#vanlife and the practice of living simply

Doing more with less isn't easy. It takes practice. And one way to get a lot of practice? Try living in a van. 

Arctic Campers

Here's a shot of my wife Caitlin on our honeymoon in Norway. We lived out of this van for just 6 days, and I can confirm that it's no picnic. Sure, it's a lot like moving constantly from picnic to picnic. But the difference is your picnic basket contains all your clothes and supplies, and gets 20 miles per gallon. 

"Van life" does have its perks. I'll spare you the full vacation slideshow, but we toured the epic coastline of the Lofoten Islands, explored beautiful Norwegian fishing villages, and made our best attempt at hiking like the Norwegians. And we got to spend entire days in places we never would have made it to otherwise.

It was everything we hoped for and more. And "more" included a few downsides. Like that time that Caitlin decided to air out her socks by hanging them above my pillow. Or that time that I overheated in the middle of the night and spent five minutes struggling to delayer. Or that time that we thought someone was pranking us only to find a herd of goats rubbing up against the side of the van.

All that makes the prospect of living out of a van full time a daunting one. But people do it, and they seem to love it. The New Yorker profiled Emily King and Corey Smith, who run @wheresmyofficenow on Instagram. They fund their life on the road—and days spent kayaking, mountain biking, and driving through national parks—through product placement in their #vanlife posts. 

They've been at it since 2015, which makes them total pros. But even after all these years, I bet they'd be the first to say they have yet to perfect their already very minimalist lifestyle. Take an example. 

In May 2018, Emily and Corey decided to remodel their van, which they named Boscha. An Instagram story revealed one thing they could use less of: clothes. 


Corey: "You've been packing your clothes for four hours—like, I tore apart the whole van."

Emily: "That's true. It's a lot of clothes."

—Instagram @wheresmyofficenow

Again, it's hard. These are professional minimalists, who live out of the tiniest mobile home: a van. If their wardrobe can be allowed to get out of hand, what hope do any of us have? 

The good news is we have something more practical than hope. And it's also more tangible than "a minimalist philosophy." Because minimalism is a practice—and it takes practice. It's not something we have, it's something we will always aspire to have—no matter how good we get at living the dream, in a van, down by the surf. 

Here's what we do have. Instead of trying to figure it all out on our own, we have a community of people who are all working together to own less, waste less, and do more of what we love. 

That's what Only What Matters is all about. It's the place to share tips and tricks, and lessons learned. To build on what others are doing. To help others avoid the mistakes we made. And to enjoy the experience—the practice—with people who have the same values we do. 

What Does Minimalism Mean?

Minimalism takes different forms depending on what you're looking to achieve, but at the most basic level, minimalism is about reducing excess and living simply. "Excess" isn't limited to physical things, it can be responsibilities, thoughts, items on the todo list, etc.

The part I love about minimalism is that there isn't one method or end goal. It's unique to each individual. Some people are going to take minimalism to the extreme, like living with only 50 items, others will apply it in broad strokes to specific areas of their life. 

Minimalism is like staying in shape, it takes time, commitment, and discipline. If you take a break, getting back to pre-break levels isn't easy.

Running around, telling folks that you're a minimalist isn't advisable. Our recommendation is to just say that you're living simply and being more mindful with possessions and purchases. Saying that you're a minimalist can illicit responses such as "you're still wearing clothes and driving a car though" or "you're rich and thus have the luxury of being a minimalist". We put together 6 Reasons Why People Hate Minimalists to help you see why some people might not be so excited when you tell them you are a minimalist.

How do you apply minimalism to your life?