Sunday, December 23, 2018

Being Car-Free AND Home-Free

I know many people who are car-free, and I adore the heck out of their lifestyles. I had aspired for years -- seven, to be exact -- to be car-free as well. But while being car-free was one thing, being car-free and home-free seemed like another. A much more massive other. I know very few role models I can aspire after who own neither car nor home.

My recent transition to car-free living was, surprisingly, the most intimidating lifestyle change for me. It was far more unnerving than quitting my job and getting rid of my home...combined! This intimidation stemmed from an even deeper commitment to minimalism and an even further dissociation from societal norms.

As explained in I am Car-Free!, I justified that I needed a car to transport heavy bags of food and litter for my two cats. Once I no longer had my cats, my irrational justification no longer held water. Fortunately for the part of me that desperately grasped the safety net provided by a vehicle, a new justification quickly surfaced. Two weeks after become cat-free, I became home-free. With this transition, the trunk of my Toyota Corolla now served as my mobile storage unit.

After becoming home-free, I moved a majority of my belongings to a friend's house in Duvall, a town 30-miles east of Seattle. I cached the remainder of my possessions, the ones I used most often -- my bike gear, my camping equipment, and a bag of clothes -- in the trunk of my car. My car was my strongest link to normalcy. Not only could my car conveniently whisk me from Point A to Point B, but it also enabled me to easily surround myself with my material possessions.

The problem was that my car was with me, and I with it, with less frequency. In subsequent years, I began spending more time adventuring by bicycle and traveling overseas, neither of which involved my car. For the duration of these travels, I needed a place to park my car. (Thank you Doug, Mike, Brian, and Michelle for being gracious parking attendants.) With time, it felt as though my car owned me rather than me owning it. My desire to become carless became ever strong.

In debating whether to become car-free, I was not so concerned with losing my ability to transport myself. After all, I had experience commuting by bicycle and other forms of public transportation. I was, however, concerned that in parting with my car, I would be significantly severing access to my belongings. For most months of the year, I only have with me what I can carry on my back or on my bike. The relative weightlessness of toting few possessions during this time is entirely freeing. Certainly I can extend this freedom to all my months.

After my friend, Kate, provided me the nudge I needed to finally go car-free, it became evident I needed to consolidate my belongings into one, centrally-located, bicycle-convenient location in Seattle. After all, I would no longer have my mobile storage unit, and traveling the 60 roundtrip-miles to retrieve my belongings at my storage space in Duvall would become infinitely more cumbersome. As a prerequisite to selling my car, I needed to get my belongings in order.

For the first time in six years, I moved all my possessions under one roof. I spent hours (more like days) sorting through everything I owned, reorganizing and downsizing even further. One thing is certain: the fewer things you own, the harder it is to discriminate between what is and is not needed.

Drum roll, please.

This, my friends, is now everything I own:

All my worldly possessions.

Well, that is not entirely true. I own a bicycle, too:

All my worldly my bicycle.

Though I thinned out my belongings quite a bit, I still feel as though I own a shit-ton of stuff. In my defense, most of my possessions are adventure-related gear. The cardboard box in the photo above, for example, contains Bromleigh, my folding Brompton bicycle. The black bag above Bromleigh contains a collection of bicycle tires in varying widths and treads. Three of the four black bins and one of the clear bins contain biking, backpacking, hiking, and climbing paraphernalia. One of the blue bins serves as my wardrobe. I suppose this isn't too bad for a woman living in a first world country!

With the rejiggering of my possessions, I was now ready to make the plunge.

Though going car-free was a daunting transition for me, I am confident I made the right choice. I find comfort in knowing that being car-free is not a forever-decision. If I decide I have made a mistake and wish to own a car once again, I can always reacquire a car. It's only money, after all. And if I decide to reacquire a vehicle, I will chose one that is more suitable to my lifestyle -- one I can comfortably sleep in and store my bike in when I am out-and-about road-tripping.

Might being car-free limit my opportunities? Sure. One could certainly say the same about being home-free. And job-free, for that matter. But my experience thus far has shown me that having a smaller footprint enables a bigger life. With freedom comes opportunities that are far more rewarding and satisfying. I anticipate that being car-free will be no different.


  1. I would love to see a post or two about being 'home free' and how you manage your time between house sitting, touring, and other projects. I've been car free off and on and didn't find it that hard. It is even less of a big deal now with better transit, cell service, and car rental/share options. I would also be curious if you live out of backpack/suitcase or if you've come up with a better system than I have when I'm not permanently fixed somewhere!

    1. I agree that being car-free, in and of itself, isn't a big deal. But it has been a big deal for me since I don't have a home where I can conveniently be surrounded by my stuff. It's funny -- being home-free is so natural to me that it would seem mundane to write about it...probably like it has been being car-free for you. :)

    2. Well, I would love to see some more posts about how you keep your grounding while being fully 'untethered'. When backpacking there is a saying 'people pack their fears' (the guy afraid of being cold packs too many clothes, the lady afraid of being hungry carries 8lb's of gorp) - I guess I would like to hear more about way you live as fearlessly as you do!

  2. You always make m think....and I like that. Great story!

  3. Great post! Moving overseas meant going through all my possessions, what comes with, what gets sold,donated, stored...In the end I left 5 medium boxes at my brother's place, we took 2 suitcases one box & our dog with us to Greece. It was hard to part with everything at the time, but looking back now, I couldn't care less! Go woman! Keep inspiring everyone!😘💖

    1. Thanks, Coco. :) Moving overseas is a great opportunity to clear out life's clutter. You're absolutely right -- it seems so difficult to downsize in the moment, but once you're free, it feels fab! Hugs to you, sista!

  4. Love it! You've inspired me to include a car-free commuting month in my monthly resolutions line up this year. Baby steps :)

    1. Sweet, Michelle! I hope you chose a month sometime between July and September (and not August, if you want to avoid likely wildfire smoke).


I would love to hear your comments on this post!