As I minimize on The Trek to Tiny, really strip everything back to the basics, I realize that I am also learning how to downsize my parenting. Letting go of clothes, and furniture, dishes, and knick-knacks, as well as hundreds of photographs is easy in comparison of letting go of my kids. It happens … they grow up.
There were years of wiping tears and noses and bottoms, folding endless loads of laundry, reading “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” over and over and watching “The Land Before Time” enough that I had a solid affection for Littlefoot the Apatosaurus, and wondering if I would ever sleep again.
During the home school years we made a mess in the kitchen with art, science and cooking. I made everyone cry teaching them math, and we got through it together. We explored the mountains and the ocean and loved our log home in the country with dogs, cats and gardens. I spent what felt like forever skiing the bunny hill on Schweitzer teaching the three of them to make “french fries” and “pizza wedges” while sliding downhill. We practiced Taekwondo, learning forms, and weapons and self-defense. Sweating our way through the stress of belt tests the four of us discovered how to encourage and persevere. Taking on an exchange student for a year added another culture and more love to the mix.
The summer before our family life unraveled with a divorce we sang and danced our way through “The Music Man” unable to erase the hours of rehearsals from our psyche.
“We can be cold
As our falling thermometers in December
If you ask about our weather in July.”
“Iowa Stubborn” and all the other catchy tunes brought us closer to our community and we had opening night jitters and closing night elation. Other productions followed with same excitement and late night rehearsals.
The kids made it through high school, learning that “this too shall pass” when the stress and social challenges of being a teenager become overwhelming. The youngest will be entering in to his senior year this fall, the empty nest is looming. I’m so grateful for the adventures we’ve shared, the slums of India, beautiful back-country scenery and impossibly long bike rides.
And so, I am learning to downsize my parental worries and tasks, and telling myself everything is OK when what feels like long stretches of no communication become the norm as my kids build their young adult lives and independently discover the world in which they live. The fact they are able to do those very things means the parenting wasn’t perfect but it was successful.
For now I enjoy it when the kids trickle in and out of the house for visits, and soak up this last remaining year with the baby of the family. Truth be told, I am excited about the next chapter for my life!
Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Steve Jobs
I spend my days with teenagers, lots of teenagers. When sickness settles in the area I am sure to be exposed. Sometimes you get lucky and avoid all the nastiness and other times it just can’t be avoided. I’ve been home from work for a couple of days so that tells you where my luck ran out. I’m a little stir crazy with time to think, and this project, the deconstruction of my life in order to reassemble it into something new has its moments. Times of pure excitement and energy to move forward and other less enticing periods of panic and fear. I’ve been here before, fearful of change, because what if the outcome is worse than the current status? I know there are people out there that think I’m crazy for wanting to live in a tiny house, and there are days that I believe them. In those quiet spaces where I can hear myself think, the voice that resides in my comfort zone gets loud and sounds something like this…
“You’ll hate living in a small space.”
“This is a crazy idea.”
“What a stupid waste of time and money.”
“You’re not smart enough or strong enough to pull this off.”
“What if this is a giant disaster and mistake.”
This grand step into a tiny house is not something being forced upon me. I could easily continue on with life as I know it, making safe, well-traveled adjustments as needed. There are a lot of moving pieces designing this future lifestyle, the actual house sometimes seems the most straightforward. When the voice of fear is taking over my head, I take a deep Ujjayi ocean breath and think about what is good.
The number of discarded items is growing steadily, over 1200 items so far and I don’t miss any of them.
2. I’m taking better care of myself striving for greater mental and physical stamina.
3. My emotions are open to whatever they need to be.
I have moments of that “peace that passes all understanding” which indicates to me that I am spiritually on the right track.
I think the fear is attached to the subtle hints of the spring that is coming soon…a little more light everyday, much friendlier winter temperatures and lots of birdsong. Spring will also bring action.
1.The purchase of a trailer…I haven’t figured that one out yet, but have done my research and am narrowing it down. Still have a couple of local options to explore.
2. Quotes on a material list … I sorta have one of those.
3. Decisions on windows and front door so framing details can be worked out.
4. Figuring out my “power budget” so I can price out a solar system.
4. The organization of the build site …
AKKK … the list goes on and on, opening the door wide for doubt. I haven’t invested much in the way of money yet.
The greatest investment has come in the countless hours going into research and design. I’ve taped an outline of the house inside my house and am feeling out the movement of 286 sqft … and loving the design challenges! I doodled the featured photo while on a beach in Mexico years ago, I must have needed reminders back then as well. Fear is a giant brick wall slowing down everything in my path. Time to climb over the fear as the Trek to Tiny gains altitude.
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.
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.
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.
With 2017 right around the corner, pour love and light into your world …
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;
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 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!
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.
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.