How Much Do You Really Need?

This is an editorial. Some strong opinions will be stated and you may agree or disagree and those who disagree may feel they are being personally attacked. For that, I’m sorry but if this also gives you a chance to reflect on the way you live your life and to maybe make some positive changes, yay, I say.

We’ve been brainwashed to believe that we must have “stuff,” and I’ll admit I was one of the guilty party. I spent thousands and thousands of dollars decorating my 970 square foot home. I bought new gadgets for the kitchen constantly because I loved cooking. I put in gardens in the back yard and then re-did it several times as I changed layouts and designs. I did the whole house in area rugs over wall-to-wall carpet with matching furniture, shelves, and knick-knacks and then re-did the whole house in laminate with different furniture when I discovered that one of my rescue dogs had a habit of peeing indoors.

I was a collector too. I had hundreds of books. I also started collecting mid-century American-made figural pottery in the early 2000s and had about thirty-six pieces by 2018. Those pieces also needed display furniture. I love shoes and had about forty pairs at the time I downsized. I had a garage full of tools and who-knows- what because I was a do-it-your-selfer. I refinished furniture, I made shelves and toys for my chinchillas and birds, I did a lot of the house remodeling projects myself. But my goal all along was to travel when I retired and to sell the house. What compelled me to buy so much stuff when I knew I would be leaving it all? I can’t explain other than the fact that we live in a “consumerism” society and it’s drilled in to us to buy more and better.

Here’s what I learned after two years of not having stuff. How big your house is and how much fancy stuff is packed in there does not define who you are. I don’t miss it. Sometimes I wonder how different things would be now if I’d saved all that money instead of spending it. I sure didn’t get much back when I tried to sell everything. Most of the things in the end were given away or donated. I’ve learned that I don’t need a lot of room. I’ve learned that I don’t need to be entertained with a big TV or hobbies. I don’t need to keep busy taking care of a house or yard.

Some people are natural savers and think small types. Can you imagine if most people were more comfortable living small? We would have resources galore. I can’t tell you how to live your life but I can tell you that it is possible to be happy without having a lot of stuff surrounding you. You might think that people who live in tiny houses or motorhomes full time are people of lesser means but that isn’t true. I was surprised to find out recently that one retiree who lives full time in a motorhome has a retirement income that is more than I made yearly for most of my working life. Imagine how much young couples could save if they lived in a nice trailer instead of buying a house and furnishing it?

Here’s the floor plan of my living quarters for the last two years. Of course, I do go out quite a bit for dog walks or just enjoying nature. And when I’m sitting inside, I still try to bring some of the outdoors in by keeping windows and the door open. I get the scent of pine trees, birds tweeting, and the occasional campfire. And at certain times of the year, I have the Gulf of Mexico in my backyard. What could be more perfect?

My words of wisdom to everyone is “don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.”

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Or “How I figure things out myself when there isn’t a helpful man around”

I don’t like to have to figure things out. I prefer to pay someone else to do it. However, that isn’t always practical or available. I don’t necessarily trust everyone to be fair when I’m seeking out a handyman, contractor, or auto mechanic. Thank goodness for the Internet and YouTube. It’s fairly easy to investigate and do some quality research before you pay someone to do something for you. There have been times when I realized doing it myself was a much better option.

I would not say I have ever invented anything, per se, but I have figured things out and found solutions that weren’t suggested to me by those I consult with. A most recent example would be my little car that came from Oklahoma. You see, Oklahoma doesn’t require front license plates. So when you buy a car in that state, there is no front license plate bracket installed. Having to solve this dilemma never occurred to me in my wildest dreams until I registered my Oklahoma car in Texas.

Texas does require a front and a back plate as I realized when I reached across the counter at the Tax Assessor’s office and took possession of the twin license plates that were handed to me. Now what? I went home and pondered the situation. I stood outside and examined the front bumper. Sure enough, smooth as glass and no place to attach a plate. To top it off, my son had installed a tow base plate and an electrical system smack dab in the middle of the front under the bumper and I couldn’t cover that up.

My first instinct was to drill. I called my auto mechanic down the street. Luckily, they were booked up for the next two weeks because I eventually found a much better solution. I was pretty sure that there must be some kind of aftermarket bracket that is made that would fit so I started researching online. I’ve learned to be careful and not just buy the first thing that pops up on Amazon. There are many things, including vehicle accessories, that just aren’t described properly and then you have to go through the whole process of returning and getting a refund. A better system is to go to the websites that provide actual OEM auto products and search for your specific vehicle. Then you take those part numbers and you can search on Amazon or other discount online shops.

As I was learning about front license plate brackets and what’s available, including ones that stick on, I accidentally came across a company called Extreme Online Store that sells a front license plate bracket that attaches where the tow hook would go. They carried one for a 2014 Nissan Versa Note so I was in business. I went outside to check and make sure I had a tow hook entrance on my bumper (it’s hidden by a little access panel) and sure enough, I had one!

It took me awhile to read and re-read the instructions and examine the accompanying pictures but I finally figured it out and it was easy to install once I understood how all the parts worked. I’m so happy I found this and didn’t resort to drilling in the bumper. One more victory for the single woman. Yay!

Across the U.S.A. at 60 mph

This essay was written in the summer of 2019 after I’d been on the road full time for a little over one year.

There’s something to be said for driving at a leisurely pace. Now that I’m retired I really don’t have any deadlines and I’m finding that, at 61, I’ve started driving like an old lady, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve always enjoyed bird observing and seeing the sites but before I bought the motorhome, I was always on my way to somewhere else. I would slow down as I passed an interesting lake full of migratory birds or tiny waterfalls along winding mountain roads but then I was back up to speed limit, maybe a little faster even, feeling annoyed at slower drivers in front of me, especially if it was a trailer or large RV.

Then I bought the motorhome. That was in 2016. It’s not a large motorhome, only 24 feet, about the size of one of those small specialty busses you see driving around town or to the airport. My motorhome was actually smoother to drive than my little Hyundai car, with a powerful V10 engine and cruise control. And you can really see all the traffic up ahead unless you’re blocked behind a semi. I was very cautious at the beginning. But driving it soon became second nature and I found myself realizing I could go the speed limit, even on the freeway, with no issues at all as long as I had put all my stuff away properly. 

When I retired mid-2018 and headed out after selling the house, all of a sudden, I found that I didn’t want to drive the speed limit anywhere. How can you drive across New Mexico at 75 mph when there is so much to look at everywhere? As I started getting in the habit of driving more leisurely, I found that all those little cars and semi-trucks in such a big hurry would just pass me and be on their way like they’d never even existed. I felt like I was in my own little world traveling down the highways in a different dimension from everyone else and that other dimension changed me mentally too. I noticed that the anger I used to have often in traffic was gone and my concerns for what other drivers might think of me had also dissipated. It was a really freeing feeling. 

Sometimes, my son will call me early in the morning when he’s on his way to work and while we’re talking, he’ll start cussing out the “stupid” drivers next to him and I can feel him getting really worked up. I don’t like him to be in that position but he always brushes it off later as “that’s just the way it is.” I’ve mentioned that there are several country roads that he could take all the way to work and avoid the freeway. It might add fifteen minutes to his commute but it would save a lot of merging, cussing, and aggravation. He does not agree with me. We shall see if things change when he retires.

I was in a hurry once with the motorhome. It was a week before Thanksgiving and I was in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. I told the folks in Sacramento I would arrive for Thanksgiving, even though I hadn’t planned to be back until closer to Christmas time. They were missing me and my dad even sounded a little depressed on the phone. It’s the least a daughter can do I felt, as they had been very supportive of my taking off and wanting to travel the country. So I allowed myself eight days but was hoping to make it in less. 

It was November so I didn’t want to take I-40 back due to high elevations in parts of the country that might see snow and ice. I decided to take I-10 which follows the border to Mexico. I did 3,076 miles and arrived on day eight of my journey. The longest day’s drive was 518 miles which was my second day traveling across Texas. 

I was in such a hurry to get the whole week over with, I left by 8:00 a.m. every morning and didn’t stop until 5:00 or 6:00 every night, which included at least two stops per day because of the dogs. All I have to say is that I will never do that again. I think it took me a month to recover. From now on under 200 miles per day is my goal and I will take ten days to get somewhere that is 1,000 miles away if I have to.

Recently, things changed again. I am now towing a car. Even though the towing is pretty much seamless, you can’t even feel it and it turns like a dream, I find myself driving very cautiously. It says on the Oklahoma Turnpike (I-44) that the speed limit is 50 to 75, “no tolerance” they add on the sign. So I picked 60 mph, set my cruise control and drove 130 miles no problem. People didn’t get mad at me, they just passed me and I was left alone to enjoy my own little world of scenery and peacefulness.

I’m sure as I get more bold with the towing situation, I will start to feel more comfortable going faster, except maybe on city interchanges, but why go faster? I’m not bothering anyone, I’m not breaking the law, and I’m enjoying a blissful, stress-free retirement.

So when you are behind a slow moving motorhome towing a car and starting to get steamed because you can’t pass, don’t get mad. Think about those retired people in front of you enjoying the scenery and not having a care in the world. And hope that one day, you can be like that.

For pictures and descriptions of 32 sightseeing sites to date, go here.