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Posts Tagged Stuff

The Purpose Of Stuff And The Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself

Recently I came across this post about “The purpose of stuff” and I thought it was a really great way of thinking about the items in our lives.  To Summarize, we have all this stuff in our lives and they largely fall into four distinct purposes: Functional, Aesthetic, Nostalgic, and Dream Placeholders.

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I liked this line of thought and realized that this frame work is useful, but it contains a lot of pitfalls.  For example: Functional.  There are a lot of things that could be deemed functional in our lives, kitchen gadgets are the first thing that comes to mind.

Many of us have drawers stuffed with gadgets that will peel garlic, steam broccoli and core an apple.  The kitchen gadget industry has come up with a solution for every possible problem.  The truth is, much of these purpose built items don’t make us better cooks and most of these things serve an outlier need.  How often do you actually core apples?

So I wanted to offer up some questions that can help you navigate around the pitfalls of each of these.

Functional:

There are things that we simply need to get through our daily lives.  We need a bed to sleep on, a fridge to keep food in, a towel to dry our hands and so on.  Much of what is in my tiny house has a very strong functional purpose, but it’s easy to say we NEED something.  What most people fail to do is examine motivations and take a step back and understand the motivations.

compact-can-openerA perfect example for me was: do I need a washer and dryer?  I was convinced I did, but I didn’t know how I was going to fit it in my house.  It was then I took a step back and said “I hate folding clothes, why would I want to have a thing in my house that caused me to do things I hate doing?”

Now it would be easy to say, well everyone wears clothes, clothes get dirty, you need to wash them, therefore, you need a washer.  That is a pretty logical argument, it’s how most houses are built, and how it’s been done for a long time.  But I was willing to ask myself, what if I didn’t have a washer/dryer?  So I said, well maybe there is someone that I could instead pay to do my laundry in lieu of buying an expensive compact washer/dryer.  Low and behold I found a company that will come to my house, take my laundry, wash/dry/fold, then bring it back to me… for $15!

Ask yourself these questions around functional items:

  • What assumptions am I making about this item and the “need” it fills?
  • What are other ways I could achieve this same end result?
  • Is there something I could use instead that does this in a smaller form or is multi-purpose
  • How often do I actually do this function?
  • What if I didn’t have this thing?  What would the impact be?

Aesthetics

There is a great quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  Aesthetics is very important in a small space and for minimalists, we have very little so we must be intentional with all our decisions.  When it comes to minimalists choosing beautiful things for our lives, we need to be discerning.  This is the case where less is more, not out of some dogmatic adherence, but by have a few beautiful things we bring focus and honor to their purpose: enrichment through beauty.

have-nothing-that-is-not-useful-and-beautifulThe trouble with aesthetic items we can have too many of them, which leads us to have a cluttered feel.  Focus on a few select things that allows you to enjoy them without being distracted by other things.  If you find yourself not appreciating it’s value each day, it might be a sign it needs to go.

Ask yourself these questions around Aesthetic items:

  • Where will this item have a home, a spot, in my house?
  • How do you want your space or home to feel?  How does this item help you achieve that goal?
  • Is there enough space to draw your focus on this item each day?
  • What items will distract you from enjoyment of this item?

Nostalgic

This is the most difficult of them all, because we are human beings and as such, we are inherently laden with flaws and complications.  Nostalgia is a powerful force of the human experience and its valuable, healthy and an important part of life.  There are times when it can weigh us down.

memories-posessionsIf you ever have watched a show of Hoarders, you hear over and over again how people don’t want to throw something away because it reminds them of their late spouse, passed away family member or some other part of their past.  While hoarding is an unhealthy expression of this need to connect with the past, we can all relate to these feelings.

For me I spent a significant amount of time sifting through my memory boxes and was able to organize into a few albums and boxes.  I then placed the whole thing into a large waterproof container for safe keeping.  I think what I really need to do is get better is spending a little more time enjoying these memories.

Ask yourself these questions around nostalgic items:

  • Is it possible to keep this memory from some other prompt?
  • Is this a healthy memory to keep coming back to?
  • Would a picture of the item suffice?

Dream Placeholders

I have a soft spot for nostalgic items, but when it comes to items that are place holders for our dreams, hope and even fantasies I take a pretty hard line.  Dream placeholders are things that we involve in our lives that nod to a life we wish to live, the are things that we want in our lives, but we don’t have them, so we instead have things that remind us of that.  Dream placeholders are toxic. Period.

We should have goals, but the difference between goals and a dream is that goals are things we work towards, we are driven to achieve and we make meaningful progress towards; dreams are things we just remind ourselves that we don’t have them with no end in sight.

born to liveIt’s the difference between someone saying they hate their job and going home only to do it all over again, versus a person that works 9 to 5, only to come home and work on their side hustle until midnight.  It is the difference between people who say they want to live in a tiny house and the people who I’m going to do it and are building their dream home weeks later.

Dream placeholders can be toxic.  Living this lifestyle is one of purpose, of intention and of pursuit of your best life.  If you can’t actively pursue something, then it’s best to come to terms that it will not happen and move on.

Ask yourself these questions about Dream Placeholders:

  • What have you done in the last week to achieve this dream?
  • Why haven’t you achieved this already and is it just an excuse?
  • Does this item serve a function in getting you closer to your goals?
  • Should I lay this dream to rest and move on?

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you make sure the things in your life are meant to be there?
  • What tricks do you use to keep down clutter?

Things That Shouldn’t Impress Us Anymore

Recently I came across a great article from Joshua Becker (read it here) which captured a set of ideas that had been swirling around my head for a while.  The article was called 7 things that shouldn’t impress us anymore.  It talked about status symbols and how they shouldn’t be held up to such a high importance for us.

organizational-debtI think what struck me about most of the list is that ironic thing about the brand name of your clothing, big diamond rings, fancy cars and a big house is that most folks who these things are important to, can’t afford them.  Most – read 90% of Americans – folks achieve these status symbols through accruing debt.  I have a distinct memory of my neighbors who were very concerned with the things on Joshua’s list, one day fell on hard times.

The house of card fell very fast for them, their cars were taken because they were on lease, the home ended up in short sale and my neighbors lamented to me about all the credit card debt calls they got.  While this is just one story about a neighbor, it is really the story for many people today.   The truth is the average American household carries $15,762 (source) and 76% of Americans live pay check to pay check (source).

What is more, conspicuous consumption shouldn’t not impress us any more, but it should evoke a very different reaction – sadness or empathy – because it is almost always done on the back of debt.  People are extending themselves in ways that has been shown to break up marriages, bring massive amounts of stress and leave people in a hole they often can’t get out of.

Think about it, not only should they not impress us, but depress us.  What does it say about the status of our culture when people are willing to take on crippling debt just to impress a stranger?

Obviously I’m preaching to the choir here, tiny house folks focus on small spaces to get out of debt, we re-evaluate our spending choices and have taken steps to shed our consumer culture.  Inherently having nice things isn’t bad, even having brand names, nice cars etc isn’t a bad thing; we just need to know the why behind all of it.  The trap is when people say “that’s what I thought I was ‘supposed’ to do.”

Live your life with intention, with purpose behind each decision, each choice.  That choice could be living in a tiny house or it could be a 1,200 square foot house with a fancy car.

Your Turn!

  • What things do you think we shouldn’t be impressed about anymore?

 

The Things I Miss Most

There are all the good things about living the tiny life and then there are the things that I miss most. Of course, you don’t have to miss these things! It all comes down to design and what you deem necessary to your well-being and happiness in your living space. After nearly two years living the tiny life, here is what I’ve started to pine for.

aofuro1. Long, luxurious soaks in the tub. Yes, I’ll admit it. I love to fill up a huge tub with water and just lay there. At a Permaculture workshop I attended we played an icebreaker game of confession where everyone in the class went around and fessed up about their most non-sustainable guilty pleasure. Mine was a bath.  I know it’s wasteful and most certainly a luxury but I can’t help but crave those relaxing times spent in steaming water surrounded by bubbles! Any time I house sit, the first thing I look for is a tub. I actually looked in to the Japanese ofuro, a traditional soaking tub that you sit instead of lay down in, but I was told it wasn’t a practical addition to the size bathroom we were building. I think it’s a plausible addition to a small space if planned for early on in the design and I would love to see such a tub  incorporated in to a tiny house!

2. Stability in my living situation. We’ve moved our house 3 times in 2013 and while mobility was a plus when we built La Casita, I never saw us moving quite so much. While it is much less of a hassle than moving in or out of a regular home, it definitely has it’s challenges and feeling settled can take awhile.

Acraftroom3. Craft space/room. Not only for working but also for material storage. We don’t have the space in 98 square feet to meet this need. I really pared down my art materials when we moved in to La Casita and while one solution could be to rent a separate space, that’s not a financially viable option for me right now.

4. Comfortable sleeping room for guests. I miss having a space for friends and family to stay when they visit. We used to host people all the time in our other homes but in La Casita folks either have to sleep on an uncomfortable bench downstairs or camp. With winter not far off in Vermont, camping won’t be an option for much longer. Sure, there are nice B&B’s and cozy hotels for folks to stay but it’s just not the same. I love waking up in the morning and making coffee for guests and a plate of popovers! It’s the best!

5. Having huge potlucks in my living room. This was my favorite activityapotluckpicture and what I miss most about living in larger spaces. I love filling a kitchen with delicious food and cheerful, hungry people! While I have found other outlets and friends who enjoy doing the same in their homes, I miss being able to offer that hospitality.

While all of these needs have creative solutions, which I’ve explored in various posts, I still find myself daydreaming of bubble baths and bright, expansive indoor spaces for shared meals and guests. Perhaps it’s just the American in me trying to break free or maybe this is a normal process of living the tiny life. Once in a while you are going to wish for things you don’t have. It’s only human right?

Your Turn!

  • Is there anything you miss most living in less square footage?

Get Rid Of Your Crap

I started watching this video today and was floored by not only how good it was, not only how true it was, but also how much it just resonated with me.  I think every tiny house person should watch this and even non tiny house people.

The quotes that stood out for me is “if you don’t answer this question [what does freedom mean to me] there is a corporation, company or product that is happy to answer it for you”

what does freedom mean to me

Three Things I Am Having A Hard Time With

So in a few short months I am going to be moving into my tiny house and there are three things that I am really having a hard time trying to figure out how I’m going to handle getting into my tiny house.  They are things that I use very rarely, but there isn’t a good option to not having them.  I thought I’d air my metaphorical “dirty laundry” out for everyone to see, and just maybe I could get some ideas from you all.

So the three things things that I have been having a hard time paring down on are

  1. Tools
  2. Camping equipment
  3. Reference books and materials for my job

Going through this list I obviously still need my tools for building my house and I have several smaller projects to do after the house, so as of right now I use them every week, but what about after?  I have quite a few power tools that I’d really like to keep, but there is really no place in a tiny house for all of them.

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Half of my current tools

I wrote about this a little bit in this post and I have been thinking I’d like to build a tiny house office in the near future.  Basically the tiny house office will be for me to shift my job to a work from home job 100% of the time, I think it is important to have a separate space to work in so you can leave it behind when you need to.  My tools take up about 30ish cubic feet right now, so in the grand scheme of things not a whole lot, but too much to pack into the house; they are something that I do want to keep.

Camping/backpacking is one of my hobbies that I have have done since I was 12, I have literally backpacked a few thousand miles with a 40lb pack on my back.  I love the views, the time away from it all, and the time spent with friends.  The gear for this hobby is quite specialized and pretty expensive. As I have curated my “perfect system” over the years I have gotten down my weekend pack down to an impressive 24 lbs including my water!  The trouble with camping things like tents and sleeping bags, you have to store them loosely to not damage them.  Loosely meaning it takes up a lot of space, not ideal for a tiny house.

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Me a 14,000 feet

I’ve thought about selling it and then renting it when I need to, but honestly the idea of renting a sleeping bag that others have hiked all day and then slept in is not something I could handle… pretty gross.  Besides my gear is markedly better than what  they have for rentals around here.

Finally I have quite a few materials, books and other things that I need to do my job.  I am a very big proponent of digitizing things, minimizing, streamlining, but in the end, you need the tools to do your job.  This is an interesting difference between me and a lot of other tiny house people.  To add to the difficulty I am doing two jobs right now, the one that I’m doing and then the one I want to be doing full time.   While there are quite a few that live and work from a tiny house, their jobs seem to lend themselves to it.  My current job doesn’t so this is in part why I am considering building my tiny house office.

So that is my conundrum at this point, I’ve been wrestling with this for a while and haven’t really come up with a good answer.  Thoughts?

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Tools of the trade – Permaculture

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