Fighting back Mainstream

Posted April 4th, 2009 by Jonathan and filed in Issue 2: Downsizing

It’s true and I hate to admit it – I have become a product of the ‘stuff’ society. It’s shameful but I am fighting back!

paperpileI don’t exactly live in what would be considered a tiny house. At 28 by 32 feet, my current home has an 896 square foot footprint and 1100 square feet with the upstairs included. Even though it’s not tiny, it is quite a bit smaller than the current 2400 square foot average. I look at this as simply a bump in the road; I come from small house roots (grew up in 600 sq. ft; college life in 300 sq. ft) and my wife and I don’t plan on going any bigger than our current house. We do have one problem though…too much stuff! I have often asked myself what I can do about all of our positions but there are so many that I simply didn’t know where to start. Then I had an idea – why not start small!!

I like to think of myself as “mainstream small”. That is, I look for ways to scale down that are very doable for not only myself but also for the general public. For example, a family of 4 could not very easily live in 80 square feet but could quite easily “electronify” their files. This simple act could easily free up space to make living more comfortable, to eliminate the necessity of upgrading to a larger house, and could even spur on the movement to a smaller home! This is one small step that I have taken to downsize my life.

What started as a dare/challenge/New Year’s resolution at work has now become a way of life. As a person with approximately 64 cubic feet of filing space (yeah – it’s a lot), I became the resident librarian of my office. I didn’t really mind this as I am a natural packrat and actually feel good being surrounded by stuff. What was always problematic was having to wade through all of the stuff to find what I really wanted.

Going “paperless”, although initially time consuming, is one of the easier tasks that anyone can do to live smaller. All anyone with a computer needs to get started is a scanner, which can be purchased here (if it is a tiny-living model that interests you!) Once in your home, anyone can easily convert bulky paper files into ‘no-space-needed’ e-files.

After 3 months on-and-off work, I can now say that I have cut my paper files in half and am still going strong! Every free moment that I have at work is spent scanning a few documents. I am determined not to stop until I have a full e-filing system!

After seeing the results at work, I have taken my motivation home. I have begun scanning documents that I have kept in filing cabinets for years. Many of these documents are related to taxes and so are critical to keep for at least 5 years. I also tend to keep the stubs of bills that I might need a history of (student loans, auto and home loan info, etc.). What’s great about e-filing is that there is no paperwork to take up space! Much to my wife’s delight, my packrat ways are now taking up much less space.

One note of caution…be sure to back up files!!!

One Response to “Fighting back Mainstream”

  1. Sunny DaydreameNo Gravatar says:

    I’m so glad your post was included in this issue. My husband and I live in a 1300 square foot home–It’s 97 years old and we LOVE it. We still have a small living mentality–downsize, declutter, just enough makes it to where we can live large (loving our family instead of our stuff). We have a growing family, and don’t plan on moving into a house that is any bigger (How many kids CAN you fit into 1300 square feet?) My dream is that once we are done with the growing family would be to consider downsizing. In the mean time, we are living the dream of creating our own urban homestead. With some of the stuff that comes a long with that, we are making good use of our space (canning equipment, gardening, food storage, etc).

    My big advice for going paperless is make sure your backups are off site. My in-laws were robbed a year ago. They lost most of their computer files because the computers AND the backup drives were stolen.