Mindset - But Not as Boring as It Sounds

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Recently my soon-to-be daughter-in-law called me. She's either nuts or a really good sport because she’s agreed to spend the first few months of marriage living in a van.

Don’t get me wrong. As someone who also agreed to #vanlife, I’m all for new experiences, but she and my son need to decide if they are more interested in being part of a movement or staying married.

Let me set the stage. They haven’t set up house. They’ve traveled together but that always involved running water and an enclosed toilet. Yes, I know. The word "toilet” usually implies “enclosed" -- but humor me here. At this point the decision is made and the van bought. She just wanted the “pros and cons.” Where to begin?

Some are convinced it won’t work. They give reasons like “smell,” “space,” and “falling out of love.” I can add “what do you mean I can’t drive anywhere because you need a strong wifi?”, “that time of the month,” “being next to someone all the time,” and “why in the heck did I agree to this?”

There’s also having to be quiet when one or the other is Zooming, convincing him that the AC on all the time is essential, and that keeping the magic alive means him on toilet duty.

So, there are the cons. Are there any pros to living in 50 square feet?

If you want to handle more than a long weekend it might take a prescription, but it can be done. And this is how: mindset.

Some may argue that "positive thinking" and "having a good attitude" have their limits. I agree, and that’s not what I’m talking about. You can only get so far trying to positive yourself out of listening to your loved one…well, fill in the blank.

Mindset is a completely different way to fool yourself. Sure, who doesn’t love space, privacy, cleanliness, space, a dishwasher, and space? But this is a choice.

Mindset isn’t a whim, it’s a decision. It means you are going to do it and you are going to do it well, even if bribes are part of the process.  

Since Marty and I have some experience living in our van I told her what I’ve learned – so she doesn’t have to spend as much on counseling as I did.

Decide now that this is going to be an adventure. It’s not forever (probably). If nothing else you’re going to eat out on the story indefinitely, and in a few decades, you’ll be able to laugh about it.

Remember, privacy is overrated. For centuries no one thought anything about pulling a bowl out from under the bed, doing their business and shoving it back.

You’ll get some serious decluttering done. When you must decide which two pairs of shoes will be in the van and which go into the storage unit, suddenly not having eight different choices of flip flops becomes a first-world problem. 

You’ll find that you don’t wear all of the 10 tops you picked, and that it’s not a big deal for him to wash the two plates and forks after every meal because that’s all you have.

If you have an “I got this” attitude, you’ll find that the shelf space for your stuff is ample, and that you’re surprised at how much can fit. But if you’re more the “I gotta endure this” type, there will never be enough, everything will be annoying and your one and only will become your number one nemesis – or so I’ve heard. 

Decide you’re in this together and you’ll gain appreciation for simplicity and gratitude for anything more. You’ll have what you need, each other, and a lifetime ahead to try something else.

So sweet girl, I wish you all the best. We’re with you all the way and may be parked next to you for some of it. And after it’s over, any place you move into with more than one room might leave you feeling a bit lonely.


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