No one tells you just how much work packing up house to go full time RVing really is. I got the chance to find out for myself; I share my experience with you so that perhaps it can be of use to you, or at least give you an idea of what to expect.
The prep work started early but there was no real sense of urgency. The feeling of being overwhelmed, even if I am a good planner, didn’t really go away throughout the process. Reparations and beautification projects on the RV were fun and rewarding, mostly, and got done here and there, weather permitting starting as early as February. The packing, selling, donating, giving, lending, throwing away process was a totally different (and ugly) animal (a beast, really).
It took us roughly four months – and they were rough months – of working hard dawn to dusk. The good news was that we FINALLY got rid of much clutter, we FINALLY cleaned the garage, and eliminated a lot of unwanted furniture. The bad news was that it truly felt like a never ending task. My limbs were swollen and sore to the point of waking me up from my sleep. Thankfully, a friend recommended a great massage therapist and she was gracious enough to take me in for a couple of sessions. I had days when I couldn’t do any more and pretty much I lay down on the couch binge-watching Gilmore Girls. As the furniture disappeared, we ended up improvising seating and sleeping arrangements, at one point using camping chairs and only a foam mattress topper.
There was a sense of loss but also of liberation as the process unfolded. There was perseverance that carried us through and luck that made all things align eventually, permitting us to finally pursue our RV living dream beginning in July of 2019.
We listed our house for rent while we were still feverishly packing, painting, and fixing it. We sold two of our three cars, and listed a third one, our truck – but had to time it just right as we still needed it to take loads of stuff to the storage nearby. Luckily, a friend of ours bought it and was willing to wait a few days for delivery. Friends once again came through when it came to finding a tow vehicle. Although common, Honda CR-Vs are not easy to find second hand for a good price…. David, my husband, had noticed our friends driving a Honda CR-V and thought to ask them if they’d sell it. It turned out that they were thinking about it, so that’s how we purchased Jane Doe (named so because she’s a common car, not easy to identify in a parking lot). Later on, after we installed the towing system on it, my husband renamed her Jane Tow, because she got hitched.
We hired a professional lawn care company to help us clean up our yard (keeping up with weeds in Knoxville is next to impossible, and I absolutely HATE being outdoors in the summer heat, which this year has been particularly bad). Two guys came for the job and not even a few minutes passed until I saw one of them drop his hedge trimmer, run to the front of the yard, and roll on the ground grabbing his ankles. I went outside to see if he cut himself and found out that the poor guy had disturbed a nest of yellow jackets (aka a**holes with wings). They called in for help and after a while, one of the owners showed up with reinforcements: wasp spray. The spray only managed to tick them off, so the guy eventually poured gasoline into the ground nests and set them on fire. He only got stung a few times but seemed to be pretty cool about it. Wasp crisis averted, they guys went back to work. Their boss showed up with reinforcements and a giant trailer which they skillfully backed up our steep driveway. The best part of the job was them removing a trailer load of debris left over from cutting down some trees and cleaning up others. I didn’t like the price tag but all in all it was worth it for us not having to deal with either the mess or the mean wasps….
In the spirit of speeding things up, I contacted a cleaning company that my neighbor recommended. The bad news was that they were booked through the month of July. I contacted a second company and scheduled for someone to come give me an estimate. She never showed up. So, that lovely task of deep cleaning my house became mine.
Even if we got rid of most of our stuff – including most of the bulky items, like furniture, we ended up getting a second storage unit, be it that it was small, just for the overflow and last minute, “we cannot possibly fit this into the RV” items. Friends of ours were priceless – from hosting my beloved kitty for a year to hosting some of our gadgets and household items, we couldn’t have done it without them!
Shortly after we listed the house, we got renters, which gave us two weeks to finalize our exit. Things really had to go into high gear (turbo charge, perhaps?). Things got prioritized, there was a yard sale, numerous Facebook and Marketplace online transactions, quick bites of food in between tasks. When we finally sold our mattress and box springs, and our only remaining couch, things really felt real…. Exhausted but seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we asked our property manager if we could have a couple of more days to really finalize a few projects. We knew that, with the July 4th holiday, the renters’ pod of stuff wouldn’t arrive until July 6, so we hoped to have a few more days. The property manager thought the renters were away for a couple of days anyway, so he gave us the OK.
On July 1, as we were fueling up with some coffee, we heard a knock on the door. When we opened the front door, our renters greeted us and asked us when they could come in that day…. Oops. We explained that we were moving as fast as humanly possible but that we still had to finish up. We frantically packed and cleaned – with a moment of exasperation when the sink wouldn’t drain! I thought to myself: this is really not the time for anything to break down…. Luckily, David found and eliminated the culprit: a measuring cup was stuck in the sink, covering up the drain. Crisis averted, and we just had to laugh.
Even with our superhuman efforts, we couldn’t finish packing it all by the evening, so we ended up paying for a hotel room for our renters. At 3 am on July 2, we were out of the house. Bright and early in the morning (with only about two hours of sleep under our belts), we came to the house to get the last of the junk out of the garage. I had been in touch with the renters via text, keeping them apprised of the status and giving them useful information about the neighborhood, and the city. The renters turned out to be a lovely couple with a cute and astute little two-year old girl. They met our neighbors and were warmly welcomed. We finally got out of their hair feeling much better about the whole situation, and knowing that our home was as welcoming as we wanted it to be.
Fully living in our RV now, we found our spot in the Raccoon Valley RV Park, just north of Knoxville. Our poor RV, Lexi was still packed to the gills with things that we thought could fit but completely overestimated its capacity…. So, we carved our way through boxes, and over the following few days continued to dump things into storage. With the RV finally being in order, we could take Lexi out to get her prepped for the road trip. We had Jane Doe (our CR-V) scheduled to have the Blue OX towing system installed on Wednesday. On Thursday, we were to drive Lexi (our RV) to get Jane hitched to it (thus becoming Jane Tow). All was well, until the final plug, when we discovered that the socket in Lexi was bent and irreparable. So, in the heat and humidity of the day, poor David proceeded to replace the socket. Luckily, a mechanic freed up and came to our aid. Almost all of the contraption worked well, except for having a short somewhere in Lexi between the left blinker and the towing outlet. The good news is that David is good at fixing things and later on rewired the faulty thing to make the blinker work. Phew.
That being done, we headed into town to get propane. We tried U-Haul on Alcoa Hwy but they were fresh out (it was July 3rd…). We headed to a place on Kingston Pike, and as we were cruising down Pellissippi Parkway, we smelled something burning. We pulled over and looked around but couldn’t see anything. We hoped it would have been a truck that passed us. Alas, it was not. When we pulled into the propane place and I walked around the other side of the car (we couldn’t see it on the interstate because we would have had to step onto the road), I noticed smoke coming out of the middle tire area. The propane guy told us to move away from the giant explosive tank immediately. We tried to call Good Sam for help but they told us to drive to the car repair place down the street. This didn’t please me – car is on fire; it’s OK, just go ahead and drive it. Ugh.
But we did just that. Since it was getting late and the following day was a holiday, we decided to unhitch Jane and drive slowly toward our RV park. On Friday, we took Lexi to the car doctor, feeling guilty that we had done something wrong, like forgetting to push the tow mode button when towing Jane. It turned out that it wasn’t our fault; The brakes were old and locked up. We had replaced the breaks on the back tires and now, another thousand dollars later, we had brand new ones on the front, too. At least all this happened while we were still in town and not on the road…. The other good news was that we found a pet-friendly hotel right across the street from the ballroom dance studio where we used to teach, so we got to dance one more time at a Friday night party, and say “bye” to more friends before leaving.
We continued the cleaning and packing process from our RV, dumping more things into storage. We laughed when at some point we had an Instant Pot in our potty room…. Or when we parked at Target next to an identical CR-V. I loved that my hard work at least built up my arm muscles.
Slowly, but surely, things came together, and the closets in the RV started looking good. We took small breaks, rewarding ourselves with delicious sandwiches from the French Market, Good Golly Tamale, and even enjoyed our first “home-cooked” RV meal.
We visited with family one more time before heading out of town, but felt bad that couldn’t really have time to spend with many of our friends, as we had hoped. FINALLY, on July 8, we had lift off!!! Our next task at hand: drive 2,325 miles in 6ish days (about 6 hours/day) in order to make our only reservations in Banff and Jasper starting July 14.
Some lessons learned:
- Start packing early – way early!
- Only keep what’s irreplaceable or that you use a lot.
- Always consider if you are doing the work yourself, can you physically do it and is it worth it?
- Consider hiring pros but know that they might not do a good job even if you pay them.
- Post things to sell or give away free on Facebook’s local marketplace groups and on its official wider-reach Marketplace; be firm about accepting cash only and meeting in a public place.
- If using a storage space and packing it yourself, use same-size packing boxes (U-Haul) so you can stack them, and maximize your use of vertical space.
- Order packing tape in bulk (Amazon rocks!).
- Start living with only the items you think we’ll take with you into the RV a few months before the actual departure day.
- RV life is not super dressy, so pack up comfortable attire (t-shirts, walking shoes). If you find that you absolutely need something, you can always go shopping (right?)
- If you are renting your house, consider hiring a property manager so that you don’t have to worry about things when you’re thousands or hundreds of miles away.
- Do a test camping first to rule out potential glitches.