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Stuff.

Posted by on February 17, 2010

We find ourselves currently in a lovely campground in Jacksonville, Florida and we will be here for a few weeks so I’ll have more to share about the campground later.  Today, however, I want to share a link to a project that my husband recently shared with me:  The Story of Stuff.   The site has a great 20-minute video about the accumulation of stuff and the environmental impact of the increased consumption rate.  I highly recommend checking out the site.  In addition to the video, they offer some interesting facts about consumption.  For example, did you know that “[t]he average U.S. person now consumes twice as much as they did 50 years ago?”  Or, that “[e]ach person in the United States makes 4 1/2 pounds of garbage a day? That is twice what we each made thirty years ago.”  Definitely check out the project.  It will give you something to think about the next time you find yourself out shopping.

So what, you may ask,  does this have to do with a youngish couple who travel around the country in their shiny aluminum home? A lot.  In order to live this lifestyle we had to eliminate a lot of our “stuff.”  I’ve talked about this in previous blogs and the page that explains “Our Crazy Plan.”  Getting rid of stuff responsibly isn’t easy…not nearly as easy as acquiring it.  And, our recent trip back to our storage unit was not exciting but rather depressing.  Upon opening the storage unit door, we saw just how much stuff we still own.  While this all seemed like important items nine months ago, today the majority of it is now categorized into the “get rid of ASAP” pile.

On March 1, we mark our nine-month anniversary of life on the road.  We both agree that we have seen some amazing sights, met some incredible people, and grown closer through the experience.  But, primarily we agree that getting rid of our belongings and living a simpler lifestyle has been the most powerful change.   Here’s my bullet list of things that have had a positive impact on our lifestyle, and more importantly, the environment:

  • We no longer walk out of Target with $100 worth of items that we don’t need.  (FYI:  My last blog was entitled “Attention Target Shoppers” and I would like for it to be known that my only purchases that night were Septic-safe toilet paper and some dark chocolate.  Obviously the toilet paper is a necessity…but I argue that so is the dark chocolate.)
  • We no longer buy too many groceries that sit in our pantry well beyond the expiration date.  In fact, we seem to buy more fresh foods and have learned to carefully plan our meals out in advance so as to avoid multiple trips to the store.
  • Our water consumption has decreased tremendously.  When you only have a 15 gallon gray water tank, you quickly learn how to use less water when washing dishes or brushing your teeth.  Showers are quick, even when they are in the campground’s bathrooms.  And, laundry…well I’m pretty cheap when it comes to using my quarters so laundry is only done once a week.  And, with less clothing in tow, we’ve learned that some things can be worn awhile before being considered “dirty.”
  • And, while some people will emphasize our use of gas to tow our home, in the end I would say we still live a much more energy-efficient lifestyle. One of our intentions in this adventure was specifically to live more simply and lighten our environmental impact.  Having to buy a tow vehicle was one of the most difficult decisions.  If we could tow with a Prius we would.  However, there are not many high-efficient fuel options for vehicles capable of towing our home.  In the end, we settled on our Ford F150 and despite the admittedly horrendous gas mileage of the vehicle, we are very conscience of this fact and suspect that we drive less than the average commuter as we spend most of our time enjoying the campground life and as little time as possible driving.
  • We live in 160 square feet so it takes little to heat and power our humble abode.  And, we grow tired of refilling our propane tanks so we are pretty stingy with our propane use.  Additionally, we recently began converting the few lights in our home to LED.
  • And…then there’s recycling.  Chris once got into a fight with his college roommate after the roommate threw out the recycling into the garbage.  Needless to say, it’s a topic near and dear to Chris’ heart.  Because we do not have the luxury of curbside recycling pickup and sadly, many campground do not offer recycling options, we find ourselves making trips to various community recycling centers.  But, I’ll save that for a separate blog entry as that experience is worth more than a bullet-point.

It’s been an incredible lifestyle change and one that will continue with us long after our Airstream journey comes to an end.  I enjoy life so much more without the clutter and junk.  Don’t get me wrong, traveling the country and seeing what we’ve seen is amazing but so is this new sense of freedom from being owned and defined by our stuff.

4 Responses to Stuff.

  1. lotus

    That’s very cool, Lani! We have a small home and we bought it with the intention of living simply and within our means. Now after ten years, i was shocked at how much we had accumulated. Stuff just sitting in piles. Slowly I’m going through it and donating to various organizations.

    I would imagine that a lot of people would be buying/consuming a bunch of disposable crap with the argument that they live in a small trailer. I find it impressive that you all are being so conscious about consumption and disposal!

    Have you encountered a lot of famer’s markets for your free veggies through your travels?

  2. Lani

    Unfortunately, visiting the local farmers’ markets is where we seem to struggle. When we started out on this journey we were so excited to check out the local farmers’ markets and we’ve failed miserably in that area. It is definitely something we need to be more aware of during our travels and make a point to stop when we see them. I should put that on my list of things we need to do more. (That list is still quite long!) We intend to settle for a longer period of time this summer and hopefully we can take advantage of more local activities and markets.

    It is so easy to acquire more stuff, isn’t it? Even when careful about it, it is a huge challenge. We still have many areas where we can and hope to improve.

    Hope you are doing well! :)

  3. Cherie / Technomadia

    Totally agree.. setting free from stuff owning us has been huge for us as well. Living in a small space really keeps one extremely conscious about the purchases you make. It now not only comes down to cost, but also space and power consumption.

    And living with limited resources – such as water and power (we’re solar powered on our rig), really gets one in tune. I now use less water in a week than I used to in a single shower. Mind boggling!

    All our best.. and happy travels!

  4. Lani

    Thanks for the comment, Cherie! I’ve really enjoyed following along with you on your travels. Good point about the solar power. I neglected to mention that aspect of this lifestyle. We, too, have solar panels on our trailer and rely on them when possible. It’s been fabulous – especially when we boondock.

    Safe travels and hopefully we can meet up someday!

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