Seven Weeks of Homelessness

At last, the Mustache Family has returned home to the plentiful comfort of the USA.

It was a record-breaking trip in both the Fun and the Extreme Duration departments: a full seven weeks elapsed between the time we left and the red-eyed return to our driveway after midnight last night.  So many things happened that it felt like a whole separate lifetime. I lived a truly nomadic lifestyle, surfing between beds, couches, and floors in at least eight different locations, with at least 20 moves between them.

So it’s a very pleasant, but strange feeling to be back home in my real house. All these big, empty rooms, and all this stuff I had forgotten we even owned. On the positive side, it’s nice to get a break from the Chronically Overcrowded Fridge Syndrome that seems to affect almost everyone in both sides of the MMM extended family. On the negative side, we all miss our families already and it will be months before we see them again.

The part that was most amazing about the trip was that we were all truly happy – just as happy as we would have been here at home. From a practical perspective, we gave up our fine house and all of its contents, sacrificed our nicer car and all seven bicycles. I lost my drums and guitars, and my son lost all of his favorite toys. Mrs. M gave up her closest friends and the joy of regular self-inflicted pain at the Crossfit gym. I also gave up the entire United States and all of my monetary fortune, since I didn’t visit this country or spend much of anything while I was away from home.

In fact, the life that we led on that trip was almost exactly the one we would lead if we lost everything except the clothes on our backs. I lived entirely out of a small duffel bag of stuff. My only high-tech toys were my homemade construction radio and a clunky old laptop I got for free from an MMM reader back in March.  I didn’t even need my own shoes for most of the trip – summer-toughened bare feet were the primary footwear, and an old pair of sandals was a close second. While I enjoyed mostly free meals and accommodations, I paid back more than their value in most cases by doing construction projects for my hosts.

By the end of it all, as I was packing up my little duffel bag for about the 50th time, I thought about the simple life we had led and realized that you really don’t need much to be happy in life. As I had long suspected, the supposedly-frugal life we lead back in Colorado is still far more than one needs.  And even the duffel-bag lifestyle described above could surely be pared down even further. A beach, a coconut tree, and a fishing rod could provide just as much pleasure, especially if there happened to be a library nearby.

But now the magical simplicity of the summer life is over. I’m in a fully equipped home office, there’s a huge to-do list taped to the side of the monitor, and the school year is starting up for my little son in three days.  The amazingly fancy things I own at home are already starting to put me into the mood to buy more things. The car looks like it could use some new tires. An ultrabook laptop would look nice on my lap this fall as I get back into some serious blog writing. More outdoor-living projects beckon in the back yard. The more things you have, the more there is to be tweaked and optimized and improved upon.

So the MMM family will probably go back to normal life, and resume the process of buying things occasionally. It won’t be the typical rich household’s spending, where cars circle the town daily, harvesting bags and boxes of luxury products at the slightest whim of their owners. But it will still be at least 75% optional spending, which is an important thought to ponder. My job is to capture the feeling of this simple, blissful summer and apply it across the rest of the year. I already know what it’s like to be happy with much less stuff.. so what’s stopping me from accomplishing it in my real life? What’s stopping you?

It’s great to be back. Let’s have some serious fun this year as the MMM blogging season gets going at last!

  • Cecile August 13, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Welcome back !

    You say : “The more things you have, the more there is to be tweaked and optimized and improved upon.”
    I completely agree with this one. Couple weeks ago, I considered buying a big computer screen to hook my laptop too, to make my computer work at home easier. Well… it didn’t happen yet. And it might never happen ;-)

    75% optional spending, that’s great. So far I have only about 40-50%.

    • Sean August 13, 2012, 8:44 pm

      As the saying goes, the things you own begin to own you.

      Welcome back, Mr. ‘Stache!

    • Nurse Frugal August 13, 2012, 9:46 pm

      Mr. MMM, I have to say that I love your emphasis on needing little to be happy. I feel like people think that becoming rich and winning the lotto will magically solve their problems, when in reality most of those people end up bankrupt and divorced within 7 years of winning. My point is that all you need is a happy spirit to be happy, things cannot and will not ever fill that void. The first several months we started living frugally, my husband would call me out when I was having little poopy pants tantrums about not being able to buy all the things I wanted, or do the things I wanted to do. It was definitely very anti-Mustachian of me, I do apologize, please don’t judge me. Now, I feel like I wasted so much money my whole life on all kinds of stupid, frivolous things when I could have been saving up to retire even earlier in true badassity style. The crazy thing is that I don’t miss any of the frivolous spending and unnecessary stuff and I’m happier then ever. It’s fun to be frugal!

      • Robin August 14, 2012, 4:57 pm

        WOW- I could have written this exact reply word for word!

      • Pollyanna August 15, 2012, 2:10 pm

        I have to echo your comment “Now, I feel like I wasted so much money my whole life on all kinds of stupid, frivolous things when I could have been saving up to retire even earlier in true badassity style.” That is me 100%. Why didn’t I learn this all sooner? Now I am dealing with all the “stuff” I bought or otherwise acquired and wishing, wishing I had the $ instead.

        • STBJ February 22, 2016, 8:08 pm

          I hate to relate. am sure there is 200K of stupid spending over 35 years of working that could have propelled me into FI and ER. O well, I can fix a few things in the 7 years before 65. Actually MMM is useful even if you think you have blown it.

          • Bookguy February 23, 2016, 10:26 am

            I’m in the same place, STBJ. Am in my late 50’s, was way too spendypants for too many decades, and now I’m regretting all the crap that I bought and didn’t really need during that time. Wasted too much money for too little. Still, this is a great website to help one turn things around a bit, even if it’s too late for me to FIRE.

  • Tara August 13, 2012, 5:44 pm

    Wow, I would definitely not enjoy being a nomad like that for 7 weeks… I like to be at home with my stuff. :-) While it is true we need very little to live and be happy on a vacation (and for me, after 2 weeks I am ready to go home) it isn’t sustainable for any significant length of time.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2012, 6:00 pm

      I hear you, Tara – I felt like that more when I was younger, but it has changed with time as I’ve taken more trips and thought about life more.

      So, instead of seeing your current relationship to home and stuff as a static one, you might look at it as a slowly changing one, where you might become more and more free of it over time.

      Everybody is different in their basic living style, of course, but everyone has the ability to change themselves as well.

      • Tara August 14, 2012, 10:28 am

        What I neglected to point out (in my effort to be humorous) is that I have 2 cats and 2 dogs, and I love to be at home because that’s where my family is. I’m pretty much a homebody, and I enjoy being comfortable there with my family and things around me. Perhaps some day I will feel differently, but at 46, I don’t think I will magically become a natural nomad. But I do want to continue to declutter, simplify, and consume less. That’s my ultimate goal – to be happy with what I need, and not be driven by wants.

  • Mike Long August 13, 2012, 5:46 pm

    Welcome back!

    With the end of summer approaching (though you’d never know it by the current heat wave), I’m also considering a change of focus with the changing of the seasons.

    At 42 years of age, I’ve saved little, but I *have* taught myself how to live with much, much less. Combined with having no debt, I feel ready to move on to the next phase of my life – earning more, saving more, and creating an “off the path” lifestyle that I’ll be able to enjoy from age 50-55 on.

    Though I was already making some general moves in this direction the past few years, this blog has helped me to crystallize my vision for the future.

    Thank you for what you provide here. You’re making a difference in people’s lives. I’m not sure there’s anything in the world more fulfilling than that. :)

  • Holly August 13, 2012, 6:01 pm

    Welcome back!

    When it comes to material possessions, I am finding that I am happier with less and less. There’s less to take care of, less to keep clean and organized, and less to keep track of.

    Have a great day!

    • Matt G August 16, 2012, 5:41 am

      Have you read the book, The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less by Richard Koch? I highly recommend it.

  • Max August 13, 2012, 6:13 pm

    Great article – being away from things for a period of time really makes one feel a lot more at peace with life. The key is to do just what you did and nottry to bring your home with you.

    I recently went car camping in a state park and saw a ton of people trying to re-create everything they have at home, and having a lot of stress because of it. If one lives a more spartan life, even for a weekend, you can begin to appreciate how little you really need to get by.


    • Tamara August 14, 2012, 10:45 am

      Max, your comment about people trying to recreate their home environment while camping is interesting to me. We are recently retired, and have a fairly small trailer we are enjoying immensely, but everywhere we go in it we are having to fend off comment after comment about what we should add to it to make it “better.”

      It already is “better” in our minds. More stuff just means more weight to haul which then decreases our gas mileage, more stuff to set up, more stuff to break down, and more stuff that needs to be maintained.

      It’s ridiculous!

      • 205guy August 14, 2012, 2:14 pm

        I have to admit, if/when I reach FI, I will be very tempted to travel and see the US and the world. Low-budget camping (tent, no trailer) is very feasible in the US, my family does it all the time on weekends, and sometimes for weeks. The problem is that I already have a house full of stuff, most of which could go, but I would probably still need a storage unit for the sentimental things.

        I think the ultimate deliverance from stuff is solo backpacking. Never have I felt more free than when going for a week by myself with only the essentials on my back. I even carried all my food, no foraging or fishing. Though to be honest, it is not sustainable: you can’t find or catch enough to eat in most places, so you need to have money. But even among backpackers there are degrees of stuff, from ultra-light affictionados to John Muir himself, who set the bar very high. As Wikipedia writes:

        On excursions into the back country of Yosemite, he traveled
        alone, carrying “only a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of
        bread, and a copy of Emerson.”

        • Max August 14, 2012, 11:43 pm

          I enjoy car camping, backpacking, and ultralight backpacking as well as international (and domestic) traveling out of a backpack – and think a tiny trailer would be fun too – the unifying thing here is being out of your element with less stuff. I think it can remind you, who you are, without the clutter of normal life.

          Re: backpacking being sustainable, here is a different perspective: most long distance backpackers dont spend much, it seems like a viable ERE lifestyle for half the year if one is physically fit.

          • Tamara August 15, 2012, 7:20 am

            Backpacking is on our list of new things to explore, with our first one, a three nighter, coming up this fall. Will confess I’ve resisted backpacking out of concern about everything that occurs between going to bed and that first cup of morning coffee. I enjoy our trailer’s creature comforts – a bed, cassette toilet and french press.

            But I’m game to try because the appeal of being active all day is tremendous to me. And we’re getting a bit tired of reaching a beautiful hiking destination only to have to turn around and immediately hike back out.

  • Jimbo August 13, 2012, 6:18 pm

    welcome back! I missed you, I swear!

    Stuff we own drags us back so much, it’s crazy. I have all these things I never use, and would not miss at all would this house burn down. Yet I also have these things I enjoy so much.

    Paring down, I feel, is one of the best feeling one can get.

    Looking forward to being able to roam across the continent with the contents of an old VW van. A nice project for retirement. And folding bikes fit even in those small things…

  • Lance August 13, 2012, 6:35 pm

    I’m glad your back! I recently started following your blog during your trip and love what I’ve seen so far. I myself and trying to cut my spending down to be able to save a large portion of my income. I’ve seen that I don’t care so much for so many of the material things in life.

    I look forward to more posts as your blogging season kicks in!

  • Jamesqf August 13, 2012, 7:07 pm

    Sorry, but that was not homelessness. You still had your home and all your stuff, and could go back to it any time you chose, or access your money to purchase whatever you felt was lacking. That’s to homelessness as fasting is to famine.

    • mike crosby August 13, 2012, 9:20 pm

      Even after a 7 week vacation, CP will never end.

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2012, 9:32 pm

      You’re sorta right, Jamesqf, but also sorta wrong:

      You are right that I still owned all my stuff, legally speaking. But yet I wasn’t using it. And yet I was happy.

      It’s because I was free from the nagging worry of “oh no! I hardly own anything in the world!”. I got this freedom by cheating: I secretly own all that stuff already. But I could also get this freedom by really letting go of more material things. That’s the real point of the article.

      Also, I like your comparison of fasting vs. famine.. but I think the analogy would be more accurate if we put it this way:

      Living with less when you can really afford much more, is like eating a minimalist and healthy diet, when you could really afford to eat boutique chocolate cake and ice cream every day.

      • Marcel Grünauer August 14, 2012, 2:36 am

        Like Picasso said: “I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money”.

      • Jamesqf August 14, 2012, 11:29 am

        You were freed from (or more precisely, chose not to use) all those material things*, but those worries were not replaced with those of the true homeless, such as “Are we going to have anything to eat tonight?”, “Will the cops roust us if we sleep here?”, etc. The difference, to use your example, is between choosing to eat a minimalist & healthy diet which you buy at Whole Foods, and eating a minimalist and healthy diet because that’s all there was in the dumpster.

        Nor is your sort of faux homelessness anything new or unusual to those of us who’ve spent any time backpacking, bike or motorcycle touring, etc.

        *But as another poster points out, you were using, or had ready access to, the material things of the relatives you were visiting.

        • 205guy August 14, 2012, 2:03 pm

          Jamesqf, you are conflating literal homelessness with the social condition that is usually called homelessness. I think we can agree that MMM knows he wasn’t truly homeless, and he uses the much better description of “nomad” in the text. But I can think of at several examples where homeless is not equal to down-and-out:

          – There is a tech/lifestyle columnist who lives out of hotels (and short-term rented rooms) wherever he goes. He is without abode by choice. BTW, some poor people who live on the street also rent rooms when they can afford to.

          – Some homeless people have normal (albeit low-paying) jobs during the day, just they live in cities where rent is sky-high (and ownership even higher out of reach). Instead of moving out to a low-paying suburb, and burning their money on a commute, they find some arrangement of homelessness that is stable. They have options to not sleep out on the streets, such as moving between shelters and having a tent in a discreet place.

          – My family once considered taking a sabbatical and going camping around the country for a year (didn’t do it in the end, but totally feasible, and probably being done right now by hundreds or thousands of people). We would be living off of past savings, and planning to work again, but with a low-cost camping trip, you wouldn’t need that much savings.

          The social condition of homelessness is based on not having money and not being in condition to earn any. These other situations are more like “alternate living arrangements” where the common theme is “nowhere to store any stuff.” And that’s the point I think MMM is really getting at: some people live for long periods without stuff.

          One point I do agree with you (I think) is that MMM is wrong to say he was living without his wealth. Sure he didn’t spend much, but the whole trip was based on the existence of a ‘stash and the budgeting that he does. A person without that would be more of a hobo, needing to take menial jobs wherever he goes–which is yet another alternative lifestyle. Essentially there are many such lifestyles out there, with varying levels of comfort and security. Some have the abitlity to choose them, others are forced to endure them by circumstances.

        • Mr. Money Mustache August 14, 2012, 5:34 pm

          Oh, I get it now. Jamesqf has gone to all this effort just because he didn’t like my use of the term “homeless” in the article title.

          You know, rather than trying to change Mr. Money Mustache, there are much more efficient ways to get your web browser to display content with which you agree… ;-)

          • Anna August 14, 2012, 8:25 pm

            Honestly, I did find the use of the word “homeless” to be a little trite and dismissive of or insensitive to the problems many genuinely homeless people do face on a regular basis. “Nomad” is definitely a more accurate and appropriate description of your time away, and I don’t think it would have lessened the impact or message of your post in any way to have used that word consistently.

            • Emmers August 23, 2012, 12:53 pm

              I agree with Anna — “Nomad” is a great word to use here!

              There’s some song lyrics that are relevant here; substitute “your stock portfolio” for “your dad” as appropriate. ;-)

              Rent a flat above a shop
              Cut your hair and get a job
              Smoke some fags and play some pool
              Pretend you never went to school
              But still you’ll never get it right
              ‘cos when you’re laid in bed at night
              watching roaches climb the wall
              if you called your dad he could stop it all
              You’ll never live like common people
              You’ll never do whatever common people do
              You’ll never fail like common people
              You’ll never watch your life slide out of view
              and then dance and drink and screw
              because there’s nothing else to do

  • Mr. Risky Startup August 13, 2012, 7:19 pm

    Welcome home.

    I would be interested in how did your son take the 7 weeks away? I know it is with family, so they probably spoiled him rotten, but is he happy to be back home? My wife and I are considering our first extended life on the road since our son was born, and only worry I have is how will my son live without permanent address for a few weeks.

    We do the same trip you do, just in reverse. Before our son was born, we would take 1+ month each year and then drive from eastern Canada and visit our families in MN, UT, CO, ID etc… It was fun when we were alone, but not sure if little boy needs more structure? What do you think?

    • Matt August 14, 2012, 1:35 am

      I feel the reverse. I think it’s good to broaden my son’s horizons as much as I can. Besides, at that age, pretty much everything is new to them most of the time, and a bit of extra stimulation is never a bad thing I think. Perhaps, (understandably) you worry too much?

      • Mr. Risky Startup August 14, 2012, 7:02 am

        I agree, and our son at 2.5 has done more than almost any other kid of that age. We make a point to let him experience things even though he will probably not remember any of it :)

        However, everything we have done so far has been limited to 1 week at the most – or just weekends. Not sure if there is a magic number as to how much is too much. Deep down I suspect kids are more resilient and flexible than we give them credit for. This is our first child, so I am sure that I am overly concerned…

        • Nerode August 14, 2012, 4:08 pm

          Since my first was born almost 9 years ago, we’ve made semi-regular pilgrimages to the ancestral homes (Ontario and England for us; we live in Alberta). Given the cost/time/distance, etc., we usually go for 3 – 5 weeks.

          Each time, the children have come home a clear step ahead of where they were when we left. The step is always different – it’s child and age related, but usually unpredictable. It’s always wonderful.

          What’s more important than the itinerant/vagrant nature of the trips is the content, both in terms of the people (extended family and long-term friends) and the experiences (from sleeping in someone else’s overcrowded bedroom, to catching crabs and then releasing them on an unsuspecting Grandma….).

          Not just memories are made of this, but relationships, growth and much more. The tantrums and tiredness are forgotten, but the benefits are permanent.

          Just do it!

          • Mr. Risky Startup August 14, 2012, 4:13 pm

            Thank you both. I think you are right. We just need to stop looking for excuses and get moving. I am just overly protective I guess.

            Thanks for the comforting words.

    • Mrs. Money Mustache August 14, 2012, 9:46 am

      Our son enjoyed the trip immensely and didn’t want to come home! But that’s because he was with his grandparents who are unbelievable with him. I think it depends on the kid and the location. While we were in travel mode (driving home), he was anxious to get home. But when we were with my parents, their house is like a second home to him. He also loved being at the cottage.

      Having a place that feels like a second home really helps. I think that creating a structure from your days and maintaining a bit of a routine also helps. You’ll find out soon enough! :)

  • Kriegsspiel August 13, 2012, 7:27 pm

    I’ve been living out of a couple suitcases for a couple months now while most of my stuff is in storage. I agree that it feels pretty liberating!

  • Adam August 13, 2012, 7:36 pm

    Welcome back! I’ve enjoyed your blog for almost a year now. Great tips and directions to take. I agree, less is more. I’ve been working on that going through all the the “junk” that I have. Focused on saving for tomorrow while living today. Thanks for all the information you have to share with all.

  • Heath August 13, 2012, 7:47 pm

    God I missed you and the regular updates :-) Good to hear your trip was a success and served as an inspiration for an even more CONCENTRATED mustache. I’m excited to hear more on the everyday implementation of Vacation Values.

    Looking at this post gave me the push I needed to start expelling unecessary Stuff from my life. I’m already pretty bare-bones, but there are a few shelves with random long-unused clutter that I can attack :)

  • Mr. Everyday Dollar August 13, 2012, 7:47 pm

    Things I over-consume that become apparent when I am travelling – the 24 hour news cycle, watching my investments like a hawk, the internet, pointless email. A lot of noise, really. Whenever I come back from being abroad I realize that nothing really happened when I was gone.

    And I always make it a point to lessen the time I spend on these time-wasters when I adjust back to reality. But the only one that I have been able to completely eradicate is getting off the news cycle.

    Things I appreciate in the US after I travel to poorer countries – drinkable water that comes right out of the faucet, running water, running *hot* water, showers, electricity that stays on 24/7, easy access to hospitals and health care, closed sewers, safe food. We’ve got it good in the US, comparatively; no reason not to be happy.

    Welcome back!

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2012, 9:41 pm

      Oh yeah – good job on curing yourself from News Watching Disease. That stuff is rubbish, and I’m amazed that anyone watches it!

      I was pleased to note that I hadn’t even known it was an Olympics year, let alone that they were in London and taking place during my trip – until someone told me.

      You can still learn about any current events that are actually useful to you. But you gotta go read about them on the Internet, not have some glossy talking heads pushing the pablum at you with the lowest common denominator in mind.

      This stuff riles me up.. time to make another TV article, I think :-)

      • Matt August 14, 2012, 2:43 am

        As a brit I find that quite amazing. I do follow the “news” though throughout the olympics the BBC have concentrated fully on “how many medals have we won today?” rather than what’s actually happening in the world today. I find this a little worrying, as our government could be pushing any old crap through parliament, and no-one would know…

        • Octavian August 14, 2012, 11:44 am

          Parliament is on break during the summer in Canada…not sure how it works in Britain.
          Also, I doubt they could push anything through in 2-3 weeks.

          • Matt August 15, 2012, 2:54 am

            True, true, but they were very sneaky with the re-organisation of our health service. Everyone I know was up in arms about it, but it was barely reported. I admit I’m a cynic, but then that’s based on past experience

    • Chris August 13, 2012, 11:17 pm

      Every American should take two weeks and travel to just about any country besides the US in order to fully appreciate how good we have it here.

      Down to the clean sidewalks and trees, I haven’t visited a single country that really compares-of course I’m biased, but I suspect in a good way.

      I heard a quote from a Pakistani student recently that went like like this, “the only thing Americans truly fear is a lack of convenience.” Cup holders and SUV’s come to mind.

      • October MacBain August 14, 2012, 7:07 am

        Canada’s pretty damned close.

        • Matt August 14, 2012, 8:49 am

          Nah, Canada has a national health service…;-)

          • Kim August 15, 2012, 11:40 am

            We went to Canada – Victoria. Could not get over how pristine everything was. Even the trash cans were gorgeous. I live in/near L.A. and have lived in D.C. I would not say America is that clean by those standards. So many people just throw their trash on the ground. *sigh*

      • Joy August 14, 2012, 8:45 am

        When I was 15 my family moved to Iran. I left behind all I knew
        and, the friends I loved.

        Culture shock is a mild term to describe all the feelings and,
        thoughts running through my young mind.

        I cried daily for months.

        Funny thing happened. I adjusted to my new environment.

        I made friends. My body adapted to the dry heat. I found beauty
        everywhere. I started learning the language and, appreciating the

        Then 1979 came. The Shah was ousted. It was very scary.
        We had to leave the country quickly.

        Back in America I cried daily for months.

        I had left behind great friends and, teachers. A life I had grown to

        I love America. I am proud of being an American.

        Yet, I marvel at the ability of the human spirit to adapt to any
        environment as long as basic needs are satisfied.

  • Adam August 13, 2012, 9:07 pm

    As a onebagger who lived out of a carry-on for 3 months, I am curious what you had in your bag?

  • mike crosby August 13, 2012, 9:15 pm

    Glad you’re home. I’ve been jonesing for some fresh MMM.

    But at least now I can site chapter and verse of MMMs past posts. Go ahead, test me;-)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 13, 2012, 9:46 pm

      Ok, here’s a tricky one:

      When walking through the Jungle of Life, which fruit sprays its juices in our faces?

      the ______ of _______

      • mike crosby August 13, 2012, 11:06 pm

        Off hand, would it be “mangos of opportunity”?

        Did I really know this? No, I cheated. (Used your search engine)

      • Stephen August 14, 2012, 8:26 am

        Sadly, I knew this, and I knew which post it came from.

        • Mr. Money Mustache August 14, 2012, 3:36 pm

          Haha.. very nice. Stephen: 1, Mike Crosby: 0.5

          (you still get points for knowing how to use the search box in the right sidebar. If everyone did, it would save me from a lot of email asking questions about things mentioned in older articles!)

  • Huck August 13, 2012, 9:21 pm

    Welcome back to the ‘hood MMM and family! I’ve recently realized that the most stressful part of taking a trip is trying to determine which subset of all of my stuff I need to take with me on the trip. Then once on the trip the thing that causes the least amount of stress and has the least to do with the highs and lows of the trip is that subset of stuff I brought with me or the lack of the stuff I left behind. (Re)Packing up while you are on a trip is super easy…if your bag feels about the right weight and there is nothing left on the floor in your room (or tent) then you are done!! And, its a great feeling to not have something you *need* and make do with what you have. On our recent camping trip we were having pancakes for dinner. Kids were uber excited to have breakfast food for dinner. After mixing up the batter I realized that I didn’t have a spatula. BUT I did have a knife with a large blade that worked quite nicely. Wow, its a knife…its a spatula….its a KNIFEULA!! One tool that does double duty…how cool!

  • Marcia August 13, 2012, 10:17 pm

    Ok,you have to elaborate on the overcrowded fridge syndrome. Though I think i understand it somewhat. My MIL has been visiting and my fridge became crowded with extra things. A few items she eats and we don’t, and extra drinks too, mostly OJ and Gatorade.

    What’s holding me back? New baby syndrome. Although its a blessing too,because it’s painful to shop with a baby. On line is still easy though! Still not buying much

    • Mrs. Money Mustache August 14, 2012, 9:49 am

      It seems that the main issue is with jars and jars of random stuff in the side door (which then spill into the main area once the sides are full), many of which are very old. It happens slowly over time…

      • Bella August 14, 2012, 2:57 pm

        OMG, I think I’m going to go clean out the side doors on my fridge right now

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 14, 2012, 3:42 pm

      Yeah, don’t you just hate overcrowded fridges!? Or maybe it’s just me.

      When I open a fridge, I want to see fresh food, nicely arranged. I want plenty of open glass on those shelves to let me shuffle things around or add new items as needed. And I don’t want a single expired or duplicate thing sitting in there wasting space!

      The extended family all keeps their fridges packed and stacked so much it’s like a game of Jenga to add or remove anything. You have no idea what’s in the back of the thing, because you can’t even see that far. Most of it is expired. Five old bottles of ketchup with half an inch of sauce left in the bottom of each. A bag of new cilantro. A bag of older cilantro. A bag of really old cilantro with slimy mold. It is a mild form of torture for me!

      • Riley August 14, 2012, 6:19 pm

        I thought it had something to do with our parent’s (60+) growing up in houses with parent’s from the depression. My father has a relationship with food = wealth.

        • riley August 14, 2012, 8:29 pm

          To clarify further- if there’s a scarcity during your childhood, there maybe a tendency to hoard it later? My father remembers being served lima beans, which he hated, and hiding them in a drawer in the dining table. When his father found them later, he was forced to eat them. Won’t eat one since.

      • da55id August 15, 2012, 8:10 am

        “Fridge disease” depends upon reluctance to admit that earlier decisions were wrong – as in “I was right to buy two pounds of Guatemalan Hell Fire Peppers” as things that are easier or more intensely enjoyable preempt the (relatively) less enjoyable which are migrated to the backs and sides. You can observe this in netflix queues, students in classrooms, and the backs of refrigerators and pantries where there are many things we like, but we don’t get around to them because we keep preferring other things by just enough that we buy more of the things we prefer and never use/choose the things that move to the back that we like that little bit less. In geek-eco-speak I call this marginal preemptive preferencing.

        It would be interesting to crowdsource an economic formula for the phenomenon. This formula could be used to determine “equivalent cubic feet” for a fridge where higher levels of marginal preemptive preferencing (mpp) would result in lower and lower actual cubic ft in a fridge…where eventually, one could end up with 3 cubic feet of actual effective storage space in a 26 cubic ft fridge. hmmm

      • Llama August 15, 2012, 10:31 am

        When my mom moved out of her last house after 20 years or so, I went through her over-cluttered pantry. She had some spices in the old-fashioned metal containers that still had a price tag of 89 CENTS!!!!! When was the last time name-brand spices were under a dollar? 1983?????

        • Jamesqf August 15, 2012, 12:35 pm

          The truely frugal, though, buy their spices in bulk at WinCo (or similar), and re-use the containers. Though I admit most of mine are glass bottles, not metal.

          • Llama August 17, 2012, 1:16 pm

            I have turned a lot of people on to bulk spices at Sprouts- Why spend $5+ on a jar of something when you JUST want a teaspoon?

            But alas, these spice jars of my mom’s were not refilled. They were ancient.

            I gave the containers to a friend of mine for a little antique display in her kitchen.

        • Tamara August 15, 2012, 12:43 pm

          Not to negate your point, because I do get it, but . . . you can still buy spices in bulk at a fraction of the cost of packaged spices at many stores. I bought a tablespoon of tamarind recently for @ 50 cents. At about 1/4 tsp a recipe it should last me quite a while.

          • Tamara August 15, 2012, 12:45 pm

            Oops – looks like jamesqf and I responded to the same issue at the same time. (What are the chances???)

      • Michael Kale August 15, 2012, 4:29 pm

        Disoranized and expired is not good, but in their defense a full fridge uses less energy than a mostly empty one. Each time you open the door, a bunch of cold air rushes out of an empty fridge and the new air needs to be cooled down. But a full fridge keeps most of its contents and their heat inertia.

      • MBK August 16, 2012, 7:47 am

        MBK, you are describing my fridge exactly. I lost the willpower to fight with my spouse over it.

  • Oskar August 14, 2012, 3:33 am

    Wellcome back, we spent only 4 weeks living that way with our kids (2 and 4 yo boys) this summer but last year we spent 7 months in mexico with only one suitcase each of personal posessions and that woorked great and in some ways it was more confirtable than living att home as we did not have so much “stuff”.

    We have about 5 years of work left to retirement but after that our plan is to spend at least 8-10 weeks visiting friends and family or renting a simple appartment in new parts of the world….possibly through a house swap….

  • AdrianM August 14, 2012, 4:31 am

    Ah, the bliss of travel, My wife and I travel South America with carry on luggage only and had a great time.

    A full belly and a place to rest your head and your all good.

  • David ATL August 14, 2012, 6:14 am

    Welcome home,
    Now about that fantastic list of blog topics that you posted on 17Jun…

  • Heather August 14, 2012, 6:20 am

    A long cycle tour, in which you sleep in a tent, is a good way to experience living with very little stuff. If you are visiting other people’s houses, or staying in hotels, you are essentially just borrowing their stuff in place of your own.

    After a three week canoe trip, you come back with a good mental cleansing. There are few things you really appreciate when you come back. Hot water, and tables were high on the list for me. Most everything else just strikes you as a little strange and arbitrary.

  • fastbodyblast August 14, 2012, 6:26 am

    This post reminds me of years ago and several trips later travelling for months at a time, visiting new places, meeting different people, living in the moment on almost nothing. From the first of those trips, I’ve never since been in the corporate grind – I could never take climbing the career ladder seriously again! Because clearly my ladder was up against the wrong wall. Simple living really does have its merits.

  • sheepfugue August 14, 2012, 7:07 am

    Oh dear, I love the minimalism of traveling myself but I’m glad to hear you’re happy to be back at your big house, otherwise you were starting to sound like that Get Rich Slowly guy right before he divorced his wife.

  • Jeff August 14, 2012, 8:47 am

    I’ve had this little reminder hanging in my office for the last couple months: “you used to sleep on couch cushions on your friend’s floor, and you were happy”. It reminds me of my college days when I really did sleep on my friend’s floor on some extra couch cushions. I had nothing more than a backpack of clothes, some books, and a laptop, and I was immensely happy.

    • Jamesqf August 15, 2012, 12:36 pm

      Were you happy, though? Or are you just seeing your past through the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia?

  • Nate R August 14, 2012, 8:52 am

    “the Chronically Overcrowded Fridge Syndrome”
    Love that! Have seen it way too much in too many households. My own household is only 2 people, but our conventional top freezer refrigerator is only 10 cubic feet, and holds food for us, raw chicken for our 2 dogs and for our cats. And it isn’t even crowded. I go to my mother’s house, and the 20 cubic foot fridge is PACKED full. (And it’s just her there!)

    I do have a 7 CF chest freezer with a 1/2 cow and 1/2 hog in the garage. But even people with freezers still seem to have overly crowded fridges.

    • Dillon August 14, 2012, 3:09 pm

      A crowded fridge or freezer isn’t necessarily a sign of wasteful purchases. I do it on purpose. It is much cheaper to cool a fully loaded fridge or freezer than it is an empty one. For the average American, bulk of electric bill comes from A/C. For mustachians, the highest expense very well might be the normally second highest electric expense, the refrigerator. Having the fridge/freezer organized is the key.

  • Joe @ Retire By 40 August 14, 2012, 9:02 am

    Welcome back! It’s great that you had fun, but I think a long term nomadic lifestyle would wear down on me. I went on a 10 weeks trip once and it was a ton of fun. These days, I’d rather stick closer to home though.

  • bogart August 14, 2012, 9:37 am

    Spending time visiting family (as an invited guest, of your own volition, and staying in their comfortably appointed homes, no less) is being homeless as apples are to zipper: completely unrelated.

    • Mr. Risky Startup August 14, 2012, 11:43 am

      I think MMM is using word “homelessness” in a different context (as an overstatement). I am sure he is aware of the difference (he lives in the US after all ;).

      It is like when we say “I am starving” when we really mean “I could eat something”… Starving is what unfortunately happens in some parts of the world, but we still use that term…

      • bogart August 14, 2012, 3:37 pm

        Yeah … I know MMM is all about brash hyperbole; as I follow several PF blogs involving folks who are pretty close to what we conventionally mean by homelessness, I’m offended on their behalf.

        I mean, by MMM’s definition, I’m currently homeless, as I’m not in my home …

        • Jamesqf August 15, 2012, 12:39 pm

          Yeah, by his definition a several weeks stay at a 5-star resort hotel would qualify as being homeless :-)

  • No Name Guy August 14, 2012, 9:49 am

    Nice. 7 weeks in a duffel is pretty good.

    Several years ago I took a 5+ month long back pack trip on the Pacific Crest Trail hiking from Mexico to Canada (long, LONG before “Wild” was released). I never considered myself homeless – as Metallica says in “Wherever I May Roam”: “Where I lay my head is home”.

    A long [aka thru] hike a REALLY good way to learn how little you actually NEED versus want. When you have to carry all your possessions on your back, plus food to get you to the next town, plus fuel to cook with, plus water to get you to the next source (which can be a challenge in the desert heat and 28+ mile stretches between water) you reset your perspective. Anything not absolutely needed was an impediment, so was ruthlessly weeded out.

    When I got to town, never did I appreciate things so much like food on a plate, a fork, fresh vegetables, a shower and the luxury of all luxuries – a cotton tee shirt (bought one at a thrift store once for a buck, left in the hotel when leaving town) and not having to dig a hole for morning business.

    In the pre-MMM / ERE / Jacob days, one thing this trip brought home to me is how little money one needs as well. In my pre-mortgage being paid off day of the hike, I still was only using money at the rate of 24k / year while out on the trail (and of what I spent while away from work doing this hike, ~40-50% was to keep the home up and running). For the on trail expenses quite a bit was spent on many hotel nights in towns along the way (I had enough to go “luxury” on the trail, so I did – knowing what I know now, I’d go for a lot lower cost structure). A few less “zero” [mile] days spent in town and one could hike for 5 months for only a few grand, and most of that would be food, and you have to eat anyways, so the marginal cost is pretty low. Even less could be spent with more frugal town stops – no / fewer hotel nights, cooking own food in lieu of restaurant food, eating more from the hiker box, etc.

    • PawPrint August 14, 2012, 9:36 pm

      Did you carry duct tape in your backpack so you could make duct tape booties when your boot disappeared over a cliff? I’m about 3/4 of the way through “Wild.”

      • No Name Guy August 15, 2012, 9:19 am

        In the pack? No. Actually you wrap some around one or both of the trekking poles. Duct tape is the fix it all material – for feet, packs, tents…you name it.

        And boots? Heck no…..too heavy. Running shoes all the way. And how could you lose a boot? Sheese……
        Note – I have no interest in the book, so haven’t read it. It’s just one of the well known books in the long distance hiker community. the expectation is that a bunch of nOObs who know nothing about hiking will be hitting the trails these next few years, with a correspondingly high percentage of them dropping out quickly, or worse, causing problems like forest fires, due to their inexperience.

  • Georgia August 14, 2012, 9:49 am

    I agree that having fewer possessions can increase happiness, but I’m curious about the statement that this nomadic life is pretty much the life you’d lead if you lost everything but the shirt off your back. So, if you lost your house and all your money and all your salable possessions, you would permanently couch-surf with friends and relatives rather than try to find a job and an apartment?

    I realize that I’m not focusing on the main point of the post (which I agree with).

  • Clint August 14, 2012, 10:57 am

    Loved this, but I always miss my home, especially my bed, after a long trip (and I have never been away as long as you). Also, you seem to be consuming too many letters a few times above with the word “lead.” Think you mean “led.”

  • Ivy August 14, 2012, 11:47 am

    We visited our families back in Eastern Europe for a month, with a preschooler and a toddler in tow. Like every time seeing how my husband’s family lives – in a rural area, no running water, no air conditioning, roads full of huge holes – truly brings home how much we have here and take for granted. I came home and stopped using the dishwasher. Now, I truly hate washing dishes, so this decision may be revisited at some point, but for now it’s a small attempt at acknowledging that we can still do without a lot of things.

  • Kim August 14, 2012, 5:59 pm

    I have a question: How did renting your house go?
    Anything get broken?
    Do they use your internet while you’re gone? Your computer? TV?

  • David Horne August 14, 2012, 7:00 pm

    I’ve been thinking some similar thoughts. I have a lot of stuff that I carry around with me that, if it suddenly disappeared I wouldn’t really miss it or even know that it was gone. I’ve been thinking about this especially because I’ve been considering moving and that always puts me in a paring down mode.

    This can be hard, there is stuff with sentimental value that can’t easily be replaced and there is stuff that I hope to use at some point in the future. Which wouldn’t be so bad except for the fact that these things accumulate over the course of the years. So I have to weed them out.

    But I think I really need to be a bit more aggressive with getting rid of the old to make more space in my life for that money mustache to grow.

  • jim August 14, 2012, 10:06 pm

    Wow – REALLY? ICK – YUK!!!

    You sound like one seriously f’d up socialist. YOU keep that CRA*. Me – I’m going AMERICAN ALL THE WAY!!!!!!!

    ‘Cause you don’t really want to live on less – you just want to push your political agenda and I for ONE am NOT buying it – no pun intended.


    • Mr. Money Mustache August 16, 2012, 2:16 pm

      I think the commenter above had forgotten to add a winky face at the end of this comment, so I added it for him.

      Kinda reminds me of the theme song from Team America World Police.

      Comin’ again to save the MOTHERFUCKIN’ DAY YEAH!

      At least, I HOPE it was a sattire! What do you think?

      If it’s real, I guess one possible response would be:

      “Ahh, you got me. I don’t really believe that living on less makes me happy. After all, just look how happy YOU are. I want some of whatever you’re having!”

      HEY! Let’s have a response contest!
      How would YOU respond to a comment like this? In one paragraph or less. If there are enough responses we can make it into its own article.

      • Heath August 17, 2012, 7:19 am

        Hmmm, I might reply like this…


        You’re funny. Either that, or you’re a fucking moron.

        Either you somehow extracted an overarching political statement from this post which you construed as ‘anti-american’ (whatever the hell that means considering the incredibly diverse set of thoughts and opinions that fills our wonderful country)…
        You realize the truth behind the matter, which is that the PILE-O-CRAP that an unfortunate majority of Americans accrue is actually a serious drain on their financial freedom, while simultaneously limiting their capacity to find lasting happiness, and thus formed a satirical response in the form of a knee-jerk reaction from a brainwashed consumer who ties together the concepts of consumerism, patriotism, and self-worth.

        Either way…

      • sideways8 August 17, 2012, 9:19 am

        I think jim eated the purple berries.

      • Emmers August 23, 2012, 1:00 pm

        This is my favorite MMM reply-comment ever. :-D

    • Glen June 28, 2016, 10:03 pm

      *CRA = Canadian Refrigerator Arrangement. That’s why he wants to go American. I think we all need to cut back on the politcally charged refrigerator rhetoric.

  • Matt Weaver August 15, 2012, 9:30 am

    A recent article on The Art of Manliness echoes your thoughts. Check it out:


    Count No Man Happy Until the End Is Known

    The article is about the ancient Greek concept of eudaimonia.

    • Kim August 15, 2012, 11:54 am

      That web site seems to have been hacked. I can’t read it without some other thing popping up.

  • J.Reid August 16, 2012, 3:27 pm

    So glad to have you back MMM!

    I’m taking your return as my cue to conclude my (happy) lurking and start participating with this wonderful, thoughtful community. My wife and I have been with you since “Selling the Dream” and have not looked back! Thank you MMM and thank you, MMM community, for the changes you have helped us make in our family’s life.

    As for me, I’ve been using my upcoming 40th birthday (on Sunday) as a convenient excuse to throw a change-up at my life. What started as a notion to reboot my digital life evolved into something much larger in an effort to re-center on my wife, my kids, my soul. Mustachian principles bleed happily into lots of other areas!

  • Monevator August 17, 2012, 1:31 pm

    You know the swearing and everything is great and funny and sometimes life-affirmingly invigorating, but you can really write, too:

    “It won’t be the typical rich household’s spending, where cars circle the town daily, harvesting bags and boxes of luxury products at the slightest whim of their owners. ”

    Awesome, almost Don DeLillo. ;)

    • Mr. Money Mustache August 17, 2012, 3:19 pm

      Aww, thanks a lot Monevator. You have been known to bust some fine sentences yourself, and in fact your blog is one of only two which I subscribe to in my daily email.

      I mean, who else can write about bonds while keeping an audience awake?

      I do have one request though: put some more juicy lifestyle articles into Monevator. You’re all about finance these days, and I’m sure there is more going on in the life of clever entrepreneurial British dude than that!

      • Monevator August 18, 2012, 4:06 am

        Thanks MMM. Yes, I probably do need to bring the lifestyle posts back. I think my reticence has been caused by the emergence of my all-powerful co-blogger (aka The Accumulator) who has an army of ultra-frugal budget-crazy fans.

        They scare me. I’m more in the “make more, save all you can, but don’t count every penny of outgoings” camp.

        I met someone the other day who puts every pint he drinks on a night out into a budget tool when he gets home. Personally, life is too short! (Also, he’s clearly in need of another beer, but that’s another story… ;) )

  • FreeUrChains August 17, 2012, 3:45 pm

    Don’t worry, MMM,

    I optimized my second living room Couch as my Laundry Hamper this week, It was more efficient for me to put my work clothes closer to my front door lol.(if not in the car! and my after Work Clothes in a Bag in the Car) I own so many things (and most are given to me from my over consuming parents) that it consumes to much time to keep it all clean and organized. Plus Focus Time varies on any Task, depending on your energy Levels. I sure would have more energy levels with a bike and less work clothes to clean/put away!

  • Living Outside of the Box August 19, 2012, 11:21 pm

    I couldn’t agree more that owning stuff promotes the purchase of more stuff. We just recently downsized yet again, and are now off on a (no-end-in-sight) trip with our 3 kids from Mexico to Europe and then to Thailand. We have 5 backpacks, and when I look at it I realize we still have more stuff than we manage to use in a day. Or heck–even a week! What about all of that stuff I had to buy, and then sold for pennies on the dollar? What about he stuff I packed into boxes and put into storage? Hmm…haven’t thought about it in the 6 weeks!

  • JT November 7, 2013, 10:38 am

    Yeah, I spent over a month backpacking through Spain a few years ago. No cellphone, no laptop, no guitar, and one pair of jeans and shoes. It was amazing, and I honestly don’t know why I don’t do that the rest of the time.

  • Matt K November 5, 2015, 3:02 pm

    still working my way through older posts. One by one all hardcore like that :). This particular one is intriguing. I too suffer from too much stuff. Incredible amounts of it, in fact. We own a sizeable property (2+ acres) with a 1700sq foot house, a 2 story 24×24 barn, a 12×24 shed, and a regular small 6×8 garden shed. I’ve been working HARD to empty these spaces to reduce the numbers of things that constantly demand our attention in some way. It takes a lot of my free time to just maintain all the things so I’m listing anything and everything that I don’t use regularly. Hope to turn all this space into something more useful: workout space, proper woodshop (it’s already set up half-assedly), zen reading area, garden, etc. For now…I still have to battle Rubbermaid containers full of past excessess…


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