Truck Camper Video in Baja

Living with Less Stuff Means More Travel

Living with Less Stuff

(Means More Travel)

“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” –George Carlin

I attended the screening of TINY at BendFilm last weekend. I was quite reluctant to see this movie for a few reasons:

  1. I was worried it would be preachy in the way of sustainability and environmental consciousness. I feel bad that this is how I feel. I should care, after all. I’ve spent much of my adult life educating Americans about how to live sustainably. That’s a story for another post.
  2. I was also afraid that I would ask myself those hard questions that I always ask myself, namely—why am I not doing this?

The screening began with a lovely little film—Twenty-Eight Feet—about a Nova Scotian who lives on his 50 year old boat named Lizzy Belle. I was immediately hooked on the prospect of travel by sailboat. My questions for this round included: Could I learn how to sail? Could I live without refrigeration? Would I miss wearing earrings? I took a pull off my gin and tonic and tried to calm down.

The main film, TINY, was another equally sweet film about a young couple who decided to build, from scratch, a 100 square foot home on a trailer with the goal of parking it in an alpine valley in Hartsel, Colorado. The story follows their journey of planning, saving and actually building the tiny house, not to mention the prospect of living in 100 square feet. It asks questions about the nature of “home”, connection to place and the paradox of consumption (see the George Carlin quote above).

The film included interviews with other “tiny house” owners around the country. Sure, most of them fell into a pseudo-hipster category, but they all seemed pretty happy. The one continuous thread was this: Having less stuff gives you freedom, particularly with time. Not having to purchase, maintain, use and dispose of the bulk of our possessions saves a lot of time, freeing us up to do other things – like travel. And that’s something most of us can relate to.

At 1030 square feet, my house is small by most American standards. It is a perfectly adequate home and goes beyond serving our needs – home office/guest bedroom, gear room/closet, and of course a nice garage to store our adult toys. But I’ve been grappling with the question – could I go smaller?

I have to admit, I am a clutterphobe. I do not get excess amounts of joy in having lots of things around me and I find myself looking for ways to get rid of stuff – clothes, papers, gadgets – just STUFF. Getting rid of stuff gives me a rush, the same way compulsive shoppers describe the feeling they get when they reach in their wallet for a credit card.

I have lived in small places before. Straight out of college, I lived on a rural homestead in Southeastern Utah. My cabin was a 12 x 12 log cabin box that was also home to some mice and a part-time ghost. Chris and I also lived in our 98 square foot truck camper for six months while we toured and surfed in Mexico. We thought we might quickly go crazy bumping into each other in that tiny space but we were surprised when after six months, it became totally normal to live in tight quarters. We even did a short video about one part of life in a truck camper.

Travel has taught me that I don’t need nearly as much as I think I do. Some of my happiest moments have been when I had nothing but a backpack’s worth of stuff with me, such as touring the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route on a bike or backpacking around Asia. However, I know that when traveling in such circumstances, the pinnacle of each day commenced with finding of a place to stay, whether it was a spot to pitch a tent or a rickety bungalow on the beach. There was always gratification in “settling down”, even if that only meant unpacking my toothbrush for a six hour stay before leaving the next day.

I was reminded that “home” could be defined in many ways. After watching the films, I was recharged to think about what is possible. While I’m not sure I could live full time, year round in a 90 square foot abode, I wonder – how small could I go? How small could you go?

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