Tradition Transitions

Tradition Transitions

People have asked, “How will you manage holidays with your family in a tiny house?”  The question is easily answered as our holiday traditions have already begun to take on a new life.  I grew up in a family where you knew how the holidays would behave.  Easter brought colorful Easter baskets, egg hunts, honey baked ham and church.  Halloween was costumes, carved pumpkins and hot spiced wine for the adults hauling kids door to door (those were the days!) Thanksgiving was all about grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathering for the traditional over consumption of turkey, potatoes and pie.

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The end result of a family pumpkin carving session in ’74

Christmas was my mother’s favorite.  She loved decorating the house, the tree and hanging stockings. She made food gifts for friends, neighbors and co-workers. We had a family photo taken every year and stacks of handwritten holiday greetings would flood the mail. This holiday was made for shoppers and my mother did her part supporting the economy.  Christmas Eve commenced with a noisy gathering of family, many of them who we only saw once a year. There was always food and we congregated around the piano to sing off key carols.  The morning dawned with full stockings, the comforting smell of  cinnamon rolls and eggs fantastic filling the house while we settled in around the tree to open gifts.  The unwrapping of gifts would end with a family photo in our PJ’s holding our new loot, and a trip to church. The house would be cleaned and more food prepared for a family of close friends who would spend the evening with us. Husbands and grandchildren were added to the mix and the cycle repeated itself year after year.

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My sister and I in our new robes, Christmas morning 1972.

Change is inevitable and forces the traditions to change as well. In her early 50’s my mother lost the hard fight against breast cancer. Cancer continues to be a contributing factor in the Trek to Tiny and will have an appropriate moment in time to be addressed. My mother’s death was the first major life event that disrupted everything.  Nothing would be the same going forward, a new way of celebrating family and holidays was forced upon us.

Time does it’s thing and marches on. My dad remarried, my family made less frequent trips from Idaho to Colorado and my sister’s family took over much of the holiday duties with the extended family.  I worked hard when my kids were small to create our family traditions, some of which were carryovers from my own childhood.  The accumulation of stuff at Christmas was becoming a silent battle way back when the kids were little.  We went without a constant glowing TV for 12 years, so my young kids were not bombarded with marketing regarding the latest/greatest thing they had to have,  but they were still kids who loved toys and clothes and art supplies and Legos.  I do remember the year my daughter asked for a ream of paper and her own roll of duct tape…a home schooled kid at her finest!

I started to realize early on in my parenting that I didn’t love everything about the holiday season, especially Christmas.  It felt way too busy, the bank account took a hit, and the majority of the work to make it all happen fell upon me. The day the tree and decorations came down and the house was put back into order brought feelings of relief.   You might be wondering where the “reason for the season” is in this scenario and just like Cancer, Jesus deserves his own spotlight in this blog.

The holidays look much different now.

A couple of years ago I asked my kids how they felt about a Christmas tree, and the surprise was NO ONE CARED if we had a tree or not.  Honestly, that was music to my ears as putting up the tree  sent me into a bad mood as I wrestled with lights and taking it down usually required an extra glass of wine. The last couple of years I’ve hung a string of lights on a potted Norfolk Pine, displayed some of the favorite ornaments and everyone is OK.  Last year I watched a new neighbor haul out an alarming number of storage bins and erect every inflatable, spinning, lighted yard ornament ever created.  It was amusing to watch and looked like my own personal worst nightmare.

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My kind of Christmas tree!

I gave away all of our Halloween fodder at a garage sale last summer and much of the accumulated Christmas decorations are the next to go, except for the extra special items that have sentimental significance….although writing that I wonder. “Where will I store those?”  I am closing in on that day when my kids will not be coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I will already be missing one of them this year.

So back to the question, “How will you manage holidays with your family in a tiny house?”  I hope my children intrinsically know that just because I am drastically pairing down our things doesn’t change the fact that they are always welcome in my home, no matter what the square footage.  That the sharing of meals, and celebrations, and family time will continue.  I also don’t discount the reality that I will be able to travel to them and with them, and we will find new ways of making life meaningful not just on holidays but everyday.

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Summer 2016 – Memories in the making

I  will relieve the people who love me with the task of finding the perfect gift as there won’t be anywhere to put it.  Let’s strive for shared experiences and time together.  They don’t have to be expensive or extravagant to be meaningful. A meal, a cup of coffee, a glass of wine, sitting in a park, taking a hike, a great night of music or a fire in a beautiful campground are all experiences that will create memories that last much longer than the new sweater.  I promise to be mindful of the gifts I give so that I am not covertly contributing to others overflowing closets which eventually have to be cleaned out as well.  Don’t be afraid to tell me, “I don’t need anything.”  I totally get it.

Hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving, a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and a stress free season.

Trek in peace.

Hillary D.

Treading Lightly

Treading Lightly

The house that I will begin building in the spring is 8 ft wide and 24 ft long, a whopping 192 square feet that with loft space will settle just shy of 300 square feet.  It has 14 windows, (which by the way is more than the house I currently live in) a full kitchen and bath.  I am finding lots of clever ways to create storage and still maintain a sense of space but the reality is EVERYTHING; clothing, shoes, books, dishes, paperwork, plants, artwork, etc… all must be whittled down to the very basics, there just won’t be room for much else.

My new routine is every time I do laundry or clean the house I create a pile of items I’d like to discard. My methodology is to put the items in question in a pile on the floor where I can see them and let them sit for a week or so.  Every time I walk by I see these items and can think about their importance in my life and whether they stay or go.  Very few things get fished out of the stack and by the time they go in the discard bag I’ve made peace with my decision. The largest items will wait until the end and my kids who are setting up households can take whatever they want which should help make their space feel just like home!

My house is cleared out enough that now I am getting down to the really hard decisions, like photos.  There are FIVE medium sized boxes of loose photos in one of my closets, not to mention the dozen or so large photo albums.  I definitely do not have a place for all of these in my tiny house.  It’s been suggested that I get a storage unit, which goes against this entire process of creating a minimalist lifestyle.  A storage unit would be a magnet for the accumulation of things!  So I am looking for solutions and leaning on the courage of my convictions.

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5 boxes of photos!

My father has been a prolific photographer over his lifetime and many of his photos were in the form of slides.  His slide shows were always great fun as we’d gather around the big screen and relive family history.  My dad has embarked on a project in his retirement of consolidating a lifetime of photos into digital format, stored on flash drives that he has shared with my sister and I. They are a precious gift and are the answer to my photo dilemma.  Technology has some awesome moments and the ability to store thousands of songs, books and photos in the cloud or on a thumb drive is a minimalists dream come true.

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A pile of these won’t take up space!

Going through every box and every photo, fishing out the ones worthy of digitizing will be a big job, fun and I expect emotional. My kids will all receive digital copies of everything and I will consolidate the photo albums so that we each receive one or two hefty tactile archives of our history.  When this project has wrapped, what do I do with the 5 boxes of photos?  Taking them to the dump feels very, very wrong.  I think maybe a ceremonial burning of the hard copies feels more appropriate.  I feel a tightness in my chest with the thought, but by the time I get to the bonfire I will have walked the emotional highway and I hope the flames are cleansing.

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These are the type of items that attics fill up with, the relics of family history. History is important and I am searching for ways to preserve the beauty of our family and life without taking up so much physical space. If you have any great inspirational thoughts on how to handle a radical downsizing I am open to suggestions!

Tread lightly and go in peace.

Hillary D.

 

Tough Decisions

Tough Decisions

The decision to build a tiny house was a relatively easy one. It financially makes sense, it appeals to my creative nature and the gift of time maintaining less than 300 sq.ft. will afford is enticing. Putting the tiny house into motion is where the tough decisions began.  If you’ve ever made a major move in your life you become hyper aware of what you own. Having to touch every item in your home, down to the last pencil rolling around under the couch, is what makes moving such an exhausting experience.

My downsizing began with a divorce, don’t misread, the tiny house idea has surfaced years later and was not the driving force of my divorce! The emotional rollercoaster of dissolving a relationship that has spanned decades was the first line of business at hand, especially when it is not a shared goal with the parties involved.  The truth is that I was the driving force in my divorce, this was not something my ex wanted or anticipated.  We had a lot of years together spanning from our beginning at a Colorado ski resort, to the end raising three kids in a 3500 sq.ft. log home on 5 acres that we had built in Idaho.  Divorce is not for the faint of heart and I believe that many stay in unhappy marriages because the other option is overwhelming. This was not a decision to be taken lightly, divorce hits the family hard and has long reaching tentacles that touch extended family and friends.  The day I left with a moving truck and my three kids in tow was one of the hardest days ever.

I moved into a rental that a close friend of mine owned and they allowed me to bring my dogs and live with a month to month lease as I couldn’t think further out as to what my future looked like.  It was one day at a time and I left with only what we needed. Beds, a couch and a chair, a table to eat and do homework at, dishes, clothing and a few items that had sentimental value.  Everything else stayed at the log home.  We were adjusting from having a large house with lots of outdoor space in the country to living in under 1000 square feet with a small yard in town. The kids struggled and the dogs barked … everyone voicing their displeasure at being uprooted from the only home they ever knew.

This was my first small space and I loved that little house. As a family we were forced to deal with each other as there wasn’t room to disappear like there was in the big house.  Our lives were in chaos but that little house felt cozy and safe.  We spent a winter in the Forest Street house and in the spring moved into another slightly larger home where we currently still live.  Over the last few years we have settled into the Pine Street house, and the 1600 sq. ft. has worked well for us.  The house can be cleaned top to bottom in a couple of hours and the yard is a breeze to maintain as I have removed all the grass from the narrow yard.

The small backyard that requires no mowing!
The small backyard that requires no mowing!

We have definitely acquired more things than we originally began our “new normal” life with.  The emptying of the log home was a long and arduous process over the last several years. The house had closets that still contained the kids belongings, sports equipment, furniture, a library full of books, holiday decorations, photographs, artwork, an office filled with paperwork, and lots of curriculum and supplies from the years of home schooling. There is also a two story shop behind the house that was completely filled with tools, building supplies and anything else that couldn’t be stored in the house.

The log home that housed our lives for 15 years.
The log home that housed our lives for 15 years.

The house was slated to be sold and making decisions regarding the belongings that remained was tense.  I understood that my ex was struggling as he loved this house dearly, the construction was a labor of love.  The kids were not spending time out there for reasons of their own and so he was now alone in this big expanse with reminders everywhere of his family.  Wading through the sea of belongings was at times emotional and other times spawned bickering and high emotions.  Slowly…very slowly, decisions were made.  Several years after the divorce the house was finally sold and now a sense of urgency hit to clear out for good.

I couldn’t believe that my ex had actually managed to empty the shop, that was a major undertaking.  He sold household items at an auction house, gave items away, sold vehicles, and made many trips to the dump.  When he blazed out of town in a motor home pulling a trailer his job was done, but the house still had items left behind.  Beds, couches, lamps, outdoor furniture, a gas grill, bookcases, file cabinets, and lots of misc. items still remained and had to go. The trail of belongings seemed to never end.

We rented a 20 ft moving truck and filled every corner of it, and there was still items left behind.  Luckily the new owners were excited and anxious to take possession and offered to deal with the items I still had not moved and would clean the place as well.  That was a HUGE and generous blessing!  I let my oldest son take whatever items he needed in his house and the rest was sold off the back of the truck in my driveway.  A major hurdle had been overcome.

The winter months are closing in and I will be making tiny house decisions and continuing to downsize while the snow flies. I have an 18 month timeline to build and prepare for a minimalist lifestyle.  My tiny house model is giving me a sense of space and a bigger understanding of what I will actually be able to own!

Playing with space, finishes, and fixtures in my future tiny house.
Playing with space, finishes, and fixtures in my future tiny house.

Looking at my future life inside a little box, I realize that everything must have a purpose and/or meaning. Drastically reducing your footprint isn’t for everyone and there are days that “this is a crazy and stupid idea” thoughts take over and I have to remind myself of why this choice appeals to me, that the trade-off will be greater financial freedom and new experiences.

I would love to hear feedback on your own life inside a box and your feelings about the belongings contained within.

Until next time, keep on keeping on …

Hillary D.

 

The View

The View

I put my daughter on a plane again this week. Waking at 3 a.m. we made the dark, lonely highway drive to the airport for her to continue living the story of her 18th year.  I am learning a lot from my girl, and her friends, and my niece, all inspiring young women who are rolling with the transition of becoming young adults with admiral spunk and carefree courage.  These just of age women have trekked through Patagonia and to Everest base camp. They have explored cities in Europe, the UK, South America and Asia. Work days began on organic farms in Chile, hostels in Spain, orphanages in Nepal, llama farms in Germany, and Yellowstone National Park.  Their friends are now not just the hometown high school bunch but are of all ages and came together from far corners of the world. They earned the money to make it all happen and boarded planes by themselves, not the 18th year I recall from my own youth!

I like long drives with one of my kids in the car, it gives us the time to talk without interruption and often it is where I learn lessons about my parenting successes and fails. On this particular morning my daughter shared that she and her best friend were talking the night before about how old people are afraid.  Much to my chagrin at 52 I am now in the “old” category … seriously.  From their perspective we are afraid of change. Giving up the comfort zone for something new or letting go of our carefully acquired resources for something different.  While I do see adults stuck in unhappy places, jobs, relationships or struggling to achieve the “American Dream”, I know the teenagers lack my perspective of living three times longer than they have currently walked the earth.

My vantage point tells a different story.  The transitions may not of required international flights but they did require courage and steadfast commitment and I am now at the crossroads.  Exiting a marriage of 20+ years and launching 2 of my 3 kids into their independent lives I am now looking at my future differently.  The first realization is that it is time to seriously downsize, so I am learning  how to let go of STUFF, decades of accumulated THINGS.  The reasons for this process are varied but the driving motivation was the decision to build a tiny house. Yep, one of those tiny homes on wheels that are rapidly growing in popularity.  More to come on this adventure of the “Trek to Tiny” as this mid-century woman faces her own fear of change and shakes things up.

Soldier on fellow travelers!

Hillary D.