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Van Life: How to Declutter

Downsize. Minimize. Minimal. De-cluttering. For us, the process started years ago but recently we’ve taken it to new levels. Whatever you call it, DOING it can have lasting benefits. Van Life: How to Declutter

Maybe you have no plans to live in a van. Or you don’t even want to go cross-country on a road trip. That’s okay! Chances are though, this post might help you get rid of the extra stuff in your life and boost your happiness just a little.

Benefits to Decluttering:

It saves you time.

Let’s face it, when you own less stuff, it’s easier to find things. No more searching under ever cushion in the house to find your car keys. They’re right there, on the hook by the door where they’re supposed to be! And maybe even more importantly, a decluttered house takes less time to clean.

It saves you money.

Once your place is de-cluttered it might just make you think twice before you make a purchase. It has to REALLY make sense for you to buy something. And sometimes, your donations, depending on what the item is and who it’s going to can be a tax write-off.

And it might just boost your happiness!

Downsize

Do you really need 5 pairs of running shoes?

If this sounds too good to be true, you’re just going to have to take our word for it. Or your partner’s. How many times have you heard someone say, “The house is finally clean and it feels so good!” For some people, less clutter and less mess can and does have a real impact on their happiness. Another side benefit that you might not realize is that when you give something away, it can feel really good.

Our decluttering process.

I was the person who still had trophies from that rec soccer team I played on in sixth grade. Yes, that’s me. Or was me, anyway.

Downsizing started a little over four years ago, though, when I sold my house. I went from about 1800 square feet to about half that. In the process of moving I got rid of a ton of stuff that was just weighing me down. The summer I road tripped across the country by myself really solidified the idea that I actually needed less stuff than I thought I did. What was in the back of my hatchback was enough and I didn’t really want for more.

Downsize 3

It’s a little odd to see your kitchen in a clothes bin.

Fast forward to the present day. When we moved in together and combined our lives we had to make room for each other. Again, decluttering. Now we’re minimizing our life even more so that we can do van life. Part of our plan is to rent out our house which is great but it means we have to get rid of even more stuff. Because who wants to live in a place with someone else’s clothes in the closet. Again did the Goodwill dance.

We’re nearly there. And here’s how we did it.

Our Top Tips on How To Declutter:

  1. Assess the situation

    If you want to make any sort of change, you’ve got to first figure out what you’re working with. Don’t worry, there’s no shame in what you’ve got in your house or in your closet. Accumulating things over a lifetime is pretty common. Try not to shame yourself and just look at the situation realistically.

  2. Devise a Plan

    Once you know what you’re working with, it’s time to come up with a plan. For some of us it might mean getting a roll-off dumpster delivered to our house and for others it might mean a few trips to the nearest donation center and you’re good to go. Again, refrain from judging yourself and be proud of the fact that you’re making a step in the right direction.

  3. Start Small

    This is often the most difficult part of downsizing. For one, how do you know where to begin? It’s hard! We suggest starting with something small. Pick one item that you can bear to part with and start there. And then another and another and another. Before you know it you’ll be on a roll.

  4. Sort and sort again

    If it’s easiest to start with things that you want to keep and things that you don’t, that’s a good start. Once you have a good number of things that you no longer want to keep, then you can begin to sort them into different piles. Perhaps some of it can be sold to a second-hand gear shop, some of it goes straight into the garbage and some if it can be recycled or given away. The name of the game though is less stuff so just keep that in min and sort, sort, sort!

  5. Enlist the help of a partner or a friend.

    Some people might find this one actually really UN-helpful. For example, if the person you’ve picked to help you rolls their eyes at the things you want to keep, you might just be better off alone making those decisions. But a good partner or friend might just be the ticket to helping you weed through some of your thing in a helpful way by reminding you that you haven’t worn that sweater since the 90’s and you probably never will.

  6. Check in on your progress!

    Sometimes seeing how far you have come can be motivating! When you realize how much stuff you have parted with it might just fuel your desire to keep going.

Downsize 4

The first of many trips to the Goodwill donation center in Asheville.

Van Life: How to Declutter RecapSaveSave

We would love to know your thoughts on how do downsize and declutter your life. What tips would you recommend for helping us take it to the next step? If you struggle with getting rid of things, what is the number one thing you can’t part with?

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+ Best Small and Mid-Size Cities

10 of Our Favorite Mid-Size and Small Cities!

Not too long ago we wrote a post about our favorite BIG cities to travel to in the United States. (We’re embarrassed to admit that we actually published it without including New Orleans! What were we thinking?! Duhhhh. New Orleans is awesome.) In any event we’ve decided to create a post about some of our favorite mid-size and small cities.

Annapolis, Maryland

The capital of Maryland sits right on the Chesapeake Bay and is one of the loveliest places on the east coast, some might argue in the United States. There are tons of boats (some of which you can charter for a cruise) and many, many great places to eat and drink. It’s also home to the Naval Academy and St. John’s College so you are sure to experience a youthful energy to this city that is rich in history.

Best Small and Mid-Size Cities

Asheville, North Carolina

It’s home. And for good reason! Beer City is got it all and though locals say the traffic has only gotten worse in the last several years, it’s nowhere near navigating New York City. This is a four season kind of town so don’t worry about when’s the best time to visit, just pack your bags and head to the mountains!

Best Small and Mid-Size Cities

Athens, Georgia

College town meets thriving local food and drink scene. You’re going to need at least 48 hours in this city. Come and see our top picks for the best things to see, do and eat as well as the best place to stay in Athens!

Best Small and Mid-Size Cities in the US

Bellingham, Washington

Way up in the upper left hand corner of the United States is one of our favorite small cities: Bellingham, Washington. It’s got it all in the food and drink department (great breweries, great coffee shops, amazing restaurants), trails for days and an open and welcoming vibe that made us feel at home the moment we arrived.

Bellingham_.jpg

Charleston, South Carolina

If you’ve ever been to Charleston then you know what I mean when I say it’s like stepping back in time. Walking around the downtown historic area feels like being on the set of a movie. Everything is manicured and just-so. It’s warm most of the year too which only helps us make a case as to why Charleston makes the list of our favorite mid-size cities.

Best Small and Mid-Size Cities in the US

Durham, North Carolina

There is way more to Durham than the 80’s movie starring Kevin Costner. It’s got great food, great bars, awesome museums, street art, a walkable downtown and it’s only about 3 and a half hours from us in Asheville. And of course, a minor league baseball team as well. This is easily one of our favorite places to go when we want to get out of town for a bit.

Best Small and Mid-Size Cities in the US

Eugene, Oregon

This is one of those places that felt like home the moment we arrived. It had all the elements that we look for in a city aaaaaand it had trails for days. We had some serious discussions about moving here and already can’t wait to return.

Best Small and Mid-Size Cities in the US

Flagstaff, Arizona

Sitting pretty at about 7,000 feet of elevation, Flagstaff is one of the coolest places we’ve visited in Arizona. Make that the United States. The iconic Route 66 runs right through downtown and makes the perfect jumping on or jumping off spot for those of you traveling along this road.

Moab, Utah

Some might argue that Moab is a town and not a city and they’d probably be right. But we decided to include it because it’s not only the gateway to Arches National Park but it’s also known as the Adventure Capital of the World. You can pretty much do any outdoor activity that you can think of here. What’s not to love about that?!

red rock landscape in Arches National Park

The famous arch in Moab

Santa Fe

The capital of New Mexico also happens to be one of the most unique cities we’ve ever been to. We’ve been there twice within the last year and have quickly fallen in love with the architecture, food, culture, landscape, outdoor scene … and MEOW WOLF. If you haven’t been to Santa Fe, put it on your list, it’s nothing short of awesome. And if you’re going, be sure to check out our favorite things to see and do and eat there!

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Our Favorite Small and Mid-Size Cities Recap:

This list started getting bigger and bigger the more we continued to write. That said, I’m sure we forgot to put several small and mid-size cities on this list. So please tell us: which places do you think deserve to be on this list?! Leave your comments below!

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Best Burgers in the US

Okay, we admit it. Sometimes we get tired of eating food out of a cooler. And when we do we almost always crave burgers. Give us a mouth full of hot, savory, salty, cheese and meat and we’ll be happy every single time. Below is a list of our favorite burgers in the US.

Bull and Beggar | Asheville, North Carolina

This is the burger we compare all other burgers to. No matter where we go, it is the gold standard. Even if Asheville wasn’t home base this burger would top our list. Two patties, two pieces of American cheese, mayo, house-made pickles and caramelized onions combine to make this the perfect burger. Bonus points for the side of fries and the pork rind … mmm hmmm.Best Burgers in the US!

Little Jack’s Tavern | Charleston, South Carolina

Oh god, this burger. It’s small but it packs an incredible punch. It is the best couple of mouthfuls we’ve ever tasted. The tavern sauce is basically magic. (No, really.) Do you want to guess how many we ate?!

In-N-Out Burger | Over 330 Locations in California, Utah, Texas, Oregon and Nevada

Fast food made the list of best burgers in the US? Uh, yeah. We’re not food snobs. And this burger is just too good not to be on here. It tastes even better when you’re been on a long stretch of highway without a bite to eat in hours because you’re literally down to toilet paper and runny peanut butter in the van.

Best Burgers in AmericaIn-N-Out Burger1In-N-Out Burger2

Proper Meats and Provisions | Flagstaff, Arizona

You are going to need to roll up your sleeves for this one. Eating the PMP burger at Proper Meats and Provisions is a full contact sport and we mean that in the best of ways. The brioche bun is warm, grilled and perfect, the fresh ground local beef is juicy and flavorful, the cheddar cheese is thick and melted just-so and the house sauce and grilled onions go together to pack the perfect burger punch.

Best Burgers in AmericaProper Meats

Handline | Sebastopol, California

Simple elegance and quality ingredients combine to make this burger nothing short of delicious. It’s worth the drive out to little ol’ Sebastopol who’s population hovers around 7,600 people.

Handline_

Camber | Bellingham, Washington

This is a rosemary lamb burger. Repeat. This is a rosemary lamb burger. And it’ll knock your socks off. Though it’s not made with the traditional “beef” that most of us associate with burgers, it easily made our list of best burgers in the US. It’s made with local cheddar cheese, apples and aioli and is as good as it looks. Go ahead and pinch your screen to make it a little bigger. This burger was excellent down to the last bite. We were still talking about it as we left town and have been plotting about our return ever since.

Camber CoffeeCamber Coffee1

Beckett’s Table | Phoenix

Look at this burger. Does it really need any explanation? Full disclosure: there was so much amazing looking food on the menu that we almost didn’t order the burger. But that little voice in the back of our head said “do it.” And we were not disappointed. The beef is ground daily and topped with bacon, charred onions, American cheese, house-made mustard & pickles and sandwiched between a buttermilk bun. Whatcha waiting for?!

Beckett's Table

Pelican Brewing | Cannon Beach, Oregon

We came for the beers and then we saw the menu. Let’s just say there was no talking at the table for about ten minutes once the food arrived. I was almost done eating by the time we remembered to snap a photo of it and by the looks of it I refused to stop eating to let Caroline take a picture haha. Don’t get between me and my beef!

Pelican Brewing Co

Best Burgers in the US

Eating burgers is one of life’s little pleasures. It’s not even a guilty pleasure. Okay maybe it is when we scarf down a whole side of fries to go with it but … YOLO! Right?

Now that we’ve shared with you some of our favorite burgers in the US we are just dying to know who you think should be on this list because we know there’s no way these can be the only amazing burgers in the country.

Please leave your suggestions of the best places to get a burger in America below!

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+ 13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

The first official day of spring is March 20th. And if you’re anything like us you’ll be counting down the days until we get there. (As I write there are 37 left…we’re heading into the homestretch!) There’s a lot to love when it’s cold out (did you see our post on some of our favorite winter things to do in Asheville?) But we get really excited at the thought of spring. Why? Here’s why! Our 13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring.

13. Everything turns green again.

This alone makes us happy. We know that in some places, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can actually get better views in the winter. But we’d be lying if we don’t get giddy when we see the first green buds on the trees. Spring in Asheville is awesome because everything gets really lush and beautiful. The mountains literally look like emeralds.

mountain view in Asheville, North Carolina

At sunset along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

12. Race season begins!

Some of y’all never quit racing and it’s so inspiring! You go from Turkey Trot to Jingle Bell jog and roll right into the new year fit and tuned. Since you never really have an off-season then technically race season isn’t really beginning for you. But for the rest of us, spring gives us a reason to lace up in the winter and then an April or May race is the perfect way to welcome in the season. But on that note, who’s training for a spring race?!

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

5K? 10K? Half-marathon? Marathon? Ultra??

11. Shorts, tees and flip flops

This is basically our uniform once it gets warm out. And it stays this way until it gets cold again. Our motto? Toes out til it snows out haha. Are you with us?

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

Hi.

10. Longer days

I’m a winter solstice baby – my birthday is on the shortest day of the whole year. Thankfully one of the best presents I get each year is the start of longer days. It’s the turning of a corner and realizing that my old lady winter bed time of 8:30pm can actually extend towards a more reasonable 10 haha.

9. Farmers Markets

Is anybody else tired of eating carrots and potatoes? Don’t get me wrong, we love those veggies and am thankful for the freshness they bring to the table in the winter but by the end of December we start lusting after sugar snap peas, lettuces, radishes, strawberries and all the other things that come up out of the earth. We’ve enjoyed a CSA the last couple of years and get pumped when we get the message that it’ll be starting back up again.

8. Yard Sales

Why is it that other people’s stuff is so darn interesting and awesome? Will anyone else admit to doing a U-turn in the middle of traffic for a yard sale?

7. Opening Day!

If the ‘thwack’ of the ball on the bat doesn’t get your heart pumping that’s ok, not everyone loves sports. To me though, spring will always remind me of the many, many good times I had with my friends on a softball diamond. And playing catch with my dad in the backyard. How many of you will be going to opening day?! Our home team here in Asheville is the Tourists. Hoping to get to at least one game this year!

6. [Insert your favorite activity here] with the windows open

Driving, studying, cooking, reading, cleaning, road tripping. Doesn’t really matter what it is you’re doing, if you can do it with the windows open (or better yet, do it outside) it’s even better. Oh and we have a road ready playlist for you if your activity calls for a little music!

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

Caroline and our old Chinook!

5. Hammocks

The recipe for a perfect lazy day always includes a hammock. And bare feet. Know what I’m saying?!

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

Make a date with a hammock – you won’t regret it!

4. Camping

This one goes unsaid, right? Spring is the perfect time to camp. It’s not too hot, not too cold. And if you’re really lucky, it’s not super buggy yet. There are so many places to go camping here in Asheville the most difficult part of camping might be choosing where to go!

3. Festival Season

Too many good ones to name and all different kinds! Music festivals, food festivals, art festivals, film festivals! Aaaaaah!!!!

2. Riding bikes

Once the temperatures creep back up into the fifties we find ourselves dusting off our bikes and putting air back into the tires. That first ride of the season always feels amazing even if it makes us realize we’re not exactly in riding shape just yet.

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

Riding bike just never gets old!

1. The lawnmower smell (and the beers that go with it.)

This one probably doesn’t even need an explanation. And you most likely don’t even need the lawnmower smell to give you a reason to drink a beer. Especially if it’s one from Burial made right here in Asheville. Mmmm…beer.

13 Reasons to Be Excited for Spring

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!

13 Reasons to Be Psyched for Spring Recap:

How many of these ideas have YOU looking forward to spring? What did we leave off? We’d love to know what your favorite things to do in the spring are. Please leave them in the comments below.

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Van Life: How to Unplug and Make the Most of Your Adventure

Technology. If you’re like us, you have a love – hate relationship with it. My inner geek absolutely LOVES pressing buttons and making things on the computer but I’m also acutely aware of the negatives that come with living such a “plugged-in” life. For one, we are endlessly on the hunt for good wifi. Meaning, wifi that’s moderately fast, stays connected without uninterrupted and is free. And that’s just the computer. Cell phones make it even more difficult to unplug. And that’s not even taking into account tablets, GPS running watches, iPods, GoPro’s, etc.

Van Life: How to Unplug

To shoot or not to shoot – that is the question.

Technology boundaries

One of the things we realized rather quickly into our van life adventures was that we needed some boundaries with technology. Our discovery of the need for some separation was actually completely accidental. We were driving through some gorgeous wooded road at dusk somewhere between Oregon and California when we spotted an animal that I thought was maybe a cougar or a lynx. I instantly wanted to look it up but we didn’t have any cell service. Literally for the next thirty minutes I checked my phone relentlessly almost to the point where I was begging it to get service. I actually briefly got a connection and started reading an article on the BOBCAT only to lose the signal again.

And you know what? Instead of being totally in the moment and enjoying the visit of a spirit animal I was frustrated with my phone. Pathetic. I put the phone down and started taking a hard look at my own behavior.

Since then, we’ve made some adjustments to our relationship with technology.

Our top tips for unplugging and making the most of your adventure.

Give the VIPs in your life a heads up.

Whenever I know we’re going to be in an area when we aren’t going to get good cell service I feel an immediate sense of relief because the choice to unplug has been taken away from me. Somehow it’s relieved me of the responsibility to be so “on call” all of the time. I’ve found that for the most part this forced unavailability isn’t a problem if I give the important people in my life a heads up. The list always includes my parents but sometimes it extends to friends who are going through something hard and clients at work.

But let’s say you’re not actually going into a dead zone and you just want to create a little space between you and your devices. Just give everyone a heads up, tell them it’s a new thing you’re trying for your own personal health and see if they don’t give you the support you’re looking for. We can get better at setting boundaries, even if they’re ones we create ourselves.

Plan your plug – ins.

At the start of most days Caroline and I check in about what we need to do work-wise. More often than not the conversation comes down to how many hours do we need to be connected to wifi. Most of the time the answer is a couple hours. Thanks to my phone’s hotspot I can work a lot of the time that she drives and things like photo editing don’t require the internet. But the point is that having a plan of when we’re going to get those internet needs met means that we can let go and allow ourselves to really just enjoy ourselves once it’s over.

Van Life: How to Unplug

The things we do for wi-fi. Here we are in a Taco Bell parking lot.

Tune in.

What would happen if you tracked your own behavior with your cell phone. I recently read that “…the average adult checks their phone 50 – 300 times a day”. Press here for the full article. What?! I’m pretty sure I easily (I’m embarrassed to admit this) check my phone at least 50 times a day. But 300? God, I hope not. I did a little mini-experiment on myself and found out that I didn’t reach 300 but it was waaaaay more than I hoped for.

Turn off.

If your first response is “but what if I miss a call or a text!!!!” then I’m proud of you for getting this far in the story. I mean it. You’re taking a hard look at your behavior and that ain’t easy. But your phone does accept voicemails, right? Chances are pretty good that if you do turn your phone off you might miss a call or a message but it’ll be there when you return to it. Right after you’re finished living your life. Wouldn’t it feel good to actually experience that really meaningful face to face conversation you were just having with your best friend?

technology 1

Are you present in the moment or more interested in what’s happening on the internet?

Hide the damn thing!

For me, out of sight can also mean out of mind. And when it comes to having healthy boundaries with technology that’s a good thing. Why? Because I don’t quite have the restraint to not open the phone when I see a new message pop up on my screen. Apparently this means I have a lot in common with Pavlov’s dogs but it also means that when I hide it, I can be more present in my life.

Turn the ringer off.

I’ve had my phone on silence for the last several years. The main reason is because when I lived by myself I would get so lost inside my own head that the sound of my phone would often send me two or three feet in the air in surprise. I realized how ridiculous it was that my phone had the ability to jolt me so hard and decided dang I don’t need that stress! It’s been on silence ever since.

Make it a team effort.

Caroline and I are on the same page with how to best unplug so it’s been pretty easy for us to experiment with our relationship to technology. But let’s say you’re dating someone who is constantly buried in their phone. Or perhaps its you that can hardly manage to wrest their eyes away from your screen. Might we suggest a little teamwork? What would happen if you and your mate agreed on some ways that you could unplug together? Maybe it means you leave your phones at home and go out on a date without them. Or it means laptops don’t enter the bedroom. Or that you keep your phones on silence together. We’re willing to bet that if those around you are having better boundaries with technology it’s likely to benefit everyone.

Van Life: How to Unplug

Experiment until you find the right balance for you.

Van Life: How to Unplug and Make the Most of Your Adventure Recap

Thankfully it’s not just me that recognizes the need and want for balance in their lives. Lots of people are realizing that their love for technology has gone a little too far and are looking to reclaim some of their lives by putting their phones and computers away. If only for a little bit. Though it’s likely that we may never go back to the days when no one had a cell phone, perhaps it’s possible to bring back some of what’s been missing in our lives since technology entered the picture: eye contact, feelings instead of emojis and real connection.

What strategies do you have for having healthy boundaries with technology? We’d love to hear them. Please leave your comments below!

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