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Ruminations on home, space and stuff



As I mentioned in a previous post, my parents are in town this week. They’re “escapees”, full-time RVers who no longer have a permanent address or house to return to when they tire of life on the road. They can fit everything they need comfortably in their 5th wheel, a Big Sky Montana with a little over 300 sq. ft. of living space. It’s a very swanky RV complete with glass-front cupboards, a nice little kitchen island, and an electric fireplace beneath the flat-panel tv. It’s about the size of a small studio apartment, which turns out to be plenty of space for two adults and two small dogs. And somehow, they make the place feel like home when my brother and I come to visit. We can even crash there on the pull-out bed and sleep soundly, cuddled up with their two small dogs who love getting to sleep on “magic bed”.

Every time I spend time with them in the RV, I am reminded of how very few material possessions we need to be happy. They don’t have rooms and rooms full of STUFF and THINGS that need dusting and organizing. They don’t have seperate closets overflowing with clothes they don’t wear. They don’t feel compelled to save items they don’t want because someone gave it as a gift, or because it meant something to them when they were ten. They’ve pared down to the essentials, and every time they buy something new they have to get rid of something old. It’s a forced form of simple living!

Both Mom and Dad swear that they don’t miss their things, all the doodads they collected over half of a lifetime. Of course, they can visit half their things at my house (we took a lot of furniture off their hands when they left) so that might make it easier ;) The one thing Mom admits to missing is a real shower and bath, complete with scalding hot water. Dad, I think, must miss his workshop full of gadgets and tools. Otherwise they seem to have everything they need and want.

They are Workampers (which means they work at a campground in exchange for a site) so they aren’t off the hook when it comes to employment. But living in an RV has allowed them to reclaim sooooo much of their free time. Cleaning their house means an hour, tops, including mopping and vacuuming and all that good stuff. In comparison I usually spend 4-5 hours a week cleaning our house – and I’m certainly not a neat-freak. That is just enough time to keep it from being a health hazard or an embarrassment should unexpected guests drop by. I mowed the lawn today, and although I enjoyed the sunshine it was 2+ hours of monotonous work. Their lawn maintenance? Non-existant.  Sure, there are things to fix or upgrade here and there, but it’s nothing like the day-to-day care a real house needs. As Mom puts it, without the constant upkeep a house and lawn require, they find that they have time for friendships. Not to mention walks with the dogs, long phone conversations, and extra cups of coffee out under the awning in the morning sun.  And on top of all that, they can live anywhere they want. They can move right on out to the next beautiful beach or rocky coast whenever they get sick of what they’re looking at.

I try not to be materialistic, but in our culture it’s pretty hard not to get wrapped up in what The Joneses are wearing, driving, and living in. So I often need reminding that stuff and space does not make you happier; that a beautiful house is just a beautiful house, and although our Dirty Gert is fun to come home to I would probably be just as happy sharing a small apartment with the dogs without a huge lawn and a 12×12 craft room filled with fabric scraps and pretty beads. Or, as is the case with my parents, happier!
I’ll miss them terribly when they roll back out again, and sometimes selfishly wish they’d kept a house here in town so they could come back each summer and not always be so far away. But I see how much happier they are living this slow-paced life filled with warmth and sun (no snow, not ever!) and unlike many people  – who think they must be out of their minds -  I can understand completely why they’ve chosen this lifestyle. They’re my constant reminder that house is just a house, stuff is just stuff, and “home” can be anywhere.

Comments, Thoughts, and Feedback

Kristy had this to say on 10.08.07:

This is a lovely account of what life is really about, leave it to parents to figure it out. Maybe this place would be a little happier if we all threw out/donated some of the material things we haven’t looked at in years.
Thanks for sharing!

Patrick had this to say on 10.08.07:

A book that changed the way I thought about things is called “Your Money or Your Life.” It kinda puts into perspective why we work and what we are working for…It made me think about things a lot….of course I’m expending waaaaayyyyy to much of my life energy on my home right now, but there is a purpose to my madness…I think.

Give it a read…You can get it at most librarys.

good luck….

Mindy had this to say on 10.09.07:

Thanks, Kristy :)

Patrick – I love that book! Changed my thinking also. That and “The Tightwad Gazette” really altered my spending habits drastically. In fact, they’re the reason I started earnestly saving money when I was about 24. In less than a year with my new habits, I saved enough to make the downpayment on our house!

John had this to say on 10.10.07:

Good post. My wife and I have been having a lot of conversations about this. We’ve basically come the conclusion that less is more. Once we finish this house, we plan to start moving aggresively in that direction. Until then, we’ve begun sorting through all of the crap we’ve accumulated over the years and getting rid of everything that isn’t essential.

Yardbirdsax had this to say on 10.15.07:

I’ve often wondered what it might be like to give in to my inner wanderlust… maybe some day. Your post has given me motivation to start clearing out all the crap in our attic though! We certainly haven’t used a lot of it in some time.

Oh, and might I suggest reading a copy of Steinbeck’s “Travel’s With Charlie”? You might find it explains quite nicely our inherent desire to move about.

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