Minimalism is becoming more popular for all types of lifestyles, but one of the most common is for tiny living.
This may mean tiny homes, vanlifers, or any other sort of lifestyle pursuing minimalism. The concept sounds intriguing to many people, but how exactly do you execute this concept? One of the best things you can do is plan ahead, start now, and be intentional. Most importantly, recognize that this is an on-going process. Pursuing minimalism is a never-ending decision. Even so, you have to start somewhere…
Out with the old, in with the new: for anything that you buy or bring in the van, get rid of one old thing.
This recommendation is pretty straightforward but one of the most important aspects of minimalism. The only way to avoid increasing your belongings or getting behind with minimalism is by embracing the phrase “out with the old, in with the new”. This means that for every new item you bring into your van, you must purge something you already own. If you buy five new items, you must get rid of five. Some people even go a step further and say that you should purge or donate two items for every one new item you acquire. However you choose to do it, make sure that you are balancing out new belongings, purchases, or gifts.
Sign up to receive your mail and bills electronically.
A large majority of people already do this but it is extremely helpful for not only minimalism but for road travel in general. Receiving mail on the road can be extremely challenging, so receiving as much as possible electronically can truly make a difference. Most pieces of mail have a way to receive them electronically, especially if you ask. Bills can definitely be set up electronically (if you want to go a step further, set up your bills for autopay!) This will help eliminate clutter and simplify trying to find a way to receive mail while traveling.
Consolidate whenever possible, especially with clothing.
Often, we own multiple, similar items because they have some sort of flaw or issue. This may be because of wear and tear or due to buying lower quality items. One great way to minimize your personal belongings, especially clothing, is to consolidate these similar items. For example, if you have three pairs of black leggings, ask yourself why. Maybe one pair has a hole and another is faded. Consider donating the 3 pairs and buying 1 high-quality pair that has no “downfalls”. Do this with t-shirts, shorts, socks, kitchen items, hats, anything you can think of. You may be surprised how much room this saves!
Get some basic workout equipment that allows you to exercise on the road.
While many vanlifers have gym memberships (especially for showering), it is very common to spend multiple days out in the wilderness. You may not be near a gym as often as you think. Invest in some portable, small exercise equipment so you can stay healthy and active on the road, especially on long driving days. Focus on a few important pieces to continue pursuing minimalism. Our recommendations include a kettlebell, resistance bands (a basic loop for legs and one with handles for everything else), ankle weights, and a yoga mat. Having these few staple items allows you to complete a full-body workout without any machines or large equipment. Pairing walks after meals is also a great way to get daily exercise while on the road!
Make regular purges.
One of the best things that can help keep your lifestyle one of minimalism is to constantly evaluate your belongings. This is not a single occurrence, but one that should be done regularly. A lifestyle of minimalism isn’t a one-time choice – it is a constant choice that must be pursued each day. Throughout each month, see if you notice anything in your living space and think, “I haven’t used that in a while.” Keep a bag or bin somewhere in your van where you can toss these items when you have this realization. Then at the end of the month, do a brief audit throughout your entire vehicle. Open each drawer and take a quick look. See if there is anything else you could live without or isn’t serving a regular purpose anymore. Then, gather all those items, along with the items you bagged throughout the month, and purge it all. *The exception that should be noted is seasonal items and clothing! Obviously, these won’t be used every month.*
Focus on dual-purpose things.
Something you may notice is that vanlifers who have been pursuing this lifestyle for many, many years only keep belongings if they serve more than one purpose. For example, a Leatherman tool is a great investment, as it can be used for various things. Purchase a cleaning product that can be used on your stove, sink, floors, and cabinets. Investing in things that will serve more than one purpose will save you money and space, two things that are highly valuable in a full-time travel lifestyle. With limited space, it is beyond important to make sure that every item in your belonging serves you or your lifestyle in some way.
Donate your books when you are done reading them.
If you are a reader, then traveling without books may sound like your worst nightmare. However, we all know that you can’t take your entire bookshelf or “want-to-read” books with you on the road. When you move into your rig, start with five books that you love or want to read. When you are done with all five, go to a used bookstore and donate these books. After this, you’ll have space and a reason to purchase five more. Then, repeat. Another cute and fun concept that you may find in your travels is “Little Free Libraries”, where you are able to take a book for free if you leave one in its place. Reading materials are always available – you just have to seek them out!
Invest in one, really great cup.
For my first year on the road solo, I had one, single cup in my van. Yes, just one. I invested in a high-quality YETI 20 ounce tumbler. A high-quality mug like this is extremely universal, easy to clean, and keeps things at their desired temperature for an unreal amount of time. A universal cup can be used for everything: coffee, water, tea, juice, or beer. Simplifying the amount of dishware you have in your van will make a big difference with available storage space. Remember the above-mentioned rule, focus on dual-purpose things!
Also, invest in three really great pots/pans.
Once again, the dual-purpose concept is going to be mentioned. In a house or apartment, you likely have substantially more storage space in your kitchen. You may have multiple types and sizes of pots and pans. However, when you break down cooking, especially with a one or two-burner stove, you can get by with much less. Some vanlifers even swear by only one item: a cast iron! We personally just like pasta and rice too much for that. We recommend having a cast iron, a large sauté pan, and a medium-sized pot. Between these three pieces of cookware, you’ll be able to make nearly any meal your heart desires.
Limit gift-giving and receiving.
This can be extremely challenging, especially around the holidays. However, reflecting back on the nine principles discussed here, this one makes absolute sense. If you are constantly giving and receiving gifts, you are 1.) spending money and 2.) acquiring more things. Now, this may be okay if you are strict with the “out with the old, in with the new” rule, but many people struggle with that. Explain to your loved ones that you are focusing on a lifestyle of minimalism and truly don’t need presents. They will likely understand, especially if you are living and traveling in your adventure rig full-time. Instead, when giving gifts, consider something like making a large batch of your favorite drink, or pickling something and passing out jars at the holiday celebrations! A small gift, paired with a cute tag with nice words, potentially even a polaroid of you visiting somewhere cool with your van, is a wonderful alternative. Get creative here!