It’s the “most wonderful time” of the year once again. A time for macing fellow shoppers over Xbox’s, trampling and stepping over people who collapse (and sometimes later die), and stabbing others over a parking space.

It’s Black Friday time!

Ok, who am I kidding. It’s Gray Thursday. Some retailers are already opening at 8am on Thanksgiving Day this year. The majority are opening between 3 and 6pm on Thursday.

Who knows, by next year, it might be White Wednesday. We could leave straight from work, shop all night, sleep all day Thursday (Forget Thanksgiving) and then come back out Friday for more DEALS. Okay now we have a problem! Nobody cuts into my Turkey Time!

Where do you draw the line for shopping over family time? If you don’t have a line, let me challenge you to draw one before you finish this post. Be honest with yourself. Your line could be 12pm on Thanksgiving day. It could be 12pm on Friday. What matters is you take a stand and draw a line.

Don’t let stores draw a line for you each year! They will continue to sneak their way into family time until there is little or nothing left. They don’t care about family. They care about the bottom dollar.

Family unity is not sparked by stuff. You may be thinking: “But I am buying this stuff for my family.” While that may be true, how often does stuff spark closeness as a family?

Hard times spark unity. Adventure sparks unity. Laughing over a meal. Serving together. Any number of other virtues. That new iPad does not bring family together.

That new iPad does not bring family together.

How often do we walk out of Black Friday with only gifts for others? For me, it’s next to impossible to walk out without something for myself.  When I show up at the store, I book it to the item I want for myself first and then hope the stuff I plan on getting other people is still available later.

We are so busy buying more stuff, we don’t slow down to be thankful for what we already have. The irony here is this shopping happens ON Thanksgiving. The one day of the year we are supposed to slow down and spend time with family and friends to be thankful for our blessings. Thanksgiving is about being thankful, not having our cart full.

Thanksgiving is about being thankful, not having our cart full.

Family Won’t Be Around Forever. The stage of life your family is at this year at Thanksgiving will never be the same. Never. Your kids won’t be the same age. Your parents may or may not be there next year. Life happens. Slow down. Savor it.

I wish I had known four years ago that it was my last Thanksgiving with my dad. Life is short and we are not promised tomorrow. Our family get togethers are not the same now. We always feel like a part of us is missing, but it has taught me to not take family for granted and enjoy our days to the fullest.

A deal is not a deal if it’s something you don’t need. If you buy a $100 coffee maker on sale for $80 that you don’t need, you didn’t save $20. You wasted $80. So ask yourself why before you buy.

Ask yourself why before you buy.

Do I need this TV or does the one I have work fine the way it is? Is this really a good gift for my brother or am I just buying it because it is a good deal?

A heartfelt gift will trump an expensive one every time. Put thought into your gifts. Get creative.

  1. Instead of gifts, let the whole family chip in for a trip

  2. Buy a game you can all play as a family

  3. Give coupon books a whirl

Think outside the box for things that can bring you closer to the ones you love.

Somebody is leaving their family if you are shopping on Thanksgiving or crazy-early on Black Friday morning. It might be the manager, the guy putting back the carts, the girl who sets up the display, or the poor soul given the job of holding people back before the sale starts. Not only are you losing out on time with your family, these employees are losing out on time with theirs.

Worse yet, you are encouraging stores to put profit before family. Not shopping at big box stores won’t exactly cause their stock to plummet, but standing up for what you believe in counts for even more in my book.

I became inspired when I heard about REI, an outdoor sporting goods retailer, taking a bold stand and closing their doors on not only Thanksgiving, but Black Friday as well. Instead of participating in the retail games of one upping the competition (we all hate one uppers) they are giving their employees a paid day off on one of the top 10 money-making days of the year for them.

This is the complete opposite of their competition who are opening their doors on Thanksgiving before you even have a chance to finish your pumpkin pie. This company is encouraging people to go outside and make experiences instead of shopping. This is clearly not a great financial act, but an act for their statement to be heard about what values they stand for.

Now that is bold. And that is the kind of company I want to stand behind. Not one that wants me to leave my family, throw my turkey in tupperware, and eat it on the way to their store on Thanksgiving.

Remember the line I talked about at the start of the post? Where do you draw your line? It moves every year if you let retailers draw it for you.

Walmart, Target, and the rest are banking on us shopping for our family rather than being with our family on Thanksgiving. Why wouldn’t they? Have our wallets shown them otherwise?

You determine what is most important in life. You have the choice of where to spend your time and energy. Your time with family and loved ones is worth more than a sale on a crockpot.

Where will my family be spending Thanksgiving? We’ve drawn our line and won’t be standing in a line on Thanksgiving. That day is sacred for us. That’s our line. It doesn’t matter how many commercials flash on the screen, how many flyers show up in the mail, how many ads blast through our radio. Thanksgiving is a day for us to be grateful and spend time together.

Big-box stores are already whipping out their markers to draw a new line for next year. Will you wait for that line or draw your own?

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Now the fun part begins! It was time to book our first traveling adventure of camper life. My one request? Beach front baby! After all the stress of downsizing we needed some fun in the sun.

The previous year had been eventful for our family. With the birth of our daughter in April and my husband having bilateral foot surgery during my postpartum “vacation” a month later there was no time for a getaway in the summer.  Our first trip was well overdue.

We did some research and decided to try St. Augustine, Florida. Not only does it have a beach location, but it has tons of history we wanted to check out. It was a location neither one of us had visited before, and we found that to be fitting to break in the new lifestyle.

Before we embarked on this maiden voyage, my husband wanted to pull the camper somewhere close to our campsite in our hometown to test out our camper and truck setup. We wanted to make sure everything would go smoothly before we headed down south. 

He found a campground about 30 minutes away and at the time I thought the idea was kind of silly. I mean, what could go wrong? The truck was inspected and ready to go and we had been living in the camper for weeks now and it was working great.

Also, why would I want to use my vacation time that close to home in a town with the same amenities as our home town? I was quickly persuaded with the words pool and hot tub that showed up on the campground website. Let’s do this!

With everything already packed, a perk of taking your home with you on trips, we set off in the sunset to begin our journey of life on the road. Our dream was finally coming true after over a year of research, planning, tears both good and bad to get us to this moment and it was finally here!

Boom! That was the sound of our bubble bursting (or our truck breaking down) 15 minutes down the road. Our lives of living a constant vacation, as so I thought, had come to a hault literally on the side of the road.

Here we were stranded on the interstate watching our dream get towed away in the sunset without us. Good thing the hubby bought roadside assistance. Because we needed two trips from the tow company to get our truck to the shop and the other for our house on wheels to get to the campsite which was our first “adventure”.

It was an adventure alright.

Even though we had a rough start, we had a great first trip at our local campground. This campground, formerly a nudist colony we discovered on our stay, was such a hidden gem. Now known as Davy Crockett Campground located in Crossville, TN, this place is a woodland wonderland and the staff went out of their way to help you with any needs you may have.

With a restaurant , friendly staff, wagon rides, walking trails, and much more, we had plenty to do and lots of memories were made. We invited our friends and families to come swim, eat, play, and get involved in our new traveling lifestyle.

Although our journey didn’t go as planned, here are a few life lessons we learned from the experience:

Plan for the worst, but hope for the best.

I’m not suggesting you get in Negative Nancy mode for your journeys. Stay positive. That’s important for everyone’s life journey. Just keep in mind things don’t always go perfectly, such is life, but don’t let that take your joy. Downsizing to allow yourself more journey is a fun experience if you allow yourself to laugh through the crazy times.

For us, planning meant buying roadside assistance (which more than paid for itself) and taking this test trip. Even if your journey is something different like downsizing your cars, your house, or your living space, leave some room for problems.

And once those problems happen (and they will) be ready to laugh about them. Maybe not in that moment, but be ready. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

Life is too short to sweat the small stuff.

Make the most of a bad situation

Yes this wasn’t an ideal situation for our truck to breakdown and be stranded without a vehicle for a couple of weeks out of town, but on the upside, we got time to relax with family and friends in a beautiful campground.

In the end we had a good time making memories together so turn that frown upside down! This lifestyle is all about spending time together.

In the thick of problems, people are genuinely good & want to help

We live in a friendly part of the country. When we were stranded on the side of the interstate 20+ people offered to help Nathan while he waited over an hour for the tow truck.

A friend from my work spotted us on the side of the road and was nice enough to drive Hensley and I to the campground to get food while Nathan stayed with the truck and camper. How nice is that?

When Nathan finally reached the campground in the tow truck with the camper, three park workers came rushing in to help us set up our camper before the sun set and it got dark. It was overwhelming to see all the kindness people showed us in our time of need.

As you work through your journey, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Especially from people who are a step ahead of you on the same journey you are wanting to take. If you want to journey in a camper, reach out to us or other camping people. Whether it’s a tiny house, going from a giant home to an apartment, or just getting rid of stuff, there’s always someone a step ahead.

Sharing your hard times could help others in theirs. 

The last thing we wanted to do in this stressful situation was smile for the camera but we knew we needed to document our story. That means the good and the bad. It is not  fun to take pictures while broken down, but we can learn from all situations we are handed. Don’t be afraid to share your mistakes (we will be sharing a ton of them along the way).

Mistakes are a way of growth and if we embrace them and share with others it can help prepare them in similar situations or their future journeys. Adventure can come at a cost. But it’s worth it! We had a great trip and sometime life just happens.

Although our literal voyage was short and sweet this is just the begining of our lifelong voyage to strive to have less junk but more journey. Did we ever complete our journey to St. Augustine? Stayed tuned to find out!

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You would think the words less and happy would never go together in the same sentence. How could having LESS bring more HAPPINESS to a person? Isn’t that what we have been taught in our culture… that having more “stuff” leads to more happiness?

When we decided to sell our house and begin having LESS JUNK AND MORE JOURNEY, people frequently asked us the question, “Are you getting something bigger?” Even to this day when it comes up that we sold our house, the next statement is usually suggesting we upgraded in some way for either space or just simply something more expensive.

It seems to never cross anyone’s mind that you would want to downgrade and live below your means instead of above it. Why would it? We live in a society of debt and maxed out credit cards and commercials telling us “we deserve it”.

I am not saying one way is better than another. If you can afford it then enjoy it. We as a family took the challenge to simplify life to the standard we wanted to live instead of the standard society had set for us.

Its is hard to give up space because when you do so you are giving up the objects that it holds.

Its is hard to give up space because when you do so you are giving up the objects that it holds.

Giving up space meant giving up some of our clothes, shoes, dishes, storage, electronics, home gym, pretty much extra of just about everything!

After that statement I have probably not convinced anyone this is the life for them. So I know you’re thinking right about now that we are crazy and why would anyone do such a thing? Here are my top 5 reasons of why we can live with less and have even more happiness:

1.) More Time This was the #1 reason we chose to live this lifestyle. We wanted our time spent on doing the things we enjoyed instead of putting time into working more hours to pay for “things”. It’s not that we don’t work or like to work. My husband and I are both hard workers. We just want to work smart and make the most of our time.

The more stuff I’ve gotten rid of, the more time I receive in return. How is that possible you ask? Less stuff means less space to clean….Hallelujah!  Cleaning the whole RV takes me about 30-45 minutes depending on how much we let it get out of control. We went from over 1700 square feet of hardwood floors (a nightmare to clean) in a  multi level home to 300 square feet. That is a huge time saver.

Also, putting things away is much faster in 300 square feet. Doing laundry in the past meant climbing from the basement where our laundry room was located to the next two levels of bedrooms. Carrying laundry baskets up and down the stairs is not a chore I will miss. Now I do my laundry literally three steps from the bedroom.

Did I mention my washer and dryer is a all in one combo unit so no need to move laundry from the washer to dryer… say what! Who knew they made such a thing? It’s magical. Everything is so conveniently located in such a small area, I most likely gain  hours a week not running around the house putting things away. 

I work less hours at my job because we have gotten rid of any debt so the need to work full time is lifted. Having more free time brings joy to my life because I am able to do the things I love and spend more time with my family, which was my ultimate goal.

2.) Less stuff equals less stress The more we have the more we have to worry about.

The more we have the more we have to worry about.

The more stuff we accumulate, the higher the risk of it breaking, getting lost, and cluttering our lives both physically and mentally. Having less stuff has decluttered both my mind and living space. It’s a win, win!

3.) Waste less Because of the small amount of space, we are limited to the things we use on a frequent basis and not a lot of extra fluff. That means no duplicates and no hanging on to that object I have been meaning to use. Its is the daily essentials.

This is especially true with meal planning. The fridge fills up quickly due to it’s petite nature so we have to make sure our meals are planned out and leftovers are eaten.

With a residential fridge food would get lost in the abyss and discovered when it was almost to the point of being unidentifiable. Now by the end of the week the fridge and cabinets are almost completely emptied cutting down on waste.

This is true in other areas of the RV as well such as bathroom cabinets, closets, and drawers. We only keep on hand what we absolutely need. So no overflowing basement and garage to mess with anymore!

4.) Travel Okay this reason is one of my favorites. As a family, we love being outdoors and traveling so it only made sense for us to chose an RV to downsize. Now that we have a little more freedom over our finances, due to the fact that we sold our house, this allows us to get rid of our mortgage and pay cash for our RV and vehicles.

In return this gave us the opportunity to travel more. RVing is a great way to see the country on a budget. Campgrounds are usually easy on the pocket book in most areas and you can’t beat that we get to take our house on the road with us so we are always packed for our next adventure.

5.) Save Money

I explained under the travel area how we freed up some finances by eliminating payments. When we are not traveling, we rent a RV spot in our hometown and utilities are included. We dropped our living expenses by more than 40% while we are stationary. This enables us to save money up for a couple months before we head out again for our next journey.

I have also noticed we save money due to the lack of space to fill. I don’t buy home decorations anymore (which was a huge weakness of mine when we owned a house) and our closets are very limited in space so shopping for clothes (another weakness of mine) is now shopping for only what we need.

I have created a capsule wardrobe that I will talk about soon and it is great for not only the small space dweller but also for anyone who wants to eliminate the stress of an overfilled closet with still nothing to wear.

So yes….in my experience over the past few months of having less I have discovered that I can live with less and be happy. In all honesty, it has brought me even more happiness just by eliminating things I thought brought me happiness but in fact it is my relationships and experiences that bring me joy.

Happiness is a mindset that is available to everyone if you just chose to embrace it with all your heart. I encourage you to take this challenge and see if you can be happy with less and live life with more freedom.


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