Decluttering can seem daunting sometimes, can’t it? Especially when we have mountains of crap and big goals for a simpler life, but we’re not sure where to start. When I first started paring down my stuff, I drew a ton of inspiration from people living in tiny homes, and people exploring life in an Airstream. (And this was long before my partner and I ended up sharing our own tiny apartment!) These folks took the concept of downsizing to an extreme, questioning everything that they owned and only keeping the things that really mattered.
Even if you have no desire to live tiny – or even to downsize at all – I know you’ll find value in hear from today’s guest, Melanie from A Small Life.
In 2013, Melanie decluttered and downsized into an Airstream travel trailer with her husband. They lived there for four years and blogged about their experience, from the first renovations (seriously – the before photos are BANANAS) to the decision to sell it and move into a small house.
Today we chat about transitioning to life in an Airstream, the perks of living tiny, and what it means to live a small life. (Oh, and how to handle decluttering with a partner!) Enjoy, friends.
1. Hey Melanie! So happy to have you here. For those who don’t already know you, tell us a bit about yourself!
2. What led you to start your blog, A Small Life? And what does it mean to live a small life?
In the original iteration of my blog, I talked about all kinds of things– mostly what was going on in my life at the moment. Back then, I was about to get married and I was really focused on that. But the change in my blog came after our wedding.
We wanted to relocate, but most of the rentals in that area were out of our price range. One night I was browsing Etsy and came across an interview with a couple that lived in a Winnebago. I told my husband about it and he said, “You know we could do that.” That moment completely changed my life.
To me, living “a small life” isn’t necessarily about the size of your home. To me it means: living below your means, owning less stuff, having a “make do and mend” attitude and prioritizing your happiness.
3. You lived in an Airstream for about four years, right? What drove you to make that change?
I did! After we got married we really felt like we were stuck on a hamster wheel financially and just could not ahead. Living in the Airstream allowed us to save money and helped us to focus on what we truly wanted in life.
4. How smoothly did the transition go for you?
It wasn’t an incredibly difficult transition for me. I’ve never been one to have mountains of stuff, but I will say that life is never all sunshine and rainbows either. Just like living in a traditional home, stuff in the Airstream broke and it still got messy. Even though I love living in a smaller environment, I also acknowledge that it won’t solve all your problems either.
5. What did a typical day look like for you in the Airstream?
A lot of people think that because I lived in an Airstream, that I was travelling all the time. I wasn’t! The Airstream never left the land it was parked on. I had a full-time job as a librarian, so I went to work every day and came home to my little Airstream refuge. My husband worked from home, so when I got home, we’d eat dinner together and watch some TV. It was a very normal life.
6. Did you have to declutter much prior to moving? And if so, what was the toughest part of that process for you?
I did declutter a lot, but I had a tight timeline, so I think in some ways that really helped. I’m one of those people who gets in moods where she just wants to throw everything away and start over. Moving is kind of miserable!
Learning to be honest with myself is probably the toughest part of the process. I think myself, and many people, keep things because we want to be the person who wears the smaller size or makes 5 course meals. Knowing myself and being honest about what I will and won’t do has been the biggest game-changer for me.
7. Were there any decluttering strategies or quotes that especially helped you while you were simplifying your stuff?
I love the William Morris quote: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
8. Do you have any tips for getting a partner or family member on board with decluttering?
This is one of my most frequently asked questions and most people don’t like the answer! Haha! I think that you have to be incredibly gentle and patient with family members. Sometimes clutter comes from deep-rooted trauma. You know your family best and you probably know what the best way to approach them will be.
But in general, you have to set an example. Tell your family your intentions and what you intend to do, but don’t declutter their stuff for them. This needs to be their choice. (Unless they are very small children, then declutter away! Haha!)
For example, my husband is not a minimalist and he has a lot more stuff than I do. And that’s ok. Over the years, he has simplified his things, but he’ll never be a minimalist. I accept that and love him anyway.
9. How is your life different now than life in an Airstream? And what did you learn from the experience?
Living in the Airstream allowed us to save enough money to put a downpayment on a small, fixer-upper home. It also allowed us to be able to save enough money to where I was comfortable quitting my job and starting a small business. It completely changed my life for the better.
From the experience, I learned that most “stuff” is meaningless. How I spend my day, freedom of choice and experiences are so much more important.
10. What would you say to someone who is considering downsizing?
Do it! It’s an incredibly freeing experience. And if you want a jumpstart, I have a course. 😉 It’s called The Two Week Declutter and for two weeks you’ll receive an email with a task to help you minimize your stuff, so you can maximize your happiness.