How do you move out of an urban homestead and into a 16-foot trailer? For us the process takes 6 months of planning, preparation and packing.
First I take stock of all the food we have to eat… caribou, salmon, local pork, vegetables, berries, jam, and more. We spent years building up our larders and now we have to empty them. I plan all my meals around what we have to use up.
After eight years and many passions and projects we have a lot of stuff. Our first priority is a garage sale. I have extra plants so I make a garage/plant sale Facebook event, sending ripples of rumors throughout the community and generating tons of interest. We go through every room in the house and the garage finding everything we can part with. I pot up raspberries, rhubarb, strawberries, herbs, and anything else I can find.
Putting a price on all of our stuff is enormously taxing. We let go of things we love and used at some time in the past and face purchases that didn’t work out. Most of our climbing equipment, many of Matt’s tools, beer and wine-making equipment, books, jackets, canning supplies and more. We have friends help us set up the tables and all of the stuff the day before.
Friends and neighbors start coming early, and by the time the sale is supposed to start at 10am, we are slammed. It’s like a Black Friday sale with people hording piles of stuff in the corners of the yard. I am taking money as fast as I can and Matt is running around like a crazy man doing everything else. A friend comes to watch the kids and get us food, which is a good thing because they are running wild in the street, Matt and I too busy to notice. By 2pm the crowds are gone and we are wiped out of stuff and energy.
It takes us weeks to recover from the garage sale. We go camping to try out the R-pod. It seems like pure luxury compared to tent camping. Matt even takes both boys on a 3-day camping trip to help wean Rylan. He barely survives but it works. We work on lists of things we want to bring and organization strategies for the trailer. Matt builds a rack for the hitch area and has solar panels installed on the top.
We put the house on the market in June, trying to sell it ourselves. The Zillow posting gets thousands of hits, and we show it to a handful of people. We get one offer but the home inspection turns up a few issues and it falls through. We start to get nervous. We talk to an agent about listing it, and a few days before we find some new buyers. Our agent agrees to arrange the sale for 2%, which is an enormous relief to have help moving the sale along.
Mid-summer I start a small farm-stand in the garage to sell our extra produce. Normally we would be putting it up for winter, but we cannot take most of it with us. It feels odd to not be preserving food. It makes me anxious about what we will eat. But it also feels good to earn money for my efforts. I dry some herbs, mushrooms, and strawberries to take with us.
I make a tote of toiletries and medications to take with us and put everything else in a box to give away/throw away. I make a sewing kit. I practice pack food in the trailer to make sure it will fit and test my organization strategies. I practice pack the pots and pans and dishes. I go through the kids’ clothes again, getting rid of what I can and making sure they have clothes for every climate. I go through my own clothes again. We take books into the used book-store and kid’s clothes into the kid’s store. We go through our files and throw away tons of useless papers.
As the weather gets colder we get more serious. Matt tackles the garages… packing up the camping equipment we won’t need, Christmas decorations, and other stuff we want to store. We start packing everything that is non-essential. After one last dinner party for my birthday, the art comes off the walls and we start packing the kitchen. I have a big box of random pantry items to give away… spring roll wrappers, fish sauce, mulling spices and more.
Our friend agrees to store our things in her shed, so Matt starts bringing over a car-load at a time. Friends and family have agreed to keep some of the larger furniture we want to hold onto, like the bed and coffee table Matt made. We sell the rest of the things we don’t want on Craigslist. The couch goes, the rug goes, our dressers and nightstands go. This is becoming real. We sign the papers on the house. This is real.
We take the cat over to our friend’s house. He is terrified. He would never survive a road trip. He runs straight for the basement and hides. The boys and I find him to say goodbye.
Finally we start moving things into the trailer. Surprisingly, everything seems to fit. Sort of. It takes some reorganization, but it works. We camp out in front of the house while we finish getting everything out and cleaned. Getting the last of it out takes FOREVER. I am begging friends to take things so I don’t have to throw them away. Wonton wrappers? Half a box of borax? Several friends show up to help clean on the last day… thank goodness. Matt is running errands and the kids are taking a nap on the mattress.
I pull out the last of the carrots out of the ground and shed a tear. The kids wake up and we load the mattress and the rest of the furniture up. I send my friends away with homemade wine and garden amendments. I finish wiping the kitchen floor and stick my cleaning supplies in the car. I pull the last of the remnants of the freezer and bag it up to take to my mom, shove it all in the car with the kids. It barely fits. We say goodbye to the house and drive away.