Sunday, 29 April 2012

Fulltiming Preparation

First of all, what is 'fulltiming'?

It's a term applied to spending an extended period of time living in a mobile leisure vehicle, be it a touring caravan or a motorhome. It's not to be confused with being a 'traveller' or living in a semi-permanent trailer like a park home or on a 'trailer park'.

Although some folks end up full-timing by default (the classic example is as a result of marriage breakdown), for the overwhelming majority it's a conscious lifestyle choice. It is sticking up two fingers to not only thinking inside the box, but at being trapped inside the box too. Fulltimers are truly free.

Me, I've been fulltiming on and off for about 10 years in a variety of caravans in a variety of ways. The past few years saw me fulltiming (or, as some called it, 'part-timing') for seven months of the year during the warmer months, then retreating to bricks and mortar for the winter.

Now that the house was to be sold, it was time to once again consider fulltiming.

But this time it was to be different. Very different.

All outward appearances look the same… living in the Airstream most of the year, and renting a cottage or two in pretty places for a couple of extended periods in the winter.

So why should this time be any different?

This time, I was setting up life to be free. Truly free. And that meant free of the burden of extraneous possessions.

Every time I've moved out of a house and into a caravan, I've always done so with the full intention of moving back into a house within the foreseeable future. But a couple of things have happened along the way…

In 2002, the intention was to spend six months in Tarifa in Spain. Yet I was back in the UK after three months. Why? Because the friend who had kindly offered to store a lot of my stuff unexpectedly decided to move house. While she COULD have moved all my rubbish as well, it would have been unfair of me to expect her to do so. So it was a 2,000 mile trip back…

Meanwhile, I had other stuff in various people's lofts and garages. So I was dependent on those people allowing me access to it. And I had to remember what was where. After three years, as I moved back into my house, I realised that I was moving stuff - again - that I had never even used. And probably never would.

Fast forward to 2009. My new next door neighbours had a story. They had got together five years previously, and decided to move in together. They sold one of the properties - a gorgeous warehouse conversion in London - and moved into a rented flat 'for a few months'. So all the expensive furniture and fittings from the warehouse flat went into storage.

'A few months' turned into five years. The bill for storage came to… wait for it… £7,000. And, funnily enough, when they finally moved into the beach house next door to mine, they found that none of the furniture from a trendy city warehouse conversion suited the house. Most of it was then disposed of. £7k down the swanny. 

The message here is abundantly clear, isn't it? Possessions can be an absolute pain in the jacksy. We covert them and then we are owned by them, not the other way around.

I'm not talking about the things that bring value into our lives, be it the gorgeous vase that sits in proud view on the mantelpiece, or the funny fridge magnet that makes us smile every time we see it. I'm talking about the stuff that once had value, or possibly might have value in the future, so it's hidden away in a box somewhere.

I'm talking about the old stereo that we still have after 10 years in the loft. The pile of photography magazines that we 'really will' look at again some day. The blunt tools in the shed that might come in handy one day.

As I looked around my 'personal' room in the house at all these boxes of STUFF, I felt quite heavy of heart. The urge to rent storage was overwhelming. But to rent a 7ft x 5ft room in a proper storage facility was going to cost the best part of £70 per month by the time you add insurance and stuff. That's getting on for £1000 per year. The irony was, there wasn't £1000 worth of stuff to store anyway!

Having these figures in my head made decluttering and getting rid of stuff far easier. But I still needed some strength and inspiration from an external source as well as from within.

Fortunately I found it in the book 'The Joy of Less' by Francine Jay.

Naturally, it's downloaded to Kindle on my iPad to reduce the clutter.

I really like this book and recommend it to anyone who acknowledges the need to cut down on stuff, but doesn't quite know how to go about it.

The hardest part? I threw away my old teddy bears, and I threw away the jumper that my beloved Nan knitted for me as a teenager. It still makes me feel a bit wretched to think of that even now, three months later. But, I have to admit, I also feel just that little bit less bogged down. It also helps that my Nan was a minimalist, and I could hear her voice in my head saying 'What do you want to keep that thing for? Get rid of it!'. She'd be very disappointed to think that something she gave me was weighing me down. And you know what? I don't need a jumper I'll never wear to remember what a wonderful person my Nan was, and the lovely times we had together.

Time ran out before I was ready, and the completion date loomed. My possessions filled the car four times. That's still pretty good, but still not good enough. There's still some way to go.

The rats and their stuff take up a lot of space, and I've decided now that Dougal Dog is in my life, I'll not get any more rats when my current two shuffle off. But that will hopefully be a while away yet. I have boxes and boxes of magazines in my parent's loft, all of which I have an article in. I need to keep them for the taxman and also for my own enjoyment. But what I really need to do is digitise them… but can you imagine just how long that will take? Ditto the photo albums.

A typical scene from two nights away... although only the rucksack and wheely bag is my stuff, the rest is pet related!

Full-timing epitomises going against the 'norm'. So it makes sense that decluttering and living an anti-consumption life goes hand-in-hand with it. We live in a world where we are bombarded with messages telling us that the more we possess, the happier we are. Deep down, we all know that that's not the case. The sad thing is, it means that you ALWAYS have to be on the defensive, which is time and energy consuming. I have already entered arguments and disappointed people who are trying to give me something for 'free' that I don't want.

I can't promise that decluttering will make you happy, and it's not for everybody. Some people aren't happier than when surrounded by lots of knick-knacks and their bits and bobs. 

But for me, so far I am feeling far lighter and freer. Still a long way to go, and it can be uncomfortable at times, but it's an exciting journey.

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