Last week, I made a pit stop at my parents’ place in northern Virginia.

Maybe it was the nostalgia I felt from being in my old room, but not an hour had passed after my arrival before I found myself digging through the boxes I’d piled into my minivan months ago. Bad idea.

Shoes. Blankets. Plate sets. Linens. It’s a slightly claustrophobic feeling, to see all the stuff that you own sitting unused in a mess of platic bins and trash bags. Looking at my van parked in the back of my parents’ yard, sagging with the weight of my possessions, I felt much like a ship’s anchor had been chained to my ankle, keeping me rooted to that minivan full of crap. I wonder if other people feel the same way every time they enter their storage shed, their dusty garage filled with rusting bikes and unassembled furniture, still in the box it was bought in. Surely I can’t be alone.

We really don’t need a lot to be happy and function comfortably. I think I always knew that, but like many, I was stuck in a rut. I hung on to things I didn’t need or rarely used or had some faintly good memory from. Being a woman of words, I keep nearly every letter, birthday card, scrap of paper, and sticky note. I have boxes upon boxes devoted to my favorite books, most of which I’ve read only once. And the National Geographic issues. Don’t even get me started. Two boxes alone are dedicated to those glossy magazines. Embarrassingly, I think I’ve only read cover-to-cover less than half of those I’ve saved.

Even now in the Jeep I find myself hanging on to weird things like business cards from people I have no recollection of meeting and miscellaneous parts to things I might need, but likely won’t ever use. One of the three trunks I’ve been towing around with me is actually a dedicated “junk trunk” (and yes, there is a lot of junk in my trunk). Spare cables, scissors, cordelette, camo duct tape, you name it, it’s probably in there. It’s like the transient version of a junk drawer.

Am I a hoarder-in-the-making?

As I sat in my crammed minivan last week staring at those stacks of unread NatGeos, I was certainly beginning to think so. But the fact of the matter is, the more time I spend away from that stuff, the more I want to auction off everything I own, down to the very last measuring cup (those are superfluous anyway – I’m more of an eyeballer). I’ve spent the past 100-some days of my life operating perfectly well on a few Eddie Bauer outfits, a pair of flip flops and my purple Montrail Mountain Masochists, one bowl, one spork, one mug, one pot, and one pan. Who’s to say I can’t continue to do so once this year-on-the-road is over?

Aside from holding on to material items, I’ve also recognized a few other things I used to do that I’m not entirely proud of, like …

using too much water.

Really, three showers per week should be a universal standard (it’s also about the max my Roadshower can handle). And enough already with running the faucet while you swish around toothpaste-water in your mouth. Simply put, using that much water to rinse something as small as your mouth is downright ridiculous.

wasting electricity.

Does every light in every room really need to be on?

throwing away leftovers.

I have lower standards these days. As long as there’s not another life form growing on it, it’s good in my book.

overeating sweets.

If you don’t buy cookies at the grocery store to begin with, you can’t have cookies at 11 o’clock at night.

buying things with packaging.

I hate packaging. Period. When you don’t have a trash can to hide the waste you produce, you realize just how much garbage you make in a given day. Side note – California-based photographer Greg Segal’s “7 Days of Garbage” project is pretty mind-blowing if you haven’t seen it yet.

grabbing too many handfuls of t.p.

T.P. Toilet paper. Wiping your bum doesn’t require a wad the size of a child’s pillow. Spare a square.

not reusing plastic bags.

Plastic bags of any kind. Trash bags, Ziploc bags, grocery bags. You can and should reuse all of these. It’s not a one-and-done kinda deal.

All in all, I’d say that the best thing I’ve taken away from these past few months on the road has been eliminating these non-essentials and simplifying my life, even if it’s just one baby step at a time.

So let’s hear it!
How do you try to minimize your lifestyle?