Living full-time as a family of four (and a dog) in a 36ft fifth wheel camper isn’t for everyone. But minimalism and downsizing can be! Living with less can save you money, reduce your impact on the planet, and teach you to be generous and appreciate what you choose to keep around. So, after six months of living in under 300 square feet, these are the most important lessons we’re learning.
What it takes to practice minimalism
Living a minimalist lifestyle is a choice. It may be motivated by excess clutter causing anxiety. It may be the outcome of a more serious catalyst for job loss. For us, it was a choice to exchange a lifetime of debt and living paycheck to paycheck for the opportunity to actually live a life of freedom with intention.
1. Minimalism | Deciding is Difficult
When you downsize you have to make decisions…a lot! We had to take 11 years of life’s “stuff” and decide which things were important enough to take with us. That is harder than you think.
I’m learning that, while deciding is difficult, it isn’t impossible. I kept a few things from family members that have passed on or pictures that our kids drew so I have tiny reminders, but the memories from what I left behind are still there. I will never forget my aunt Bevy’s handwriting or the rock picture frame I first gifted Spence. I don’t have to keep it squirreled away somewhere for me to maybe never actually look at again until we move or I need to empty a cabinet. Deciding is difficult, but rewarding.
2. Minimalist lifestyle | Presence Over Presents
What we are experiencing is a freedom from things we thought we needed. I thought I needed to hold on to mementos from my past and our kids thought they needed every little trinket and toy. My husband and I thought we needed time to unwind after work with a mindless TV show, but now we rarely even turn on the TV and we don’t have satellite or cable.
We are, however, making our own memories. Every weekend we are experiencing our community, visiting new places, being active together every chance we get. We are getting dirty, building things, learning things, and enjoying building our tiny lives together in a big way. It is pretty incredible and costs next to nothing.
Also, check “5 habits to develop to make life less clumsy”
3. Minimalism | Intentionally Be Intentional
Since going tiny, we have freed ourselves from the mundane but necessary parts of everyday life. We no longer have a yard to mow, fence to fix, barn to clean, house to sanitize from a week of baby goo, mountains of laundry to wash, forget about, rewash, smell to make sure we didn’t leave it too long, and then forget about in baskets for the upcoming week.
All of that is gone. What we are left with is ourselves and each other.
Our job now—our primary goal—is to be together and enjoy life. Yes, I have to go to a full-time job that is more stress than they pay me for, but I am able to focus during my ride home on doing my best to rid myself of what is leftover so I can give my best to my husband and kids when I get home.
Now we can let ourselves have time to feel things, discuss things, and experience things we just couldn’t or didn’t make a priority before.
I can now read bedtime stories to my kids each night and kiss boo-boos and reminds our son who struggles with his emotions that mommy does too and that’s okay. It is a change I may never have experienced otherwise. And, again, not my spiritual gift, but I am learning. Briggs still rarely sees me cry, but now we can talk about it because I don’t have the excuse that I have too much to do, and that is pretty amazing.
4. Minimalist living | Simplicity is Bliss
Full transparency, I wear my jeans at least three times before washing them. And honestly, if you are the type of person who washes every item of clothing or bath towel each time you use them, I don’t understand your life.
Now that we live tiny, I own about 50 pieces of clothing. Yes, that includes undergarments. So from work/church clothes to t-shirts and jeans, shoes and accessories, I have about 50 things. Do you know how much easier it is to get dressed in the mornings!?
I used to change three times some days before even going to work because I just felt like a blob of horribly dressed goo. Now, I am able to accept where my body is at the time because I only own clothes that make me feel good. If I don’t feel good about something, it has to go. It’s that simple. I have already made three additional bags/totes of donations since moving.
So now, not only with clothes but with everything, I choose to keep things I sincerely love and get joy out of having. Each dish, each decoration, every picture, and blanket were chosen on purpose and that simplicity is a gift.
5. Minimalism | In Everything Be Thankful
I am coming to learn that having the mental space to breathe and to be thankful when our daughter does something new, our son learns a lesson he is excited about, or we just have a campfire on a weeknight to unwind is something I never knew I was missing until I did.
Moving on is never easy, but it isn’t the place we miss. We miss the relationships—the people. The thing is, no one can take the memories from us. We are choosing our new lifestyle. We are trading in the feelings of being overwhelmed with debt and never-ending to-do lists for a life of freedom to enjoy the things we love and to have the time to be intentional—to be able to afford to make the memories we have always wanted for ourselves and for our children.
Downsizing is never easy, but the liberation that is being born from this type of simplicity and minimalist living is indescribably beautiful.