Once again, I am participating in a group writing event for families on “the move”, and this time’s theme is “Living Without”. One person in the group questioned if any of us were really qualified to write on this topic, considering that most of us are able to live a life of travel and adventure, because we have more than others. Some argued that in US terms they live at a “poverty level”, but their life in a foreign country is not focused on consumption, but on living more than comfortably within their means.

This led me to consider what it means to me to be “living without”. I have seen those who live without finished floors, without running water, without a toilet, without clean clothes, without food on their plates every day, and also without a worry as to whether they should have those things or not. Those are truly people who live without the conveniences of modern-day. But they do not live without joy, purpose, and friendship. They have enough. We could learn a lesson from them about what it truly means to “live without”, and we would likely learn that “without” is still enough!

While we don’t live “without”, we have learned over the years to live “with less”.

When we lived in Alaska, the food barge would arrive once a week, on a Tuesday. If you went shopping on a Monday, you would find the single grocery store in town was generally out of milk and bread and most produce. We learned to not make meal plans before finding out what was actually available (and not rotten) at the grocery store. Also, our one General Store was the only “convenience” store in town. It had anything from school supplies, to toys, tools, dishes, and furniture. In fact, it was the only place in town to find most household “necessities” (i.e. shower curtains, sheets, silverware, pots and pans, packing tape, etc). BUT…it did not have everything. In American-terms it was/is a very humble store that boasts a small-town flavor. The old floorboards creek and dip with your steps, the employees great you like an old friend, and they’ll gladly put your bill on a monthly tab if they know you well enough. Our mantra in Alaska became “If you can’t find it at the grocery store or at the hardware store, then you don’t need it!” 

Some people have suggested that moving to Mexico must have been a drastic change for us. Weather-wise and landscape-wise, YES–it was! But lifestyle-wise?  No, not really. The truth is that in Mexico you learn to accept that you can’t get your hands on everything (at least not without breaking the bank). Not everything is new, shiny, and is done using groundbreaking technology. Some things just aren’t done in what we would consider a logical way, but it’s just the way it is done. These are many of the same lessons we had already learned in Alaska!

Another lesson our Alaska lifestyle taught us was that the more stuff we owned, the harder it was to move and make changes in our lives. We were in the habit of moving every 6 months (for about 10 years), and we took the moving process as an opportunity to rid our lives of the extra “stuff” that weighed us down. Those extra conveniences were some of the hardest to give away. Who doesn’t want a garlic press, a small and medium sized food processor, 3 pairs of black pants, those old tennis shoes that might come in handy for a work project, etc? Packing and moving was a pain, and we decided that if an item wasn’t worn or used often, then it wasn’t worth packing and unpacking. Plus, as you can see in the photo above, our summer home (a travel trailer) left little room for extras. All of its 30 feet of glory would now easily fit in just the master bedroom of the home we are renting. We parred down to just the most often-used items. I had one pair of tennis shoes, one pair of church shoes, one pair of beach sandals, and one pair of walking sandals.

Fast forward to the present…and we have recently signed our first 23 month lease on a rental home (yes, 24 wasn’t going to cut it…we have travel plans…so 23 months fit the bill). It is the longest housing lease of our life! We are also now in a much better financial situation, where we are not limited in what we purchase, like in the lean days of getting our business off the ground. Now that we have the means (and lifestyle) to own more, it is much harder to stop ourselves from also consuming more.  Are our needs actually greater?  No, but we naturally want to fill our lives with more stuff.

It is a huge temptation to own more than we need.

Let’s face it…if you have the space and money to purchase that extra little do-dad…it is that much harder to decide that life is better without it!  To say, “No, I don’t need that adorable pair of black shoes on sale, because I already have a pair that works just fine.” And “No, we do not need the latest technology in TV’s, dishwashers, and washing machines”, or “No, we do not need that extra decoration on our wall”.

Do our bedrooms and living rooms really have to look like they’re from a magazine? Is it really worth the time, effort, and money? Who isn’t tempted to say, “but we saved a lot of money, and got a really great deal on this! And doesn’t it look nice?”

Of course we are tempted…aren’t you?

But if we live with less, how much more can we gain?

If we can live with less, then we can spend our money (=time) on more important things. If we live with less, then we give ourselves the freedom of throwing our small(er) collection in a storage and taking off to see a bit more of the world. If we live with less, then we can more freely give to others who actually live without

So, with all of the temptations of Black Friday breathing down your neck…I challenge you to do an experiment on “living with less”. Stop and ask yourselves, “Does my child really need another toy? Does my husband really need that new iPod?” Why not spend that time/money on an unexpected family trip, save it for extra date nights with your spouse, or donate the money to a charitable need and give your family a lesson on living with less this Holiday season?

What can you live without?

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To read other Traveling Families’ posts on this topic, I would encourage you to read the following awesome posts!

Windwalker Duo – Living Better with Less

The Nomadic Family – The Ying Yang of Living Without

Tripping Mom –  Less Stuff, More Life

New Life on the Road – Living the Simple Lifestyle But Still Would Love One Thing

A King’s Life – Living with Less & Spoiling Ourselves

Globetrotting Mama – Living Without the Stuff

With 2 Kids in Tow – After 10 Months of Living With Less 

Family on Bikes – Living with less: What can you ditch?

Raising Miro – 12 year old Miro’s post –  Living Without the Norm

Carried on the Wind – Living Without

Bohemian Travelers – More Experiences are Easier to Collect

Livin on the Road – Living Without

A Minor Diversion – What We’ve Learnt to Live Without

12 Responses to “Living Without”

  1. Hi Livingo Outside of the box,

    We too have are learning to live without! We have sold so much – and realised what we can easily live without having stuff in our life!

    I like the idea of saving up money, and giving it to those that need it 🙂

    Sure is amazing to be travelling with less, but experiencing so much more with our family.

    I like how you learnt that if the store didnt have it, then you didnt need it 🙂

    Cheers
    Lisa

    • I love the feeling of selling stuff. Sure, sometimes I think “darn, too bad I don’t still have ______”, but then I realize I have only “missed” it a handful of times in the past 4 years. Hardly worth owning when I can get by without it!

  2. I love how you touched on being tempted. I think it is so true that when your lifestyle changes it is harder to say no. When we travel we are limited in what the options are. If it can’t fit in the pack then we can’t buy it, that makes things easier. The real question is if we can hold strong to that mentality when we are settled and not given constraints!

    • I totally agree. If we pack for a weekend trip to the beach in our car, we pack a LOT more things than if we are going on a real trip with flights, etc. We seems to fill whatever the capacity may be…and the smaller the capacity is, the easier it is to make the decisions, I think!

  3. The value of experience is so much higher than anything we own, isn’t it? Still learning but your insights made me think.

  4. Yes! I went to Target today for the first time in a long time… it sort of made me sick. I stuck to the few things that were on my list. I look forward to visiting with friends the day after Thanksgiving and NOT shopping!

    • Good for you, for sticking to the list! I have only done the day after Thanksgiving 2 times in my life, I think. I thought it was ridiculous to see people racing to pull things off the shelves. It’s a sport, not a meaningful event. Ugh!!

  5. You’ve done it again! Inspired me from the first few words. Thank you for reminding me how ‘if it’s not in the hardware store or the grocery store, we must not need it’.

    It’s a new way of seeing life for us who ‘live with less’ and one that doesn’t not come without it’s fair share of confusion (for us anyhow).

    Loved sharing in this project with you,
    Keep inspiring others,

    Gabi

    • I agree…it can be confusing and sometimes difficult to figure out how and when to live with less. And yet, when you really get into the swing of things, it becomes easy. But…as I mentioned, acquire a steady rental home, and things start creeping in again! It’s a battle!

  6. What can I live without? A whole lot! That being said, for the moment I’m choosing not to live that way – for four years I lived with only what I could carry on my bike. Now I’ve got a bit more, but still not what the typical American has.

    • I totally hear you. We have actually acquired kids toys (and some extra shoes and slippers) for the first time. Heck…we even bought bunk beds for the girls (tsk tsk…I know that may gave me a bit of a headache in storage in the future)!! Yes, the challenge is still living with less when there’s room for more!!

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