The first step in crafting the life you want is to get rid of everything you don’t.Joshua Becker – Author of Clutterfree with kids (any many other books)
For the last few years, both Monique and I have spent a lot of time cutting down clutter in our lives. Getting rid of things we didn’t use anymore, getting rid of clothes which were left unworn in wardrobes, even getting rid of some formerly treasured items like books and ornaments. The trigger at the time was watching a documentary called minimalism: a documentary about the important things.
You should check it out if you’ve not already seen it, it’s quite an eye opener, but the point of this article is that no matter how much we cut out, we still held onto way too much. It wasn’t till we went on the road that it became obvious we didn’t need half of the things in our house, and it was stopping us being who we want to be.
Limitations breed creativity
Living in a trailer on the road for an extended period of time means you have to live with significantly less stuff. For one thing, there’s not a lot of storage space, two when you have limited space, you need to be able to tidy quickly and three, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to waste worrying about things.
So you have to cut down your life to the essentials, what can you not be without. A summarized list for us is
- clothes for 5 days with 2 days worth of inclement layers
- food for 3-5 days (we only have a small fridge)
- kindle paperwhite (or a book for Monique)
- One small box of toys for E and S
- Laptops (for when inspiration strikes)
- useful stuff for living on road (see five things for road living with kids)
- basic toiletries
The point is, we didn’t miss anything. Not once did either of us spend an evening wanting to watch a TV show or movie, or to play a video game. In fact, I can honestly say, every day on the road feels full and satisfying, and totally focused.
A life free of distraction
It’s easy when you have access to endless distraction, to not get anything productive done. When we’re at home, it’s so easy to slip into a routine or habit of pacification. Work in the day, feed kids, go for a walk, bedtime, crash exhausted in front of the TV. When we’re travelling, we both still feel energized after the kids go to bed, you’re close to nature (and hopefully a nice warm campfire).
How can you not feel inspired by being so close to nature, the absence of electronics and blue light and the awe inspiring scenery all around. What’s even better, is that the only chores you need to do are sweep out 10 square feet of floor, one washing load a week and the washing up. So what are you going to do with all that time when you’ve not got to tidy and clean 3 bedrooms, a lounge, kitchen, couple of bathrooms etc etc?
It’s incredible how much more time you have on your hands, when you don’t have a myriad of chores to complete and a plentitude of toys to play with (or in our case tidy up). Instead, you spend a few minutes putting your stuff away at bedtime, set up the campfire and make a cup of tea, now what are you going to do with the next three hours before you go to bed?
Outdoor life is good for your health and your kids
Recently, the internet has been awash with clickbait on why nature is good for your mental health. The simple fact is that it’s a well known fact that being away from modern life and getting closer to nature is good for your wellbeing. Why do you think common parlance is full of expressions like “Getting back to nature”.
In short, studies (for example this one) show there is a clear link between time spent in nature, and mental and physical health. The drivers of which are linked to environmental factors (getting away from pollutants, dust and chemicals used in our homes), psychological factors (lower stress, natural light, aligning with circadian rhythms for better sleep) and physical factors (exercise and sleep).
It’s easy to gloss over this, but even a short burst out in nature can have a big effect on you and your families health. I can confirm that S in particular is so much calmer, and sleeps a million times better when we’re on the road than when we are at home. Literally, we can go from him sprinting laps around the kitchen counter and refusing to go to bed at home, to him quietly going to sleep bang on time in Red within a day of travelling, even if we’ve spent four hours driving to get there.
Let’s face it, if your kids go to bed without a fuss, and on time, how much better is your mental health at the end of the day?
Boredom is a necessary ingredient for creativity
All cards on the table, sometimes being without so much can be considered boring. However, part of modern life with 24/7 news, on demand TV, video games, internet, social media and messaging apps, is that there’s never any reason to let yourself be bored. That’s wonderful, but boredom is the time your brain needs to think.
When we shift our focus between different things, it breaks your focus and your brain has to reset and start again. Check out this TED talk from Manoush Zomorodi on the subject.
So when you’re away from all the toys (you wouldn’t believe the number of places where phones don’t work in America), your brain has time to focus on the things that are worrying you, that you want to create and what is important.
What’s even more amazing, is it does the same for your kids. First, you are less distracted so you are more mindful in your parenting and spend better quality time with them. Second, without a plethora of toys around them, they let their imaginations runs wild and the world around them becomes a toy instead (if I had a dollar for every log that turned into a train) and finally, play becomes both a physical and mental workout, which leads to better developed skills and more tired children at the end of the day who sleep better and, well that’s the unicorn right?
I’m not saying you need to live on the road to figure out how to be more mindful, and spend better more quality time with those you love, but it helps. Take the plunge and drag your family out for a weekend of camping (some advice here), have a look at everything you fill your day with and figure out if all those things help you be a better parent/partner/person, and if not, put them in a box and see if you can live without them.
If you can’t get away to camp, take your kids to a local park and have a picnic, and leave everything but the food at home. Getting amongst the greenery for a few hours will make you and your family feel brand new, and you’ll be amazed at what fun you can find.
Getting comfortable with living with less and spending more time outdoors than inside is not only better for your health, it’s better for your wallet as buying less things and enjoying more activities that consumables is way cheaper.
And finally, get comfortable with letting your brain (and your kids) be bored for a bit, it might just lead to you figuring out what you really want, and how you’re going to get it.