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Downsizing: Extreme edition

As most of you know by now, I'm in the process of clearing stuff out of my house as part of a downsizing project, which is planned for 2014 at this point. I'll be moving out of my house and into my sweetheart's, which is about 700 square feet smaller. (And already furnished, so there are negotiations to be done, etc.)

But last Saturday, I read an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that helped to put things in perspective for me. It's all about the "tiny homes" movement, which includes people who want to live in spaces that measure less than 300 square feet. The featured owner, Janice Kenney, has downsized herself into a weensy house that is a total of 72 square feet. (It does not have running water, which makes me wonder about bathing, etc., and visitors have to sit half outside the house, all of which causes me to think that she'd have done a bit better to have a slightly larger footprint, but hey, it's her life.)

There's a bit of an environmental angle to the "tiny homes" movement, but it's more than that:

These smaller living spaces also represent a very literal reduction in residents' carbon footprints. But [Jay] Shafer said the tiny-house movement was not about personal sacrifice. On the contrary, people look to tiny houses because they like "the idea of simplifying their lives down to whatever makes them happy, and nothing more."

Tiny homeowners (er, make that "owners of tiny homes", so as to avoid imagining The Borrowers) like the reduction in cleaning (time and expense), as well as all the rest of home upkeep and utility payments. But many of them also like knowing they don't have so much stuff to worry about.

Kenney, for one, said the time saved in housecleaning alone was worth the investment. But more than that, living in the tiny house has changed her mind-set.

She said now that she's eliminated so much excess, she just might get rid of even more stuff - because now she understands what's really important to her.

I confess that this article changed a bit of my thinking, making it a bit easier to move things into the "to go" pile, as it reinforces something that my friend Anindita said back in May about the downsizing process (she and her husband downsized from a three-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment): "We miss some things -- mostly books and vinyl -- but I don't think we'll ever go back to having that much space or that much stuff. It feels REALLY good to know exactly what we have and where it is and to use all of it."

It is making it easier to let more things go, which has resulted in some empty drawers here and there in the house - and I find myself excited to empty more of them, now that I'm seeing those results. Still, I'll stick to something well over 300 square feet.

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( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 4th, 2013 12:54 am (UTC)
It's funny, I'm terrible at getting rid of stuff and downsizing in general, but am fascinated by the tiny house thing. Or small apartments (in New York City, naturally.) I think there is something freeing about reducing SO MUCH that it almost takes the decision-making process out of it.
Jul. 4th, 2013 02:47 am (UTC)
Maybe it's that. For me, the fascination with those tiny homes lies in my desire to have a shell cottage (from MANDY, by Julie Edwards) or a tree house (SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON) to live in all on my own.
(Deleted comment)
Jul. 8th, 2013 12:23 am (UTC)
If you were just starting out in life . . .
Probably you'd accumulate the same amount or more, although perhaps some of it would be different from what you currently have. At least, that's my suspicion.

Paper is the devil's workshop, in a lot of ways. If one has a stack of stuff to go through, it's very tempting to start to read every piece of paper, which is, of course, not at all helpful when trying to pare down what's there.

I have made tremendous inroads on paper in the past two years, something I started when my ex-husband first moved out. First, I liberated myself from large magazine files full of magazines that I'd been saving (mostly cooking ones, and really, if I loved a recipe, it had been copied down). Then I forced myself to go through all the writing magazines I had stockpiled (it was a lot). I pulled out any articles I thought I might really want and recycled the rest. Recently, I recycled an awful lot of those "must-save" articles, too - so much of it is common sense and/or available on the web or nothing I'm actually going to pursue.

I've also gotten a bit better about what I allow to enter the house, paper-wise. Junk mail (and I still get some, despite opt-outs) and other unwanted mail goes right into the recycling; scheduling reminders go right onto the calendar and the paper goes into the recycling, and the few things I have to actually read and act on or file get acted on or filed pretty quickly. (I'd love to say I abide by that "handle paper only once" philosophy, but I'm truly not there yet.)

And hey, paper is the #1 clutterbug in most people's homes, so I'd say that tackling that first is an ambitious goal on your part - and will make freeing up the occasional other object much easier.
Jul. 5th, 2013 02:15 am (UTC)
Came by here via writerjenn. Hi! I was curious about your downsizing posts. I went through something similar a couple years ago, though not for any particular reason except that I had too much stuff, and it was weighing me down. It really came in handy when I had to move last year, and ended up in an even smaller apartment. I love having less stuff. I can feel the difference in how the energy flows. I love being able to find things when I'm looking for them!

It becomes addictive, getting rid of clutter. My motto was "start small, keep at it" and it worked. Good luck!
Jul. 8th, 2013 12:28 am (UTC)
"Start small, keep at it" is awesome advice. Although really, "start anywhere, keep at it" is more the way I've been approaching it, and it seems to work.

Very nice to "meet" you, and I hope you'll drop by and offer any further tips you might have on the process. (And part of my process includes some feng shui-related things, so I can definitely appreciate the improved energy flow myself. I like the idea of making space for new and better things to come into my life, don't you?)
Jul. 8th, 2013 12:47 am (UTC)
Definitely! :)

The hardest part for me was figuring out what to do with everything I was shedding. I ended up having a yard sale with some friends, and donating the leftovers. Books got donated to the library book sale. Clothing all went to Goodwill. I threw out everything that wasn't salable or recyclable. I felt a little guilty about that, but it felt so good to get rid of stuff that I got over it. ;)
Jul. 8th, 2013 01:19 am (UTC)
Goodwill is definitely making out from my purging, since I can't be bothered having a yard sale. I figure it's all going to other homes this way, and that is good enough for me. Lots of recycling and trash, too. The stuff in the trash is stuff that isn't really the sort of thing you can give away - shirts with stains or holes, broken or damaged items - the stuff we all put up with in life because it's easier than replacing it, only sometimes we replace it and forget to let the damaged goods go.
Jul. 8th, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
Jul. 8th, 2013 01:20 am (UTC)
And it does feel a lot like weight loss. I think it's losing the weight of obligation that each item holds.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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