I look at he houses most folks live in. I look at garages and basements and attics and outbuildings.
I am covetous of space. My sense of organization has got so finely honed, that when I look at the way most people use excess space, ( or rather, miss use it,) I can’t help think what I could store there or how I’d arrange things differently.
I look at the things I keep in my storage trailer, two and a half years after I moved out from the 1000 square foot house I collected them in while with my husband of 18 years. Irreconcilable differences would become the catalyst of my downsizing.
The 5 rentals I have lived in since then, the largest at a little less than 700 square feet, the smallest; a bedroom with a bathroom and kitchenette (no stove or oven) down a 25 foot long hallway where I had to be invisible-leaving no trace to the other renters or potential renters – the other two bedrooms were perpetually being shown. There was the 296 square foot basement apartment with a shared entrance-through the kitchen, complete with a toilet that flushed over my bed, pipes that clanged loudly in the walls, and a yowling cat outside my window that made the dog go ballistic every single morning at 4a.m. The owners of the cat-my upstairs neighbors/landlords, strangely could hear none of it… For one period of three weeks I lived in a roomy sublet that had no kitchen of its own and a far-too-chatty roommate on the other side of the door to a kitchen I could use but for her always being in it, or it filled to capacity with her things and projects. A very noisy girl lived above my bedroom. She had a night job, came home at 2am and partied with her boy toys til 4 each morning. My ceiling/her floor was made of paper, I could literally hear the girl pee in the toilet…
The house sitting gig I fell into for winter of 2011was ideal but for the house being on the market; the realtor parading countless home buyers thru the duration of my time there; which did force me to keep it neat – not my forte. And it being private and quiet unfortunately has spoiled me to shared situations…Just before Christmas a buy/sell was arranged and I was told the 31st of March would be my move out date. With a weeks notice I was informed that date was bumped up to the 20th. Things got a little frantic, its a bad time of year to look for a new place in this college town where the kids don’t leave until May. Everything I looked at was over $600 month and no dogs allowed. As a matter of principle I cannot justify over $400 a month even in the year 2012 – I mean, I ain’t makin’ that much more money an hour than when I was 20 and payin’ $200 a month for an apartment… and the dog is a given, a package deal.
But, as serendipity – a force which guides my life, would have it I stopped in to visit a friend in a downtown shop. She knows the folks I was house sitting for and asked how my digs were. I said ‘about to be over.’ We chatted awhile longer and as I had opened the door to leave she suddenly recalled that her mother has been assisting a woman in refurbishing a garage apartment. She gave me her number and a warning, ‘It is tiny.’ ‘Sister,’ I tell her, at this point I have downsized so far that I think I could take up residence in that knife case right there.’
I arrange to meet the potential landlord, a Montana woman from up in the Mission valley (more synchronicity), she is in her 70’s and as nice as my friend said she would be. She allows me in, shows me the apartment. It has been made from one bay of her garage. Everything in it is like new, a nice, sparkly clean shower, fresh cheery green paint in the bathroom which is the first room inside the main door. We walk down a brief hallway where one closet takes up 2×6 feet (the biggest I’ve had yet) alongside it. This opens up into the room. The all of the apartment. A kitchenette with as much counterspace as a woman could want is nudged into the corner. Cupboards line the entire corner both above and below – again, as much or more storage as I have had to this point. All are like new. A microwave (which I will use like a cupboard) sits above a funky electric flat stove. I note there is no oven-almost a deal breaker as I love to bake. And the refrigerator, well, it is one of those little halfies, like my friend Deb has in her flat in Paris. Thus, My French Flat.
I wanna share some practical tips to down size your life, tighten up your ship, teach you how to live; in less space, with less money, have more fun, leave a smaller footprint, consume less, make a positive impact.
Minimalist’s cheap futon cover: Take two curtain panels, preferably heavy brocade and a pretty pattern – something pleasing to your eye, palette and that goes with your decor. You can pick these up cheap at big box stores, but it’s even better if, you do like I did and use a slightly faded set that’s been hang in in your windows. (Sure as hell wasn’t gonna leave em with the wasband.) Put pretty sides together and sew three sides, both long ones and one of the short ones for a single mattress, two short and one long for anything bigger. I sewed heavy ribbon, 4 ties on the open end to close it off. Use a measuring tape. Measure from mid-mattress seam on side to the same across and length wise. Program the measurements into your phone( blackberry has a little note app) for easy reference at the store. Purchase a pair of curtain panels at least two inches bigger than your measurements to allow for seams. The hardest part is getting the futon in your new, DIY cover.
Cheaper: Buy painters canvas drop cloths, heavy duty, they already have finished seams. Just check the size of it.
Cheaper still: Buy heavy canvas by the yard at a fabric store and make it from scratch. Most sewing machines will plow thru any of these fabrics.
I gotta say, I was able to find painter’s drop cloth canvas cheaper at a box store than raw material.
6 April 2012
A friend expressed a need to tighten up her budget. I told her I’d been living on practically no money all winter. Being a farmer and a professional gardener I am well practiced in this. I am currently reading ‘The man who quit money.’ We were discussing this over a $4 microbrew, a luxury item for me, but a favorite place for she and I to meet in my old neighborhood. She said, ‘gimme sopme pointers?’
Well, you don’t drink $4 microbrews. I could buy a pound of rice, a bunch of kale, and a zucchini with $4 at the co-op and eat for a good week on that. Or I could buy a whole 6 pak of Pabst.
Pay off your credit card soon as you can, or better, don’t even have one. If you have one, get one with sky miles so your purchases count toward something. Try to pay the balance each month. I am considering getting one of these, cuz I love to travel. I switched all to a debit card, with a visa stamp on it. If the money ain’t in the account you don’t spend it. No annual fees, no late fees, no interest charges. Paying off a $5000 balance was the first thing I did with the money from my divorce. And it feels good to not have that hanging over my person.
If you are paying to store your things in a storage unit, you have too much stuff. Or, like me, your beautiful things that made up your home don’t fit in the teeny, tiny shoe box apartments you are now living in. Even still, after 2 years of renting a storage unit @ $45 a month, I purchased a nice enclosed trailer, same size as my storage unit, moved all stuff in it and will park it on a piece of land I own. I am fortunate to have a piece of land purchased with money my mom left me upon her death. Maybe you know someone who will let you park it on theirs or someone like me who will charge less than a storage unit.
You eat leftovers. Cook extra, package into meal size portions. Package up extras from when you are invited out to a restaurant – pack up everybody’s extras.
It is rare that I turn down a dinner invite.
I often cook up a cup of rice – adding some flavored bullion and even some other spice like cayenne or curry, mix in lots of sauteed garlic, and any excess veggie (brocolli, kale, and Brussels sprouts or cabbage keep incredibly long – just put a paper towel in the plastic baggie to absorb moisture) and if I can afford it 1/3 lb hamburger cooked with more of the spice in the rice and garlic or sausage. This cooks up to a lot of food. I can get 3 or 4 good meals from it. To bulk up the meals, add chopped and lightly roasted nuts like pinion, walnut, pumpkin or sunflower. Just a handful will do. And to spread it further, warm either corn or flour tortillas and make a couple tacos. When re-warming in the sauce pan, use a little butter and some water, cover with lid to re-steam the rice. Remove from burner, add a handful of grated or thin sliced cheese, put the lid back on, let it melt a moment. Dish it up.
It may seem like I have a lot of ingredients I work with. These are my basics. And to that list add brown rice, rolled rye flakes, and spaghetti noodles. This basic pantry stretches a long way when you use a handful of this and that.
When I have used the last of my dish soap – and it takes a long time to go thru a bottle when you use a couple drops on a sponge, scrubbing all dishes first and then rinsing so the concentrate of soap stays in your sponge instead of down the drain, I then fill the bottle half full of water, shake well and let set overnight. This water soap will wash another week’s worth of dishes.
When shampooing I only apply shampoo one time instead of rinse/repeat. It goes twice as far.