Tag Archives: Simplifying

Tiny Tuesday: Space-saving gifts

Last year, I ran into a bit of a challenge as Christmas approached. Earlier in the year, a new Five Below store had opened in town, and on my first visit, I’d found a plethora of items I was sure my niece would love. I bought several, wrapped them, and stacked them on a high shelf in the bedroom closet.

As the year progressed, I added to the pile: a Hastings run here, a trip to World Market there, with new additions being wrapped and placed on the shelf as they came in, until the pile started encroaching on the space bags full of extra linens, and I started running out of places to stash gifts where the dogs couldn’t unwrap them.

As I wedged an awkwardly wrapped plushie into the space between a Death Star tea infuser and a set of Batman pint glasses, I thought: When we build our tiny house, everybody’s getting a gift card, because I’m not going to have anywhere to store all this.

Then the tags started falling off the presents while I was trying to figure out which ones needed to go to whose house on Christmas, and in what order, and I decided I’d just make the switch this year instead of waiting until we move.

Look at all that space they aren't taking up!
Look at all that space they aren’t taking up!

Maaaaan. Gift cards aren’t a new concept, obviously, and I buy a few every year (ask my dad how many Barnes and Noble cards he’s gotten in the past decade), but doing the vast majority of my shopping this way? Major stress reducer. No wrapping. No storing large items. No chasing the cat out of the presents 583,742 times a day. All I have to do is buy a few Christmas cards, slip the gift cards into them, and file them so they don’t get lost in the next month.

Bonus: If the recipients have limited space, they can use their cards to buy small items or consumables, so their gifts won’t create storage issues for them, either.

If you’re too disorganized to keep track of a gift card, another good option is to treat your loved ones to dinner out. I did this for my little brother’s birthday this year, and it was great: We got a nice visit, he got a meal he liked, and I got out of shopping. So. Much. WIN.

Emily

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