Think about having to move all your stuff. Think about the weight. And the volume.
The Wuhan Flu put my wife and me on the unemployment line on March 16, 2020. Living in northern New Jersey (NJ), in Bergen County with its nearly 1 million inhabitants, 25 miles from New York City, with incredibly high property and personal income taxes was no longer tenable. We had a place to “bug out” to. My son had moved to Tennessee a few years ago and had a bed for us. But just a bed. No room for our 60 super pails, our 120 ammo cans, our over a hundred #10 cans of freeze-dried and conventional fruits and vegetables. But even if they did have room, how were we going to get our stuff out of NJ to a location over 900 miles away? My employer made me a great deal on my work truck, an E-350 Ford utility body van with dual rear tires and a heavy-duty transmission. So, we left our home of over 30 years in the care of our daughter (who had been squatting with us for over a year looking for the “right house”) and loaded the truck and the car, a mid-sized SUV, and made our first trip down South.
This was no small task, especially for two people in our mid-sixties. (And four days into our adventure my wife fell and broke her arm and installed her eyeglasses into her forehead. MRIs, plastic surgery, a crippling injury.) Plus, I worried about overloading the truck. Do the math: Sixty super pails weighs well over 2,500 pounds. Ammo cans vary from ten to thirty pounds, depending on whether they are .50 cal. or .30 cal., and whether they are full of ammo or nickels. Oh, the nickels! Inspired by JWR, I started collecting nickels when they were worth $.07 each in melt value. Every paycheck I would buy a box at the bank. I worked for a small company and we did not have direct deposit so I had to go to the bank to cash/deposit my check every week. I became to be known as “The nickel guy”. I explained to the bank staff I was putting together a coin collection with my grandson, which was true. If nothing else it was a great savings plan. But after three years I had over three thousand pounds of nickels. This was not going to go to Tennessee! But the 2,000 pounds of ammo in cans were.
Actually, having the coins — all 155 twenty-two-pound boxes of them — proved to be a blessing. The banks were glad to take them, eight or ten at a time. Covid-19 caused a coin shortage and we needed the money. It took me over a month and I had to go to every branch in the area, but I cashed in almost all of them. We needed the money because the New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Agency was totally overwhelmed and our benefits were delayed. I did not get my first check until the second week of June, almost three months after I lost my job. Thankfully, my wife’s claim went through faster, but her benefits were not nearly enough to carry us. (OBTW- I did not feel one hint of guilt or regret collecting this benefit. We paid into this system every paycheck for forty-plus years, it was our money coming back to us.) We were sitting on a gold mine. Our home was worth over $600,000, but that would do us no good until we sold it. Plus, I needed to do about $50,000 in home repairs in order to close the deal. Our 65-year-old septic system would need to be eliminated and the sewer connection was really involved, which is why I put it off for over twenty years. And things we had learned to live with, the broken microwave door, the peeling stain on the deck, the cracked patio, the faded paint, the dated faux finished walls, all this needed to be repaired or replaced.
And the house needed to be empty. Goodbye, 400 pounds of salt (to the curb). Goodbye, snowblower and chest freezer (sold to a co-worker for half their worth). Goodbye 50 year tool collection (sold to my poor helper, for 20 cents on the dollar). Goodbye, huge computer desk, piano, Weber grill, swing set, trampoline, deck and patio furniture, kitchen table — you get the picture. I got good money for some of these items which enabled me to buy a 14’ vee-nosed trailer. And the truck needed a hitch and brake controller installed. That was another $1,100. Interestingly, the trailer was tough to get. All the used ones in the area, and there were not many, were either too small, too big, or junk. I got a great price on a new one but could not get the exact model I wanted as it was back ordered three months. For the last trip down I had the truck and trailer loaded to the gills. Our garage sale was a limited success, we made a few hundred dollars but sold less than half the stuff we needed to get rid of. All the rest went to the curb. Thankfully some of it was picked up by Freecycle folks before the garbage truck arrived.
But we had to keep the Berkey, the framed photos, the pots and pans and dishes, the blender and coffee maker, the beer steins my grandfather brought over from Germany, the bicycles, the canning jars, the pressure cooker, the beds, and the precious metals. I managed all of 9 MPG and was climbing hills at 45 MPH. The only really heavy furniture we moved was our dining room table. My wife could not bear to sell it for a fraction of its worth (we did try) and she loved it. She indulged my “Crazy Train” prepping for the last 13 years, so it was the least I could do.
A Cautionary Tale
This story is meant to be a cautionary tale. Look at your preps. Think about having to pick up and bug out. Think about the weight, not just the physical effort of moving it, but the capacity of your vehicles, both in weight and volume. Think about where you are going to put all this stuff in your new location. Mr. Rawles wrote a story about a couple who spent a frantic night deciding what they were able to take and what they were going to have to leave behind. I was given months to deal with this, and it still was an ordeal. I knew we were going to pull up stakes when my wife got the COBRA health insurance letter on July 1, 2020. That told me her job was not coming back. She got the word, “Get out” while walking and praying a month later.
We did not close on the sale of our home until mid-November even though we accepted an offer in early August. God gave me over three months to clean house, and I needed all that time to get the job done. But you might not get that much time. You might have to pick up and head out in a few weeks, or a few days. What will you take, and what will you leave? What will you give away, and what will you try to sell? We had to luxury of time to sell our beat-up sofa and love seat, and amazingly got $50 for them. My precious stained glass door bookcase went for just $40. We got a much-needed $1,000 for the too heavy and too big to move piano and computer desk.
I gave away a ton of stuff–literally. Socks and garden tools and dressers and beds and paintings and area rugs and all the stuff an affluent couple collects in decades of prosperity. God showed us how little we needed, living in a borrowed bed with half our stuff left behind in NJ and half in my son’s garage, stacked to the ceiling. You can’t move from a five-bedroom house to a small condo and take it all with you. Nor should you. You don’t really need 20,000 rounds of 5.56, do you? Nor do you need a 48-gun safe filled to capacity. It is nice to have a couple of years of grains in pails, but might a bucket of heirloom seeds be just as valuable?
Consider what you are accumulating and its real worth, will you ever need all this heavy, heavy stuff? I was so blessed to sell (at fire-sale prices) our kitchen furniture to a woman who had lost her sister and brother-in-law and was caring for her orphaned niece and nephew. I found a ministry in Paterson, NJ, called Star of Hope. They were glad to take the closets full of clothes we no longer needed. Paterson is not the poorest city in NJ, I think that honor goes to Camden. But it is a poster child of a drug-dependent, generational welfare-dependent, crime-ridden, urban mess. That it exists a few miles from some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country is a sad commentary on our government’s failed “war on poverty” policies.
I have tried to be a good steward of the gifts God has given me. As a couple, my wife and I have learned of God’s wonderful provision and of His perfect plan for our lives. I had a plan; I was going to work another five years and pay off the mortgage and have another $100,000 in our Roth IRA and max out our 401Ks and have enough to spend winters on the beach in Florida or the Caribbean. Now I am retired early and living large, five minutes from five of my grandchildren, paying no state income tax and enjoying life in the Bible belt, where you can plant your garden a month earlier than up North, where you can carry a firearm without being related to a senator, where you can go to a (crowded) church without having to pre-qualify and where masks are the exception. Also, a church where wearing a sidearm raises no eyebrows.
I want to give a happy postscript to this tale of ripped-up lives and lost heirlooms. We found we can live in a borrowed bed without all the stuff of the middle-class American lifestyle. Some say “one is none and two is one”, but seven AR-15s is overkill. We have learned to trust God in a new way, as He has supplied all our needs, especially financial needs, when the rug was pulled from beneath us. Our net worth, despite not having worked in over a year, has not dropped precipitously. We have lost a lot of weight, not just a few tons of stuff and fluff, but we have learned that our God’s supplies our needs according to his riches in Christ Jesus. We still have an abundance, and can share with those in need. So, in light of this truth, I challenge you to slim down. Give out of your abundance, find needs around you that you are privileged to meet. Then if you are forced to move out, you will have an easier time of it and will have learned to trust in God’s good plan and provision.