One of the first steps van lifers need to make is downsizing for nomadic life. Downsizing can seem overwhelming at first, especially if you’ve accumulated many belongings with sentimental value. The good news is that most people say they feel less stress after downsizing to fewer physical belongings.
Downsizing is an essential step towards a more fulfilling and sustainable way of living. By reducing the number of your belongings and possessions you can achieve a simpler, more manageable lifestyle.
In this article I talk about the reasons why downsizing is necessary for a nomadic lifestyle, the benefits of downsizing, and practical tips for how to downsize.
What Is A Digital Nomad?
A digital nomad is a person who works remotely while also maintaining a nomadic lifestyle. Digital nomads rely on laptops, smartphones, and other digital tools to perform their work tasks, allowing them to work from anywhere in the world as long as they have an internet connection.
Digital nomads can work in a variety of fields such as writing, graphic design, programming, consulting, marketing, finance or online teaching, among others. They often travel to different countries or cities, staying for weeks or months at a time, and work from co-working spaces, cafes, or other public places with internet access.
The rise of remote work and the increasing availability of affordable technology has made it easier for people to become digital nomads, and the lifestyle has become popular among those who value location independence, flexibility, and the ability to explore new places while earning a living.
Reasons for downsizing for a nomadic lifestyle
One of the primary reasons for downsizing for a nomadic lifestyle is mobility.
Digital nomads typically move from place to place, and carrying too many possessions can be cumbersome, impractical, and completely stressful.
By downsizing, nomads can reduce the weight and size of their belongings, making it easier to move around with fewer logistics concerns or things to be stressed about.
A nomadic lifestyle is often more affordable than a traditional lifestyle, but this is only possible if one lives within their means.
Downsizing can help to reduce expenses by eliminating unnecessary possessions and avoiding costly storage fees.
Living a nomadic lifestyle can be a more environmentally sustainable way of living, but this is only true if one is mindful of their consumption habits.
By downsizing, nomads can reduce their carbon footprint by consuming fewer resources and producing less waste.
A nomadic lifestyle requires a certain level of flexibility and adaptability. Downsizing can help to cultivate this mindset by letting go of attachment to material possessions and embracing the uncertainty of the nomadic lifestyle.
Benefits of downsizing for a nomadic lifestyle
Downsizing can provide a sense of freedom and liberation that comes from not being tied down by possessions or a specific location. This can lead to a more fulfilling and satisfying life.
Owning fewer possessions can lead to reduced stress and anxiety, as one does not have to worry about managing and maintaining a large number of belongings.
Imagine not having to worry about pipes freezing each winter, or whether you remembered to schedule an HVAC tune-up.
Downsizing can help to cultivate mindfulness and intentionality in one’s life. By only keeping possessions that serve a purpose or bring joy, nomads can focus on what truly matters and live with more intention.
Additionally, downsizing can enhance creativity by forcing one to think outside the box and find alternative solutions for storage or repurposing possessions.
At the very least, by eliminating stress and worry it creates more space for creativity and innovation!
Practical Tips For How to Downsize for Nomad Life
Downsizing can be a time-consuming process, so it is important to start early and give yourself enough time to sort through belongings and make decisions about what to keep or discard.
Additionally, it can be helpful to set aside items that are difficult to part with. Give yourself time to think through and accept saying goodbye to items. In my experience, time can be a powerful tool to feeling confident about a difficult decision.
Be Honest With Yourself
When downsizing, it is important to be ruthless and honest about what possessions are truly necessary or bring joy. This may mean letting go of sentimental items or items that have been held onto out of habit or obligation.
Something that brought you value in the past doesn’t necessarily mean it brings you value now. It’s ok to accept that things change, you change, and your past decisions about what you kept or discarded aren’t set in stone – you can change your mind.
Utilize Storage Solutions
For possessions that are not needed on a regular basis, utilizing storage solutions such as a storage unit or a friend’s garage can be a practical way to keep belongings without having to carry them around.
Be sure you update your insurance. Renters and homeowners insurance won’t apply to storage units and you want to ensure your belongings are properly insured in case of damage.
Sell or donate
Selling or donating possessions can be a great way to reduce clutter and earn some extra income. Websites such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace or Poshmark can be a useful tool for selling items, while donation centers or charities can be a good option for items that are still in good condition.
If you donate items be sure to get a receipt. Donations can be claimed on your taxes!
Create a packing list
Before embarking on a nomadic lifestyle, it can be helpful to create a packing list of essential items. This list should include only the bare necessities such as clothing, toiletries, and important documents. The goal is to pack as light as possible while still having everything needed for day-to-day living.
Anything that isn’t on your list can be downsized or stored for the future.
Once a packing list has been created, it’s time to evaluate current belongings. Start by categorizing items into essential and non-essential categories. Essential items are those that are needed for day-to-day living, while non-essential items are those that are nice to have but not necessary. Non-essential items should be further categorized into sell, donate, store or discard.
Use the “one in, one out” rule
A helpful rule of thumb when downsizing is to use the “one in, one out” rule. For every new item that is acquired, an old item must be donated or discarded. This rule helps to prevent clutter from building up over time.
Another rule I use for nomad life is to only buy an item if I know exactly where it will go. If I can’t decide where it will be stored in my van, then I don’t buy it. Everything must have a home before it’s purchased.
Digitize documents and photos
For nomads who need to carry important documents with them, consider digitizing them and storing them in the cloud. This not only saves physical space but also ensures that important documents are always accessible even if they are lost or stolen.
Adobe Scan is a great free app for converting physical documents into electronic files.
Use multi-functional items
When selecting items to pack, look for multi-functional items that can serve multiple purposes. For example, a scarf can be used as a blanket or a pillow, a cast iron skillet can be used for cooking and as a weight for exercise, and a backpack can be used for both hiking and carrying personal belongings.
It’s also important to pick your wardrobe with this in mind. Give preference to neutral clothing that can be worn with several outfits, dressed up or dressed down, and are well made and will hold up to lots of wear.
Rent or borrow items
For items that are only needed for a short period of time, consider renting or borrowing them instead of buying them outright. This is especially useful for large items such as camping equipment or musical instruments.
One popular trick in the van life community is to buy bulky items, like a suitcase, used from a consignment store. After using the item you can sell it back to the consignment store and recoup most of your initial cost. This is also a great way to keep waste out of landfills.
Get creative with storage
In a nomadic lifestyle, storage space is often limited. Get creative with storage solutions like using hanging organizers or stacking plastic bins. Consider using under-bed storage containers or finding hidden storage spaces in vehicles.
Finally, embrace a minimalist mindset when it comes to possessions. Focus on quality over quantity and only keep items that are truly necessary or bring joy.
When I first started my nomad journey I worried I wouldn’t have the right outfit for a special event, or the right tool for a project. However, I found that even when I didn’t have the perfect outfit for a night out it was ok- no one thought anything of it, and I still had a great time.
It’s easy to get caught up in valuing possessions when we spend our day-to-day lives in a culture that prioritizes things. As soon as you step into a nomadic culture and simplify your possessions, you’ll quickly let go of those thoughts and focus your value on experiences and relationships instead. It’s truly a liberating experience!
Final Thoughts On Downsizing For A Nomadic Lifestyle
Downsizing is a necessary step towards a more fulfilling and sustainable nomadic lifestyle. By reducing the number of your possessions and focusing on what truly matters, digital nomads can enjoy increased freedom, reduced stress, and enhanced creativity.
Practical tips such as starting early, being honest with yourself, utilizing storage solutions, and selling or donating possessions can help make the downsizing process more manageable. Ultimately, downsizing is a mindset shift that can lead to a more intentional and meaningful way of living.
My own experience with downsizing for a nomadic lifestyle is one that’s brought me happiness, fulfillment and a greater sense of purpose. By downsizing, you’re simply eliminating the distractions so you can more clearly see the best parts of life.