My New Years Resolution: Finding the Happiness of Not Having Things

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A beautiful sunset is the true happiness of life. What more could we need to be happy?

A beautiful sunset is the true happiness of life. What more could we need to be happy?

Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying.  The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.  ~Elise Boulding

Anthropology is one of my favorite subjects and this week I’ve been reading a book about our Hunter-Gatherer ancestors called “Limited Wants, Unlimited Means.” It discusses at great lengths the latest research into how they lived and it shows they actually lived remarkably pleasant and easy lives.  The thing that stood out to me the most was their relationship to owning things because it is totally different from our own. The entire concept of private property or treasuring things was totally unknown among most of them.
Limited Wants, Unlimited Means: A Reader On Hunter-Gatherer Economics And The Environment
Because they were so mobile, owning things was totally negative. It had to be carried and cared for so owning something had no appeal to it. The very few things they needed could simply be discarded and left behind and new ones made when they got to the new location.
Beyond their need for constant movement, Hunter-Gatherers lived totally communal lives and the idea of withholding things from others in the tribe was unthinkable. If one person had food, everyone ate; if one person went hungry, every person went hungry. Generosity was the single highest value in the tribe and withholding from others was the greatest sin—although there was no concept of sin.

Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.  ~Robert Brault

As I read more about how they lived like things meant nothing to them except a burden, I wished I could have that attitude toward the things in my life. They lived in the happiness of NOT having things. I hate to admit this to you, but I still like my stuff and struggle with constantly wanting “more.” When I lived in a home-built camper, I had so little room that I had very little stuff and was fairly content with that. Then I moved into the 6×10 trailer and I had a LOT more room and the number of things I owned exploded! Then a few years later I sold the truck and bought an extended van and the number of things I owned exploded again! Eventually I become so disgusted with all the crap that I owned and how hard it was to break camp that I went on a major hunt to get rid of a lot of it. That helped a lot and it got better.
But, I’m very aware that possessions still have too much power over me. I have a hunger and yearning to own more and the main reason I don’t is because I can’t afford to get everything I want and I don’t have any room for it. I’d like very much to have a different attitude toward things and that means doing some soul-searching and self-examination. So that’s my New Year’s Resolution for 2014; loosen myself from the tyranny of things and find the joy of NOT having things.
In a recent thread on the forum somebody asked about hiding their valuables in the van or RV so they would stay safe. It was an interesting thread and then Stargazer wrote this post and I was thunderstruck by the wisdom in it:

No matter where you store your valuables, the worry of losing them will always be in your mind and soul. This is a perfect example of how stuff owns the person. The only way to avoid the worry of losing something is not to own it at all, or to spiritually disconnect from it, something most people are unable to do. This is why priests take vows of poverty — not to worship the God of wealth.

Most of us live in constant fear of losing our stuff, why? Because the stuff has way too much meaning to us, if we lose it, we will be emotionally hurt by the loss. That says there is something basically unhealthy in our relationship to it.

I like to walk about among the beautiful things that adorn the world; but private wealth I should decline, or any sort of personal possessions, because they would take away my liberty.  ~George Santayana

My goal for this year is to change my basic attitude toward things so that I can be like my Hunter-Gatherer  forefathers and be able to discard something without a thought or give it to someone else who needs it more with nothing but joy.
I want to also challenge each of you to consider your relationship to things. I believe that our relationship to things is at the very heart of living the free, mobile life. Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, I think many of us find vandwelling appealing because it requires a simple, minimal life. At our core, we truly hate how enslaved we are to our possessions; we just have no idea how to break free from it.

Anything you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions. Peace Pilgrim 

What exactly is your relationship to the things in your life? Do you love them? Do you hate them?  Do you own them, or do they own you? Or have you ever even given it any thought? Most people don’t, they just go through life following the programming society has instilled in them.
Come join me as I search for a new attitude. But let me warn you now that I don’t have any answers yet and I can’t tell you what you should think. Each of us has to do our own internal struggling and reach our own conclusions.

In our rich consumers’ civilization we spin cocoons around ourselves and get possessed by our possessions ~Max Lerner

 Happiness consists, not in possessing much, but in being content with what we possess. He who wants little always has enough. ~Zimmermann

My riches consist not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants. ~J. Brotherton

We make ourselves rich by making our wants few.  ~Henry David Thoreau

Previous Living in Tiny Spaces; How Much House do you Really Need?
Next My View of Christmas

75 Comments

  1. Dan

    awesome post Bob! I’m still on the same path as you, to free myself from my possessions. It speaks volumes how worthless most of our “stuff” really is when I go to sell it and no-one wants it, or wants to pay for it! George Carlin’s youtube clip on “stuff” really hits home for me here.

    • Bob

      Dan, you are so right! We have a give-away pile at the RTR and at the end I will take everything leftover to a thrift store in town. About 1/2 of it was worthless s**t I would be embarrassed to take to a thrift store so I took it straight to the dump.
      Most of us have a toxic relationship with stuff, but we never look at it or consider it. I’m not suggesting in any way what anyone’s relationship should be, because I don’t know. I just think we should all be willing to look at it with total honesty and reach our own conclusions.
      Bob

  2. Jim

    Have to agree with you Dan.

  3. Irv Oslin

    Well said. The Buddhists refer to this as clinging — a barrier to true happiness.
    One of my favorite quotes from literature is when the character Nigger Jim in Huckleberry Finn said he was rich — because he owned himself.

    • Bob

      Thanks Irv! I’m a big fan of the Buddhist Middle Path–neither avoiding nor clinging. Somewhere between hating things and loving things is the right way.
      Bob

  4. jim

    Lots of good points in your post Mr bob as you say we all get sucker into the american dream of more more more, i was raise up i would’t say dirty poor always some food on the table and a roof over our heads but my parents were very tight with there money if it was not something they needed it did’t get bought, so when i got out on my own i wanted every thing thinking it would make me more than what i was or maybe better than the next person that did’t have what i had this went on for over 20 years then one day like a bolt of lighting it hit me nothing i had was making me happy none of it nice house new trucks,camping trailers and on and on so for the last 10 years i have been giving things to the kids have stop buying anything that i just can not do without like food,gas and i doing just fine when i see people driving these new trucks and cars knowing there are a– deep in payments i fell sorry for them and i say to myself been there did that (BUT NEVER AGAIN) and i would like to think you so much because when i get that fell to buy something i read your book again and your old post and i good to go again you and homer have a great week and be safe

    • Bob

      Jim, what a great comment, thank you!! Your story is an inspiration to all of us! I want to be more like you!
      Bob

  5. breid1903

    nothing personal, but if you are as stubborn about getting rid of your “stuff” as you were at getting it in the first place it will all go. maybe 2 or 3 days tops. just get rid of it. give it away. it will not have a death grip on you when it is gone. you will SMILE and feel so light that you will need to hold on so you don’t float away.
    did i say give it away? yes i did. it is like pulling a band aid, you can yank it off or pull it off slowly. your call. you can guess the method i used.
    peaceup raz

    • Bob

      breid1903 thanks for the advice. After 12 years of living in a vehicle, I am quite good at getting rid of stuff because I’ve had LOTS of practice! What I need is a permanent change on the inside so I break the attachment to the stuff. Then this will be the LAST time I have to get rid of it.
      Bob

  6. Chris Carrington

    And my childhood was the opposite of Jim in the previous post….I saw my mother push push push everyone in the family to make money because she wanted the things it buys to impress people she didn’t even like….so I swore I would never be like that and did the whole back-to-the-land/hippie thing much to her chagrin. Then I had a child and reality struck so I got a job, but still was never a spend thrift, just saved saved saved. And most things I needed at the time I bought with an eye to selling it later. I was then able to retire at 59 with a decent nest egg. 10 years later that egg has only grown as I live simply and modestly while helping others in the process. My point here is that I believe my money buys me freedom. I can have anything I want, I have everything I want. Freedom from want. Freedom from financial worry. Stuff just weighs me down. If I buy a new blouse I give away an old one. Good post Bob!!

    • Bob

      Chris, thank you for your wonderful comment!! You really hit the nail on the head, it isn’t about money, or things or having more or less of them. It’s all about your attitude toward money and things and not whether you have a little or a lot. And you have a great attitude toward them!
      Bob

  7. Al Christensen

    Does this mean you won’t be getting the ultralight, Bob? 😉

    • Bob

      You would have to bring that up Al!! No, that’s on hold until I am 62 and drawing Social Security. I don’t know if it will happen or not.
      Bob

  8. John L.

    Totally agree with you here Bob! STUFF…do we own it, or does it own us!!I have a philosophy that if I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, food to eat…..well, I already have so much more than many others! I practice a rule since I moved to my 6 x 12 trailer—-nothing comes into my trailer (other than food) unless something already there goes out!! Minimalism is wonderful when you can really wrap your head around it.

    • Bob

      Thanks John, that is a good rule to live by!
      Bob

  9. Nemo

    This one hit home Bob 🙂 Normally I dont have anything to do with “resolutions” but I may change that this year.. More and more I have felt pinned down by what owns me, perhaps it’s time to change that 🙂

    • Bob

      Nemo, I agree, I don’t do resolutions either. So I think of this as an anti-resolution, resolution. Self-examination is the surest path to a good life and so I’m going to give it a try.
      Bob

  10. Rob

    Being a hunter-gather in a land of abundance with a mild climate would be really comfortable & not much ‘stuff’ would be needed. Less than abundance or a temperate climate & the need for ‘stuff’ would increase. An early winter or late spring might really suck if you were a hunter-gather.
    In going from stationary lifestyle to nomad ‘stuff’ was the hardest part. Still is.
    You’ve been a nomad for awhile now Bob, you follow the seasons & your “inner voice” for travel or fun or changes.
    What ‘stuff’ do you need to live like you do? IMO the ‘stuff’ that is just for fun is as important as the metal cook pot.
    I was just heating coffee water on the propane two burner in the back of our van parked in a New Mexico state park on the tea kettle from the kitchen in our RV parked in Texas. Besides that being a long sentence the fact that I brought our tea kettle was remarkable. Before we moved to the RV the camping gear had it’s own pot for boiling water… Dealing with ‘stuff’ is the hardest part of this lifestyle.
    Please notice I used the word “lifestyle”, it was/is a choice, there are other options.
    Good post Bob!

    • Bob

      Rob, actually, one of the tribes in the book was the Bushmen of the Kalahari which is one of the most inhospitable places on the planet. But, it has everything humans need to live, and absolutely nothing extra.
      That’s a good question, do you only have your needs and not meet any wants, or do wants have just as much validity as needs? If yes, where do you draw the line so that you just don’t have every little thing you want? To be honest I don’t know where this is all going but if I”m going to be serious about it I have to throw out my preconcieved notions and be open to anything.
      Bob

      • Rob

        My daughter got cancer at 15, a long fight & she had almost 2 yrs of remission.
        During that remission time she put the “wants” (fun & life in general) on an even footing with the “needs” (work & school). Neither was more important than the other.
        ‘Stuff’? I’d say when you can carry what you need for “your” life with you and you’re happy your ‘stuff’ is right where it needs to be.

        • Bob

          Rob, it sounds like you have a very balanced view to me. I’m just sorry it had to be learned from such a hard lesson. I wish you and your daughter the very best.
          Bob

  11. Peggy Collins

    Another thought-provoking post, Bob. I like how you’re always self-examining and learning detachment.
    I’ve been kicking myself a little lately because I do the same thing every year around this time…I buy a bunch of books, more than I can possibly read, and most of them just sit there unread. The books I read are always non-fiction and usually have something to do with self-improvement, creativity, or health. I like to learn how to do new things. I love books and lust after them!
    But I know deep down that I’d be just fine if everything I owned disappeared tomorrow and I had to live in a tent. I’m pretty attached to my laptop though, so hopefully the tent would have wifi. 🙂

    • Bob

      Peggy, that tent has to have wifi!! It sounds like you are doing really well and have a great attitude toward things!
      Bob

  12. Gary

    I have a problem with people wanting to give me things – I don’t want. At the moment I have a new grill in a box, because my sweetheart decided my old one was to grungy. I use to have a fairly empty closet, that is now full with clothes that people have gotten for me because my wardrobe was so sparse. I liked it sparse because then I wasted no time with choice, that was relatively unimportant to me. I now have so many shirts, shorts and sox that I have to put them in plastic containers because there is no room for them to all be displayed. Keep in mind I have bought none of them. I didn’t want them but people decided on birthdays, holidays etc. that they had to acknowledge me so they got me something that thought “I could always use”. It does me absolutely no good to say “NO”.
    At this stage of my life I go to my office in jeans and I am no longer looking to build “a practice”. I lead a simple inexpensive life. I have no need for a wardrobe. This Xmas I threw out a dozen pairs of sox because my sweetheart bought me new ones and I had no room in my drawer for both the old and the new. My new concept is to toss something for anything new I acquire.
    It’s amazing how people think I cannot possibly be happy with less and there way of supposedly making me happier is to give me stuff I don’t want and now can’t throw away.

    • Linda Sand

      I suggest you donate all that excess. And keep right on donating things as they arrive until your family finally understands that you will not keep the things THEY decide you need. That may never happen but in the meantime you will make some thrift store shoppers very happy.

    • Bob

      Wow Gary, what a unique problem to have. That’s a lot why I stopped participating in Christmas just so I could avoid the whole gift-giving idea.
      You didn’t ask for my advice, and there is nothing especially wise about it, but i think if I were you I’d make it very clear you didn’t want gifts and then every time you got something thank the person profusely and tell them you are giving it to Salvation Army or Goodwill so it will do the most possible good. Then do it, give it to Goodwill! If they ever ask you about it, tell them that a homeless person somewhere is using it with real gratitude in their heart and thank them again for their generosity!!
      Bob

  13. openspaceman

    THEIR IS A HYPOCRITE AMONG US!
    …And it is I Openspaceman…I don’t own a stick of furniture or an appliance unless you count my Mr. Buddy and little 12v fridge…but because it’s easy and keeps me near family…I help people buy furniture and appliances…some people need stuff, some people want stuff. I like nice things I have to admit…but I like my freedom more. Is it a dilemma that I help people get what they want…I don’t think so. I think this minimalist lifestyle is not even a measurable percentage of the population. Most people want a nice kitchen and furnished home and a few want to not be burdened with alot of possessions.
    *Thanks Bob for making me aware that there are like minded people out there…and making me feel less like a freak.

    • jonthebru

      Many young people are adapting a minimalist lifestyle, it would surprise you how many.

      • openspaceman

        jonthebru_
        If enough twenty-somethings embraced the minimalist mindset that would put a jolt in the system…it would be interesting to see how corporate America would market to people who don’t want stuff.

        • jonthebru

          That is a compelling idea.

          • Jake

            “If enough twenty-somethings embraced the minimalist mindset that would put a jolt in the system…it would be interesting to see how corporate America would market to people who don’t want stuff.”
            And like Bob said, coming from a twenty-something himself, it does enslave us. I have to move out, I work for minimum wage and cannot afford to live in a apartment. I’m considering dropping the lifestyle and living out on the road.
            Jake

          • Bob

            Jake, we are living in a very different world than what our parents grew up in. I don’t think we will ever see the white-picket fence dream come true again. Most people graduate college and can’t get a job in their field and end up working a minimum wage job or simply can’t find a job. Prices keep going up but wages are going down.
            Planning for the worst and being able to survive in a van seems like the very best choice for a lot of people.
            Bob

    • Bob

      openspaceman, I don’t think that makes you a hypocrite at all! I think it makes you a kind, goodhearted person who doesn’t pass judgement on your family and friends.
      Bob

      • openspaceman

        Bob_
        But what would Mazlow think of a person living in a van? I feel content and comfortable as I work towards my goal of temporary freedom from the rat race…about 10 months away. But am I “Self-Actualized, who knows and more importantly who cares…I hear the whispers and see the confused looks and eat bowls of Midwestern conservative judgement everyday.
        *Like I’ve said before; Everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle. I have seen and done many things in this life and left my comfort zone plenty…I’ve learned to be less judgemental but it is going to be a life long battle. As far as the landlocked masses…they/we…will always fear the things we don’t understand …it’s a survival instinct I guess.

        • Openspaceman

          Tried to delete my last comment…I was just ramblin’…but I posted it on accident.

        • Bob

          openspaceman, I like that quote and try to keep that idea in mind. At some level we are all just sad, lonely, hurt children trying to feel loved and accepted. Some of our cries for help are sad and pathetic, some are hurtful and hateful. I’ts hard to look past them to see the heart they come from.
          Bob

          • kitty

            The above comment by you Bob, it the heart of all conflict between people and the planet.

          • Bob

            Thanks Kitty!
            Bob

  14. CAE

    Getting what you want is far more elusive that wanting what you’ve already got.

    • Bob

      That is so true CAE!! And key to a happy life as well.
      Bob

  15. Gretchen

    Well said Bob!!! Living full time in my rv has brought me to a place of less is more everyday. My biggest weakness is books, almost purchased a recent publish book this morning, stood in line and realized I didn’t have my wallet. Hummm, universe was telling me something and I listened:) I continue to be amazed at how little I REALLY need, it is the wants that continue to express their lure that I fight constantly. I’m up for the good fight! So many of the “things” I packed a year ago have been passed forward. Keeping life simple. Family and good friends are the most important thing in my life and I’m forever grateful I found your blog, spend Thanksgiving with you and all those like-minded folks.
    Happy New Year, Bob may 2014 be the best ever.

    • Bob

      Gretchen, one of the questions I want to resolve is fulfilling my wants bad? I so why? I honestly don’t know but I would like to find out.
      bob

  16. jonthebru

    One truth that I have heard is: “If you want to give yourself a raise, cut your expenses.”
    Here in Hawaii all expenses are high,(Costco gas is 3.95, most places are 4.30. Diesel is 4.60) but its the mortgage that gets you, and my home at this point is the one possession I will have trouble leaving.

    • Bob

      I understand that jonthebru, it was the hardest for me as well.
      Today it is the only possession of all that has zero appeal to me. I find them totally repulsive!! I can’t say that will or won’t happen to you, but there is only one way to find out!
      Bob

  17. Tom

    Another great post Bob. I have been described as a minimalist by many of my friends and family. Usually when they voice their frustration over my lack of enthusiasm to own stuff or to buy into expensive hobbies. It’s a term I have come to welcome. But also understand the need to own stuff. There are none in our society that we treat so badly as those that have the least.
    As the self examination takes place (and yes, myself included), some of you may already experienced this as van dwellers. You may have been treated differently then those that have an apartment or house. For those with even less, they are treated even worse. I certainly understand the need to own stuff.

    • Bob

      Tom, humans almost universally fear what we don’t understand and unless you have felt the lure of living in a vehicle and the simplicity it requires, you just’s can’t understand it. Most of us have even experienced that subtle contempt from RVers in nice RVs. Even they tend to look down on us.
      it’s just human nature!
      Bob

  18. jim

    I agree with chris money does buy you freedom but peace of mine is the key to it all, back in the 80’s i had a very good friend we work together every weekday then on the weekends we cookout,hunted,drink beer he live with his sister had no bills and he was happy he would tell me all the time i don’t have anything and i don’t won’t anything i could’t under stand his thinking at the time he was kill on a motorcycle and then it hit me what he was saying no matter how poor you are or how rich you are we all leave this old earth equal it’s your chose to live a happy life or a sh–y one nobody really cares if you are happy are not that’s up to you, Gary i have the same trouble people wanting to give me things i don’t need are want but i take them and think them for the things then i turn around and give them to people i know that need them and sometimes them same people do give me things i need,the older i get the less i want and need and d-m the less i want the happier i am

    • Bob

      jim, it sounds like you are getting it all figured out!!!
      Bob

  19. Brian

    Freeing myself from my many possessions has been the hardest part of vandwelling for me. I’m grateful for eBay and craigslist as I have been able to recover some money from all of my stuff. But its a complete pain in the ass!! Once I am down to what will fit in my van, I hope to never have to go through all of that again.
    -Brian

    • Bob

      Brian, we can all feel for you, we’ve been there! It may take constant vigilance to keep the stuff out once you get rid of it!
      Bob

  20. Steve & Zeke The Mountain dog

    To me it is not a book, a quote, but life, life in this environment that breaks down to needs and wants in boondocking and it has taken me 3 years to finally get to the point where needs are no more, and wants come to life… My want now is comfort, as I turn 52 this February I find that every thing i need is fulfilled with my last purchase of a 650 watt used Honda generator to fill my power need on non solar days… This was a dead generator at $100.00 and DOA, I knew it had to be a bad carb so i bought a new carb at the same time, replaced the carb and she fired on the first pull, ending my need list… so this took me 3 years on a tight budget to complete, but with a clear goal, it as i have proven, is not unattainable… The collection of crap is now so far below me due to room and the thought of collecting such crap is beyond my comprehension that with the money i have now saved i have a hard time beginning on this road of comfort… So I continue to save, one day i will spend it on comfort, but not until I have my emergency fund completely full for the time I know I will need it… Be free, but smart, be you…

    • Bob

      Steve, you are a perfect example of living the good life of vandwelling!! Everything you need, and nothing more!
      Bob

  21. Al Christensen

    Living in the limited space of a van has made it clear that if I want something new there has to be a place to put it. No more extra rooms and a garage to hold my stuff. So something would need to go. It has worked so far, and I feel better.
    I’ve also made a vow to myself that I want to be able to live in the van without needing to unload anything first each time I stop in order to make room. No climbing over stuff either. I’m still working on that. Almost there.
    For example, I realized today that I won’t be living in places so remote that I can’t get water. I don’t need to have a huge reserve of water. I rarely use my 7-gallon container. When I do it’s mostly out of guilt for not having used it. One-gallon jugs are so much easier to handle and tuck out of the way. So the 7-gallon jug will be given to someone else. Oh, look, more floor space! That’s a new cool thing to have.

    • Bob

      Al, I wondered who put that beautiful 7 gallon Reliant jug on the give-away pile!! You are my hero!
      Bob

      • Al Christensen

        It made room for the milk crate you passed on to me. Much more useful.

        • Bob

          Good news!
          Bob

  22. Calvin R

    Bob, all of this fascinates me. I guess my unique contribution to all this is that a person can make a religion based on the hunter-gatherer history, which is quite a bit longer than its successor, agricultural society. I do that.
    I grew up at the level of poverty that makes a sharp distinction between wants and needs. This past autumn that came into sharp focus as I wound up one Sunday looking for a place to stay that night, because my “stable” place to stay suddenly vanished. I found another place thanks to good friends, but I had to load whatever I could into my small car. I managed another load the next day, and have been assessing the results ever since. My biggest mistake was not bringing either of my bicycles; even non-nomads need transportation, and I knew that old car would give up soon. It did. I finally got the better bike back a few days ago, noticeably worse off for being left with crazy people. The next biggest mistake was bringing things I have not used and probably will not. That includes some minor electronics and I’m not sure what else. This stuff is in the way when I look for the tools and things that I actually need. It’s not the curse a house or any kind of payments would be, but it’s a nuisance. The people where I left the rest of the stuff have threatened to return it. If they do, I will have more sorting to do. The only “want” thing I look forward to keeping is my family tree stuff. I needed my steel-toed boots at one point but was able to replace them. I only have two feet; I don’t need four of the same shoes.
    I still have openness in my plans. I have begun to worry about the maintenance and repair costs of a motor vehicle when I depend totally on it. I have paid attention to your postings on how tents wear out in the desert air, but I imagine a tent would be easier to replace than a van. What counters the idea of using a bicycle and tent is that fact that the cigarettes I gave up long ago are coming back to haunt my lungs.
    Communication is also a factor; humans have always formed communities and modern communication technology (Internet, cell phones) makes that so much easier that I can it that as a necessity. Most of this stuff needs electricity, though, and that’s difficult in a tent setup.
    Like the ancients, I will avoid over-planning. Plans have to be maintained to meet changing reality, and that’s more work than simply adapting in my current situation.
    I have tools for reducing the clutter in my life. One is standing in front of an item I might buy, or gazing at it on the Internet or in the catalog and deliberately asking myself how and how often I’ll use it, where I’ll store it, and how much maintenance it might need. That deters many foolish purchases. An even better tool is a simple saying. “When in doubt, don’t.” That serves many purposes for me, including the deterrent factor in shopping.
    Over the years, many people have given up trying to give me gifts, which helps me. Those who remain have picked up on the idea of actually asking me what I need rather than guessing wrong again.

    • Bob

      Calvin, there is a guy here in camp who lives in a bivy bag and travels on a bicycle. I admire him tremendously!! The bivy is so small you can very easily tuck it under shade so the sun doesn’t destroy it and the wind flows over it.
      I’m testing a new $100 tent I hope can stand up to the desert wind. But this is the best winter weather I have ever seen, it has not been cold yet and we have had no significant winds!! We’re all loving it but it isn’t a good test for the new tent.
      A motorcycle may work for you. Much simpler mechanically but they can carry much more than a bicycle and declining lungs shouldn’t be a problem. Just a thought.
      Bob

      • Calvin R

        Bob, I’ve been back and forth in my head about motorcycles for a long time. I’m sure you know there are advantages and disadvantages either way. The advantages are obvious. The speed of motorcycles and the ease of operation would give me much more range over a bicycle. The high mpg would make visiting my friends and relatives here in Ohio much less expensive than driving a van or car that far, and visiting by bicycle would be a long-term project. I have camping experience, so that’s not an issue, and I’m aware of tent trailers made for motorcycles. That would be another potential “format” for my journeys.
        One issue personal to me is that I have short legs even for my short height (5’2″). I have a 25″ inseam, and many bikes are too tall for me. I also would have to have a bike strong enough to pull a trailer if I were to equal the load I can carry with a bicycle and trailer. While I don’t expect it to come down to this one, I also already have a bicycle.
        I have been amazed at the number of choices in all of this. I have come to understand that we don’t know our environment until we take a long look at it with fresh eyes not guided by convention.

        • Bob

          I have debated motorcycle verses car, versus van. The problem is I really like my comforts! But even more, I have to have a dog with me, that rules out a nearly everything but a van.
          I was riding the new Honda Rebel 250 on the freeway the other day and I thought it would work as a full-time bike. It is very low to the ground, even you can sit flat-footed. It was designed to be a training bike and first-bike for female riders. I shift into 5th gear at 55 so it is comfortable on the freeway for short distances. I think it could tow a small trailer with camping gear if you keep it minimal. It gets an honest 70 mpg!!!!! They are super-reliable and easy to fix. Parts and mechanics are everywhere for it!!
          Bob

  23. DougB

    As a recovering maximalist who finally was able to stop renting storage space, each small victory feels good. But I’m just beginning to do repairs and mods where it would have been real handy to keep those small threaded fasteners instead of having to add them to the buy list at the store 28 miles away. Oh well.
    And Bob, if you do buy the aircraft, you’re going to need a place to put your motorcycle. I’ll be happy to store it for you onboard the Enterprise, heh heh…

    • Bob

      Every Federation ship should have a shuttle! I may take you up on that offer!
      Bob

      • DougB

        Good. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my excuse: “We do not know where it is now, Sir. Perhaps it has been misplaced. But, the problem is moot. We will not be in your area for many years. We will contact you when that event seems likely.”

  24. Vegashank

    Greetings Bob,
    I just wandered into your unique, informative, & interesting site. Nice!
    As I approach eighty (77),the ‘minimalist’ chat seems amusing if not encouraging. Even as a very young man I recognized the hold possessions had over one, and my desire was to fit everything I owned into one suitcase. I came very close then, and once again it nears.
    I think the minimalist trend is wonderful, despite an increasingly hostile corporate fascism whose interests are inimical to ours, and is scarcely inclined to tolerate our anti-consumerist lifestyle. The growing Wal-Mart limitations are one troubling example.
    Those who have not been harassed by establishment robots are fortunate.
    Apologies for my cynicism…I’m off.
    “It is better to travel than to arrive”. -Hindu proverb-

    • Bob

      Vegas hank, you are fortunate to have seen through the consumerist haze at such a young age! I’m sure it contributed to an interesting and wonderful life!
      Bob

  25. Canine

    I’ve never been mistaken for a pack rat, yet I’ve accumulated stuff. Over the last 2 1/2 years, I’ve went through my stuff 5 times and am now close to the minimum. I can easily fit my stuff in the bed of a full size truck.
    When I had stuff, I was worried about who might take it or what might happen to it in a fire, what would I do if it flooded?, etc. Now that I have less stuff, I am happier. My place is cleaner. It is more open. It is a relief to be so comfortable. Most of my stuff can be easily replaced at little cost.
    My thoughts at one time were, “I want to get rid of my stuff because I don’t want to be a pack rat.” Instead of utilizing negative thoughts to live in a more positive light, I now utilize positive thoughts to live in a more positive light. Now that I have little more than what I need, my thoughts are more positive. I look forward to less cleaning, less maintenance, more time to spend on what really fulfills me, and more money to do the things that truly matter to me.
    My best memories aren’t the videos games I bought and played. It isn’t the TV shows I watched. Mostly, anyway. Am glad I watch Magnum, P.I., but have no fond memories of The A-Team or most other shows. My best memories are of my childhood dog and me playing and hiking in the woods.
    Don’t get me wrong. If I were blessed with large amounts of money, I would own more. I doubt I would own a place with a bathroom so large I could play baseball in it, but I would certainly have more than I have now.
    I have a friend who is a hoarder. He keeps junk vehicles, cassette tapes, every picture he ever printed even if he has copies, has 5 cats, 2 dogs, etc. He has a nice truck that is currently not running. It could be fixed if he sold his other two old, broken-down trucks to finance the needed repairs on his new one. Instead he leaves his money invested in junk that is rusting away so that he has three non-running vehicles instead of one good one. I thought that was weird and that he was wrong in how he invests his money.
    Then I thought about myself. Why did I have three lunch boxes? Two hardhats? Was I so different? No. I had the same mentality, but it wasn’t manifested to such a degree.
    Getting rid of stuff means being an outcast of sorts. When people learn that I choose to have such a small amount of stuff, they usually look at me funny and sometimes have a negative comment. I’m proud I live within my means and how I do waaaay more with my life than they do; however, I tend to keep my lifestyle to myself to avoid the Negative Nellies that surround me.
    What non-essentials have I kept? Metal detector. A box of sentimental crap. 3 photo albums- 40+ years worth of pictures. (I threw tons of pictures away.)Several CD’s. And my dog. I consider my dog an essential, but she really isn’t. I could live without my four-legged buddy, but a life without a dog is not a life I want to live.
    My progress has evolved over several small steps. I have not found myself suddenly impoverished from a life of plenty. (Some people, if they were in my shoes, would be devastated, but I don’t see it like that.) I’m still making forward progress and it is now becoming rewarding. I like the life I have much better in many ways now.
    Looking at how happy my dog is while she hardly has any material possessions is interesting. I’d like to be more like her by letting go of stuff that doesn’t matter while being happy about the stuff that truly matters.

    • Bob

      canine, you have some really wise points there! It’s easy to spot a hoarder, but I think you are very right we can still be hoarders, just on a much smaller scale. I don’t think there is anything wrong with keeping some non-essential items. The whole point of life is to be happy and if a metal detector and old photos makes you happier then you should have them! No one has the right to pass judgement for how much or how little you own.
      Like you, a life without a dog is not a life I want to have.
      Bob

  26. Rob

    I cannot buy something now without having a place to put it. I saw a coffee cup I really liked but I didn’t want to have to part with either of the ones I have now. There is just no where good to put another cup in our small home.
    FWIW coffee cups fall in the ‘need’ category rather then the ‘want’ in my life.
    DougB mentioned fasteners… I can’t get rid of them (again),I don’t have a good place to keep them and they are often used. I’m using a large mayonnaise jar from Costco for fasteners, washers & the like. Not what I had before but they are in one place.

    • Bob

      Rob, living in a very small space has the huge advantage of restricting how much stuff you can collect. Makes you creative in how you store things.
      Bob

  27. Buster

    I hate how much ‘stuff’ i own. I am completely and utterly owned by it. 5 motorbikes. 2 4×4. a boat. a canoe.. a shed full of gym gear. all this ‘stuff’ does is keep me grounded in the one place and robs me of my happiness which I believe lies in being able to roam free.
    While I am struggling with the ability to sell all of this stuff off, it is currently my number 1 goal. I want to start life as a blank canvas so to speak. To sell off everything and start again with nothing more than a back pack. It is even a struggle to write this down as my mind is so clouded with the steps that lay ahead to achieving what I want. But somehow, I believe it can be done. I’ve never owned so much sh#t and felt so unhappy and I guess that is because I have allowed it to get to the point where it owns me.
    Good luck with your new years resolution mate, I hope to achieve a similar goal. Will keep you posted.
    Buster

    • Bob

      Have you considered an auction? The auction company comes in and does everything and then gets top dollar for it. They take a big but but you still end up with a lot.
      The main thing is it takes you out of the middle of it and the emotional attachment you would be feeling.
      I wish you the best!
      Bob

  28. kaet

    I have really enjoyed reading these insights:)My heritage is Pictish,which were a matriarchal clan.So everything gets passed down through the females.Interesting,but the last two years plus of my life I have spent electing to no longer be the Guardian of Stuff.With the passing of grandmothers,each one of us successively has become inundated.My grandma grew up in the Depression an so,when I moved her out of her home into mine,lo and behold.200 plastic margarine tubs.70 towels.6 sets of dishes and at minimum 3 of everything. I laughed at it,because I thought it was cute even tho a little silly.Who can even fit 200 butter tubs in a fridge,and why would you want to?”Well,I might need one…” was her response.Hmm.When she passed,I and my mother had managed to whittle her Stuff down,but…BOOM.My house was full of stuff I didnt even look at.My now exhusband bipolared out on me and know what?I did take the time to pack up Stuff.Valuable hours of my life Ill never get back ,devoted to the preservation of Stuff.DUHHH!I realized the risk I had put myself at,and decided then and there,I cannot love stuff.It does NOT love me,pay my bills or its own housing.I can love my laptop as I work from it,it earns its keep and doesnt take up much room.I have never given anything away that I thought,”My life isnt complete without that”,and there is my meter for Stuff.Lovely people,peace:)

    • Bob

      Kaet, it sounds like you are developing a great attitude toward “stuff”, good for you!! I’m sure your life will be better for it!
      Bob

  29. Christy M

    Hi Bob! I have a question for you. Is there any chance that sometimes our frugality can cause us to be hoarders? It is just something that came into my mind since I don’t want to develop that kind of attitude. I’d rather splurge to bless other people than be a hoarder which is similar as a pack rat. Thanks in advance for answering my question! =)

    • Bob

      Christy, frugality says “Don’t buy anything you don’t absolutely need.” It does seem like it would also say “Save everything you get so you won’t need to buy it later.” In that way I can see them going together. I know someone who saved everything that every came into her life because one of these days she might need it.
      I think I would say that hoarding is frugality taken to extremes. But it is much more complex than that, I think it is an addiction or bordering on mental illness. I have an addictive personality and think I may have gotten close to being a hoarder. I have some mild symptoms of it.
      I do think that survivalism can be a symptom of hoarding, but not always. i think that is partly why survivalism appeals to me
      Bob

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