Need vs Want

Posted April 7, 2016 – Narrated by Carmen
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We’re just a few sticks of furniture short of selling, donating or gifting to friends and family every last item down to paperclips and bookmarks – forty-years of accumulation.

We will have no storage facility other than the hope chest Daddy made for me when I was married. We will drop it off at his home in Mississippi sometime in early Fall.

Inside the chest will be my first piggy bank, our son’s first toy, first shirt, first handmade quilt and a batch of good iron cookware which we will leave in the family home that sits off a country road deep in the woods – the house Daddy built 40 years ago for Mama with his own bare hands, plus a hammer and a saw. (Home Movie Alert!)

Ashes are tough to leave behind …

Jim’s mom will be put in the care of his sister, Patty.

Our sweet Ivie – the first dog we had together – will finally be released near the old San Carlos house where she – with better things to do and places to be – would often tunnel under the fence for week-long walk-abouts through coyote and mountain lion country, surviving on god-knows-what till – visibly re-energized – she’d smugly allow herself to be “rescued” and returned to suburbia for delousing and a thorough grooming.

Walking on the wild side must have done that girl some good – she lived to be eighteen years-old.


You want to say, it’s all just “stuff” – and it is – but stuff with soul.

Each item represents a remnant of your past or an epic moment where you were trying to accomplish something like the time you installed a jacuzzi, and the years you spent maintaining the jacuzzi, and the day you had to saw the jacuzzi up into dumpster-sized pieces.

Your stuff remembers what you forgot or hoped to forget.

Things summon sweet memories of the family times too, like homeschooling our son; taking care of Jim’s mom; making flower arrangements for a niece’s wedding.

Oh, and the gizmos! We had gizmos for everything – gizmos for saving money, gizmos for making money, gizmos just because they’re new, sexy and whiz-bang; and, project-specific supplies in almost every discipline – the remnants of classes I took that went nowhere but at least taught me what I didn’t want to do for a living; and the books in the third floor library packed spine out in six tall bookcases.

Where this stuff lands is important to us. Almost every day we get a hug, a smile or a wonderful story when we place a former possession into the desiring arms of the new possessor.

The Murano hand blown glass sculpture was bought by someone who said they grew up with the exact sculpture, but it was broken during a move. It will bring them fond memories of their childhood for decades to come.
A grandmother bought our son’s Brio train set in anticipation of seeing her grandson for the first time in years. She was so excited to have it ready for his visit next month.

This house will be difficult to let go … especially the third-floor urban arboreal garden I coaxed from the bare earth twenty years ago – where orioles, humming birds and finches return to nest, uninhibited by our presence and not even an arm’s length from the decking.

It’s like a little birdie-woodstock in the spring! Music and free love flies right into the house. We’re skilled at netting hummers from the kitchen skylight.

Ah, Spring …

Tulips and Skyscrapers – San Diego city-view three blocks from our house. In the distance, Jim unloads our kayaks for a paddle last Sunday morning.

Stuff can be both nurturing and burdensome. Jim and I go through a grueling dialogue every time we need (or want) to assimilate or re-purpose an old item or buy new items to formulate our combined vision of life on-the-road together in Beauty and The Beast.

Meet, The Smurffs – our new pair of inflatable kayaks by Advanced Elements. These are the Advanced Frame DS-XL. On the beach of the Coronado Golf Course.

Every day for the last year-and-a-half has been a prize fight match between our rational needs and our emotional needs – and both are determined to win.

So, we go through the list, blow-by-blow, fall down, shake it off and go at it again.

Do we need it or just want it? Why?

Will we serve it or will it serve us? How?

Does it have more than one function? What?

Where will we store it? In the truck or trailer? Is there room?

What does it weigh?

Will it hinder us from packing up or leaving in less than an hour?

Is the item something we will probably throw over the side in a few weeks, months or a year from now?

If it’s clothing where does it fit into Carmen’s 40-garment and Jim’s 20-garment limit (including under wear, outer wear, sports wear scarves and hats).

Shoes? Jim can have 4 pair and Carmen 6 including water shoes, boots, flaps and dress shoes. Anyone who’s seen my shoe cabinet knows there are serious adjustments going on.

Carmen’s most prized possession: the Imelda Marcos shoe cabinet

If the item is a necessity or if it’s lucky enough to get past the first round (and, it probably won’t) then, it goes to Round 2: Research.

This process could take some time depending on how stupid we are. If we’re lucky, some kind soul will let us try it out first.

If it’s an expensive item we will usually consider finding one that is lightly used, such as our generator.

Go ahead and laugh, but we didn’t even know we needed a generator until after we bought our Airstream. Once recovered from the horror of embarrassment due to that considerable oversight, we attempted to restore our self-confidence by exercising our shopping skills.

Within a week we found the perfect near-new generator for half the price of new with a wireless ignition upgrade.

Problem is, it would be months till we picked up Beauty, so The Big Guy sat unused for months in our garage until the carburetor got damaged with old gas … so we had to have that repaired.

Yep, we’re greenhorns like that.

Meet, TheBigGuy: our EU3000iS Inverter Generator … the reason why we have so little room to carry supplies and other fun stuff in the truck. I wanted to name it something less complimentary but Jim put the kibosh on that.

But, back to our successes! We’re in love with this Surpahs drying rack.

It’s a cooling rack, a drying rack, a work surface … Did this thing come from Krypton?

The pics do most of the explaining but if I may, this remarkable gizmo is so highly functional it seems to expand our kitchen space. Its strong and rolls up effortlessly for easy storage.

The Surpahs rack comes in three colors – green, almond and warm gray. All three colors would work, but we chose warm gray to tie in with the lone grey features on our Dometic refrigerator.

We couldn’t be more pleased with this rack. It seems to be designed exclusively for our trailer!

The Surpass rack over the sink to hold ‘stuff’
The Surpass rack used to dry pots, cups and utensils.
The Surpass rack used to drip dry – and is an ideal prep station for rinsing food.
Protects the countertop from scorching
Matches the gray handles and trim on our refrigerator.
The Surpass rack stored next to the spice rack

Our closet-to-pantry conversion is going quite well.

We’ve re-purposed our wire drawer system that we bought twenty-seven years ago. Even with heavy daily use for almost three decades (we bought this product in 1989) and through the stress of several moves, it has proven itself.

After shopping for over a year and looking at both custom and manufactured solutions, we’ve decided that it’s worth a try to go with our good old dependable.

You can’t imagine our delight when we discovered it was almost (within a quarter inch) a perfect fit for the closet.

27 year-old Elka is now a new dry-goods pantry even though it would be awesome shoe storage.

After a few tiny adjustments – like the way the door swings and some slight interior tweaking – we think we’ve found a no-cost solution to our most critical remodeling job – a new dry-goods pantry, or …

… an awesome shoe rack!

We’ll keep you posted!

If you want to see our exact route, click here.

*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.

6 thoughts on “Need vs Want

  1. This was the greatest read. After downsizing our near 30 years to make the grand return to Austria, our life consists of six plastic tubs, three guitars and a bike. We’re tweeting all of that as we go along….but it’s incredibly freeing, ya know? I love your writing and can’t wait to read each installment! Mwah to you both!

    1. Robbi, thank you for your kind words. Wow! Six plastic tubs, three guitars and a bike. Now that is downsizing!

  2. I am a newbie to your blog and to Airstream – we recently purchased the new Airstream Nest. (Airstream even featured us in a story – . Also here:
    We are very close to retirement and hope to buy a bigger Airstream in 1-2 years to do exactly what you two are doing. Reading your blog is soooo inspiring – and motivating! I go back and forth about what to do on a daily basis – literally – but your blog has helped me to make the decision to finally let go of all the possessions that are holding me back. This weekend is going to be the start of the downsizing process. I have been thinking about unloading home, posessions, for a long while now, and I finally got the push I needed – I lost a cousin 6 years younger than me, that I grew up with in Orange County, CA, Christmas Eve (my birthday 😕) and a sister in California that was 4 years older than me today. Your blog and the tips are invaluable! Thank you for sharing! I hope we meet up along the way in our travels!

    1. Lula, congratulations on your Nest purchase and the two articles about you. When we were having repairs done at the Mothership back in July 2017, we saw the prototype of the Nest sitting behind a fence. Since then we have had a few opportunities to walk inside one. They are very nice. For full-time travel, we gotta have our 30 footer! lol You say you are close to retirement. Well, all we can say is that retirement is way so much better than folks say it is! We are glad our blog has helped you in any way. Many have said “The Clearing” post helped them decide which direction to go in “letting go.” Our heart goes out to you with the loss in your family. It was our mother’s passing that was the ‘tipping point’ for us to make our decision. Hope we can connect someday on the road. Safe travels!!

      1. Actually, I have my eye on a 2002 Classic 30 ft very similar to yours, but with a slideout where the dinette is. The Nest is our beginner’s Airstream, to use exploring the nation our first year and one we hope to keep along with a larger trailer. My brother has property in Vista, CA, (near Costco) about 4 acres, with his home in the center, and we plan on putting in a trailer pad and stone patio, landscaped nicely. He already has utilities ready for hookups. That will be our home/winter base, and if we get visitors, they can stay in our Nest on the property. I have family in San Diego on Point Loma as well, and another brother just a mile from my brother’s property. And family all over southern California. So it will be a homecoming for me! We are attending Alumapalooza this year, hoping to learn more from the seasoned full-timers. I read a blog by a financial planner in our Omaha newspaper today that is insightful for retirees (or anyone, really) about Minimalism/Essentialism that inspires me to pare down.

        Thanks for your reply!

        1. Lula, your brother is near our home town, Coronado. Maybe we will connect when we are there next time. We are speakers at this year’s Alumapalooza. Our topic is traveling full-time in an Airstream. If your schedule allows, please participate in the conversation. Looking forward to meeting you!

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