Blind at Night

With the sun setting earlier this time of year, I find myself in relative darkness as I take care of evening business inside my tiny mobile home. Not wanting to alert my housed neighbors, I refrain from lighting a candle and instead rely on my other senses to guide me.

I know all my clothes by touch and purposefully arranged them. Daytime clothes on the upper shelf, nighttime clothes on the lower one. Both shelves are organized the same, starting with shirts and ending with pants. Easy. Only difficulty are same-kind-different-color-socks. Can´t discern those via touch. Needless to say, I wear mismatched socks a lot. Even funnier, I own two pairs of Converse and yes, I´ve mismatched those before. People thought I was trying to be fashionable.

I know all my hygiene products by touch and those who share the same-shape travel containers I know by smell. No problem here. Brushing my teeth is a whole other ball game. I either brush using a mountain of toothpaste or barely any at all. That is, if I manage to actually get toothpaste on the brush. Eye-hand coordination is much trickier if you can´t use your eyes. Keeping your unusually large mouthwash bottle next to your unusually small laundry detergent bottle can lead to “clean cotton” breath, which sounds a lot better than it tastes. Trust me.

All important and much used items, such as my car keys, phone, chap stick, and pepper spray, each have their own spot. That doesn´t mean that each item actually makes it there. There is nothing more fun than searching for you phone in complete darkness!

I spent a large portion of my day reading books, working on my computer, and writing papers. If I could, I may be tempted to spend my hour before bed doing even more reading! Instead, I frequently download audio books and meditation music. It is very relaxing to look up at my glow-in-the-dark universe while listening to Edgar Allan Poe.

I´ve gotten so used to the darkness, really, now it´s part of my routine. It´s a time of relaxation, reflection, and contemplating the universe´s mysterious ways. Darkness can appear threatening, cold, and overwhelming. Over the years, I´ve found that darkness doesn´t provide cover for dangerous creatures. Rather it reveals the creatures that roam your own mind.

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Minimalism 101

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I could (and will) give you plenty of advice on how to manage your resources wisely and save money left and right. However, as I was planning this post, I realized that a large part of the minimalist lifestyle is about why you do it rather than how. Confused yet? Allow me to explain.

As previously mentioned, my family is quite the opposite of excited about my lifestyle. My grandmother in particular frequently regurgitates a list of “inconveniences” and “hardships” the houseless have to deal with. “I wouldn´t want to go to the gym to shower” or “Isn´t that so much trouble to keep food without a fridge?” are only a couple comments on her list. Sure, it isn´t always easy to live life houseless, but what kind of life is easy? She sees troubles, I see savings. She sees hardship, I see adventure. She sees a lack of “home”, I see freedom. What´s all this got to do with my initial statement? If you truly are a person who needs an air conditioner, new fashionable clothes, the latest smart phone, and cable television, then minimalism is going to very very difficult for you. If you, however, can do without these things, enjoy finding new ways to reuse and recycle, and feel proud when your self control kept you from buying unnecessary junk, then minimalism is an easily obtainable goal.

In other words, minimalism is a mindset.

Clothes

I can´t remember the last time I purchased new clothes from a store. I almost exclusively shop at second hand stores and am amazed at the many dollars other people regularly spend on clothing.  I can walk out of Goodwill with a pair of pants, three shirts, a belt, and a pair of shoes and still pay less than what others pay for a shirt at Kohl´s. Now, it is true that Goodwill doesn’t always have an abundance of fashionable clothes. For nicer clothes I typically go to stores such as Plato´s Closet.

  • Shop second hand as much as possible
  • Buy new clothes on sale
  • Resist the urge to throw out old clothes simply because they are old
  • Use old clothes as rags or make a blanket out of them
  • Choose short and cool wash and dry cycles as much as possible; your clothes will last longer
  • Let your friends and family know that you will take unwanted clothes

Groceries

There are many ways to save money when it comes to groceries. I tend to save between $2 and $9 for each major shopping run just by using coupons from websites such as this one. Additionally, I save around $10 by purchasing cheaper brands and by only buying necessary items such as fruits, vegetables, and bread. Whether you´d admit it or not, items such as coffee, candy, soda, chips, dryer sheets, and energy drinks aren´t absolute necessities and should be viewed as little luxuries that can be purchased every once in a while (if at all).IMG_20160802_165243[1]

 

  • Buy items you have coupons for but only if you´d save money as compared to your usual buying habits
  • Avoid buying well known brands; compare labels to ensure that the no name product´s quality is reasonably high despite the lower price
  • If at all, buy unnecessary items on sale
  • Avoid going grocery shopping when hungry
  • Eat your leftovers (just do it)
  • Don´t buy bottled water
  • Don´t buy preportioned produce
  • You don´t need fancy meals every day; a good soup once a week is healthy and inexpensive
  • Avoid buying soda, iced tea, energy drinks, flavored water, and similar drinks; all your body really needs in terms of fluids is water

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Utilities

Although many people take their access to running water, electricity, and gas for granted, it is that thoughtlessness that could cost you a lot of money. Every household has at least some potential for great saving and resource conservation. Personally, I´ve been using community facilities for quite some time now and don´t pay for personal running water, electricity, or heat.

  • Collect the cold shower water while waiting for it to warm up
  • Treat your electricity, heat, and water like a valuable resource; remember your last camping trip and how precious every last bit of these resources appeared to you
  • Avoid (over-)using large appliances such as dryers, dishwashers, and washing machines; wear your clothes until they are actually dirty, and hang them outside to dry
  • Use candles for some evening light and reuse unused wax
  • Get rid of/unplug unused devices such as DVD players, game consoles, that second fridge in your garage, and desktop computers.
  • Regularly go to the gym? Shower there!

Check out this site on how to lower your utility bill.

Stuff

Most of us own a whole bunch of stuff and by stuff I mean things that may be somewhat useful and nice, but aren´t a real necessity. Egg slicers, camping chairs, baby wipe warmers, phone stands, fancy dinner ware, jet skies, vases, automated air fresheners, and decorative everything are only a few of the many things we own, but don´t really need. However, more often than not, things are unnecessary simply because you already own one of it or it is overly fancy. Do you really NEED two or more can openers, pencil sharpeners, glasses, cars, purses, pillows, or hair brushes? Do you really NEED fancy shampoo, $200 bed sheets, or that expensive drill set?

Now, you might say, “Well, most of those things are pretty inexpensive”, which is true. As mentioned previously though, minimalism is a mindset. Not only does getting rid of stuff (and not accumulating more of it) free up your living space and your mind, it also teaches you to value your belongings. Imagine what life would be like without that one hair brush you own, and suddenly the $5 hairbrush lasts for years because you take care of it.

  • Ask yourself “Do I really need this” before buying anything
  • Avoid going shopping as a past time activity; there is more out there than the “joy” of consumerism
  • Enjoy and appreciate what you own
  • Unless an object is unusable, dangerously defective, or extremely difficult to use, it doesn´t need to be replaced
  • If a knick knack doesn´t fit in the category “beloved” or fills your heart with an excessive amount of joy, it´s not worth having.

Reuse and Recycle

To me, this is the fun part about minimalism! Be creative and think outside the box! Pretty much anything you own can be reused in some way, shape, or form. An empty milk container can carry water for your camping trips, old shirts can be used to make a blanket, grocery bags can be used as trash bags, old socks can be made into stuffed animals and dog toys, old electronics make for great art projects, empty grape bags function as strainers, used tea bags still have enough herbs in them to be used for beauty products, and, and, and.

Recycling pretty much stems from the same willingness to get the most out of our resources. Paper, plastics, glass, and many other materials can make a come back instead of slowly rotting away in a landfill.

  • Before throwing trash away, ask yourself if it can be repurposed
  • Try dumpster diving! You wouldn´t believe what people throw out.
  • Shop at markets and stores that allow you to bring your own containers
  • Donate unwanted items to charities

Check out this website for 101 tips on reusing and recycling

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That´s it fellow free spirits! Do you have more ideas in regards to reusing and minimalism? Comment!

What makes us human?

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Sometimes I don´t want to go back. Who needs society, right? I am tired of traffic, people, dogs, stores, advertising, and cement. I could just leave. I could!

Of course, it is not that easy. No, I am not talking about a mortgage, partner, children, job, house, or whatever else might tie me to the man made world. It´s not about the conveniences either. I do just fine without a shower, a bed, a house, manicures, and television. No, it is about something so basic, so deeply embedded into our DNA, that I doubt I could ever fully get over not having it: Human Connection.

Now, the question that plagues me, is this need a curse or a blessing?

Why would you wanna live like this?

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I suppose this post will end up a little more personal as I really can’t speak for anybody but myself. I can assume that others may have similar reasons for becoming a hobo, nomad, houseless, or homeless, but I can’t be sure.

To this day my family is rather… dissatisfied with my lifestyle. Although they’ve finally started joking about it (“If she gets a dash cam, it’ll be traffic and home surveillance”), which is good, but I know that they are still far from fine with it.

Why would I want to live like this? Let me try to explain.

  • Freedom is important to me

I don’t enjoy being held back by my possessions or obligations. Think of all the things that come with renting an apartment for example. You have to keep it clean, you have to work your rear off to pay for it, you are stuck in a particular area at least for a while, you own furniture and carpets and curtains and desks and chairs and tables and oh my! You spend all your time at work, at school, outside, running errands, just to come home to a place that is half the reason you are never home. Is this madness or what?

I own a vehicle, which gets me from A to B. I also rebuilt the back to offer a bed, storage for clothes, food, and hygiene articles, and an area to relax after a long day. If I drive anywhere, I already have everything I need. I can leave for the mountains in the spur of the moment. I have time for personal growth and living life. And, other than my student loans, I do not have to worry about money.

  • I save A LOT of money

If you are like me and absolutely cannot deal with having roommates anymore (it worked for many years, but I am just over it), you’ll pay at least $800 a month for an apartment in my area. If you are fine with random shootings and living next to a bar and a liquor store, then you may be able to squeeze by with $650 a month. At just above minimal wage, I’d have to work 22 hours a week, just to pay for an apartment. By the time you add food ($125 a month), gas ($130 a month), utilities ($100 a month), and cell phone costs ($25 a month), I’d need to add another 10 hours of work per week. What about clothes, hygiene products, cleaning products, fixing the car, and school supplies? Add another 5 hours for good measure and I’d be working 37 hours a week just to scrape by. And of course I am a full time student, which means I spend an average of 20 hours in class and studying. Why on earth would I want to live like that? Just in the last year, I saved a little over $6000, which will be my down payment for that van I’ll be purchasing soon.

  • Psychological factors

These factors may overlap with my need for freedom, but they are not quite the same. My upbringing was very restrictive and abusive, and while I have done well for myself after leaving home, some things stuck with me. Being inside for long periods of time is depressing to me. I feel locked up and lonely. Not being able to spend time outside within nature and enjoying life leaves me depressed and anxious as well. I simply cannot be spending every day of the week working AND be happy. I become miserable if I don’t get to break free every once in a while. I need quality time to enjoy life. Who doesn’t?

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  • What I do actually matters

I’d rather spend hours setting up a camp, cooking food over an open fire, scouting out new spots, or cleaning my vehicle, than spend 40 hours a week at work. What I do matters for my survival and health. When is the last time you’ve done something at work that actually mattered? Sure, there are many professions, such as police offices and doctors, who matter in most of the activities they do at work. But how many of us sit at a desk, push papers, and spend countless hour staring at a screen just to receive money at the end of the month? In comparison to withstanding mother nature in one’s daily journey of survival and LIFE, what does it really matter if I copy another student’s paperwork and enter it into the system. To me, that feels like a cushioned version of what could possibly resemble life. But not life as it is “meant to” be lived.

  •  Nature

Even before I began living life houseless, I wasn’t consuming as much as most people around me. These days, however, I am consuming even less. I don’t have my own electricity, running water, or heat. I buy a majority of my clothes from goodwill, buy used whenever possible, recycle, and walk everywhere.  Of course, my vehicle is the great exception eating up resources like a starving wolf on a sheep farm, but I suppose that’s the price of keeping one foot in society. Overall, I’ve not just gotten closer to nature, I feel like I am a part of it.

What’s on your mind? Comment!

Enjoy!

Dumpster Diving?

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Ever since I was a little person, I have been fascinated with abandoned goods found in or near dumpsters. I used to collect magazines, old pictures, and random plastic containers for the “office” my friends and I “worked” at. We had our little card board desks hidden away in the bushes and spent hours going through papers (it’s amazing how many people don’t shred their confidential documents!).

These days you won’t find me hanging out in random suburban bushes, but I am still very much interested in free treasures other people call trash. Now, I’ve tried a little “trash can diving” at the local library and thus far have found an unopened bag of gummy bears, a chap stick ball that makes for a great pill container, and lots of newspapers and magazines. Another great venue for freebies is the student center! During the evening, the event management typically isn’t too worried about cleaning up quickly. This allows me to enjoy buffets filled with fruit, bread, salad, cheese, crackers, and have some lemonade, iced tea, or soda to go with it. Sometimes, I even get a full dinner for free.

I am very much into recycling and reusing items. 99% of my clothes come from Goodwill, which is a massive second hand clothing store here in the U.S. I collect all my recyclables and take them to my relatives who have contracts with recycle companies. I am not afraid to reheat the pizza nobody wants and in general, my co-workers know they better not be throwing out food without asking me first. I actually do wear my clothes until they are dirty or smelly and squeeze the rest out of abandoned shampoo containers at the gym. I walk several miles every day, which keeps my vehicle off the street and is good for my health. Not only do I enjoy making a small but nevertheless positive impact on nature by reducing my consumption and waste, I also save an average of $800 every month compared to others who live in the same area.

I want to make the jump from a small scale opportunist trash can diver to a full blown dumpster diver. Really, dumpster diving appears to be the next logical step. However, I am not sure where and how to start. There isn’t much information online and I don’t know anyone personally who could get me started. This is why I am asking you, my fellow hobos and free spirits, to please comment the living heck out of this post if you have any experience in the field or know of any useful websites.

Take care and keep your insanity!

Outside Year-Round

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Being exposed to the elements year-round is an interesting experience as it forces us to live by the rhythms of nature. As I am writing this, a mighty snow storm is sweeping through my town. It is -15° Celsius (5° Fahrenheit) out and I snuck into one of the closed campus buildings for some internet and a couple hours of warmth.

Ever since I started living life houseless, I realized that the weather affects my mood more than the usual “winter blues” or “sunshine happiness”. The most crucial factor, by far, is temperature. Fall and spring became my favorite seasons because of the mild temperatures. Currently, I´d say I enjoy summer over winter, but I distinctively remember cussing up a storm over cloudless 90° F (32° C) days. 

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In addition to temperature differences, the amount and length of daylight varies greatly throughout the year. I used to find myself ´down´ a lot more when I spend already short winter days inside. These days, I am able to absorb every last ray of sunlight. Something as simple as a sunny morning makes me happy.

I feel more connected to our past; maybe even to our animal roots. Living outside, sleeping in a cold place, having to work hard for water, food, and heat, are much more than mere lifestyle differences. When you lie hidden beneath a mountain of blankets trying to get warm while hearing nature raging around you, you realize how dangerous this planet can be. If you are able to rough it out here, fear transforms into pure awe. And what follows is respect and a deep appreciation for our planet.

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Sure, my life is different from what our ancestors experienced. I buy my food from the local supermarket and I am able to study and work in a warm environment. However, being this close to society has its downfalls. Instead of sleeping, eating and sitting by a warm fire, I have to rely on layers to warm up and go without warm meals unless I leave the city or have access to a microwave. I am constantly moving my tiny mobile home as I am not allowed to set up a camp. Ultimately, it is not going back to the “old ways” that connects me to our past, it is experiencing nature that does.

I enjoy experiencing nature. Rather than living a perfectly air-conditioned life filled with the daily “issues” of society, ranging from a lack of Starbucks “Coffee” and fitting in with the fashion world, to working 40 hours a week to afford said Starbucks product and many! more items, I want to experience life. I enjoy experiencing life and not just society, if that makes sense. I allow nature to ruffle my feathers. I allow her to fill me with real joy as much as I accept her gray-rainy-ugh-days. I am not going to cover her up or hide from her. I don´t want to walk through life wrapped in bubble wrap. I want to feel the world.

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Hard Work, Damnit!

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I’ve received a variety of reactions regarding my lifestyle ranging from “Oh wow, I love it” to “Are you out of your mind?” to “Whatever works for you”. Some people think I am living the hippie dream and others think I am in desperate need of some serious mental health services. I won’t pretend that I don’t care what others say. However, my actions typically reflect my own motivation and goals. In other words, just because I don’t enjoy hearing negative comments, doesn’t mean I am going to change my life tomorrow.

A few weeks ago, I received a reaction I couldn’t have anticipated. I was spending the holidays with relatives who live a couple hours north. I was having a great time: frequent excursions to the mountains, game nights with friends, catching up with family, and some lazy days sprinkled in between. During one family gathering, I got talking with my stepmother.

“When are you heading back home?”

“Oh, probably around the 15th”.

“The 15th???”

“Yeah”

“Don’t you have to work or things to do?”

“No, I decided to take a month of.”

“Hmmm.”

Her “hmmm’ was full of contempt and disapproval. Her reaction communicated so much more. How dare you take a month of? Don’t you know that HARD WORK is the only right way? The American way. The principle this country is founded on? Don’t you know how our forefathers… blah blah blah (I’ve heard it all before).

Now, why exactly should I feel bad for other people’s lifestyles? You need a upper-middle class house, new clothes, eating out on a regular basis, 4 kids, and those fancy phones, laptops, tablets, and kindles? Well, then you better get to work! I want to be close to nature and a warmer sleeping bag this year. Oh, and time. Which I can afford.

In addition, roughing it can be just what it sounds like: rough. The constant cold during the winter can wear down anyone. Living without amenities can be frustrating and exhausting. Keeping oneself healthy, fed, and safe can be challenging. So, while I am very pleased with my current life, it is anything but easy.

You have a great life going or are on your way to live life to the fullest? Ignore the negative voices that try to force their opinion on you. Freedom is about making your own choices. Sometimes that means making very unique choices. Be proud of your ability to choose. You don’t have to be another sheep.

What´s for Dinner?

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Living outside comes with a variety of challenges, one of which is nutrition. Unless you own a camper, you will most likely not have access to a well- equipped kitchen. This guide is aimed towards individuals who have access to a non climate controlled environment for food storage (i.e. a vehicle).

The most important aspect to consider regarding eating well are storage, preparation of food, and a varied diet. For many without means to support themselves, obtaining food is the biggest problem. The issue of where to get food from to begin with, will be addressed in a separate post.

Storage

Depending on the season and your home base you will have to use different methods for storing your food. As a rule of thumb, if your food looks, smells, and/or tastes weird, don’t eat it. Trust your gut feeling!

– During the summer, vehicles and storage containers will heat up and greatly affect perishable food items. In order to keep the temperature down, try to park in the shade as much as possible and utilize sunshades. For my Ford Explorer I use one large foldy sunshade for the windshield and bought a set of oval sunshades for my back window. In addition, I try to crack a couple windows as often as possible. A crack the size of your key (flat side) is sufficient for letting out some of the hot air. Please consider your and your vehicles safety before cracking the windows for more than a few minutes or if you are planning on leaving the vehicle unattended.

– Store your food in a Tupperware or similar container. Don´t ask me how it works, but even on a hot day (90´s), you´ll be able to keep your food at room temperature (Yes, regular room temperature). Since my container has a see-through lid, I also cover it with a heavy wool blanket. This seems to help keep the food cool as well, plus prevents nosy passerbys from seeing what´s inside.

– During the winter, you may be confronted with solidly frozen food items and drinks. Again, insulation is the key! Store your items in a box and utilize blankets to cover said container. Water can be kept from freezing by storing it close you (e.g. in your sleeping back) during the night. Do not attempt to thaw already frozen water with your body heat. In most cases, the few drops of water you may gain are not worth you getting sick or freezing to death.

– Obviously you won´t be able to store just any food in your vehicle. Items such as fresh vegetables and fruits will go bad very quickly. I wouldn´t suggest storing them for more than a couple days during the summer season. Personally, I prefer buying these things shortly before I eat them. Canned food is one of the most ideal choices and offers a variety of nutritious options. I´ve left canned goods in my car for up to several months and other than a change in texture in some products (yeah, that broccoli-cheese soup looked very unappetizing), I haven’t noticed any difference whatsoever. My personal favorites are canned fruit (pineapple, pears, lichee, mango, etc.) and soups. Dried food such as instant oat meal, quick meals, and mashed potatoes will do just fine as well. Military MRE (Meal Ready-to-eat) work as well, but cost a little more. Still, it’s a good idea to have a few handy.

Keeping Healthy

In order to keep yourself healthy, I advice against eating fast food more than once a week. There are other ways of getting your daily meal without joining millions of overweight Americans.

– First of all, there is absolutely no need to eat a warm meal every single day. Most of us are getting more calories per day than we need to begin with. This phenomenon is fueled by the media telling us we need sausage burgers for breakfast and spam our televisions with soda products that have absolutely no nutritional value. How about a cheese sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce, a yogurt, some pineapple chunks, and a couple cookies for dessert? Not used to regular food from mother earth anymore? You better get used to it or the hobo lifestyle will wear you and your body down very quickly.

– Be sure you get your important Vitamins and eat enough of each food group. This website has a variety of useful information regarding nutrition and food. Personally, I prefer a vegetarian diet. This requires a bit more planning but is absolutely doable. If you´d like to know more about it, leave a comment or email me!

– Here are a few items that you can store in your vehicle longer and that will help keep you healthy. V8 vegetable juice (the fruit juice tastes good, but is in no way a healthy alternative to actual fruit), canned fruit (careful, canned fruit tends to have a lot of calories), canned veggies (watch out for sodium content), Pumpernickel (type of bread, very healthy, not for everyone though), raisins, mixed nuts (lots of protein, but also lots of calories), granola bars (again, calories), soups (tomato, potato, vegetable, noddle, etc.), apple sauce, etc.

Preparing a meal

– Preparing a warm meal can be a challenge. Backpack stoves such as this one are inexpensive, lightweight and work great to heat up canned soups and prepare small meals. Use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature! If your vehicle or storage container reaches temperatures over 120°F (48°C), your stove tank may combust. Gas leaks are also something to worry about. My vehicle´s inside temperature has not exceeded 90°F thus far.

– Personally, I prefer cooking over a camp fire. Obviously, you can´t light up a nice fire just anywhere, but if you are lucky enough to have a decent natural forest close by, a warm meal is within reach. Now, I always wanted to learn how to make a fire from scratch, but just haven´t gotten around to it. However, I´ve gotten good enough to light a fire in pretty much any type of weather. I´d suggest keeping a newspaper handy at all times (fits nicely into a backpack and can be educational depending on the newspaper). Here is a great link on how to build a decent fire. As always, drown your camp fires!

– If you happen to be employed and are lucky enough to have access to a break room equipped with a microwave, you´ll be able to feed yourself well whenever you are at work. Again, canned soups and just-add-water meals work great. You can also reheat leftovers that you may have grilled over a fire the day before. In addition, you can purchase frozen meals before work, and keep them in the freezer. Just make sure you don´t leave a mess!

– Sometimes there is just no way to get a warm meal. If it isn´t fast-food day, and you´ve already spend too many days without a ´real meal´, I´d suggest locating the nearest homeless shelter or church. Often times these organizations provide warm meals at least a few times per week. Next time you get a chance, donate a few bucks or some cans of food for their service (if you can).