by Kirsten Dirksen
One of the most elusive goals in life is determining just what you need to live. As co-founders of a site on simple living (faircompanies.com), we’ve spent the past eight years examining the unencumbered lives of others, but this summer we had the opportunity to try out micro-living first-hand when we packed our family of five into a Westfalia campervan for a filming roadtrip through the Pacific Northwest.
Limiting ourselves to one backpack per person, the five of us moved into our 50-square-foot mobile home (a 1981 VW Westfalia “Westy,” purchased used off craigslist). We hit the road determined to cook all our own meals (propane stove and refrigerator included) and to create our home every night in a different location (RV parks not included, infant potty included).
With no advanced reservations and only interviews to guide us, we visited the homes of regulars in the tiny house world. With each stop we picked up some new piece of wisdom about life’s essentials. Tiny house builder Dee Williams (Olympia, WA) asked us to consider: “What do you want to hold in your arms when you die?” Boeing engineer and Seattle micro-apartment designer Steve Sauer explained he’s less interested in simplicity and more focused on having control over the things in his life. Oregon Coast surfboard-maker Lanny Shuler thinks you can be happy anywhere as long as you give your mind time to heal through meditation.
Between interviews we found places to sleep on small side roads, downtown streets and even a Walmart parking lot (they’re well-known for being open to overnighters). We learned to live with our chosen basics: a frying pan, one pot, a wooden spoon, some utensils and a few plates, Swiss Army knife, castile soap (for dishes, body, hair), water bottles, sunscreen, a few changes of clothing and a smartphone (for navigation and communication).