I had discovered extreme minimalism, one-bagging, vandwelling, and office-living. I had chosen to attempt an experiment with office-living and had reduced my possessions to two bags. It was time to move into the office… Continue reading about my journey into these minimalist lifestyles with a look at the first 100 days of my office-living experiment.
Sunday morning, clear skies, the temperature already climbing from 75F to a high of 84F. The night prior I packed my seabag and backpack and bagged up the trash, leaving only my bed and some bathroom furnishings for disposal. I made some breakfast with the last of the food I had in the fridge, and took a long, hot shower knowing that time would not be on my side for the future. The shower curtain came down as I exited, and placed into the trash bag.
Moving a queen-size bed by yourself from a third-floor apartment to a dumpster one-quarter mile away is no small task. The cheap frame was simple to break down and throw in the back of my truck. The mattress and accompanying box-spring had no handles. A few cuts with the knife and now I could get a good grip, at least to drag from. While the weight was manageable, the size precluded my solo-carry down the winding stairs and out into the truck bed. I dragged and rotated, dragged and rotated, and dragged and rotated each piece down the stairs, finally reaching a point where I could drag the entire thing straight to my truck. I parked next to a hill, which provided an easy slide into the truck-bed without lifting it in. Five minutes later I dropped the bed and last of my trash by the designated dumpster for the complex and went back to the apartment.
Bare white walls. Carpet floors with imprints of prior sitting furniture. A green nylon bag with my name written poorly in black permanent marker. A medium backpack. This was is it. There was no point hanging around the apartment anymore. After one last sweep for cleanliness and one last piss, I headed to the management office with the keys.
I was home-free. Driving away from the neighborhood I started feeling “heavy”: no doubt the reality of this project setting in. Twenty minutes later I was in the parking lot outside my office. I grabbed my backpack, entered the code for the front door, and decided an initial recon was in order before bringing in the remainder of my sleeping gear and toiletries—the plan being to leave the rest of my belongings/seabag in my truck.
Nobody was in today. No sneakiness required. I went back out and grabbed the extra needed gear, bringing it into the office and closing the door behind me. I sat at the desk with nothing left to do, as now living in this simple space meant the only living tasks included setting up and breaking down the “bed,” stocking the mini-fridge, laundry, and managing toiletries.
The craving for lunch came, and I decided to drive to a popular sandwich shop. Normally the meal would either be eaten at home or the office, but I could already see that I did not want to be in the office all of the time—especially on a weekend. A nearby park with an awesome bodyweight fitness trail offered some shaded parking spaces and a quiet place to eat.
Halfway through the sandwich, a 90s-model mini-van entered the parking lot driven by a middle-aged male. There were multiple large clear plastic containers visible in the back, containing blankets and clothing. He parked under a tree in a far corner of the parking lot, rolled down the windows, reclined the seat and took a nap. This was either a guy just choosing to take a nap in the park, or I stumbled upon a vandweller. If the latter, the only question was whether this man chose the van life or fell into it—home-free versus homeless. Hoping he was home-free, it was nice to see someone else in the flesh possibly living a similar lifestyle to what I was trying out.
I decided to hangout in the park longer, reading a book I just started a week prior. I finished the entire book just sitting in my truck, windows open, seat leaned back as far as it would go in the small cab. I guessed this lifestyle would result in beating my yearly reading goals.
As the sun set behind the horizon—and the newly-discovered vandweller still hanging out in his spot—I left and grabbed some dinner on the way back to the office. The front door was propped open—someone was working in the main lobby. I walked in, dinner in hand, and said hello. The familiar tenant asked me why I was in so late, to which I replied “I got called-in.” That settled his interest, and I walked down the hallway and back into my office, closing the door behind.
A few hours passed, and I setup my sleeping gear and prepped my belongings for work the next day. A bathroom stop provided me a reason to check on whether or not I was finally alone. I quietly snuck down the hall to the bathroom, peaking out to the lobby prior to entry. I was finally alone. Seeing as I have always been the first person in the building in the mornings, I set my alarm to just 15 minutes prior to the start of the day—it was nice to not have to factor in the commute anymore.
Lights out. Trying to sleep. Mind racing.
The First 100 Days
I did not keep an exact diary of each day in the office. I kept to a routine of waking up, working, hitting the gym, working, and sleeping. On weekends, I’d hangout in parks, go explore the area, read books, and otherwise find activities away from the office to keep my sanity. I did record a few specific events and issues as they occurred:
I’m a light sleeper. The light creeping through the doorframe was annoying, and turning off the hallway lights would not be a stealthy choice. The second night in the office I simply stuffed a towel along the bottom of the door, which eliminated that portion of the light. Still, the upper and side sections let in enough to continue to disturb my sleep. I needed to create a light seal that would be easy to remove should the need arise. Duct tape to the rescue! I took strips of duct tape and folded a third of it back onto itself lengthwise, so that the adhesive section would be on the door and the now non-adhesive section wouldn’t stick to anything. My office door opened into the office, so it wouldn’t be visible from the hallway. I covered all four sections of the door, and turned off the lights: finally a pitch-black office.
Obviously, the office building was maintained. A single cleaning person would come by every morning and tidy up the place, take out the trash, and clean the bathrooms. I never noticed the floors get vacuumed the whole time I worked there. Apparently, the management contracts that specific task out to another cleaning crew, which shows up between 1:00am-2:00am a few random days per week.
How inconsiderate for us office-dwellers.
The first evening being woken up to the sound of vacuum cleaners roaring was certainly alarming. It occurred to me quickly that they may open every office to vacuum, and I would be discovered and this whole experiment would be a failure. In self-preservation mode, I quickly and quietly packed all of my sleeping gear away, threw my work clothes on, and kicked back in the recliner with my laptop. The plan was to greet them if they entered and use a cover story of having to come in late to fix an issue, which would give me a one-time free pass to change my routine and not end up pissing anyone off.
They never entered. I waited an extra 15 minutes to be sure they were gone, setup my sleeping gear, and hit the sack. Would they ever enter? Was this just some weird one-time event?
A few nights later the same thing happened, and once again they did not enter. I was pretty confident now that their contract did not include the offices, and thus I could safely continue to sleep in the office. This was disturbing my sleep, but that was the cost of stealth.
Other Work Crew
The cleaning crew was not the only late-night disturbance to contend with. Apparently one of the nearby offices was also a workshop for some field of industrial/mechanical parts—which I never noticed before because I never saw it open in the day. Every few nights there was a shift of about five workers who would show up after 8:00pm and start working. They preferred to blast music when they worked, and talk right outside my hallway when taking personal phone calls. They usually finished around 1:00am.
This could only be dealt with through “sucking it up.” Earplugs and headphones do not help me sleep, so I had to just lay down and force myself to get used to it. A few months of this and it became less disturbing.
One afternoon at work I was chatting with building management. They dropped intelligence that a very important person (VIP) with .gov protection would be visiting the building early the next morning for a meeting. I have had prior experience with this .gov agency, and knew that they would conduct a security sweep well before the VIP’s arrival. This was the one time I bugged out of living in the office for the evening, and I reserved a room at a nice hotel: turning this event into a vacation of sorts.
The next morning, I checked out of the hotel and showed up to work on time. My office door was open with the light on, as were all the others. Agents and local police officers with canines were hanging out in the lobby. They had no problem with me going to my office for work, but reminded me to leave the door open, and informed me that they had searched it. Dodged a bullet with that one, and conversing with building management routinely paid off big time here.
Passing The 100 Day Mark
More than three months had passed and the routine was very… routine, much like life would be anyway. It was no different than the common wake up > go to work > work > go home > go to sleep routine that almost everyone follows daily. The only differences were that no rent/mortgage needed to be paid and no commute was involved. I had saved a bunch of money. No specific end date for this experiment was planned, and I did not feel the need for such.
The girlfriend just finished her graduate degree. She was now free to move and live with me wherever we could both find a job, and jobs were open in the area already. This meant an end to this experiment was coming, and once again I would be paying for a place to live. She was worth it—this was not a complaint. However, I knew it would be weird adjusting back to that living situation now that I had really appreciated this office-living setup. She started applying for jobs, most with start dates about three months away. I had better enjoy what little time I had left.
Of course, life would not be life without ups and downs. No sooner after I heard the good news from the girlfriend did I receive some bad news: the building management needed to move my office to another building across the campus—next week. I had five days to assess the suitability of continuing the experiment in a new office, in a new building, and with new tenants.
The new office was roughly the same size of the old, and contained newer furniture and a larger desk. The newer recliner included was a definite step up as well. There was room to hide my sleeping gear under the desk, but a lack of drawers. The biggest concern was the door: it was glass. I mentioned to management that sometimes I took naps between the shift and they offered to have the glass frosted—a great solution. If I had to, I could get curtains and make a barrier myself, but using a standardized option was certainly less suspicious.
Two key-fob entry points granted access to a long hallway. My office was halfway down the hall, leaving no quick escape route. The lighting in the hallway was much less intense than the previous building’s, and I noticed no light fixtures in direct view of my door, meaning I likely would not have to cover the door seal again. There was a single bathroom at the end of this hall, but no showers in the entire building. The parking lot was in full view of the main, well-traveled road.
No security cameras could be seen, but I was lacking one critical piece of information: I had no idea if the tenants’ routines would be compatible with living in the new office, as I had never been here before.
I’d have to live in my truck for a while to observe.
Part Four covering the final 60-days and photos of my one-bag and office-sleeping setup comes out next week.
Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four
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