Tag Archives: Tiny houses

Tiny Tuesday: Capsule wardrobe

Most of what I do lately is done with my end goal — a tiny, off-grid house in northern New Mexico — in mind. (The longer this election cycle drags on, the more that idea appeals to me. Let me just vanish into the high desert and live in a way that obviates the necessity of interacting with other human beings altogether.)

Anyway. A tiny house, typically defined as 300 square feet or less, requires a certain commitment to minimalism. Items that make sense in 690 square feet won’t make sense in 300, so I’m constantly looking for downsizing opportunities.

One area I’ve downsized considerably is my wardrobe.

I’m not going to tell you how to choose the items that should go into a capsule wardrobe. There are plenty of resources online to help you with that; Project 333 is a good one to get you started. I will, however, point out some considerations that helped me make decisions as I downsized.

1. There are only seven days in a week, and I only work five of them. We do laundry once a week, so I really don’t need more than five outfits that are presentable for work and two that are suitable for whatever rough-and-tumble activities I choose to undertake on weekends. I try to keep a couple of spare work outfits on hand in case I spill something on myself (likely) and a couple of spare weekend outfits on hand in case I get sweaty or muddy or soaked with pond water (also likely). But I don’t have much beyond that.

2. I’m not willing to squander precious storage space on things I can’t wear, so anything stained, smelly, too big, too small, unflattering or damaged went out the door.

3. A couple of cardigans and a couple of hoodies take up less space than a closet full of bulky sweaters. My summer and winter wardrobes are virtually identical: black T-shirt and khakis for work; jeans and a T-shirt for weekends. Add a cardigan, hoodie or flannel on cold days, and I’m comfortable regardless of the season. I also have a couple of broomstick skirts, which store easily and work fine with a black T-shirt and cardigan for those rare instances when I need to dress up.

4. Comfort is king. I wear a pair of 16-year-old tan suede Birkenstock clogs at least 300 days a year. If it’s cold out, I wear them with socks. If I need to dress up, I wear a newer pair of charcoal wool Birkenstock clogs. I also have a pair of black Justin boots for snowy days; two pairs of running shoes (your risk of injury is lower if you rotate between pairs); and a pair of Dansko clogs I bought for a job interview one time and have worn maybe a half-dozen times since. That’s it. I’m not wasting closet space on uncomfortable heels or colorful shoes that only match one outfit.

I still have more clothes than I need, but not by much, and by keeping the inventory small, I can find things easily and don’t have to spend a lot of time figuring out what to wear. If you’re trying to save space, I highly recommend giving a capsule wardrobe a try.

Emily

Tiny Tuesday: Shoe-hanger spice rack

shoespicerack

Living comfortably in a small house depends, to a great extent, on how efficiently you use all of your available space — including areas that in most houses are underused or overlooked altogether.

The back side of my basement door, which is right next to the refrigerator, was one of those underused areas. I considered custom-building a set of shelves to install on the back of it to hold jars of spices and boxes of tea, but then I remembered I’m lazy, so instead, I just went to the dollar store and bought a $6 over-the-door shoe rack.

If you’re willing to spend more, you can get similar racks with clear pockets so you can see what’s in them, but I wasn’t willing to spend an extra $5 to $10 for that feature, so I just labeled the pockets with a Sharpie, which works fine.

It’s not the prettiest storage system I’ve ever come up with, but it doesn’t need to be; it’s not as if we’re entertaining guests in our unfinished basement, and if we were, I’m sure they’d be too busy shuddering at the cave crickets under the stairs to pay any attention to the shoe rack full of spices hanging on the back of the door anyway.

Each pocket was designed to support the weight of a shoe, so keep that in mind when you’re figuring out what to store in there: Big plastic jars of spices are fine, but canned goods probably aren’t. That was fine with me, as I have a lot of spices in large containers, and sticking them in the pockets freed up shelf space for heavier items.

If you want something nicer, Pinterest has all kinds of plans for building custom door-mounted pantry shelves, but if you just want to reclaim some unused space without spending a lot of time or money, a dollar-store shoe rack will work perfectly well.

Emily

Tiny Tuesday: Broom and mop storage

This is such a simple thing, I’m not even sure it deserves its own entry, but it has come in really handy, so I’ll post it anyway.

I got tired of knocking over brooms and mops every time I pulled the stepstool out of its spot next to the refrigerator, so I got online and found myself a nice wall-mounted storage rack to take advantage of an unused space next to the basement steps.

Any time I can get some benefit out of an unused space, I'm calling that a win.
Any time I can get some benefit out of an unused space, I’m calling that a win.

The model I bought cost about $15 and has pull-down plastic hooks between the broom-storage brackets, making it perfect for storing my broom, dust mop, sponge mop, dustpan, watering can and plastic-bag dispenser. It’s out of sight, easily accessible, and makes use of a previously dormant space — all essential in tiny-house planning, and very helpful even in our house, which is about twice the size of most tiny houses.

I can’t remember what brand mine, is but it’s very similar to this one. I highly recommend one if you’ve got an out-of-the-way spot to hang it.

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

Lent

Sorry I haven’t posted in a while. Thanks to a quirk of the schedule, I’m now on Day 9 of a 10-day stretch with no days off, and on top of that, we’ve had several nights of subzero temperatures that forced me to move the quail into the garage; the better end of a foot of snow, which required quite a bit of digging out once the streets were cleared (and a 1.5-mile walk home from work in 5-degree weather while we waited, because getting a ride to the office at 2 p.m. is much easier than getting a ride home at 11 p.m.); and outrageously dry air that gave me terrible headaches two mornings in a row before I figured it out and plugged in the vaporizer. Anyway, here I am, and I’ve got an idea to share.

Today Yesterday was the first day of Lent, and somebody on Twitter started a thread asking people what they were giving up.

I’m not Catholic, so I don’t usually observe Lent, but as I was looking at another tiny-house website during some down time at the office, it occurred to me that I really need to start shrinking my inventory of unnecessary crap around here.

One thing led to another, and as I waited around for AP to send over a story I needed for the front page, I hatched a plan: Instead of giving up one thing for Lent, I’m going to take another positive step toward shrinking my environmental footprint by giving up one thing per day.

Once a day, probably right before bedtime, I’m going to go through the house, find one thing I don’t need and don’t use, and donate it to someone who can put it to good use.

For Ash Wednesday, I am giving up this:

lent1

Clock radios are nice. But I haven’t used this one since I got my iPhone, which has a perfectly reliable alarm clock built right in, and I’m not likely to use it again, so out it goes.

What are you giving up for Lent?

Emily

Score one for Pinterest.

Most of the crap I find on Pinterest is … well … crap. But I went looking for storage ideas today and liked this excellent little space-saver so much I wound up using it as my excuse du jour for taking a field trip to the hardware store.

The whole unit fits neatly between the fridge and the wall.
The whole unit fits neatly between the fridge and the wall.

The version somebody pinned from Classy Clutter (which is an excellent site, BTW) looked prettier than mine, but I’m lazy. And cheap. And lazy. And my station wagon is in the shop at the moment, getting its transmission rebuilt, so I didn’t have a good way to bring home a ginormous piece of bead board for the back. And did I mention I’m lazy?

Here it is before I loaded it, so you can see how it's put together.
Here it is before I loaded it, so you can see how it’s put together.

If I feel ambitious later, I can unload it and take it outside and hit it with a few coats of spray paint, but I think we all know that isn’t going to happen.

Anyway, instructions for my version are below the fold. I made it four feet high, partly because of the aforementioned station-wagon-going-AWOL issue, partly because my refrigerator is only five feet high, and partly because I could buy an eight-foot-long board and have it cut in half for $2.22.

Continue reading Score one for Pinterest.