In October of 2011, I “retired” from the position of Associate Dean for Education in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. In January of 2010, the School hired a new Dean, Dr. James Shepard, who brought new leadership and energy. He has a positive vision for the School that will position it well for the future. After giving the new Dean a year to smooth the transition, I felt it was time to step back to the faculty and prepare myself for retirement. My wife, Kal, and I started to think seriously about what we wanted to do and where we wanted to live in retirement. Auburn has been home for us for 25 years and we raised all three of our children in this great college town. However, we were not certain that we necessarily wanted to retire here. We had done a lot of camping with our children over the years and really enjoyed traveling and camping. We both wanted to travel a lot during our retirement years as long as we are both strong and healthy. However, my retirement income would not be sufficient to sustain both a house and extensive travel. We talked with some people about living in an RV full time and we decided this might be what we both wanted to do. Therefore, the first step (and it was a big one) was to divest ourselves of most of our worldly possessions and fix up the house to put it on the market. We therefore spent the next year on this project. We donated a lot of stuff to the thrift stores, friends, and our family. Each of the children came home with the express purpose of going through their stuff and taking what they wanted. For example, William showed up with a truck and trailer to take our large computer desk, Lazy-Boy sectional sofa, and multiple other items for their home in Maryland. My co-worker Bill Handley ended up with the kitchen table, many of my tools, and eventually our dresser drawers (when we are finally finished with them). The hardest things to get rid of for me were all the paperback books that I had been collecting for decades. There were easily over 1500 books scattered on bookshelves throughout the house. Nearly all of these were donated to the city library. I was surprised when Ann Huyler, a graduate student in the School, approached me one day to tell me she had purchased the entire collection of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series from the library only to find my name printed on the first page. I read these books in high school over 30 years ago! Finally, boxes of clothes, knickknacks, and furniture nobody wanted were donated to the local thrift store. Family heirlooms and memorabilia were taken to either my sister’s Suzy garage in Tennessee or Kal’s parent’s garage in Birmingham. We are now left with a set of dishes, pots and pans, a card table, 2 dresser drawers, a TV stand and two twin mattresses on the floor. In fact, we use three folding camp chairs for our living room to watch TV. The pictures below will give you some sense of our living conditions since January, 2013.
At the same time that we were going through and getting rid of nearly all of our belongings, we also began to invest money into the house and yard to get them ready to be put on the market. The yard was first beginning with taking out the large river birch tree that was overhanging and dropping limbs on the house. This was followed by extensive yard work including grass sod in the the front and back, rock walls around the trees in the front and back, and multiple plants including hydrangea, ferns, holly, Japanese maple, blackeye susans, and sparkleberry. The best added feature was the river stones lining the driveway and front walk. During the fall of 2012, we also contracted to extensive work inside the house. In addition to painting every room, new carpet upstairs and downstairs, and new linoleum in the kitchen and family room, we had installed all new light fixtures, toilets, and granite counter tops in the kitchen and all bathrooms. All of this cost quite a bit of money, but since we were going to sell the house we financed it through an equity loan on the house.