Written by

Wendy Blair

window

Lucky Number 13

I am excited to report that we FINALLY have all thirteen of our windows properly installed! After a huge headache and a long back-and-forth with Home Depot, we agreed on a path forward. We removed all twelve incorrect, non-tempered windows that were already put in, and carefully boxed each one up for a return to the store. There was a brief moment of panic when we opened a box (which we had quintuple checked) to find a window without the tempered glass etch mark, but we realized that it was the one remaining old window. Phew! Home Depot has been fair with their resolution which included sending us more rolls of Zip System tape, caulk, and nails.

IMG_2853-1

The most beautiful words: Tempered Glass!

We took extra care when taping the windows, making sure that none of our old nail holes are exposed. We will be sure to check for any leaks before we move forward with trim and siding.

This whole ordeal took a huge hit to our timeline and motivation, but now that it is almost completely resolved, I am hopeful that things can begin to move forward again. On the bright side, we both have significantly more experience installing (and uninstalling) windows than we did before!

 

 

 

Jane

Downward-sizing Dog

We got a dog! Jane is a one year old boxer mix who we adopted from a local event. She is a sweetheart, but, like every dog she has her quirks.

When we took her home, she had a case of happy tail. Happy tail is common for short-haired dogs. When they wag their tails and knock it against a hard surface like a wall or a crate, the unprotected tail opens up and begins to bleed. If you think about a dog who is wagging a bloody tail all over your house, you can understand what a disaster happy tail can be.

To help protect her tail, we held off on getting a crate so she wouldn’t whack her tail against the sides. This meant that when both of us are out of the house, she has free range.

Well, it turns out that we got a minimalist dog who knows that we still have a long way to go in our downsizing adventures. She has destroyed many items from around our room, including headphones, a hairdryer, plates, a pair of shoes, yoga mats, seashells, and our gerbils’ food.

glasses carnage

My only pair of glasses… I had to go to work like this.

Through her destructive hijinks, Jane taught me an important lesson. Downsizing your belongings is not fun if the choices are made for you. We are so fortunate that we are in a position where we get to make the lifestyle choice of building a tiny house. It is something we have chosen, not something we were forced into by necessity. We have the time, energy, and other ability to build this house. We get to choose which items we would like to keep and which we would like to get rid of. When this choice is made by someone else (like Jane), or circumstances beyond your control (like a house fire, robbery, or flood), there might be feelings of revulsion, anger, and resentment.

Jane also sparked us to make some more progress and make our own choices before she destroys something else. We went through about six boxes of things still packed away from when we moved a year ago, and kept only two.

Hopefully we find a better solution for Jane when she is left alone. I look forward to modifying our house plans to include doggy accomodations.

Two steps forward…

Twelve windows back! This has been a frustrating past couple of weeks for us. We had some great successes: twelve of thirteen windows were installed, we installed our front door, and we had a positive field trip to Hull Forest Products, touring the mill where our siding will be made. The bad news is that all twelve of those windows will need to be uninstalled.

Here’s a little backstory. We special-ordered our Anderson 100 series gliding windows from Home Depot. They don’t sell that particular line in our area, so we were able to order them while dog/house sitting in Maine. Our experience in the store was great; the person who helped get the quote was knowledgeable, friendly, and proactive. She went out of her way to find savings for us. Unfortunately, when we actually placed the order, we dealt with another employee.

Long story short, the windows arrived in the correct size, and the weirdest specifications were met (we ordered the windows with breather tubes, which are necessary when you transport windows between altitudes that vary greatly, which we plan to do). When they arrived, we checked those boxes and thought everything else must also be correct.

Twelve completely installed windows later, I made the mistake of double-checking. As it turns out, the glass is not tempered like we ordered. This is really a necessity for something that we plan on taking on the road. Tempered glass is stronger than untreated glass, and it also helps it to break safely. The glass still shatters, but it stays together and breaks with duller edges than untreated glass.

Photo source: destinglass.com

Unfortunately, the windows we chose have one sliding side and one stationary side, which makes it impossible to simply replace the sashes. Our options are to completely uninstall and reinstall the windows, and risk damaging the sheathing, or to replace only the glass and risk damaging the windows and having an improper seal.

We are still working with Home Depot to resolve this problem, and will likely be replacing all of the windows completely. We’re not excited about that prospect, but we want to make sure that our house is equipped responsibly.

Paper Wrangling

Adventures in Downsizing: Part Three

Next on the list is papers! Any non-sentimental papers like manuals, receipts, pay stubs and the like are on the chopping block this time. I’m surprisingly excited to get rid of these things.

I used to save every single pay stub, even after leaving a job. I’m not really sure what I was afraid of, but I’ve come to accept that we live in a digital age. There are copies of everything. If I recycle the manual for my printer, I can find it again online if I need it, though I can’t think of a single time when I’ve referred back to a product manual after owning something for more than a week. If I do feel like I need to save a copy of something, I can save it digitally instead.

This was cathartic! I saved only a handful of papers to scan into our files, and the only physical paper I have left is the title to my car. Christopher got rid of piles and piles also, and in the end, we have only two hanging file folders worth of papers.

Bird Tail

It’s for the birds!

One Big Baby

This is the baby from round 1 just before it decided to fly the coop.

After we had our walls framed and our rafters in place, the first residents moved into our home. A pair of birds built a nest tucked safely against a rafter, away from wind and predators. We were flattered that they had chosen our home for their own but worried about how long their residency might last. Over the next few days, we found a few of the eggs broken on the floor below; I’m not sure if they fell somehow or were kicked out for some defect. Eventually, one baby bird hatched and we watched it grow and be fed. Its parents were less than thrilled anytime we were near the house, and they made a big ruckus when we put the sheathing up. However, they didn’t abandon the nest, and we made sure to use extra caution when using the nailer in the area of the nest. Thankfully they never decided to dive-bomb us or express their disdain in any way except for vocally.

As we installed the windows, we went a little more slowly than we would have if there had been no birds in the house, so that the baby would have a little more time to fly away when it was ready. It seemed like that baby might never leave, but finally, one day the nest was empty. We were both happy to have an empty home and proud of the little dude.

Five More

Round 2 of baby birds in our unfinished house included a jam-packed nest with 5 eggs.

Well, our home must really be something special because that same night, we found a bird back in the nest. We assumed this might be the baby (I think some species of bird stick around in their birthplace for a couple of weeks before vamoosing). We offered words of encouragement… and a little frustration, hoping that he would move on so we could finish the envelope of the house.

Despite those words, a few days ago, we found FIVE new eggs in the nest! It seems to be the same kind of bird, but I have no idea if it’s the same parents for round two, their friends, or perhaps the baby was on a fast-track maturity timeline.

The one positive that has come out of the window mix-up is that these new babies will have some extra time to hatch, grow, and fly away while the new windows are ordered. We will be sure to remove the nest promptly this time!

Boxes Remain

The accumulation of “stuff”

We have been living together for nearly five years. We first shared a house with housemates, where we had exclusive use of a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and shared space in the basement, kitchen, and garage. When it was time for a change, we moved into a studio apartment. Before the move, we didn’t think we had very much stuff, especially compared to the average person. However, in the process of packing everything and moving each box ourselves in a pickup truck, we learned just how much stuff we were still holding onto. There are still boxes that we haven’t unpacked. Chances are, we really don’t need whatever is in them. 

We have some experience working on inventorying the contents of houses that have been ravaged by fire. Through these experiences, we have seen the kinds of things that people keep- the things they store in boxes in the basement and attic, the collections they’ve built, the supplies that they hoard. Inevitably we find things that have not been touched in years, and often the homeowner has forgotten about them.

I will be the first to say that I understand living like that. I understand assigning meaning to each object, and the feeling that you need to hold on to everything because you could need it… someday. Growing up, I was a self-described pack rat. I love crafting, and amassed vast amounts of odds and end that I thought I might use for projects… again, someday. For many of those items, someday never comes.

My great-grandmother and great-great aunt had a huge impact on how I viewed stuff. As children of the depression era, they learned that everything has value, can be reused, and should be saved because you never know when you might be able to get another one. They would save the twist ties from every loaf of bread, the plastic bags from every package of deli meat, metal cookie tins, magazines, pens, cotton balls, you name it, they kept it. This survival-based way of living is valid, and it is easy to justify keeping the things that you acquire.

There is also a sentimental quality to tangible items. We might find that keeping a loved one’s gifts or former belongings keeps us closer to that person, and keeps their memory fresh in our minds. Anyone who has helped to clear out the home of someone who has died knows that the process of going through their things is emotionally taxing, and there can be a lot of guilt connected with getting rid of anything.

I kept nearly every school assignment I brought home, from kindergarten on through high school. I kept toys that I had stopped playing with years ago. I was afraid that if I got rid of any of these items, they would be forgotten and have no value anymore.

 

However. There is a tipping point where too much is too much. We have made a conscious decision to simplify our lives, and part of that process is downsizing our belongings. We’re not perfect, and I’m sure we will get rid of some of the wrong things, but I’m willing to take that risk.

The Places We've Been

Learning to Live a Little

Our first conversation about tiny houses was an argument. Normally, I would say that meant the whole endeavor was doomed from the start, but I’ve come to think of it instead as an important starting point.

I discovered tiny houses by watching TINY: A Story About Living Small on Netflix while dog/chicken/house sitting for some friends. I was far from enthused about going tiny myself, but I was definitely interested in what it meant to be living small.

Later that day, I excitedly gave Christopher a brief synopsis of the movie, insisting that he watch it with me with an open mind.

After we watched it together, I was beginning to open up to the idea that tiny might be right for us.

Christopher remained unconvinced.

We spent a long time discussing why space was important, what we use our living space for, and how we envisioned our future family living. I won’t go into all of the details, but eventually, we reached a place of mutual understanding.

Many of Christopher’s reservations were also mine, and we talked through it all.

 

Speed Limit

The road to Animas Forks, Colorado.

That brings us to the name of our blog: Learning to Live a Little. What does it mean to live a little? I think it means that you stop focusing so much on the day to day grind, and start to open yourself to new, beautiful experiences. You don’t accept something just because it is conventional to do so, you take the time to think through your actions. It’s making sure that what you invest your time and money into is really important to you.

So, how do we get to a place where we’re living a little? Well, for us, it starts with building our home. I don’t know exactly what our journey will look like, but that’s part of what excites me. I look forward to sharing the things we learn with you!

BookDownsize

Adventures in Downsizing: Part Two

Each shelf used to be jam-packed with books! We have yet to go through the CD’s and magazines.

The next section in Marie Kondo’s downsizing plan is books. For me, this was tough but for Christopher, this was a breeze.

We both have clunky old versions of Kindles that we use regularly, but there is something about having a book in your hands that the e-reader experience will never duplicate.

When we moved, books were the category I spent the most time downsizing, and we donated about 150 books to Goodwill.

I broke the rules for this section and kept several books that I’ve had for a while and still intend to read. This is a battle to be continued another day.

At the end of the day, we have set aside 26 books for donation. Hey, progress is progress.


Update: I finally read one of the someday books from my bookshelf, and it felt like a great accomplishment. For anyone interested in learning about bipolar mania, I can now recommend Andy Behrman’s Electroboy

Overtaken by Clothes

Adventures in Downsizing: Part One

We moved into a different place back in September 2015, and we got rid of a lot of our stuff in the process. We still have so much more than we need! We’ve decided to use Marie Kondo’s famous book to get us started. There are plenty of criticisms of her methods, but even if they don’t end up working for us, at least it’s a jumping-off point.

For those who are not familiar, there is a specific order that Marie recommends for downsizing belongings, and step one is clothing.

This was a pretty easy day. We are primarily jeans and tee-shirt people, and it was painless to get rid of the things that we just don’t like or ever wear, and things that don’t even fit properly.

At the end of the day, we donated five full garbage bags of clothes and shoes at an American Red Cross collection box.

Inside Dresser

After our clothes purging, we are now sharing this dresser. It is about the size of what we are planning on using inside our new home.

Currently, we share the use of one full sized dresser, and we have two 24″ sections of hanging clothes. In our loft, we are planning on each having a small IKEA dresser, potentially these. That should give us about the same amount of space for folded clothing that we have now. For hanging clothes, we will have approximately a 7″ wide space under the stairs, so we still have some work to do in this section.

This feels like a good start!

Why tiny?

Why tiny?

When we first began telling people a couple of years ago that we were going tiny, no one knew what we were talking about. Now, there are many tiny house shows on television, and most people seem to have some level of familiarity with tiny houses. Now, we get more questions about why we want to go tiny than about what tiny living means.

We have several motivating factors for going tiny. Here are just a few:

-We have always loved the outdoors. Together, we enjoy fishing, hiking, camping, and just generally being outside.  We don’t want to stay inside all day long; we would rather spend most of our time outdoors.

-On a daily basis, we see people working countless hours, multiple full-time jobs, and additional part-time jobs to survive and pay the bills.  We don’t want that kind of life.  We can’t see ourselves working that hard, simply to go to the next job.

-We have lived together for nearly five years. Over that time, we have learned that we don’t need a lot of space. And stuff? We don’t need a lot of that either.  After moving months ago, we haven’t unpacked many of the boxes we have.  What’s the point?

-We are concerned about the environment. We are striving to generate less waste in both our daily lives and in our build.

-We want to explore living in other areas of the country without making a huge financial commitment in any one place. When our house can move with us, we can move around without losing a sense of home.

 

We acknowledge that tiny living isn’t right for everyone, and are totally okay with that. We may decide one day that it isn’t right for us either as our family evolves. For now though, it’s a great adventure!