Tag Archives: Minimalism

Tiny Tuesday: Merry minimalism

When I bought my Christmas tree, I wasn’t dreaming of living in a tiny house. I didn’t even know tiny houses existed. I just wanted a cool retro tree that would fit in my apartment.

Seventeen years and four moves later, I appreciate my shiny, easy-to-assemble aluminum Christmas tree as much for its space-saving design as for its great atomic-era look.

I’m not suggesting everybody who’s considering a tiny house should rush out and buy an aluminum tree and color wheel, but as I was taking mine down, it occurred to me that of all the things I’ll have to shrink when we finally build that tiny house in northeastern New Mexico, my Christmas tree isn’t one of them.

I have a few other decorations, but they usually stay in storage; the ones I get out just about every year are the tree (with matching green and red glass balls hanging from its branches and a color wheel underneath to illuminate it) and the little plastic creche my mom bought for me at Ben Franklin when I was 3 or 4 years old:

Next year, I might put the end table in the garage and spring for a full-size aluminum tree with the branches that have the big flared ends. I'm betting it will still pack down to a reasonable size.
Next year, I might put the end table in the garage and spring for a full-size aluminum tree with the branches that have the big flared ends. I’m betting it will still pack down to a reasonable size.

In the featured image and the one below, you can see what the tree looks like when it’s packed into its box:

Gratuitous picture of the box, just because the graphic design is great.
Gratuitous picture of the box, just because the graphic design is great.

Below is the whole setup, packed and ready to be stashed in a plastic storage tub in the garage:

Tree on the left, color wheel on the right, and a 24-pack of glass ornaments on the bottom. I've no idea where the box for the creche went. It vanished several years ago.
Tree on the left, color wheel on the right, and a 24-pack of glass ornaments on the bottom. I’ve no idea where the box for the creche went. It vanished several years ago.

If your holiday decorations are taking over your attic or spilling out of the closets, I can wholeheartedly recommend a throwback Christmas tree, ca. 1958, for ease of assembly, disassembly, and storage.

Emily

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Sunday self-care: Everything in its place

I opened a folder in my photo archive the other night and saw something alarming.

I saw how I used to live.

When we moved from Belleville to Tulsa, I put away as much stuff as I could. Some of it fit in our new house. Some of it didn’t. I piled the excess in a spare room and promised myself I’d organize it eventually.

While I waited for “eventually,” I went about the business of living. I started projects with the intent of using up art supplies. I bought art supplies with the intent of starting projects. I subscribed to magazines I didn’t have time to read. I pursued new hobbies, accumulating equipment and materials each time. Clutter grew like kudzu over every flat surface in the house, and I just couldn’t seem to get ahead of it and stay there.

Looking at old photos, I cringe now, realizing even my occasional attempts at decluttering often ended up looking — well, cluttered. (Case in point: I once decided it would be more efficient to hang all my accessories on the wall above our bed. Just thinking about that wall gives me a headache.)

When we moved to Cape, we lost about 250 square feet, so before we moved, I halved our household inventory, and when we arrived, I unpacked everything and put it away immediately. This little bungalow, I decided, would be my laboratory for learning minimalism and test-driving storage methods ahead of our tiny-house retirement dream.

My life is neither more nor less stressful than it was during most of my time in Tulsa. But back then, I took at least a dozen road trips a year and had dinner out several times a week. I was never home if I could help it. Route 66 was my excuse, but looking back, I think I was trying to get away from the mess. Looking at the state of my house made me feel guilty, so I didn’t look.

Today, my house is generally uncluttered, and despite its diminutive size, it feels open and spacious. Cooking is easier. Cleaning is easier. Living is easier. Breathing is easier. I spend more time with my dogs and enjoy being at home. Decluttering has become one of my most valuable forms of self-care, because my mind and my home tend to sync up. If the house is cluttered, my thoughts are a jumble. If the house is neat, it’s easier to find a peaceful space in my mind.

I needed that peace more than I realized.

Emily

P.S.: If you need to declutter but aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend Flylady.net. She’s got some great tools for establishing good habits without getting overwhelmed.

Eco-Saturday: Spreading the gospel

It’s good to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle. But it’s even better to share your experiences with other people, because Madison Avenue is doing its best to convince people they need to consume more — of everything, from space to energy to food to material possessions — when most of us would be just as happy with a lot less. I think a lot of people know that, deep down, but they’re afraid to step outside their comfort zone and try a simpler life.

That’s why we participated in the Solar Home Tour in Tulsa a few years ago. It’s why I do this Eco-Saturday feature. It’s why I never, ever said no to anybody who wanted to interview us about our grid-tied solar power system at our old house, and I’ll never say no to anybody who wants to talk to me about anything I’m doing here to shrink our environmental footprint. And it’s why, a few weeks ago, I submitted some information and photos of our house to Lloyd Kahn, author of Tiny Homes, for a new Shelter Publications book he is doing about people who live in houses that are small but not tiny. If it’s as good as his other books, it should be a great resource for people looking to downsize without giving up creature comforts.

He emailed me back and asked me to get somebody to take pictures of Ron and me in our house to give readers an idea of how it looks with somebody actually living in it, so I swapped our awesome photo editor, Laura Simon, some beer and a bowl of green chile stew for a photo shoot one afternoon a couple of weeks ago. I don’t want to give away everything, just in case some of it ends up in the book, but I thought I’d share a few of the images she got.

Lillian wasn't thrilled by whatever I was doing on the computer.
Lillian wasn’t thrilled by whatever I was doing on the computer.
Family portrait, minus Walter, who was hiding under the bed because he's scared of strangers.
Family portrait, minus Walter, who was hiding under the bed because he’s scared of strangers.
Pouring myself a cup of coffee on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I don't know what Ron is doing. Looking busy, I think.
Pouring myself a cup of coffee on a lazy Saturday afternoon. I don’t know what Ron is doing. Looking busy, I think.
Songdog gets some airtime as he jumps up to take a dog biscuit from my hand.
Songdog gets some airtime as he jumps up to take a dog biscuit from my hand.

If you’re not familiar with Kahn’s work, The Shelter Blog is a good place to start looking. Pick up a copy of Tiny Homes if you can. It’s a great source of inspiration and ideas, even if you’re not quite ready to commit to life in a micro-house.

What are you doing to shrink your footprint? Share your ideas. The more people we can get to take steps to live a more planet-friendly life, the better off we’ll all be.

Emily