This issue of Small Living Journal focuses on our dreams, goals and plans for the future. As you read you’ll notice that each of us has a different approach. The diverse nature of our backgrounds must explain our different paths; but the one common thread is that living simply is helping us realize our dreams.
We also have a guest author, Betsy McCullen, who has shared with us the lessons she’s learned and a simple strategy she is using to accomplish her goals.
Our future plans aren’t set in stone and that is perfectly okay with us. The world is changing quickly and flexibility is an important quality. Especially, in a time of economic woes. Being able to move or change plans quickly can open the door to unforeseen opportunities.
Since our plans are loose and flexible, we’ve crafted a few guidelines for a bright future:
1. Living Small. Since downsizing, we’ve discovered that less is more. Rather than devoting large sums of life energy and money toward a traditional home or huge apartment, we will purchase a tiny house in the next year or two. In the meantime, we will continue our downsizing process and living in small apartments. Taking a pass on the traditional American dream and creating our own beautiful home is the best option for us. Living small will propel us toward financial independence and free up our time to spend with friends and family.
2. Staying Carfree & Debt Free. For us, a large part of living small means staying carfree and debt free. Ever since we sold our car and paid off our debt, a huge burden has been lifted from our shoulders. Without debt we are free to make choices that bring us happiness.
3. New Opportunities & Growth. I’ve been thinking about starting my own tiny business for the last few months and have been working on a master plan. Within the next year, I hope to launch a tiny business that will bring in a small supplemental income. Any extra money that is made in this venture will be put in savings. There are many goals I’d like to work on, like growing as a writer and photographer, spending quality time with friends/family and enjoying the outdoors.
4. Loving Life. Finally, I want to live life to the fullest. I know this sounds cheesy, but I think a lot of people engage in activities that don’t make them happy. As Gary Vanderchuck pointed out, during South by South West:
Live your life and do what you love. People worry about stupid shit.
Gary’s comment made me laugh out loud and reflect on the number of times I’ve fretted away about trivial things. Changing my perspective and devoting my life energy toward projects that make a difference in the world have changed me for the better.
During his talk, Gary emphasized the importance of loving yourself, embracing what you do well, and not waiting to make things happen. For me this message is about simplicity. Pursuing your passion shouldn’t be so difficult. But so many people are stuck in jobs they hate and are incredibility unhappy.
Our time on the planet is limited and I want my future choices and plans to be good ones. Above all, we want to pursue happiness; not more stuff.
What about you? Has downsizing affected how you foresee the future?
This is a supremely hard post for me to write and I doubt that anyone is doing it easily.
For the last 4-5 years, I’ve been trying to figure out what was most important to me. Five years ago, I felt that I might have the desire to go to grad school. I’ve always been torn by which creative path to take and how the process of making my creative pursuits into viable money-making endeavors could affect the creative urge. My three loves are these: writing, singing, and photographing.
Since I was in high school, I’ve been trying to figure out which one was most important to me, and have mostly ended up cycling between all of them. So I applied to school for creative writing, got accepted to NYU, and flew to New York to decide if it was the right move for me (photo is of me eating an NYC doughnut in my NYC outfit then).
Steph and I were talking yesterday about how we make important decisions, and she said that usually when she makes what people on the outside think are rash decisions, they are actually the result of much much internal thought and consideration, and only seem to happen suddenly. Five years ago, I sat in a classroom in NYC and I listened to an amazing class with an sharp professor surrounded by other poets, and as much as I got out of that class, it didn’t feel right. Then I went and listened to one of my favorite poets read just down the road and that, too, didn’t feel right. It didn’t seem like my future.
I am now at the end of two years of grad school, $30K in debt, and supposedly closer to knowing what I’m doing. What I do know is that I want to do work that is valuable and helpful to other people. So in five years, I hope to be doing something that helps others in some capacity.
My work as a documentarian began because I think understanding and being exposed to other people is a very important component in human compassion. And this compassion is necessary for any kind of progress. As much as I think it would be nice to be debt-free, and living in my own home in five years, the most important thing to me is to use my talents to promote understanding among other people. If I can help that process along in some way, and be surrounded by people I care about at the same time, that’s all I can really ask for.
When I was in my twenties, I used to draw up these detailed 5- and 10-year maps for my life course.
What I discovered, however, is that typically a few years into “the plan” my life would take a dramatic turn that took me clear off the edge of the map and sail into the realm cartographers of older times noted as “Here there be monsters”. In my case, I rarely encountered anything that dire. Instead, toppling over the side of the map usually proved to be a far better adventure than what I had initially planned for myself.
As I have grown older I’ve learned to be far more appreciative of allowing the future to unfold in its own unpredictable yet magical way. So if my plans for the future in my tiny floating home seem a little nebulous, I hope you can at least understand from where I’m coming.
After a year of angst, bills, and contractors, I am finally in my floating home. That is a huge step forward from my perspective. I have a home again and I where I dreamed of being.
There is still, however, a great deal of work to be done on the inside. But, as one of my regular readers, James, pointed out when I was lost in the middle of one of my home renovation panic attacks, I really do already have everything I really need. Now it’s just a question of making it more visually attractive and comfortable.
My immediate plans for the future are to finish off the renovations on my house and actually make it a home. My goal for this summer is to try to finish the top deck and front room of the house (consisting of my kitchen, living room, and sleeping loft). After that, I intend to handle the bathroom remodel and back guest room/office space.
I’m guessing “Phase 2″ will not happen until next summer, however. Both I and my bank account could use a chance to catch our breath. While I’d love for things to be done quicker than that the cost to my well-being and higher-level goals would probably prove too much.
What I’ve recently come to realize is that by focusing so intently on all the day-to-day details of restoring my tiny home, I’ve really lost sight of the broader picture of why I chose to downsize in the first place. In simplifying my residential footprint and lifestyle, my hope was to have more time to focus on the things that really mattered to me–time in nature, creative pursuits, and nurturing deeper relationships with others.
Between trying to juggle the responsibilities of my current profession, home renovations, and writing for two different websites regularly, I feel as though I’ve lost touch of my higher-level goals. I’ve been too focused on the “How” rather than the “Why”. It’s time for me to catch my breath and reorient.
Beyond just making my home a inviting and beautiful place to live, my goals for the next five years are the following:
- Deepen and broaden my network of friendships and relationships with loved ones
- Spend more time enjoying the outdoors
- Continue to grow as a writer
- Improve my financial integrity and pursue financial independence as it is described in Your Money or Your Life
- Get re-involved with sailing
- Become a mother before I am too old for that to be feasible
It’s a short but deeply meaningful list for me. And that is pretty much right where I hoped to be when I first embarked upon this journey.
In taking time to consider where I currently am and where I hope to be in my own life I’ve come to realize that a good portion of the discussion of the small home movement focuses on the “How” rather than the possible different reasons “Why”. Certainly, that is been true of my own writing on Coming Unmoored.
My suggestion to those of you who are currently determining your own path to downsizing your lives is that while you’re figuring out the mechanics of how you intend to do what you dream, that you also spend some time writing down your own authentic answer to the question “Why?” And that as things progress for you, you check back periodically to that answer to confirm you’re still on course.
I wish you all the best on your own journeys and will continue to keep you posted on my own.
Photos by Tammy.
August 2009 will mark the end of six years living in my small (10′ x 7′) home, the Mobile Hermitage. It’s been a great experience, but now I’m at the point where I want to take things to the next level of small, simple, and sustainable.
In general, it’s true to say that people just don’t need the space at home they once needed for books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, newspapers, photographs, and other items that have now been digitized. In the workplace, many people are working in digital information based professions that don’t require a lot of space. Software programs such as Apple iLife combine photography, video production, and music composition all inside the personal computer.
While new tiny home construction is an option for a few people with money and access to land, we still have sprawling suburbs and urban infrastructure that was all built for an age prior to the current age of technological miniaturization. Imagine a world where people no longer wear XXL and XL sizes. What would you do with all of those old clothes? The same is true for housing. Fewer people need or want XXL size homes. So, creative solutions need to be developed whereby large homes can be downsized.
Consider that an empty room in a home has value that is untapped. For example, wind and solar power generating systems need a relatively climate-controlled area for electronics and battery storage. A neighborhood home could be converted into a sustainable power station that is collectively owned.
For people who need office space, and don’t have it in their current home (house or apartment), a local home converted over to shared office space would be ideal and save people in the area from a longer commute if all they are doing is driving to a cubical or small office. Homes could also be converted into fitness centers, community centers, guest houses, and coffee shops. The general idea is to allow some, limited, commercial use of homes in larger sprawling suburban areas. Larger homes could also be converted from single family to multiple occupancy. These are just a few examples of how existing wasteful urban sprawl can be recaptured an used practically.
In my travels around the world, I’ve noticed it is common in many neighborhoods to have a home fully or partially converted (perhaps the garage) to be a small grocery store, coffee shop, or business. The mixed use of spaces is commonly referred to as New Urbansim, yet the ideas has been around for a long time.
Beginning in August 2009, I plan to start a new endeavor of researching, developing, and implementing simple, small, sustainable solutions in response to some of the above strategies. The idea is to develop and showcase technologies for retrofitting apartments, homes, and businesses for greener and smaller living.
So, that’s a little bit about what my future small plans are.