Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Reversing Minimalism

All of my posts have been about downsizing, de-cluttering and simplifying. I live with less and I love it. So why would I do the opposite — reversing minimalism and going bigger?

I’m about to reverse some of my minimalism

Trust me, this wasn’t the plan. We were going to buy a van, do a custom build-out and go super-minimalist.
Sadly, this was not to be. Life came along and blindsided us with a twist. My mother, whom we thought was adjusting to her new surroundings at my brother’s house? Not so much.
She’s in the early stages of dementia and she’s alone too much. I’ve had reports of her wandering outside and forgetting to lock doors, or leaving doors wide open.
It’s not an option for us to move in with my brother or live nearby and be there with her every day. There isn’t enough money for a caregiver, either.
And while we may have to do it in the future, I am not about to put her in a nursing home right now. I’ve worked in nursing homes; I know what happens there. So that means she needs to stay with us.
She and her two cats will not fit inside a van with us. Long-term, we would not all be happy in our current RV, either. It’s a 150 square-foot studio apartment on wheels. It worked for a month while we took her on a trip. But it was starting to wear thin towards the end; therefore it’s a shortcut to driving us all insane if we tried to live in it.
So, we have to get a bigger place.

How much bigger?

The short answer is, as small as possible, but still a lot bigger than what we’re in now. We’re still working out details, but the objective is to find a 2-bedroom, 2-bath RV so we can still move from place to place. It will be a 5th wheel, which is an RV you tow with a truck. It will be very long and heavy.
By necessity, we will be much more stationary, which means staying in RV parks. We talked to mom about it, and she doesn’t want to travel around as much as we have been.
To be honest, I don’t want to either. I loved our nomadic life up until August of this year when we suddenly became trapped in one location so we could help mom. It’s been quite challenging. I’ll write a separate post about that.
But for now, the idea of staying at an RV park for 1-3 months sounds fantastic. I’m actually looking forward to it.

Will we buy more stuff to fill our new space?

I really don’t want more stuff. I’m probably going to get rid of some more things too.
But there are probably a few things we’ll need to get. For example, we only have two “real” plates and 1 bowl. Ryan and I often eat from the same dish for convenience and to save water, so it hasn’t really been a problem for the two of us. Mom needs her own dishes to eat from.
We’re also going to buy a truck to tow the RV and get around, as well as the hitch that attaches to the truck bed. Unfortunately, this will not be a small truck, since it needs to tow such a big RV and fit three people and three pets. But so life goes.
And there may be some other things we buy. One step at a time—RV first, then the right truck to tow it with, and then we'll see what else.

How do I feel about all of this?

I’m not really sure.
The plan was for Ryan and me to leave the bay area in mid-December 2018 after my last day at work. We were going to travel around, do our van build, and get some relaxation in. We’d be back to see mom about once per quarter, or more often if needed. But most of our time would be spent away from the bay area.
I was really looking forward to that. Just so you know, we have a REALLY awesome plan set up for this van. I drew a floor plan and I was working on the materials list…I put hours and hours of research into this. Because this was going to be our home, we were not going to go cheap. It was going to be a high-quality build.
We were going to live in the van for the next several years, as long as Tahoe is around. Our next step is traveling to other countries: Europe, Latin America, Asia…the whole deal.
I had a whole vision for our life moving forward.
But this is my mom. She did all of the raising. My father was around, but basically just a paycheck provider. He didn’t have much interest in being a dad.
So I owe her one, and she needs me now. In some sense, there is a lot of relief, because I was starting to have anxiety about leaving her. Things were getting choppy at my brother’s place, and I wasn’t sure how it would all work out.

How does Ryan feel about this?

It was his idea! I have been gifted with the most generous, loving, kindest man on this planet. How many husbands would offer to change their lifestyle and spend money on a bigger place so their mother-in-law can move in? AND come up with all these reasons why it will be better for everyone if it happens? Then have a conversation with said mother-in-law and tell her how she’d really be helping us out if she could move in with us? Yeah, I’ve got a keeper.
And of course, mom absolutely adores Ryan—how could she not? So I am optimistic about the situation while still having a realistic view of how it will turn out.

The downsides to upsizing

Here’s a quick rundown of the negatives to our situation.
  • Less flexibility: we will be more limited where we can stay, because of the size of our RV. No more pulling into any parking lot for a quick stop along the way, either.
  • New skills to learn. We used to own a 5th wheel, but our RV space was small and we never took vacations in that RV; it just stayed at the park the whole time we owned it. So we didn’t buy a truck to tow it, we just paid the dealership we bought it from to deliver it to our site. When we sold it, someone else drove it away. So we never towed a 5th wheel before. We did tow a trailer, but the hitch setup was different so we will have to learn how to hitch up as well. It isn’t all bad to learn new things, but we’re spoiled with a much smaller vehicle. We’ll probably be adding 30-35 feet to our overall length. Definitely an adjustment.
  • Higher costs. Living on-grid again means paying utility bills and RV park space rent. Plus a bigger RV and more people means higher utility costs. Some parks also charge by the size of your RV. Then there’s the added cost of insuring and maintaining the truck, two sets of registration fees, etc.
  • RV parks. Some are fine, but just like with anything, it isn’t perfect. You can have disrespectful neighbors, issues with plumbing or electrical that don’t get fixed in a timely manner, poor management, noise from the neighborhood, etc. The good news is that unlike renting an apartment or owning a house, you can drive away and leave all those behind without too much trouble.
  • Living with mom. We’ve done it before, so we know what’s coming. I did it with my grandmother when she had dementia, so I have a pretty clear picture of what’s ahead as well. We talked about it, and if she lives as long as my grandmother did, it’s possible that mom could be with us for another 27 years. We will take it one day at a time.

Will I still be a minimalist?

Absolutely. As I’ve said before, there are all different kinds of minimalism. If you want to do it, don’t ever let people tell you that you’re not doing it the right way, or you’re not following the “real” definition. My philosophy is that minimalism is creating the time, space and energy to focus on who/what you love by releasing things that are holding you back from doing so.
This is definitely a minimalist choice.