Monthly Archives: August 2011

“That would be smaller than my garage!!”

I was sharing with some friends my dream of moving into 400 square feet last night. I paced out their living room to show the woman about the size house I want. Standing in that room, I could very much see 400 square feet working fairly well for me. Very open floor plan, built in furniture, bed not in a room but in a “closet” with folding doors so it could be part of the floor plan at night and shut off during the day, a kitchen on one end, a small bath… I’m excited about the possibility.

This couple knows some people who live or have lived in a fifth wheel. They know someone who’s lived off the grid. The man was excited about the possibilities. It’s not that he’d want to live that way himself, but the challenge of finding a way to make it work. It is, in a way, for me too. Just a challenge. At the same time, I can see myself living happily that way. I started looking for land the other day. Maybe, just maybe, this could work.

So much Stuff!!!

I live in a 1900 square foot house. By myself… well, with two cats. Looking around, I have to take that back. I live in 300-400 square feet. The other 1500+ is storage space.

When did I accumulate these things? I have two 12-place settings of Corelle. I have two couches, three rocking chairs, a settee, and an overstuffed chair. I have two beds. (Keep in mind I live alone.) I have three dining room tables…. the list goes on. I have enough clothes to supply several families. I wear less than 1/4 of them. Of approximately 25 pairs of shoes, I wear about six.

Welcome to my world. I am not a collector, I’m a keeper. Like my parents and grandparents before me, I’ve found it easier to “tuck things away” than to give them away to people who might use them, recycle them or donate them. I looked around one day a few years ago and realized that space is wasting my life, time and money. A larger house costs more to heat, cool, maintain, and insure. The taxes are higher. It costs more to furnish. And furnishing it costs time and money in maintenance, upkeep, cleaning, dusting, and hunting for what I think I remember having… somewhere. That time and money could be used to live. I could enjoy my time more if my money were spent on enjoying rather than acquiring and storing. My family and some of my friends expressed concern about my logic, but I began to downsize. Yes, I still have the house and an overwhelming amount of stuff… the house is paid for, and the housing market stinks. Selling isn’t my best option at the moment. Still, I’ve gradually begun to simplify, and advocate that others consider the same.

My goal is to have sold this house within the next five years, along with most if not all the stuff in it. I want to move to the country, into a (maybe) brand new 3/4 in ground home with skylights and windows and a small greenhouse… a home that is about the size of a 1.5-2 car garage. I want most of my money to be invested in land, not buildings, taxes and utilities. I spend most of my waking time outdoors or at work anyway, after all. Or would like to, if I could spend less time cleaning and maintaining storage space.

Decluttering

I’m downsizing. From 960 square feet upstairs plus a full basement (1900 square feet total) to… well, I’m not sure yet. First I have to get rid of the junk that’s hiding in the corners, the extras that are never used but are certainly in the way. In the last few months, I’m estimating that I’ve gotten rid of (donated) nearly three car loads of clothes and luggage, plus a large selection of books. I’ve shredded several bags full of old account information. (What was I keeping those utility bills from 1995 for?) It’s been  a slow process.

This morning I counted. I have 15 full summer outfits, plus a couple shirts extra. I wear about 10 of those outfits fairly regularly, so I’m not done yet, but I’m getting there. A few weeks ago I had closer to 50 summer outfits… and only wore a handful of those. This fall and winter the same thing will happen with winter outfits… I have a large suitcase and three drawers full of sweaters. Another full of turtlenecks. And probably 30 pairs of pants. Over the winter those will also be donated. Itemizing at tax season next year may get very interesting.

One of my rules right now is that if I buy one thing, I have to get rid of at least two. After all, I probably haven’t been wearing them if I’m buying something else, or won’t wear them much any more–so the new item will replace them. I’ve also begun hanging pieces of outfits together on the rack. Before, part of an outfit might be in one place and another part in another. I didn’t see the whole outfit and couldn’t find anything that matched. Now, I can’t stand in the closet saying “I don’t have anything to wear!” Sure I do. It’s just a matter of which outfit I should choose. And because there are fewer clothes to choose from, I can more easily choose the ones I prefer. Not only that, but if I keep those outfits together, they’re more likely to get washed together. Before, a shirt might be in one load and the pants might be… well, somewhere in the house.  So I’d go and buy more clothes not because I didn’t have clothes, but because I couldn’t find the ones I liked in the massive piles of clothes I didn’t care for but couldn’t stand to get rid of.

Some people may think I’m exaggerating. I had two small closets plus a 16 foot rack in the basement full of hanging clothes. I had five dressers full of clothes that were folded, and two suitcases with off-season clothes. Come to my house and you won’t really notice a difference yet because as I’ve gotten rid of things, the other things have spread out some. But I notice a HUGE difference. And I like it.

It’s been a slow process. But it’s been very worthwhile. Next time I move, it will be even more worthwhile. I hope to move to the country and build a small house, maybe 400-500 square feet, max. I want land, not house. I’m tired of utility bills and taxes and clutter. I want a simpler life. And I’m gaining it… one car load of donations at a time.