In general, paring down makes things simpler. A library of eight books is much simpler to manage than a library holding over 11 million items. But at some point, as you strip away the excess, you start to strip away features – which is why, whatever you want to learn about, I suggest you visit the Bodleian’s book collection, not ours.
Our van is a stripped down, simple, version of a house. It wasn’t really designed for long-term occupation, so while some things are simpler, others are rather more complex as we have to find new ways to do them.
Cooking – simpler but limited
K – who is the better cook – might not agree, but having only two pans, no gadgets and llimited storage space makes cooking less intimidating for me. I know what everything does and I know what everything in the cupboard is, and where everything goes. As we’re shopping more often, we’re eating more fresh food, which is lovely too.
However, the downside is that we’re missing a few mod cons – like a microwave and more than a pint of freezer space – and a lot of specialist equipment, so a lot of things take longer or just aren’t the same. We can’t make muffins or Yorkshire puddings or freeze anything for later.
Washing - much less simple
Washing – dishes, clothes, yourself – is simpler in a house. In our last house, say, I could get up, wander to the shower in a towel, use as much water as I liked, stroll back (still in a towel) to brush my teeth, then (dressed) go downstairs, throw a load of laundry in the machine, switch the dishwasher on and forget all about both devices for a couple hours.
Now, washing up is done by hand, either in the van (limited water, carried by hand) or at the site sink (lots of water, sometimes falling from the sky as well as the taps), showers, ditto (plus you may need exact change or have to queue or have to share, depending on the site).
Laundry is even more faff: you need exact change, the options are limited and not necessarily trustworthy (don’t risk your delicates!), there are sometimes queues and you can’t go far for the whole time you’ve got washing on the go – at least a couple hours for a typical wash and dry. If we’re lucky, we can borrow a friend’s machine and do the whole thing in comfort, ideally with the use of their WiFi. Bliss.
Moving – much simpler
We’ve lived in half a dozen flats in the last five years, which is one of the perils of renting. And moving is so much easier in the van, whether it’s popping away for a weekend or an international move – or both at the same time.
Cleaning – much simpler
There’s so much less to clean that we hardly need to do more than spot clean things as they get dirty. But we do need to clean more things – like the water system – and we’re quite slow at these new chores.
Yard work – outsourced!
We’ve had a lovely view, a smooth lawn cut twice a week and plenty of space at the site in Cambridge – and done none of the work. Definitely simpler for us.
Home maintenance - totally different
Instead of hassling a rental agency to fix something or check something – or possibly leave us alone and stop bugging us about something – we’re in total charge of making sure our home is safe and clean. I can honestly say I’ve never had to clean pigeon poo off the roof of any house we’ve lived in, but we need to do that for the van soon.
Fewer mod cons, more time
Over all, the time we’ve saved by not doing things (like yard work and cleaning) is eaten up by things which take rather longer, like washing. I’m not saying that any of these things are hard or bad or wrong or even a particularly difficult way of doing said task (it’s not like I’m paying £2 to use a mangle and bucket) but they are less simple than the way we did them in the house.
So far, living in the caravan has been easy because we’ve got time to do laundry at lunchtime on a Tuesday and go to the shops three times a week. It would be much harder with lots of family responsibilities or a long commute like I used to have. It’s simpler like washing by hand is simpler – fewer chemicals, more elbow grease!