Friday, August 30, 2013

Live Deliberately: Downsizing

The first of the 5 things I did to live more deliberately was downsizing. This is a pretty obvious choice when you're about to move into a 120 square foot house. However, I think that downsizing our lives can benefit us no matter how big our home. So often in our culture we buy large spaces and buy lots of things to fill it up. I know that I did.

When I talk about downsizing I realized that it wasn't just about things. Some of these things were keeping me from really being a part of my own life. They were distractions. Part of our process of downsizing was to determine exactly what things enhanced our lives and what didn't. I was surprised by many of the answers I found.

There is an exercise described in the book Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon. The suggestion is to post a note at the entrance to every room in your house. Each time you enter that room over the course of a week or a month write down what you were doing. At the end of the exercise you will start to see patterns and notice that there may be spaces that you don't even use or that some spaces could be easily combined. If you do notice this it may be time to consider a smaller space.

In our 2700 square foot house in the suburbs of Atlanta we discovered that we really concentrated on three rooms: our kitchen, our entertainment space, and our bedroom. But the split level house had three bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs, three bathrooms, a formal living room, a formal dining room, and a laundry room. We also had a lovely back yard area that we used but not as much as we should have. We turned one bedroom into a library, one into an office, and the third into Piglet's very own room (decorated just for her).

We knew we were uncomfortable in our large home but we didn't precisely recognize why until we did this exercise. We had too much space for our needs.

I won't lie to you; downsizing is not an easy process. It can be downright brutal. We develop a lot of emotional attachments to our things which we translate to be need or necessity. We actually downsized in two stages. First we moved from our 2700 house to an 800 square foot apartment with very limited storage. Then, of course, we moved from that apartment to our 120 square foot house. We had a storage unit when we lived in the apartment and after we moved to the tiny house we could condense again but we still keep some things in our barn. But overall, we have significantly reduced the amount of stuff we own.

There are some practical ways to do this. For us, digitizing was a big step. All of our music, movies, and books are on our digital devices now.

Books are actually a very interesting topic. Books seem to be the single hardest thing for most people to give up. I am here to tell you it is not impossible. I would like to point you to this post on the Becoming Minimalist blog which I believe says it a lot better than I ever could.

Until just a few years ago, books were stacked everywhere in my home. My two huge book cases were double-stacked with volumes ranging from children’s fiction to college text books, and piles had formed next to couches and the bed, not to mention on any available surface. I could not imagine my life without these friends surrounding me – the very thought of letting go of just one was enough to send me hurling at my shelves, attempting to wrap my arms around every book I owned in protection.
The sentimental attachment to stuff is one of the biggest psychological hurdles that we have to get over in the process of downsizing our lives. Trust me when I say it is an important step and it can take the weight of a thousand worlds off your shoulders.

If you are thinking about tiny living or just deliberate living it might be time to start the downsizing process in your own life. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Please Don't Yuck My Yum

So before I start my series on Living Deliberately, I wanted to talk about something that is far too common with online communications.

I want to talk about Yum Yucking.

What is this? Well, I have no idea who coined the phrase but Yum Yucking is, quite literally, the act of telling someone that something they like isn't good enough to like in the first place.

For instance, if you're out to eat with a friend and you order sushi they might look at you and say, "Ug, how can you eat that? It is so awful. I've never tried it but I just can't imagine eating that!" This, my friends, is yucking someone's yum. Telling someone what they like is capital-B.A.D. doesn't foster communication, it shuts it down. Why would you continue having a conversation with anyone when you now wait for them to have a negative comment about everything you like?

I've known Yum Yuckers my entire life. When I was in college I listened to a lot of Tori Amos. Some of my so-called friends would constantly tell me "I don't know how you could like her - her music isn't any good." I never once thought, "Wow, they're right. This music sucks!" What it really made me want to do was never talk to them again.

What is horrid to you is delightful to someone else. Taste is subjective and your opinion on the matter doesn't make it universally bad. 

This most certainly applies to conversations within the tiny house community. At an event not too long ago I was showing photos of our house when someone exclaimed, "Oh, how ugly! Why would you decorate your house in green?"

Most of the the time I just smile and move on but this time I looked at them and said, "Because I like green. If you don't like green that's fine. If you build your own house you don't have to use any green."

I was kind of surprised when they were taken aback. "Did that comment offend you?" they asked. Well, yes, it did. What purpose does it serve to tell me that the thing I like is bad? 

I know some suggest that we should "grow a thicker skin" to deal with these kinds of comments. And while this can help our blood pressure stay lower in general it doesn't actually solve the problem. In truth, I don't need to listen to negative comments about the things I like. I strive not to say similar comments to people I care about even if I don't share their taste. I recognize that we enjoy different things. I might like sushi and you don't. I like green and you don't. There are any number of things that you might like that I don't prefer.

Let's recognize these differences and focus on the things we do share.Let's all make a conscious effort not to yuck anyone else's yum.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What I Mean when I Say "Live Deliberately."

In light of my most recent blog post, I thought I might step back a little and share some of my philosophy about tiny living. While much of this blog is simply about my life in our tiny house I do have a core message that informs everything that I do.

There are many people who have influenced my choices along the way. Some are names in the tiny house industry, some are people who are doing what they love regardless of the type of home they live. I do have a couple of historical influences as well, and the writing of Henry David Thoreau is something that keeps me inspired. I took the concept of Living Deliberately from his work.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
This statement, this quote, has become more than that for me. When I read it now I read it with reverence as though it were a prayer. And this is one of the things that made me flesh out my own philosophy for tiny living.

Before I share with you the 5 aspects I believe are part of the tiny living process I want to stress one thing. You don't have to live in a tiny house to "live tiny." Anyone can do any of these things no matter where they live or what they do. Simplifying and downsizing are not exclusive to people who live in less than 300 square feet.

These are the 5 things that make up my experience and philosophy of tiny living.

  • Downsizing: Eliminating things you don’t need to make room for yourself.
  • Simplifying: Consider living without some modern comforts we take for granted.
  • Eating Differently: Changing the way you interact with food.
  •  Experiencing Solitude: Be at peace with yourself.
  • Stepping Lightly: The environmental impact of deliberate Living. 
 I will be exploring each of these 5 concepts in more detail over the next month or so to give you an idea of how I did each of them and how you can do them for yourself.

How do you live deliberately in your own life?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Blogger Burnout and the Broken Record

I can't begin to tell you how many blog posts I've started writing this summer and never finished or published. Every time I sat down thinking of something so say I would start to second guess my message. I hit the "save" button and never thought about it again. I would return a few days later to start something new and abandon it in the same way.

Suddenly the idea of living in our 120 square foot house was no longer a novelty to share but rather just a fact of life. Living in this house is just like living in any other house. What more could I possibly say? I was suffering from some pretty intense blogger burnout. My story just wasn't interesting to me any more.

Then I read this post by my friend Jason Spencer.
When you accept the lie that your voice is a broken record, guess what happens?
You shut up.
You stop speaking.
You repress your core message.
You keep your gifts, your strength, your spark inside.
You spit in the face of the needs in the world.
You rot in bitter selfishness.
You die.
Kind of harsh, right?
But, it’s the honest truth.
If you truly believe in purpose, that you were meant to serve a need in the world, who exactly are you to buy into a lie like this and shut down?
And I really understood what he was saying, as if he was saying it only to me. This blog has many purposes. It is a diary of my life. It promotes tiny living. It shares experiences with off the grid systems.

There are always new people coming into the tiny house community. These are people who are looking for guidance, experience, and personal stories. While this blog is also about connecting to the people I already know and love I always need to keep new readers in mind. I always need to make sure that they are hearing my distinct voice and my consistent message.

My name is Laura and I live in a 120 square foot house with my partner that we built with our own hands. We built this house to experience life in a new way.

We live deliberately.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

We went Camping and Lived to Tell About it

Well, "camping" is a strong word. We went Glamping. For the first 10 days of August we found ourselves in the wilderness of rural Minnesota with 12 friends at a small, private camping festival. It was delightful.

One of our friends and fellow glampers was Cara Schulz, author of the upcoming book Martinis and Marshmallows: A Field Guide to Luxury Tent Camping. You can read more at her blog.

A good time was had by all. I didn't take a lot of photos, but many of my friends did. I was given permission to share a few. Here they are in rather random order.

Our campsite hosts a 6 course dinner party for ourselves and several guests. Each year has a theme. This year we chose steampunk. Matt and I served peanut chicken satay over rice with Shiva IPA from Asheville.

Matt and our friend David enjoying 3pm cocktails.

Aww...a hug.

Matt played some music for our campsite around the fire. You can see Cara dancing toward the kitchen in the background.

Matt and Me during one of the cocktail hours. 

Several of us in the kitchen tent enjoying cocktails. 

This photo was taken by our friend Lamyka who flew all the way from Hawaii to camp with us. This was my outfit for the steampunk symposia. I hadn't intended to wear the dress with a long sleeve shirt and jeans but it was chilly out that night. 

My friend Teo took this gorgeous photo of the entire campsite under the old oak grove. 

Cara made this 3pm cocktail collage.

Another view of Symposia dinner

The table set with Star's pink tent in the background. 

This is Teo crouching in front of my tent. I think he was hiding from someone. 

Today, Matt and I are going to an Outdoor Gear show at Highland Brewery here in Asheville.