Searching for More from Less

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Michael Janzen and filed in Issue 1: Introductions
“Our houses are such unwieldy property that we are often imprisoned rather than housed by them.”
- Henry David Thoreau

The Back Story

At a time in my early adult life I wanted nothing more than to prove that a livelihood could be carved out of doing what one loved doing. For me that was being a potter. I was very good at making pots but struggled to find a way to make a living as an artist.

For several years I lived in a small cabin in Mendocino County in northern California. I had built a tiny studio and on weekends I traveled to crafts fairs and farmers’ markets to sell my pots. But after a few years of struggling I finally chose to get a day job to pay the bills. First I worked for another potter but eventually got a job at big corporation.

Finding Success

I felt like a total sell-out working for the man so I decided to refocus my creative energy on another emerging craft, web design. I discovered that I was pretty good at it and several years later found a web design job at the same big corporation with only one disadvantage, I had to move to the city. My wife Julia and I found a small apartment in Vallejo, California and left the tiny cabin and studio behind.

katie-janzen-builds-pallet-houseThe web design job really took off. My approach to art and design has always been to focus on keeping things simple which actually really paid off in my approach to web application design because I was able to keep complex web applications simple and easy to use. I promoted quickly and ended up managing a team of designers and web usability researchers.

With success at work came more money and eventually Julia and I bought a larger home near Sacramento, California. Owning a real house came with some additional responsibilities. Our small condo had been very easy to manage but the house came with more square feet, more work, and more cost. I’m certain many new home owners go through the same adjustment especially now that money is so tight for so many people.

In 2006 Julia and I adopted a newborn baby girl, Katie. Luckily the position I had at the time allowed me to work-from-home most of the time which allowed me to spend a lot of time with my family. But I also noticed that it was becoming more and more difficult to keep up the the house.

Feeling the Downturn

In the summer of 2007 I began to feel the beginnings of the economic collapse. I had no idea how bad it was going to get but I began to do more and more reflecting on my values. As time went on it became clear that America was headed for hard times and that if I was going to pull my family through I’d need to begin looking for new solutions.

Ironically, or not, I found myself looking back at my early 20′s and the simple life I lead as a potter. I also stumbled on a simple idea that making better choices were the key to achieving goals. By simply changing our choices, big and small, we can dramatically change the course of our lives. This of course seems like an incredibly simple idea, so simple and logical you might even say it’s totally obvious. But the truth is that very few people stop to think about their choices or how they might be affecting their life. In fact if more people did this things like debt would be rare.

In late 2007 I bought Jay Shafer’s tiny house books and read them on a business trip to Los Angeles. By the time I got back I had a plan, or at least a direction, for getting back on a track that would lead me and my family to financial security and more time for each other.

A Tiny Plan

tiny-free-house-pitched-roof-famingIn a word, simplify. This simple logic can be applied to the people we choose to spend our lives with to the things we buy and collect. The more you surround yourself with the more responsibility you take on and the more time and energy you must spend taking care of those things.

The bigger your home, the more time and energy it requires. The more things you put in your home, the more time and energy they will demand. Even the things tucked away in your closet add up to an additional mental burden, effectively taking away our freedom.

When you add debt on top of all that you realize that you’re choices are diminishing. We’re not alone, millions of Americans are deep in debt and have mortgages higher than their home’s current market value. Theoretically housing values will recover and we’ll recover our ability to choose where we live. In the mean time every choice we make moves us closer or farther away from increasing our personal freedom.

The last two years have reminded me of some important lessons:

  • A simple life increases freedom – The less you take on the more time and energy you’ll have for the things that are important to you. This effectively increases your personal freedom.
  • The true value of a home – The true value of a home should be measured by the happiness and security it brings instead of its size and cost.
  • Lowering risk exposure increases choices – Lowering financial risk is required for increasing happiness and freedom. Borrowed money can empower you if it’s paid back quickly. Long term debt, like a mortgage, can imprison you.
  • Our time on earth is priceless – The way we spend our time and the people we choose to spend it with impacts happiness more than anything money can buy.

Future Goals & Tiny Houses

michael-janzen-pallet-houseAs a kid I always wanted to be an architect. In college I studied architecture a little but but finally gave into my love for pottery and graduated with a BFA in ceramics. What I’ve realized is that I don’t have to suppress my love for architectural design just because I don’t have a degree in architecture. I can’t say I’m an architect, stamp plans, and so on, but I can share that passion for small homes with others online.

In the not so distant future I hope to move my family to a home that is not mortgaged to the hilt. It may not be tiny but it won’t be so big that it’s a burden in any way. It will be safe, secure, and in a location that provides Katie with good schools and Julia and I a community we’ll want to grow old in.

The thing that drives me is searching for ways of achieving more personal freedom. A simplified life, efficient homes, low-impact living, social responsibility, respect for cultural diversity, and so on, are all tools for achieving this goal. The more of us that choose to live lite, the happier we will all in our own lives and together as a larger community. I suspect the silver lining to this current economic mess is that more people will realize their mistakes and turn back to the people around them and away from the things that imprison them.

My Blogs

“I Want to Be Rich!”

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Kevin Rose and filed in Issue 1: Introductions

Kevin“I want to be rich – REALLY RICH! – and you’re not getting me there!”

Those words, offered among the parting shots delivered by my former bride, marked the beginning of a period of enormous discovery and rediscovery. Discovery of one of the fastest methods of shedding material possessions known to man, and rediscovery of deeply held core values that had been slipping slowly into the background over sixteen years of an ill-fated marriage.

While I would not recommend divorce as a preferred method for simplifying one’s life – and certainly not a pleasant one – it can be one of most strictly enforced and quickest ways to shed at least half of one’s material possessions. In my case, the script came straight from the 1989 comedy, “The War of the Roses,” in which Oliver Rose (Michael Douglas) and Barbara Rose (Kathleen Turner) each stand their ground in a winner-take-all battle over the marital home. Danny DeVito directed the movie and played the part of the lawyer, Gavin D’Amato, whose memorable line resonates in the not-so-hilarious real-life script.

“There is no winning! Only degrees of losing!”

So, now what? Prior to the unexpected demise of our marriage, my wife and I had been working toward the previously agreed upon goal to take at least a year away from the work-a-day world, buy a cruising sailboat and take our two young sons on a pre-adolescent adventure of a lifetime through warm Caribbean waters. 2005 was to have been the year that we set sail. Instead, it was the year in which the divorce became final.

Kevin delivering Raven up the Hudson to Lake ChamplainFaced with no home and a housing market that was still climbing beyond values that made sense in any economic argument, I decided to forge ahead with the dream of making my home aboard a boat. My city of residence for the past twenty years, Burlington, Vermont, lies on the eastern shores of the 120-mile-long Lake Champlain. With Adirondack and Green Mountain backdrops viewed from a thriving waterfront the sailboat became a very affordable option for once again owning a home in the community. I would not be setting sail for Dominica any time soon, but my boys would see that Dad had, in part, held on to the dream.

My search for a floating home covered the eastern seaboard from Maine to Virginia. When it came time to draw up a contract, I’d settled on a Pacific Seacraft Crealock 34, Raven, that I’d found along the Connecticut shores of Long Island Sound, not far from the home of my close friend of nearly 30 years, Marion.

RavenWith no more than 24 hours to prepare the boat, Marion and I set out from Five Mile Creek in Rowayton, Connecticut in a strengthening nor’easter for the 300 mile journey north to Vermont. We sailed my new home west to Manhattan, around the southern tip of the city, then up the historic Hudson River and through the locks of the Champlain Canal. Five days later we arrived on Lake Champlain. It was early June of 2005.

It took me no time at all to adapt to the new floating home. Cruising sailboats have been evolving for hundreds of years and Bill Crealock’s designs have amassed the learnings of the centuries into a highly efficient use of space. Berths (bedrooms) for six, dining space for the same, a U-shaped galley (kitchen), a nav station (office), a head (bathroom) that doubles as a shower stall, and a cockpit (porch) with views beyond compare. All for about a third of the average price of a Burlington home. What else could I need?

In the excitement of moving ahead with plans to live aboard a boat, I’d given some thought to the Vermont winters that I’ve known all my life, but I figured I’d cross that bridge (so to speak) when I came to it. After a glorious first summer aboard Raven I finally put her “on the hard” a few days before Thanksgiving and was forced to give more than passing thought to a winter domicile. “Ice out” does not typically occur until early or mid April. I needed a place to live on land for at least five months.

Family and friends offered what they had in the way of weekend berths during the time I spent with my children but it was the welcome Connecticut home of Marion to which I retreated for the days in between. I was extremely grateful for Marion’s generosity, but I knew that a more permanent solution was needed.

I was lost in thought on one of the 5-hour drives back to Vermont when it came to me. I called Marion excitedly to share my idea.

“What I’m looking for is a home in Burlington for the five months each year that Raven is on the hard.”

“Right,” Marion agreed.

“You’re looking for a way to spend summer weekends on your land in Tunbridge [Vermont].”

“Right.”

“Well, how about if we build a house on wheels? We’ll site it on your land in the summer and then find a place to park it in Burlington for the winter!”

“Great idea!”

I was bubbling over with enthusiasm and already beginning to work on the design in my head. With a background as a mariner, I decided that this home was to have a name as is the tradition with boats. Marion and I agreed to call her Gypsy Rose. A new adventure had begun.

Kevin in Gypsy Rose loftNow, earlier in this story, I mentioned that my divorce opened the door to rediscovery. Emerging from the wreckage of a very difficult time I was given a tremendous gift in the opportunity to realign my life with some deeply held values. It deserves a moment’s elaboration as those values are at the heart of my small home story.

I grew up in rural Vermont in a time of great social unrest. Peace, love, dove. Question authority. Love Mother Earth. Vietnam. Through it all, I came to understand that our corporate controlled consumer-based culture in the United States was on a collision course with the needs of a rapidly growing world population.

In college, I studied natural resource economics and natural resource planning. After graduation I married and worked for 10 years as a planner for the City of Burlington before putting my energies into the sea kayak touring business that I own today. In the interest of marital compromise, however, I found myself setting aside many of the ideals in the pursuit of bigger, better, and more.

Less than a year before the marriage began to unravel I was jolted back to the truths I’d learned in my youth. It came while I was leading a group of University of Vermont students on a sea kayaking adventure on the Mexico / Belize border. At the end of a day of paddling and snorkeling on the barrier reef, we learned that the United States had begun the bombing of Baghdad. I didn’t for a minute believe what we had been told about WMD’s or the connections between 911 and those in power in Iraq. Clearly, this was a war about oil and an ill-fated U.S. initiative to secure our energy future.

I have two young sons. Iraq is their Vietnam. Despite assurances that victory would be attained in a matter of months, history and the realities of the situation said otherwise. As I watched those early images of “Shock and Awe,” I knew that we were in for a long, difficult confrontation. I became determined that my sons would not fight a war for oil, but I also knew that radical changes were necessary to minimize my own participation in the demand for global natural resources.

Gypsy RoseMy divorce became the catalyst that allowed me to respond quickly to that new challenge. Along the way I’ve discovered that the real story of my new resolve has not been one of sacrifice and hardship, however. It has become a tale of new freedoms and the pursuit of a lifestyle that is not burdened by concerns of keeping up in our growth oriented economy. Today, I can focus on the things that truly make a home without worrying about “curb appeal,” burdensome mortgage payments, resale value, or losing my life’s savings overnight with the vagaries of the housing market.

I think about the final moments in “The War of the Roses.” Oliver and Barbara meet their end when the chandelier that they cling to crashes to the foyer floor in that oversized, overstuffed home. In my story, I’ve chosen to rewrite the script in search of a happier, more fitting future.

To read more of Kevin’s small home adventures, visit his blog, “Building Gypsy Rose .”

The Appeal of Tiny

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Amanda Abel and filed in Issue 1: Introductions
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The Early Years

I’m not sure what the exact square footage was of the house I grew up in, but it probably wasn’t more than 1500 square feet for the four of us. My parents got a good deal on the house ($10,000 in 1981) and paid $10,000 to move it out to 10 acres in the West Texas countryside (which cost $15,000). From the outset, my parents thought it was extremely important to have a deck, so within a couple of years of moving in, they built a porch that wrapped around three sides of the house. The porch also served as a buffer by limiting the amount of direct sunlight coming in through the windows. Outdoor space was very important, so much so that they actually spent more on the porch than on the house itself. In addition to the main house, there was a guest house which was in considerable disrepair and which my parents spent years getting into habitable condition. As I think about it now, I realize that this house (which we called “The Little House”) is about the same size as the house which Ty and I will be living in, probably about 250 square feet. I’d like to say that I knew from the time I was small that I wanted to live in a little house like that, but the truth is, I didn’t think about it much. Our house was not large, but I never felt cramped and mostly I just loved living somewhere that I could watch the beautiful sunsets and hear the owls and coyotes at night.

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The Lovely Middle

It was aesthetics, rather than reduction of consumption, which originally drew me to small houses. After I finished high school, I moved to Austin, where I lived for nine years. Central Austin has a large amount of craftsman houses from the early 20th century and slightly older Victorians. It’s become common for owners there to split these larger houses up into duplexes or triplexes and rent them out to students and young professionals. Additionally, there are often carriage houses in the backyards that get converted into smaller apartments. I’ve always been fascinated by people’s ability to mold and transform things beyond their original intended use, and that is what drew me to these little house apartments. Features like built-in shelves, large lead-glass windows, hardwood floors… it was the sense of age and character—of adaptation over time—that drew me to those spaces. And I, in turn, loved the challenge of molding and transforming what I had in a way that would fit a new space.

When I came out to California in August of ’07, I found that there was a plethora of backyard cottages. Driving through the streets of Santa Cruz, houses seemed stacked like layers of lasagne, as every house I passed appeared to have one or two mini-houses staggered just behind it. In the few days I was there apartment hunting, I looked at about 5 of these little houses. The one I settled on ended up getting snatched up by a friend of the landlord’s and so at the last minute, hours before my plane was leaving out of San Jose, I signed a lease on one that was way beyond what I wanted to spend ($1250 per month) but was nonetheless a lovely little dollhouse. The appeal of the backyard cottage as a living situation had many facets. As a grad student and relatively quiet person, I really wanted the privacy of no-shared-walls, no-roommate, and away-from-landlord living. My dollhouse had its own yard, which was separated from the backyard of the main house by a waist-high fence and a tree which blocked the main view into my house. It basically seemed like the perfect oasis for study and respite.

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Santa Cruz is a haven for spaces like these for several reasons: SC is a university town, which only became a university town a few decades ago. As a result, there are not enough apartments for off-campus students. Growth here is restricted because of the ocean/bay on one side and the mountains on the other. ADUs have been embraced by the town in order to provide income to owners here and offset the high taxes and home values as a result of (they argue) the influx of students. The problem, of course, is that most houses with room for ADUs already have them, and the rent and cost of college isn’t getting any cheaper. Despite how much I loved my dollhouse, I was forced to move out after 7 months due to the cost and multiple problems with my landlord. I learned very quickly the racket that landlords run in this town and how difficult it is to stay afloat financially. I moved into a place that cost several hundred dollars less in a rather undesirable part of town, but it was a quirky Victorian triplex (like I love) and the landlord seemed much more harmless.

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Tiny Reconciliation

Running parallel to all this was my new relationship with Tyson (whom I met after living in SC for a few months) and also continuing research into indigenous American history and the effects of colonialism on our country and people. Years ago, I had done a story on the Penobscot Nation in Maine and the effects of dioxin pollution on their culture, which is centered on the river on which they live. This experience prompted me to look more deeply at the effects of EuroAmerican culture on this land we took over. The more that I learned of its rightful inhabitants, the more difficult it was to dismiss my own occupation and consumption.

If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking how strange that all of a sudden we went from talking about houses and landlords to colonialism and natives. But to me, it is all very intertwined. Here, now, in the 21st century, the current stewards of our lands are concerned more with profit than with sustainability. This viewpoint is not sustainable. I see small homes and small living as an opportunity to level the playing field, and hopefully to promote a more equitable culture. The Small House Movement has a long way to go before that will be a possibility, but I am hoping that by putting our tiny minds together, we can effect some not-so-tiny change.

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Step aside, you’re blocking my sun.

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Tyson and filed in Issue 1: Introductions
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There are several factors that drew me into Small Housing.

Location – I grew up in one of the last undeveloped corners of Steinbeck Country, on a lush and diagonal six acres, in a lovely house that my dad built before I was born. My family has never moved, so I have a strong personal attachment to the land itself. As a child I fantasized about having my own house on that land. One of those various incarnations was a playhouse at the crest of the hill, to which my actual tiny house bears conspicuous resemblance.

Financing – When, as a child, I asked my parents how much a house cost, the answer was in the range of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was horrified. How on earth was I ever going to save up that kind of money? This was my first acquaintance with the concept of mortgages, and in retrospect my initial revulsion does not seem so inappropriate.

Ecological Footprint – I took an International Relations Poli-Sci course at my community college with one of my favorite teachers. He introduced me to the concept of ecological footprints as a quantitative comparison. When I discovered that I was consuming roughly four times my share of available resources I was pretty alarmed.

Construction – My father bought a concrete pump the year I was born, and I’ve been involved in concrete pumping my whole life. Much of the work I’ve done has been pumping foundations for houses, or sidewalks and backyard patios, etc. I enjoyed this work tremendously (and still do), and I used to take pride in doing what I imagined was good and necessary work. But as I grew older I realized how ridiculously consumptive this pattern of construction is. As much as concrete pumping is essential to making me the person I am, I know that 10% of the world’s greenhouse gases are produced in the manufacture of portland cement alone, which is simply one component in concrete production. I also know that concrete has been the essential material that has enabled the building of the great edifices that symbolize our modern concept of “civilization.” But I have also learned that civilization, if it exists, resides in the minds of men and women and not in awesome feats of engineering. Concrete is indespensible to most large modern structures, but not to small houses.

Financing Revisited – I worked for a startup mortgage broker in Manhattan through 2004 and 2005, beginning right when the interest rates hit their forty-year low. I got an intimate look at real estate, financing, and “investment,” and came away with disgust and a feeling of deep foreboding which has, of course, progressively come to fruition.

Epiphany – During this time, I remember having an epiphany about how home building was this essential human experience that most people in our society were alienated from, and something I deeply desired to do for myself. While I technically didn’t build the structure I live in, the enormous amount of work involved in transporting and repurposing it and the understanding of its composition and structural integrity that I’ve gained from modifying it and subjecting it to intense strains, combined with the belief that recycling and reusing is preferrable to starting from scratch, is satisfying my “home building” life-experience requirements.

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The Small House Movement – I’ve been deeply impressed by small housers and their ilk, from Jay Shafer to Mike Oehler (The $50 and Up Underground House Book) to the late Nader Khalili, inventor of superadobe. I admire the advocates and pioneers of thoughtful and responsible ways of living, and try to imitate them whenever applicable.

Philosophical Cynicism – Seneca the Younger, in his letters to Lucilius Junior, chastised him for his simultaneous admiration of both Daedalus and Diogenes. For Seneca, it was incompatible to admire Daedalus—the cunning inventor of carpentry, the saw, axe, plumb-line, drill, and glue, who famously made wax wings for himself and his son Icarus to use to escape from Crete—and Diogenes, the Cynic philosopher who condemned custom and material culture in his strict adherence to necessity alone.

But as a modern admirer of both Daedalus and Diogenes, I believe that these are precisely the contrasting approaches that the small-houser, and the ethically minded westerner, must reconcile. Daedalus shows us how to use resources and techniques to make and enrich our living, and Diogenes reminds us how little we actually require to enjoy a full life. When Alexander the Great came to visit Diogenes, he asked the philosopher if there was anything he could do for him. Diogenes replied, “Yes. Step aside; you’re blocking my sun.”

We should also note that the pen and parchment that Diogenes wrote with, the lantern he carried around in broad daylight while “looking for an honest man,” and the barrel that he slept in were all fashioned by ‘Daedalus.’ Even Diogenes relied on some degree of material culture.

Somehow, this variety of influences and experiences has impressed upon me that what I am doing now is the right thing.

Finding the Right Road

“If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, Any Road Will Get You There.”

–The Cheshire Cat, Alice In Wonderland

Steph in VeniceHave you ever been traveling somewhere and been struck by an increasingly unsettling feeling that you somehow drifted off course?  And that you have no idea how to get yourself turned around but you have a feeling that the longer you wait to figure it out, the farther off course  you’re probably going to get?

Well, I spent the better  part of 10 years of my life feeling that way before I made a hard right turn and managed to get back on track.

I am probably the last person you would expect to find living in a tiny house.  I love spending time at home, and I’m not shy about liking my creature comforts.  Like, say, a few thousand books.

About three years ago, though, I came to the realization that there’s very little that’s “comfortable” about owning a 3,000+ square foot house accompanied with the corresponding mortgage, tax burden, upkeep and maintenance, and all the associated crap one tends to store inside one.  (And I swear possessions stored in a large house are capable of reproducing faster than extra-libidinous rabbits.)

At the time I was married.  My husband was a trust-fund baby and  quite financially successful in his own right.  He also did a substantial amount of entertaining at home as part of his job recruiting faculty for a fairly well-known business college.  A sprawling house in the Tucson foothills was one of the expected trappings of his social circle. (“Come work for us and you, too, can have a place like this!”)

I would be lying if I said there weren’t many days when I felt fortunate to be living in such a beautiful home. I especially adored the views of the mountains from my den windows.  But, man, was I glad I wasn’t the one footing the bill for the mortgage every month.  I paid a hefty enough price just trying prevent the damn thing from crumbling into the state of disrepair it seemed determined to crawl relentlessly toward.

CersaillesKeeping up with the house involved a small army of support staff: a maid service; a landscape crew; a pool maintenance guy; a handyman service for minor monthly repairs; a carpet and upholstery cleaning service; an air-conditioning and heating service; two extermination services (one for insects and one for the Pack-Rat Liberation Movement that seemed determine to reclaim our place in the name of all thing furry); and a whole host of appliance repair men.  The house was big enough that it required three separate air conditioners to cool in the summers, and two heaters and three fireplaces to warm in the winter.  In order to stay on top of just the staff who helped us with the house required that I create a separate Rolodex of business cards.  I kid you not.  And our privacy was constantly being disturbed by some caretaker arriving to perform their ongoing duties.

I wasn’t working at the time but it felt like I had at least a half-time job just staying on top of everyone coming and going from our property.  And–get this– we were paying several thousands of dollars a month for the privilege of this experience.

Even before my divorce, I had been aware of the Small Home Movement.  Sometime around 2002, my mother had sent me a newspaper clipping of Jay Shafer and his wonderful little Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.  Periodically, I would pull up his website, look wistfully at pictures of tiny homes, and dream of a much simpler existence. I was also such a huge fan of Thoreau’s Walden back in college that I convinced my favorite professor to allow me to do a semester’s independent study on the house. (For about ten years, I even had a bonsai I raised from a maple seedling that came from Walden Pond.)

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I dreamed of a similar tiny place in solitude of my very own.  I didn’t have the faintest idea how to get there, though.  I was just so hugely off-course from anything resembling that.

I was living in a place that was the absolute antithesis of a tiny home.  I was running in a social-circle which emphasized the gross display of wealth and viewed material consumption as a form of recreational activity.  Everyone was working hard at impressing one another with how successful they all were.  (Admittedly, everyone was running around so fast it didn’t seem like they actually enjoyed any of it.)  And even if I somehow managed to shed the house and convince my partner to embark on a lifetime of simplicity, there was still several moving trucks full of possessions that wouldn’t fit into a smaller place.

It certainly wasn’t due to our house alone, but there were many days when I fantasized about tucking a cat under each arm, walking out the front door, and never looking back.  In a particularly desperate moment, I convinced my husband to consider building me a “studio” in the 5 acres out back to be constructed along my more simplistic ideals.  Thankfully, the project never came to pass.  Hiding out back in a tiny house wasn’t going to fix the mess I’d made for myself.

Steph's tiny floating home (sideview)Eventually, for reasons having to do with a lot more than just the materialistic lifestyle, my marriage deteriorated to the point that I chose to physically separate from my husband.  Moving into a 1,000 square foot rental property with all of my belongings helped me to come to terms with how much of the associated crap–material and otherwise– was actually mine rather than his. (Hey, they say recognizing you have a problem is the first step in the road to recovery…)

I don’t think anyone has a good divorce. For the record, mine sucked in many, many ways.   But it also gave me one priceless gift–a chance to rebuild my life in a way that made sense to me. And, while waiting for the end result of all the legal wrangling to be over, I had the time to really think about what it was I valued.

Here is what I came up with…  I cherished the time I didn’t have to spend in an office.  I wanted to spend a minimal amount of time earning a living. Instead, I wanted to spend as much of my limited remaining time on the planet enjoying friends and loved ones, nature, good books, good food and wine, and creative projects.  I didn’t want to have to worry about paying for and maintaining a bunch of junk I didn’t have the time or energy to use because I was too busy working to pay for it all.

Marina in OregonI didn’t even want to keep the stuff I already owned and had aspirations of someday using.  Like, say, the ten different musical instruments I had dreamed of someday learning to play.  I decided to pick the things that were truly dear to me (like my cello) and focus on those, and free up the rest of the stuff to find homes where they could be better used.

After quite a bit of thinking and research, I finally settled on my tiny home in the form of a 550 square foot floating home which sits in the Columbia River outside of Portland.  A portion of my divorce settlement went into the initial purchase.  I also have returned to the workforce as a consultant, which has helped greatly with renovation costs on my place but also present challenges in terms of my free time.  I’m still actively working to find the right balance there.

I’m afraid there hasn’t been much in the way of  “simple living” going on during the past year in which I’ve been restoring my place.  (It was in need of some serious work when I bought it.)  However, the past year’s journey has also been immensely rewarding to me on an emotional and social level.

There are still many more challenges to be met like finishing my place and establishing the right work/life balance.  At this point, I just keep putting one foot in front of the other while keeping my eye on the course.

The road I’m on certainly seems to have a fair share of potholes.  But, at least now, I’m on the right road.

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For more information on Stephanie and her tiny floating home, you can read the following at her blog, Coming Unmoored:

Gone crazy.  Back soon.  (Or maybe not.)

One Upon a Time, There Was Way Too Much Stuff

Moments of Clarity in Lowes

You can also follow her on Twitter.