Dishwater Tears

Dishwater Tears

This winter of snowdrifts and deep cold has been a blessing.  Like all big winter years I’ve had some challenges, my furnace became stingy with heat output and the hot water heater took note and is withholding hot water.   I even climbed up in to a very awkward attic space to look at the furnace (thank you yoga!) thinking there might be an obvious part lying on the attic insulation.  There wasn’t,  and if there was I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what to do next, but it was an adventure!  I have no idea how that furnace will someday be replaced with its given location.

These normal home owner issues always bring my head back to the tiny house, and the potential issues that water and heat might face.  The extra time indoors has allowed me to research and plan. It reminds me of pre-trip planning when I’m traveling somewhere new, it’s part of the journey and can save you many headaches before arriving to the destination.  If I had jumped right into building the plans I had purchased I wouldn’t have the redesign that better suits me.

I spent my Friday night tackling the craft cupboard, which holds many clues that we were a former home schooling family.  How wonderful that I work for a school that has two amazing art classrooms, a pottery room AND a Makerspace…I know exactly where all these cast-off art supplies can be put to good use.

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Piles of extra art supplies

Doing dishes over winter break started to get under my skin.  The dishwasher seemed to be endlessly full as well as the sink and the dish drainer … we have too many dishes. I emptied all the cupboards and started a new discard corner in my daughters empty room.  My kids will each receive a box of really pretty items when it comes time to set up their own living space.

I won’t have a dishwasher in the tiny house, so after bringing down the sheer number of dishes we use I decided to go on a dishwasher ban to see how washing dishes by hand day in and day out sits with me.   I ask Alexa to play some music, light a candle on the windowsill, and fill the sink with hot soapy water (when the hot water heater is feeling generous).  Turning this daily chore into an opportunity to think has turned doing dishes into therapeutic motion, there are days the dishwater mixes with tears.

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My therapy office.

I’ll be just fine without the modern dishwasher, both my dishes and my emotions will get a good scrubbing.  I will however need a good supply of this awesome product as my hands take the brunt of cold and hot.

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The best hand cream ever!

Thanks for all the great support and feedback as I share this trek, looking forward to posting my first construction photos in the summer sun.

Be Well Friends.

Hillary D.

The Good Life

The Good Life

My lovely, bitterly cold winter break has come to a close and I feel energized and rested all at once, which I believe is how a vacation should leave one feeling.  The weather is North Idaho cold. Snow drifts are growing with every shovel, plow and windstorm that blows through.  It’s beautiful outside with all the sparkly snow and sunshine and it entices me to enter into the scene outside my window. The icy reality sends me back indoors to my steaming mug of hot tea.

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Everyone has ice sculptures hanging from the house.

The gift of days and days of uninterrupted time was priceless.  I’ve taken great pleasure in the ordinary; cooking, cleaning up the place, reading, continuing to downsize,  and joining fellow winter travelers who are healing bodies bent from shoveling snow in the hot yoga room.  There was leisurely time for meals with friends, long phone conversations, nights of rowdy music and dancing, board games and hanging with my boys.  My dog is in heaven, he follows me through the house so happy I’m here and he learned how to share his space with a puppy.  The school I work for has taken on a Golden Retriever pup who will become a therapy dog (I think she already is!) and I co-parented her for an energetic week.

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Vita and Goliath

This was an awesome opportunity to redesign the tiny house to better suit me and I dove headfirst into Google SketchUp, learning the program and having so much fun living virtually in my future home.  The efforts reinforced to me again that a simple life is a very, very good life.

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The tiny house is taking shape…I love it!

My unstructured days are coming to a close. School resumes and we jump right in to a busy 2nd trimester. My task will be to carry the energy and renewed focus into my open, bright, puppy filled office.  Spring is slumbering under the frozen landscape, but the daffodils are there and will make their grand entry signaling a new season bringing a whole new trek.

It’s storming again, stay warm friends.

Hillary D.

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.