2018: EXIT STRATEGY
It was time to start selling things, including our kayaks, and the remainder of a grass-fed, half cow-share that we had stored in our garage freezer. Thankfully everything sold quickly on Craigslist, but the effort it took to create the ads and stay on top of the replies seemed almost greater than it was worth. We quickly realized that there was no way that we’d be doing it ourselves, particularly given our still compromised state.
At this point, David was still in a mindset that we wouldn’t be leaving until the end of October. Gaaaahh. That drove me nuts because our health kept sliding further and further backwards, the longer we were on the property. I wanted to be gone YESTERDAY!! But – that said, he was right. We simply had too much to take care of to get through anything quickly.
Part of the plan was to purchase a 14’ cargo trailer in which we could store the remainder of our belongings. If we could leave it in Vermont, (thanks to a willing friend with room on their property!), it would help us maintain our status as residents. Best of all, it meant we wouldn’t be paying endless monthly fees for a storage unit somewhere. With some modifications to the cargo trailer, we would have some control over the indoor environment as well. We wanted to avoid any condensation problems that could compromise our most beloved “keepers”.
After seeking high and low to find a cargo trailer that was the right size, as they seemed to be in short supply – we finally found one. David then had to prep it for further work, and make arrangements to have someone install spray foam insulation. The prep included removing and replacing all the cheap interior plywood, as well as relocating electrical components and installing a solar fan for better ventilation. This took quite some time because David was having to do the work using his old tools – which had been compromised by all the toxins. Just being around them made his head spin, and he had trouble thinking straight. Suffice it to say, we were literally down to the wire before the trailer was put back together and we could even start packing things into it.
I’d been slowly chipping away at my art studio, which was the least contaminated building. Early on. I’d had visions of being able to get out there and paint again, before having to give up my “dream come true” space. Maybe art would help me process this boatload of a shitstorm that had swept us away… Unfortunately, it had been a miserable summer, and I had been too sick to do anything remotely creative. Now, between hucking things and discovering old stuff… It was a wild ride. I kept telling myself that the faster I could get through it, the faster we could get the hell outta there. So, I was very driven— it was just my poor health & limited stamina holding me back.
Meanwhile – by early September 2018, we put the property up for sale, hoping we could get enough to cover what we owed. This included the remainder of the mortgage, plus the home equity loan — that had both covered the remediation, and was intended to be used to fix the house afterwards. (Grrrr….) It felt huge to have come to that decision point, with no going back — and it was absolutely heartbreaking. However, we felt better about it, knowing we had given full disclosure about all the issues, and because we had put it in the capable hands of our realtor. She had been a powerhouse for us in the past, and we had faith that she could help us sell the house quickly.
I had hoped our exit strategy would all go quickly and painlessly. However, I was blindsided with emotions the day they put the “For Sale” sign out and the real estate team literally swarmed the place. I just felt… so exposed, having our train wreck on full display. Quite the Ugh Factor. Suddenly it made things even more real. It was unsettling, but we knew it was the right thing. No question there. Just ridiculously sad, and heartbreaking, and ugly. Fun times.
The first morning after the house listing went live, people swarmed the place. The real estate group had posted that it was vacant, so at 8:00 am, I looked out the trailer windows to see strangers walking all around the property as if it were a public park. One was a random real estate agent, and there were a few contractor types, sizing up the property for potential flipping. Late in the day, there was another random car in the driveway. I was feeling totally vulnerable out back, all by myself with David at work. Who’s to tell what anyone’s intentions were, thinking the place was vacant, and easy pickings? We promptly got the listing changed to make sure it was by appointment only, and had a few promising showings right out of the gate.
Next, with the help of some dear friends, we found a local Estate Sale specialist who was willing to arrange and run a tag sale for us. We still needed to get rid of the rest of our belongings, including all our remaining furniture; multiple new appliances we’d bought as replacements last year; bales of Roxul insulation; sheets of drywall; and 1200 sq ft of brand-new, engineered, Brazilian Oak that was supposed to have been our new flooring.
We were also still trying to get traction on deciding what limited items we might want to save, and what items we would need to bring with us for living on the road. This, of course, was difficult – because it wasn’t much, but everything was buried amongst the stuff we wouldn’t be keeping. Things were either deep in the storage containers or in the garage – places that were toxic to us, making it virtually inaccessible despite being on-site. As it turned out, the estate sale crew wasn’t able to help us until just before the sale itself, so much of the work became condensed into a very short time frame.
By late September we still had no clue when the grand departure would be, or even when we’d pick up our new rig. There was too much up in the air on all fronts — it was insanely stressful. We couldn’t get our new rig until we were free of the house and leaving for good. It was too big to maneuver onto the property, and even if we could have gotten it there, we didn’t want to risk contaminating it.
Not to mention that the RV dealer had royally screwed up our loan. They were getting antsy to seal the deal and have us sign papers, so we drove 3 hours to upstate NY to make it official. After 45 minutes of signatures, we came across a page making us swear that we’d never live in the trailer full-time. Whaaaaat?!!
We’d been up-front and above-board from the very beginning of the transaction. No way were we going to sign off on that. It left us starting over to find our own financing at the last possible minute. Enter another three weeks of daily mayhem – calling a West Coast bank to get things squared away long distance, and having our sales guy drop the ball at every turn. Just what we needed at this stage of the game!
Everything else was dependent on the house selling (ever hopeful), a firm date (yet unknown) for the estate sale, and getting the (yet unfinished) cargo trailer loaded. Tick-tock… Winter was coming. We’d already been having cold weather, and a relatively early fall – going through much more propane to keep the trailer warm. Hitting the road and living the full-time RV life seemed like it would be a piece of cake in comparison to all we were dealing with.