A Slate Wiper Minus The Hurricane


“Phases and stages,
circles and cycles,
and scenes that we’ve all seen before.
Let me tell you some more.”

—Willie Nelson

Have you ever felt like the dog that chased the car … and caught it?

The Dog That Chased the Car

We lived in St. Augustine, Florida a few years ago, and were fortunate to own a condo a couple of blocks from the beach; it was wonderful. But unfortunately, those were very active hurricane years. We evacuated a couple of times, and hunkered down and weathered two category 1 hurricanes. No complaints though – we loved our life there, and that’s just part of the Florida beach package.

Evacuation route

But every year when the official start of hurricane season rolled around (June first), we’d have the conversation about how we were going to handle a “slate wiper.” For us, that meant a hurricane with severe wind damage and a storm surge that would flood our first-floor condo, which sat exactly 9 feet above sea level. Our inner pragmatists looked on this scenario with doom and dread; our house in shambles and all our belongings ruined. But our change-loving alter egos wondered what it would be like to start over with a clean slate.

Hurricane Devastation

Be careful what you wish for; a few weeks ago we had a slate-wiper minus the hurricane. This transpired when we sold our condo on St. Simons Island, and the buyers wanted it all – from pots and pans to plants and plasma. In fact, the exact words in the contract were:

“Property shall be sold furnished in the exact condition as it was when Buyer viewed the property.”

So other than our clothing, some personal items, and a few special pieces of art, on the day of closing we walked out with suitcases.

Our Rolling Backpacks

How cool is that?

In addition to making the move easy-peasy, the furnished sale presented a rare opportunity to get all new stuff (Look out Ikea, here we come!). But new things aren’t the only reason we’re excited. For us, it’s an opportunity to leave behind the “that was us then” and build the “this is us now.”

As you may have gathered from previous posts, we’re both big believers in simplicity and minimalism. And our clean slate gives us the chance to evaluate precisely how our needs, tastes, and priorities have changed. Each new purchase is carefully considered as to how it fits in our new life.

Leaving most of our possessions behind also inspired us to examine the things we kept. For the first time we realized that our art and travel mementos are a curated collection accumulated over years of traveling and moving around, and they’re a collage of our lives.

Condo Living Room
The Whole Enchilada!

We were surprised and pleased that someone liked our condo enough to want the whole enchilada, and we’ll take a car-move instead of a U-Haul any day. This is how we moved in our university days, so we’ve come full circle – and it feels fantastic. Now if we can just locate a screwdriver, we’ll put that dresser together.

Our Loaded Car

If you have a tale about a furnished sale or a clean slate story, we’d love to hear it – hopefully it wasn’t a hurricane.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri


Photo Credits:
1. farmer64
2. Sheila Sund via Wikimedia Commons
3. Grafixar  
4. msand39   

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

56 thoughts

    1. It was such a surprise, and we knew for some time that it was going to happen, but it’s still a bit difficult to adjust to. But it’s been nothing but positive so far. ~James

  1. I emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand 3.5yrs ago. I sold my car and as much of my belongings as I could, put the few things I wanted to keep in boxes to ship at a later date, and came over with just 1 backpack which contained only summer clothes (the season in which I was arriving). Even now, those boxes are still cluttering my parent’s house in Scotland, having discovered that a lot of what they contain actually aren’t missed. It was a refreshing process, and you realise exactly what things are just that: ‘things’ and of no real importance. Now, if only I could have fit my parents into my backpack…

    1. Fi, most people we’ve spoken with who’ve done a hefty downsizing, for whatever reason, share you opinion. It is just things. We came to this reality long ago, and it’s made our lives so much simpler. It clears the deck so we can focus on what’s really important – each other and our lives. You must have understanding parents (or they must have lots of free storage). ~James

  2. We so wished for that to happen when we sold our place but alas it was not to be. How lucky that you found buyers who wanted it all, making your move so much simpler. You must be feeling pretty free!
    PS Love the opening photo – must go check that site.

    1. Alison, when the closing finalized, the money was in the bank, and we were on the road with all our stuff, it was absolutely exhilarating. It was a strange and complex felling, and difficult to describe, but the feeling of freedom was palpable and the two of us were giddy. Everyone should experience this once in their life. ~James

  3. Congrats on the move and cheers to a new beginning! My husband and I sold everything of ours back in 2013 and moved to Europe, traveling around for a year. After that, we came back to Seattle and moved to LA, where we continued to live minimally. And after a year there, we moved to our current spot in Austin. But, of course, we will be moving again come new year, selling everything, with a new beginning en route to Maui.

    1. Thanks Angie. Even the simplest of moves are tough, and having a load of possessions to worry about only makes it more difficult. Fewer things and living minimally, like you and your husband, is perfect for travelers like you. We’ve found that it’s a difficult process to reverse. Before we buy anything, we consider the “clutter factor.” We ask ourselves: “Do we really want/need this, or will it just clutter things up?” Austin to Maui sounds like a big change – best of luck. ~James

  4. We did our own “slate wiper” before we took off traveling in 2012. It felt so freeing to shed ourselves of our possessions and realize that things can own us rather than the other way around. Eventually though, when we figure out a home base once again we look forward to buying things that reflect the people we are now and continuing a minimalistic lifestyle. The less you own and have to “feed” and care for the more time you have to enjoy your life. Have fun in this whole new chapter of your lives! Anita

    1. Anita, I’ve had you and Richard pegged as slate-wipers from the get-go. We’re still going through the process, and it’s so liberating to think about and make decisions about the “this is us now” life. Everyone should go through this process, hopefully earlier in life rather than later. ~James

  5. Interesting James and Terri! We are facing a similar situation. We shipped our US stuff so we’d have something to sit on and sleep on. We sold some of our UK stuff and stored the rest 10 years ago. We’ve no idea what we have in storage – jackets with shoulder pads? Having hankered after my stuff all these years I now think we’ll get rid of most of it and buy new. I’ve Google mapped our nearest Ikea.

    1. Like you, we’ve bounced around for a long time Carol, and until recently, each move or long trip involved putting our varying amounts of stuff in storage. It would probably be depressing to count up the number of storage units we’ve had. For me, trying to remember just exactly what I have in storage is a huge, bright red flag that I have too much stuff; which usually leads to a massive culling out. I then get the chance to beat myself up for not culling out BEFORE I put all my junk in storage. ~James

  6. When my parents moved into a travel trailer, they sold everything, gave things away, donated things and eventually what was left was stored in the upper part of our barn. My parents were keepers, savers and buyers, so we learned a lot from watching what they went through. We have adopted a new policy in our lives because of that. We are moving into our motorhome on May 1, 2019, so now when we think about a purchase, we ask ourselves “Will it fit in Waldo in 4 years or will we have used it up by then?” It is amazing all of the purchases we have decided to pass on based on that single question. As it is, we still will have so much “stuff” to get rid of. Congrats on the clean slate! What was the one thing you both knew immediately you had to keep?

    1. It sounds like your philosophy and approach is spot on Laura. Everything that goes out the door now is something you won’t have to worry about later. We have a small townhouse, and are working hard to buy the right kind of stuff for us and our new space. But going from a house to RV, that’s another whole challenge. As to the one thing: you always ask very interesting questions Laura. The one thing was a signed lithograph by Peter Max, who was known for his psychedelic art. He was in his Chagall phase at the time and he painted a beautiful woman sitting in a floral chair. The lithograph has survived our many downsizings and has moved with us many times. And it’s on our mantle right now. ~James

  7. I can feel how freeing it must feel to just take what you can carry with you. I don’t need much but i’m tied to my kitties an my books. Can’t part with the books because I haven’t read them all an the kitties and I are family. 😦

    1. Tess, it’s all about being happy and making conscious choices, and it sounds like you’re doing both. I can relate to your fellings on books. I’ve had a book habit for some time, and it’s one of the things I have to fight constantly. The kindle has been great for me, but I still buy actual books faster than I can read them, and they tend to build up, which forces me to go through a periodic culling out. ~James

      1. Tess, as far as I’m concerned, these thrift stores are dealing readable drugs. Unless I give myself a good talking to, I usually don’t leave empty-handed either. ~James

    1. Joyce, I can still remember the wonderful feeling of excitement and sheer joy when, as newlyweds, we loaded up our little yellow Pinto and left Lexington for our new life in New Orleans. We couldn’t have been happier then or now. The next time we’re together you’ll have to tell us the story of your and Dascal’s start as newlyweds. Love, JH

  8. This is exactly what happened when we sold our home in Sedona. We are also what I would call minimalists so it was the perfect situation. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks LuAnn. Other than stretching out the closing date longer than we wanted, these were the perfect buyers. In addition to buying the lot, they paid cash! I’m almost afraid that we used up all our good real estate karma in one sale. But we’ll take it anyway. ~James

  9. When I left on my six month bike trip, everything I owned fit on my bike… except for some books I put in storage and a box of memorabilia, that means nothing to anyone but me. –Curt

    1. I did a one-month bike tour and have done a bit of backpacking, and both taught me how things can truly be reduced to their essence. And as part of an evacuation plan in Sudan all the expats were required to develop a one-bag bug out plan. You and I are lucky to have had the opportunity to see our possessions for what they really are, and it has been an advantage for me for many years. ~James

      1. The only material items I ever ‘shed a tear’ over leaving behind were books, James. Life can indeed be very, very simple. Living in forest fire country, we too have to think about what we would take with us. Beyond Peggy, not much. 🙂 –Curt

  10. Wow! That is impressive! I would consider Dave and I to be minimalists but this will give us something to think about and to work toward. We send our very best wishes for your new life and clean slate. We can’t wait to hear where the road leads in the years ahead.

    1. Sue with all the media hype and peer pressure it’s difficult to remember when it’s just enough. Of course this point is different for everyone, but the important thing is making the conscious choice, instead of letting someone else decide. And I’m sure that as parents it’s much easier with mature children on their own. ~James

  11. I’m looking right now at my grandparent’s bottle collection, one of several sentimental items we’ve kept with us. We’ve downsized twice in the last six years, and I can feel another comin’ on. But a clean slate??? THAT sounds just amazing.

    1. It is amazing Susan. We’ve tried to keep a representative memento from each of our parents, and for us, it’s quality over quantity. Like you, we did our downsizing in stages. I think that it’s a bit like dieting – a crash plan never works long term. It worked best for us when we allowed ourselves time to adjust along the way. Ultimately, it not how you get there, but that you eventually arrive. ~James

  12. Amazing! I have too big a personal nature museum to ever pull that off, but hats off to you! And it is fun to get new stuff!

  13. That’s amazing! Do you know how rare it is that a buyer wants it all? Congrats on starting anew — you’ll have fun choosing just what you want to live with from here on out. But just in case you don’t, could I send you some Big Orange stuff for that KY condo? You know you like orange.

    1. Rusha, when we sold our condo in St. Augustine Beach our buyers cherry-picked lots of our furniture, and that was great. Since SSI is a big tourist area like SAB, we thought the same thing might happen there, but we never expected to sell everything. And BTW, thanks for the offer of some Big Orange stuff, but are you trying to get me killed? We now live in the very heart of the BBN (Big Blue Nation), and in addition to dangerous locals our families would disown us. 🙂 ~James

  14. We did something similar when we moved to Spain last fall. We bought a place completely furnished recently which is what they typically do here. I must admit I moved more over here than I should have. I have trouble giving up some of my mementoes. I admire you for moving it all by car! Best of luck in your new home.

    1. Buying a furnished place sounds perfect in your situation Darlene, and it has to be easier and more convenient that shipping loads of furniture. We’ve shipped our US furniture once and with the time, customs hassles, and inevitable damage, we learned that it wasn’t an appealing option. ~James

  15. I can’t imagine just leaving with the car. Then again I hink I have a little of my hoarder mother in me, much as I try not to. It seems like a brave thing to do.

    1. A few moves will sort that hoarding issue Marie. We’re well into replacing our things (And what are we sleeping on tonight?) and though it’s lots of work, we’re having fun with it. We’ve been minimalists for years and haven’t really bought many things. And now we’re learning to shop again. It’s certainly a different experience for us. ~James

  16. Now I feel like a “hoarder” too! I think a major move would be good for the soul and for finally cleaning out my closets! Good Luck and congrats on the move!!

    1. Martha, after years of moving around (we stopped counting at 27), we finally decided that there had to be a better way. In any move, you touch each and every one of your possessions three times: when it’s packed, carrying the box, and unpacking. Take the number of possessions and multiply by 3 – you get the idea. This reality is what pushed us into the world of simplicity and minimalism, and it’s made all the difference. ~James

    1. Thanks for reblogging our post Mona. It was a wonderful surprise that took a bit of getting used to, but it’s a golden opportunity for self-examination and change. ~James

    1. Joanne this move, which I’ve come to call “extreme downsizing” was a wonderful surprise, and it took it a while to sink in. But I have to say, that walking out with suitcases was the reality check that brought it all home. Replacing all our stuff has been lots of work (and we’re still in the process), but we’ve been having great fun with it. Everyone should try it once. ~James

  17. We left our home in Amsterdam with a two rucksacks each when we became nomads 7 years ago. It’s so good to live like this. My friends ask how I manage with so few clothes (!). It pares things down to essentials, what you want, need, love. The test will come when we settle down somewhere again, although I cannot ever imagine having ‘stuff’ again. Now instead of ‘owning’ I love sharing, passing things on.

    1. Tracey, what a wonderful attitude you have. I love it. And 7 years of wandering is fantastic. After years of nomadic rambling we decided to have a home base, but we still wander all the time. Like you, we’re still not fans of “stuff” and keep our lives simple. And I love your approach: “Now instead of ‘owning’ I love sharing, passing things on.” It’s people like you who make the world a better place. ~Terri

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