Adjusting To Simplicity

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When Peter and I first started dating, we would take weekend trips to the Eastern Sierras to go camping. We would look up at the stars and talk for hours about how we wanted to live a simpler life. We talked about one day living on a sailboat and traveling around to all the most beautiful and remote islands, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city life we had grown so accustomed to. We were both tired of living life according to what society thinks is normal. We wanted something different.

Just last year, circumstances aligned and we had the opportunity to buy a boat and leave our old jobs behind. We found our tiny floating home on the West coast of Florida and moved full steam ahead downsizing and preparing our belongings to move across the country, towing near everything we own in a small gutted pop-up trailer.

With excitement spilling out of us, Peter and I and our two big dogs spent a few days getting familiar with our new tiny home. All the storage spaces are irregular shapes and it was like a giant puzzle trying to make all of our belongings fit. Although thoughtfully engineered, each and every space on the boat was much smaller than we were used to. We stubbed our toes and hit our heads daily. Our muscles ached from climbing around like monkeys. Living compactly inside a sailboat with comparably 360 square feet of living space definitely required an adjustment to the way we function on a daily basis.

Suddenly, the reality hit that we were now living with significantly LESS STUFF. The items we couldn’t part with were stored on the other side of the country back in San Diego, and we only had the few items we brought with us. Gone were the days of walking into a closet to pick out clothes for the day, or walking out to the garage for the exact tool needed amidst a lifetime collection of useful things. We had brought the bare minimum we thought we would need to sail away for an indefinite period of time.

Immediately our boat began to feel like home. It was as if a huge wave of relief had come over us. We were less overwhelmed by superfluous space and stuff. If there was a mess on the floor, it’s because we were actively working on a project and needed those things out. There is exponentially less room on a boat for clutter and the kind of stress generated from having ‘too much’ just magically disappeared. We became more focused on the present moment and our every day experiences.

Although Peter and I had zero sailing experience, we knew that a sailboat was the most economical way to travel around to all the places we wanted to see. We didn’t let the fear of the unknown scare us away from our primary goal. We chose a simpler life and took on the challenge of learning many new skills in order to make it all happen, regardless of how scary it sounded. We learned how to generate electricity from the sun and the wind, how to make fresh water from the ocean and how to propel ourselves with the sails. We learned how to navigate with charts and communicate with long range radio signals. We learned how to read the weather and how to rely on ourselves to harvest food from the sea.

It has been amazing to see how little we actually use, and subsequently how little we actually need. We get by just fine with what we have, without being left wanting for more. We have a small home to call our own, filled with all the things that really matter and it allows us to appreciate those things even more. Sentimental items and favorite belongings carefully placed throughout our tiny home provide emotional comfort apart from the outside world. We love our little home, more than we ever thought we could.

It has been an amazing journey that is teaching us to appreciate the world and ourselves in a new way. We are growing stronger both mentally and physically, and experiencing things we never thought possible. Choosing a life less ordinary and getting back to basics has proven to be the most rewarding and amazing opportunity I’ve ever had, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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5 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN ADJUSTING TO SIMPLICITY

  1. PURPOSE – Take a moment to remember why you chose to live a simpler life. After making a major life adjustment like downsizing or moving to a smaller space, it can be difficult to adjust to such a radical change. Remind yourself on a daily basis of why you chose simplicity in the first place. Was it to eliminate stress? Was it to acquire more time for the important things? Was it to allow yourself more freedom to move around?
  2. PATIENCE – Be patient with yourself. Try to avoid getting frustrated with this new way of living. It can often be a challenge to complete a common task with fewer tools or less space than you’re used to. Just try to do your best. It will get easier with time.
  3. INTIMACY – Allow yourself to become familiar with your belongings and your home on an intimate level. Appreciation and gratitude will grow in you for both the small and large things that make up your life.
  4. CREATIVITY – Get creative with your actions and find new and innovative ways to do more with less. Challenge yourself to use what you have instead of feeling like you need to buy something new.
  5. INSPIRATION – Find inspiration from others who are successfully living a simple life. Learn the possibilities and dream big. Share your inspiration with others too. In sharing your joy and helping others find simplicity, you will ultimately find more appreciation for your own new way of life.

In what ways have you adjusted to simplicity? Leave a comment and share your inspiration!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Helpful Tips For Downsizing: PART 3

PART 3: Take Action

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In PART 1 you learned to START EARLY before you actually need to downsize. If possible, don’t wait until you’re forced to make decisions about keeping or getting rid of your things. You also learned some helpful tips to keep in mind while you REDISCOVER your belongings.

In PART 2 you learned some questions to ask yourself when making a decision on what to keep and what to get rid of.

Now what?

TAKE ACTION

Remember that you have choices.

While choices can be overwhelming for some, it’s reassuring to others. This isn’t the part where I tell you ‘okay, now chuck it all!’ or, ‘you have to donate everything because it’s the right thing to do.’

An action that is right for one person may not be the best choice for someone else. Do what you feel comfortable with and what you’ll feel happiest with at the end of the day. If selling something on Craigslist is more important to you in order to get back part of your hard earned money, then by all means spend the time and effort to get the price you want. If you aren’t strapped for cash or if you’re short on time, consider donating so that your things could end up bringing joy to someone less fortunate.

If you’ve decided to GET RID OF IT, consider the following options:

  • Trash or Recycle: Some things simply come to the end of their usable life and it’s time to say goodbye. When possible, seek out local recycling or compost options before chucking in the trash.
  • Upcycle or Repurpose: Many of the items you might want to throw away could probably be repurposed into something useful or more appropriate for your living space, saving you money in the long run. If you think an item can be upcycled, put it on a new priority to-do list to change its current form and repurpose it into something else. This doesn’t have to be done on the spot but make a point to take action as soon as you have time instead of letting it sit around unused for any longer than it already has. Turn those old t-shirts into rags or move those old photo albums and stacks of papers into the cloud!
  • Donate: Find a local shelter, church, or non-profit agency that is accepting donations. Often times these organizations are even willing to come pick up the goods from your home or office. Another way to donate is by giving your unwanted items directly to local families that are less fortunate and may be interested in taking the items off your hands. This could quite possibly bring more joy to them than you will ever know. Take a photo of the item you want to donate and post it on Facebook or email it to some friends asking if they know anyone who may be interested. Another great idea suggested by one of our Tiny House Blog readers is that animal shelters will sometimes accept old blankets that may not be suitable for donation anywhere else. Most donations to non-profit organizations can also qualify for tax deductions so be sure to ask for a receipt.
  • Sell: A good rule of thumb for selling items is to hold a garage sale for items under $20 and list them on Craigslist or eBay for items over $20. I’ve been extremely successful with selling items on Craigslist. It’s amazing how there is always SOMEONE out there actively searching for the exact thing you are trying to get rid of, and they’ll pay for it! Let the wonderful powers of the internet help you through this process. Remember to always use extreme caution when selling goods over the internet.

 

If you’re not sure what to do with a particular item, it’s okay to DECIDE LATER and store these items somewhere for the time being. Maybe you’re not willing to get rid of something yet, but you don’t necessarily want it out in your everyday living space. Consider the following:

  • For the items you don’t want to store away, keep them in a pile in plain sight, promising yourself to reanalyze them within a few days or a period of time reasonable to you.
  • Pack the items you want to store in an airtight container to keep out mold and bugs.
  • Try to use space-saving containers and organize them as tightly-fitting as possible.
  • Make a mental note of why you are keeping these things or write it down on a note and keep it with the items.
  • Put a piece of masking tape or duct tape on the outside of the container or the back/underside of the item, writing in permanent marker what’s inside or who you’re saving it for.
  • Let a friend or family member borrow it on a long-term basis. Chances are you’ll realize that it’s not as important to you five years down the road. The good news? Someone else is getting joy out of something that you once did.
  • Remember to rediscover the items you put away in storage every few months to see if you’re ready to make a new decision.

 

Last but certainly not least, you will end up with a pile of items you have DECIDED TO KEEP. I’m a firm believer in the old saying, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” If you’re in a tiny house, a house on wheels, or even a tiny floating home, you know the importance of making sure that everything is put away and kept tidy. Here are a few ideas for organizing all the things that matter in your home:

  • Placement: Put each of these items in a place where you’ll see them every day, where you will use it frequently or where you will know how to find it when you need it in a jiffy.

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  • Reorganize often: The traditional spring cleaning once a year is just not enough for most things. Reorganizing often keeps your living space fresh and it keeps you honest with your motives for buying new things or storing old things. It also keeps the important items accessible. Try to downsize or reorganize EVERYTHING in your house once a month or every few months. You’ll be amazed at how differently you will begin to feel about the things you discover!
  • Consumables: Try using up your cooking, cleaning, beauty and craft supplies without replenishing until you feel you have cleared out enough space. If it’s still important enough to replenish, go ahead and buy a new supply.

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STILL HAVING TROUBLE?

Here are a few examples…

  • Recipes: I love flipping through my recipe box filled with all my favorite hand written recipe cards lovingly covered in flour, spice stains and sugar. For new recipes I haven’t tried yet, it’s easier for me to collect them electronically in a series of pdfs and links. Even though I live on a boat, I decided to allocate a little bit of shelf space for some of my favorite cookbooks. Regardless of where I keep them, I do my best to organize my recipes by category to make it easy to find them when I’m looking for something specific.
  • Tools: These are some of the most essential items in my home. Living on a boat requires constant maintenance and repair. Knowing where to find the right tool at the right time is literally a “sink or swim” matter. We have a workbench and toolbox within easy reach containing all of the most commonly used items. It’s also essential to carry spares of just about every working part on the boat, including duplicate sets of sockets, screwdrivers and the like. It’s not practical to keep them ALL within reach so the uncommon tools and spare parts are stored carefully in compartments that are less accessible. Ziploc bags are the most practical way to organize, label and protect parts and tools stored in a boat. They don’t take up any more space than the tool itself and they help protect our belongings from the corrosive marine environment. A very helpful tip we’ve discovered is to utilize the back side of doors. Our boat came equipped with a removable vice on the inside of the engine room door which has come in very handy a number of times. When not in use, it’s out of the way and not taking up valuable space.

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  • Fishing Gear: There’s not too many places to store 30 fishing poles on a boat. One very helpful solution was to clip them to the ceiling of our engine room. This way they are always accessible and they stay out of the way. Installing hooks on the back side of doors or inside closet doors is also a great space saving technique.

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  • Clothes and Shoes: It’s different for every home I live in but on the boat my clothing storage is limited. There are a total of three tiny hanging lockers big enough to fit maybe 7 items each. To maximize space, I fold the items I don’t wear as often and store them below and behind my hanging clothes. Shoes are stored in a homemade organizer with pockets that hangs on the back of my bathroom door. My everyday items are folded neatly into the tiny shelf next to my bed. On that shelf, I like to use a wire basket for easy access to hold my swimsuits (which happen to be the clothing item I access most on the boat).

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  • Pictures: Before moving onto the boat, I decided to store all of my photo albums with printed photographs in them. Some of them are older than I am, and I never got around to scanning them into electronic format. They are safely stored away in plastic crates back in California for when I am ready to revisit them. When that day comes, I would like to dedicate several weekends to spreading out all of the albums and putting the photos in a chronological order to the best of my ability. There are most likely duplicates and some bad photos that can be trashed, and the rest will be fun to look through. Then, I will use a photo scanning app on my smart phone to electronically copy each photo. After they are all transferred over, I can back them up to Cloud Storage or an external hard drive for future use or sharing with friends and family. This is one of the most daunting organizational projects to tackle but I know that if I can get myself excited about what I might find, it will make the process a lot easier.
  • Important Documents: Documents are easy to store in the Cloud also. I already have my important documents backed up and stored electronically. Although internet in the islands is not always reliable, I’m never too far away from the internet if I need to access something important. For the sake of convenience, most of my documents are available at all times on a flash drive or external hard drive which takes up very little space.
  • Crafts: I like to store crafts inside plastic bins or crates to preserve them. On the boat it’s not as easy to do because my storage spaces are so small. Even though I’m short on space, I still keep my craft supplies organized and neatly tucked away for a rainy day.
  • Books: The previous owner of our boat built in some amazing bookshelves. The trend nowadays is to read all books on a kindle or tablet yet I can’t bring myself to get rid of some of my favorite hardcopy books. I’ve brought my favorites with me on the boat and I’ve stored a few bins full of classic books that I’d like to someday pass on to my own children. I’ve already decided those books are worth the storage space, so I’m happy to lug them around wherever they need to be moved to.

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  • Holiday Decorations: There are so many special and sentimental holiday decorations that I’ve collected over the years. Some of them are favorite decorations I remember from when I was a kid. Some of them were given to me by friends and family. Every season, I do sort through my decorations and decide if something really does mean anything to me anymore. Every year I discover a few things that I don’t care to hold onto anymore and it no longer remains in my home. This is another category of belongings where although I can’t bring them all on the boat, I am not willing to get rid of them so they will be stored until I decide otherwise.
  • Furniture: If you have decided to keep furniture items that may not fit in your house, consider loaning them out to a friend or family member for safe keeping. Furniture can be expensive to replace but make sure you really love the pieces you have. If not, get rid of them and wait until the right piece comes along. If you pass by a dresser in your room every day but no longer appreciate it, get it out of there and put something in its place that you love looking at every day. Your home should be a happy and safe place where you love every item you’ve brought into your home.
  • Kitchen Utensils: It may sound silly, but when working with tight spaces it’s incredibly helpful to have even the insignificant items organized. I’ve got three small drawers for kitchen items. The top one is used for the most accessed tools like a spoon, tongs and spatula. The second drawer contains all sharp things like knives, cheese slicer and a potato peeler. The last drawer contains baking items that get used every few weeks instead of every day. If I can train my brain to think in terms of categories, it makes locating the item I want much easier.
  • Kitchen Towels: Instead of taking up valuable counter space, I attached a piece of ribbon to a binder clip and hang my towels in front of my oven. This makes it super easy to pull a towel quickly from the clip and it keeps them out of the way.

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My tiny floating home of roughly 360 square feet is just big enough for me, my boyfriend and our two dogs. We are intimately familiar with every item we have on board which either serves a functional purpose or holds sentimental value. Either way, we are happy to have each and every one of our belongings on board and continue to value the space required to carry that item with us inside our traveling home.downsize-part3-5

It’s also by necessity that we regularly clean out every locker and storage space we have. We are constantly checking for leaks and bugs, not to mention every time we need one item, the entire contents of that space has to be removed to get it out. It may seem like a lot of work but it’s what we signed up for living in a space this small. It has definitely proven to be less stressful knowing every single item we have on board, rather than having a house full of items we might not even know we had.downsize-part3-8

Downsizing and organizing can be both intimidating and exhilarating processes. Hopefully this series has brought you a little hope and a little inspiration to clean out the clutter and focus more on the parts of your life that really matter.

Please leave a comment and share your favorite ways to get rid of the clutter! If you are feeling stuck, you’re welcome to contact me and I’ll do my best to help you ‘sort it out.’ If you enjoyed these tips for downsizing, please share them! You may help bring a smile to someone else’s face :)

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]

Helpful Tips For Downsizing: PART 2

readingmytealeaves.com

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A shelf in the garage, a junk drawer, a desk covered in papers, a stack of magazines, a box of old photos…

Throughout life we tend to collect belongings without thinking about why we are keeping them. We buy things we once needed or wanted and we receive gifts from loved ones and friends. Sometimes we look around our home and think, “where did it all come from?”

I remember when I was a little girl, I would always peek inside one particular drawer in a black antique chest that my grandparents owned. Inside that drawer was a black plastic organizing tray and a small woven basket. Every evening my grandfather would empty the change in his pockets into that basket. He told me I could have whatever he put in there and that it was our little secret. My grandmother knew about it the whole time but I still smiled every time I reached my little hand in that drawer because it was ‘our secret.’ Even as an adult, I would still casually open that drawer every time I walked by just to see if he left me anything special!

My grandparents have relocated many times. Each time they moved, the contents of that drawer never changed. Whichever house they were in, that drawer was always in the same place and that basket was always in the same spot. A few years ago I finally shouted, “these things have been in this drawer for years!” Then, I took everything out and put something else in there instead. Just like that. My grandmother is still working on getting rid of 50 years worth of STUFF!

Only you will know when you’re ready for change. And when you are, I hope these Helpful Tips for Downsizing will make the process a little less intimidating.

PART 2: MAKE A DECISION

In PART 1 you learned to START EARLY before you actually need to downsize. If possible, don’t wait until you’re forced to make decisions about keeping or getting rid of your things. You also learned some helpful tips to keep in mind while you REDISCOVER your belongings.

As you sort through everything, make a decision on how you feel about every item in your house. I like to start new piles to help me remember the decisions I make:

  1. GET RID OF IT – It can no longer exist in your space. It needs to go away or change form.
  2. DECIDE LATER - If you’re not ready to make a decision, put it in this pile until you are.
  3. KEEP IT - It’s important and you’re not willing to get rid of it.

TAKE AN HONEST LOOK AT YOUR MOTIVES

If you have analyzed your motives honestly, there is no good or bad decision. Whatever you choose, it will be the right one for you. Here are some questions to ask yourself when making your three piles:

  • Does it invoke a feeling of JOY for me?
  • Does it invoke a feeling of JOY for someone else?
  • Is it important to me?
  • Is it important to someone else?
  • Is it mine?
  • Was it a gift?
  • Do I need it?
  • Will I need it someday?
  • How many do I really need?
  • How likely is it that I’ll need a spare?
  • If I do need to replace it, how easy will it be to replace?
  • Is it one-of-a-kind?
  • Is it functional?
  • Is it useful?
  • Does it have multiple functions?
  • How much did it cost?
  • How much is it worth?
  • Can I return it?
  • Is the cost of storing it greater than the cost of replacing it?
  • Does it bring up bad memories?
  • Have I used or worn it in the last year?
  • If I continue to store it, how long will it last?
  • Do I have room to store it?
  • Can I make it fit in the space I have?
  • Does keeping it make sense, considering my own personal reality and circumstances?
  • Is it contaminated?
  • Is it worn out?
  • Is it repairable?
  • Can I still wear it?
  • Is it out of style?
  • If I didn’t already have it, would I buy it?
  • No idea why I still have it?

By this point, you have probably emptied the contents of a drawer or a box or a closet into the center of your living room. Maybe you have piles started all around your house.

If this process doesn’t scare you, don’t draw it out any longer than it needs to be. Go ahead and get busy making decisions. For a lot of people it’s not easy to make a decision, which is why they end up with years-worth of clutter. Remember to only do as much as you are comfortable with and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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STILL HAVING TROUBLE?

Here are a few examples…

  • Clothes: A year ago I moved onto a boat and my long term plans involve living in the tropics. I got rid of most of my cold weather clothes and stored the items that I really love and might want to wear again someday. I got rid of most of my office attire since it is highly unlikely I’ll need it within the next 5-10 years. I kept expensive items that aren’t worth replacing and stored those as well. I brought with me more than 10 bathing suits, 8 pairs of flip flops (almost all of which have broken due to the harsh marine environment), one pair of running shoes and a small pile of other lightweight items. Clothes, shoes and accessories are things that require consideration of the future. Are you ever really going to wear it again? Do you really need 40 pairs of shoes, 35 hats and 20 ties? If having that big of a selection brings you joy, then by all means… keep them!!

 

  • Coffee Mugs: Most people only use one mug per day if they are a coffee or tea drinker. Most people also clean their dishes every day or every other day. If there’s a chance you might go 10 days without doing dishes, you might actually need 10 mugs! If there are two people in your household, you’ll need double that. Another thing to consider is favorites. I used to collect ‘favorite’ mugs and I am still particular about which mug I grab every morning. My favorite mug today is not the same one it was 5 years ago, so I know at some point I’ll need to reevaluate the mugs I own. Sometimes they break and I make a new favorite. My boyfriend and I each have two favorite mugs we use (one of which is a to-go style) and we stash a few spares in the cupboard just in case our favorite mugs break or are left behind. I’m sure we’re not the only ones that have left a mug on the top of a car, or on a shelf in a store, or at someone else’s house.

 

  • Kitchen Utensils: Sometimes downsizing can mean choosing between Grandma’s old wooden spoons and the new and improved heat-resistant silicone two-in-one thingamajig. I think Erin says it best in her blog Reading My Tea Leaves about life in a tiny apartment, “I don’t have the space for single-layer spoons, and you might not either.” You don’t have to pick just one, but be realistic about the space you have.

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  • Books: I hold on to books that hold sentimental value and create feelings of joy. I hold on to books that someday I hope to read to my own children. I hold on to books that I want to share with someone someday. I hold on to books that I might want to reference in the future. I get rid of books that don’t mean anything to me, or that I’ve never read and never plan on reading.

 

  • Magazines: These could be very useful, although they tend to be the #1 item that turns into junk in my home. They stack up so fast and I just stuff them in a corner. Why? Because someday I might want to look through them? Sure, maybe. I try to skim through the ones I know I don’t care to read before getting rid of them and I make a new, smaller pile of the ones I still intend to read.

 

  • Recipes: There are billions of recipes printed in books and on the internet. I don’t even like to cook and I still have too many cookbooks. Someday, I plan on developing an interest in trying new recipes so for me, I’m just not ready to part with them yet. I sort through what I can, getting rid of cookbooks or recipes that don’t look appealing anymore. I delete links I’ve saved in my favorites on the computer if I know I won’t ever visit that recipe again. If I decide to keep recipes, I make a new pile of recipes I’ve already tried and would make again, and another pile for recipes I still want to try. I do my best to remember that it’s okay if I’m not ready to part with them!

 

  • Holiday Decorations: Decorations are often passed down and inherited from family members and loved ones. It’s hard to get rid of something that meant so much to someone else. Only you will know if special decorations are important enough to keep or if you are okay with getting rid of them.

 

  • Collections: Okay, so I have a SMALL collection of seashells. Do they make me happy? YES! Can I find a place for them so they are out of the way? Yep! I’ve got handfuls of them stashed all over the boat! It’s the only collection I have left and I’m okay with that. I definitely don’t have room for any more collections though.

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  • Crafts: Do I still have an interest in craft projects? Yes. Do I hope to start making cards again in my free time? Yep. Are my supplies valuable enough to occupy space in my tiny home? You bet!

 

  • Pictures: I know I am not willing to get rid of most of the printed photos I have. They are in albums and boxes and it would take me months to go through them all. Someday I’ll take on that project, but not today. It’s important enough to me to store them, whatever the cost.

 

  • Size: If moving to a new space, you’ll also need to consider whether or not you will have room for everything. Take measurements, visualize the new space. I obviously can’t fit a treadmill inside my boat, but I could probably find a spot to store my card making supplies. If it’s important enough, I can make most things fit.

 

  • Application: Will you really need 6 surfboards if you’re moving to Arizona? How often will you use a snow shovel in Southern California? Will I need 13 kinds of cleaning brushes after moving into a tiny studio? It’s important to be realistic about where you see yourself one year from now, or even 5 years from now, and looking at how your circumstances will change.

 

In the final part of this Helpful Tips for Downsizing series you’ll get a few ideas on how to actually DO SOMETHING with the three new piles you’ve just created!

By Jody Pountain for the [Tiny House Blog]