It’s always a little bit of a shock for me coming off the desert where I’ve lived for 8 months, and going into a house.
These days, I travel back East for the summer, living out of my van in my daughter’s back yards.
Coming from minimalist living for 8 months in the desert, it always surprises me how much STUFF a house can hold. Neither of my daughter’s families are over consumers or hoarders, but just out of curiosity, I counted the number of coffee cups in my daughter’s cupboard. There were 18.
I’m not a minimalist in the strictest sense, but fitting everything you own into a minivan is by its very nature a minimalist venture.
To fit my nomad life into the minivan, I got rid of most of my possessions. I’d put my cedar post bed and some other things I wasn’t ready to part with in storage, and then less than a year later emptied the storage and got rid of all of it. The bed. Kitchen stuff. Wine glasses. Plates, silverware, towels, pillows. All the stuff I’d carefully selected for my previous home. It felt great, and it felt sad.
Now I carry two coffee cups. Two forks. two spoons, two knives … give or take. One paring knife, one chef knife, one saucepan, a small frying pan, a large frying pan and a few kitchen utensils. My few indulgences are having more than one pair of shoes, and hoodies that seem to multiply.
Really, how many forks and knives do we really need? How many coats, shoes or bras?
Most nomads start out with too much. My first trip out, my 8 cylinder engine had trouble making it up the mountain drive to the Adirondacks.
So you purge, then purge, and then you purge again.
Each time you get more freedom and more space. A friend of mine, Kimberly Dawn said recently, is it a burden, or does it give me more peace?
I did my first van purge after only 4 days on the road, and countless times since then. The most recent purge was a few months ago, resulting in getting rid of my screen shelter. I don’t miss the time it takes to pound in 8 stakes, attach 3 ratchet straps, and pile rocks on all the stakes so it won’t blow away in the desert wind. I’ve gained the freedom of not having to set it up and break it down every time I move camp and I love it!
Personally, my goal is to have the least amount of STUFF to accomplish all of the necessary life functions.
Was it easy? Nope!
When I was purging my belongings back in the beginning, I wrote in my journal that I felt Freedom. Sadness. Letting go. Being untethered. Uncertain.
Material things aren’t about security. They just FEEL like they are!
For capitalistic western culture to thrive, it must convince its citizens to believe, and to FEEL, that physical possessions are not just optional, but necessary for a normal life.
Just walk into any department store or grocery store or discount store, step back, and observe the never ending aisles of STUFF. We’re conditioned by the media to crave this overwhelming variety of material goods. The research that goes into studying exactly how we’re compelled to buy these items is a multi-billion dollar industry in itself … an industry utterly dependent on our continued consumerism.
Our wealth, and VALUE, is measured by our material possessions, by the number of things we’re able to accumulate.
We fill our homes with all the stuff we’ve been convinced to buy, and having THINGS helps us to feel satisfied, safe and secure, in part an ancient biological imperative to have enough provisions stored up for lean times.
Not only that, our brain chemistry rewards us with dopamine, a feel good brain chemical, when we shop. Our brain chemistry is being manipulated by the media so we’ll stay motivated to buy more stuff!!!
Since dopamine is also released naturally in copious quantities when we travel and seek new sights, there’s no lack of good feeling dopamine rushes living as a nomad!
Minimizing our stuff gives us the opportunity to define for ourselves what is meaningful, and to learn that life experiences are more important than stuff.
I’ve purged most of my belongings, but I didn’t give up anything. I gained a life. I gained LIFE! There are places I would’ve never seen, experiences I would’ve never had if I hadn’t chosen nomad life. (Click The Cosmic Nomad Journey to see some places I’ve been!)
This is the life I yearned for.
I’m living IN Life.
I bask in the sun, feel the breezes, tune into the Earth, commune with the plants and creatures, and gaze on the wondrous stars and moon at night.
This is where I THRIVE, where I’m most authentic, most myself.
This is home.
For more on minimalism and nomad life read: Wild Women On the Road: A Women’s Guide To Nomadic Freedom In The Modern Age