Our last night on Cook St was the last time I felt uncomfortable letting go. We had been cleaning, packing the camper, and sweating all day. It was an unusually warm November evening, the 16th, as I recall. Denver hadn’t seen any snow yet for the year and it felt more like September, nobody was wearing a jacket that night.
We had to make the final decisions because it was the last day we had possession of the house. We had to be out by midnight. After working for months to empty the house and otherwise prepare, it all came down to this. Trace (the camper) was packed to the brim with everything we thought we would need to live, and the house was clean, like white-glove clean.
It was a moment in time that I’ll remember forever. At 12:15am, we locked the door for the last time, keeping a key, just in case. Clicking the lock over, as I had done thousands of times, was symbolic for me. I was so absorbed in the gravity of the moment, that I held the door knob for way too long. If it had been a handshake, the person probably would have known that I would never see them again without me saying anything.
I had sold or otherwise disposed of about eighty percent of my possessions, and I was getting all sappy over a house, a rental. I had a hard time letting go, figuratively and literally. When I let go of the handle and turned around, I made the decision to let go and move forward.
Let me rewind a little, and tell you WHY we doing this.
I don’t know if you’ve been to Denver recently, but things are getting out of control. Housing costs have been skyrocketing as people were moving to the city in droves. Legal marijuana, low unemployment, low cost of living, and amazing lifestyle were all drawing people in. It was even ranked as the #1 place to live by U.S. News & World Report’s list of the Best Places to Live (it’s #2 for 2017). As a Denver native, I agree with the sentiment. I love Denver.
But, one day we received notice that our auto-insurance policy would be increasing over 10%, with no explanation. Since there was no obvious reason for the increase, tickets or accidents, we called to see why. State Farm informed us that there are 800 people moving to Colorado, every day, and therefore, insurance costs were going up. They were really just beating around the bush by not coming out and saying that crime is up and they’re not making enough profit.
In addition, our rent had gone up from $1100 to $1300, and as we were getting really close to leaving, they raised it to $1600/month. That was just a 2 bed, 1 bath 900 square foot bungalow on the fringe of a college neighborhood.
We were feeling like the universe was telling us to get out of Denver. All the stars were aligning, and flipping us the bird. So, the decision was made, we would ditch the house in Denver, buy a travel-trailer, and start traveling and work on the road.
To get inspiration, we started looking for blogs and podcasts by people that were already doing what we wanted to do. Why reinvent the wheel, right? Danielle listened while (or maybe INSTEAD of) working, and I listened during my commute. Often, we would text to say that you have to listen to episode x and discuss them over dinner and dog walks. Wherever we went on the weekends (camping, snowboarding, etc), we would constantly have a podcast playing, feeding the dream.
As we contemplated the next steps, I took a look at everything that we would need to do, and the logistics were beyond daunting. Anxiety persisted throughout the process, for both of us. One single piece of advice was responsible for easing the anxiety and turning this dream into reality.
That advice was to break things down into smaller portions, or steps, rather than being overwhelmed by the massive project. If there had been one, single to-do list, it easily would have been 20 pages long. We did have lists, but we made them as we went and threw them away when all the boxes were ticked. We weren’t up-ending our lives, we were just completing small tasks on list in front of us.
If it weren’t for Danielle’s persistence and go-getter mentality, it may not have happened. I’m the procrastinator in the family, so I naturally dragged my feet. But, she kept encouraging me, so I kept moving forward.
It took the better part of a year to empty the house a prepare for this adventure. We had 3 garage sales, sold countless items on Craigslist, and gave away truck-bed loads of stuff. We walked away with several thousand dollars from selling our stuff, but there ended up being a much bigger payoff in the end.
The feeling that comes with lightening your load is priceless. I had accumulated A LOT of stuff over the years, as is my duty as an American. I had a storage unit for a couple of years because my stuff took up too much room. I was holding on to some stuff for sentimental reasons, other stuff because I saw potential value, and some stuff that I was sure that I would need in the future.
I say stuff, not because I lack imagination or access to a Thesaurus, but because that’s what it was, stuff. When I look inside at what I learned during this process, I can see that I was holding on to memories and money. So, I sold the things that had value, kept the irreplaceable things I was most attached to, and LET GO of the rest.
Learning how to let go and move forward may have been the hardest part of this journey, for me. I thrive under pressure. When shit hits the fan, I’m a great person to have on your team. But, I wear my heart on my sleeve and am sentimental by nature, so letting go had to be learned.
I learned that, for me, it was uncovering the “whys” behind all of the stuff I refused to shed over the years. I didn’t give much thought to what I was keeping, other than I liked it, it made me feel good, or I thought that it had value. I didn’t need the bar of soap that my mom gave me for Christmas, 15 years ago (sorry mom). I didn’t need W2s from Y2K, seriously. Someone else could probably use the extra silverware and kitchen implements.
My advice, if you want to let go and get out of Colorado (or wherever), ask yourself the following questions, and the answer will usually be clear.
“Can I let go?” – “Do I really need it, and how much do I really use it?” – “Would someone pay me for it?” – “Why is this worth keeping?” – “Is it worth the time and space to hold it?”