Small house, big mistake

We did some measuring on the house we’re buying earlier this week, which explained a peculiarity about the house…and brought a huge problem in a tiny space to our attention.

Where is this problem?

The utility room.

Somebody made a huge mistake in that tiny cramped space when they planned the utility room.  It has all the basics–the closet for the central air/heat, the water heater, the washer hook ups, and the 220 volt plug in for the dryer, as well as the dryer vent.  It all looks good when you just look at it.

The House laundry fixtures

Utility room's laundry hook ups. They look "normal", right?

But we had noticed a peculiar thing about it too.  It sports two doors–the “back” door and a door into the living area.  On the door to the living area, there was weather stripping, and a lot of it.  Why on earth would anyone put weather stripping on an interior door?

Initially, we thought perhaps it was to prevent heat transfer from using the dryer, or to block noise from the machines.  We were happy with that explanation until we measured.  It seems that here was the mistake.

There is exactly 26″ from the back of the space for the machines to the door frames, both of which open inwards into the tiny space.  Without allowing for hoses behind the machines, the machines measure 26 1/2″ on upwards to about 29″.

It won’t fit…and allow the back door to be used.

Moving a door is a major project, even if GM does it himself.  It’s not exactly an afternoon’s work.  There is plenty of room to move it further away from the machine without interfering with the water heater’s closet or the closet holding the central air/heat unit…so why on earth did they screw this up so badly?

We’ll never know the answer, but eventually, we do have to come up with a solution.  We don’t currently own these appliances, and they are a ways down the list in terms of priorities for purchasing them as well–we’ll get by initially with trips to the laundromat.  (Thank goodness it offers free wi-fi, right?  Nothing ranks as boring as sitting and waiting for laundry to wash!)

Problems are easy to find.  The real challenges are found in finding solutions that fit our budget, tools, skills, and abilities.  That’s next…but not until after closing.

The formal handing over of title and deed seems so far away right now!

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And so the weeds grow and the fire ants build an industrial complex

Waiting to close on a house is an exercise in patience.  We did go back to the house after signing the contract for the bid, mostly to double check a few things and do some measuring.  We had missed some of the “problems” too, although that wouldn’t have made any substantial difference in our bid.

It’s “livable” and it is dirt cheap, so we’re just faced with making it into our home and doing the repairs.

In the meantime, here on the Gulf Coast, we have ample moisture, plenty of sunshine and fertile soil–a perfect recipe for a neglected lot to start looking like the weeds have won the war.  The fire ants are also taking full advantage of the lack of a human presence to make their industrial complexes.  They are even hiking through the back door into the utility room.

I hate fire ants, like anyone who has ever been inflicted with their painful bites.

It’s also killing me that we can’t get the lot mowed until we close.  It looks horrible as it is, and I’m sure our new neighbors aren’t thrilled with the way it looks either.  It also makes it virtually impossible to assess the lot properly–the weeds hide any holes, hills, or other obstacles that need dealt with.  Even the parking area is waist high.

Weeds and fence

This section of lattice was used to form a short section of fence in the front, alongside the parking area. It is now being consumed by weeds.

So we wait…and know the fire ants are preparing their complex for battle in the meantime.

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Another step closer…

The property we made an offer on has an agreed price after the haggling back and forth.  We’ve got the financial aspect covered.  We have signed that initial paperwork for the process.  The earnest money has been paid.

Not that there haven’t been some bumps in the road along the way.  It turned out that this particular house had never been given an address…in this day and age, no less!  That required a lot of trips from city hall to court house, back and forth, over and over, for the real estate agent.  It had also never had its own electric meter, which required the seller to hire a licensed electrician and coordinate with the power company to install one.  It was at that point that I must confess…I was worried the seller (a bank) would back out.

Now, those hurdles have been jumped, and we’re on to the waiting game until the closing.  We can, however, arrange for the city to inspect the house and give us that oh-so-necessary certificate of occupancy that we need in order to turn on the utilities after we do close.  The missing item that was going to cause a failure from the city was it’s utter lack of smoke detectors, which the agent promised to install prior to the inspector’s arrival.  I thought that was a very nice gesture on her part, since she’s been making me crazy with her manner of returning calls.  (She apparently prefers text messages and email…and I prefer to hear a voice!) Since it’s all electric, no carbon monoxide detectors are required.

Since this house was converted in the aftermath of Katrina…I have no worries about that inspection–the codes haven’t changed.

But that isn’t the end of it. I’ll get photos posted as soon as I actually start taking them and we start working.  It will be interesting to see before and after pictures.

We have so much work to do…from the waist high weeds onward.

To make it a bigger challenge, we don’t really have any money, so the repairs, work, and materials…are all being done on a shoestring.  There’s no furniture either–we’d gotten rid of nearly everything that could be called “furniture.”  That means we have camp chairs to sit on, a camp table…and a bookshelf.

GM has the skills to do the work, whether its building a new entry or a new table, but we are also “tool challenged.”  For power tools, all we have now is both a corded and battery power drill, a cheap jig saw, a dremel tool set, a router, and a scroll saw.  Our most critical need is probably going to be a circular saw, as it can safely accomplish most cuts on both sheet stock and dimensional lumber.

For the house, the critical needs are going to start with plumbing and painting, and we already know that we need a new toilet.

toilet with damaged tank

The tank is cracked, the tape is because of winterization of the house. The cracked tank has been "repaired" with metal duct tape.

We hadn’t noticed this particular detail on the initial inspection, but it wouldn’t have made much difference anyhow.  This is probably one of the more glaring needs-to-be-repaired items, but it’s certainly not the most serious or expensive.

So our shopping list is growing: caulk, caulk gun, toilet, new wax ring, corner molding to replace the lovely job the toilet currently sports with corner bead for drywall…and plumbing parts. Some things have to wait due to financial crunches–we have to move in as soon as possible, and just plain don’t have the money for an instant remodeling of the house.

That means we are stuck with the flooring for now.  It’s special too…along with the closet installations, the door to the utility room and a few other horrible things.  The damaged kitchen cabinets, despite the bad installation and damage, are also something we have to live with.  They too will get a scrubbing, coat of paint, and a promise for better things to come.

Despite the problems and needed changes and repairs…I like the house and the lot.  I don’t like that it is considered “flood plain” but most of coastal Mississippi IS somehow flood prone.  This area flooded during Katrina, but doesn’t habitually flood for every incoming tropical storm, unlike the bayous and some of the river front areas.  (According to the neighbors, Katrina delivered about 5′ of water…enough to indicate that a hurricane is an occasion to go visit someone inland.)

So we’re looking at the weeds and sighing…we don’t even own a lawnmower.  The graveled parking area is even sporting the waist high crop of weeds.  For this, I had recently read something about how straight distilled vinegar, sprayed on weeds, will kill them quicker than using chemicals such as Round Up.  Since we would prefer to avoid that kind of chemicals (we’re intending on doing some gardening and prefer organic practices) and distilled vinegar is one of the cheapest chemicals on the market…I’m going to give that a try.  We have a healthy crop of native vines taking over some fencing, and that too will get the pickling treatment with the hopes that it works on them.  (I already know that these vines are apt to thrive on Round Up from previous experiences.)

So here is our shopping list as we wait for news about closing.

  • 2 gallons vinegar
  • yard & garden sprayer
  • drywall mud
  • trowel/knive
  • sanding block
  • sand paper
  • paintable caulking
  • caulk gun
  • toilet
  • roller pads
  • roller
  • extension handle
  • paint tray
  • paint brushes
  • small/trim roller
  • masking tape
  • step ladder

While we can drive to Mobile, Alabama or the Gulfport/Biloxi area for supplies, we only have a Lowe’s in the Pascagoula area, along with the standard Walmart.  That doesn’t give us a lot of options for supplies and tools.  We also don’t see a lot of benefit in spending an entire day and half a tank of gas (to the tune of $30-40 these days) to save $10 on our supplies.  For some things, there is also the option of mail order/internet shopping to get the items we need.  We’ll see.  I dn’t mind saving a bit if I don’t have to sacrifice too much quality to do so.

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Just looking for a home…

Eighteen months in the poorly designed travel trailer, and we’re ready to call that phase quits.  I hate it.

I seriously hate it.

There is no place to put anything, and while some travel trailers are designed with adequate storage and a workable floor plan, ours wasn’t.  It was awkward, cheaply made, and frustrating.

I also suffer from claustrophobia, and the bedroom was so cramped that I had to sleep with my feet hanging off of the bed to alleviate that feeling of suffocation (there was a “closet” alongside the head of the bed.)  There wasn’t much I did like about it after the first few months.

We wanted to downsize, but this was a perpetual agony of downsizing.  The size probably wasn’t the problem in our case, it was the design of the particular travel trailer we had bought.

So for over a year, we had been searching for that perfect “bargain” in real estate that we could not only live with the payments, but we could live with living there for a minimum of five years.   If you add in the consideration that our budget was as downsized as our quarters, it is a wonder we had the faith to even keep searching.  No money, no credit, no collateral, and still we hoped that we’d find SOMETHING suitable.

Obviously, with our budget, we were looking at “distressed” properties, and boy did we see some doozies.  Some of those doozies also came with some incredibly surprising price tags.

$35,000 for a small rural lot with a gutted, formerly flooded home that had to be raised to get a certificate of occupancy…to the tune of FOURTEEN feet?  With rotted roof and all, there it sat with the spray painted tags from the months after Katrina.  It was going to need a new well, new pump system, new septic system up to current standards, and the house was unlikely as a candidate for renovation and raising onto a platform.

Another one had a reduced price of $22,000 in another rural location, although high and dry this time, out of the reach of hurricane storm surges by more than twenty miles.  It was supposed to be in “rough” condition, sporting a garage, a shed, and a self-supported roof over an older mobile home.  The reality had a far different picture, and while it came with over 2 1/2 acres of land…the roof was rotting, the insulation and ceiling had come down and the water was still streaming in days after a rainstorm when we visited the property.  Vandals had ripped out cupboards in the kitchen, strewn personal belongings around, and it even came complete with used syringes on the floor.  Doors hung halfway off of their hinges, and I shook my head.  Who would want to start to work on this mess, knowing that whoever had vandalized this property probably lived in the area and might come back to see what they might be able to steal?  The humped driveway off of the busy blacktop road was another problem–our van bottomed out on it, and there was no way we could get any trailer, let alone a 30′ travel trailer, over it, and it would require a bulldozer to level it out before we could start doing anything.

Scratch that off of the list.

Another one was another bayou property that had flooded severely during Katrina, although it was high enough that it didn’t flood with every tropical storm like some bayou areas do.  It had a large, newer (circa 2000) mobile home on it, but the home had flooded, and the former occupants never removed their destroyed personal belongings.  The bank hadn’t even foreclosed, instead, the property was forfeited due to back taxes.  Repeatedly.

Inquiring with the local county zoning had us dancing through hoops with the mobile home, instead of merely getting rid of it and starting over.  I had zero interest in renovating an older (by 2011) and flooded mobile home to live in, especially when it too had to be raised fourteen feet into the air.  We also had not been able to get a straight answer about whether or not we could put our travel trailer on the property while we were dealing with preparing to build, raising the money and then building a home.  We decided that there was too much red tape involved with the property, especially with it weeks from being forfeited again due to back taxes.  That property, during the time period we looked at it, went from $7000 to $3500.  About a month after we gave up on it, we drove past it again, and the mobile home was occupied…without raising it.  I wish the occupants a long life and good health, but I suspect they are dealing with more mold than is healthy.

We looked at a newer mobile home in a nearby small town, supposedly in a “good area.”  The area might have been good, but the particular street this one was located on was not.   We weren’t able to get in and look at the interior at that moment, but it didn’t matter.  I told GM that I’d be afraid to stay home alone…in the day time…in that neighborhood.  He laughed and said that the first time we left, we’d likely not have to worry about coming home, because our impression was that the house would be looted the minute we were gone.

That one was scratched without further ado.

Another mobile home on a 2 acre lot sounded wonderful, but there again, we weren’t able to get in to inspect the interior.  Its pump had been stolen from the well, and in talking with some neighbors, we found out what the problem with getting the permit for the septic system would be.  The county was putting in water and sewer in the area, but it was going to be up to two years before it was actually available to this particular home.  That meant we could be forced to sit on the property, unable to use it, for the two years.  Another case of scratch-that-one-from-the-list.  We couldn’t afford to buy a property we couldn’t use for the first two years.

Small houses, gutted houses, flood properties, dilapidated structures, debris and trash, junk cars…we saw it all.  We’d sigh, sometimes we’d laugh, often we’d shake our heads, and we’d move on.  The right property hadn’t come along, despite our desperation to escape our “sardine can” travel trailer.

Then, finally it did.

Or so we hope.  We are actually waiting today to hear from the realtor about whether or not the deal has been accepted.  It’s a tiny two bedroom house, in a converted garage, with the work done since Katrina.  (The area had 5-6 feet of water from the storm surge.)  It’s in a flood zone, but nearly everything on the coast is in a flood zone, and according to the neighbors, the area had only flooded during Katrina, instead of for every tropical storm that hit the coastal area.

It has a tiny laundry room, a basic full bathroom, two of the stupidest looking closets I’ve ever seen, and an all-in-one living/dining/kitchen/family room…without an exterior door to access the yard from that room, despite having the ramps indicating the original garage doors were located on that side.  It has a dorky little overhang over the front door, and absolutely NO “street presence” in terms of the neighborhood.  It really looks like a converted garage still, with this industrial looking parking area directly in front of the front door and missing fences on either side of it.

We know that the plumbing needs repairs, although we’re not sure exactly what is all wrong.  We don’t know if the central air/heat works, nor if all of the parts are actually in place either.  We weren’t able to inspect the water heater either.

There’s plenty of room for surprises.  It is also affordable for us on a five year loan, a far better prospect than saddling ourselves with a thirty year mortgage.  For most people the price translates to dirt cheap, even if it IS a converted garage.

How do I feel about that?

Surprisingly, it doesn’t bother me.  Some things about the house I really like, some things I don’t, but the “likes” far outweigh the “hates”.  I know we are going to want to change some things, as soon as we can afford to spend the money.  I know I want a door added to the living area side to access the side yard.  (The house has far more width than depth in terms of its lot size and shape.)  I also want a deck to cover up the ramp, and a new entry of some kind for the street side.  Some things we can change with very little money, other things are going to have to wait for the funds to be available.

This property, I will be sorely disappointed if we can’t come to an agreement with the seller.  I’ve also learned that I would never hire this particular realtor to represent us in selling property–she doesn’t return calls promptly, and is not very actively engaged in this property at all.  I realize that its probably the cheapest property (with the correspondingly low commission for selling it) but there is no excuse for simply ignoring phone calls…or people who walk into your office.  We had actually waited in the office, rang the bell, and stood around for fifteen minutes listening to someone in one of the offices making phone calls that sounded more personal in nature than professional.

I really have a bone to pick with poor customer/client service.  I don’t feel that they are representing either the seller or the buyer very well.

So we wait…and I just want to know if it’s a done deal, when we can close, and when we can find out about the utilities, paint the place, and get it ready to move into.  Patience is not my forte, I guess!  We have waited and searched for a long time for this “bargain.”  Over half of the business day is gone today, and who knows if she has even called the seller with our counter offer.

Big sigh.

I want to move on to the next phase.  I want to go get measurements and start plotting.  I want to arrange to mow down the waist high weeds before they are a snake haven and pure hell for humans and hounds.  I want the fence fixed so we have at least the small “backyard” dog proofed so that the dogs can use that area.  I want to find out where the shut off is for the water, to find the breaker box for the electric, and remove the nails holding the door closed on what is probably the water heater.  I want to go buy paint, even if we’re stuck buying bargain paint.

Dang it, I just want to know if it is going to be our home!

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Another looming disaster?

Living in a travel trailer in someone’s back yard is one low-cost option when downsizing, especially if your travel trailer exceeds your vehicle’s towing capacity.  Ours does.  With the way the price of gasoline is skyrocketing with no end in sight, changing that doesn’t look like a brilliant option either.  Not only would we have the expense of another vehicle, either as a second one or replacing our mini-van, but it is tough enough fueling the one we have.  It can work quite well, but there are problems.

We’re encountering one.  

We really, truly, most sincerely and definitely too, need to find a lot or piece of property that will work for us and we can afford to buy.  Being semi-nomadic and at the mercy of others’ lives, choices, behavior, and whims is apparently not for us.

It seems that our benefactor has had financial problems resulting in their home being put into foreclosure.  What does that mean for us?

It means that if they don’t manage to salvage their situation, we’re going to have our own situation of being forced to move while ill prepared and without a clue where on earth we’re going to go next.  We had been looking, hoping to find a low cost alternative to a trailer park or RV park, but so far…nothing actually suitable has come up.  Trying to get a time frame, etc. hasn’t been easy–it’s an uncomfortable and difficult situation for everyone.  For us, it looks like we have at least three weeks before the “Fist of Fate” descends on our heads.  Outside of that, we don’t know.

Panic time?

Well, panic wouldn’t do us any good.  We are “financially challenged” right now, courtesy of some health problems that have dropped unexpected costs on our heads too.  We don’t have our usual cushion in the bank account.  Our search for a new location is continuing, even if there is a much more serious air to it.  We really could use a bit of good luck at this point.

Sometimes, I have to admit…it seems as though things go wrong if we get too comfortable in our temporary locations.  It’s like we’re supposed to move on, so “stuff” starts to happen to make us do so.  We had gotten a bit more complacent about where we were and how we were living our lives, and now…we’ve been made uncomfortable to inspire our search afield once again.  Nobody wants to wait for the sheriff’s office and an eviction notice before they are prepared to move on.

We’ll most likely check out some RV parks, as a “just-in-case” move while we continue our search for more agreeable alternatives.  By their nature, RV parks tend to have frequent vacancies, which means we can likely get a slot if we have short notice that we’re going to need it, as well as the ability to relocate when something more agreeable IS found.  In a sense, it’s going to be our “Plan B”.

Sometimes, it’s a real good thing we have 26 letters in our alphabet.


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The tiny houses

Tiny houses, easily built on a trailer, sound like a great idea.  Having lived in a travel trailer, I’ve got some experience with the whole house-on-wheels thing.  I can also safely say that the travel trailer has ranked as one of the worst designed small spaces (at least for us) I have ever endured.

Travel trailers are designed primarily for occasional short term occupation, not as a full time home.  They are also designed with the consideration of being frequently towed on the open highway, something else that we don’t usually do with a full time home.  Even in our case, our 30′ travel trailer can’t be towed by our vehicle, forcing us to rent a truck any time we intend to move it.  Logically speaking, moving it isn’t something we do often then because of the expense of the vehicle and fuel.

These tiny houses that are designed on trailers are not designed to be pulled at highway speeds frequently.  Looking at them, I’d hesitate to get over about 55 mph actually.  But, for someone who doesn’t move their home more than once or twice a year at the most, it may be an opportunity to have a much more aesthetically pleasing and pleasant home.

There is one problem though.

Sleeping arrangements in these homes are typically that of a loft situation accessed by a ladder.  That’s fine if you are twenty-something or thirty-something, but as we age, we are much less mobile, agile, and inclined to want to sleep in a loft.  What then?

The first option that comes to mind is a futon or convertible sofa in the “living area” of the home.  There again, that’s a physical challenge for some people, to pull out, lift, or lower uncooperative and heavy components to make and then disguise your bed.  In the designs typical of such companies as Tumbleweed Houses there are a number of designs, but none of them are suitable for the senior crowd who are interested in downsizing to a home on wheels.  Aesthetically speaking, they are fabulous, until bedtime…

Or cooking.

That’s another thing…these kitchens are designed for a minimalist cook.  I’m not a true gourmet cook, but I do cook…real food.  I’m trying to have a healthier, more natural diet made up of food that is produced via sustainable agricultural methods.  I try to use, and preserve for later use, locally produced foods.  I also make jams and jellies to give my less culinary inclined friends and family members as  gifts.  That means I don’t want a two burner cook top with no oven or counter space…or a pantry.  I am a firm advocate of that Boy Scout motto too–Be Prepared.  That means I also advocate keeping more than a few days food on hand at all times, just in case of everything from a hurricane to an illness preventing a trip to the store.

I’ve also learned that the micro-sized shower and tub typically found in a travel trailer is not to our liking and won’t work permanently.  Adding a full size shower with a tub is also not feasible in these ultra tiny house plans for a home on wheels.  We may typically use the shower to bathe, but there are occasions when a soak in the tub is really more than nice, it’s almost necessary!  We also would like to add some features typically found in handicapped bathrooms such as grab bars, as I sometimes have balance issues due to medications.  Grab bars will make the bathroom a safer place for me.

Just like the tiny porches on the tiny houses are more than just a cute feature.  If you are challenged with balance issues, walking up steps and entering a door, all at the same time, in the pouring rain or blowing wind can turn a simple act into a dangerous challenge.  That small landing space, especially if it has a grab bar or convenient railing, can become a much safer doorway for me.

We would also need work space, and we need two of them, as we have also found that sharing computers is not an option.  We both use them in unique ways, with different software and apply that software in unique ways.  We also tend to be on the computer at the same time, which makes “sharing” tough.  For that workspace, we don’t need a lot of space, but we do need a small surface to hold the computer, some shelving for things like dvds, cds, and books, as well as a writing surface.  Some drawers or bins to hold typical office supplies such as ink, pens, pencils, erasers, paper clips, etc are also needed, although these could be shared.  We also need space for a printer.

Then, despite our living small or in a travel trailer, we need storage for our camping gear.  Over the years, I’ve learned that storing it in a shed is pointless–it gets ruined at light speed.  A loft would work for this…as long as it’s not a completely vertical ladder (maybe a pull down?) we could store bulky items such as the camping gear in it.  That would also work for seasonal items such as winter gear, tools, etc.

With all of that, looking at the concept of another home on wheels, none of the designs from Jay Schafer will work for us.  That doesn’t mean that we need to discard the idea, however.  His designs are extremely compact and quite ingenious.  I like them, I like many things about them, but for us, it would have to be an “influencing design” and we’d have to work on our own design to make it a bit more friendly to mobility issues than his are.

Unfortunately, it would also be more expensive, as a 30 foot flatbed trailer, the foundation for the entire design, would run about $6000-$7000 for a new trailer.


Since our budget is also as micro-sized as our home is, that’s not going to happen in the immediate future.  It also has me questioning whether revamping our current travel trailer  would be a more viable option, however…that’s not easy when you are also living in it.  We’d essentially starting by gutting the back third of the trailer to start over.  In addition, we would have to consider the weight of the components we add…and take away, as in a travel trailer, we already have x amount of weight distributed through the trailer.  (Our model has bunks and bathroom at the rear 1/3 of the trailer, with a bedroom at the front, living quarters in the middle.)

Then, there are site-built tiny houses.  These aren’t designed to be moved, and are built to meet the Universal Building Code, although some areas may have covenants or other regulations that may require other modifications in order to comply.  Some areas also have minimum size requirements that completely preclude the possibility of any small house ever being built on the site, so be sure to research the covenants on any property you are considering buying and do not rely on the realtor to disclose all of them!  Tumbleweed Houses has some of these designs, and many include the majority of the features that we are considering as important.

In particular, the B-53 model appeals to us.  Its exterior fits the region we live in (the South) as well as the interior design is somewhat feasible.  We don’t like the “booth” for dining–it’s not a great idea for seniors who are looking at increasing mobility issues over time to choose a booth design such as that.  We really don’t  need two spare bedrooms, but the downstairs bedroom is an important feature for older adults.  That downstairs bedroom is also a bit small to make moving around a bed easy, whether it is just to get in and out of bed or to make the bed.  Ten feet is really about the minimum dimensions for easy access to the bedroom with a queen size bed.  The downstairs bathroom is also a bit too compact to consider–it would need expansion as well, in order to accommodate a larger shower or a tub/shower combination.

Obviously, that design is not going to be any more than an source of inspiration for us.

But, we’re still in the planning stage.  We’re working on the entire downsized idea, we’ve been working on it and living it for about eighteen months now.  We don’t know everything yet.  We have a LONG ways to go to achieve that state!

We have some priorities.  We need a piece of land on which to live and garden.  We need a roof over our head and utilities.  We need to establish a stable income.  We need a reliable vehicle for transportation.  Those are our basic needs.  Right now, we haven’t achieved “all of the above.”

So what is our goal?

We want a small, affordable and efficient home.  We want a sustainable lifestyle that also acknowledges the fact that we are not as young as we once were.  We want to enjoy where and how we live, most importantly.

So we just keep working away on it.

Good things happen when you work on it, plot, plan, and connive, right?


Posted in budget, building, customizing, financial state, interesting ideas, self sufficiency | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Downsizing your life

Whether it’s by choice or not, there comes the decision to downsize.  It doesn’t come easy, and don’t expect it to suddenly get easier until you arrive in the neighborhood of downsized.  Then, for some reason, it starts getting easier as you realize how much lighter you are starting to feel.

“Stuff” whether it’s nice stuff, expensive stuff, collector stuff, family heirloom stuff, or some other kind of stuff, is really stuff that weighs you down.  It’s stuff that you work so hard to get and keep and store, and not stuff you are actually using day in and day out.  Seriously, how often do you really spend time with your grandma’s china?

When you are first packing up and sorting stuff as to whether it goes with you, goes to the trash, or goes to live somewhere else, it’s hard.  You are going to want to keep far too much stuff, guaranteed.  There are 101 reasons why you need to keep that gadget, gizmo or object.  If they aren’t  your reasons, they’ll be your spouse’s reasons.

Relax, this is best done in stages anyhow.  Fill your dumpster, give away, sell or donate the other stuff, and then start reassessing what you have kept.

It’s at this point that you take a good hard look at your new downsized abode.  It doesn’t matter if you are living in  your car, a van, a motorhome, a smaller house, or the mansion up the hill either–just start putting your “stuff” into the new digs.  If it’s smaller than the place  you left, it’s at this point that you’ll be looking for a shed or storage unit to fill with your extra stuff.

At first, that storage fee doesn’t seem too high, but start figuring it over the course of a year or longer, because even if your downsizing is “temporary”, it’s going to take longer than you think to get back on your feet and into a larger place again, if you even intend to (or want to after downsizing.)  Before long, you could have bought entirely new stuff that was better suited to your new lifestyle.

With that realization, you start looking at that storage unit with new eyes.  It’s a money pit.  In addition, stored stuff starts to deteriorate for whatever reason, maybe just because it’s now “forgotten and forlorn stuff.”  When you do need or want something, it’s a seriously big project to find it in that overfilled storage unit too.

Even at $55 per month, in a year, you’ll have spent $660 to keep that stuff that you can’t even get to what you want or find it when you are in the storage unit.  It’s become a monkey on your back, and do you really need it there?  In addition, if you are downsized and living mobile, when you need that tool kit or seasonal change of clothing or whatever stuff…you aren’t going to be near that storage unit, and will end up spending a small fortune in gas or replacing it entirely.

The obvious solution is to give it up and simply get rid of, sell, or give away the contents.  While you couldn’t do it when you were initially downsizing, you’ll find your attachment to stuff has shrunk with each month of paying that storage bill.  Maybe you will encounter friends or relatives who need the items that you are storing too, and they can be given, sold or on “indefinite loan” to them.  With more serious elimination, that storage unit becomes a box or two of stuff, an amount that can either join your other “daily stuff” or a friend/relative can store for you indefinitely in their garage or attic.

That’s the stuff part of downsizing.  The tough part of downsizing is the non-stuff portion, the portion of bills and friendships and relationships with all kinds of people and entities.

While the downsizing may have come at the hands of economic disaster, once we become accustomed to the concept of downsizing, we start realizing how much nicer less can be.  We really don’t need all of those things we thought we did, and with a much tighter budget, we’re now motivated to start cutting away every bit of non essential from our budgets.

Don’t go overboard here–everyone needs some things in today’s society.  Some things make even the most mobile and downsized among us, those who are actually living in their car, still seem “normal” in today’s society.  One of those is a cell phone.  While you might not need a fancy phone with all of the latest bells and whistles, being able to communicate with others is important.  Lots of agencies and companies want a contact number, and many people have gone to cell-phone-only for their telephone service, so as long as you have a phone…you are meeting that requirement.  If you can’t do a contract phone with their regular bills, there are a number of pay-as-you-go options available that can have time/days added to them from a long list of vendors.

Another serious must-have is a mailing address that can stand in as your “physical address.”  You don’t have to actually live there, but it needs to be someone who is willing to have you use their address, receive packages when necessary, and give you a call when something does arrive.  That means that it needs to be someone stable and your relationship with them needs to be somewhat stable too, and it shouldn’t be the girlfriend-of-the-week.  It can, however, be anyone from parents, your ex-spouse, a long time friend, a sibling, or your cousin…as long as your mail and packages are unmolested and can be retrieved in a timely manner.  If you are mobile, it needs to be someone who can forward things to you in your alternate locale too.

Being downsized doesn’t mean that our lives are on hold either.  We still need contact with the “real world”.  We still visit with family and friends.  Granted, our new digs might not work to entertain them, but alternative locations can be found for very pleasant visits and meals.  Restaurants and local parks are often great options, and your choices can be made according to budget, time, weather, and location.  We may visit them at their house, grabbing a hot shower along with a meal, making up for our own limited facilities.

If your downsizing is due to economic reasons, rather than choice, remember…it is a phase, an opportunity to reduce your materialistic load and reassess your priorities while simultaneously exploring new employment opportunities.  By looking at the entire situation as an opportunity rather than a set back on your life’s journey, you can use it to its fullest.  It really IS an opportunity to recreate yourself, professionally, spiritually, and personally.

When this journey is done, who knows what kind of wondrous opportunities lay waiting for your arrival!

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