The Comfort of Stuff
Getting back into the swing of regular sharing here on Rock Meets Soil
and this piece couldn’t be more fitting. As I currently am transitioning back into
a house after three years in my van, Jeffrey’s insight into what we ‘need’ is incredibly thought-
provoking for me, and I’m sure you’ll see what I mean. He alternates between a small
apartment and his van, and this has brought some great perspective on
the comfort of stuff in his life. Enough rambling…check it out.
the comfort of stuff
I just returned from a three week road trip in my camper van, and I keep finding myself standing at the sink with the hot water running marveling over the magic of hot water endlessly flowing from a tap. Wow, what a convenience when you haven't had any for a while. But in a few days, the novelty and appreciation will likely fade, and I'll be back to taking it for granted.
I'm a van life weekend warrior, living a hybrid version of the life. I have an apartment and also a self-sustaining camper van with many convenient amenities. I take off on both multi-week trips as well as weekends away on a regular basis. No matter how long I'm gone for, coming back to this apartment always rubs something in my face about life: what do I actually 'need'?
This apartment is full of so many conveniences that most get taken for granted: hot water, electricity, heat/ac, etc. But, being on the road has shown me I can get by without most of them. And I'm not even roughing it in my van; it has running cold water, electricity, LED lighting, a fridge, stove, etc. This van I currently own is my fifth like it, and every time I've flipped one and start up-fitting a new one, I wind up back to the basics: mattress on the floor, water in a jug, camping stove and lantern. Oddly enough the more that the van gets built out and up-fitted, the less charming living in it gets. There's something about being forced to get by with less that makes it more of an adventure.
The question then becomes, what do I actually 'need'? Why does my apartment have to have piles of blankets, stacks of towels, a dozen pots and pans, piles of cleaning stuff, closets full of clothes, etc, etc. Who told me I need all this, and why did I believe them? On the road I seem to get along fine without hardly any of it. I'll even indulge in packing lots of clothes and shoes and never wear most of it. I'll just defer to the same three t-shirts and two pairs of cut-off shorts. So WTF is with all this stuff in my house?
My apartment is tiny and isn't even close to what "normal" people acquire in their houses. The garbage I generate is about one full bag every week and a half to two weeks. I'm not excessive, and it makes me feel better that I could be worse. But why then can't I get by with only essentials? Two pairs of shoes, three shirts and two pairs of pants should be more than enough. Why the two closets full of clothes and shoes? I know its insanity, yet all the stuff comforts me still.
I'm grateful for the van in that it holds up a mirror for me to reflect on my insanity; I might not have noticed otherwise. I can't say I'm ready to give up my collection of band t-shirts just yet, but knowing you have a problem is the first step to solving it. The thing I admire about vanlifers is that they managed to make the leap from the comfort that having stuff brings, and are out there fearlessly taking on the world with only the necessities. I'll get there one day, but for now I'm going to microwave a frozen snack, pull a few espresso shots from my Breville, curl up on one of my many pieces of lawn furniture, and reflect some more on getting by with less.