Friday, July 17, 2015

MONEY AIN'T EVERYTHING!: Our Road to a Simpler, Healthier Life

Let's Get Serious About Simplifying Our Life!

There's More to Life Than Money!
     For more than five years we have had a goal of simplifying our lives and reducing our stress. We talked often about living a simpler, healthier lifestyle. We tried to simplify by downsizing into a condo, by cutting back to part-time work, and by taking longer periods of time off to spend the winter in Mexico or Ecuador. But, still we were bogged down with complications and "STUFF" we had accumulated over thirty years of trying to "make money" and to improve our life. We felt bogged down in the same old rut of work, pay the mortgage, taxes, and insurance, and still not have enough money in our retirement accounts. It was time to get serious about simplifying so we could retire early. Money ain't everything!
Parked on the Chetumal Bay in Mexico
     Last year, we decided to try living in our motorhome in Mexico for the six winter months from November to April. (See HealthyLivingandTravelinginMexico.blogspot.com ) RV life was a wonderfully simple and healthy lifestyle, living wherever we parked our motorhome, from the redwood forests of California to the beaches of Mexico. When it was time to return to living in our condo in the United States, we started asking each other, "Why?". Why return to condo living? Why return to working just to keep ahead of the expenses of living in stationary home and trying to fund our retirement accounts for the future? 
Did We Want to Go Back to Condo Living?
     Why not quit working? Money ain't everything! Jon decided to build one more custom home last summer and then figure out how to close down his construction business and retire. I worked for four more months as a pharmacist, then gave my two weeks' notice and quit my job so I could get serious about retiring, planning how to live a simpler, healthier life (and have time for my writing). I felt relief and freedom immediately!  It was time to start sorting our belongings and pack the motorhome for a year of traveling. 
Time to Pack the Motorhome for Full-Time RV Living
     We were still wrestling with whether to keep the condo for a while so we would have a home base to return to occasionally. But our answer was always, "Why?" Why not sell our condo unit and live in our motorhome full-time? That would eliminate the hassle and expense of keeping up a home. It would also eliminate the expenses of property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners' association dues, and home repairs. We could put that money plus the proceeds from the sale into Charles Schwab investment accounts and live off of the income, though we would have to live frugally. An additional benefit of selling the condo unit was that we would no longer be involved in managing the eight unit condominium that we had built during our retirement planning 20 years ago. That alone would reduce the stress in our lives. We made the decision to become full-time RVers and were immediately excited!
Our Bikes Loaded on the Back of the RV--Simpler & Healthier!
      Why not sell our cars and our pickup?
We decided to sell both of our cars, our pickup truck, and three of Jon's construction trailers. We decided not to take a tow car with us for the first time. That eliminated the expenses of auto insurance, maintenance, and tolls on Mexican highways for a tow vehicle. It also allowed us to put the money from the sales of our vehicles into our Schwab accounts and boost our "Retirement Living Fund". We decided to ride our bicycles and walk places whenever we could for a healthier lifestyle. There are always buses and taxis available when necessary for longer trips or inclement weather. This simplified our life further. Going car-less was one more step in "Going Green", too!
     
Condo Living had Pared Down Our STUFF to a Few Favorite Things
     Our next decision was, "Why not load just what we needed into our motorhome and sell all of our excess STUFF?" This is when we hesitated a bit. This is where Jon and I had some differing opinions and the most frequent discussions. What if we didn't like living full-time in our motorhome? Some STUFF has sentimental value and we couldn't just sell it, give it away, or toss it out. We had already held at least five garage sales and sold many items on Craig's List in the last five years to downsize from our 4000 square foot home into a 1225 foot condo unit. We agreed that we would store our favorite treasures, enough of our best furniture and belongings for a tiny home, and sell the rest.

"Unattended Store" Turned Stuff into Cash Under My "Magic Carpet"
     Reducing the volume of our STUFF was hard work! I could not face holding another garage sale. I had to find other ways to get rid of the STUFF that was weighing us down. Craig's List was our friend -- we sold lots of construction equipment, tools, and odd stuff that way. We took carloads of our clothes, toys, yard tools, and other stuff to the Goodwill. But my favorite way to sell the treasures that I could part with was to have an "Unattended Store" on my front porch. I actually had fun seeing my old treasures and small kitchen appliances go to new owners.     
Lots of STUFF for Sale
          Here is how my "Unattended Store" worked: I priced each item with a price tag that read, "Please place money under doormat. $X.00 Enjoy!" Then I arranged it attractively on my front porch and went inside to continue packing and sorting for an hour, then write another chapter of my book. It was so much fun to go out to my porch every couple of hours and check under my doormat. I would find dollars, coins, sometimes up to $75 at a time. I made a game of trying to figure out what had sold, where the hole in my merchandising was, then fill it with a new item from inside my house. I began to jokingly call my doormat my "Magic Carpet" because it produced money almost every time I lifted the corner to look underneath. Sometimes I even found notes from the people who had adopted my new treasures! The best part about this kind of sale is that there was no dickering involved. If an item didn't sell after a couple of days, I would mark the price down with a red pen and move it to a new location. It usually sold that day!
Price Tag Read: Unique Birdhouse $2.00 Enjoy!
      When I needed a break from packing or writing, I would peek out my front window to see what was happening in my store. Once I saw a young woman excited to find a food processor or KitchenAid mixer in good condition for such a low price. Another time, I saw an older woman take one of my birdhouses after leaving a note under my doormat that she would be back with the money. The next day the money was there with a Thank You card telling me how much she enjoyed my birdhouse. She came back every day and purchased more of my yard ornaments and always left me a Thank You card. She even gave me her address so I could walk by and see my treasures in her yard. I did, and it made me smile to see my birdhouse, fairy, and dragonfly welcome plaque in their new home, knowing that someone else would have a turn enjoying my things.
Time to Sell the Artificial Christmas Tree!
     I decided to sell our artificial Christmas tree and all but a few of our favorite Christmas ornaments to a young man with three sons. He said his boys would enjoy everything, especially wearing the lighted reindeer antlers. For the past five years, I have avoided the commercialism and stressful activities that surround Christmas. I hadn't put up the Christmas tree or looked at the ornaments for several years, so it was fun to unpack them in October and decorate my front yard with the Christmas tree sitting next to my Halloween witch and jack-o'-lantern. Our neighbors even enjoyed the festive tree and told us they were disappointed when it was sold and gone. But, it was time to let someone else enjoy these pretty things. We would be in Mexico by Christmas that year and we would enjoy everyone else's holiday decorations all over town. That further simplifies our life! I felt so much more free, escaping the frenzy of decorating, attending Christmas parties, shopping for just the right gifts, planning for the festive meal, and all the other crazy, busy activities we put ourselves through in December in the U.S.A. Instead of that hectic, expensive ritual, we now enjoy attending the Children's Christmas Shows in our community in Mexico and donating money for their families' Christmas dinners.
We Packed Our Goldfinch Feeder in the RV--Simple Pleasures
     It felt good to recycle our Stuff, passing it to people who would reuse it and enjoy it. I packed a few bird feeders, solar yard lights, a tabletop water feature that doubles as a bird-bath, and a few other small, lightweight decorative items into the motorhome. These few simple items bring the birds and turn our RV site into home wherever we settle. Simple things for a simple life...
We Still Filled Two Storage Units With STUFF!
     Even after many garage sales, Craig's List sales, my "Unattended Porch Store", and several trips to donate things to the Goodwill, we still had two storage units full of Stuff, a total space of 10' X 40' jammed full. I've decided that we humans are naturally pack-rats and it is very difficult to let go of everything. We kept enough furniture and housewares to start over in a small home if our plans changed in the future. And, of course, we kept boxes of tax records and our children's schoolwork and a few treasures. Then we closed the door on our Stuff (whew, what a relief!), got in our motorhome, and went to visit our family before heading to Mexico.

A Family Visit Before Leaving for Mexico

    No, money ain't everything. But, we do need a little money--enough to buy birdseed to fill the goldfinch feeder, sugar for the hummingbird feeder, and gas to move us from Oregon to Sayulita, Mexico and back to see our family. We need enough to go out for dinner three or four nights a week because good food is one of our favorite pleasures, especially when we don't have to prepare it or clean up the mess afterward. We need enough to buy several eBooks per month for our Kindles from Amazon.com (one of our bigger budget items).  And we need enough to pay the fee when we park in a campground or RV Park. So, yes, we need a little money to live on and we are glad we were able to scrape enough together to retire early and live comfortably in our motorhome in Mexico where our money goes a long way. A simple, relaxing life, healthy food, plenty of exercise, good weather, our dog, time with family, and the freedom to do what we want, when we want--that is everything.
New Moon, New Beginnings 

     The day we left our old life behind was November 25, 2014. There was a new moon in the sky and I thought, "New moon, a new beginning" and we started our new life. Life is simpler and we are happier. To view some of our adventures in Mexico, see: www.HealthyLivingandTravelinginMexico.blogspot.com .


     

I invite you to read my book about our adventures. Read the free sample at: "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico" eBook on Amazon.com


4 comments:

  1. enjoy your blog a lot. safe travels ... love your positive attitude to get to this point of your journey!

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    1. Thank you, Marty, for your nice comment. I'm glad you enjoy reading my blog.

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  2. We enjoy hearing from you & love your attitudes! You know how to enjoy life! We hope to see you in Maz this winter!

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  3. Thanks for your nice comment, Linda and Don. Great to hear from you! We look forward to seeing you in Mazatlan.

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