Three Months in a Hotel: Falling in Love with In-Voluntary Simplicity

Voluntary simplicity

September, 2022: Four months ago, we waved goodbye as our worldly possessions drove away on the first leg of their transcontinental journey and we began our real-life experiment with in-voluntary simplicity. Everything we owned was packed away in crates, then loaded onto a truck, then transferred to another truck, then loaded onto a cross-Atlantic barge, then loaded onto another truck, which we just received word (some four months later) will soon be arriving at our door. 

While our items were making this international journey, we took a more expedited route, flying (almost directly) to Italy, where we lived in a hotel for the first three months before finally finding our semi-permanent home, where we live now. It’s been crazy but I’ve loved every minute of it. 

When all you have is a duffel bag of stuff, life gets really simple, really quick. 

And when you live in a two-bedroom hotel room, it’s pretty easy to keep up. There isn’t much to clean, organize, trip over, or worry about. It’s all just so simple. For example, in the hotel we had five forks for our family of five. Everyone had their own. In some ways, this was a bit of a pain; if you used a fork to cook, you had to remember to bring it to the table because there weren’t any others to use. But it was also pretty great. Everyone had their own fork to keep track of; if you didn’t have your fork, it was because you didn’t clean it after the last meal. It was pretty straight-forward. 

About a month in, we lost one of the forks.

It was a whole thing. Where did the fork go? Who actually lost it? 

And the big question: Who’s getting one of the four forks, and who’s getting stuck with the spoon on spaghetti night?

Simple life – simple problems. 

And when we found the fork? 

It was kind of a big deal. 

Who knew so many people could be so happy about finding a fork behind the couch?

I’m going to miss those days. 

So I have to admit, while I am excited to have our things back (yay art supplies!), I am feeling a little trepidation at the thought of it all barreling down the road toward us. We didn’t ship an ungodly amount, but it’s a heck of a lot more than five forks … 

And the thought of it feels just a little overwhelming. 

Here in the house, we’re living on borrowed furniture, so that will be a pretty direct swap. But we shipped more than just furniture – and after four months, I’m having a hard time remembering what else was even in there … 

Isn’t it funny how things can feel so important that you can’t imagine living without them, but after a little time, you don’t miss or need them at all? 

I want to learn from this experience before I forget (just like I forgot what was in all those crates). So, with that in mind, here are my main takeaways from four months living with (much) less: 

  1. I loved living with less in a smaller space because it kept my family close together all the time. Even when we were all doing our own thing, we were still together (literally right next to each other). There were no individual rooms for everyone to disappear into and there wasn’t much going on to take everyone away. It was heaven. 
  2. I also liked that there was so much less to clean and organize. Keeping things tidy was easy. Plus, because it was a small space, we had to keep it that way. There was simply no room for mess. We all did our part to keep it neat so we weren’t tripping over things. This didn’t require a lot of scolding on my part either – that was the best part. Minimalism is amazing.
  3. We didn’t have a washer and dryer, so I had to walk everything over to the laundry building a few times a week. You’d think this would be a pain, but I loved it. I loved the fresh air, the simplicity of this menial task, and especially the feeling of community that came from running into people and chatting along the way. 
  4. We didn’t have a car for the first month or so, so we got into the habit of walking to the grocery store. After the car arrived, we just kept doing it. I loved the fresh air, exercise, and conversational time we got from just strolling down the street to get our groceries. And because our fridge was small and we didn’t have much space, we went to the store almost every day, which meant we ate fresh food almost every day. 
  5. I especially loved living in the hotel because we were always around other people. There was always someone to chat with every time we went outside. These usually weren’t big conversations, just hi’s and how are you’s, but it felt like living in a tiny Mayberry. And I loved it. 

Isn’t it funny how easy it is to want things like a big house, nice possessions, and modern conveniences, yet how the more we get, the less we physically move and the more isolated we become? It’s like our wants are literally pointing us away from our happiness. Weird, right?

December 2022:

We finally finished unpacking that big shipment. And even though we sold and gave away so much before leaving the States, there are still things I can’t believe we ever thought we needed. Like, why do we have so many picture frames?! And how did we end up with one tupperware box with no lid and one lid with no box?!). And while it is nice to have plenty of silverware, I already miss our five-fork days. 

Here’s to simple joys and (hopefully) better perspectives from here on.

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