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Downsizing for a Long-Distance Move: My Experience

I'm a book blogger, the Book Lady at YouTube, and a novelist and memoir writer.

This is a photo of me from 2009 when I was still living in the Klamath River Valley, where I lived for 13 years until I made my grand escape in 2013, as described on this page.

This is a photo of me from 2009 when I was still living in the Klamath River Valley, where I lived for 13 years until I made my grand escape in 2013, as described on this page.

I Had to Move 700 Miles and Didn't Want to Take Much With Me . . .

My downsizing experience started when my roommate (a.k.a "boyfriend" who slept in a van behind my house) walked in and announced that he wanted to move away, and leave me there to pay the entire rent myself. I didn't want to stay, so I started daydreaming about where I'd like to move to.

I decided to move to Northern Idaho, which was seven hundred miles from my then-home in Happy Camp, California. The move was to take me to an ideal location where low-income senior apartments are being built and are readily available. One of my daughters lived nearby in Spokane, Washington.

My "friend" decided he liked my idea and wanted to move to Idaho with me. His motivation was to get out of the heat. I said "Fine, but you'll have to get your own place to live." He agreed to that.

He was the type of person who couldn't make up his mind about anything. At first, we were going to sell everything and move in my van. Then we were going to get a moving truck. Then we went back to selling everything idea.

In the end, I found out I couldn't take my van because of mechanical malfunctions, so I gave it to my youngest son who is handy with all things mechanical. Instead, I rented a 17-foot U-Haul, but by then most of my furniture had been sold. To cap all this indecision and instability, my roommate (or was it a boyfriend) decided not to move with me after all, leaving me with the bill for the U-Haul and gasoline. He paid in $130 and I paid the rest which was a considerable amount, over a thousand dollars. By the time I got to Idaho and settled into my apartment, I was flat broke and deep in debt.

This page, however, is not about my financial crisis or my self-centered and verbally abusive ex-boyfriend/roommate. I will cover those issues on other pages as time permits. This page is about what I went through to downsize from a three-bedroom cabin-type house after living there thirteen years.

I reasoned that downsizing was the best alternative as there would be less to carry or store when I got to Idaho. I wanted to start over with an empty apartment and live like a minimalist.

Some of my things were really hard to let go of. I was attached to certain books, and furniture, but I tried very hard to detach and let things go. This page tells my story and my philosophy and explains how the giving and selling and decluttering went for me.

This is the house I moved out of - the little red cabin in the mountains. I loved living there, but I desperately needed a change.

This is the house I moved out of—the little red cabin in the mountains. I loved living there, but I desperately needed a change.

This is the house I moved out of—the little red cabin in the mountains. I loved living there, but I desperately needed a change.

My intended move - about 700 miles.

The Klamath River. I loved it. But I needed to move on, and that involved doing away with most of what I owned. Challenges!!

The Klamath River. I loved it. But I needed to move on, and that involved doing away with most of what I owned. Challenges!!

Maybe My Decision to Give so Much Away Is Partly Due to My Age

A lot of the things I gave away (or sold) were things that belonged to my kids. Books, especially. But they moved away a few years back and didn't want these things, and left them with me.

I had that typical empty nest situation of having to clear things away so I can live in the present, not the past. Some of those things tore at my heartstrings, and to be honest, I saved a few items. But most of the children's books were given away.

I Donated Most of My Books to the Library Book Sale

I'm the Book Lady on YouTube. I own two book review blogs - one about children's literature and another for all the rest. So you know books have been important to me for a long, long time. I had thousands! I was so attached to my books, it was hard to have to give them away, but as I was desperate to get out of that town and move on with my life, I did what I needed to do, and detached.

I took most of my books to the library book sale on June 1, 2013.

I went down there and saw people looking at and buying some of my precious books, and guess what - it made me feel good! I donated those things to a good cause and people appreciated them and wanted them! I saw a young girl holding my guide to hiking in the Marble Mountain Wilderness.

I saw a friend looking at and planning to buy a vintage book of children's stories I'd donated.

I saw another woman looking at a box filled with spiritual books I'd just unloaded from my van a few hours before.

That felt great! Knowing my books went to fund the town's unfunded library also made me feel wonderful. The county cut all funding to the local library a few years ago, and now even the librarian is a volunteer.

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Some of the books went to the Chamber of Commerce

I donated all my writing and business books to the Chamber.

The Chamber of Commerce hosted our local writers' club and started a small lending library for members. I had an extensive collection of books about writing, and gave almost all of them, plus my business books, for that lending library project.

The books looked great sitting on their bookshelf, and the writers got some use out of them. I feel great about giving my books to people who enjoy using them.

This was a big turnaround for me because I loved my book collection. Especially writing books! However, I'm celebrating my freedom from books now and realized it was so much better not to have to carry fifty heavy boxes of books when I left town. I saved only three boxes of books, and they were easy to move.

Now I realize that keeping too many books is actually . . . book hoarding! After all, we can read only one book at a time. Why do we need hundreds?

Now I read mainly Kindle books, or listen to digital audiobooks, or find books at the library to read.

Who Will Declutter Your House?

If you've collected a lot of possessions, who will have to downsize for you?

It very much bothered me to think that my kids might have to go through all the clutter I've collected over the years. It is freedom to know that I'm taking care of it and if I get sick or die my kids won't have a ton of papers and other clutter and possessions to go through.

I feel this is one very good way to say to the kids that I love them.

I had an experience with clutter a few years back when my grandmother died.

Let me say first that I've always had problems with clutter, but I was fighting back and trying very hard to stay organized.

Then my grandmother died, leaving behind a large house with many years of accumulation. My mother tried to sort through it and give things away, but after about a month I could see it was wearing on her and she was anxious to get back to her own life.

I took pity on her and told her to bring the rest to my house.

I sure didn't know what I was getting into!

I got saddled with large bags of clutter and other things that were too big for me to handle. All that clutter organization I'd been working on for years went out the window. I was back to stage one - clutter out of control.

I don't ever want to put my kids through that. I'm determined that from here on in, I should be a minimalist. I'm over sixty now and need to put things into perspective and do the right thing.

Goodbye to Old Files and Paper Clutter

Goodbye to Old Files and Paper Clutter

My Battle With Paper Clutter

I know this sounds bad, but one of my biggest clutter problems has always been paper clutter. I had a habit of not processing my incoming paper, so the paper, such as mail, flyers, reports, kids' homework, etc. would all build up until I had a paper pile. When I got tired of my piles I'd put them in boxes. I ended up with lots of boxes of paper clutter all still waiting to be processed, meaning filed or thrown away. Does this sound familiar? I hope not! For your sake, I hope this is not your problem, but if it is, read on.

My first foray into paper clutter control came when I got a copy of the book, Taming the Paper Tiger by Barbara Hemphill. She had a wonderful way of explaining how to get started, how to set up files, and everything. She saved my life, where the paper is concerned. When I needed to downsize for my big move to Idaho, I had two boxes to sort into: filing or trash. Most of what I had gone into the trash.

Do you realize that the longer you keep paper clutter, the less value it has? For example, coupons are expired. Credit card offers are out of date. And who needs copies of old electric bills when you're moving out of state? I ended up filling one bag of trash after another. By "bag" I mean 30-gallon black trash bags. I filled quite a few of them, downsizing, downsizing, downsizing until what was left was very cleverly filed, except for one small box I didn't have time to file, at the end.

Every time a bag of old papers left my room, I felt lighter and freer. In getting rid of all my stored clutter, I became happier and more hopeful about the future.

Selling the Furniture

This was one of the hardest things, for me, but it got easier at the end.

My main attachment was to a set of bedroom furniture that came out of my grandmother's home when she left us in 1996. It was not a particularly valuable set of antiques, and not in great shape, but it was my grandmother's and I had planned on keeping it forever. Some things you just cannot let go of - no matter what - until you have to.

In my case, I was desperate to get away from my abusive ex-boyfriend, described at the top of this page. He was verbally abusive, as well as mentally, emotionally, and psychologically abusive, and I'd reached the end of my ability to tolerate his rude and disturbing behavior. Whenever he started in on me (criticisms and more) I filled with extreme irritation. I'd heard his insults too many times, my patience with him was depleted, and I needed to get away. I had prayed in desperation to get away from him, and this move was my answer to prayer.

With that in mind, I lost my mind, more or less, and decided to give away, sell, or toss everything I possibly could, and somewhere in there managed to sell my bed, my grandparent's furniture, and other things I really would have taken with me if I possibly could have. But at the time, I thought I was going to do the move in my van, and there would be no room.

I absolutely had to leave this man. So, the furniture is gone. I even had to put down one of my dogs. That is how desperate I was to get away from my abuser. The dog was old and slowly deteriorating, and I figured I saved him pain and he was able to be buried there where he lived all his life. That was kinder than taking him elsewhere and not being able to take care of him right because my money was diminishing rapidly.

At the end of my time in the little red cabin (a three bedroom cabin-like house) I had some small pieces of furniture left. I gave some to the local Family Resource Center that was starting a thrift store, and other pieces to my friend's husband who wanted to try to restore them. I was so happy to give away all of that stuff.

Cleaning up the Yard

Bear in mind: I was there 13 years and raised 2 children on more than an acre of land in the forest.

There was a lot of junk in the yard. The "boyfriend" lived in his van in my yard for 7 years and all that time kept telling me how valuable he was because he was cleaning up my yard. What a joke. When I determined to move away, I hired my friend's husband to come with his truck to haul things to the local transfer station. I paid for at least 5 truckloads of garbage (mainly) to be hauled away.

My children had brought in old tires from the transfer station to play with. They used them, plus boards, and ropes, and plywood, and all sorts of things, to create play areas in the backyard. All that had to be hauled away. I found piles of boards and had to move them. A "zip line" they built in the forest had to go. An old hot tub (not usable) had been filled with trash and I had to be the one to clean it out.

My son had used building materials to build bike ramps to play on. That had to go. An old washing machine and dryer, and old computers had to go too. I seriously worked on this yard cleaning for the last two months before moving. I could do only a little bit at a time because my old body is not fit for this kind of heavy work. I had no idea how much had accumulated until I decided to leave the place clean, cleared off, and ready for the next person to inhabit the house.

I paid $20 per truckload for my friend's husband to take things to the transfer station, then I had to pay the transfer station. It was worth it to me, to leave the yard as clean as I possibly could.

The Car and the Van Went Away Too

A case of being too generous?

Both of my vehicles were old and in need of more TLC than I could give them. I gave the van to my son, and my ex "boyfriend" wanted my car. He didn't deserve it but I gave it to him anyway because I knew I wasn't going to be able to afford repairs, and I definitely wasn't going to do them myself.

I planned to move to a senior citizen apartment building in Idaho, and I thought there would be a bus system there. In fact, on Google Earth, there were bus stops right in front of the apartments, so I thought I'd be okay. Unfortunately, right before I moved there that bus line was canceled so I was living out in the countryside, two and a half miles from the nearest supermarket, or from town, and I had no transportation except to walk. The following year I bought a nice bicycle so that helped quite a bit, but essentially I ended up living out there for three and a half years, with serious transportation problems. It was a very difficult time indeed.

Downsizing the Boyfriend

Yes, I left him behind too.

I'd already told my "boyfriend" that if he wanted to go to Idaho with me he had to find his own place to live there, and he agreed to that. I decided to move into a senior citizen apartment, and he was looking for a room in someone else's home, in some kind of roommate situation. This is typical for him as for some strange reason he's apparently paranoid about signing a rental contract on his own. I still don't know what that's all about. He always looks for someone to move in with.

At the end of our time in Happy Camp, California, we were packing the U-Haul and he decided to be his normal verbally abusive self. This time he threatened to burn down the house with me in it if I ever mentioned my son again. I weighed that idea. Could I ever really not mention my son again? I loved my son. Then I realized I should not stay with someone who threatened to kill me. Not only did he threaten to kill me, he knew exactly how he would do it to try to get away with the crime.

I told him I never wanted to see him again. I signed my car over to him and told him he could have that but he couldn't have me. I called a friend who helped him move his things out of the house and the U-Haul, to put in storage there in Happy Camp. He left and to this day I've never seen him again. (I'm writing this 4 years later.) Goodbye old narcissist . . . I'm so glad that he's gone. Sad, isn't it? Sad and good at the same time.

Downsizing Summary

Here's what happened.

During my downsizing I lost, sold, gave away or threw away:

  • paper clutter,
  • household goods,
  • lots of clothing,
  • kitchenware,
  • furniture,
  • my dog (so sad about that),
  • my van,
  • my car, and
  • my boyfriend.

Hopefully, you won't have to do all that.

The more I cleared out of my life, the easier it got. It seemed like I got into a mindset of giving things away. Eventually, as I gave things away I became happier and less burdened. It turned out to be a great experience. There have been very few things that I regretted leaving behind. A few books, perhaps. That's about all.

Let's face it—when we leave this planet-bound for glory or whatever comes next, we're not taking any of these things with us. Even if you manage to keep your boyfriend or spouse until your dying day (and I hope you will) once you leave, they are free to go to some other person. Death ends it all.

Perhaps my most precious possessions are my journals, but when I leave here, they'll stay, and they won't be mine anymore as I'll lose control over what happens to them. But that's a story for another day.

I drove to Idaho alone, and it took about 22 hours, though I took a 3 hour nap along the way. I was so happy to finally see this sign.

I drove to Idaho alone, and it took about 22 hours, though I took a 3 hour nap along the way. I was so happy to finally see this sign.

Minimalism Eludes Me

I'm just not good at living the simple life, I guess.

I thought I'd leave behind all that stuff and live like a minimalist. I haven't been able to do that. I can say my apartment isn't especially cluttered, but I've still got too much stuff. I bought more books and settled into my lovely Idaho apartment. My new neighbors supplied me with a sofa, bed, and other furniture. It was easy to get more stuff.

If you're moving long-distance as I did, I very much suggest selling or giving away furniture and whatever else you can, before you move. You will save yourself a world of suffering. Moving is very, very difficult. I'm so glad I traveled light, all things considered. I moved with a 17' U-Haul but it was practically empty except for the floor. As it turned out, I would have had room for that furniture I sold, but I saved myself the trouble of having to carry it and store it and move it again. I'm getting old and I'm really not up to that kind of work, so like I said, I'm glad I traveled light - just taking necessities and the basic needs of life, and art supplies, of course. We all have our secret stash.

Anyhow, if you're planning to move, good luck. Don't be afraid to get rid of things. There are always more things to be had, one way or another. I got rid of all that paper clutter, and guess what? More of it comes in the mail. I have no lack of paper clutter. So downsize when you leave a place and go upscale when you arrive in your new home. You'll be glad you did.

I'm loving apartment life. It is so much nicer than the old cabin I lived in before. Here's where I set up my art supplies.

I'm loving apartment life. It is so much nicer than the old cabin I lived in before. Here's where I set up my art supplies.

And after three and a half years, I finally got another car.

And after three and a half years, I finally got another car.

I Decided Not to Replace the Boyfriend

A better idea.

Instead of replacing the boyfriend, I found Jesus. I became a Christian 2 weeks after moving to Idaho. What a wonderful change after everything I went through to get here. Christ healed my broken heart and filled my life with joy. I told that story on another page: Why I Became a Christian in 2013, at the Age of Sixty-One.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 19, 2017:

I'm sorry that you experienced such a difficult situation, but I'm glad that you've found a new and happier life. You've shared some good advice in this interesting and useful article. I hope things continue to go better for you.

Dianna Mendez on October 01, 2017:

As we are preparing to downsize over the next year, your experience will prove very helpful. I do keep things to a minimum in papers, they seem to accumulate way too fast. Your sharing is so interesting.

Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 26, 2017:

@Susan Zutautas - What a nice surprise to get a comment from you! I'm just re-establishing my HubPages presence, trying to learn all the new rules. I like the editing as I consider it good guidance.

Decluttering and giving things away gets easier the more you do it. At first it is painful but it ends up feeling so good, you start enjoying the experience of doing away with things. Most things, anyway.

I would rather give away my things than go to the trouble of trying to sell them. That's just the way I am. There's a place I can call to have furniture taken and given to formerly homeless people who are trying to set up a new household. I will probably do that next time I need to move... in case that ever happens.

Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 26, 2017:

@Nadine May - I'm so happy to see you here! Yes, moving and giving away all those things, even the car, was probably the best idea for me. I needed a fresh start.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 23, 2017:

I've often thought what it would be like to have to downsize and move. I could sell quite a bit I'm sure but it would be hard to do. Other days I just want to get rid of so much to unclutter my surroundings.

Nice to see you back writing again Linda.

Nadine May from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa on September 23, 2017:

After reading your post it feels to me that you made the best decision ever. Decluttering is always healthy, especially from people in your case. I love the photo of your new home, and you are closer to your children! Many happy times ahead.

Linda Jo Martin (author) from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on September 22, 2017:

Thanks Marlene, I appreciate the feedback! Yes, downsizing feels great once you get into it. You're right, the narcissist had a friend lined up in the RV park downhill. (She was not an actual girlfriend, but close enough - she was a married woman visiting for the summer, with her parents.) I knew about that and was counting on it distracting him enough to let me go. It worked. He moved his van to the RV park to live next door to them, and I left to live in Idaho where I got what I needed, which was a peaceful life.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on September 22, 2017:

Praise the Lord! I enjoyed reading every word of your experience. After losing my job, I had to downsize, too. I had to sell or give most of my belongings away. It was difficult at first, but I learned to trick my mind into being happy to give things away. I would tell myself how much I enjoyed whatever item it was that I needed to give away and then tell myself that it was now time to let someone else enjoy it. Apparently, it worked because when I moved, I only had a few items of clothes and very little furniture. I mean, it all fit into a medium sized UHaul trailer. I'm glad you got rid of the boyfriend/roommate. You are fortunate that he was willing to let you go. Too often, male narcissists don't let their girlfriends/victims leave. Most likely, he already had something already lined up and that's good for you. I am glad you are doing well in your new surroundings. Much luck to you and by the way, your story is one of those stories that inspires people to know that if they put their mind to it, they can accomplish anything.

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