How Owning Less Makes Me Happier

How Owning Less Makes Me Happier

As I wrap up the year and enter 2021 I find myself thinking about happiness more and more and how owning less makes me happier.

I started this journey of Story Chasing by traveling full time to gather more moments of deliberate happiness.

This is what makes me happy – living with less and traveling. This is my dream. Yours can be something entirely different.

The one thing that I believe any of us can do – no matter what path you are on for creating more happiness is to live with less and adopt a more minimalist lifestyle.

Click here to watch the video: https://youtu.be/fwklLcn8gIg

My First Introduction to Downsizing

It all started when I downsized my living space when I moved to downtown Seattle in 2014 and into a 480 sq foot apartment. I got rid of the excess and only kept what I really needed to live, like a bed, a couch, a desk to work from, and all the bathroom, kitchen, and clothing essentials. I even downsized decorations so that I wasn’t moving things around all the time to clean and dust.

The freedom of owning less and living more simply in a minimalist life was thrilling. I had this feeling of abundance and peace that I don’t think I had ever felt before.

Gone were the days of Amazon packages showing up at my door on a daily basis – I mean where would I put the stuff?

It was so freeing.

I loved the smallness of the space and how simple it was.

At the time, I had no idea that I could go even smaller with my downsizing and minimalist lifestyle.

Next Steps to Even More Downsizing

Fast forward to 2017 when I bought an RV and set out on the road – I again felt this complete sense of freedom, calm, and extreme happiness.

I realize the thought of downsizing so much can be challenging to our minds, but once you start – it becomes addictive because you start to live without the clutter that causes stress and anxiety and sometimes even more money to maintain.

I began to shift my focus from acquiring things to focusing on relationships, self care, exploring lands, and enjoying the beauty around me.

My mind began to get clearer as if the physical stuff had been taking up space in my head.

 

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Living as a Nomad

The clutter was replaced with moments. With stories. Stories of traveling. Stories of people I met on the road. Stories of hiking, biking, motorcycling, whale watching, and so much more.

I got off the hamster wheel of buying stuff and instead traded it in for living in a van that’s 20 feet long and about 80 sq feet. This van is my mode of travel.

It’s the only thing I own in this world along with the contents inside. It feels good to me knowing that my little van, my home on wheels, allows me to shift my focus to creating more stories.

This may seem like extreme minimalism to some, but you don’t have to go this extreme. This is how I chose to declutter, downsize, and live a happier life. You can start to downsize and declutter in your own space now. What are you hanging on to that doesn’t serve you or add any value to your life. Even more important, what are you keeping around that is toxic to your life and doesn’t provide space for you to live a happier, more fulfilled life?

Simple living and owning less is what makes me happier. Leave me a comment below and tell me at least 2 things you can do this month to declutter and simplify your surroundings and your life.

 

This is Where I Live in My 20 Foot Camper Van

This is Where I Live in My 20 Foot Camper Van

In 2017 I sold my house and everything I owned to live out my dream life as a full-time digital nomad. I started in a 26 foot RV and within a year downsized into a 20-foot van.

I’ve been traveling in an RV for the last 3 and half years around the US, Mexico, and Canada, but I think we can all agree that this last year has brought about many challenges.

2020 has been filled with some major ups and downs and definitely challenged me with traveling between states and countries. I’m just grateful that I can still travel.

Just recently we were able to get my Canadian boyfriend, legally, across the border with his van but with the new travel advisories, we had to cancel our winter trip to sunny Baja Mexico. Instead, we’re spending some of the winter in the southwest United States and crossing off a few bucket list places, but first – I want to show you how I live in my van and what’s it like on a daily basis from morning until evening.

RVing is my dream – but what is your dream?

Watch the full video here: https://youtu.be/Q9DaWPVPdu4

MORNING ROUTINE

This is where I live.

I wake up most mornings to the sunrise. The circadian rhythm of my body has become accustomed to waking with the sun rising and getting sleepy with the sunset. This natural rhythm only happened after I started this nomad life and got rid of the alarm clock.

My mind and body enjoy and thrive under this natural rhythm of waking. It feels refreshing and gentle instead of that jolt from sleep you get with a loud buzzer ringing next to you annoyingly wake you up from a rather sound and joyous sleep state.

Lily seems to be in tune with her circadian rhythm as well and wakes with the sun though sometimes she’ll sleep in and I have to wake her for breakfast.

On this winter day in the desert, it can be quite cold at night. I typically sleep with the furnace off and instead opt for a very warm goose down comforter to keep us warm at night. Our propane tank is so small that keeping the furnace going all night would then require me to fill up with propane every 4-5 days.

So the first thing I do when getting up is to turn the van on to get those cold lithium batteries charged up a bit and to get the heat flowing through the van quickly from the dashboard heater. With the dashboard heater on I then turn on the furnace to help heat the floors and provide a constant source of warmth.

Opening the blinds will also help to bring in warm direct sunlight into the van and also help to wake us up in the morning.

I’ll wash up a bit, throw on some clothes, and start the coffee on my induction cooktop. I have a propane stovetop, but again, because our propane tank is so small I’d rather use an induction cooktop that uses electricity generated from solar panels or the 2nd alternator on my van. I also love that the induction cooktop cooks foods much quicker and more evenly.

Breakfast is usually oatmeal or eggs or a smoothie. Today we’ll have oatmeal with some raisins my fave is the Bob’s Red Mill organic thick-cut rolled oats with some nuts and seeds and a dollop of honey.

This week, Scott and I are in Quartzsite, AZ with our friend Dave and his dog Kirby who joined us during the holidays. I think we may even travel together a bit around Arizona soon too.

One of my favorite past times growing up is to sit outside and drink my coffee, eat my breakfast, and enjoy family and friends.

It’s no different for me now. It feels so good to sit here and enjoy my hot coffee and the conversations we have as a nomadic community of friends. It’s somehow peaceful and allows us to connect and build relationships – even or dogs partake of the morning chats as we watch the sun continue to rise and fill our campsite with warmth on these chilly mornings.

WHAT'S IT LIKE AT OUR CAMPSITE EACH DAY

When picking a camping site I have several requirements:

  • The weather must be above freezing and preferably warm during the days.
  • It must have a cell signal so I can operate my online business.
  • A space with plenty of room between us and other campers.
  • A place where I can sit outside and enjoy the beauty and throw out my yoga mat for some exercise.
  • …and lastly, a place that is peaceful and quiet most of the time.

If it has some trees to secure the hammock -well that’s a bonus! That one is a bit harder to come by in the desert with the lack of trees.

Most days I work on the business, but I also play a lot. Sometimes we’ll have friends who drop by for several days and camp with us. It’s one of the things I love about this life – the nomad community of friends with similar interests and the dream to travel and be free from the norm.

Our dogs are a constant source of entertainment. They love to play catch with the ball – except Lily who would rather sit on a lap and bask in the sun.

We go for walks and enjoy the landscape around us – yes even the desert.

We pick up the campsite when the wind comes barreling through and knocks over chairs and whips around the mats.

We listen to podcasts, the radio, and music – things that speak to us and enrich our brains and soul.

We break out a hobby to soothe our creative juices. I used to knit a lot, but it somehow seems useless in this life right now, so I have a new hobby I’m taking up that you will soon see. I’m so excited about this new adventure and the ability to create and use my hands for making beautiful art.

It’s one of the other things I love about this life – the simplicity of having time to create, to enjoy, to explore, to read, to build relationships. In my life before – it was a constant churn of busyness and chaos with work and the house. I had little room in my life to create or even date somebody.

It feels good to share this life with others and with Scott.

EXERCISE & SELF CARE

My weight seems to be a constant battle – one that ebbs and flows. I do well with losing weight and then I don’t. I’m in the don’t phase right now and working to correct that again.

One thing I constantly must do is to keep my body stretched and flexible. As I’ve aged I can feel the inflexibility creeping in so I love to do yoga and simple 5 minute back decompression that seems to reset my back each day and keep it moving as it should.

Feeling the warmth of the sun on my body and doing a short meditation as I decompress grounds me and balances my energy and mind. In combination with meditation, I journal to manifest my desires – my dreams – and express gratitude for every moment. While I love the tactile feeling of paper and pen – and I might go back to it – right now I’m journaling with my iPad and pencil to reduce the number of items in my van and keep it simple and minimalist in here.

Our current camping group has e-bikes so it’s great to get out on a long ride and explore a little bit. Quartzsite had some great gravel trails for biking and our fat tire e-bikes glide over the rocks and terrain with ease.

Bicycling – no matter what weight I was at – has always been a favorite form of movement for me all of these years. It’s a feeling of freedom for me. The wind, the sun, the ability to stretch my legs with each turn of the pedals. It’s another form of exploration for me. To wander and see our lands.

I love the peacefulness of a ride and how it invigorates me and lights up every cell in my body with happiness.

WE DO ERRANDS

I try to group errands together all in one day so we don’t have to prepare the van for traveling too often.

We have to go into town to throw away our trash at designated transfer stations or sometimes the gas stations.

Since the gyms are more restrictive now with COVID guidelines, we’ve canceled our memberships and use public showers in the local area. It can be a cheaper option.

We found this shower at the local laundromat for $8 per person that supplied piping hot water and great pressure. Showers are one of the luxuries I miss about the sticks and bricks life, but I’ll take what I have created in this nomad life, sacrifice a daily shower, live with the dirt, and keep traveling. This is why I started Story Chasing – to create more moments  – more stories that fill my life with happiness and to live more simply.

In most towns, you’ll find a local mail center that will accept incoming packages for you for a small fee. On errand day, we pick up all of our mail and packages at the local mail center, remove all the contents, and burn the cardboard at our campfire if we can’t find a place to recycle it.

On this day, we found a great pizza restaurant in town and splurged on eating out – picked the pizza up and took it back to our campsite to devour. Most of the time we cook our meals – which we both prefer, but it’s nice to have a meal cooked for you and also support the local businesses.

WORKING & CLEANING

I’ve definitely embraced the simple minimalist life living in a van, but sometimes I can get carried away with thinking I need that something that I’ve had in the van for over a year and never used. Dave and Scott challenged me to start the purge and get rid of stuff I haven’t used in a while like the clothes and shoes I’ve been hanging out to or the broken camera equipment that I clearly don’t use.

I still can’t believe that I got rid of eight bags of things hanging around that didn’t serve me. It felt so good to be rid of that stuff that was creating chaos for me and anxiety with the stuff just sitting around collecting dust and not allowing me to get to the things I really do use.

Purging those things allowed me to buy this roll-up table that is perfect for pulling up the chairs and eating a meal each day. It’s funny how this little table created so much happiness for me by simply allowing us to gather around it for meals, conversation, and community. It’s the simple things that make me smile.

FOOD & MEALS

Recently I added this small toaster oven to my cooking appliances. I’ve longed for an oven for a while now and really miss what it has to offer. Like the simplest thing of making toast for breakfast or for a sandwich at lunchtime.

Another favorite is my small propane grill that plugs in directly to my onboard propane tank. Scott and I both love to cook on the grill. It’s fast, easy and wow does it taste so flavorful. Sometimes I’ll cook a whole package of chicken thighs or breasts to prep for the week and add to salads, omelets, or have as a main protein and add veggies to the plate.

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SoloStove sent me this campfire stove and pot to try out some cooking outdoors with a wood fire. Dave was my guinea pig and decided to cook some vegan burgers and sausages which turned out so well.

I love the solo stove and what it has to offer, but I think I’ll stick to my propane grill and induction cooktop. It’s just easier for me and doesn’t require me to chop all the wood and get a fire started, but it’s definitely great for those times when you go backpack camping and need to cook or heat up your water for coffee. Thank you SoloStove.

EVENING RITUAL

At night we start the wind down from our daily playing and working to enjoy the sunsets – especially in this Arizona desert where the colors of orange, purple, yellow, and pinks lights up the sky. I honestly have never seen more colorful sunsets than here in Arizona.

Sometimes we’ll put on a movie or a new episodic tv show, chat, and enjoy a relaxed evening.

Campfires are our favorite night time get together with those camping near us. We’ll bundle up in our warm jackets and hats, bring out the chairs, our favorite beverage which is typically a chai tea latte for me, and sit around the campfire listening to the crackle of wood.

I’m always mesmerized by the breathing in and out of the glowing wood that helps to provide us with warmth and a stunning show of flickering flames under a dark night sky lit up with brilliant stars.

Freedom. That word keeps coming up for me. Getting rid of the junk is freedom for me. Living this nomadic life is freeing for me. Bicycling is freedom. Drinking my coffee at sunrise and grounding my feet to the earth is freedom.

This is where I live.

 

ReallReallOvernights & Places Visited

Overnights/Cost: 

  • BLM land in Quartzsite, Arizona / $0

RV Accessibility:

  • Any RV can handle the BLM lands in Quartzsite. Just be careful in some areas with loose sand.

Cell Phone Signal Strength:  Really great cell signal except for January and February when thousands of people converge on this area for various functions in the area. AT&T was stronger than Verizon and you'll definitely need a cell booster, like the weBoost that I use, to get a better signal if you'll be working or watching movies.

Park Pass:  N/A

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Video/Audio/Gear Used

Panasonic Lumix G85 Camera – For most still images and vlogging

Joby Gorillapod – Used for holding the cameras as a tripod or mounting to just about anything to capture a shot.

AT&T Data Plan – If you're a digital nomad or need any kind of cell connection than having one that is unlimited, not throttled and not capped is important.

weBoost Cell Booster – A must have when traveling full-time especially if you work and are staying in areas outside of cities.

Amazon store with all my gear – Click here to find all my gear used.

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