Downsizing (and pictures!)

Well, we’ve finally hit the most critical stage of bus conversion: painting and decorating.

Okay, okay, I’m not actually serious about this being the most critical stage of the whole process. However it is certainly the stage that I’ve been most anticipating.  By the end of September, the interior of the bus was technically complete, however it remained quite rough. At the time, we dubbed it good enough. Since then, we’ve been engaged in performing engine diagnostics & improvements. Following the successful completion of some mechanical upgrades and a few equally successful road-tests to confirm the engine’s soundness, we’ve since switched gears. So far, the month of January has been about making the bus not just habitable, but homey.

Yes, this process includes the aforementioned painting and decorating (though currently, more of the former than the latter), and yes, I will include pictures. However it’s important to mention that it is also accompanied by an equally important, and somewhat more challenging task: downsizing.

When I first moved to Austin, all of my worldly possessions could be contained, quite literally, into a space half the size of my car. At the time, I had completely streamlined the material contents of my life to fit into either the trunk or the back seat of my small, Saturn Ion. Far from being austere, this minimalism was actually quite exhilarating. I had exactly what I needed and was free from the urge to accumulate more (and more, and more). For his part, Ryan had a similar experience, only involving a 1997 Honda Civic.

Of course, this didn’t last. As our lives in Austin changed shape over the years, the amount of stuff acquired increased. And then of course, Ryan and I moved in together and our two individual streams of stuff merged into one large enough to fill up an 800 square foot duplex (plus two exterior storage sheds). So now, as we prepare to move into a space that is roughly 200 square feet, each of us is having to engage in a process of discarding what is no longer needed.

I’m specifically using the word “process” here in light of a the interesting realization of just how much emotional and psychological energy we can invest into the objects that surround us. For me, a great example of this would be how hard it was to cull the clothes in my closet. (Hopefully the following commentary will dispel the seeming triviality of that last sentence.)

As any of you who know me can vouch, I’m certainly not a fashionista. Yet the objects that I seem to hold onto the longest are almost always clothing. At first I couldn’t explain why I was so attached to that dress I wore once to someone’s wedding two years ago, or that blouse I used to love wearing when I was 20, or those shoes that I only remember I own once a year at most. But then it became clear – it’s the same reason I bought a very impractical, violet chiffon sun dress from Goodwill in October. In my head I’m justifying keeping or purchasing an item of clothing because it evokes a memory of the person I used to be, or an experience I imagine having in the future. In reality, I don’t actually need to keep that bridesmaid dress or outfit 20 year-old me loved to wear in order to hang on to those memories – they’re already woven in to the fabric of my present life. Further, I don’t need to buy an item of clothing just to foster the possibility of whatever imagined experience is associated with it. The possibility is already there. Instead of buying a dress that makes me think I might be the kind of person who goes to brunch at a nice(ish) restaurant on a Sunday morning, I could actually try going out and having that experience. Or I can simply accept that, if precedent is any proof, I probably won’t be that person. (For the record, on Sunday mornings, you can usually find me on the couch doing my best to impersonate an only semi-disheveled human while grumbling and belligerently slurping coffee.)

In Ryan’s case, a similar dynamic typically plays out involving electronic parts, that he might one day, be the person who will fashion these bits and pieces into a functioning robot, or scraps of PVC piping that he might one day turn into a solar-powered coffee maker (really, don’t ask). Confronting our stuff, is in a sense, confronting past, present, and future versions of ourselves.

(Jointly, we both struggle immensely with discarding books – so much so that despite multiple trips to Half Price Book’s purchasing desk, we’ve had to actually build  additional shelving units into the bus.)

So far, the act of getting rid of things has been an interesting crash course in recognizing where, and quite literally in what, each of us has invested our individual psychic energy – and how the objects we’ve chosen to surround ourselves with relate to the inner lives we’ve each built for ourselves.


And now to deliver the previously promised photos! Here are some shots of us doing work on the bus. Most are quick snapshots, we’ll post nicer, more extensive ones soon.

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7 thoughts on “Downsizing (and pictures!)

  1. Linda Ayers says:

    Justine, your comments about why we hang on to certain objects really spoke to me, and may make it easier for me to let go of some things during my next attempt at downsizing. I know I can’t pass along stuff to you and Ryan anymore!

    Like the pics. Especially the curtains!



  2. Teresa Meccio says:

    I love it-it’s really looking like your home ( it’s mama Mec by the way). Love the colors, curtains and tiles. I see you acquired a table and chairs. Read your blog J-can’t get rid if a great book!!!! Has come a long way since I saw it in July. We are going to have to make a place for you guys to pull into when you get back east (hopefully you will swing our way on your travels!!!!!!!!!!!


  3. Sherry says:

    I love the airy open feeling of your new home….downsizing…well…in my many moves I have given away so much and the universe sends new stuff. So even though I have been on a downward trend it is a slow large learning curve for me. But I keep moving toward toward the light and lightness of un attachment…looking forward to seeing you in your beautiful bus.


  4. Melissa says:

    The interior of the bus looks great!! Those are some pretty mean sewing skills. so proud of you cuzzo. Anytime you are in the area you can park your bus in our driveway for as long as you like ❤ Miss you


  5. Vee says:

    You have not shown any pictures of the exterior, nor given any information on the size and model bus that you have. I see the one picture of the exterior here on the blog, but isn’t it illegal to leave a school bus yellow? From my understanding, as I am currently researching this issue as I am looking to buy a bus now, once the bus has been sold to the public/person, you must change the color and remove all decals, stop signs, and other markings that would mistake one into thinking it was still a working school bus. The information I have obtained thus far, says it is illegal in the majority of the states to leave it yellow. Are you guys not going to paint it?

    Also love the layout, and the way that you have the bathroom is exactly how my bathroom is sketched out for when I find the right bus for me. I want to be able to close off the bedroom from the front of the bus, as well as close off the bathroom for some privacy. Awesome use of the space and by the way, any chance you can give me the name of the camp stove you have, I haven’t see one like that and I think that would be the perfect set up for me.


    • Justine says:

      Hi Vee,

      Thanks for the comment – glad you’ve enjoyed reading the blog and like of our interior layout 🙂 For reference our bus is an International and is 35′ long from nose to end. We have roughly 200sqft of living space in the interior.

      When we first began researching bus conversions we came to similar conclusions regarding the exterior appearance of converted school buses. It is in fact illegal to impersonate an ‘official’ (re: operated by a school district) school bus in just about every state. However, depending on your state of residence, and/or where you intend to drive your bus, the requirements for altering the appearance can vary. We have satisfied the requirements for our state with respect to removing the stop sign, signature flashing lights, and all other insignia that would lead one to believe our bus is still an operating school bus. Since this post was published back in January, we have since painted the exterior of our bus, though we have not yet updated the blog with new pictures (don’t worry, this is coming soon!).

      It’s really cool that you’re planning to convert your own school bus into an RV! We found to be a really helpful resource during our process. We bought our oven from Camp Chef and it’s worked out well for us so far. Ikea also offers some affordable cook-top options too if you’re looking for alternative kitchen ideas.

      We appreciate your interest in our blog, thanks for reading!



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