Moving Van Fire Thrusts Couple Into Radical Minimalism

Stubble: How did all your stuff get on a van?
Luke: My partner and I decided to move to Albuquerque when I couldn’t find a job in Minneapolis. The place that hired me provided a relocation package that included moving service. Since everything was covered, we decided to go with it and let the movers pack up our shitty apartment (an embarrassing process) and move it alongside normal people’s stuff in a big moving van. Then we drove down to Albuquerque separately with a few spare clothes and important documents. Truly the bare necessities. I had sold a lot of our shit prior to moving, but we decided to keep a few things just so we could have furniture where we landed. We moved into an extended stay hotel, where we were planning to stay for the few days (!) until our stuff arrived and we could unpack at our new rental.

Stubble: When did you first learn that you had been given the gift of minimalism?
Luke: We first got a call that our stuff would be delayed. They told us they would pay us a delay fee and we were like “ok fine.” Then they called and said there had been an “axle fire” and that some of the van was damaged, but probably not our stuff. After a few days passed, while I frantically called our relocation agent and the human resources at my new job, I was told that the van could be a total loss and they would pay us an insane amount of money for our shitty belongings (most of which was purchased for <$100 on craigslist). So I was like “whatever,” but my partner and I had some sentimental items that we wanted to keep track of.

Stubble: What did you decide to do?
Luke: They offered us a small sum of delay money which was barely enough to cover the extra expenses of eating out every day and clothing purchases (I had pretty much one shirt I could wear to work). In addition, there was some bureaucratic red tape toward reimbursements for the trip down and we had to cover double rent for a month. I went basically into massive debt (for me) for a month or two. Eventually, the reimbursements started to come in and my (reasonably good) paychecks started to come in and things settled down. Finally, the insurance reached a settlement where they would give us all our stuff and we could choose what to keep. They would, in addition, give us an insane amount of money — way more than our stuff was worth. We had started to buy furniture and I bought a bike just to get to work so this insane amount of money started to look like just a normal amount of money to get out of debt and rebuild.

Stubble: Would you suggest this form of radical minimalism for everyone?
Luke: I kind of liked it because it was like, “I don’t need any of that shit anyway” and I could take stock of my pathetic wardrobe and make improvements (?). There was some stuff like books and art that are irreplaceable. It wasn’t a very “mindful” process because I was working all day and frantically trying to get reimbursement from our stodgy relocation services at night and in between trying to figure out how to get out of the hotel. It’s not like we could whittle down unnecessary possessions until we were happy…

Stubble: How is the planning for your next speaking engagement, ebook, and/or TED Talk going?
Luke: I think this experience really made me realize how expensive everything is when you’re not just in a cheap apartment buying things off craigslist. Since I’ve always been limited by money, I always collected things that don’t really work right or whatever. Not having all that shit is freeing in a sense, but figuring out how to do a 9-5 job in a new town without internet or peanut butter is confusing. That didn’t really answer your question, but I’ve always wanted to do a TED talk. They seem powerful.

Luke Taylor is a laser scientist.

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