Minimalist Buslife: Downsizing and Decluttering

Photo by: Brandon Hoogenboom on Unsplash

According to the author of ‘The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life’ Joshua Becker, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value in life by removing anything that distracts us from it”. This concept of minimalist living is especially useful for the Buslife community who pack their entire lives into a space smaller than most people’s bathrooms.  

Whether you take your VW Bus on weekend jaunts to the countryside or you are living in it full time, it’s important that your tiny home on wheels is a comfortable and calming place to be. In order to achieve that, we must downsize our hoard of possessions and declutter our space by reevaluating what items we actually need. In this article, we delve into the ways in which you can live a minimalist Buslife, and why owning less will make you happier. 

The principles of minimalist living 

We have all heard the phrase “less is more” and that is what the principle of minimalism is based upon. The idea that by decluttering every aspect of your life, from your belongings to your friendships, you will have more space, time, and capacity for yourself and the things that matter to you most. The principle of minimalist living is essentially, therefore, the act of being intentional towards every decision you make. In turn, this will lead to greater freedom from the restrictions of possessions, more gratitude for the things you do have in your life, and an overall increase in happiness. Let’s take a deeper look into these life-changing benefits. 

Photo by Prateek Katyal on Unsplash

Minimalism and freedom 

Freedom is one of the foundational values of Buslife. The freedom of being unrestrained by time, places, and possessions. The freedom to do what we want where we want because there is nothing to stop us. However, when we find ourselves fighting to close bursting cupboards or having to move a bunch of belongings from the bed onto the floor when it’s time to sleep, our dreams of freedom become somewhat disillusioned.

When our VW Buses are cluttered, we have to carefully make every movement to avoid breaking or knocking something over. Not only does this restrict our movement, but it also restricts our time and energy. This is where the practice of minimalism becomes almost essential for Buslife. The fewer belongings you have, the less time and energy you spend caring for them. Therefore, the more freedom you have to live your best Buslife! 

Minimalism and gratitude 

We often hear that it’s the poorest people that live the richest lives. This idea suggests that having fewer possessions to your name can allow you to have a greater appreciation for the smaller things in life. It’s also a reminder that it’s not our possessions that enrich our lives, it’s our own outlook on it.

You can have but a dollar to your name, but as long as you believe you are rich, you will be. Of course, this is easier said than done, especially when you feel like life is dealing you a bad hand. However, the act of letting go of your belongings and the value you hold to them will make finding gratitude for the things you own much more achievable.  

Minimalism and happiness 

We all know that relaxing, satisfied feeling we get when we finally organize our fridge, remove the trash from the floor of our cab, and tidy our cupboards. However, did you know that decluttering is scientifically proven to reduce stress and increase happiness? Studies show that cortisol levels (the stuff that makes you stressed) increase when we are surrounded by clutter. They also show that productivity is directly linked to the comfort levels of our environment. So, when our living and working spaces are cluttered, our brains are cluttered. While tidying does create an immediate relief, it is not long-lasting. However, when we downsize our belongings and declutter our VW Buses, it’s easier to maintain a calm environment and improve mental health long term.  

How to downsize and declutter 

You know that junk drawer full of things you think you might need one day, but never actually needed? Well, buckle up because it’s time to sift through it. Oh, and clear out the rest of your cupboards and drawers while you’re at it too!

Downsizing and decluttering your VW Bus requires you to critically evaluate your belongings and decide how important they are to you. ‘Critically’ being the keyword. It’s so easy to talk yourself into keeping items that will just end up wasting space in your VW Bus. Especially when you allow thoughts like “I forgot I had this, maybe I will use it next time” and “oh cool, another water bottle!” to win you over.  

Photo by: Buslifers ambassadors, Calluna Trip

The belongings you decide to keep in your bus don’t necessarily have to only be of practical importance. They could be decorative or sentimental too. This makes the line between ‘keep’ and ‘let go’ a little blurry. No wonder minimalist lifestyle experts like Joshua Becker and Marie Kondo make a healthy living out of simply helping people to organize their belongings. But before you scramble to the phone to see if they are available, try answering these questions for each item in your VW Bus to help you decide whether to keep it or let it go.

Ask yourself these questions

  • Is this item practical? 
  • How often do I use this item? 
  • Do I have another item in my VW Bus that has a similar purpose? 
  • Does it hold sentimental value? 
  • How would I feel if this item was broken or stolen on the road? 
  • Would I miss this item if it wasn’t here? 
  • Do I really have space to keep this item? 

After scouting every belonging in your bus, you will have a pile of items that you no longer need. Rather than throwing them away, see if they could be of any use to your friends or family, donate them to a charity, sell them, or send them to a recycling center. Remember, the process of downsizing and decluttering may be difficult, but it guarantees the feelings of freedom, gratitude, and happiness once it is done.  

How to continue practicing a minimalist lifestyle 

There is so much more to minimalism than downsizing and decluttering. It is a lifestyle that requires thought and intentional actions every day. After all, what’s the point in spring cleaning your life if you’re going to let the mess pile up again? At first, it might seem difficult to be so conscious about your lifestyle as a Buslifer all the time. However, you’ll quickly see how being intentional towards the space you’re living in can make a difference. Start off by practicing these six minimalist lifestyle tips and watch your Buslife flourish. 

Keep your belongings organized

As mentioned, a clear space means a clear head. That is why it is important to ensure all of your belongings have a place. Not only does this help you to find things in your bus, but it also prevents you from leaving things out or throwing them in the cab as a problem for another day. 

Think before you buy new things

Before you add new belongings to your VW Bus, you need to ask the same questions you asked when decluttering. Do I really need it? Do I really love it? And do I have the space for it? Be honest with yourself and if the answer is no, let it go. 

Ensure your belongings are high quality

Since each item that you keep in your VW Bus is using valuable space, it’s important to ensure they will stand the test of time. Therefore, evaluating the quality and longevity of the item before you buy it or decide to keep it in your VW Bus will save you time, space, and money. 

Purchase multi-purpose items

Be thoughtful about the items you keep in your bus by purchasing ones that can serve multiple purposes. For example, using a bucket instead of installing a sink. A bucket is moveable and is useful to carry water, bath with, and do your washing up in both inside and outside your bus. 

Recycle or repurpose items where you can

Instead of simply throwing an item away when it no longer serves its intended purpose, think about the different uses it could have instead. Get creative! That torn dress could be a curtain or that chipped bowl could be a nice mosaic. You get the idea!

Reorganize and declutter regularly

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, our cupboards start overflowing again. It’s therefore useful to regularly asses your space and see if there are more items you can let go of. You might even find yourself able to let go of items you previously couldn’t part ways with! 

Remind yourself of the truly important things in life

In the end, it’s not our belongings that make us happy in life. It’s the memories shared with people we love. Reminding ourselves of this every now and then reminds us that we can live quite easily without possessions. This enables us to feel more comfortable with owning less. 

Will you embrace the minimalist lifestyle? 

Minimalist living is not a new concept. However, since many of us are choosing to swap our conventional living options for tiny homes just like our VW Buses, it has become a much more popular practice in recent years. As it does, the benefits to our environment and our mental health have become clear. So, whether you simply sift through your drawers and let go of a few belongings or fully embrace the minimalist lifestyle, the act of downsizing and decluttering will undoubtedly improve your life on the road. Now the only question remains: “where will you start?!”

For more top tips on living your best Buslife, check out our ultimate Buslife Travel Checklist

Emily Draper
Author: Emily Draper

Having visited over 70 countries across all seven continents, it's safe to say Emily has the voice of a true traveler. She has lived with the Hare Krishnas in Chile, an Amazonian tribe in Peru, and a retiree named Jerry in a Wisconsin trailer park. Now, Emily has embarked on the coolest adventure yet: across Europe in her self-converted bus.


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