Five-Year Plan: Not So Little Things

Photo by Merylove Art on Unsplash

I am waiting on the buyer to get her bank stuff straightened out, so she can buy our RV. This may seem like a very small thing (and you would be correct), but it is just one thing among way too many. When I started this five-year plan to become location independent (or house-free as we like to call it), I thought I had a very good plan. In retrospect, it was a very good plan; it just didn’t cover all the details.

Let me back up. There are six of us living in our house right now. There’s me, and my two partners (Jeanne and Zoë), and two of our children (Ryan, age 18, and Daxton, age 9), and my brother Byron. That means each of us needs to know what is going to happen in 9 to 12 months. Byron is settled. He wants to move back to California to the ancestral house. Jeanne, Zoë, Daxton, and I are all going to travel. That leaves Ryan. He will graduate from high school in June and then go to college, maybe. He might decide to travel, or he might decide to get a job. He may or may not stay in Connecticut. His first choice is to go to the Boston Conservatory. That would be amazing, but really expensive. (Really, really expensive — don’t ask.) I can’t do anything on that front right now except help him to apply to colleges and fill out financial aid forms.

Most of our lives aren’t that exciting, but the drama is still going on in the small details. -David Byrne

That leaves, well, everything else. I am waiting on the realtor to be able to come and tell us how much we can get for the house if we rent it. We know that we can sell it, but if we can rent it, so much the better. Either way, we have to budget for fixing it. After nine years and four active boys, the deck needs repair and the walls need some repair and painting. The kitchen needs updating, and so does the upstairs bathroom. I’m not sure when to do that. I travel for business and I need to decide if I have to be in the house to supervise the work or if it’s better to just get it done when I’m not there.

Have I ever mentioned the stuff? There is a lot of stuff in a house. Some of it is the necessary stuff that every house has: pots, pans, furniture, silverware, dishes, and the like. The rest is the stuff you accumulate over the course of a lifetime: some dolls my mother gave me, a plate I bought at the Bronx Zoo when I was 15, a spinning wheel from a dear friend who has died. Big and small, these are the things that make up my home.

Deciding how to leave a house is easy. Deciding what parts of a home you need to have is hard. There is a theory that home is where ever your family is, and that is true, in part. For me, a home is more than that. It also encompasses the things I have around me that make me happy, ground me in my past, and point me toward my future.

It seems like it ought to be easy to pack up the things I want to keep and get rid of the rest, but it’s the little decisions that are the most difficult. I have a box of things I saved from the hospital when my two middle children were born. They were both preemies. I have their bracelets and a (clean) preemie diaper in there. You would never believe how small those diapers are, or that they swam on my boys. I used to wonder if they were worth using at all since I couldn’t get them to stay on correctly. I have a box with newborn clothes from my daughter. She never wore them since she was stillborn.

I have two stuffed animals from my childhood. Once is a lamb that I got when I had my tonsils out, and the other is a bear that I got from a neighbor when I was nine. My mother tried to make me give away because she thought I was too old for stuffed animals. The neighbor (a retired catholic priest and alcoholic) insisted that I keep the bear. They live in my favorite backpack on top of my chest of drawers.

What about Daxton’s toys? If I store them, that will make him feel more secure and happy, but will they ever get used again? I have no idea if we are ever going to have a home base, and, even if we do, will they still matter to him in a year? Which of his stuffed animals are we bringing with us? Right now his favorites are Jelly, a very large butterfly he uses as his pillow, and Greg, a large rainbow-colored axolotl. They go everywhere with us now.

We don’t want checked bags. I know that I will have to pair down. People keep asking me how I will fit all my clothing in a carry-on and a backpack. That is the easy part. There are only about 6 outfits I wear regularly anyway. The hard part is deciding what else I need or want with me. If it’s very special, like my grandmother’s wedding ring, do I bring it with me or leave it behind in storage? (I am going to leave it. I couldn’t bear to lose it on the road.) Still, it is just one of many little things, little decisions.

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen. -John Wooden

We have been getting ever-smaller versions of the things we use every day. I have a laptop now after being firmly in camp desktop for 20 years. Zoë just bought an adorable mini coffee grinder, a mini blender, and a small French press. Now you know where her priorities lie. Jeanne is still working. She says she can’t even start to think about any of this until next year. That’s fair, even if I do think it will take more than a new calendar to get her to start to prepare.

The small details of transitioning into full-time travelers sometimes overwhelm me. There are easy decisions and ones that are less so. Luckily, I have a few months to make them, but the little ones will take at least that long.

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