Where Will I Put All My Stuff?

By Michelle Boyle

If you’re a Tiny House Enthusiast, you have no doubt heard about all the benefits of downsizing. And if you think about it purely from a logical standpoint, having less stuff means having less stuff to worry about, store, clean, pay for, and maintain. And that makes sense, right?

Have you ever considered the other things that clutter our lives? Like relationships? If you think about it, our lives start out pretty simple and then get increasingly complex as we mature. With maturity comes relationships and, literally, the same logic can be applied to those as well. The more relationships you have the more people you have to worry about, store (keep a roof over their heads) clean (or, rather, clean up after) pay for, and maintain (can you say “New shoes for my growing son, every three months!?”).

simple

Question: So, why is downsizing our possessions touted as one of the first steps towards an increased emphasis on relationships; if they both yield the same end result?

Answer: Emotions.

Relationships pay us back by enriching our lives. We share with others, and they share with us. We teach others, and they teach us. We love others, and if all goes well, they love us back. Good relationships feed our soul, give us solace, teach us how to be patient, and how to be empathetic.

Does our stuff provide us with peace, solace, and love?

As people enter our lives they bring stuff. We then start to correlate stuff, to people; we assign emotional value to possessions. For instance, we become sentimental about a painting done by our first grade daughter, and we remember an important life event from a printed program or memorabilia. (This is not a bad thing, by the way.) It’s actually an easy and efficient way for our brains to recall that event. The “bad” part, is that we tend to then become indiscriminate about what possessions we assign value to. Perhaps we don’t trust our brains to remember the “important” events? Or perhaps we want to surround ourselves with things to remind us that we are living a fulfilling life?

The key here is not to assign any value to any things. They key is to use discrimination. And that leads us back to the difficult process of downsizing.

Question: If assigning discriminate value to our stuff makes so much sense, logically, then why is it so difficult?

Answer: Because we are forcing ourselves to re-learn to what and whom we should assign value.

clothing

After purging: I now have only two bins of offseason clothing.
(and three bags for donation!)

So, how exactly do you decide what goes and what stays when you’re trying to downsize into a Tiny House?

Frankly, I don’t know how it will work for you. After all, downsizing is so personal. It’s an entirely different event for each person, bringing with it an entirely new set of baggage (mine is in a bin, marked “LUGGAGE”). I don’t have the answers for you, but here are a few examples of the thought processes that have been playing, over and over in my head, for the last few months. Maybe they’ll inspire you to begin your own….

I had two small, handmade, clay bowls. They were both pretty, and earthy, and made by the students of someone with whom I once had a close relationship. I attended a fund raising event where I paid $10, per bowl, to fill it with soup and then got to take home the bowls. One, I used for pencils. The other one sat in the cupboard waiting for a purpose that it never ended up serving. As I looked at the bowls I realized I was keeping them because they reminded me of how giving I was. As I contemplated them further, however, I also realized they entered my life as a result of a relationship which was now a painful life lesson. Not wanting to be reminded of that pain, they were both recently donated to charity.

Good feelings return, lesson learned, now moving on…

I was raised in a less than affluent family. I did not have nice, or trendy clothes. I got by with the basics but, as a foster child, I was happy to have any at all. As I matured (there’s that word again) and earned my own money I spent a LOT of it in my early 20’s on clothes and shoes. Even if I didn’t need yet another white button down over sized shirt, I bought one because it was on sale, or because I COULD. In retrospect, I believe that the difference between age and maturity is understanding the difference between things you CAN do and things you SHOULD do. Nowadays, I don’t have nearly the stuffed closet and dresser as I used to; but the feelings still challenge me when I shop. “I deserve it.” “I work so hard.” “I want to look good, so I’ll feel good about myself.” These are all tough life lessons that reveal themselves in how we view our stuff.

These are the same tough life lessons that we are forced to re-learn as we downsize.

Is your stuff a reflection of who you are? A parent, a builder, a daughter, a son, a mentor, a gardener, or a philanthropic traveler? To what extent do you rely on things to remind you of who you are, or are your things on display so others will believe that you are, who you want them to believe you are?

Think about it this way. If you have a 12 foot long wall, full of pictures of your children and grandchildren, does this make you a stellar parent? Or does it reflect more on how you wish others to see you? If you have exercise equipment gathering dust, is this a reflection of the healthy person you want to see yourself as? Can and should you, instead, assign that same sense of identity to a pair of running shoes?

sketch of house

While sketching my elevations, I realize how very tiny my Tiny House really is!

Downsizing is really, really, really, difficult. It is sometimes not quite as easy as the “one bin for donations, one bin for keeps, and one bin for garbage” process. The process of even deciding that you want to, and need to get rid of, the emotions you assign to your stuff, and embracing the mental roadblocks; is what keeps most people from even considering a Tiny House.

After all, where would they (or you) put all their (or your) stuff?

My “stuff” (which is a rather thoughtless and crass description of the treasures that will be left) will be creatively and proudly displayed, and some of it may be stored. But in either case, they will be cherished and/or cared for, and a far more clear reflection of both myself and the relationships I have built along the way of building My Empty Nest.

My Tiny House and everything in it will be a reflection of who I am to myself, and nobody else. And yes, that’s a good thing!

Michelle is an outgoing single mom, published author, speaker, patented inventor, blogger, craigslist stalker, enthusiastic Glamper, and Northwest native. Her interest in all-things-tiny-and-old started when she was only 12 years old when she became fascinated with a tiny abandoned farm house near her parent’s home; and she’s been sketching floor plans ever since. With pencil and graph paper in hand she’s more than ready for the next phase of her life. Her Tiny House, aptly named “My Empty Nest”, is the culmination of a life spent dreaming of a tiny reclaimed space, all her own.

Facebook Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Empty-Nest/494081560700467

Blog link: mytinyemptynest.blogspot.com

Tips for Transitioning to a Tiny House

by Jane Roarski

There are plenty of advantages to living in small spaces: fewer possessions, reduced impact on the earth, and lower living expenses are just a few of them. More people are choosing to live more simply, and for some that means using the bare minimum of living space.

While living in limited square footage poses many challenges, a growing number of people are proving that minimizing essentials, combined with some innovative custom remodeling, is enough to meet the task of tiny house living.

Whether your small living space is 1000 square feet or 100 square feet, these ideas can help cushion the transition from a bigger home.

Less is more. If you’re making the effort to live in a smaller space, you’ve probably realized that tiny house living leads to liberation from unnecessary stuff. Moving to a tiny space means letting go of non-essentials. In return, you’ll be rewarded with more time and money, as a smaller home takes a lot less of both to maintain.

storage closet under loft

Storage closets and a kitchen find room under a sleeping loft. Photo credit: Koch Architects.

Love the loft life. Bedrooms can take up a lot of space, but sleeping doesn’t have to. The sleeping quarters in a smaller home are often the same size as the bed itself. With a loft design, the bedroom can be located directly above another room, even though most tiny houses are single level. And when placed on a custom platform, a loft bed can rest on top of essential storage. Continue reading

Staying Organized in Small Spaces

Guest Post by Martha Keagan

Many will agree that disorganization is a pet peeve; for some, a cluttered space means a cluttered brain. Disorganization can be overwhelming, chaotic, unattractive and highly distracting, but unfortunately this feeling is common, especially for those living in a small spaces or tiny apartments. Oftentimes, people feel compelled to hold onto certain things without even having the space, meaning the “stuff” ends up in heaps and disorganization becomes the theme. Of course the opposite is true for minimalists who enjoy living in limited living space specifically because it keeps hoarding under control. An organized home seems lighter and fresh. There are several easy tips you can utilize for organizing your apartment, office or any other small space—even your car! Then, once the disorganized becomes organized, the hard part is keeping it that way.

Learning to Let Go

The first step to organizing a small space is simply letting go. You may have some hoarding tendencies that you’ve allowed to become a bad habit, but for some people, hoarding is a chronic and disabling disorder that may require the assistance of a trained professional. No matter what your circumstance, the first step to organizing is separating “need” from “do not need.” The task of letting go may feel easier with friends or family to help, as identifying which items are needs and which are not is more effective when you have no emotional attachment to the items.

Assign Storage Areas in Every Room

Once you have freed your space from the stuff you do not need, the next step is to assign storage areas in each room. Instead of throwing things “wherever,” there should be a specific places for items like mail, shoes, coats, books and toiletries. Inspired by the demand for clutter free, manufacturers have all types of furniture and storage units for different rooms in the house, many specifically for organizing small spaces. Purchasing coffee tables with inner storage, decorative baskets and stylish wall shelving are all easy ways to store your items in an aesthetically-pleasing fashion.

House Goods in a Garage Storage Unit

Some people may have garage storage units either attached or detached from their living space. These units are typically available for an additional fee and are helpful for those who have items not needed on an everyday basis, but still necessary to keep. Objects like bikes, out of season clothing and large furniture can fit in the garage storage area and free up space inside the home.

Clear Storage Options

Clutter busters that include clear plastic bins, vacuumed storage bags, vinyl shoe racks and glass wide mouth bottles (perfect for items like crafts, food, bedding, toiletries, jewelry, etc.) are perfect for all kinds of items and might even add a bit of décor to the space. Typically, these options fit compactly under kitchen cabinets, beds or on the top of certain furniture. You may want to store and label items for quick and chaos free locating.??

Big Storage Spaces in Tiny Living Areas

Many small studios and apartments for rent are equipped with large storage areas, like walk-in closets, large kitchen cabinets and extra bathroom space. Using these key storage areas wisely will help you maintain organization. With deep cabinets, the trick is to store the items you use less in the back while keeping the everyday items in the front and in the case of a walk-in closet: plastic storage bins can help keep your stuff off the floor.??

Go Digital

Technology has made it possible for us to read books and magazines without needing a bookshelf, not to mention daily calendars, to do lists, and appointments. Going digital is a great way to keep organized, because doing so can cut down on paper waste drastically and uphold a clean and tidy home.

Clean and Re-organize Often

It is so easy to fall back into the un-pleasantries of disorganized living, especially when the living space is on the small side. Re-evaluating accumulated stuff and getting rid of the items that you do not use or need is highly recommended for keeping tiny areas constantly clutter free.

Just because you live in a small apartment doesn’t mean you should force yourself to live uncomfortably; there are plenty of options out there for organizing, all you have to do is find the right one to fit your apartment, your budget and your stuff.

This guest post was written and provided by Martha Keagan who is a full time mother, freelance writer and part time real estate and local apartments broker.