Blog Post


I Guess We Are Minimalists

Dec19 1

I’m not sure if we’ve ever called ourselves minimalists. It always feels as if we have more of everything than we could ever need—be it food, clothing, or toys. And yet this pile of boxes is everything we own. Well, that’s not entirely true, we do have a surfboard and a bag of tools on the boat still. But that’s it.

A family of four with six boxes of belongings. And not because we are homeless—though we might meet that definition—but because we just really don’t like to have a bunch of stuff. And look, we don’t need it. Ali and I are happy, our kids are content and thriving, and on the surface at least, we are normal.

Six boxes. We have two kids. Are you wrapping your head around this? Because I’m not. I really don’t think about our minimalism as minimalism, if that makes sense. I never think about it at all. It just is. I guess we’ve lived this way for so long now that it has become second nature—it’s no longer a conscious decision. In fact, it’s not a decision at all. But I think it is a way of life that enables us to go on doing exactly whatever the heck it is that we want to do. Being able to load all our belongings on an airplane for $200 makes that big move from one country to another feel a whole lot more doable than wondering, “How could we move? How could we change course? How could we get all of our stuff from here to there?” For people like us these would be the worst questions we could ever find ourselves asking. We need our mobility. It’s a part of us.

  1. avatar
    Susan Reply

    Good job! It is amazing what we actually NEED to live! God…health…family…important stuff. :-)

  2. avatar
    Rebecca Reply

    I *did* make the conscious decision, but it took me years to completely achieve my goal. I went from a houseful of stuff to a small apartment full of stuff to a room full of stuff. At that point, I really wanted to reach the point of only owning what I could carry with me.

    I still haven’t *quite* gotten to that point, though I could do it in a pinch. Except for 1 small box of mementos that I want to digitize, I’ve got everything into 1 24″ softsided suitcase plus it’s matching duffle and garment bags. That includes my airbed, linens & kitchen gear.

    I love the idea of an RV, though. That’s definitely in my future, maybe a couple of years down the line. Can’t wait to hear how that goes for all of you. Wishing you the very best of luck!!!

  3. avatar
    Sheri Reply

    Amen to that. That is exactly my and my husband’s philosophy. Stuff is a burden.

    • avatar
      Nikolay Reply

      Stuff IS a burden!

  4. avatar
    cindy Reply

    Gee, our snow clothes and winter sweaters would take up at least two of those bins. Ah, the tropical life. I do have a question. Did you leave some toys and books back in Mexico and give them away? From the photos, it seemed like you guys had a lot of toys on board the boat.

    • avatar
      Pat & Ali Reply

      Yeah, that was another nice thing about this move—a purge. We sold some stuff on a Mazatlan forum, gave a bunch of toys, books, and clothes to an orphanage, gave a lot of kids clothes to our nanny who has three kids of her own, and gave a few more things to an animal shelter who has a bazaar where they sell things and use the funds for the animals. So I’m not saying this is all we owned before we left, but within a few days we were able to get rid of anything that we no longer had a use for or that we could easily replace at the next stop. And all of those that received the stuff needed it a lot more than we did. So we’re freshly downsized again, though already accumulating more toys at grandmas. But one thing is for sure, we don’t get married to our possessions. (side note: winter clothes! uggh)

      • avatar
        cindy Reply

        Finding good homes for things you don’t want or need is a freeing feeling! I was just purging some kid stuff pre-Christmas this morning and what seemed like SO much stuff, when packed up to take away was just a grocery bag’s worth. So excited to see your new ride! Happy everything Bums!

  5. avatar
    David Reply

    Beware !! STUFF Breeds

    • avatar
      Pat & Ali Reply

      Not to worry, we get all of our stuff spayed and neutered.

      • avatar
        Emily Reply

        Excellent reply! And I admire your mimimalism. We’ve pared down a LOT since selling our home and most of the stuff in it, but since we’re cyclists with six bikes between the two of us (a folder, a road bike, and a mountain bike for each of us), plus all the gear that goes along with cycling, we could never pare down that far. Still, I think it’s very cool what you’re doing — and we’re considering an RV as well so just might see you on the road one day!

      • avatar
        Nikolay Reply

        Could that be another obsession? No stuff, that is…

  6. avatar
    Ernie Reply

    Not quite Jack Reacher and his toothbrush, but impressive.

  7. avatar
    Guy Reply

    Wow. I’m doing something wrong. My tax records take up more than that. I need to rethink my needs.

  8. avatar
    Donald Reply

    Is there room for the wooden bicycle ? The funny kid car ?

    • avatar
      Pat & Ali Reply

      The bike is still with us, while the funny car found a new home. Remember we found that thing on the side of the road in Rio Vista, California. Doubt many of those cars have that many miles on them. :)

  9. avatar
    Lisa Reply

    You guys are just such an inspiration! Love following your adventures (all of them!) and wish you the very best on this next one… :)

  10. avatar
    Pat Schulte Reply

    I cannot believe Pat did not even mention our beloved fish, Mango! I’m sure he just must have forgot to mention her and her whereabouts. She was given to another family (with a young girl and boy) to take good care of her. We hope you live a long life Mango! You were a great fish.

  11. avatar
    Barbara Reply

    When I move from my condo to the motor home, I owned very little in the way of “stuff.” It all went in the Estate Sale. I went from three large closets to one small closet, about 3 feet wide. And a drawer for shorts and jeans. I love minimalist living. I spend much less, because there just isn’t room for more – such a nice feeling. Similar to living on the boat, I’m sure. It’s so freeing to have no extra “stuff” to worry about. :)

  12. avatar
    MichaelG Reply

    Oh, stop bragging! :-) And Merry Christmas!

  13. avatar
    S/V Trim Reply

    I had to share this with my wife so that she would know we aren’t the only people in the world that can actually fit everything they own into a SUV…minus the boat.

    I call it “having your $hit together”

  14. avatar
    Natalia Reply

    I love Ali’s comment about Mango. I’m so glad that Mango found a good home. Merry Christmas Bums! I hope I get to meet you while you’re still in Minnesota.

  15. avatar
    Small Nut Reply

    The secret to happiness is a “Small Nut”

    Your life is happy.

  16. avatar
    Hil Reply

    This is inspiring. After the holidays I believe our family is going to see a large purge of stuff.

  17. avatar
    sam Reply

    Quite impressive indeed. Knowing that I would like to swap a house for a boot somedays, the awareness of my ‘material ballast’ rises. 20 years living at one spot leaves its traces. I wonder how many boxes I will need…
    A book that might interest you is ‘Material World’ by Peter Menzel, published by Sierra Club Books, SF 1994. It portrays families around the world with their belongings.

  18. avatar
    Kevin Reply

    I keep coming back to this photo.
    This is it.
    These six boxes are the difference between you and most of America. I know how difficult it is to get to that point, I’m not there yet, and I have an idea it is even harder to stay at that point. Great job. When ever people ask what the secret is to your lifestyle, show them this photo.

  19. avatar
    Jenell A Reply

    You two have a good way of viewing what is important in life. We are considering moving back to Phuket once again. We are back in the States to help Mom and are now going through our storage unit. Why are we paying to keep items we may look at once a year. In the OC it is desirable to own as much as you can, collect something for every season, and own more and more. The more designers in your closet the more you move up the totem. I am finding homes for my beloved French armoire, gave a set of Finnish dishware away that I have hauled around for years, and selling my black mink coat that I have never worn. Ridiculous. We need to have what we can fit into 2 large suitcases, and that may be too much. Our last move to Phuket, we wore 10% of the clothes we brought with us.