Extra Challenges of Decluttering a Tiny House

I live in a tiny house. True, it isn’t what most people imagine when they think “Tiny House”, but at 100-150 square feet, depending how you measure, it is indeed tiny by most people’s standards, and even by some minimalist’s standards. Living in such a small space presents some unique challenges when it comes to decluttering procedures.

Stuff-To-Space Ratio

If I were to take everything I now own and put it in my old 1000 square foot house, I’d still have oodles of space. If lumped together, it would barely fill one room. If appropriately distributed throughout the house, it would probably look pretty minimalist.  But put it all back here, and it fills this tiny space quite thoroughly, and it is painfully obvious that I have too much of it.

The Task

There are probably as many ways to declutter as there are declutterers, but they tend to be variations on one of two basic methods: either empty the zone being decluttered (room, closet, drawer, whatever) and then put back only that which you are intentionally choosing to keep, or go through the zone being decluttered and remove everything except that which you wish to keep. In either case, some sort of staging area is needed for the removed items as they are sorted for discarding, donating, freecycling, or selling. In a bigger house, even if very cluttered, it is usually possible to empty part of a room, covered porch or patio, or at least clear off large table, or something, even if it means temporarily making a larger pile elsewhere.

My Problem

There isn’t really enough space in here to reserve any of it as a decluttering staging area. My bed and seats can be used very temporarily, but not for anything that lasts even overnight (especially the bed). I’m left with outdoor space, which means I have to hope the weather cooperates. And I certainly don’t want to leave anything of any value (although I may have decided that I no longer need something, it still has value and is worth protecting until it becomes someone else’s responsibility) out in the dust and dirt and sun and the various desert critters for very long.

If I knew exactly what to get rid of, and I was ready and able to dispatch the cast-offs instantly, It would be a lot easier. Trash (including various trinkets that are of such little value they aren’t worth the effort of doing anything other than trashing) can be eliminated quickly and easily. Items for donation can collect in a box or bag until my next trip into town. Items for resale are a bit trickier. They need to be tested, cleaned, and if they’re going on eBay or Craigslist, they need to be photographed and descriptions written. And then they need to be kept somewhere clean, dry, and safe for up to two weeks with eBay (or even longer if they don’t sell on the first try).

How I’ve Been Doing It

First I made an overall sweep for obvious cast-offs — stuff that I knew needed to go without any real thinking about it. I just pulled the individual items out and dealt with them as appropriate. Next, and this is the stage I am currently in, I go through small zones — perhaps a corner or a storage bin — that I can expect to complete in less than a day, using the bed or table as a sorting area. Since I don’t really have room for a “think about it” or “hide it and see if I forget about it” pile, anything I’m not certain that I am ready to part with goes back from whence it came, at least for now. Then I move to the next box, bin, or drawer. Once I’ve gone through them all, I start all over again, finding more things I can live without. It seems each round I have a bit more insight — becoming more attuned to minimalist philosophy perhaps. Often more of the “maybe” items go, but sometimes something that I thought was a definite keeper eventually gets the boot the second or third time around.

And So It Goes

Slowly I progress. Or so I hope. Sometimes I think this stuff multiplies all by itself while I’m not looking! WIth such a small place to work in I sometimes feel like I’m doing one of those puzzles where you have a frame full of tiles except for one and you must arrange them in a certain order by shuffling them one at a time in and out of the single empty space. I’m open to suggestions, especially from those who have already completed their major decluttering and/or are living in a very tiny space. Don’t be shy now, that’s what comments are for.

Towel Day

I almost forgot (and didn’t get this posted in time, either): Today is Yesterday was Towel Day. Do you know where your towel is?

Blogging Anew

When I first started this blog a few years ago, I thought I’d write about my adventures — perhaps a bit of travelogue, how-to, and tech tips thrown in. It turns out I wound up not having enough to write within that narrow vision. Looking over the archives, it seems I’d been averaging only a few posts per year.

It’s not that I had nothing to write so much as I didn’t want to get too far off-topic. But what good does that do if it means I hardly write anything at all and my blog gets neglected?

I read a post about a month or so ago — 15 Reasons I Think You Should Blog by Joshua Becker on Becoming Minimalist — that really made me think about why I started blogging and why I should keep doing it.

Then just the other day Gip Plaster of So Much More Life posted Focusing Passion Means Opening And Closing Doors. Got me thinking that maybe I can change or even broaden the focus of my writing here. After all, it’s  my blog; why shouldn’t I write about whatever moves me to write?

While you’ll still be able to come here and read about mobile and small living, you might be just as likely to be reading about ham radio, technology, music, computers, my opinions on politics or current events, or anything else I feel passionate enough to write about that day. Or that week, anyway. I’ve made a commitment to myself to post at least once a week, but to allow myself to write as often as I like.

Time will tell if I find a new focus for this blog, or if instead it becomes an entertaining potpourri of all my varied interests and passions. In any case, I hope you stick around and enjoy my “New And Improved (Now With Even More Content!)” blog.

In celebration of my “new” blog, I’ve added email and RSS subscription links for your convenience as well as a blogroll of sites I regularly read and am often inspired by.

TEOTWAWKI?

Surprise! It’s Sunday, May 22, 2011, and most of us on planet earth are still here.  Now I can go ahead and write another post or two that I’d been holding off on.

Seriously though, I almost feel sorry for those people who had so much faith in the impending end of the world (and the precision of the date and time thereof) that they gave up all their earthly possessions and responsibilities in anticipation. On the other hand, one might envy the opportunity they now have to start all over again with a clean slate. At least until next year.

Right Sized Shopping

I’ve always been a frugal shopper.  I try to get the most for my money, especially when buying groceries and household supplies.  This can sometimes be a real challenge for those of us who are single and/or live in small spaces.  Often the best bargain is to be had in the larger sizes.

Big House, Carefree Shopping

When I lived in a great big house it was pretty simple.  My only concern was if I could use it up before it went bad.  I had plenty of cupboard space to stock up on dry and canned goods when they were on sale.  Same thing with paper products.  36-roll packs of toilet paper on a really good sale?  I’d take two or three.  I also had a great big fridge with a great big freezer.  The freezer was great when there was a sale on frozen stuff, or things that can be frozen, like meat.  The fridge, on the other hand, while it was nice to have plenty of room for cold drinks and such, was really too big for one person.  It encouraged over-buying of freshies as well as collecting leftovers that had to be thrown out once they became unrecognizable.

Little House, Careful Shopping

Now I live in about a hundred square feet.  No room to stock up on toilet paper now.  I have a really small fridge (in reality, at 4 cu. ft. it is probably just the right size for one person) with a tiny freezer compartment.  No more stocking up on meat and frozen foods.  And I’ve learned what really needs refrigeration and what can do without, as well as alternative items (like shelf-stable UHT milk).  My strategy now for many consumable items is to try to buy only enough to last until my next regular shopping trip.  I think the business sector refers to this as “just in time” inventory.  The supermarket has a lot more room than I do – I’ll let them keep my overstock.  I still try to get good deals, but I know I am not always able to get things as cheaply when I only buy what I need.   I can call the amount I overpay the price of being able to live comfortably in a small space.  And while I might be spending more buying right-sized items, I’m not wasting as much to spoilage.

How about you?

Do you practice right sized shopping?  How is it working out?  Any tips you’d care to share?

Quantitative easing?

Euphemisms – I dunno whether to love ’em or hate ’em.

Xtranormal gives this discussion about the financial world a certain surreal character.  The subject, however, is tragically very real.

Thanks to Ajo for turning me on to this clip.

Living Without Cable TV

Some of you may be considering the mobile lifestyle, but wondering how you’ll get your TV fix without cable. The obvious answer, certainly being yelled at their screens by visitors here from the minimalist blogs I’ve been frequenting of late (more about that in another post) is “Stop watching TV!” or at least “Watch less TV!”

While I can agree that television is a big time sink and a bad influence, I’ll also admit to watching my share of it. So if you are going to hit the road without having to go off TV cold turkey, what can you do?

There’s satellite TV. It will work almost anywhere, except that nice shady spot in the deep woods. It is also expensive – they don’t give you a free system for an RV like they do for a fixed house; you’ll pay $1000 or more up front.

If you have a decent internet connection, there’s a lot of good TV to be had online. Many shows, old and new, as well as movies, can be found on Hulu, but if you are on an internet plan with a usage cap, be careful. You can certainly watch a few shows and maybe stream a movie from NetFlix once in a while, but if you want to veg out all night you’ll hit your limit very quickly, unless you have a truly unlimited plan. To my knowledge, aside from grandfathered plans, the only carrier offering truly unlimited data is T-Mobile.

Of course there’s always the antenna. That old bat-wing antenna on your roof will pull in the new digital stations from as far as 50 miles away, and I know this from actual experience. Right now I’m over fifty miles from the nearest TV station but I get a crystal clear picture and sound of all the major networks, PBS, and assorted independent channels, about two dozen in all, for free, using just the antenna that was already installed at the factory on the roof of my 30-year-old motorhome.

Here’s a good article on watching TV without cable or satellite. It has links to a few good sites for finding shows online that you can’t find on Hulu.

Minority By Choice

Minority By Choice

When we hear the word “minority” we usually think of race, sexuality, or physical attributes. But many of us belong to self-chosen minorities. I’m a naturist, a full-time RV-er, and a ham radio operator. Any one of those is a minority group in itself.  When you think of how many (few?) other people simultaneously belong to all three of those groups, that’s even more of a minority. Funny how we still manage to find each other, though. I can think of at least half-a-dozen other nude rv-living hams without even trying hard. What minorities have you chosen to belong to? How do you feel about being a minority? How do you feel when you find others like yourself? Call in and join the conversation.

Friday, May 1, 2009 at 10:00am Arizona & Pacific time. Listen at www.blogtalkradio.com/homelessonwheels or you can join in the conversation (or just listen) by dialing 646-478-4783.

Long time, no blog

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t written anything here in a while. Wow… I don’t see a single entry for 2008 – how is that possible? Well, I guess I’d better write something then, eh? OK… I’ll have to do some catch-up blogging. More to come…

Mixing Bowl Solar Tea

Summer in the desert. Warm 113-degree temperatures. Phoenix just broke a record yesterday  – 29 days (so far) this year with a temperature of 110 degrees or more (the “normal” is 10 days per year).  When it’s this hot, it’s important to stay well hydrated, and iced tea is a good refreshing beverage. 

 Those of you in the southwest and possibly elsewhere make or have at least heard of “sun tea” – fill a large glass jar with water, add teabags, and set out in the sun for a few hours to brew.  The slower, lower-temperature infusion makes a very smooth brew.  In addition, it’s solar powered – no fuel or electricity is expended boiling water (and heating the kitchen, fighting the air conditioning). 

Well, I wanted to make some sun tea today, but didn’t have a suitable jar handy.  I do, however, have a nice shiny stainless steel mixing bowl.  How did that come to mind?  Well, recently I’d left it outside with a plastic measuring cup inside, and the bowl focused the sunlight intensely enough to melt the measuring cup. I thought if it got hot enough to do that, then maybe it would work well for sun tea, and possibly faster than a glass jar do to the fact that the reflective bowl will concentrate the heat in the tea.  There’s only one way to find out – TRY IT!

So, I filled the bowl with water, added four regular size teabags, covered with plastic wrap (to keep bugs out and keep the heat in) and set the bowl out in the sun. 

After a couple hours in the sun, the brew was quite warm and looked to be the right color.  I added a cup of sugar and a couple trays of ice cubes (in a bigger container, of course) and had some delightful iced tea!  Oh – the tea I used was Twinings “Lemon Scented Tea” – Gives the drink a definite lemon flavor, but much more smooth and subtle than when adding lemon juice to regular tea.  I have some Twinings Black Currant and some Hedley’s Peach-Apricot that I can’t wait to make mixing-bowl tea with now!

Driving Courtesy

What is with people?  Doesn’t anybody learn to drive courteously anymore?  On my recent trip to the hamfest, I took the scenic route – I find that the two-lane roads have much better scenery and are more challenging (and therefore more fun) to drive than the freeways.  It is on these roads that peoples’ driving courtesy (or, more often than not, lack thereof) becomes apparent.  It’s been years since I’ve driven a rural two-lane highway, and possibly longer since I’ve done so through mountainous terrain, but it all came instantly back to me, just like riding a bicycle.  Some things one never really forgets.  Except for those who never learned.  We’re talking about simple stuff here, too.  Like dimming your headlights for oncoming traffic, or when following another vehicle.  Signalling your intent to pass, and doing so only when it is safe. 

 For that matter, most people don’t seem to do much better on four-lane divided highways (two lanes in each direction).  I guess people are spoiled by 6- 8- and 10-lane freeways.  On a four-lane highway, you are supposed to stay in the outside lane, moving to the left lane only when necessry to pass another vehicle, returning to the right lane once you have passed and it is safe to.  Exceptions include moving to the left as yo approach an on-ramp to make it easier for the cars entering the roadway.  Oh… and of course signalling all lane changes. 

As much as I hate to cast stereotypes, you know who the biggest offenders are, at least here in AZ?  Nine times out of ten, if I see a discourteous driver, especially one that continues to drive in the inside (left) lane, whether passing or not, the car seems to have California plates.  I’m sure there are plenty of Californians who learned proper driving courtesy, but I guess these Californians never drive to Arizona. 

 Well, I’ll continue to drive the way I was taught. I guess it’s just me and the professional truckers who still practice common courtesy on the roadways.