Free Ways to Begin Minimalism
March 27, 2022
Minimalism is a weird trend that has been going around the past decade. On Instagram, minimalism mean a luxurious home, all white everything with no cabinets. Just a stack of simple white plates sitting on an open shelf in the kitchen next to a succulent. It’s often times portrayed in ways that are completely unrealistic and really don’t even represent minimalism.
In 2019, my husband and I chose to begin our own version of “minimalism”. To us, this was a mixture of getting rid of the “extra”, and changing our mindset. We made it match our lifestyle which was working remotely from our RV during the week, and traveling on the weekends.
I’ll share a few pointers if this is something you are interested in. Minimalism doesn’t mean a certain style or look. Often, it’s just a mindset. Any by golly, its free.
Stop buying stuff.
If you’re having to purchase something to begin your minimalism journey, you’re doing it wrong. You already have everything you need to live. I mean, you made it through last week, right?
Don’t just use your stuff, USE your stuff.
Have you ever truly used something until the end of its life? Where it can no longer carry on serving its purpose? I find great joy in that.
Honestly, no one. You do you. When you realize no one cares if you have the latest nike’s, it’s a relief on so many levels. I chose to keep only clothing that were plain and unmemorable. These clothes are not fashionable, but who needs fashion when you have a personality like mine.
Giving a second life to an item is a fantastic thing to do. Facebook marketplace, reselling shops, rummage sales.
Here’s an idea, anything you’re hesitant on getting rid, take a picture of it. Save it on your phone, for free, forever. Or, download the Shutterfly app and wait for their next “free photo book deal” then create a auto-generated booklet of “Shit I got rid of”.
I could go on for days, but I'm sure your attention span has already cut out. If you're still here reading, hi. Please feel free to reach out to me to brainstorm or for encouragement on how you can start this journey.
December 5, 2021
Many people are interested in experiencing the AT, but let’s be real you probably have a life and a job, and can’t just take 7 months to commit to something totally crazy. So, if you’d like to experience hiking the AT, a more reasonable alternative is to section hike. I’ve been doing this each summer for the past 5 years.
Section Hike Logistics:
I’d recommend first deciding how many nights you want to spend on the trail, as opposed to how many miles you want to hike. A good first experience would be two nights. It’s not too much, and it makes driving all the way to the east coast worthwhile.
Second, you NEED to acquire the book, “The A.T. Guide” by Awol. This is THE official trail guide. Once you are familiar with the way the book is laid out, use it to pick out the section you want to hike. Search through the book and find a section that will make for a good hike. The section should contain:
- A spot to park
- Fresh water sources
- Shelter/camping areas spread out in about the number of miles you think you can hike in a day
We’ll park at mile 198 NOBO (North Bound), hike 12 miles to Green Tree Shelter, or, if we are up for it we can continue another 4 miles to hit Spruce Shelter. Then the next day, we can either hike 8 miles to John’s Shelter, or 18 miles to Bear Cross Shelter. John’s Shelter doesn’t have a fresh water source, so I say we try to make it to Bear Cross Shelter. Then we’ll have 12 miles to get back to our car the last day.
You can technically camp anywhere, but you may find you feel safer in a shelter area because there will most likely be other hikers there as well.
challenging. In the AT Guide, there are often local people listed who give rides to hikers. I would start there - that’s what I’ve always used. It may seem sketchy but if they are listed in the book, they are committed and likely get used often. So I consider it a trustworthy source no matter how creepy their West Virginia accent is. If that doesn’t work out, try Google. I wouldn’t bank on Uber in the mountains.
Gear/What to bring:
You don’t need to spend a million dollars to live like a poor person for a few days.
Go out there and rough it. No matter how much money you spend on your gear, your feet are going to actually die, you might actually almost die, your back will be broken, and your spirits will be demolished, and, it will be glorious. You can actually get most of your gear at Walmart.
2 things to actually maybe spend some money on:
- A pack – for a couple days trip, you don’t need more than a 40L pack. If you can’t fit your stuff inhere for a 2-night trip, you are packing too much shit and you will be miserable. I’d recommend not spending more than $150 on a pack. Let’s face it, you’re going to use it twice, maybe. Check Facebook Marketplace first!
- Ankle high boots – again, no more than $150 need to be spent on boots. No matter how expensive your boots are, your feet are going to die. The real value is, can you find a pair that you will have a reason to continue to use post-AT hike, such as for waterproof needs. But I'd recommend ankle high ones to avoid twisting your ankle like a lil bitch on top of a mountain.The terrains can be really tough.
- Sleeping bag – Walmart actually has fantastic compact sleeping bags. If you plan to go in the middle of summer, you could even substitute for the “sheet” sleeping bag they offer. My husband and I each sleep in a sheet-sleeping bag, and then lay a normal sleeping bag over us.
- Water Reservoir – again, you don’t need the worlds finest camelback. Just get one.
- Ponchos – this can double as your tent footprint
- Tents – it seems like the lighter the tent, the more expensive it is, even though there is technically less materials used… riddle me that. Here’s a trick – if you know you’ll be hiking and sharing a tent with someone, you can split the tent between your two bags. That way you don’t need to focus as much on getting a feather-light tent. I personally have a $100 Kelty tent and it’s fantastic. You do not need an REI tent for a section hike. I’ve also seen people hang a hammock, but I would test out sleeping in a hammock for a night before doing that on the trail.
- Food – You may feel the urge to need to eat “camping” food such as freeze-dried meals that need to be cooked. I would not recommend this. For a short trip, heck, pack a Subway footlong for the first night, and then a few ready-to-eat microwavable meals from the grocery store. Obviously, you’ll be eating it cold, but after a long day of hiking you’re not going to care. You do NOT need a cooking pot for a 2-night trip. That’s going to take up a lot of space, add weight and you’re never going to use it again after this trip. Your cravings will likely be through the roof, so also pack things like beef jerky, candies that won’t melt, pretzels, etc.
- Water – On the trail, you get your water from streams that are identified as safe in the guidebook. There are also signs on the trail identifying these spots. I’ve had great experiences using Potable Agua tablets. They cost about $10, and again, you’re not investing in a fancy tool that you’ll never use again. Bring an empty water bottle to fill your water reservoir. Submerge the water bottle in the stream, then you can look and make sure there’s no gross stuff in it, and then pour it into your reservoir. Repeat until full. Otherwise, there is sometimes pipes built into the stream to help hikers gather water!
- Bear bag – Each night you need to hang your bear bag, otherwise, you may wake up to a black bear eating your precious skittles. You do not need to purchase some fancy bear bag, again you’ll likely never use it again. We just throw all our food (and anything that has a scent) in our tent bag, and put that up in the tree. Make sure to YouTube “how to hang a bear bag” and practice before you go so you don’t look like an idiot.
- Pillow – we stuff our extra clothes into our sleeping bag’s bag for a pillow.
- A disposable rain poncho can double as your tent footprint (the thing you lay under your tent)
- You do not need to cut the handle off your toothbrush like I did my first time. LOL. I really thought that .25 oz would make a difference.
- Keep your phone on airplane mode to not use up your battery.
- Bring some baby wipes to clean off with. But either way you're going to smell so bad.
- Going to the bathroom – My best tip is to just magically avoid having to go #2 while on the trail. There are outhouses at some shelters, but they are absolutely disgusting. I’ve never had to do it, so I’m not sure how it works. I imagine you just shit in the woods and run away.
- Bears – you may have a run in with black bears. They do not want to eat you, they just want to mind their own business. But, if you pose yourself as a threat, they may charge at you. If you see a black bear, sing a song loud and make some noise to let them know you are there, and hopefully they will scoot away. We’ve run in to about 20 black bears over the years and have never had an issue.
- Snakes – remember that snakes burrow in rocky areas. Make sure to research before what to do if you get bit by a snake. Personally, I’d just jump off a cliff because I’d be scarred for life.
- AT – Appalachian trail
- NOBO – Northbound
- SOBO – Southbound
- THRU hiker – Someone hiking the entire trail, usually heading NOBO
- Section hiker – someone hiking just a section of the AT
- Blazes – paint markings that mark the trail
- Shelter - a 3 walled structure with a roof that hikers can sleep in. It’s somewhat known that these are for thru hikers, as it’s exhausting to setup their tent every single day.
- Trail magic – when someone sets goodies on the trail for the hikers
- Zero day – a day where you don’t log any miles on the trail
Walk faster. This simple advice may only save you seconds, or minutes at a time, but will open the door to more experiences and opportunities.
There are three reasons to walk faster:
1 - To see more in less time:
This is fitting for when traveling and exploring new places. I hate when people say things like "you can't possibly visit Japan in a week, you need to spend at least a few weeks there". B*tch I have a job and a life, and a whole world to see. I saw Japan in a week because I didn't lollygaggle. I walked fast and made the most of my time there. Sure I'd love to spend an entire calendar years' worth of vacation days in each country I visit but let's be realistic.
2 - To beat the rush:
Imagine this - you're walking into the Superbowl 2022 game to watch the Packers. There are thousands of people walking towards the stadium, most of them drunk rich people who don’t even care about either team. The herd is moving slowly towards the ticket line. That is a great time to light a fire under your ass and you can easily pass 100 people per minute. You never know what that will get you - into the stadium 30 minutes quicker to enjoy the Superbowl luxuries, the last freebie bobblehead, etc.
- When it comes to your everyday activities, there are often also visual cues for when to hustle that can save you time:
- When there's a family with kids entering a restaurant.
- When someone's approaching the cashier with a full shopping cart.
- When you see a minivan parking at the same time as you.
3 - To get an opportunity:
In these cases, RUN. Forget all your effs and just run.
- When they announce plane vouchers (I've been traveling for years off vouchers). I sit my ass right at the gate and forgo the all-so-tempting pre-flight beer at the bar.
- When seats are filling up on a timely shuttle
- To get the last seat. Who shows up to Vegas primetime pandemic with no dinner reservations? This girl. Once we realized that reservations were critical to getting ANYTHING to eat, it was because of the survival of the fastest walker. Our opportunities to eat were now limited to the single open bar seat. And you know what - we got it, every time because of my fancy feet. Shimmy through the reservation crowd and limbo under a waiter's drink tray and boom, I got that last bar seat and we got dinner.
Meet Up is a cool digital platform where people, well, meet up. There’s groups and events for everything you can image from “Deaf Pomeranian owners” to “Women between 60 and 75 who like to sew”. The first group I signed up for was “DC Hikers”.
On a sunny April morning, I arrived at a state park, ready to meet my new DC Hiker friends. There was a family on my left, and a group of older folks on my right. So I sat in my car and drank my coffee assuming I’d “just know” when my Meet Up group arrived. I started to notice the group of older folks all gearing up, changing their shoes, attaching stuff with carabiners to their clothing and strapping on their bucket hats. Wait a minute, this is not my group LOL. This is not my group…
It was my group. I get out of the car and walk up to them. “Is this the DC Hikers Group?” I ask the Bucket Hat Man. “Yes, it sure is darling, I bet you weren’t expecting to be hiking with a group of old geezers were you?” Dude read my mind.
As we start walking into the woods, Bucket Hat Man hands me a guidebook of local hikes. Gosh were his intentions great, but come on, now I have to carry this book the entire way? How can I politely reject this book and tell him that all this information is readily available on my five ounce iPhone 4. So now I’m walking in the woods in Washington D.C., carrying a book with eight old people.
As I lead the troops with my youthful strides, I start to pick up on the conversations behind me. Forced conversations that you have when you are on a hike in the woods with people you found on Meet Up. What aches and pains they are having this week. But one women’s commentary was starting to catch my ear.
A short, disgruntled woman in back with a huge backpack. She kept saying “wow that’s beautiful”. Let’s call her Barb.
I’m a really great person, but repetitive noises made by other humans makes me really agitated. Things like throat clearing, sniffling, coughing, sneezing, saying the same word too many times – these start to stand out to me and it just drives me wild.
Barb was starting to kill me with her excessive commentary about how everything is beautiful.
“Wow that flower is beautiful”
“Wow the lake is so beautiful”
“Wow that blade of grass I beautiful”.
Damn Babs, it’s all beautiful I get it.
Towards the end of the hike, we reach a muddy spot. While I wasn’t worried about my 3-year-old TJ Maxx Asics getting dirty, the rest of the group stops like a ball and chain devising what to do. That’s when Barb whipped out an entire bundle of Walmart bags and rubber bands that she packed JUST in case we ran into mud. She had enough for all 9 of us. Who does that?! I was a little blown away by not only her magical knowledge of knowing we’d run into mud on this beautiful day, but the fact that she also planned for it by packing enough mudding supplies for the entire group.
Ok now I feel bad, this woman is a saint and I’m dodging her presence because her kindness was annoying to me.
“This is so funny and so beautiful” Barb says as we truck through the mud.
“Look! That butterfly is so beautiful”.
“Wow, that rock is so beautiful”.
…okay, still annoyed.
When we get back to the parking lot, and are all saying goodbye when Barbara makes a call “we’re done hiking, could you come pick me up now?”. When she hangs up, she turns to me and says, “I really miss being able to drive myself. I only have 25% of my sight left in one eye, so I can’t drive anymore”.
No wonder everything is so beautiful to her. She’s about to go blind forever and here I am with not even appreciating that I have perfect 20/20 vision with my daily contacts in. I don’t want to wait until I’m almost blind to see the beauty in ordinary things.
My “tree” is being in random experiences. The ones that are later on summarized with a tweet such as, “Just went on a hike in DC with 8 old people. Have Walmart bags strapped to my feet & learned to appreciate beauty from an almost-blind woman.”
Claire is a digital marketing nomad living in an RV, currently parked lakefront in South Carolina. Check out her travel and adventures at @claireeliza71 - and her RV life @tinyhomeclaire