The first thing most people say when they pop their heads in our van is “I can’t believe how clean it is”. We always respond, “well we need to keep it clean, it makes life way easier”.

Over a year ago when we first packed the van, we packed it to the brim. All the cupboards were over flowing, the Thule box was so stuffed it took both of us to close it and we had piles of stuff stashed behind the back seat. Every day we would go through the process of moving things around just to make the bed, or find something. Every day we would fight to close the Thule box, all because of stuff.

That first time we packed the van to begin “van life”, everything we decided to take, or not take, was a tough decision. “But I love this shirt”, “I can’t live without my hatchet”. All these lines of wants ended up meaning a van so full that we couldn’t comfortably live in it.

Upon our return from the east coast, back to our home base in Ottawa, we ended up ditching a lot. Five sets of  clothing. Anything that didn’t get used those first couple months got left behind. All of a sudden the van felt open. Free. And like home.

We could make the bed just by pulling out the seat. We could close the Thule box. Making dinner was so much easier without everything in the way.

At that point, every time we thought we wanted something, we would ask ourselves “where are we going to put it?” This question never arose when we lived in the condo. We would put it somewhere. There was always space. But in the van, it wasn’t the same situation. Anything we added, meant the inconvenience to move it around to get to something else.

We asked ourselves that question so many times, that we actually stopped asking it. We knew as soon as the idea of getting something new came up. We were simply full. Not only did we know our van was full, but mentally we were full as well. We had everything we really needed, all with us, all traveling along everywhere we went.

That’s a freedom we never had before. No more being tied down by all this big stuff like a dinning room table, 700 different kitchen tools and a couch and TV. Our van was comfortable to live in and we had everything we needed to be happy.

This time around, when we packed the van for the second lap of the trip after a 4 months break, it was even easier. We cleaned the van from top to bottom, emptied all drawers, all cupboards and somehow ended up ditching a whole bunch again. We weren’t forced to do so, we didn’t need the space, we just didn’t need the things.

I guess in a way, all this makes us “minimalist”, but it doesn’t really feel like that to me. I feel more like a “practicalist”. So next time you are wanting something, be a practical about it. Ask yourself, do I have room to store it? Do I have a practical need for it? Does it add value to my life? Is it going to make me happy for more than the 24 hours after I got it? You’ll realize that most of the time, the answer is no!


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