“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in an office or mowing the lawn. Climb that damn mountain.” Jack Kerouac, author and outdoor enthusiast, encouraged his readers to live, to say yes to the experiences that present themselves and get out.
The Age of “Stuffocation”
Mr. Kerouac’s sentiment of experience trumping all is not isolated. In Stuffocation: Living More With Less, author James Wallman presents the idea of removing the clutter that we surround ourselves with to make room for life.
When asked about his coined term “stuffocation,” Wallman gives the full definition as: “Stuffocation is that feeling you get when you have to fight through piles of stuff you don’t use to find the thing you need, or when someone gives you something and your gut reaction isn’t “thank you,” but “what on earth makes you think I could possibly want or need that?” Instead of thinking of more stuff in positive terms, like we used to, we now think more means more hassle, more to manage, and more to think about. Overwhelmed and suffocating from stuff, we are feeling ‘stuffocation.’”
Wallman’s theory is in nature minimalism and is not anti-stuff. Instead, he says, it is about balance; finding the materials that make you happy and fulfilled, but not bogged down. Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and world-renowned professional cleaning consultant, has made serious waves in the minimalistic world with her advice of purging. She speaks on the emotional connection humans misplace on stuff, and encourages her clients to remove this dependency.
This can be difficult, as anyone who has ever tried to clean their closets can attest, but she has a method, saying, “Keep only the things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.”
Removing the clutter around your house or office space, allows you to witness how little you actually need. And in doing so, you will have more time and more space to experience. And in true Kerouac fashion, this sense of freedom and adventure in wake of living with less is most obviously seen in the onslaught of van living.
Real Life Decluttering
Just take to social media to get to know the hundreds or thousands of followers and practitioners of this alternative way of living. Corey and Emily from Where’s My Office Now? have a website dedicated to their new way of life, and a YouTube channel tracking their nomadic lifestyle that has over 12K subscribers. Emily explains the allure of van life and the inherent liberty it contains, “[van life] is a quest for an exciting and less impactful life. I’m a homeowner. My home is white, has an upstairs loft and a full kitchen. It can comfortably sleep four. It has four tires. My home is a VW Vanagon. She’s a beauty, but not in a shiny new kind of way. She is well-worn and lived in.” The couple left their brick and mortar office job in 2013 and now live and work out of their van.
They are not alone. If you’re on Instagram, check out these accounts that have a similar story:
All of these accounts track the lives of people who have de-cluttered to a minimalist level, and have embraced small living quarters and the freedom of a home on wheels. (Plus, the images on their accounts are seriously drool worthy for all the wanderlusters out there!) It is a lifestyle that both Kerouac and Wallman would most likely support.
Think you’re ready to make room for more life this New Year? And don’t worry; you don’t have to move into a van to start making positive changes in your life.
Top Tips to Maximize Your Living Experience
1. Make an Experience List: This could be things you want to see, places you want to go, experiences you want to have. They can be as big as traveling somewhere to add a stamp to your passport, to as small as baking a cake.
2. Tidy Up: Simple, yet effective. Hold every piece of clothing, makeup, kitchen gadgets, office supplies you own and if it brings you joy, keep it; if it doesn’t, give it away! (a tip from Marie Kondo herself!)
3. If It’s Broken, Fix It: Make it a challenge to fix that broken toaster instead of just throwing it away; but, remember #2 above, don’t keep it just to keep it. If you’re going to fix that toaster, make sure you actually fix it so it doesn’t just sit on your counter taking up good kitchen real estate. Honesty with yourself on this one is always the best policy.
4. Find Balance: If you bring more in, send some out! Tidying, organizing, and purging won’t last if you bring more in than what you get rid of. Be mindful and honest with what you need before bringing anything new into your home or office space.
Make room this year to experience all you can. Tidy up, be adventurous, and keep that Kerouac spirit alive!