donate books.)

Celebrate Buried Treasure.  It is hard watching pieces of your life, your past marching out the door, but you are almost guaranteed to discover long-lost treasures as you dig through the layers.  Pause, and enjoy them again.  Read old letters and cards.  Travel down memory lane with old trinkets and keepsakes.  Then release what you can.  The way I looked at it was that I had saved these things for memory’s sake when I got older.  Well, here I was, older.  I enjoyed the memories, I shed some tears, then I let go.  Moving on can be a liberating reward in and of itself.

The Keepers.  No question about it, some things must be kept.  If you are drastically downsizing, however, deciding what you will save for yourself and what you will release will be a big challenge.  In my case, I saved small, lightweight, unbreakable things wherever possible.  Items that packed a big sentimental punch into a tiny little fist.  Like the wonderfully gaudy Hawaiian shirt I sewed for my Daddy 40 years ago, that he managed to bring along with him on his many moves… still as bright and pristine as the day it was sewn… probably because he never wore it, now that I think about it… But he saved it!  And so have I.

Rest assured, the reward for success, any success, can be extraordinarily enlightening.  Speaking for myself, as things left my house via the hands of friends, family, strangers, and trash-haulers, with each pound, a weight was lifted from my heart.  Life, priorities, perspective came into clearer focus.

There is great power in simplicity.  It frees your movement, gives air to your wings, allows you to see the sky and clears your path to soar, unencumbered by unused, unimportant, ponderous belongings.  Count your blessings.  For the most valuable ones are weightless and eternally embraced by your heart and your soul:  love, loyalty, integrity, and community.