I have a crazy idea. Well, it’s not so much “crazy” as it is “unorthodox”, but just come with me on this little lark for a minute or two:
What would happen if you cut down your possessions to the absolute bare minimums? Some clothes, your laptop, whatever vehicle you own, a small collection of books, and maybe a snowboard or skis or something. Then, what if you completely opted-out of living in a traditional housing situation and instead rented a mailbox and “garaged” your vehicle at a friend’s place and lived out of that? What would your life look like?
Would you have the time or energy to waste on frivolous people or activities? Would you be more likely to choose meaningful items, activities, and relationships? Would you feel more free? More likely to engage a person or activity more fully with your attention and your energy?
These are the kinds of things I think about when I start thinking about the changes I could make in my life. I’m over all of it: superfluousness, vapidity, uselessness. The more I look around me, the less I understand the choices that I’ve made as far as material possessions are concerned.
“Why did I buy this tchotchke?” “Why is this bauble just hanging around in my room?” “What in the Burning Hells was I thinking when I looked at that and said ‘I gotta have it’?”
For me, a lot of these questions can (and sometimes do) turn into bouts of buyer’s remorse, but I often look back at them and rationalize them as choices I made that brought me happiness at the time. The key phrase being “at the time”. Now that I am looking at these items, these things with a bit of time and a lot more clarity, it’s rather telling to me that I’d rather have a clean slate and clean surfaces than baubles and what I mistakenly thought would be reminders of better days (which is another self-inflicted misnomer I’ll dive into another time).
What I’m beginning to believe more deeply than ever is something that knocked the wind out of me when I first encountered it. That somehow I tricked myself into believing that the “default script” that so-called “modern” society promulgates is actually good for me. Even scarier: I started believing that I actually wanted it. All of it: the go-nowhere-do-nothing-important job, things like expensive trips to faraway places, and more shiny adult things than you could shake a stick at. Unless that stick just so happened to be an expensive golf club (I wanted a nice set once upon a time… long story).
It all started innocently enough: I moved a few times from apartment-to-apartment and oscillated between good and bad roommate situations. But it actually hit me full-force when I was packing-up for a cross-country move from Florida to California: Why am I carrying around all of this stuff? Why do I find myself continually schlepping gear from place-to-place that I never use? At that point, it was easy enough to give away or sell a few things: a bass guitar and amp, some clothes, a few books, some spare computer parts. It’s when I moved to Massachusetts that I actually started to really evaluate my life and the stuff I’d accumulated.
Do I really need that set of cables? What about these spare keyboards and mice? What about this ancient feature-phone that no carrier will ever activate again? Or this furniture? Is this bed even necessary anymore?
When I stepped back to consider the stuff as strictly stuff, I was confronted with a painful reality: That I had become a slave to my stuff (and unfortunately as an extension, debt). I was forced to either store or move a bunch of stuff I didn’t care about because I’d never gotten around to unboxing much of it, but getting rid of it somehow seemed like a betrayal of the people who had given them to me, even if it was something I’d obtained for myself. I started thinking that maybe instead of the things themselves, maybe what was more important about them were the experiences that they gave me fond memories of. Maybe instead of using an 8-foot U-Haul trailer, I could condense down my life so that I could just move myself whenever I needed to. “Adaptability” sounded like a great goal, as did “flexibility” and “quality”.
So I began in earnest. After the relationship that drew me to the Northeast imploded, I began evaluating not just the things in my life, but the people that I interacted with. I started a process of what I called “actively curation” in my life–I cut some activities and people out, I worked hard to maintain some of the relationships that were meaningful to me, and others I just “let ride” as they were. I also started getting rid of a lot of the stuff. Slowly at first, but as time has gone on, I’ve gained a lot of momentum. I’m down to a single room that’s about half-full of “stuff”, and a lot of it is utterly superfluous to my life at this point–and that’s where I am now. I’ve made strides to try and ensure that everything I own is multi-purpose, that it’s something that brings me joy or excites me, and that it’s well-made.
What does this all have to do with renting a mailbox and living out of your vehicle? Everything.
In the course of trying to figure out whether or not I want to go on a sabbatical for at least a month (hopefully before I hit the big three-oh), I ran across this awesome truck design on Imgur called “the Adventure Truck”. Basically, a commercial fisherman in the Pacific Northwest decided that he wanted a vehicle that he camp out of on-the-cheap, so he built a bed frame with a long drawer in the back of his truck. In looking at the design the author also posted, it’s actually not terribly hard to build. A bunch of carriage bolts, a few boxes of skateboard bearings, some 3/4″ plywood, some sanding and varnish, some holes drilled and you’ve got yourself an Adventure Truck. All-told, putting the list of parts together with some online pricing from a couple big hardware chains only put the frame build up to about $250. I’ve already got a pickup truck, and I ordered a replacement truck bed cap last month so I don’t end-up with 100 pounds of ice in the bed again (like I did during the blizzard). Grand total? About $2000.
That cost, however, is minuscule in comparison to the benefit I will get out of it. In being able to literally pick-up-and-go whenever the mood strikes me, to be able to have a place to stay no matter where I am, and to be able to chase adventure wherever and whenever it calls. That’s very real kind of freedom that very few people admit to having. In also being able to live out of said vehicle, I will also potentially decrease the amount of money I will have to put out for all the normal trappings of modern life: rent, utilities, insurance, etcetera. That’s a very real and immediate impact, and something I am keenly aware of.
The only questions now are: “how can I make this work” and “when can I give this a shot”.