Minimalism – how to fit all your stuff in a van

Apparently, #minimalism is another trend sweeping the Western world. Or, at least, doing the rounds on social media. There are books, videos, and even workshops now teaching people to assess their belongings, get rid of unnecessary baggage and organize what remains in certain rigid ways that promote some kind of conscious appreciation of what you have.

When deciding to move into a van, one is somewhat forced into downsizing possessions. This stage is both liberating and stressful in equal measure. Our process of doing so did not involve self-help-type YouTube tutorials or advice from Marie Kondo on the best way store our crap in the tiny space that is our van. It started with the realisation that pretty much EVERYTHING from our flat needed to go, and ended in a car park, packing the van ready to leave with one of us angrily throwing beloved items onto an ever growing pile that “we’ll just have to f*cking dump now because NOTHING FITS IN THIS VAN”.After our year’s anniversary of van life, we went through all of the things we had with us in the van and found we were able to throw quite a few bits away that we simply had not touched through the year. The first, kind of obvious, rule of minimalism is thus: if you do not need it, do not own it. Being brutal with this rule however leaves no room for sentimentality, so there will always be a few things that aren’t necessarily needed, but will still remain in our van. And a few more that we will keep stored with our nearest and dearest.

We bought our van already in its camper version. This meant we were saved a lot of hard design decisions, and knew straight away what storage space we had to work with. We basically live according to four boxes, which is how the benches in the van are arranged:

Coffee is an obvious essential, and we don’t use the sink so it’s great extra storage
  • Box 1: Clothes – his and hers storage spaces are allocated within the box, and that’s all there is. If we get new clothes, we have to sort out our area and get rid of something in its place. One pair of jeans will have to do, one pair of work trousers, one good winter coat etc. Shoes have a separate area, and there is one pair of boots, one pair of trainers, one pair of sandals and one pair of wellies per person.
  • Box 2: Kitchen stuff – pots and pans, cutlery, bowls and cooking utensils are here. So is some of our dry food. Who needs plates for eating? We serve straight from the saucepan and each grab a spoon. With just two gas hobs to cook on and no oven, we don’t need a great deal else. And who wants to wash up a load of cooking utensils, plates and cutlery when you live in a van?
  • Box 3: Tools – we are slowly but surely carving out life as mobile handymen (handypeople? handymen/women?), which means we need to have a few bits with us to be able to work. Since our van is more than 40 years old, we also want to keep the basics on hand to be able to knock him back into shape when he needs it. Tools may not be an essential for all van lifers, but they sure are for us.
  • Box 4: Miscellaneous – this is the random area for a few books, handcrafty and hobby things, towels and blankets.

We have a very useful cupboard that houses our gas bottle, a wonderful fridge that can run off the gas or electricity supply, and a cute arrangement of small shelves which is where essentials like coffee cups live. Added extras crammed into random spaces are a few cleaning supplies, a hammock and an air sofa. We did plan and want to fit a chair or two into our lives, but they were discarded in the carpark fury mentioned above and actually it turns out that they are not so needed.

It is true of course that when people have space, they tend to fill it up. We are not so enlightened to claim that should we return to a stationary home somewhere that it would not end up full to the brim with stuff we don’t use. But for now, we really love the fact that everything that we own and need is stored and carried with us in our tiny little home. It is a different way to live of course; at the moment we definitely wouldn’t change it.

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