My Story: How I Decluttered, Minimized and Simplified My Life
In the next couple of chapters I’ll cover how I started on my journey of living a simpler and happier life. I’ve included this information in some of my previous books, as it outlines my story and the valuable lessons I’ve learned. For those who’ve already read my story in my other books, you can skip ahead to chapter 3 if you so desire. Rereading it, though, might be a good review to light a fire under your butt to get going!
Dealing with Today’s Life Grind
As most of you who follow me or have read my book Going Off The Grid know, my journey didn’t start on a whim. I constructed the foundation of how I live now over a decade ago. It started as a desire to live more remotely and simply, then it evolved into a complete lifestyle change.
First, I think it’s important to understand that I grew up in a small town in the mountains of California, so living off the grid in the Pacific Northwest is not as drastic a stretch for me as one might think. I didn’t go into this adventure completely in the dark.
During my life, I’ve lived in many cities across the country. As I’ve gotten older, though, I’ve become disenchanted with and disengaged from that type of living. Urban living is not a bad lifestyle; it’s just not for me anymore.
Having grown up poor, in a single-wide trailer with very few neighbors, you might think I’d never want to return to such a lifestyle. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Growing up that way has given me a unique perspective and shaped my thoughts about what’s truly important. Sure, at times things were tough when I was young, but it made me appreciate everything I had that much more. I now look back and consider myself incredibly lucky to have had those experiences. I was fortunate enough to know most of the people in my town and was able to wave at them and get a wave back in return. That’s pretty much unheard of in most urban settings today.
I still have fond memories of racing home from football practice before the sun went down to get in an hour of bird hunting. Heck, I would have my shotgun behind the seat of my truck to save time. Yes, that would mean I had a shotgun on school grounds, and I wouldn’t have been the only one. A lot of us were hunters, and that was just all there was to it. Can you imagine what would happen to a kid doing that today?
I hate to have to do this, but I must clarify that the above does not represent my personal opinion or political view on gun control. Yep, in today’s easily offended society I’ve felt it necessary to put this paragraph and explanation in. If the above paragraph offends you, or drives you to leave a scathing review of this book based almost purely on it (my story), this book is probably not for you. Or maybe it’s exactly what you need. If you’re just delirious with anger over this, I would highly recommend you skip to chapter 12 and read that first. The above is a part of my childhood and young adult story, and I refuse to remove it so as not to offend anyone, as some have recommended I do, .Well, that’s not going to happen, as I won’t allow anyone to edit my life story in such a way. OK, I’m done, and off the soapbox I go!
My hunting activity was based on pure simplicity. I didn’t wear any special hunting outfit, just the same clothes I wore to school that day. My shotgun was nothing special, it was inexpensive and bought used, and worked just as well as a shotgun ten times the price. I still own and use that shotgun today, nearly 40 years later.
Once I left for college at eighteen, I had very few opportunities to do the things I enjoyed doing while growing up—hiking, fishing, hunting, and just being in nature. And for many years I yearned to return to that type of living. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced this lifestyle, but spending time outdoors has always made me the happiest.
To me, the daily grind of living in congested areas has become completely overwhelming and too stressful. Why would I want to sit in traffic if I don’t have to? The thought of going to the mall actually makes me cringe, to say the least.
But I can’t state this enough: There was a lot of planning required for me to transition to my current lifestyle, with numerous false starts and mistakes made along the way. With that being said, I wouldn’t change a thing. Well, maybe I wish someone had already written the books I’ve put together, as it would have made my life much easier.
Like most people today, I was doing the day-to-day grind. I’d spent almost half my life working for the government in one form or another and was completely burned out and questioning numerous aspects of my life. I remember just sitting there at my desk, after another joyless meeting with one of my bosses, thinking, What the heck am I doing with my life? I knew I needed a plan, but what was that plan? I had a house that was ridiculously expensive, with more debt than I wanted or was really necessary, and I was living in congested Southern California, slowly losing my mind.
I remember wondering back then, Is there something wrong with me? But since I’ve changed my lifestyle, I’ve spoken to and received emails from hundreds and hundreds of people who feel exactly as I did. I now know that the dissatisfaction I had with my previous lifestyle and mindset is not an unusual sentiment. If you feel this way, you’re not alone. Today, there are a lot more people who are looking for, or who are actually living, the type of lifestyle I live now. Simply put, we’re not willing to accept the modern-day societal expectation that we grind ourselves to oblivion chasing someone else’s predefined idea of happiness . . . there has to be a better way!
The Search Begins . . . Kind Of
The original plan began simply with this: I wanted to find someplace quiet to get away to. So I started looking at remote land and cabins in Oregon, Washington, Wyoming, and Montana. At first, it was just a cursory look. As it was in the middle of the housing boom, I soon noticed that remote properties were just as overpriced as the typical single-family dwelling in more populated areas. I called a couple of realtors just to get some information, but nothing serious came of it. At that point, I was a little discouraged that my plan was nothing more than a dream.
So I shelved my plan and continued with my daily grind, feeling let down and not sure what to do next. What I’ve now found, after over a decade of research, is that everyone goes through this type of discouragement when they first start trying to make these changes. So don’t lose hope.
Another important point I need to make is that I’ve never fit into the mold of today’s typical American lifestyle: the nine-to-five job, the commute, the cookie-cutter suburban home. I started my own side business a good ten years prior to hatching my idea of a mobile lifestyle in an effort to break out, and I’ve always been more of a “free thinker.”
I knew that in order to really have freedom, I’d have to run not only my own life, but possibly my own business. Let me assure you, though, I don’t think it’s 100 percent necessary for you to run your own business to live a simpler and more mobile lifestyle—but it sure helps.
The best advice I can give is if you’re feeling the grind, and really serious about living a simpler or more mobile life, you need to come up with a business model that fits in with your plans. Today, telecommuting is becoming more common for certain jobs that don’t require you to be in an office day-to-day, so just because you have a nine-to-five job doesn’t mean you can’t simplify and declutter your life.
A Kick in the Butt—The Real Search Begins
Fast-forward to 2013, and all these thoughts were still in the back of my mind. But due to many life-changing circumstances, I wasn’t really pursing my dream; I was in a rut. In that year, the stress of trying to run my own business weighed on me and numerous recent deaths of loved ones, including one of my best friends, hit home. I knew if I kept saying, “I’ll get to it next year,” it would never happen.
So with that, I rekindled the dream and put a plan into action. From the time when I had originally thought about living a simpler, more remote lifestyle, my ideas had evolved and changed. I had started a new business, sold my house and most of my belongings, and was debt free. That put me in a much better place to really pursue my dream.
My original plan was to have a remote getaway; now it was to live off the grid for at least part of the year, dedicating myself to being more mobile rather than stuck in one place. I was fortunate while working in the government to have traveled all over the world, but that lifestyle was addictive. I had caught the nomadic bug and realized I could no longer just stay in one place for very long. In addition, the housing bubble had taught me that the supposed American dream of home ownership—with that big fat mortgage—is a chain around the ankle of a freedom-based lifestyle.
Most think that living a mobile lifestyle, or living off the grid, means living in a beat-up van, cave, or shack with no running water or electricity. Today, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You can now live a comfortable life on a piece of fairly isolated land or travel around in a state-of-the-art RV, and I know this for a fact! Not only have I been doing it for years, but I’ve run into more people than I can count who are doing the same thing or something very similar.
I’m going to address this now, as it’s the main argument I get from people who think what I do is not obtainable for most people because I’m single with no kids. I could go into a long diatribe about life decisions and lifestyle choices, but I won’t—maybe in another book (ha ha, just kidding.) The fact is, I’ve met so many people who are married with two to three kids, not to mention multiple pets, who are living exactly like I am. I’m telling you with firsthand knowledge, anyone can live this lifestyle successfully if they want to. It all boils down to whether you want it and will make it happen proactively, or whether you just want to make excuses and complain about your life. Yes, it’s a little tough love, but someone has to say it. This lifestyle is as simple as coming up with a plan and putting it into action, instead of waiting for a miracle to happen, which will more than likely never occur.
I think the best part of this adventure is that I’m funding it in a way most Americans can afford. I don’t come from a long list of millionaires, and I don’t have unlimited resources. Still, I won’t deny that it does cost money, especially in the beginning. I know there are shows and books that say you can just take off with a hundred bucks in your pocket and do it. And some people have done it that way, but I like to live in reality and talk about what’s plausible for most people, not a selective few.
I’m hoping you’ll enjoy my adventure, and even if you’re not interested in such a lifestyle, maybe you’ll learn a little something that you can incorporate into your life to make it simpler and more enjoyable.