One bag, or is it a Russian doll?

fullsizeoutput_4e5I have been looking out for something suitable to be the basis of my onebagonelife experiment and as luck would have it I was donated this handsome suitcase by a generous donor who had used it for a few years but now felt they needed new. I had expected to have to buy a suitcase and looking around there is so much choice that it was a bit overwhelming so am happy in a way I don’t have to trawl the internet for reviews and posts about the best suitcase that would fit my needs. I had no idea that there were some many different types and the cost of some is staggering when you consider how much use one is normally likely to get out of it. For those few weeks away a year is it really worth spending many hundreds of pounds to keep ones clothes safe, well yes I know its more than that but… Maybe it’s me but I have never travelled with excessive quantities of stuff and for some time I have always attempted to travel with a minimum install, relying on the flexible friend to provide for anything I may have forgotten or overlooked. I had a friend who jokingly opined that all you needed to travel with was a toothbrush and a credit card, however this is just not practical in everyday life unless you want to be wasteful and end up with a mountain of stuff you may only have used a handful of times and I’m sure he didn’t live by his own credence. Certainly travelling with the bare minimum is practical as there are not many places that one travels to that services like washing or some spare items of clothing can’t be found.

But as I am not using the suitcase for that purpose it is not a problem for me, it is rather that it is my wardrobe, bathroom cabinet, bookshelf, writing desk, box of bits under the bed and many other things all rolled into one. Just how much it will hold I have no idea as I have not started to rationalise what I actually want to have with me at any given moment. There are the basics and as I have said in a previous post I will have a collection of items that I want to keep for either sentimental reasons or that will move with me to where I settle for longer periods that won’t be kept in the bag. However this needs to be small as I don’t want to clutter up my families space(s) to the point they don’t want to look after it for me.

So the more compact I can make the contents of my suitcase the better. I have this idea that it is a Swiss Army knife of storage, not including that “thing to take stones out of horses hoofs” though, but more like it has the necessary equipment for different modes of living. As an example I have a day sack that can be used for hiking and the individual items can be swopped around depending on location and season but only is used on those occasions but things in it will also be used for daily life. Or, if I am staying somewhere for a prolonged period I have items to make it seem more like a home. This may seem very optimistic and I may have grossly over estimated the capacity to hold my life but this is the fun of finding out. Can one get set of bedding and such in on top of all the clothing etc. That’s where vacuum packing comes in and something I will be covering at a later date.

One aspect I am thinking about is the cost of replacement of all my worldly goods and chattels in the event of some disaster. If one is not attached to the ‘things’ then replacing is purely a logistics operation and with that in mind I set up an Amazon wish list with every item I have or am putting in the bag so that not only do I have an idea of the monetary value but also an easy and quick way to replace any lost item(s). It is also interesting to analyse what is actually important and what is nice to have. I think given that I will have very little space to have frivolous items this sharpens the mind to each individual item and its use and whether it may have multiple uses. I think this is where intentionalism is highlighted over minimalism as I am not living with nothing I am choosing very carefully the things I do own. It is a bit of a grey area to me but I prefer to think of this as an intentional choice.

This then leads to the need to have a buffer fund for replacement. Calculating this cost highlights that certainly the largest portion of the pie chart comes from the tech related kit. However there are always alternatives, but given that I am not going to be wasting loads trying to keep up with the latest I can be far more careful in how purchases need to be made.

I have been watching quite a lot of light weight camping channels and have been thinking how can I transpose the method in to day to day life. On the whole no one considers the weight of their household items but when you have to carry it around it makes a difference. There are many optimisations one can make but from what I see it comes at a cost. For the time being I will stick with what I have and maybe look at upgrading inventory as and when I can.

My plan to start off with is to have 14 days worth of general clothing and 3 items of weather proof gear and coats. However I hope to make these as light and compact as possible. This may prove way too much but only experience will tell. I know I am going to have to cut back somewhere but only by trying will I find out what works for me.

So onebagonelife has a bag!

 

OneBagOneLife Webcomic #1

I started this idea of a webcomic off sometime ago in another place but it fizzled out when I felt I had nothing to say. So stumbling across an app called paper for my iPhone reignited the desire to continue. For a bit of background to the original version, I started it commuting home on a daily bus ride to pass away the time. Again I came across a website the showcased art done on a iPhone or iPad and this was in the days before the Apple Pencil so all of it was done by hand, well finger more precisely. I was blown away with the talent and dexterity of these pics and the germ of the idea to draw my diary came about.

It’s funny now looking back at how my doodling changed over the course of time as I got more adept. I was also help by the fact that the app I was using had layers, something I miss now as I seems that the general drawing apps moved to a model of offering only basic functionally with the option to upgrade to more usability but as I was on a limited budget I had to make do with what I had.

I tried lots of apps out in the beginning but settled on Sketchbook as I really liked the workflow of it. Somewhere down the line Autodesk took it over and stripped out a lot of the functionality to be able to go to a subscription model. This seems to be the way all software is going but that’s a whole different story. Fast forward to now and as I say I’m using Paper which I really like. There are some quirks like zoom needs to have more depth and layers would be good and finally a more coherent palette but these are just niggles.

So all that said I present to you a snapshot of life in the form of webcomic that I plan to do maybe once a week as it seems to take two to three hours to complete but I’ll see how I get on with it. Until the next one..

Intentional Living – A guide to life not a blueprint

I have been gathering my thoughts about minimal living and minimalism over the last couple of years and trying to clarify what feels best for me. I certainly don’t want to live in a white room with only a chair in it nor do I want to be carrying around decades of detritus under the guise it has some kind of value. One of the hardest things to get ones head around is what is actually important. Now I know that there is a a huge spectrum of what that means to each person but guess there is a happy medium for all of us that sit somewhere in the middle of utter chaos and extreme simplicity.

Looking into this world of downsizing and minimalism it seems to attract a kind of people that have a somewhat nomadic way of life and I have no evidence to back this up but it would be interesting to see a study of the socio-economic demographics of this group. They are probably out there and I should have done some homework. But it would seem to me that this compact living allows for and encourages a more mobile life.

I guess what really switched me on to the whole ‘thing’ was stumbling across a podcast of the Minimalists around 2013. I was already aware of the tiny house movement and many other forms of smaller living before but I really started to explore the possibility of living life with less when an enforced move lead me to question the things that owned due to the cost of moving and storing them. Now as I said I really am not about ditching all the things that I hold dear for the sake of some doctrine that decrees that possessions are bad but I am trying to get to a point where the things I do own have meaning to me beyond any sentimental or monetary value, i.e. the cost of replacing them. Somethings are irreplaceable like Mum’s hand made quilt, the family photos of the parts of the family no longer with us, from a time when there were very records of people and places unlike now where a phone can hold a multitude of history. Everything can be replace expect me, or should I say people, so with that mantra most of the stuff strewn around me is mainly junk. However that then brings into questions the methods of disposing of it or recycling it. The old me would have just taken it all to the dump. I know they can strip out a load of stuff, pulp and generally reuse quite a bit now but even so the idea of land filling a bunch of plastic etc is not appealing and I would rather someone get some more use out of it that it end up in a landfill site. It’s not that long ago that “we” did naturally recycle and I have strong memories of being taken skip diving and dump hunting when I was a little boy. It was certainly a lot more acceptable then and my parents parents generation made do with even less.

So that led me on to how can I give it away? Easy, there are now more ways than ever to donate unused and unloved things and I have started asking anyone in my immediate social sphere if I can give it away. On top of that I have started to Freecycle things too, yes there are other sites available but thats the one I ran into first. Once you get into the swing of thinning out and overcoming the anxiety of not having more. It is amazing the freeing feeling one gets when the layers of lifes detritus are lifted away and slowly one feels like one can breath again not weighed down both psychically and metaphorically crap. The act of giving is also a affirming experience and although I have made minimal efforts on that front through my life I feel that this is something I want to continue. Giving back I believe is the phrase. Someone once said something about “doing something for nothing is good for the soul” and I would heartily agree. What does all of this have to do with intentional living? Well in my view it is bound up in the premise of trying to live intentionally. What does that really mean? we hear so much about trying to live this ways in its many guises but for me I think it just boils down to thinking about the consequences of my decisions and actions when it comes to pretty much any avenue of life not just the things we buy. I was pointed to this post over on twitter and it really struck a cord with how I see and think of all ‘this’. It’s not about a badge or being of a clan it just living a happier life.

I’m not sure to about becoming a fully paid up member to the minimalist way of life as I like to pick and choose far too much but I have certainly benefited mentally from the idea that less is more. I guess we all do this in our own ways but it is very interesting to see others view points and learning about these patterns is fascinating to me. I also realise that the things that I once thought I “needed” are really just a distraction from working out what is important in life and to me. If only I had worked this out sooner. But like the cliché `says hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Now is the time to jettison the junk. Another lot has just sold on the famous auction site and more to go on. I really am getting into the ebaying thing and am thinking what happens when my junk comes to an end? I need to find more hahaha! But thats another thing. I am also taking sporadic pictures to remind me how I am doing with the offloading and as a reminder for the future me not to return to the bad ol’ ways. But progress is starting to get some momentum and one of the nice offshoots of selling the clutter is that when I am ready to by something new I really need, I know I will be paying cash for it, no credit will have been sought and that is such a great feeling. One that I think a lot of people have long forgotten.

Till next time..

Data on the move

The fact that you may be reading this on a smart phone lying on a far flung beach or even up a mountain somewhere in the world is an amazing fact that we far to often take for granted. It wasn’t that long ago that calls had to be made from a telephone on a table in a hallway of ones home, or even further back in a cold draughty iconic phone box. Now with the world at our fingertips it is hard to remember a day when we didn’t have it. As a slight diatribe I am going through all my old data that is spread across a number of external disks that I have collected along the way, but the interesting thing to me is the look and feel of the previous iterations of both the tech and OSes. I still find it’s hard to believe that I have been owning an iPhone for ten years but that’s another story.

Back to the topic in hand and the collection, protection and use of the data we create. Now I have never been a full on gadget geek, more accumulating things that make life easier rather than for the sake of it. The first experience of mobile data was when I started working for a company that equipped their staff with a laptop and a mobile phone. This was not mobile working as we think of it now more a rather rudimentary form of it. It wasn’t long before progress jumped forward and email and basic browsing was doable on a phone. Then came along the first iPhone and it changed the game completely forever. However it wasn’t all roses as in typical Apple fashion they gave what the thought we needed, but still it was a tide turning point.

Why this post then? Well having spent the last couple of days going through all my IT kit and starting to sell, donate and chuck out all the stuff I know I won’t need, or have been carrying around for years in the belief I may need it or it might come in handy. I now find that I have a load of stuff that is too old to use effectively. No matter what anyone tells you, you have to keep with the times, as technologies fade into the past we don’t realise we may not have access to the data held on them. This was made clear by some files I wanted to open but the software to open them has long gone or that the latest versions wont open due to it being way to far back in internet time.

So here today I have by many standards old and yesterdays tech. For the moment it suits my needs and cross fingers it will carry on for some time more. The one thing I hadn’t thought about until I changed to my latest phone was that at some point the operating systems that run the phone are upgraded to to take advantage of all the new features of the hardware but at some point Apple decides they will no longer support ageing devices, which happened to me. As it worked out I was able to get a slightly newer model from a friend for a reasonable price and so didn’t suffer too long agonising about where to go next. Now I know its probably just me but spending roughly the same amount on a phone as a good laptop is no joke and in these austerity days one has to be careful of where ones coins go. Although ‘they’ say that we are all going to be on mobile I certainly don’t agree with that statement. I like sitting at a desk hammering away on the keyboard and whilst I love the fact I can do so much on my phone to me it is an addition not an alternative.

The title to the post really points to my desire to make my data accessible to where ever I am and this today is a possibility given the right circumstances. I am also pairing down the data so that I can get it to a point that I can store it on cloud based systems such as Dropox, OneDrive and for backup with the likes of Backblaze or Carbonite without having to splash out loads of money. The fact that most data stored on ones phones is now stored in the cloud makes this task much easier. However on the desktop front this is more onerous due to having to manage the flow of backup or copying. There are plenty of backup applications out there but my favourite and long time stalwart is Chronosync. This takes out all the guess work and also automates many of the tasks we often forget to carry out. One of the things I like about it is the feature that acts on plugging a disk in so that it checks to see if it is up to date. My strategy is to have at least three backups and more if possible. But the biggest thing you should think about once you have your data backed up is testing that it works, i.e. that you can actually recover data that may be years old in the event of an emergency. No point in going to all that effort if you never check it is workable, bit like a fire test at work. I have been caught out with this before. Many years ago I lost a lot of data as I thought because I had backed up my data to an external disk that it was all safe only to find the disk had failed. Never was going to make that mistake again. There is plenty of advice and help out on the internet, don’t be like me be the smart one.

So with the online backups being sorted I can turn to my kit needs for living a more mobile life.

Below is a pic of my current stuff which I have been using for around four years now and which has done me fine. Yes there are times when I wished I had something lighter to carry around or something with more memory in the camera but on the whole it has really served me well. All of it is show signs of wear and tear, with dents and dings but for now I am happy with what I have.

IMG_4188However that’s not to say I want or need new shiny, ahem, toys and I know at some point the phone is definitely going to need a replacement. I will however hand it down the family as battered as it is I would rather they get some use out of it than try and sell it for peanuts on a popular auction site. That leads me nicely on to selling off all the old junk is going to fund the new additions and at the moment I am trying to work out what I am going to need. I have never really been a fan of the tablet and always found them to be a bit cumbersome. A kind on halfway house but without the benefits of a laptop that I like. Not so easy to prop up in bed to consume media on, harder typing on the glass keyboard but they are minor inconveniences. Then last week I met a friend who had a new iPad Pro and I was smitten by the pencil. It is something I have tried in the past over a number of devices and there clunky pointing and writing devices and never felt that it was a natural process. Handling the Apple pencil that perception changed and the ease and speed of use was amazing. It made me think that this was a workable solution for general day to day operations. Yes it still isn’t build to handle the really heaving work but then as I say I would much rather sit in front of a desktop workstation to do the more long winded stuff but certainly way adequate for my needs. I also really took to the drawing potential and although I in no way think of my self as an artist I do love doodling and the fact that it can be done anywhere and that it can all be revisited rather than trying to hunt down scraps of paper really appeals to me and some of the things that have been done with it are truly amazing.

On the phone front one thing I am not going to do is rush out and get a plus thousand pound phone. I really don’t see the benefit of getting one so I am going to stick to the iPhone 8+ as I want as much screen real estate as possible as my eye site is not as good as it was. But I have always liked the smaller format phones, much easier to handle and to carry around but I am going for the experiment this time. I do love the fact that you can pretty much run your life from your pocket and having now got sucked into it I really don’t want to give it up. I do limit myself to social media sites as there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with but there is so much more to experience. Now if there would bring out a phone that works with the pencil I would be all in.

As for the camera stuff I have deliberately kept it small partly due to compactness and then cost but also I was only ever into taking snappy snaps. I have always like Canons and the IXUS 220 HS was just what I wanted at the time and fitted the budget. Step forward a number of years and I know find myself thinking it would be so much more fun if I was able to take some grown up pictures but the cost of this aspiration is not cheap. Delving into the ocean of digital photography makes me realise that this is even more of a geeky pastime than an computing hobby. So much so that every time I dip my toe in I feel like I am immediately drowning in complexity and choice and again I feel that my efforts would certainly not push anywhere near the cameras capacity and would it then just be a waste of money.

Then there’s a selection of memory cards that I cycle around the camera and always have a spare as if I had a pound for every time I ran out of space… there also good for offloading data temporarily in a tight spot. Lastly I have an original Joby not the current Joby tripod but it still works with the iPhone and compact cameras. I love this bit of kit and have had it for more years than I care to remember. It is so versatile and makes for so many more interesting shots and videos. It comes in different formats and there are plenty of copycats but for me the Joby wins out every time.

I write this post also as a memoir to myself so in time to come I can look back at the gear I was sporting in 2017 and think wow, how antiquated and how did we ever manage on that stuff. Pretty much like some of the pics and videos I took off my Nokia N73, which at the time I thought was light years ahead. I also have the plan to only pay for these things with things I have sold. A kind of step back to childhood where if you wanted something you saved up for it. It also means intentionally purchases you really need(ed) to think about what you want. Some might say why bother but actively thinking about what you want makes for better decisions… Least thats the plan…

Tiny Britain; taking a look at living in smaller spaces

Intro.

The topic of this post is partly prompted by the seemingly unstoppable program of house building currently being driven by the government, in order to address the housing shortage. In my local community once green and lovely fields are being ripped up to make way for identikit mass produced and unadventurous homes squeezed into the smallest of spaces to maximise the profit for the property developers. In one case three thousand home added to a village of a population of 640. What if land was allowed to be built on by a more forward thinking system, devised to maximise the space allowed to humans living in that space. I am no architect or town planner but do feel that looking at more flexible and adaptable housing would benefit the communities they are sited in. Many of us don’t choose, many of use do choose, many of us haven’t thought about living small it isn’t for everyone. Enough of the preaching and down to the meat of this post which is the investigation of different forms of smaller living that I am considering. Having owned my own house in the past but was always followed the given path I never realised that there was any alternative to the set plan of what society wanted my to live in. I always wished that I could have adapted it to my needs without having to go through a draconian system of compliance to even have a chance of building a dream. I realise that there is a very long way to go in these lands to be able to live a smaller life on ones own property or for that matter any property.

My interest in alternative forms of smaller living was really sparked off by Grand Designs a long running show, really not about living a smaller life with less in fact living very much with more whether that be space or luxury furnishings. But amongst all that builders bling and fantastic features a number of things stood out. This was mainly the use of materials to define space. I always thought the the programs high brow tone fed into the aspirational nature of the individual builds. Obviously the projects were not about building on the cheap (that came later) and however much the owner/builders said they thought it was worth it in the long run I always felt that this was really vanityware. That’s not to say that it wasn’t informative or fun watching these programs because I built up a palette of ideas that long predated my knowledge of pinterest. But I kept on thinking if there was only a way to build smaller and more intentionally. Along came a plethora of ideas around the same time that lodged in my mind. The introduction of cob house building by a brother, the finding of Kirsten Dirksen’s Youtube channel and Macy Miller’s Tiny Home blog and many other internet related mines of information. But the seed had been sown.

After selling my property I knew the only way that I was going to be able to “build” this dream was to own the land it stood on, and this is where most people grind to a halt including myself. Not only is it the cost of acquiring suitable land that has not already been carved out by big or in fact any property development company, but then the marathon breaking system that is the planning permission laws. So unless you have pots of money and or bags of time the process is set to grind you down into submission. There are plenty of tales from self-builders in the trials and tribulations on the road to completion so of which I avidly followed. Then as the realisation dawned that it was unlikely to be a goer my attention turn to other forms of smaller housing. The following text kind of chronicles my journey of discovery into the world of living smaller and the viability to my future life.

Tiny Houses

As I said earlier this whole tiny house trip started out with stumbling across a number of Youtubers and went on a viewing rampage. I followed suggested content and built up a good picture of tiny homes and there purpose. However there was one problem to all this and that was that all the stories of the tiny houses and there builders I was watching were mainly in the USA and Canada. Funnily enough at that same time there appeared an article on the BBC about living small in UK and I thought ah haaa the wave is arriving on our shores. However once again the enthusiasm was dampened by the draconian property planning laws. We live in a very restrictive society in terms of where and how you can live and although a lot of it is to protect this green a sceptred isle it is also preventing more affordable and sustainable housing. But the fact there was/is a tiny house builder out there gave a glimmer of hope that this also might be a possibility for my future housing needs.

There are so many different takes on this idea and that’s what I love about them. There is a limit to the space allowed but seeing the ingenuity of the designer/builder always amazed and inspired me. The movement started off in the US but has now stretched far and wide, across continents and even to our dear old island. But the acceptance is still being fought for all over the globe as it is seen as maybe a threat to the status quo and the idea that you can build or have built a home that will not in debt you to the banking system for decades is appealing to many, just not mainstream society and the money men. I looked over many plans and noodled ideas via Sketchup and even did some rough costings on my creations. Ultimately though it all boiled down to the legality of this idea and once again I came up feeling it was a non starter for the moment.

If you search google for Tiny House Living in the UK you get a very paltry search index, with the majority of links being some years hence and this to me points out that there are very few tiny house builders, not surprising really when you look at the ethos of home building. Self build even with years of build and renovation programs on the T.V.  is still a very niche market. There are sensationalistic articles from a number of the daily papers expounding the virtues of living a smaller life but none go more that surface deep and as such the tiny house movement here in UK is unlikely to take off until the politicians and planning departments get behind it.

I have still kept my eye enviously on the progress of tiny house acceptance in the US and Canada and love seeing homes pop-up, zoning areas commissioned and the possibilities of legal frameworks for the acceptance for these tiny space creations. If only I had been born under a different flag.. However I don’t stop thinking and dreaming about the possibility.

Narrowboats

Having some years ago visited some friends in Wales I was introduced to the Llangollen Canal. Not living near too many canals growing up as I thought meant I didn’t really come into contact with the cut and its wonders. Walking along the short stretch that we did hooked me. Just the sheer ingenuity of the engineering and the meaning path through the countryside was enough to waken a desire to learn and see more. Chats followed about canal life and the mechanics of it as my friends are quite knowledgable. But on the other side of the fence (mainly family) voices were saying ’stay away’, abandon hope’ and “it’s a money pit”. Now I am not foolish enough to believe that it is all a bed of roses and with any vehicle you pretty much are chucking money into the wind. However there are now many resources online discussing, advising and quantifying that you can get a much better idea of the cost of owning this portal to the idyllic dream that is cruising along the cut.

However following the small living thread looking at some of the smaller boats some in quotes bargains are to be found. One of the main things I have found is word of mouth is far more important than any electronic advise. But this is a topic all of its own and depending as to whether I ever get that far down that road will wait to be seen.

Obviously size is important in this case as the cross dimension is very constricted due to some arms of the networks locks getting down to severn feet, so maximum width or beam of modern boats are 6’10” approx. If I was ever to buy a boat I would be looking at around a 30-footer, so compact, yes! But it would certainly be a challenge to adapt to such a small space. There has been an upsurge in liveaboards and narrow-boating in general and it is for many a way of life that doesn’t conform and isn’t constrained or just purely because traditional home owning is not possible due to cost. Again ample coverage of peoples journeys from land to water and back are out there in internet land. It is some thing I am seriously considering but have still a lot of unanswered questions. As a side note starting to volunteer on the cut has already given me much invaluable experience and advice that is priceless not to mention getting to chat to lots of different people about their boats and their travels. I hope to bring more on this in the future.

Caravanning

Caravanning was always frowned on in our family when I was young and I’m really not sure why. Maybe it was something to do with clogging up roads but we did spend a week in one when I was about twelve. I remember it being fun and very different to any other holiday we had, though we didn’t get away very often. Fast forward that to now and a reigniting of that fun factor at Filey Brigg all those years ago I took a trip to the NEC caravanning show to take a peek at the current state of play. Wow have things moved on from those creaking plywood drab colours and draughty nights. One can spend the equivalent of a very small cheap house on the luxury end and the level of decor is light years from my memories. I went to look at the current crop of smaller vans and some . Very luckily I past my driving licence test in a time when I am able to drive things over 3500Kg. However the goal is not to go bigger or go home it is more to be compact and bijou. BBC4 did an excellent program, unfortunately unavailable now, but came again at a time that just fitted in and led me down another rabbit hole.

Yet again Youtube offered up a mass of viewing experience from all sorts of different perspectives. From travel vlogs, practical advice and equipment reviews you can just about find any thing you want. But for me it is the idea that you have a separate space that can be left in different locations venturing away from it with more mobile transport. There are a number of outdoor and sporty vans that appeal as they allow for motorbike or scooter to be stored in it as well as having a basic level of comfort. I like the idea of having backups 🙂

Motorhomming

This is probably the least understood form of small living transport to me, not just for the cost of the motorhomes as they are twice the cost of a caravan but also the ease of use of one. Now I know they come in many sizes and obviously one doesn’t have to get the biggest but even the more compact ones are still on the large size but this maybe more my perception. Also it’s like having an all-in-one computer once one bit breaks your sunk on the whole thing. Yes I realise you could tow a smart car or mount a moped on the back but to me you are still stuck with one option. I have very limited experience of motor-homing again at a much younger age so really shouldn’t be pontificating on something I know nothing about. Weighing up the benefits of a motorhome over other forms of mobile homes is hard to come to a conclusive answer as to it being more useful. I don’t rule it out but again coming back to cost and economy rather makes this mode of living somewhat more expensive it would seem to me.

Van Life

Some years ago I cam across a site about van life and I thought why on earth would you want to live in a van?! The thoughts that ran through my mind were some dirty, grotty, damp, dark, infested hole that people down on their luck lived in. How wrong could I have been. There seemingly has been an explosion in van conversions with the Sprinter being the weapon of choice. No longer is it the grungy heavy metal band kipping at the side of the road as it’s too late to drive many miles home but the van life community has turned the humble white van into something amazing. Now in a few clicks you can follow some very impressive amateur (and I use that term purely in reference to the fact that they are not building conversions professionally) efforts to turn a very utilitarian vehicle into works of art.

Why has all this sprung up? Well I think it’s a mixture of freedom; from paying exorbitant rents, being able to have adventures and not be tied to a lifelong debt, be shackled to one place, I am sure there are many other reasons but it seems that freedom comes out most strongly. Of course I am talking about some thing I have not experienced but one can learn so much from others and this can inform ones own choices as to if this is a suitable choice. I have no statistical evidence but I would guess that there are a growing number of people living a more nomadic way of life, one that fits their criteria. With the evolving digital economies and the progress in remote communications we can truly be anywhere on the planet now and lead a normal life and that’s the main take away for me around van life.

Round-up

This post has gotten a bit out of control in its length but it highlights there are many alternatives to standard box home living. As I plan to live a compact life any one of these modes would be possible and I am hoping to experience some if not all in some shape or form. This blog is a record of my attempts at this and many other things and I realise that this is all very speculative and maybe comes across as wishful thinking but this is just a reminder to me of the things I would like to accomplish. All of these different forms of alternative living, that being not living in a mortgaged up pile of bricks have great communities attached to them and now with the wonders of the internet can be experienced from afar via many forms of social media, and information gleaned and friendships  gathered but the point is to just get out there and find “ones plot”.

Till next time..

Downsize, dump, declutter – Making space for a new life.

pileoboxesWith so many places to turn to for advice on reducing the “stuff” it is some what confusing and overwhelming to which the lengths people will go to minimise their lives and the advice they expound around the ways one can achieve this minimal nirvana. I have been spending some considerable time looking around at all the different strands of this meme and in typical me fashion like to pick and choose the bits I want to take from them and amalgamate into my own hybrid system. I guess you would say I have minimal tendencies but I don’t necessarily buy into it wholeheartedly. For me, a typical Taurean, home and comfort are an important part of life and I feel comfiest when surrounded by familiar and sentimental things. But on this new adventure I am throwing out the norms and accepted ways of living to look at an alternative, one with fewer possessions and fewer responsibilities.

It is hard to throw things away unless you are naturally un-possesive. We all collect throughout our lives, from the collections of toys as a child to those of bicycles, books, games, clothing or whatever it is that fills our heads. But there comes a point when you realise that you are never going to complete that one last thing and it as at that point we switch our collecting tendencies to some other focus or collection. It is human nature it would seem to hoard things much like in the animal kingdom. However animals hiding there prizes away is usually for the very practical purpose for feeding them selves through a time of famine. Collecting computer junk in my case has no benefit to me at any time. Although I do probably have enough kettle leads to boil twenty eight kettles in case I needed an emergency cup of tea. I always looked at people who had little and thought how empty their lives must be, but this was purely the product of an upbringing of not throwing things away out of practically or from a view of it’s artistic value and being at the beginning of the consumer boom where credit was easy. Now don’t get me wrong I don’t believe or plan to live in a whitened room with one chair in the middle and northing else, far from it. I have naturally been attracted to bright colours and will choose bright over muted or dark any day of the week. I am getting back round to the point I am trying to make but felt it is important to emphasise that minimal doesn’t have to be grey, bland, monotone or consist of nothingness at all. It is far more about quality over quantity and by that I mean not just the actual quantity but more so about the whole force guiding life. It’s not about nothing, it’s more about something. Something you get value from, something that gives you joy or something that is purely functional. Ultimately “we” are the judges of that and it is all to easy to say that everything we own is valuable in some way, but when we question the need for a possession we can calculate its’ value. In front of me sits eight memory sticks, do I really need all of them. No, four would easily be enough however the feeling of comfort of these things give continues the desire to have them. This is just one example of a repeating scenarios set out in front of and around me.

Near to me sits a pile of boxes that is the result of a number of different culls in recent times however this is not the end, in fact it is really just the beginning. I thought I had reached the point at which I had all the things that were important to me and that I couldn’t really do without. Having moved twice since the experiment was first started I could see that I don’t actually need many things that once I held dear. Paring down the possessions is a somewhat traumatic task as although the downsizing gurus seem to portray it as a painless task I have to say that for me getting rid of things that in some cases I had held on to for decades were not easy decisions, but the more times I did it the easier it got. Once I had decided on the three pile rule; 1 week, 1 month, 1 year, it made it easier to abandon the things that were no longer giving any value, joy or what ever term we want to insert here. The notion that if you haven’t used it in a year it is of no use to you is a good one in my mind. One month is more questionable but then as you start honing your disposal skills you find that it is much more effortless to jettison stuff. Even the one week rule becomes an investigation of the real use and purpose of that item. I look at a mug full of pencils, pens, eraser etc and think I have used all of these but really how many of them have been used purely because they were nearest to me. I daren’t mention the two shoe boxes I have stashed with assorted stationary cupboard “finds” over the years. But hey, I am downsizing them via donation to anybody that will take them.

The goal is to greatly reduce the number of boxes but at the moment I don’t have a figure in my mind as to how many more that I will know when I have the right amount. I have been seeing online some pretty radical adoptions of this goal and although I initially set out to accomplish a similar task I have mellowed a little with the intent to live with seemingly nothing. The original idea was to be limited to a number of items that would fit in one bag. But thinking about this and the future, made me realise I still want to retain a number of things that will remain with family for later collection. Living a minimal way of life doesn’t mean having to live with nothing, therefore I will mostly be living with one bag day to day but when time comes to settle I will have those treasured, meaningful items with me.

So let the ebaying, donating and dumping begin… again!