Monday, February 16, 2015

Tiny House Living

I recently discovered a new book about tiny houses that’s packed with photos and interesting information from people who live in tiny houses; some of them even built their own tiny houses.

Now, while I don’t think a tiny house is for me (we use our basement almost every day for our work and our hobbies), I can see how well the concept works for some people. In the new book Tiny House Living: Ideas for Building & Living Well in Less than400 Square Feet, author Ryan Mitchell shares the stories of a variety of tiny house residents.

My favorite is that of Kathy, a retiree whose son began building her a tiny house without her knowledge (“He knew if he told her ahead of time it would be a much harder sell, so he waited until it was almost done to show her.”) Kathy now lives in the tiny house with her husband, and has found that the tiny house has made some big positive changes in her life:

She can do all that she needs to do in her home, without a mortgage and with very low bills. Her power bill tops out at $25 a month and water is about $12—not because she uses that much, but because that’s the minimum charge to keep the service on….Since she is retired, it is very important to keep her living expenses low and it means that she can do much more, like visit her grandchildren more, go out to eat with her friends more, focus on her hobbies and simply not have to worry about the bills as much…..For the first time she has had the money and the time to visit her grandson for his birthday….

So many Baby Boomers don’t have big pensions waiting for them and were unable to save up much for retirement; a tiny house might be one answer to living successfully in retirement on only Social Security and some modest savings. If that sounds like you or someone you know, you should check out this book!

In the story about Kathy, she says that her friends with large houses are beginning to wish they had smaller homes to care for and more free time like Kathy does. But she says something holds them back:

It’s because they don’t know what to do with all their stuff that they spent their whole lives trying to pay for. They are so inclined to having stuff that it’s scary for them to think of paring down.

To Kathy’s friends, I say “Downsize, people, downsize! Lose the clutter and gain your freedom!”

One more thing: in most tiny houses, the sleeping area is always up in a loft. Who wants to risk falling down that tiny loft ladder in the middle of the night when they need a bathroom? But Kathy’s tiny house has a futon in the living area that turns into a bed, so she doesn’t climb up into a loft to sleep. Smart!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Falling Off the Decluttering Wagon

I was so good when we first moved into our little house. I never let anything pile up on the counters. No more library books stacked on the floor next to the sofa. No more boxes labelled “Miscellaneous” parked in dark corners.

But over time, my old habits began to return. I had been putting Christmas presents that needed to be wrapped on the bed in the spare room; before long, other odds and ends that had no specific parking spot ended up there, and the bed became the parking spot for too many things. It was so easy to just set something there instead of making the effort to find a place for it.

Meanwhile, the closets began to get more crowded. I hadn’t taken the time to pitch something after buying its replacement. Repeat that a few times and pretty soon the lovely feeling of spaciousness in my little closets disappeared.

Then there was the garage. Last year we replaced almost all of our home’s windows with lovely new energy-efficient windows. But the old windows would make a terrific greenhouse in the back yard, so as they were removed from the house, we stacked them in the garage, where we forgot about them until winter came and we wanted to get the cars in the garage.

Combine these incidents with a few others too similar to mention here, and our little house began to feel snug. That’s when I realized I had fallen off the decluttering wagon. The feeling of panic that resulted was similar to the one you get when you can’t zip your pants after the holidays. Yikes!

I did not like that feeling, so it didn’t take me long to become motivated to declutter again. I spent some time going through our clothes, made a stack of items that we no longer needed, and put them in bags in the trunk of my car. I cleared off the bed in the spare room, finding places for everything (and getting rid of a few old things to make space for those new things). The old things were also sent to the car. Then I immediately took them to the local thrift shop and donated them.

Meanwhile, my husband and I discussed the windows and the likelihood that he would have time to make a greenhouse this year (answer: very unlikely) and decided to put them up for free on Craig’s List. They were gone by evening, and both cars made it into the garage. No more scraping off ice and snow before we could go anywhere!

I’m relieved to be back to our uncluttered state, but it kind of alarms me that I fell off the wagon after we worked so hard and got rid of so much stuff when we downsized. It just goes to show that vigilance is key; stay on top of your stuff if you don’t want to fall off the wagon.