Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom ~ Could You Live Like My In-Laws?

Cindy’s Weekly Wisdom


My in-laws have recently visited us, and like a light bulb coming on over my head, I realized that my in-laws are living like minimalists.

I’ve talked about my in-laws here before from a different perspective – as owners of several storage units. While they live in California, the majority of their stuff lives in storage, in Texas. Each time they visit my family, they also make a couple trips to the storage units.  Over time, they have reduced what is being stored there, and last year, they arranged a Salvation Army to truck take away a large amount of stuff, including furniture. Nonetheless, they still have an entire storage unit here, and my mother-in-law has told me firmly “That’s what we want to keep.” Truly, I have no idea what’s there except for their china, and I only know this because she and I have the same china pattern, and she’s given me a few of her pieces.

In addition, they have a storage unit in California near where they live. This unit contains the furniture, electronics, and household items that they were using in their most recent home.

Two storage units? How can they be living like minimalists, you might ask? Well, while their stuff is living in storage, they’re living with a bare minimum of possessions.

They sold their house, which they primarily purchased as a fixer upper / flip and are happily living in a Residence Inn, a long-stay hotel. Because they like to buy and sell houses, travel, and not plan very far in advance, the Residence Inn fits their lifestyle beautifully, and they are happy there.

The two of them live in a one bedroom apartment. Breakfast is provided every day, I believe, and dinner is provided four days of the week. They have a two burner cooktop, a microwave, and a refrigerator. None of the furnishings, linens, etc. belong to them.

When they want to travel, which they do frequently, they pack up all their personal items, load them into their (one) car, and check out of the Residence Inn. They drive the car to a storage unit that they have in California and park it inside, with their stuff still in the trunk. From there, they take a taxi to the airport, and they’re on their way. If it’s a driving trip, they unload the car and drive off.  Literally, they are able to pack everything they live with into a vehicle, make a single trip, and be finished. When they return back to California, they reverse the process.

It’s the perfect solution for a couple who wants to be footloose and fancy free and can live without being surrounded by their own stuff. Could you live like my in-laws?

Today’s Mini Mission

Declutter something because it is an eyesore in your home, or perhaps always was. Maybe some sort of junk in the back yard, an ugly décor item that someone else gave you but you never liked or a fixture in the home that has become ratty or faded.

Eco Tip for the Day

Instigate a weekly old fashioned board game night for the family. Turn of the televisions, the computers, the DS, the PSP, the XBox and the PS3, get everyone in the same room, turn out all the other lights and save a little power for a couple of hours a week.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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Continue reading with these posts:

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  • Stuff x Emotions ~ A guest post by Andréia It seems funny to talk about emotions and feelings when talking about inanimate objects that can be replaced, but we place emotion and feelings on stuff all the time. It can be good or it […]
  • Put away the emotions I received a comment from Michelle yesterday in response to the day's mini mission ~ Declutter a sentimental item that doesn’t bring much in the way of happy memories. Michelle took on […]


  1. Hi! I really like this blog as much as I love decluttering – isn’t it the most relaxing activity? My decluttering is a work in progress, never ends and I like it this way. My bf just decluttered his study and I also threw away an “eyesore”. Felt great. 🙂

    • Hi Raffaella and welcome to 365 Less Things. I find decluttering relaxing to and exciting at the same time. The more I get rid of the more relaxed I feel. Keep up the good work and we look forward to hearing more comments from you in the future. We love to know how everyone is getting on with their decluttering.

  2. Such a great example of refusing to be trapped by possessions!

    My husband and I don’t dream of extensive travel, so our minimalist state would look different. When we next move, I’d like to downsize to a one bedroom living space. I don’t feel we have people in our guest bedroom often enough to justify having it. It would be annoying to have a smaller kitchen, but we could make do.

  3. It’s interesting to see how different people manage in such different ways. This method wouldn’t have occurred to me, but it’s a neat alternative to having to deal with a home while away on a trip (having someone check frequently, needing to empty the fridge every time, etc.).

  4. Rebecca B. A. R.

    I think if I wanted to live like them, I would still try to reduce everything down to one close storage unit, where I could get to all of my stuff, if I wanted to use it. I would also try to find a friend or family member that wouldn’t mind me putting up a storage building on their property, or using space in their basement to store my things–this would save money in the long run, even with the cost of a building or even paying a smaller rental fee to my friends/family member. I am much more of a home-body, though, and get homesick for my pets and my own bed after being gone from home for more than 3 days! So, I don’t think I could actually live like them–plus, I do have my pets!

  5. I don’t believe this would work for me. Just the cat paraphernalia, i.e. beds, scratching sisal pads/sisal posts/cardboard pad, food dishes take up a lot of space. hee hee. Having at one time lived in a 24-foot camper for slightly over a year – I made it work, but I don’t think I could do that again. I have seen some super nice 5th wheel trailers, so maybe I could do that. Plus, last weekend I started “farming” as I call it – starting seeds. 62 tomatos (6 varieties), 10 peppers (2 varieties), basil, Italian parsley, and 24 impatiens. All under a grow light in the guest room. Gonna be a canning fiend come Fall!

  6. Cindy, it sounds like your in-laws want to travel while they are healthy enough to do so and then have stuff to use when they settle down. I actually think I could do part of that (the Residence Inn) but would not want the storage units. Actually, I think if physically I could do the traveling I would chuck everything but a couple of boxes I would store at a friends and live with what I could put in a suitcase. I really, really don’t need much. Since I can’t do that I have thought that when Mom passes on I might settle into a 5th wheel or some type of travel RV and move around the country staying a few months at a time at wherever I chose.

    • Deb J, Cindy will probably weigh in but in the meantime I think you may have hit the nail on the head – travelling while able, with stuff to use when they stop travelling – this would be a good explanation for why they keep certain things in the storage unit but otherwise live minimally.

  7. Sounds interesting but I agree with Rebecca: Why keep several storage units if apparently they enjoy living so free of their possessions anyway? If you can “live like” why not “live as”? One place to keep a few extra possessions (and maybe their tools if they renovate houses?) sounds smart, a second one in a different state: not so much.
    For myself I think at some point in the (distant) future I’d prefer a small, uncluttered and easy to maintain home base that could be rented out while traveling or that I could house swap. Some place that feels like a real home when I am there but isn’t too precious to accommodate others . That to me would be the best of both worlds. At the moment though it’s nesting time anyway so no big plans on living the alternative lifestyle around here. Only to cope with the space we have and to prepare gently but thoroughly for a move (not planned any time soon but it will have to happen at some point within the next years, no doubt about that).

  8. I’ve been reducing with all of you since the first of the year with great success. I haven’t chimed in yet but, Cindy, my dream is to live like your in-laws. I want to be able to get up and just go! I found this site at just the right time in my life. My daughter is moving out in June, so I’ve been hell-bent on getting on with my plans. My sister and daughter keep teasing me and calling you my “life coach” but they are amazed at what I’m accomplishing. I just wanted to say thanks to everyone on this site for suggestions, prodding and all the great ideas! One more thing, I am a woman “Mike” so if I say things like, “I threw out all my pantyhose yesterday. I’m never wearing it again.” Don’t be too surprised!

    • Hi Mike and Welcome to 365 Less Things. Thank you for joining us in the comments section at last. As soon as I read Cindy’s post I told my husband he had to read it. I am sure what Cindy suggests here is just about what he has planned for retirement except with less storage units.

      I don’t think “life coach” would be too much of a stretch since what we are preaching is likely to change your life for the better. I am glad you clarified your gender or yes we may have been somewhat confused (not that there is anything wrong with that 😉 ).

  9. I am curious—what are weekly rates for this kind of living in a non-touristy location? It could be such a great idea for lots of seniors, I would think.

  10. Cindy – that is totally cool! Someone is thinking smart at the Mariott.

  11. Interesting post about an interesting lifestyle! Thanks for the insight to this. Great post.

  12. Hi Cindy, as soon as I read this I told Steve he had to read it too. This sound very similar to the life he has planned for us minus a couple of storage units of course. One to fit some stuff in and the vehicles but that is it. We can’t decide if we should buy a place and rent it out while we aren’t around or just drop everything to begin with and just go. Then decide what to do about a home when we get back from the first adventure. Life is sometimes best made up as you go along. Either way I think your in-laws are living the life. Good for them.

  13. What a good idea! They almost have the best of both worlds. I agree about the cost of using two storage units but it must work for them. Makes me want to pack up!

  14. That is an interesting way of life, but I’m surely not the type for it. And in a way it sounds tedious to pack all of your things (even if it is nit much) every time you leave town. And I don’t know how it is in the US, but here in Germany it would be very expensive to live like your in-laws, with the residential hotel and the two longterm storage units…

  15. Sounds like an ideal life to me (except the extra storage unit). I know hubby would never go for it though… he likes to live on his own bit of dirt, so we will be living the detatched housing until forced off. However if the longetivity gene was passed on to me, I may have decades after he passes (morbid thought I know) and I’d rather be free and comfortable than house-proud in my golden years. Travelling sounds fantastic as long as my body is up to it, taking photos, painting and visiting extended family. Not having the stress of a full home at that point would be GREAT. Savings on insurance, maintaining it, taxes, heating it, etc… yes it sounds wonderful for a senior with itchy feet!

  16. In my early 20s I spent nearly a year travelling and living out of a backpack, with the rest of my worldly belongings in two trunks in my parents’ basement. When I was 24 I did it again. We still backpack when we travel internationally – two silver-haired backpackers amid the youngsters. Travelling light provides a lot of freedom but it has its drawbacks.
    We currently travel North America with a large 5th wheel trailer. It is a marvelous way to travel and we love it, but I would never give up my home and become a full-timer. Home is more than just four walls and my stuff. Home is also my friends and my place in the community. This was not important in my 20s but it is now. I’m still a vagabond at heart, but I like to be grounded. To me, having a home is worth the cost and hassle of having it looked after when I go away.
    I’m so glad your in-laws know what suits them and have tailored their lifestyle to fit, while recognizing that some time down the road they may want to settle down again and be surrounded by their favorite things. I think they have found the best of both worlds.

  17. Thought provoking post Cindy. I think your inlaws are very smart people. As far as living like them , well that is a another thing. No I could not live that way unless I was on my own.
    I have to ask, is the market still capable of being able to ‘flip’ houses in America? I see a few places here in Newcastle that have been purchased , refurbished and placed back on the market. Not as many as there once was though.

  18. Cindy – do your inlaws own their storage units? I have only ever heard of renting one but am told that there are different arrangements etc and think that could be quite a smart way to do things if someone actually does want to have a storage unit.

  19. I really love the idea of the Residence Inn. Sounds like many things are provided for them there and they do not have to deal with all of the upkeep that comes with a home and yard, etc. I like the idea of a storage unit, since they know what works for their needs, it is certainly cheaper than a home. Since they usually are climate controlled, secure and insured, it can be a good option. Who knows, maybe in the future they may downsize to only one.

    This is a different but related situation concerning storage units. I have a relative who would rent a home and keep a storage unit filled with household items. I never understood it because for this person it was not a good financial choice for them to pay rent on the storage unit, when they should have sold those things or put those things to good use in the home. With time, my relative finally figured out that it did not help having the additional expense of the storage unit. and no longer uses one. My relative now has a one bedroom apartment and lives alone. I am sure that my relative did not make a conscious choice to live minimally, but does so without even thinking about it. Living in an apartment with one bedroom, a living room which opens to the kitchen, one closet, and one bathroom with only a shower (no tub) lends itself greatly to needing to keep material possessions to a minimum.

    I have to admit that I just had a moment of clarity there. Sometimes I would look upon this relative in a manner that was sorrowful at times because of having to live in such a small space. Having started on this new journey in my life, I have to say that in some ways I envy it. That is all that this person needs and my relative is content and more financially stable than ever before.

    • Jen – recently Andreia and I have been chatting direct and I talked about when I was first married we didn’t have much and I equated that with our financial situation at the time. Therefore in my mind it was logical that as we became better established to not have that ‘starting out’ look to our home, it needed to be full as if our stuff reflected our balance sheet, which ironically suffered from that thinking. Topsey Turvey, huh! Anyway, I think your relative is probably enjoying a very simple, fuss free situation and is probably the envy of more than a few 365’ers right now.

      • Yes, I think so. It is funny how our thinking changes, isn’t it? Like you, I wish that I had learned that lesson early on, but better late than never.

  20. Before I had downsized to my current space, I needed an extended stay room when traveling for my son’s wedding. He found Value Place which rents studio apartments by the week at a much better price than any hotel I had found. The rooms came with very basic amenities, a wooden platform held the mattresses with storage space underneath it, a simple night stand, and across the room a plain table and 2 chairs for eating. We had a kitchenette which had a full-sized fridge and microwave but no stove. The sheets and such were provided by the business along with cleaning. The rooms were open and bright as well. I was there for just over a week and couldn’t stop thinking how much I would love something about this size, which I then found a few months later.

    So, to answer your question, I do think I could live a little like your in-laws, but without the storage units. My view is that the money I would spend on storing my stuff I could save and easily replace it with something else when I wanted to settle down. I also know too many people who have had their units broken into and things stolen or rodent damage when stored for a long period of time.

  21. I’ve stayed for months at a time in Residence Inns and was quite comfortable. I traveled for work for about 2 and a half years nearly full-time. I was “home” (a bedroom I rented) roughly a day and a half every 3 weeks. Everything I traveled with fit into 2 checked bags and 2 carry-ons (one of which was work computer/books). This is truly what started me on the journey to pare back my possessions. I realized during that time that I enjoyed having minimal possessions I had access to on a daily basis and had no problem living with less. Now, I work mostly from home and spent about a year sorting through items I’d had in storage while traveling. About 7 mos ago, I sold my mobile home and bought an RV and am living in it full-time. I do have a 5×10 storage unit as I wasn’t sure the RV thing was going to work and had a few items I wasn’t ready to part with, but I can’t honestly say I miss much of what’s in storage and have been having urges lately to sort through those items and pare down even further. I’ve already gotten rid of a few items that had made it into the RV that I’ve since realized I didn’t need. Once you start paring down, it gets easier and easier to let go…

  22. hey there, havent been here for ages… I was busy and not reading a lot, and decluttering was also not on my mind as I had a visitor for 6 weeks in my living room and I can honestly say, the only need is rearrangement. But I have space enough. Its cool to see that I can live with another person in this flat…

    Besides that, there is still this wish of pairing it down to the minimum. I am saving for a camping van, and I would love to not only travel in there but maybe also live in it… I think I share the “rock star lifestyle” image with a couple of people here. For the moment though, I am really happy with what I have. A few things came in, and the new (old) sound equipment requires a new arrangement of things. And I am sure, decluttering happens along the way. 🙂