4 Ways to Live With Less Stuff, More Fulfillment

This is a guest post from Rachel Denning of DiscoverShareInspire.com. Been a crazy week for me personally. I am currently in Vancouver for 2 weeks to spend time with Chris as he waits for a new passport and UK visa. I’ve had this post saved for a little while and am excited to share it with you. Not sure we will ever be living out of a truck ourselves but find reading about this lifestyle inspiring. Enjoy! And thanks again for all the support with the book. I will have an update this weekend on the funds raised for CARE.

Perched atop the mountains, expansive picture windows provided us a picturesque view of the Central Valley below from our large, spacious (and fully furnished) rental home in San Jose, Costa Rica.

It was just a few months ago that we were living in the United States, and decided to sell most of our stuff and move abroad. Costa Rica was our country of choice – for several reasons – and now we were living here.

We loved the beauty, the diversity, the culture, the people- but it wasn’t a simple life. We’d carried our old American ways of consumerism and social expectations with us, and maintained (and amplified) them in the expat community where we lived.

Our home was an ungodly 6500 sq. feet of (beautiful but) unneeded space. Our monthly expenses would have made Suze Orman scream. We equated having lots of stuff and spending lots of money with being happy.

Instead of happiness, what I usually felt was a great deal of stress (on meeting those monthly massive bills), and an unreasonable compulsion to have more, believing that it would be the ‘answer’.

Fast forward four years, and I sit here writing in my ‘home office’ – the passenger seat of our Ford F250 – expedition vehicle/home on wheels.

We’re camped just sprinting distance from the wall that separates the U.S. and Mexico (where we’ll be crossing later today).

The approximately 321 things that we own fit into totes that are attached to our roof. Our five children sleep soundly in the back of our truck, or in the roof top tent above.

From one extreme to another (at first by economic force, and then by choice), we’ve learned to simplify.

We have minimal stuff, but ample quality time together. We lack a permanent residence, but are abundant in freedom.

Rousing ourselves from the hypnosis of social conditioning, we’ve awaken to a new reality: We’ve discovered that it’s not things that bring meaning to life, but relationships and experiences.

Here are 4 ways that you can simplify stuff, and amplify living:

1. Eliminate the Distractions

Our lives are crazy busy. So much so that it keeps us from spending time with our loved ones.

What ‘free’ time we may have after work, school and extracurricular activities is unfortunately usually sucked up by TV, video & computer games, Facebook and countless other technical interferences.

To find more fulfillment in living, it may require drastic action. Throw out your TV, get rid of the video games (and the constant battles with your kids that go with them) and set strict rules on social media.

Oh, it will be an adjustment at first (and your kids will definitely throw a fit). But you (and they) will get over it, and soon find new, more engaging activities that help you grow.

Our two boys are especially fond of video games and movies. Along our travels, we’re often invited to stay with families along our way.

At one home, my boys had a heyday playing Wii all day long. They couldn’t get enough, it was all they wanted to do, even with a trampoline, legos, and other previous ‘favorites’.

When the time came for us to leave, they went through a ‘withdrawal’ – whiney, pouty and just plain unpleasant.

But returning to the simplicity of our life, free from those types of ‘distractions’, the very next day they spent 4 hours occupied by the same pile of dirt, some buckets of water and their imagination. (And it didn’t result in whininess and withdrawals when it was time to go).

By simplifying the distracting elements in your life, you’ll discover that less is more – more time to spend together, more freedom to pursue your hobbies, more time to educate your mind and ignite your imagination, more focus on what is meaningful.

2. Eliminate the Excess

Everything that you own takes up space – not just in your home, but your thoughts, your time, your energy.

Every time you have to clean it, move it, organize it, shelve it, box it, store it – you’re giving away part of your life to this thing.

Get rid of anything that doesn’t add real value to living, and get your life back.

Does this mean we should live like monks and own only a robe? No.

Owning things can make your life better, when in the proper balance. I enjoy having clothes to wear :) but for me I don’t need a whole closet full. I use shampoo to wash my hair, but I don’t have a cupboard of extra (half empty bottles). One bottle is sufficient, and then I buy another when it’s gone.

I also find great fulfillment in taking pictures of our travels, so a camera (and the necessary accessories) adds value to my life. As does my laptop and it’s attendant devices.

The message of minimalism isn’t that owning things is ‘bad’, but that having things in excess begins to take away our life in direct proportion to the amount of excess things that we have.

3. Do More Stuff, Don’t Buy More Stuff

Our lives should be about experimentation, not accumulation. Life is meant to be lived, not purchased.

Having lived abroad and come back to my home country, I’ve noticed that a favorite American pass-time is shopping. It’s recreational.

Instead of shopping we should be sharing – fun, significant and bonding experiences with our family and friends.

Once you’ve eliminated the distractions and the excesses, it’s time to alter habits – get out, but not to go shop. Instead start experiencing the world, first your neighborhood, then your community and the world.

If you really want to spend money, then spend it on experiences, not stuff – a gourmet meal; a trip to the zoo or museum; a class on painting; an excursion abroad.

(And you’ll be amazed at how much money you’ll be able to spend on experiences once it’s not being spent on distractions and excesses).

You’ll accrue lasting memories and personal growth, instead of a houseful of ‘junk’.

4. Spend More Time in Nature

Technology is an incredible thing. It’s provided the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate in unbelievable ways. It adds a lot of benefits to our life.

We can have the comforts of temperature control, electricity to light our homes when it’s dark, Facebook to keep us in touch with friends around the world, and an app for everything.

But technology also has the capacity to take away from living. With it’s addictive nature, if we’re not careful, we may spend all our waking hours attached to some piece of it – whether it’s our Smartphone, our Bluetooth, our iPod, or our laptop.

In getting connected and comfortable we’ve also become disconnected.

We’re disconnected from the natural rhythms of nature – the rising and setting of the sun, the cycles of the moon. We’re detached from our natural environments, which are covered in concrete, landscaped and regulated by HOA’s.

How often do we watch a bug on a leaf; the sun peak over the mountains; have the full moon light our path; see the stars in a pitch black night?

Nature has a powerful healing influence which technology has eliminated from our lives. Just being in it brings us fulfillment. It doesn’t require having the right app, or making sure there’s a good internet connection. You just have to show up.

Our personal journey has taught me that living simply truly leads to more fulfillment. It really doesn’t take a lot of stuff to be happy. It doesn’t cost anything to enjoy a sunset, or to spend time holding hands with your child. All that is required is the space for it to happen, and a mind focused on enjoying it.

Rachel Denning is traveling with her husband and 5 children from Alaska to Argentina. She writes about their family travel adventures and inspires others to design the lifestyle of their dreams.

 

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Comments

  1. Juanita says

    I love your positive approach to sharing your journey. And I love your statement “It doesn’t require having the right app, or making sure there’s a good internet connection. You just have to show up.”

  2. Kelly says

    I just wanted to say I love your blog! I have been reading it for quite sometime now and truly enjoy reading about a simpler life. Thanks for sharing all the ways you create a better life for your family. Its isnspiring me to do the same.

  3. says

    This is so inspiring! Living with less is certainly something I’m adjusting to more and more. It’s all too easy to accumulate stuff, but I find getting rid of it so freeing! The more simple (dare I say Swedish style) living idea makes me excited. I am quite jealous :)

  4. says

    I checked out Rachel’s site and it’s amazing what they’re doing. Friends and family wonder how we do our family camping trips with 3 little ones between 2 and 7. That’s NOTHING compared to what the Denning’s are accomplishing. They’re a great inspiration showing that anything is possible even with our small children.

  5. says

    Truly inspiring Rachel! My long term plan is to downsize to a campervan once the kids are independent. We’ll see how that all works out!
    “The message of minimalism isn’t that owning things is ‘bad’” – Totally agree with this. The point for me isn’t minimising for the sake of minimising – there are things that bring value to our life, like cameras. It’s about making room for the good stuff – be that actual physical things or experiences. I’m actually debating buying a fancy camera, no guilt involved as I rarely buy anything, and every purchase is thoughtful – no wasteful impulse buys here! All the very best! Jo

  6. Corrie-lyn says

    Wow what you have written speaks volumes to me. I am currently living in a caravan with my husband and 3 children 4 and under while we are building our house. It is amazing how much fun the children can have with such a little amount. What you are saying is so true as well with clutter taking time away from all that is truely important. Thanks for sharing.

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