At Last: An Update on Tiny Living

Have you ever had that sinking feeling when you know someone is about to say, “I told you so?”  You kind of squint and wait for the comment to hit you in the face like a pie.

Well, after this update I’ll be doing a bit of squinting.

If you’ve been following our journey, you know that it has been our dearest wish to build our very own tiny house to take with us on the road as we travel nurse.  We’ve been pursuing that goal for the last year or so.  We found a builder we absolutely loved and together we created a floor plan and design for our would-be home.  We even put down the money to buy the actual physical trailer on which said tiny home would be built.  Then the time came to find a loan to pay for the build.

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But time after time the answer from bank after bank was “No, we don’t do tiny homes,” like Andie McDowell slapping Bill Murray in the face over and over again in Groundhog Day.  It was an exhausting and discouraging process, to say the least.

Throughout the process of tiny home planning and dreaming, we have had lots of people say, “Why don’t you just buy an RV?” to which we usually sigh and explain that while technically a tiny house IS an RV, they are also nothing like RVs.  Tiny homes are extremely well built, far less flimsy than most RVs.  And you get a lot more square footage.  And they’re meant to be lived in, not camped in.  You get the idea.  Also, most motor coach style RVs cost three times more than our house.  So the RV idea was always a giant, “NO!”  Plus I hate how they look on the inside.

But then one day I picked my husband up from a shift at the hospital in Florida and he mentioned one of his coworkers, a fellow travel nurse, lived in a rather nice travel trailer that she and her husband live in that only cost a fraction of our tiny house budget.  I immediately started in on why travel trailers aren’t a good idea: they’re flimsy, there’s no space for the baby, and they look like they were designed by a baby boomer convention (baby boomers – no offense – tend to LOVE dark woods, fluffy leather furniture, and ornate window coverings.  All fine if you live in a 19th Century English manor home, terrible if you live in an RV.  It makes the whole thing look like a cramped, dated cave.  Millennials like myself like our spaces sparse, open, and light — mostly because we’ve been broke since ’08 and we have no wealth to flaunt).

But as the dream of our home-on-the-road started to look tinier and tinier, the idea of a travel trailer seemed like a necessary evil.  My heart sank at the idea of living in some ugly trailer instead of our lovely tiny house.

Enter Instagram.

I follow #tinyhouse and #tinyhomes and a number of other tiny related hashtags on Instagram, if for no other reason than as a means of keeping the flame of hope alive.  A few months ago I stumbled on a photo of a lovely fireplace scene in what looked like a tiny house, only to look closer and see that it was the inside of an RV travel trailer.  My interest was piqued and I instantly began following this woman’s Instagram account.  Then I found more and more people who had purchased an RV and completely renovated it to look like a tiny house.  Do yourself a favor and do a Google image search of “RV renovation before and after” to see what I mean.  I was so excited.

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My husband and I called our builder to ask if he would be willing to do the renovation for us after selling our trailer (we have neither the time nor ability for a massive DIY like this).  He loved the idea.  Since he already knows exactly what we want, getting something fixed up would be no problem.  Within a short time, our trailer sold!

After weeks of trying to search for just the right travel trailer, we found a nearly brand new one really close by and at a really decent price with a bunkhouse, so the baby has her own space as she grows.  We are hoping to sign the papers tomorrow on the loan and by next week this trailer is ours!

We are not sure of the renovation timeline, but for now we are excited that our “home-on-the-road” is going to become a reality!  Photos will be shared in earnest once we move in!

Now to wait for the “I told you so” comments!

 

Minimalism: Why Sparking Joy Doesn’t Really Work

Let me preface this by saying I’ve never read Marie Kondo’s book, Spark Joy.  I have, however, been to a minimalist seminar that was based on her concept of decluttering.  And I saw that one episode of Gilmore Girls where Mrs. Gilmore removes all of her furniture after reading Kondo’s book because none it sparked any joy.  Some of the ideas were useful. The basic premise, I have to say, is not.

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Here’s the basic premise: As you seek to declutter your belongings, look at every item you possess.  If it doesn’t “spark joy”, get rid of it.  If it does, keep and organize it.  Obviously, she unpacks that in her book.  However, as I’ve gone through my personal items over the last two years (yes, it’s taken over two years) I will tell you there were PLENTY of items that “sparked joy” that I needed to get rid of anyway.

The concept of an item “sparking joy” is pretty squishy to me.  What might have sparked joy yesterday might not today, but that doesn’t negate the usefulness of an item.  There are also plenty of items in my possession that absolutely DO NOT spark any ounce of joy in me, but have I kept them?  YES: because I need them and they are useful (Marie Kondo might advocate that because I need them that is a form of sparking joy, but it sure doesn’t feel like it.  Hence why sparking joy feels way too hard to pin down, especially for someone starting out their decluttering journey).

My husband and I are staying with my parents before we move to Florida.  Like many Millennials, I have been using my old closet in my parent’s house as a hiding place for old sentimental items that I haven’t been able to face getting rid of: until today.  There is a chest that has been in my possession since early childhood that has been filled with nik naks that at some point in my life I decided to keep because they sparked joy.  At some point in my life these were sentimental items I couldn’t bear to part with (I was a very sentimental child with severe hoarding tendencies).

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We often keep sentimental items because we fear parting with the person or memory associated with them.  As if we are being disloyal to them by parting with the item or we are being disrespectful or ungrateful.  Today, as I sat crouched down picking through things, I wondered “WHY in the world did I keep ANY of this?!”  At some point in my past, these items sparked joy.  Today they were a burden.  At some point these items reminded me of a memory of a time in my life when I was little and happy.  Today, I had no idea where these items even came from or what memory they were supposed to remind me of.  They, through of fog of time, had lost meaning.  They, as all things will eventually, had become junk.

On the flip side to this, I have kept several things in my life that in no way spark joy.  My important paper file folder does not spark joy, but if I decide that these joyless things were worthless because they are joyless then my husband and I will find ourselves in a world of hurt come tax time. I once heard a blogger say her breast pump in no way sparks joy in her, but she keeps it to help her feed her infant.

If you are embarking on the path of minimalism, you have to be willing to embrace a certain level of utilitarianism.

This might sound dreary to some of you.  But it will keep you from getting rid of things you actually need, and will keep you from holding onto things that are dragging you down.

The following concept, if we are going with short ditties to guide how we declutter, is one I find to be far more useful.

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“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris

The reason I like this so much more than simply “does it spark joy?” is that it leaves room for the acceptance of the ordinary and mundane to be just that: ordinary and mundane.  There are things in my life that become utterly ridiculous if I try to add emotional tinsel to them, but there are also things in my life that are simply beautiful, and I own them because they are such.  They DO spark joy.

Either way, whether you keep an item because it “sparks joy” or because you “know it to be useful or believe it to be beautiful”, minimalism forces you to be intentional about what you own and why you own it.  Take the haphazard out of life, and replace chaos with calm!