Honor the Ending & the Beginning

Honor the Ending & the Beginning

Honor the Ending – The journey of a year is drawing to a close. Honor the lessons you’ve learned, and the people who helped you learn them. Honor the journey your soul mapped out for you.  Trust all the places you’ve been.

Honor the Beginning – Beginnings hold the promise of new lessons to be learned, new territory to be explored, and old lessons to be recalled, practiced, and appreciated. Beginnings  hold ambiguity, promise, fear, and hope.

Melody Beattie – Journey to the Heart

2016 has come to a close and 2017 has dawned with a full on blizzard. It feels good to be hunkered down with a cup of hot coffee in a quiet house with nowhere to be, the perfect opportunity to reflect and think, to honor the ending and the beginning.

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2016 Ending in Brilliant Sunlight

The 2016 journey has never been boring, it was full of insight and brought a focused energy to the new year.  Laughter, tears, hope and faith lived together in the perfect harmony they were meant to have.  My family, friends, coworkers, students, furry companions, community and our nation taught me infinite lessons.  Through the beauty of compassion, generosity, and forgiveness and through the uglier sides of anger, bitterness, and pride the lessons came and I am a better human for all of them.

I look forward to this up and coming year, the unfamiliar territory ahead contains both excitement and healthy fear.

Tiny House 2017

My tiny house model sits on a top bookshelf in direct view of my favorite seat. I look and look and look at that future life I wish to live and the model allows me to walk through the space whenever I desire.  I had an electric moment this week when I realized that the floor plan is WRONG, that is not how I move through my life.  I recognized this because I’ve been paying close attention to my rhythms and movement at home.  By taking a moment to acknowledge the fact that I really only use a couple of feet of counter space to prepare the meals I love to cook, or that I appreciate a cozy place to nap, read or watch people build tiny houses on YouTube.

My current plans are beautiful, and the house has the vibe I like, but it is not my house.  So I started all over, better prepared to incorporate design that is going to be perfect for me. I am breaking free of the “resale” mentality and embracing the process of creating the house that will truly house me.  This will be one of many lessons in resiliency in taking a step back to make better forward progress.

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2017 Bringing in the New Year with a shovel.

The snow continues and the wind is strong, creating new blizzards with each gust.  I am out in the storm, along with an old woman bundled and walking a dog and some kids squealing down the street.  You either deeply resent this cold season or you love it … I love it.  Many years ago I stood at the top of the Northwoods Express (elevation 11,500) on Vail Mountain. We had caught the last chair before  they shut down the lift due to the wind and heavy snow.  I happened to be perfectly dressed that day, my hands were warm, my feet were dry, my goggles were clear and my body felt good.  It allowed me to revel in the power of the storm while whooping and hollering as we had the ski hill to ourselves with fresh Colorado powder falling fast.

On this first day of 2017 as the Idaho snow envelops me I feel that same awe and excitement of being in the storm … honoring the beginning.

May you all rock your 2017!

Hillary D.

 

Simple Is A Feeling

Simple Is A Feeling

It is the day after Christmas and I feel content.  My family cooked together, watched Bob Ross paint a winter scene on Netflix (sounds boring but we laughed and laughed and were amazed) stood around a fire in the snow with the dogs, listened to music, attended a candlelit solstice yoga class at Sandpoint Hot Yoga , walked, worked a puzzle, shared meals with friends and enjoyed each others company.  It was a simple and beautiful winter scene.

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Stunning snow covered Lake Pend Oreille;

I am grateful to my friends and family that understood that both my kids and myself don’t need much.  Gift cards, a paid month at the gym, a massage, books, Christmas money and music were some of the thoughtful gifts received.  Nothing needs to be exchanged, and we do not need to find closet space to house a giant haul of gifts. With all the recent purging it feels exactly right.

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A gift of tiny succulents, perfect for a tiny house!

Occasionally here in North Idaho we will experience earthquakes, nothing terribly devastating, just enough of the ground shaking to look at one another and say “Did you feel that?”  It catches your attention, provokes some conversation and we move on with the day.  This week while I was finishing another collection of items for the donations pile, I stopped and had that same earthquake sort of moment.  Suddenly I thought, “I can feel it.”, the house actually FEELS lighter.  The realization stopped my busyness and I thought … this is it …. this is what simplicity feels like.  The house is gaining space, some of it hidden in drawers and behind closet doors, but the open space is there and I can sense it.

I am also noticing that since the house is already free of much clutter, keeping it that way takes very little of my time.  It’s nice to come home and have a tidy space to greet me.  This week my kitchen will receive some attention,  digging into the corners of the cupboards, pantry and fridge. My guy has a habit of dating jar lids when he opens them, which at first I thought was rather OCD, but now I know exactly how long that favorite salad dressing has been sitting on the shelf and really should be tossed!  Sounds like the perfect detox for the new year.

May your season also be filled with simplicity,  the people you love, and the miracles that surround us every day.

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With 2017 right around the corner, pour love and light into your world …

Hillary D.

Reality Check

Reality Check

Sometimes, the road ahead is blocked, but clearing the way becomes part of the journey. Learn to tell when it’s time to let go, to surrender, to search for another road, a different path, another dream.  But also tell, when it’s time to move forward, through obstacles if need be, because the dream is electric, charged by Divine energy and love.  Melody Beattie

I’ve purged, and purged, given items away, had garage sales and dropped off garbage bag after garbage bag of clothes, books  and random household stuff.  The hard reality is I am not even close to being where I need to be.

Let’s talk clothes.

I am not an aggressive shopper, I like a new skirt or pair of shoes but shopping is not how I fill my free time. It’s why it is easy for me to live in a town that does not have a mall, at least not the kind of mall most of America would consider worthy. Our mall here has ONE clothing store (JC Penny’s) and the boutique shops downtown generally are priced higher than I am usually willing to pay for clothing, as a matter of fact some of my favorite clothes were a thrift store score.

Folding a recent load of laundry the reality set in that I still have way too much clothing for a tiny house closet.  I want plenty of time to experience living in a minimalist fashion before moving in so that I have one less adjustment to make.  Curious as to where I really stand with clothing I took inventory and it looks like this;

Hoodies (9), Fleece (5), T-shirts (30), Long Sleeve T-shirts (20),Sweaters (18), Sweatshirts (2),  Tank tops (16), Shorts (12),  Shoes (27),  Skirts (17), Dresses (3), Jackets (7), Coats (7), Hats (9), Scarves (23), Belts (9), Yoga Clothes (23), Workout clothes (5), Pajamas (5), Jeans (7),  Capris (6),  Slacks (10), Tights (9), Winter Layers (6), Blouses (24), Vests (4), Jackets (7), Coats (7) … God forbid, have I missed anything?

That totals up to 312 pieces of clothing, after what I thought was downsizing.  This has me seriously looking at my lifestyle and what clothing I need to support the life I actually live. Twenty seven pairs of shoes … there is no way I will be able to store that collection in the tiny!

I have to keep coming back, and keep coming back to my WHY. Why am I  taking such a hard look at my belongings and my life.  It is a growth process of figuring out what I value the most and removing anything that distracts me from those values.  I remind myself that minimizing my belongings is not about what is being taken away, but more about what it will add to my life.

It’s the Christmas season and a tough time of year to buck the powerful system of consumerism that is prevalent in our country. I had to take my fast growing teen son out to get some clothes today.  We dropped off bags of our discards at a local thrift store and went inside.  He found 3 pairs of pants that fit perfectly, were stylish, and cost us all of $10. I managed to peruse the racks of clothing and found several items that were loudly calling my name, but I remembered the bags we had just dropped off and the 312 pieces of clothing still in my closet and walked away feeling mighty about resisting the urge to buy.

I am challenging myself to a ban on buying (except for gifts for others), and will let you know how long I last before some material item causes me to spend. It won’t be long until spring and then the tiny house buying spree begins!

Thank you to those of you who are reading, commenting and encouraging me … I need you!  There will be more updates as I to learn to let go (220 items and counting) as I march towards the tiny house.

Enjoy the Trek, and Love Abundantly.

Hillary D.

Fit to Build

Fit to Build

So the plan is that I will build  much of my future tiny house myself, with help from my boys, friends and other skilled people who have offered their talents to the project. I know this is possible because I’ve seen other women in my stage of life successfully pull off their projects with great results. I do however, know my limits.

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One of my favorite tiny house builders,               Karin Parramore .

I do not love heights, and am not convinced it is a fear I wish to conquer, so the roof installation by a professional is probably money well spent.  I would rather not burn the house down, so the expertise of an electrician friend will be much appreciated and I am sure there will be many other instances where I will not be too proud to ask for help or advice.   In addition to books and online forums, YouTube has become a fantastic resource for every aspect of building a house on a trailer. A few of my favorite channels are Ana WhiteLife Inside A Box, and Tiny House, Giant Journey.

I also know my physical, emotional, and mental health need to be in tip top shape.  So I am preparing myself for the rigors well in advance.  I am working to get strong, primarily to avoid injury.  There are a couple of local businesses I’d like to give a shout out to who are integral partners in creating greater strength and wellbeing and are a part of my tiny house journey.

My  favorite place to get centered and sweat is at Sandpoint Hot Yoga.  I decided in October of 2014 that I would actually start PRACTICING yoga and not just dabble in it when my body felt beat up.  I had never done any hot yoga before, and to be honest,  I truly hated it at first.  Sometimes all I could focus on was how much longer will this last, or I’d think about what I had to do that day, or a breakfast burrito sure sounds good, or why does it have to be so hot, and dang … yoga is HARD.

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This looks relatively simple…until you attempt to do it correctly.

I’ve learned to appreciate the different styles of several great teachers but one in particular has really changed my life.  Nicole Murray who teaches Power Vinyasa classes has taken me farther than I believed I could go.  She has taught me how to let go of my ego and more importantly how to breathe, or to remember to breathe, or to breathe in new ways. You would think that remembering to breathe wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but trust me, you forget and breathing makes all the difference.

Starting hot yoga was intimidating for me, I am not the typical lithe thin yoga body. I have boobs, and hips and a menopausal mid-section so stepping into the mirrored room with young bendy bodies didn’t exactly provoke overwhelming levels of confidence.  But, I had made a commitment to keep showing up,  so I did.  Having a teacher that encouraged her class to try and fail and try again, gave me the encouragement to keep challenging my balance and my flexibility, and mental stamina.  Nicole even appreciates the yogi that comes in and just lies on their mat in the heat for 65 minutes, because that is all they can give that day.   I sweat, and I fall (sometimes in a spectacular manner with sound effects and all) and I keep on going.  I listen and persevere with patience and acceptance and have made progress.  Whether I actually achieve my desired poses, I now BELIEVE that I can, and that I can also build a house.

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Someday …

Knowing the materials for my house are HEAVY, I thought it couldn’t hurt to increase my strength so I started working with a trainer that I have known for many years.  Missy Balison  has me sweating buckets while I lift what feels like impossibly heavy weights and she asks for more burpees than can possibly be good for you (wink, wink!)  Missy has a colorful studio, well equipped with a vast array of exercise equipment to keep things interesting. She is another instructor that creates an encouraging environment to explore your limits, not to mention the wealth of knowledge Missy possesses regarding all things nutrition and exercise science. I like the camaraderie of the other women who have also had to get dressed, tie their shoes and venture out into  the still dark morning to tackle their own goals.   If you are reading this from outside the Sandpoint area she also has an active online training program, you can check out her services here or on Facebook.

These teachers and the environments they create are one more building block for my future life that is forming and I want to say thank you with deep gratitude for the knowledge and passion for their craft that they share.  Women empowering women is a beautiful thing.

Trekkin’ and Sweatin’ and appreciating the little things along the way …

Hillary D.

The Scoop on Poop

The Scoop on Poop

A desire to be able to live off the grid without any infrastructure,  brings up a number of logistics that need to be worked out, one of the biggest being water use. Traditional  toilets use an average of 1.5 gallons per flush which has me thinking.  I will not be on a well or city water hookups and will have somewhere around 40 gallons of water in a holding tank, enough for daily use of cooking and dishes and a shower.  I am now practicing the art of a quick shower and have the health club, yoga studio, school or Bill’s primary residence when the necessity for a long hot shower should arise.  If I am flushing a toilet 3 or 4 times a day … that makes filling the holding tank a real and constant chore.

Bathrooms can often be an interesting adventure. The facilities in India were a problem for me, I have bad knees and it was typically an urgent visit!  I never did figure out how the women wrapped in saris were able to gracefully navigate this option.

 

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Troublesome for bad knees!

 

I had close friends who lived off grid and had an outhouse. It was nice to sit there looking out the screen door into the woods. However,  I never made the walk in January,  in the dark,  in a snowstorm. I love to camp, but pit toilets are not my favorite pit stops.

 

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No one loves these.

I’ve never quite understood the desire for a bathroom that rivals the size of a small bedroom.  I’m just not one who has the need to luxuriate for long periods of time in the bathroom. I have a very small master bath now and it suits me just fine, I get in and get out and get on with the day.  My tiny house bathroom will have a shower, a sink and after much research … a composting toilet.

There is a surprising amount of information and talk out there regarding composting toilets.  The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins is one of the more popular books educating interested off-grid, eco-minded folks on how to install, use and recycle the waste from a composting toilet.

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If the thought of human manure makes you squeamish, trust me, I’m right there with you.  There is a learning curve associated with any sustainable living and this is one of them.  I have read many, many other blogs of tiny house people who are using composting toilets and they all swear that they are easy to use, friendlier to empty than a black water tank, and most importantly … don’t smell.

Some tiny house occupants choose the five gallon bucket/sawdust method while others prefer a Nature’s Head or the Separette  composting toilet.  The manufactured toilets separate the urine from the solids which controls the awful sewage smell that no one wants to scent their house with, especially a tiny house.  The urine is diluted with water and can be used to water the yard (we’ve probably all peed outdoors at some point in our life!) the solids are mixed with peat moss, agitated and have a fan that constantly runs drying things out and venting to the outdoors.

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I can’t say I’m totally sold on this method of waste disposal, but I’ve never tried it either so really I’m just fearful of what is unfamiliar.  With three kids, I’ve changed hundreds of unpleasant diapers and survived those years without lingering trauma as well as digging cat holes in the backcountry, so I am confident it will all work out.  Not to mention, there are PLENTY of modern facilities available everywhere for a traditional bathroom visit.

So that is the scoop on poop.

Keep on trekking … and SMILE!

Hillary D.

One Hundred Twenty Days

One Hundred Twenty Days

Building a tiny house brings up every decision that would be made in a  McMansion, I’ll just need a lot less 2×4’s and fewer granite countertops.  One of the first hurdles to overcome is location, where will this house on wheels live?  While I will have the capacity for mobility, this is not the vehicle for touring the National Parks.  My little vintage camper is for sightseeing mode and you can read about that restoration here in Tin Can Tourist

ZONING LAWS

I’ve learned a lot about zoning laws around the country and where you can and cannot park and live. Some states are tapping into this movement and see the benefits of allowing unusually small homes to park in backyards or bypass minimum square footage requirements for a small house on a foundation.  There are  tiny home communities cropping up around the nation. Colorado, Oregon, California, Texas, Florida and North Carolina all have locations that support tiny homes.

Tiny house village in Mt. Hood, Oregon

While I have a tremendous amount of wanderlust to be satisfied (I like to explore a new city, walk a terrific beach or embark on backcountry adventures) but Sandpoint is my community and I would really like to continue to call it home base. After 23 years I still never tire of the scenery, love the walking lifestyle and small town vibe. Winter brings snowshoeing and skiing at Schweitzer mountain and in the summer Lake Pend Oreille is a fantastic playground.

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The shores of Lake Pend Oreille taken from a hike in the Green Monarchs.

 

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Sandpoint, Idaho

My local research began with looking for a lot or land to buy, with the right parcel I would consider a very small home on a foundation.  Sandpoint city lots are ridiculously expensive and there are roughly $20,000 in fees and permits before you even begin to swing a hammer, which would put me back into a mortgage scenario.  This is a very rural and beautiful corner of the earth and I began looking at the outskirts for possible land.  The further out I looked the land prices improved, but took me miles away from the community I love.  I decided I didn’t want to be locked into a particular location and that the house on wheels was the way to go.

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The clean lines of the Hikari Box house, my personal favorite.

The state of Idaho has classified these tiny homes as RV’s.  The county in which I live mandates that an RV can be legally lived in 120 days a year, which poses a problem for someone looking to live tiny full-time. I am not alone here in the tiny house journey and have connected with others who are already building and forging ahead, some of them already living in traditional RV’s while they are building.  My gut tells me that if your far enough off the beaten path and there is no one to complain the county looks the other way, or just plain doesn’t care.

My partner Bill (yes in this politically charged year … we are Bill & Hillary) has graciously offered up a corner of  his yard to build my house and it can remain there as long as I would like.  Our relationship has never been terribly conventional and while we have a high level of compatibility, we both agree that maintaining separate residences works well for us (even if he can see my house in the back yard!)  At 6’2″ he is slightly skeptical at how well he will fit in a tiny house, but he  gets where I am headed with this life shift and is very supportive.

(I just shared Bill’s  blog debut with him, and he said that he is building a wall … or could be fencing…something to keep the illegal tiny house occupants out.)  Ha!

Bill was caught in the wave of one of the largest local employers (Coldwater Creek) going bankrupt and closing down and moved from a large home in the country into a small rental he owns just outside the city limits on a healthy plot of land. It truly is a beautiful and ideal location within biking distance to all the amenities of downtown. The tiny house will be visible from the road and is sure to draw some attention, it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

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My house plans, looking towards the kitchen and loft.

The first line of business is to start the project and bring it to completion, which I hope to accomplish within 12-18 months.  The timeline is realistically luxurious as I do have a full-time job (although working for a school affords me generous amounts of time off) and I want to allow space for other recreation and relaxation with friends and family. It also provides my youngest son time to finish his senior year without the disruption of a major household move.  In the next 24 months if nothing has changed with the county ordinances, I will spend as much time as possible (apparently 120 days) in a house that is paid for, hang out with Bill and pull the little camper all over creation.

Buying the trailer will be my first large purchase that will bring the project to life.   I will be sure to post a super exciting picture here when it is in my possession and situated in the building location.

Until then keep on Trekking with courage …

Hillary D.

 

 

Tin Can Tourist

Tin Can Tourist

Once I got past the sale of the family home, (which I managed without hiring a realtor) and disposed of all the leftover stuff, summer rolled in.  Growing up in Colorado birthed a never-ending love of the mountains. The quiet, pristine scenery fills me in so many ways and I am surrounded by beauty at every turn here in the Northwest.  I love my lightweight, 2 man tent and have found the RV scene a curious one whenever I am in a campground.

 

My son and I took a spectacular weeklong backpacking trip into the Eagle Cap Wilderness, and at the end of the trip I had rented a yurt in the state park. Walking out of the wilderness into the RV city was overwhelming, one family actually brought a U-Haul full of stuff deemed necessary for camping.  People rolled out carpets, strung lights around their sites, hung their favorite football team flag and there was every toy imaginable on display. One campsite had a chalkboard menu of their planned gourmet dinner, which spiked our hiker hunger.  We found humor in the campground after spending days of not seeing other people in places like this…

 

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Mason taking in the beauty of the Eagle Cap Wilderness

 

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A 9 mile ascent brought us to Ice Lake

 

 

As the idea of building a tiny house was forming, I started to think that a small camper might actually be a great addition for the travel that the house was going to afford me. A tour of the National Parks is high on the list of wanderlust.

 

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What a great road trip!

 

I don’t need anything to large or obnoxious, but a roof that would keep me dry for extended trips started to resonate. If you’ve ever camped in the rain you understand, and it rains in the Northwest …frequently.  Instead of a yurt at the end of a backcountry adventure, there would be a small camper, (my son has voiced his concern about using a microwave on camping trips, I assure him that microwaves and TV are not on the camping agenda!)

I fell into a sweet deal on a sweet truck. A one owner 1997 Ford that was loved, garaged, fully loaded with a tow package and low miles …

 

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My 20 year old truck!

 

Then my boss at the school decided to sell her family camper as she no longer had a truck to tow it with….the universe was aligning!  I jumped on the opportunity and landed another great deal on the perfect little camper. At 16 feet it would be easy to tow and was just enough space to get out of the weather if needed.

 

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My National Park travel trailer.

 

My boss did honestly reveal that the back window had a small leak.  I knew enough to know water & campers were not good friends.  Upon further inspection I found this…

 

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Water = Rot

 

And so the restoration began and led to this …

 

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Let the demolition begin.

 

Bill took on rebuilding the back end while I ripped up all the flooring, painted the interior, made new box cushions and curtains, butyl taped all the windows, and installed new J-rail.  Needless to say the learning curve regarding travel trailers was substantial and as the deconstruction began I knew that this was great for camping but for full-time living I wanted the solid construction of a tiny home (so many staples hold these together!)

 

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My workshop

 

I spent a lot of time in this tight, cozy space and began to understand more of what living in a tiny house might feel like.  At the end of a work day I would sit at the table and make notes and think about the first trip I would take in my little gem.

Bill and I set a deadline for the camper restoration with a trip to Lolo Hot Springs where his band was playing.  Like most construction efforts the project was bigger and would take longer than we thought and after a long trying day to make it doable, we ended up in a tent for the trip.  It was late September and the first night brought a hard frost and VERY cold sleeping conditions, making the travel trailer all the more attractive.

Come spring I hope to get the trailer project finished (we are close!) so that I can focus on the tiny house build and use the camper to get out of town and decompress when the build hits roadblocks or fatigue…and it will.  The little camper will also serve as overflow space for those times when I may need to house more than 4 or 5 people I love, or the kids want to stay up late making noise.

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Renovated interior…looking forward to sipping coffee, writing and seeing new places.

 

Thanks for following The Trek to Tiny, and until next time Be Kind, Life Is Short …

Hillary D.