Tuesday, August 26, 2014

First Things First

       If I had to guess how large our current house is, I'd put it right around the 900 square foot mark. While is not very large compared to the average house size in the U.S. ,which is hovering near 2,600 square feet, it is still about 676 square feet larger than what our tiny home will be. There is no way that all of our things will fit in such a small space. So, the question is "How do you even begin to downsize?"
       The task of downsizing can defiantly be a daunting job; especially when you tend to be emotionally attached to most of your material goods. Don't worry! If you really want to start downsizing it can be done and this is coming for someone who as a child used to save all her stickers just incase. . . The answer to the afore mentioned question is "To start small and go slow. "
       A few years ago I had a friend give me an article entitled The Zero Waste Home. (I highly recommend visiting their blog, they have so many good ideas to try.) This article talks about a family in Northern California who took downsizing to a whole new level. Not only was I challenged to identify the items that I use on a day to day basis and get rid of everything else, but I was also challenged to produce less waste. Both currently a work in progress.
      When I started downsizing the easiest place to start was with my own clothes.  I pulled out all my shirts and put aside all the ones I wore on a weekly or biweekly basis. The next part was a bit harder, I had decided that I was only going to keep 7 shirts and I had 10 left. I went through all my clothes in the same manner figuring out what I need in each category of clothing.  This is roughly what I ended up with: 7 casual short sleeve shirts, 7 long sleeve shirts, a total of 4 shorts (2 are denim and and 2 are workout), 3 pairs of jeans, 5 dresses,  and 2 skirts. I have to admit I have a weakness for scarfs, I have  5 (most of them I've bought overseas). If you're anything like me you have few favorite clothing items and wear them almost exclusively till they are unwearable, if this is the case this will be relatively easy for you.
Just so your curiosity is satisfied here is my wardrobe

        I'm cringing a bit for those of you who are not like this, because it's potentially  made this process much harder, but on one hand it's also a great avenue to let your creativity shine through. The most important thing to start with is identifying the clothing you always gravitate toward. If there is an article of clothing which you're hesitant to let go of that's fine. If I know I haven't worn it in a month but I'm still having a hard time parting with it, I'll moving to my thrift box and let it live there for a week or two and if at the end of that time if I still haven't thought or worn it, away it goes.
       All the clothes(or anything for that matter) I decide I don't need are put immanently in a box out of sight while they wait to be thrifted.You know the adage, out of sight out of mind. This helps me avoid the temptation of pulling out anything I've decided to part with.
      My general rule of thumb is that if I haven't used an item in a month (any item, unless it has a very specific use such as my camping gear) It goes in a my thrift box. From there I may let it sit for a week or two and if I still find that I don't need it I'll wish it a fond farewell, but never regret.  Now maybe a month isn't long enough for you. You could say if you haven't used it in six months or a year. It's just preference really or a gauge to help you measure and meet your goals.
       Whatever room you are working on you ask the same questions. "When was the last time I used this?" "What is the likely hood I'll be using it within the next month?" "Will I really regret discarding it?" "How easily is it replaced if I find out too late that, I in all actuality do need it?" "Do I actively use the multiplies of this item?" Really take the time to stop and evaluate what you need to be content. Do you really need all those specialized kitchen tools when you can accomplish the task without them? I can pretty confidently say that in most case you can.
      The practice of downsizing is continual.  You can always find things you don't really need or can do without. Chances are that once they're gone you won't miss them. I know I sure don't.  Another thing to think about is what downsizing looks like for your lifestyle.Your lifestyle is not my lifestyle and everything I do may not work for you. No one will be the same. The goal is for your material goods and even your home to fit the life you lead, whether that means living in a 200 square foot home or a 1,500 square foot home.   The idea is to free yourself from an over abundance of  material items that are most likely not improving your life.
       I find the more I let go of the more life opens up for me. I don't find myself bound to or hinder by the things I own anymore. It's such pleasant relief. We definitely have been very blessed here in the United States. Everything is readily available for us to purchase and yet we almost always have a hesitation to let go of our material goods. We don't have to be what we own. So often the tendency is to let ourselves and others define us by how much we own. Stop it. Please.
      Once I started to learn how to let go I starting enjoying the mundane. No joke, I love to hang my laundry up to dry. I also take so much more pride cleaning my home because I'm not overwhelmed at having to taking care of a lot of stuff and I (usually) know where all my things are. Not only that but when you don't have multiples of the same item you actually tend to take better care of what you do have.
      When I think of downsizing I almost always think of it in conjunction with contentment. Culturally we've been taught to never be satisfied; that there is always something better than what we currently own. Well that will most likely always be the case. So when does it stop? It stops when we decide that what we have is good enough. I'll get off my soap box and close with one final word from William Morris which I think sum everything up, "Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."  

Monday, August 11, 2014

How It Began

I suppose it all began back in 2010 when I was first exposed to backpacking through the National Outdoor Leadership School.  It would be a month of walking about a hundred miles of back country wilderness with all I needed packed on my back. People often gawk when they find out I only had a pair of shorts, one shirt and only two pairs of underwear, (Oh, and did I mention no deodorant!). Oddly enough, setting off with seemingly far less than one needs to live comfortably, life opened up and become beautifully simple.

In the few years since that wonderful adventure I've sought to live a life that simply. So I suppose it's no real surprise that when I first heard of tiny homes I was instantly hooked.  During my husbands last deployment I had somehow come across Texas Tiny Houses. I was absolutely amazed at the creative designs. While I was imaging myself in one of Brad Kittle's homes, thousands of miles away my husband James was looking at Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.  

It wasn't till one of our long distance phone calls when one of us mentioned it for the first time and  we realized that we were on the same page. Both of us were playing with the idea of building our own tiny home. Actually James had already ordered Dan Louche's book, Tiny House Design and Construction Guide and  it was on it's way to my parents house for me to view.  It made so much sense to us, James' military contract was up in October of '14 and we didn't really know what we were going to do next or for that matter if we were even going to get out of the military. What we were sure of was that we didn't want to waste anymore money on rent than we had too.

Time's moved on and up till a few short weeks ago we'd been planning on reenlisting and moving all the way to the East Coast, unless of course something perfect fell in our laps. . .All the while our dream of a tiny home just wasn't shaping up the way we'd originally hoped. That all changed when a good family friend offered us a "way out", if you will.  Now we're anticipating a multitude of changes as we transition from a military lifestyle to a civilian one.

It all begins the end of this October when we leave the blazing hot desert of Twentynine Palms, California for the cooler desert of Lander, Wyoming. There we'll be starting the build of our tiny home, while learning all about running a ranch. That leaves us just about two and half months to plan out our home with the hopes of starting construction almost as soon as we arrive in Lander.  I'm eager to see what this next year will hold as we learn about tiny home construction, to the many facets of cattle ranching. So if you're interested in downsizing, ranching, or just curious about what it's like to build and then live in a 224 sq.ft. space I hope you're able find our many experiences helpful.