Monthly Archives: July 2012

Electric saucepan

Until Tuesday I’d never heard of an electric saucepan. They apparently aren’t popular, but they are a wonderful invention. Based on the same concept as an electric skillet, they are a saucepan that plugs in and heats up without any other heat source. I found mine at a thrift store: it cost $3. Considering the reviews I’ve read, they heat higher and faster than individual tabletop burners or warmers. Mine has a dial marked by degrees, so I know exactly how high I’m heating my food. It only takes a little more room than a regular pan to store… but so far there’s no need for storage concerns. I use it, wash it, and put it on the counter where it sits ready to prepare my next meal.

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You can’t take it with you…

But who would want to? Two thousand pounds of stuff… never to be seen again! To alleviate a misconception I encountered yesterday, though: I still have everything most people would use on a regular basis except a microwave and a TV/DVD. Those I don’t have for my own reasons. I didn’t get rid of a TV–I haven’t owned but one in my entire life. I have not gotten rid of my bed or couch. (As a matter of fact I still have two couches.) I’ve still only gone back to look for two things that I probably donated, and it didn’t bother me that they were gone. I can’t remember what one of those was, and I can’t describe the other (a shirt). I’ve missed fewer things since downsizing than I lost before downsizing, by far.

I didn’t give away anything that was meaningful to me. There were only a couple of things, including my set of college dishes (from 20 years ago) that I had a moment’s hesitation about giving up. I had no use for the things I let go of, and very little if any emotional attachment. These were things that I was storing, not using. And I probably have 500-1000 pounds more than should be donated in the near future. I met my goal though, and I’ll be satisfied to stop weighing for now.

Two thousand pounds seems like a lot, but my guess is that there are many other people who could easily give up twice that without missing any of it. I dare you to try it.

A ton lighter!!!

I’ve weighed in the things that will be donated tomorrow. By noon tomorrow I will have reached my goal of discarding (donating or selling) a full 2000 pounds-one ton-of stuff. (Two items may still be awaiting pickup.) For those who may not follow this blog, my original goal was at least 1000 pounds, but with the thought that I might be able to reach 2000. I had no idea that I had that much stuff. The process has definitely changed my perspective on things. I certainly haven’t bought much since beginning to downsize in earnest. Even my grocery bills have been cut about in half, because I think about what I’m buying now, and only buy what I really need, not what I want. And I wasn’t a spender to start with!

The 2000 pounds doesn’t include the washer, dryer, stove, or fridge, because I replaced the fridge with a mini fridge and will one day buy a new washer and dryer, though not immediately. The stove has probably left my life for good, but I still didn’t count it. I also haven’t weighed the miscellaneous trash that needs to be thrown out or recycled. There isn’t much, and I’ll probably run it to the recycling drop tomorrow afternoon.

In the meantime, I can breathe a sigh of relief. I think next time I move, I’ll limit myself to moving 1/2 ton of stuff. Maybe. In the meantime, I’ve already started a donation box at the new house. It’s almost full.

Living Large, Small

A year or so ago, I was living a somewhat crowded life in 1800 square feet. Today I happily live in 500, with room to spare. I’ve donated and sold over three quarters of a ton of stuff, mainly this year. I’ve missed none of it for more than a few minutes. I couldn’t even remember ever having owned most of it for long enough to write a tax receipt.

My interest in smaller living was piqued when I stayed in a “camping cabin” for a week three years ago. I had a concrete floor, a bed, and about enough electricity to run the window AC or something else. My choice. I had an electric skillet, a suitcase, and an ice chest of food. And I had one of the best times of my life. After returning from my trip, I stopped by a hardware store to pick up some items for my house and found myself standing in a 10×10 wooden display shed, inhaling the scent of fresh cut wood, and thinking “Home!”

Within months I’d discovered the tiny house movement. The descriptions I read of small house living prompted me to downsize. It was a slow start, but after reading a blog where the writer challenged, “If it doesn’t make you smile and you don’t need it, get rid of it,” last year, I couldn’t shake the thought. What of my stuff made me smile? It certainly wasn’t the overstuffed closets. Or the enormous number of dishes. (I had two 20 place-settings of Corelle, three sets of pots and pans plus a few odds and ends and a set of Corningware.) Or the dresser full of fabric I might use “someday.” I began by getting rid of those. And the more I discarded, the more I smiled. It became a challenge to get rid of a ton of stuff. Within the next two weeks, I’ll have met that goal.

What’s it like living in 500 square feet? No different really than living in 1800, except my electric bill last month was only $12, I have more time to do things I enjoy, it only takes five minutes to vacuum, and I now know what I own and where everything is. I’m more organized, more relaxed, and healthier. I sit outside to write, swim and bike more, and wave to neighbors. Life seems somehow fuller.
If you were to enter my house, you would notice a few things that might seem odd. I don’t own a stove. My fridge is a dorm sized variety. There is no microwave in the kitchen. And I do laundry at the laundromat for now.

I haven’t missed the stove. The house is a rental… I just wanted to “try it on for size,” to know whether I wanted more or less space. (The answer is a little less.) It didn’t come with any appliances, and rather than purchasing or moving appliances in, I simply opted for other means. Temporarily, I thought.

I haven’t missed the stove. I live alone. The crock pot, electric skillet, and toaster oven are sufficient, and I actually eat healthier without the microwave.

The fridge shocked me. I purchased in bulk to save money. But I wasn’t saving. Three months ago, I was spending upwards of $75/month on food. This month, the total will be less than $50. I can now see the food I’m storing more easily, can’t squirrel it away where it will die of freezer burn, and can monitor what I eat more carefully. So I’m eating healthier, wasting less, and spending less. But I love the mini-fridge not for those things, but for the fact that when the power went off for hours one day, one bag of ice kept things cool and I lost nothing. I left the ice in the fridge, and a week later there was still ice. Amazing! The $12 electric bill and the $50 grocery bill have only added to my pleasure with the mini fridge.

Housekeeping is another love. I hate housekeeping, and there is SO MUCH LESS of it in my small house. It takes 5 minutes to wash the dishes, because I rinse and reuse dishes as I cook rather than filling the sink. It takes another 5-10 to vacuum the whole house. Kitchen? 10 minutes. A bathroom is a bathroom, and it still takes 15 minutes or so, but that’s less than an hour a week for the whole house. To me that’s near miraculous.

Taxes and insurance are nearly unfathomably different between a small house and a medium sized house, as well. The taxes and insurance on my medium sized house are nearly as much as the cost of the rent on the small house. Before the house payment.

My family worries. What if they come to visit? Where will they stay? I’ve checked price differences. I’m saving enough in costs by living smaller that if they come to stay I can get them a room at an up scale hotel for a few nights. And though I’ve always laughed at people who would rent a storage unit, after doing some calculations I realized that I was spending MORE on house storage space than the most expensive local storage unit would cost, and doing no more with the space. They were intelligent to have rented storage space. I was paying not only for storage space but for heating and cooling, taxes and insurance on that space. What did I gain? Nothing.

My house is really no different than anyone else’s in most other ways. It’s older, and for now I’m renting. There is no dining room, and my bicycle sits in the back entry. There is no bathtub, just a shower. It has some quirks, but it doesn’t really seem small. I’ve lived in small apartments before. I always wanted something bigger. I thought more floor space would give me more comfort, more living space, more organization. But organization is something I have to plan for. Comfort comes with satisfaction and being content with what I have, not with what I want. And surprisingly, living space isn’t designated by house size, but by house design. An openly designed 500 square feet will feel bigger with the right furniture (and organization) than a 900 square foot house with lots of small rooms, odd shaped rooms, clutter, or large furnishings.

It seems strange now that it took me 20 years to figure that out. What is it like living in 500 square feet? Peaceful. Comfortable. Relaxing. Home.

 

So what’s the plan from here? I want to build something or buy something smaller. Between 300-400 square feet.

One pot recipes

Good for camping or just eating anytime…

1 can green beans
1 small can Vienna sausages
1-1 1/2 Cup mashed potato flakes

put green beans and sausages in a pot and warm. Scoot them to one side, leaving hot juices. Dump in mashed potato flakes. Eat. (If several are eating, slice up the Vienna sausages so it seems like everyone has more meat and add an extra can of green beans and some extra potato flakes.)

 

1/2 pound hamburger
1 can condensed bean with bacon soup
1 can Italian diced tomatoes
some water (at least half a can, more if you want)

Partially cook the hamburger. Add the tomatoes and bean with bacon soup. Cook until the hamburger is completely cooked. Eat.

 

Both of these are pretty hearty and decently healthy. Both are also very tasty. Best of all, they can be done in one pot without any extra seasonings or additives and with very little work or attention. The green bean one works well with other kinds of meat and non-meat substitutes, too, and I’m fairly certain the tomato one would work nearly as well with baked beans or pork n’ beans, though I haven’t tried it.

Three quarters of a ton!

Today marks 3/4 ton of stuff donated or sold. I sold three chairs and two rocking chairs today, gave away another chair and a shelf, and donated three shirts, some Bible memory cards, five vases and two decorative jars, and… as usual I can’t even remember what the rest of the stuff was. Oh, two coats, a board game, a puzzle, a tape dispenser and a pencil sharpener (both the very old kind), and… my microwave. There were a few boxes of other things including an old crate, two sets of curtains, a carry-on bag, and some small plastic storage crates. Lots of miscellaneous. A few candles. A dishtowel… but back to the microwave.

I’ve been debating the microwave for awhile. It’s big. It’s bulky. And it’s healthier not to use one. I didn’t use it much anyway, and I doubt I’ll miss it much. So away it went.

I actually got rid of 1600 pounds so far; there was another load after the 1500 mark. And there’s another box and pile growing in the basement. I still need to get rid of a queen sized mattress, a living room chair, and a gate-leg table. I’ve promised the back yard table to someone. I never used it except to stand on to reach mulberries. She’s also going to consider the back yard furniture I still have. I still have a couple things to return that I only just found and had never used. (Stuff that is still returnable, I hope.) And there’s a box at the new house that is growing into a donation pile as well, because when I looked in my closet yesterday, I thought, “Wow, I really don’t need all this!”

It seems the less I have, the less I want to have and the more I enjoy what I do have and the time my new found freedom has given me.

Cute little house

There’s a really cute little house about a block away from me in someone’s back yard. It’s an older house with a block foundation, about 17×12 with a very nice covered porch the whole length of the house and about 4-5 feet wide, held up by four brick red pillars. It has french doors on the front opening onto the deck, and appears to be set up for heat, water, and sewer. A row of evergreens shades the north side and gives it extra charm. I don’t think anyone lives in it. Hopefully soon I will meet my near-neighbor and be granted permission to take pictures of it.