Category Archives: alternative lifestyle

Van Living Offline: If It’s Not On Instagram, Did It Really Happen? 

IMG_3808Usually I’m the odd hippy in the corporate world, working as a university lecturer on Skype, living in a van/house-sitting. Now that summers on, I enter into being the odd Digital Nomad in the world of offline-van-dwellers and travellers. Alternative lifestyle blogs are unusual because people are usually either doing it, or writing about it, not both. As I know from my yurt days, it’s hard to get online when you’re off-grid.

A quick visit to any festival van field shows me a different world. Whilst my colleagues are often shocked to discover that my Vansion neither has a water tap nor fridge, rock-n-roll bed, nor toilet, this setup comes as standard for van-dwellers who self-build. Why would you want to replicate a house in a van? Fridges need power. Water tanks are a hassle compared to bottles. Fold out beds are for holiday makers, and lastly, when you live a in 65sqft box don’t poo in it!

What’s inspiring to me about chatting to the folks who live almost totally offline, is learning about the wide range of lifestyles available. It’s so easy to think that you need to be online to make a living. What’s rule one of starting your own business? Answer: get it on social media of course! That’s what we’re used to thinking anyway. Even during my £0 Challenge of 2014, I survived largely by making sure I stayed online. Yet there are alternatives.

As musicians go, they all outstrip me; of course they do. Full time buskers are hot as hell on their instruments because they play for hours per day. They don’t have space in their packs/vans for tons of sheet music, but they don’t need it because they are constantly learning new tunes from each other. I only have to sit with a van-dwelling busker for 5mins and they’ll teach me a song so we can play together. With that and seasonal work, they get by more than fine.

As travellers go, I met some super-tramps who can sleep anywhere without a tent, hitch-hike anywhere and get there before you, build their own benders at the drop of a willow, and skip-dive like their in Mission Impossible. I thought I was experiencing a collision of worlds when I realised how much more extreme that collision must sometimes be for offline hitch-hikers:

Me: Thanks for the great meal Jake. Lovely to have loads of veg after a few days travel where it’s hard to get it.

Jane: Yeah me too.

Me: You too? I thought you just travelled from organic farming community to organic farming community.

Jane: Well, yes but… via service stations.

This reminds me of the folk I met who were hitch-hiking and ended up stranded at a motorway service station for so long they set up camp in the woodland just off the carpark.

 

Jane, incidentally, who can survive in the wilderness for months on end using only stone age tools she has made herself, is soon to be flown to Germany to “perform stone age living” at an immersion project, in the strangest mix of modern and ancient worlds I have ever heard of. She also told me a secret: “I’ve got a smartphone now.”

There is a myth that the offline world doesn’t really exist. If you can’t google it, or there isn’t a photo on Facebook to prove it, did it really happen? 

My income is online; I straddle two quite disparate worlds… and I like that (“I love my hybrid nature – no binary can contain me!” – Meredith Tea ). But it’s refreshing to see people making their way in the world through offline networks, or at least a real mix between the two. The online world isn’t as dominant and powerful as all that: whole worlds still function under its radar.
Over the past few years, I’ve given up so many things I thought I needed, and have felt freer each time. Being immersed in the offline world, even for a short time, inspires me to ask “What more I could free myself from?”… I’ll let you know when I have the answer.

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, house sitting, minimalism, musicians, self employed, travel

Summer Van Living

Summer’s here and I’m finding myself drawn to the river more and more, spending less time in houses and more in the van. Partly, university has finished for the summer, so I’m not tied to a router for teaching (on Skype), and partly the weather’s great. 

It’s time to set up the van more as a living area than purely the sleeping/storage area it was before. Thought I’d share my developments with you. 

Over the weekend I visited a T4 with a proper conversion – pop top, running water, fold out bed. “Ah” I thought, “this is why my life doesn’t work so well”. In contrast, I’ve just got a short bed, and a set of cupboards. I do have a gas ring and leisure battery though. 

Today I set about an improving on my already chocka set-up. But to my horror, I actually needed to add MORE stuff; to devote cupboards to food, kitchen stuff, 5ltr water bottles and other living items. How to make room? 

In the end, I decided to give up a portion of the bed, leading to this conversation with a friend. 


You can see on the right where I’ve put a load of stuff – that used to all be bed. 


It was a real pinch trying to find space for everything, but my favourite new discovery is that the van came with an in-built shoe rack all along! 


There never seems to be anywhere to put my guitar away, but maybe it being constantly in the way will make me get it out and practice more. 


Will keep updating on how the new setup goes. I would still like to be able to find a way to wash myself or record music out here, but it’s been liberating to find that the weather is warm enough for me to use the world as my living room, for work/play/practice. Roll on summer! 

-Kimwei

Kimwei.com

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, minimalism, travel

Ask A Digital Nomad: How Does Your Life Actually Work?

The most common question people ask me is “how does it work being a Digital Nomad?” “Where do you do laundry?” and “Where do you live exactly?” are popular too.

On reason I haven’t fully answered this question so far in a post, is that I hadn’t answered it in my life! The way I live will continue to change and evolve, but up until recently there were still major problems I hadn’t solved. There was so much stuff in my van that I couldn’t use it as a room, I lacked places to record music, and the van bed wasn’t actually comfortable.

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Van – a bit too full for comfort.

That mostly sorted now, so this is a practical post for those of you who like to geek out on alternative lifestyles, possibly with a mind to try it yourself.

Method: Creating a plan A & B for everything

When I started this incarnation of houselessness, 3 months ago, I’d worry if I didn’t have either a solution that would all the time, or a million backup plans. For example, when it came to internet access (VITAL) I thought I wouldn’t be happy unless I could get it in my van. As it is, I’ve never needed to use the internet from my van – there have been plenty of other spaces I can use.

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It’s possible to get internet in the van, but it’s very slow.

So, nowadays I feel pretty secure with a simple plan A & B.

E.g., Laundry

Plan A: Stick my few clothes in with a friends’ washing, in exchange for something or other

Plan B: Hand-wash / launderette

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Spring brings new laundry drying methods.

Although I feel secure knowing plan B exists, in 3 months I’ve hardly had to hand-wash, and never laundrette.

Having a plan B frees me from worrying about my needs, so I can focus my attention on the people in my life and our relationships. I love the way in which this lifestyle brings me closer to my friends and wider community, through asking and exchange, but I prefer the vibe that comes from me asking out of choice/preference rather than need. That’s why Plan Bs are important.

Plan A usually involves a person, whilst plan B is usually an independent solution. As shown:

Workspace

Plan A: Use a friend’s house as an office.

Plan B: Wifi cafe / wifi in the van (v. slow)

Plan A is more favourable, fun and social, but plan B is also workable and fine.

So, here are my plan As and Bs for most aspects, which hopefully quells your curiosity.

Eating

A: Eat with whoever I’m docking with, and contribute in some way.

B: Eat out / supermarket picnic / in the van

I’m not in my van enough to justify stocking it with food, but I carry a food-bag containing non-perishables such as tins, cheese and hardy vegetables if I’m between van and “docking”. When travelling van-less I carry snacks in my Life-Bag, and my next meal. I’m willing to eat cold or raw food quite a lot, but cooking in the van is also possible.

Sleeping

A: Docking / Housesitting / Van

B: Van

My “Sleeping On The Floor” experiments have helped me to become much more flexible about where I sleep. In this case, I’ve put van under plan A and B, as sometimes it’s a pinch to sleep in it, and other times it really is my number 1 choice, especially now it’s spring. I’m very lucky because so many people have welcomed me that I’m regrettably even having to turn down house-sits sometimes.

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Learning to sleep on the floor has many advantages.

Washing Me

A: At someone’s house

B: At a service station / swimming pool / gym

Amazingly I haven’t had to use plan B yet, and the longest I’ve gone without a shower is 2 days. Prioritising staying clean is very, very important when you’re nomadic, trust me…

Exercise

I have a 10min routine I can do each morning no matter where I am, but beyond that I haven’t got a schedule together yet.

Music Practice

A: At someone’s house

B: Outdoors / In van.

Now it’s spring, outdoor spaces are a wonderful resource, however houses are still better. The van is a last resort: I hate playing sat down.

Recording Music

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In session with Mo and Greg, at Mo’s place.

A: At someone’s (quiet) house / studio

This is the only thing I don’t have a plan B for, and that bothers me to an extent. On the other hand, despite feeling insecure, I’ve actually been able to record enough. Guess we all need to feel vulnerable in some areas of life.

So there you have it. The only thing I’d like to improve on at the moment is finding more spaces to record. This happens so infrequently that when I do get to a space, I have to work very quickly, and this is hampering me a bit. But all in all I’ve been amazed by how welcoming my friends and community have been to me and my current way of moving through the world.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, Uncategorized

Sleeping on The Floor: an Experiment, Part 1

bedAfter another bad night’s sleep in the van, on that dreaded piece of foam I found by the roadside on Crammond Island a few years back, I decided enough is enough: it’s time to take some action regarding the surfaces I sleep on.

Being a Digital Nomad means “sleeping around”: staying with friends, housesitting, van livin’ and more. I never know what I might be sleeping on, from the luxury master-bed, to cushions on the floor. I mean no disrespect to the hospitality of my hosts, who are always generous, caring and sharing, but I’m asking myself how I can take responsibility for making sure I have a good night’s rest each night, on a bed that suits me.

One age old traveller solution is simply to take camping kit everywhere, even if this means ridiculously rolling out your favourite camping mat next to the guest bed in a friend’s house. Why? Because it’s the bed you’re used to and will therefore sleep best on.

Yes, I could buy a top of-the-range lightweight inflatable mat, but maybe there’s another way to guarantee a comfortable and consistent sleeping surface wherever I am: to learn to sleep on the floor.

Let’s get this straight: I’m only going to do this if I find it comfortable. I’m a minimalist, not a masochist.

BUT, if I could truly get used to floors, they are everywhere. I’d have the most flexible sleeping solution possible, since they also have floors at airports, train stations, parks and fields. I could ditch the bed in the van entirely, giving me more space.

A quick google search turned up the following anecdotal info from bloggers. Sleeping on the floor can be comfortable if you:

  • Sleep on your back with no pillow
  • Spend a few nights getting used to it

There are claims that this can be better for your health and sleep quality than sleeping on a bed, but really, with so little evidence, the only way to find out if that’s true for me is to try it. Previously when I’ve had to sleep on floors it’s been unequivocally pointless on every level, but this could be because I habitually sleep on my side and use a pillow.

Let’s try this then.

Night 1:

Well, I can’t say that was a great night’s sleep, but actually, falling asleep on the floor wasn’t that hard. As soon as I lay down without a pillow I noticed that my head actually comes equipped with a flat bit at the back, seemingly designed exactly for the purpose. I was surprised to wake in the morning to find my neck didn’t hurt, and neither did my lower back.

The only problem was that I kept waking up every time I tried to turn onto my side out of habit. According to my research, my body could well stop doing this after a few days, so I’ll just keep persevering. Some parts of my back do hurt, but then those bits hurt before I even went to bed, having slept on that rubbish piece of foam in the van the night before.

So, the experiment continues. Will report back in 1 week to tell you the results.

-Kimwei

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, minimalism, travel

Living In Transit

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Finding happiness on the road all depends on which road you take!

What’s a week away from home when you’re homeless (houseless) anyway? The past week has brought home to me the difference between travelling and “living in transit”. I’ve been away from Exeter, the main city I nomad around, for a trip which included work, play, misc and a total of 3 cities including London.

Travel is a word that usually refers to a temporary trip, during which normal life stops and another sort of world takes over. In contrast, living in transit involves taking even the mundanities of life on the road, and our careers or life paths keep developing as we go along. Unlike gap years or extended holidays, there is no “I’ll do it when I get back”.

The question I asked myself before the week started, was “how can I come up with a sustainable method for travelling? How can I avoid getting exhausted or burnt out?” By the time the week was out, I’d realised there was no such thing as a sustainable “method”, only a sustainable “approach”.

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Yup – I’d got that tired again that this was the only way I could guarantee to get off the train will all my stuff

I’d intended to set boundaries to make sure I didn’t end up working intensely long days, with hours on public transport thrown in, get too hungry, or exhausted. The reality was, that too many factors were out of my control for this to be possible. I did work long hours, get overtired, skip meals, sleep in weird places and get a crick in the neck, but I also managed to take opportunities along the way to recover. The only full day I had to myself in London, I slept rather than seeing the sights, because I knew I couldn’t return home tired when “home” means “moving from sofa to sofa”.

The key is, to make the best of every opportunity, and find what you can do right this moment, rather than focusing on what you can’t do.

One thing I love about this approach is the constant presence of mind it requires. To move through the world in this way, I need to be constantly paying attention, and making the most of the opportunities each moment provides. For example, on the morning before my train back to Exeter, a great opportunity came up for my friend and I to cut each other’s hair, which turned a task which is usually a hassle, into a beautiful chunk of time to be close with them.

What did work beautifully was my new bag and kit setup. I’ve put so much time, thought and money into this system I was beginning to wonder if it was just another distraction or excuse. I mean surely you don’t need kit you just need an adventurer’s spirit, right?

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…and yet the rule is, no matter what bag you have you’re going to try and max it out beyond capacity.

Well, an adventurer’s spirit is good, but the right kit has been a real game-changer for my travelling. It’s saved me time, pain, and money*. Check out my gear post. 

This trip didn’t require any recording kit, so I had plenty of extra room in the bag to pick up groceries or carry food/drink. I was carrying more weight than ever, but with no back and shoulder pain, due to the more comfortable backpack. One place I stayed at required me to clear the room I slept in every morning. This was dead easy because my new bag is clamshell meaning you can access its contents without “unpacking” it. So moving rooms was as simple as zipping it closed.
So what’s my new approach to life in transit? To abandon ideas of routine, dicipline, making plans or forcing my will, but take available opportunities to meet my own needs, give to and connect with others. I’ve discovered that being willing to explain my needs makes people feel more comfortable with me in the long run. At the same time it’s important to be physically prepared with the right kit, and mentally prepared for lots of changes of plans. Something little like always having an extra snack handy and all my devices charged is enough to get me productively through a couple of hours of unexpected transport delays and come out fresh as a daisy.

In a nutshell, be mentally flexible, physically prepared, sleep when you can, and try your best to let go of anything else. Lastly, be present: it’s the best way to make every minute count.

-Kimwei

*Actually I have no idea yet if buying kit has saved me money or just improved my experience. Probably both: investment in clothes that need washing less often, saves money on laundry; bigger more comfortable bag allows me to carry food and drink which is cheaper; lighter load means never having to pay for luggage when flying or get a locker; electric toothbrush saves on dentist fees (and pain); and so on…

Related posts: My Houseless HerosMy Year of Travelling as a Digital NomadHow To Pack Light For A Week’s TravelDigital Nomad Tips – Work, Play, Travel

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, lifestyle, minimalism, travel

Digital Nomad Kit List 2017: What’s in the bag? (Video + rationale)

I’m always trying to improve my one-bag-travel set up. I obsess about clothing vs music kit. It’s a constant struggle to get the right balance. This is the only time in my life when how many clothes I carry is directly linked to how productively creative I can be. More clothing = less music kit so less creativity. Less clothing = more music stuff so constant laundry issues. Lots of clothes AND music kit = bag too heavy.

Alternatively if I had loads of money I could buy lightweight versions of everything I’m currently carrying… ok forget that.

So, what are my aims for my ultimate setup? Well, as teenager I really enjoyed the freedom of weekends. I’d ball underwear and a toothbrush into a pair of socks each Friday morning and drop it in my school bag, so I could end up anywhere on Friday night, and usually did: road trips, nights out, sleeping on random friend’s floors and sofas. My main subject was art and my sketchbook filled up on these adventures, making it seem like I’d gone to exciting locations to do “extra coursework”. I loved the freedom of having a little ninja package with me that had me ready to say yes to opportunities.

Guess that’s what I’m seeking now: to be able to be freely creative on the road. Trouble is, as a digital nomad and musician, I need lot more kit than I did as a sketching artist.

Previously I’ve tried I’ve travelling with a 19ltr backpack and guitar, or even just a laptop bag (no guitar). The effect: I don’t have enough stuff either clothing-wise or creative-wise; definitely not enough for semi-permanent travel. There’s no room for snacks / my jacket, plus travelling without a guitar is unacceptable. When I carry my 30ltr backpack I have almost enough stuff, but it’s too heavy for comfort.

My solution to all this problems is: to increase my luggage (shock, horror)!!

Ol’ faithful next to shiny new shiny-ness

I’ve just bought the Osprey Farpoint 40 (litres): the only “Digital Nomad” backpack I could try on in a shop. It’s brilliant: more space than my old 30ltr 1970s hiking backpack, plus a much better strap system so more weight doesn’t really feel heavy. When you live out of a bag, changing the bag could change your life.

Now what to put in it?

This is the functionality I’d like from my kit:

For my body:

  • Clean, weather and occasion appropriate clothes every day.
  • Toiletries
  • Snacks and drinks

For my work and creative mind:

  • Kit to make and upload decent quality video for YouTube (and photos too)
  • Kit to record and produce high quality audio.
  • The electronics needed for my Digital Nomad teaching role.
  • Pens and paper for notes and sketches.
  • Enough instruments to keep me happy: will settle for guitar, penny-whistle and kazoo (if it’s a really good kazoo)

Ideal Weight limit =10kg

Turns out:

A: It’s not possible to keep it under 10kg

B: I can live with that

In the end managed to get down to 12kg (minus snacks and drinks), 2kg over target. I can try it for a while and over time, decide what to shed, or where to invest money in order to lighten the load. Plus, my next few months will be a mix of van living and travelling van free, so for short trips away from the van I could take less. The kicker is my recording studio kit (3kg) but it would cost over £1000 to buy a lighter version of that, so sod that!

In my experience, yes, 12kg will affect my independence a little, but it’s workable. With guitar added, that’s 16kg, so I’d find myself wanting to get a locker or take the bus rather than walk. That’s a shame, but it’s a work in progress.

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Digital Nomad, self employed, travel

Make Your Dreams Reality Part 2

Consider the following:
1iduyo

The difference is everything. Personally, it took me a long time to realise that I didn’t want to become a world class guitarist; if I did, I’d want to practice for hours every day.

Making You Dreams Reality part 1 talked about how to tune your lens to your dreams so that you can easily attract them in the world, and touches on how to find out what you truly want. Let’s go deeper. Finding your wants and desires can be a deep process, involving getting fears and expectations out of the way.

When it comes to making dreams into reality, I tend to shy away from “goal orientated” success. Lets make it abstract: naturally we yearn to meet our basic physical needs, plus our needs for love, contentment, happiness and fulfilment. We might also want to have virtues such as generosity or kindness, but it’s my opinion that those come naturally when our basic physical and human needs are met, so there’s no selfishness in focusing on ourselves.

Ok, so it turned out I didn’t want to be a world class guitarist; I knew that because I had no desire to put in that level of practice. So what do I want to do for hours every day? Could it really be as simple as getting up in the morning, doing whatever I want, and later finding that all my dreams have been realised… well, yes.

Trouble is, doing what you want to do is not that simple.

As mentioned in Part 1, finding out what we truly want can be very difficult. For most of us, there’s a bunch of stuff in the way; mostly fears of different sorts. Many people are so paralysed by fear of failure they find it impossible to get into the relaxed state needed to be creative (The Artist’s Way is packed with processes to dismantle these fears) for example.

Part 1 gives the example of someone thinking they want a sports car, when actually they want the acceptance from their peers they believe a sports car would bring them. This, being a “displaced desire”, it can never be satisfied. After all, it’s not possible to receive a deep level of acceptance from a group of peers, based on car ownership. It’s closer to being a fear of exclusion than a desire for acceptance.

What’s important is dedicating ourselves to a process of seeking our true desires, whilst noticing and calling out the fears and expectations that get in the way.

This can also be shown in reverse: when we want something, we can notice why we want it, and therefore identify whether it’s a genuine desire, or simply led by fear.

When I first heard of the idea of doing whatever the hell I want all day long, instead of being disciplined, I thought it a barmy notion bordering on madness. I imagined I’d miss all deadlines, become unfit and never follow through and finish a project. However, having devoted some years to the matter of getting firmly in touch with what I really want, I’ve dispelled those myths. I broke through false beliefs such as the idea that I’m naturally un-motivated, or that working all hours of the day is the best way to be. Here’s what I discovered:

  • Yup – there will be quite a lot of dossing about in PJs. Go on: binge on it. You’ve never let yourself before! This doesn’t mean it’s the only thing you’ll ever do from now on. Just let it run its course.
  • No, I don’t want to work all the time. I discovered I don’t suit a 40hr working week. If I want to be highly productive I’m better off on half that. I enjoy it, and you’ll be surprised how much I get done.
  • I meet my deadlines; not sure exactly how this one works out, but I do.
  • I don’t procrastinate; there’s no such thing as procrastination anymore. I can trust my inner sense – if I don’t want to do something right now, I don’t do it.
  • When you’re in touch with your sense of what you want, that sense gets stronger. It shouts pretty loud and everything becomes clear; fears become easier to notice and let go of – snowball effect.
  • You can trust yourself to want good things. As humans we want love, connection, growth, happiness, for us an ourselves. It’s displaced desires or those based on fear that lead us to want power over each other, or for others to suffer. When we are truly in touch with what we want it the good stuff.

Before I started trying this approach I was known for my discipline. These days I’m known for my productivity, and for my energy. Of course I’ve plenty of energy now: I’m no longer wasting any of it doing things I’m not interested in.

Love and light

-Kimwei

Related Articles: Make Your Dreams Reality Part 1, How To Get More Motivated

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, Guitar (Acoustic/Percussive/Fingerstyle), life coaching, Self help, Uncategorized

What I’ve Learned From a Year of House-Sitting: A Practical Guide

I’ve house-sat here and there since 2012, but 2016 is my first year of pretty much full-time house-sitting. The longest stint in a property has been 4 months and the shortest 2 weeks. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Note: This is a post about the practicals involved in living in someone’s home whilst they’re away, how to take care of a house and logistically deal with frequent moving. It doesn’t cover the host-sitter relationship or how to find a house-sit.

BTW – I’m travelling HEAVY for a house-sitter, since I have a van, but many of these tips will apply to one-bag travellers too. It also might help university goers, since what I’m doing also resembles the frequent house-moves students must undergo. Travelling heavy is a no brainer if you have a vehicle as you can move with your consumables instead of throwing out and re-buying them every time.

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My personal stuff, minus bike and bike kit, which is usually stays in the van as “breakdown cover”

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My music stuff (shed-loads I know, but with a van, I can)

Moving Tips: The Load-In

After months of moving from property to property and unpacking at each place, I finally realised it was much simpler never to unpack. Instead, I organise my stuff in bags in such a way that everything inside each bag is accessible. I don’t hang my clothes in a wardrobe but keep them in packing cubes. I even keep my cupboard-food in crates so when it comes to moving out I can just grab the crate as it is.

Not unpacking has several advantages:

  • Whatever house I’m in, I always know where everything I own IS, because it’s in the same bag as always, not in an alien drawer.
  • Hosts live in their houses, so they may not have empty cupboards for your things too (exception pictured below).
  • It makes the load-in and load-out incredibly easy.
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Everything stays in bags

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Portable food cupboard

House care: What Not To Touch!

The trickiness of what to touch and what not to touch has always foxed me when it comes to house-sitting. In a longer house-sit, it’s practical to move a few things, or easy to wash up dishes and put them back on the wrong shelves by mistake. In theory this is ok, and most hosts will be fine with you moving anything you like “as long as you put it back”. The problem is, 3 weeks / months later it’s quite hard to remember what you’ve moved and where it came from. Getting it wrong could irritate your host for weeks to come, not because they mind the relocation of objects on principle, but because they can’t find their cheese grater / dish cloths / particular book.

I’ve tried several strategies to combat this problem. I used to take over 50 photos of a property before load-in, but both the photographing and the “returning to factory settings” at the end of the house-sit just proved too time consuming; turned out I’d moved so many objects without knowing it.

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Tip: If a host says “read any books”, always half pull out the book below/left of the one you’ve taken so you can see at a glance where it came from.

I called a friend who’s house-sat for years and asked him how he dealt with this conundrum. Giving equal weight to each word he said slowly “I NEVER TOUCH ANYTHING!” The oracle had spoken. This became my next strategy. However this felt too restrictive. For example, in one cold house I wanted hot tea in bed before rising in the mornings, so a friend suggested moving the kettle into the bedroom. My immediate reaction was: “out of the question!” since “I never touch anything”, but reason persuaded me that the middle path was to give in. After all, I was unlikely to forget that the kettle came from the kitchen. Now I move a few things if needed, but write it down; you think you’ll remember, but you won’t!

Other tips on this matter:

If a host says “don’t use this”, seriously don’t. Integrity aside, it’s not as simple as “they’ll never know”; sod law dictates that if you do use it, it will break and then you’ll have to explain yourself. It could ruin your house-sitter-rep, which, as we all know, is worth more than gold.

On the subject of breakages, own up to every single one for the same reason. You can plan not to break anything, since you’re a careful person, but it’s not that simple. For example, in one house, two glasses were smashed by the chimney-sweep who, rotating his 10ft flue-brush into position, knocked them off the dish dryer! I’d never have seen that one coming. However, good precautions include avoiding the use of unique or hand-made crockery, and glass lamps. I also practice using fewer things within a house (e.g. one mug, one towel), since that’s fewer things to clean and remember where to put back. Having a van, I can also bring some kitchen stuff, and bedding. This really takes the stress out of it for me.

Keep all your stuff in one place/room. Don’t be tempted to hang your coat on the coat rack, or put your keys on the shelf by the door. It may seem ludicrous, but trust me, it’s better in the long run. Dotting your stuff around the house is the quickest way to get it mixed up with your host’s stuff and risk forgetting it on load-out. It also ruins your travel habits.  If you really need a dumping ground, pick a totally clear surface and use that.

House Care: How To Clean Up

Cleaning is one of the hardest things for me. I both dislike it, and have no natural aptitude for it. In fact, I rejoiced at the idea of Digital Nomad-ing as I expected that travelling would result in having to do less cleaning. How wrong I was; the properties I take care of are much larger than anywhere I’ve ever rented, and it’s necessary to keep them much cleaner. I spend a lot of time on cleanmyspace.com and boy has Melissa saved me time over all!

Here are a few things I’ve learned the hard way:

Keep it clean. At first I’d imagined I’d clear up all in one go at the end of the house-sit, and do as little as possible during.

This doesn’t work.

Although less overall time is spent cleaning, it’s hard to predict how long that final clean-up will take, causing stress or rushing. Also, what happens if a neighbour pops in the day before you move out of a 2 week house-sit, and sees 2 weeks’ washing-up piled high? Well, they are likely to tell your host that on their return.

Contrary to my instincts, it’s actually better to keep the place looking as much like a show home as possible (which means daily attention) throughout the house-sit. This results in immunity to “drop-in’s”, or host’s early return. It also shortens the final clean-up; at my last 2-weeker it took under an hour.

Finally, try and leave the place cleaner than you found it, by choosing something extra to attend to… in some cases this is impossible. In most cases I find I can at least tidy kitchen cupboards, and sort through the fridge. By the way, with careful planning and strategic eating it is possible to eat down the contents of the fridge and cupboards and move with almost no food. Do this if you can; it’s much easier.

Moving Tips: The Pack-Down and Load Out:

If you’re me there’s hardly any pack-down, since everything’s already packed. If you’re a one-bag traveller, even less. But what about the things you’re using right up until you leave? Do you pack then clean, or the other way around?

One idea, which works in a safe area, is to pack an overnight bag, and load-out everything else to the vehicle a day in advance.

However, I find that the minimum disruption is to clean the room nearest the front door first, move my bags to that room, then keep cleaning (as pictured at the top of this post – my move-out-formation of luggage). That means everything is accessible right-up until the clean-up is finished, but isn’t in the way. Need a snack? Finish early and fancy playing guitar? All is possible with this method. Finally, before the 10min load out, I like to prepare the van’s front seat with accessible snacks and a thermos of tea.

One of my favourite tricks, since I bring my own bedding, is to transplant the whole thing like this.

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Hope this unapolagetically long post has helped you in your house-sitting/travelling/nomadic lifestyle. Do please send me more tips, especially any on housework!

-Kimwei

Also check out the Symphony For Happines Vlog

… and connect with me @:

facebook.com/kimweidotcom

Music @:

kimwei.com

youtube.com/kimweidotcom

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Making Everything You Own Sacred

IMG_0691I am a minimalist because I LOVE stuff. This is the clash I seem to have with the minimalists I read about who don’t care about stuff. However after 5 years of reducing I’ve finally understood WHY I’m a minimalist who loves stuff, and what it is I’ve been trying to achieve.

My aim is to only own and use things packed with dense positive energy. In other words – I want all my possessions to be sacred objects

Those of you who don’t like the word energy might turn off at this point, but hear me out. If you don’t like that word, try sentimental value, or Marie Kondo’s “Spark joy” concept*. When I use and wear things on a daily basis which have this quality, I literally feel like they are transmitting healing me.

Sound crazy? Let me explain more.

I generally experience the following to have high positive energy:

  • Something I’ve had for a long time
  • Something a friend has given to me or made for me, or made by me
  • Something old that’s been used and loved by many people
  • Something made from natural materials (which I believe take energy well), such as wood, wool, cotton, metal.
  • Found objects.

I generally experience these things have low/neutral energy:

  • Something mass produced (in other words, something made without love, and likely during the trauma of poor working conditions)
  • Something brand new (in other words, something that’s never been loved)
  • Something made from plastic/synthetic materials.
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Making my watch strap took 1hr and produced a much warmer result than buying factory-made.

Even if you’re not familiar with the concept of energy, can you relate this to your own life? Look around your home. Do you have more positive thoughts and feelings about by a handmade gift from a friend than you do for, say, an empty juice bottle? If nothing else, the gift at least holds warm associations. To be surrounded by these things is to be surrounded by our warmest memories, thoughts and feelings. Everyone has a “special” or “favourite” something. What if everything you owned had that quality to it?

 

If you habitually experience energy, these ideas might immediately resonate with you. Or if you’re simply curious, try picking up a pebble and carrying it in your pocket all week. Each night, take it out and hold it in your hand as you think of a happy memory from your day. At the end of the week, can you perceive a denser positive energy in that stone?

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I use this knife for all cooking even if it’s ‘the wrong tool for the job’, such as for grating cheese or cutting bread. I’d rather give my knife more use and therefore more energy.

My perception is that natural materials take on energy better, but even something synthetic, with the right intention can become a “healing” possession or sacred object. For example, I have one gaudy polyester shirt which I bought 2nd hand as a joke. Strangely it suited me, and I ended up wearing it at my wedding, so now it’s one of my most energised possessions.

For me, one of the biggest things that gets energy into an object is use. To use stuff more often I have to have less of it – the result is minimalism. This is why I only cook and eat with one knife, and have done for 5 years.

Up until very recently I was doing this instinctively without understanding it. I’d upgrade something, like my rucksack, only to find myself taking the upgrade back to the shop and keeping the old one. I’d shy away from high tech traveller’s clothes, even if they’d make life easier, and stick to bulky cotton.

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My rucksack, originally bought by my mother for our only walking holiday when I was 7. The trip was formative for me, so I wanted to use the bag as an adult, but also strangely wanted rid of it. Finally I remembered that my mother hated the trip herself! Once I addressed the imprint her experience still had on the rucksack, I stopped wanting to replace it and started using it.

Since I’ve fully understood that I’m creating a healing energy environment through “stuff”, I’ve changed tack and gone for it completely. I’ve got rid of stuff that I actually was using, because it wasn’t (and couldn’t be made) energy dense. Once rid of it, I could feel that even the energy between my possessions flowed much better. I’d no longer consider giving away highly charged items just because they are bulky (like hand knitted jumpers) but am cutting down on electronics.

If I need to acquire something I’ll make sure it’s energy dense, by perhaps making it from found materials, or asking a friend to do it with me, or buying 2nd hand. If I have to buy something new, I might decorate it. I’ll also look out for long lasting things, giving me years to put energy into them.

The result is amazing! I feel totally aligned and am truly supported by my possessions. This is not about loving stuff more than people. My stuff keep itself in check now, and I have more time for the people in my life.

 

*A note on Marie Kondo: When I first read about Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy” concept I was thrilled. With slightly different framing our ideas were similar, and she even writes about imbuing everyday boring functional objects with positive energy by complimenting them. What I’d add to it is that some possessions do not “spark joy” or are not positively charged objects because they either will not take energy or they have negative energy in them which needs addressing (cleansing). For example, if a loved one had a traumatic experience whilst wearing a piece of jewellery, then gave it to you, you may feel a heaviness, sadness or tiredness when touching it. However, the heaviness can be freed from the object, leaving only the warm intentions and generosity of your friend. Someone attuned will be able to tell if an object does not spark-joy because it needs discarding or because it needs attention.

Also, whilst Marie Kondo relates that most people naturally end up with less stuff after her process, I would argue that in the case of making objects sacred, it’s vital to have few possessions and the fewer the better. As long as the functionality of your life is not compromised, interacting with a smaller number of objects more often ups the energy in each one.

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Filed under alternative lifestyle, minimalism, spirituality