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Seizing the opportunity to live with less

Mathew Arthur, 30, and his boyfriend Reuben Jentink, 24, relax in Mathew's converted van where he lives in Vancouver, British Columbia on February 15, 2013.

BEN NELMS/The Globe and Mail

When Mathew Arthur needed to find a new place to live in Vancouver, he explored all possible options and settled on a small space he could afford to own – a van.

The idea captured his imagination last October and since then Mr. Arthur became consumed with recreating his world to fit into 45 square feet. The 30-year-old graphic designer didn't pursue the project to make a statement about affordability in Vancouver. Instead, it was a design challenge and an opportunity to live with less.

Mr. Arthur moved in on New Year's Day in an alley behind Commercial Drive, settling into a routine of constantly trying to improve his routine.

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"The simpler I can make everything, the better."

Most mornings, he has yogurt and a banana for breakfast and prepares easy meals like sandwiches for lunch.

As a freelancer, Mr. Arthur controls where he works, varying from coffee shops, clients' offices or in the van. His new lifestyle allows him to be selective about which projects he takes on, a contrast from his former 80-hour work weeks.

This leaves more time for his personal life – he's a lot closer to his friends.

"If you are coming over to my house, I am probably sitting on my bed and you are probably sitting on my bed with me," he said laughing.

He has friends over a few nights a week, but no matter what day of the week, he must end it by going to yoga classes. He says this ritual gives him "sanity," but also fulfills a much more practical need – the opportunity to shower.

After a month, he couldn't resist taking a "van-cation" for a weekend, to enjoy simple pleasures like cooking in a real kitchen. It was a welcome break but he was happy to return.

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"I found myself missing my intimate little home."

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