It’s not the first time we’re hearing about someone who is homeless by choice. A while ago, we wrote about a man who lives with only 15 possessions and a college student who chooses not to live in a house. Minimalism is a concept that several people around the world are embracing, and Richard from England is one of them. What makes Richard’s story unique is how happy his homelessness has made him, in a world that sees it as a pitiable condition.
I found out about Richard from a video on Vimeo. Although it’s only about 4 minutes long, the video tells quite a powerful story, depicting Richard’s life in his own words. The young piano tuner says he used to live in an apartment with all the modern comforts, and yet that didn’t really make him happy. He had student loans and other debts that he hadn’t been able to clear for several years. And then one day, he realized how pointless it all was. “I remember specifically one afternoon I looked around my flat, looked at my LCD TV and I thought, ‘When was the last time I had time to watch that?’ And then I looked at my Playstation I had never even played. I still had this mountain of student debt, of bank loan debt which I was still scratching the surface of. And in the end, I just thought that the only thing I really value in the flat is the hot shower. Everything else, I can do without.”
So Richard decided to do just that – make do without everything else. He realized that his love of travel was more important that the kind of lifestyle he was living. He wanted freedom to do the things he really loved, and today he’s living his dream. Instead of using the money he earned to pay for stuff he didn’t need or use, he decided to use it on the activities he enjoys. He sold most of his possessions, left his flat, and decided to go homeless. All his possessions fit in a single bag, and he commutes using his bicycle. A couple of boxes of his important possessions have been left at his parents’ house but he says those aren’t important to him either. Today, Richard says it feels great not to be chained to one place or to his belongings.
Richard tunes pianos for a living. When people call on him for his services, they expect a homeless bum to show up at their doorstep. And they’re quite surprised to see him. “Some people, they answer the door, they look me up and down and they ask me, ‘Why aren’t you blind? Why don’t you have a dog? Why haven’t you lit a pipe? Why don’t you smoke?’” he says. “I had this one person who looked me up and down and said, ‘But you’re normal!’ Some people have this idea of a piano tuner being some kind of a weirdo.” The reactions Richard gets to his homeless status are also quite varied. He hasn’t had too many negative reactions, but people are curious and interested to know how he gets along. He gets a lot of questions about how he washes and showers, and if he feels safe.
While the lifestyle of his choice has made Richard extremely happy, he isn’t going all out and promoting it either. “I don’t want to be an environmental nut and say everybody should sleep outside like me.” In just a year-and-a-half he was able to clear all the loans he never thought he’d see the bottom of, and become completely debt-free. This, he says, has made him feel like a free man.
If you’d have to sum up Richard’s philosophy in just a few words, it would be this: “You don’t need material things to be happy.” Wise men have been saying this for thousands of years, and yet our society becomes more materialistic with each passing day…