Minimalism, Maximalism, and Traveling Around the Country in an RV
My new RV! The blogosphere is on fire lately with regards to minimalism.
In case you haven’t heard of minimalism, it’s a movement whereby you live with fewer material possessions in favor of spending your income on experiences. I’ve Tweeted often lately about downsizing the house that I live in and getting rid of much of my stuff, and I’ve been asked several times if I consider myself a minimalist. This blog post is where I answer that question once and for all.
Here’s what has been going on in my life lately. In November, Richard and I broke up. He moved out, and I didn’t want a 2400 square-foot house (and its correspondingly huge rent payment) all to myself, so I decided to move. I picked a 1550 square-foot house with a rent payment that’s affordable to me. It’s a three-bedroom house over near San Diego State, and I love it.
A few days ago, for instance, I went out and chatted with a neighbor, then walked to the grocery store, bought some food, walked to the bank, withdrew some cash, and walked home. I love the freedom of being able to easily walk to the places I need, and I’m putting a lot fewer miles on my car. Many of my neighbors have lived here for years, and though this neighborhood is within easy walking distance of stores, restaurants, bars, and even a used bookstore, it’s a quiet, peaceful community.
I live on a street that gets far more foot traffic than car traffic, and my office overlooks the street. People walk around and casually chat with each other right outside my window.
This is, honestly, the neighborhood I’ve always dreamed of living in–somewhat urban, middle class, conservative, with friendly neighbors who know each other and little car traffic.
On Giving Up Stuff
To downsize from 2400 square feet to 1550 square feet required me to make some tough decisions. I got rid of two whole rooms of stuff. Most of it I simply gave away on craigslist for free, and though I’d had some of it for years, for the most part I gave it up easily.
I find the biggest “sting” with giving up stuff is in the first 24 hours, when you see the empty hole where your stuff once lived. That’s why moving (especially if you’re downsizing) is a great time to get rid of all your stuff–because you’ll be so busy rearranging the stuff you have left that you won’t notice the holes, and by the time you do think about it, the emotional sting will be gone.
I’m frugal when it comes to purchases, but when I do purchase something, I typically go for the nice variety of whatever it is and haggle the price down. My most recent big purchase was a huge decision that had been years in the making–a Class A RV!
My “new” RV–a 2002 Hurricane class A (by Four Winds.)
This is the second RV I’ve owned, and it’s much nicer than my first one. My first RV was a 1978 class C that I bought a few years ago for Burning Man. Richard and I fixed it up pretty nicely; unfortunately, the engine blew on the way home from Burning Man, and that was that–almost $5,000 down the drain.
This time, I wanted to do it right. Since my last RV died, I’d had numerous conversations with RV techs and other RV owners, and I’d come to the conclusion that I never wanted a class C RV again. (Here’s a primer to the three classes of RVs.) Class C’s are the most common, but their engines are woefully underpowered.
I had originally decided I wanted a class B (van style); however, the class B’s I was looking at ran $40,000 or more. That was a problem; at $40,000, I wasn’t comfortable paying all cash, so I would have to finance. I preferred to pay cash.
I went to a local RV center and looked at the RVs there. The owner of the RV center took on RVs on consignment–in other words, he sold RVs for the owners and took a percentage of the sale. They had quite a selection.
As was to be expected, they had mostly class Cs. I inquired about the class B that I had originally looked at, but was told it had been sold the day before. I decided to look around the lot, and when I saw the 2002 Hurricane class A, I assumed it would be at least $30,000, as well.
My RV’s interior (facing front).
My RV’s interior (facing back).
Imagine my surprise when the owner of the lot told me it was under $20,000! My first thought was, “I can pay cash for this one!”
I test-drove it and realized it would be perfect. It’s in excellent condition. The class A style and V10 engine mean it will hold up better over the years than most class Cs. It’s 31 feet long, which is a lot longer than I really needed, but the price sealed the deal for me.
I’m now in Las Vegas in my RV, on my first trip out with it, and I love it. I brought my desktop computer on the trip so I could use my big monitor…which was definitely the right choice. I am using my Mifi for Internet access. I’m parked in an RV park in Las Vegas at night ($16/night!)
There are a couple things I don’t like about the RV. The major one: it only gets 6.3 miles per gallon. I filled up here in Las Vegas and it was $131! And I still had a quarter tank left when I filled it up.
There are some upgrades I need to do (I am in desperate need of a new mattress) and some that would be nice to have (subwoofer; solar panels.) But all in all, I definitely see myself traveling in it a lot.
Living in an RV, even for a short time period, really helps you understand what you need and what you don’t need. What I’ve discovered is that, through my move and my subsequent house purging, I’m comfortable with my level of Stuff right now. Being in the RV, I don’t miss the Stuff at my house, but nor do I dread coming back and facing the Stuff that is there. Your house shouldn’t make you feel overwhelmed or stressed–but I don’t feel my house does.
So, I’m definitely not a minimalist. I do own two couches, a pinball machine, a big screen TV, and an RV. But I do tend to spend more of my disposable income on experiences, and I am a conscious spender…I don’t buy things that won’t add to my overall happiness.
Now, let’s talk about the RV! I’ll be going on a cross-country trip later this year around the U.S. I’ve tentatively set it for August. I will be announcing here on this blog when and where I’ll be. Once I announce it, I’ll post some meetup times and dates so you can come out and meet me as well as other erica.biz readers! (Please don’t email me with meetup requests for my cross-country trip until then–I won’t be able to keep track of them all.)
I’m really excited about my upcoming trip. Stay tuned to this blog and you’ll be the first to know where I’m going and when!
- Welcoming the Maximalist Movement. by Tyler Tervooren. I have a giant blog crush on Tyler. He writes great posts. This one is his take on minimalism. He doesn’t see himself as a minimalist, either. Read this one!
- True Visionaries Think Backwards. I wrote this post after my last RV died in 2007. Definitely a must-read if you haven’t dug that far back in my archives.