Again this week we are privileged to have another awesome guest writer. Avie tells us the story of how and why Michael and her chose to give up the busy city lifestyle and move to a much simpler life, living off grid. Here is their journey.
If you were to ask our kids what phrase they heard all the time from us, it would be “You have five years to get out and on your own.” To most parents I’m sure this sounds harsh. But all six of our children are grown and at that time 3 were in college and 3 were already out and on their own. One day something just clicked with my husband and me. We knew we wanted more out of life and that “more” meant having less.
The reason we were telling our kids “five years” was at that time it was five years from the day that my husband would retire from USPS after 30 years. We knew we wanted a drastic change and were tired of working 40 – 60 hours a week for someone else and to maintain a lifestyle that we were constantly trying to get away from. I worked as a Sr. Branch Office Administrator in a financial firm as well as being a partner in the firm. We lived in a home that had 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, family room and two car garages, in a nice neighborhood. We were living the dream of most. Nice house, nice cars, a motorcycle and vacations as often as we could get away. One night we were talking and realized that we were living a life that I like to call “just in case.” We had extra room in the house “just in case” someone came to see us. We had way more food in the house then we needed “just in case” the kids dropped by, etc. Our life had turned into living “just in case” something happened. Even with all that we had, we knew something was missing. We just couldn’t put our finger on it. Like a lot of people who are getting ready to retire and want a change in their life, we started talking about buying a sailboat and living on in for a while, or an RV and traveling. We had big dreams, but couldn’t commit to exactly what that dream was going to be.
On one of our vacations, we went to Texas to spend a week with some friends. They live on 80 acres, so there’s always something that needs done. We would spend time on the tractors, helping clean out brush, run water lines to their garden, etc. We found that being there was always our favourite place to be and it had turned into our “run away” spot. Whenever we wanted to just get away from it all, we went there. Our feelings for this place and the daily activity and way of living when we were there, is what started us on our path to where we are today, working on our perfect dream. We at least knew that our dream was to have a life that we wouldn’t need a vacation from.
Our initial plan was to find a location that I could transfer to so that I could continue to work. After determining where we wanted to live (state location was determined for us by way of grandchildren being born), we then started looking at specific location and average cost of land. We started with baby steps; making a list of all the bills that we had that we could eliminate. We focused on paying off anything that we possibly could. Our list consisted of cars, credit cards, student loans, etc. We started making a game out of it. How much could we NOT spend on frivolous things and how much could we put towards being debt free.
For the fun of it, we started looking online for small campers that were being sold. We just happen to run a cross a 1960’s Shasta that a couple wanted to sell. They were only about 20 minutes from our house so we thought we would just take a look at it. Short story, we pulled the camper home that night. It was ours and our “in your face” reminder of the goal that we were working towards. The camper wasn’t much, just 14 feet long. But we loved it! That was our huge turning point. From there on, we didn’t take vacation. We would spend weekends camping out of our little camper in our driveway, fire pit and all. From that moment on, any time we were going to buy ANYTHING we would ask ourselves “will it fit in the camper?” We did this for almost four years. We had decided to find some property and live in our tiny camper and make our life as simple as we can. We found 10 acres in southern Missouri, about 15 minutes from where I grew up. For over a year we would take the camper down and spend weekends and vacation days there, clearing brush, planning our future out. Then we would go back to the city and work and continue to work towards our goal from there. In the mean time we started going through our house and trying to eliminate things there. You never realize how much you can accumulate when you combine two households together and then items that you’ve purchased as a new family. But we were dedicated to our goal/dream and we plugged away. After giving our kids things that we didn’t plan on needing and still coming up with a huge amount of items to get rid of, we had two yard sales. At this time, I was still working in my office, so I needed to keep my rather large wardrobe. But in the end, we decided that for us to live the life we truly wanted, I would need to leave my job. So with that, the second yard sale was the remainder of all items that we would not need (including over 200 pair of my shoes). The hardest things to see someone walk away with were the things that we later sat and questioned why we were so attached to them. After the yard sales, it felt so good to not have all these items that were just cluttering up our life.
After five years of working towards our dream, we now live on 10 acres in a 10ft x 20ft “tent” home and have our little camper for someone to sleep in “just in case” they come visit us. ;-) It also serves as our storage and clothes closet. We do not have electric but have a solar panel that generates enough for what we need at the moment and we haul our water (even have an outhouse). We traded in our city life, with the nice house and many conveniences for our simpler way of life. This enables us to live completely debt free. Things didn’t happen overnight and it took total devotion to our goal to get us this far. For the past 6 months we have been living our dream and each day continues to get better and better.
We now look at items differently than we did before. It was so easy to just buy something because it looked nice or we thought we should have it because everyone else does. Now before we buy anything, we ask ourselves if that item serves a purpose. We have become minimalist by way of a new life style and I can honestly say there is nothing more freeing then to have less, but truly have more.
Avie and Michael Heidenfelder
I hope everyone enjoyed this post as much as we did. Avie has a FaceBook page already up in wich you can follow their journey, They will also be starting a new blog series on their journey and everyday life living off grid. Join their FaceBook Page to keep up to date and to know when their blog is up and running. You can follow their page Hippie Narnia at https://www.facebook.com/Hippie-Narnia-1746598505661666/
If you haven't had a chance, please check out our other three guest writers.
Amber Halliburton http://www.levelsofminimalism.com/blog/our-journey-to-less
Jeremy Noralta from Think Travel Lift Grow http://www.levelsofminimalism.com/blog/mininimalism-the-reality-of-living-out-of-a-backpack
Brian Collins from Minimizing Dad http://www.levelsofminimalism.com/blog/my-minimalism-to-this-point
You can also check out our post from earlier this week. Unfortunately it wasn't about minimalism, but if there are any present or future bloggers out there then its worth your time to read it. http://www.levelsofminimalism.com/blog/500-daily-views-in-less-than-60-days-how-i-grew-my-small-niche-blog
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