I am poised to step into Old Mother Hubbard’s shoe after her kids have moved out.
There are few times in life when you can hold all options open, and this is happening right now. I owe nothing to anybody. All my choices are mine. I still own my stuff and I also own my tiny house. My kids still love me and I don’t need to make their lunches. There’s gas in the car and cream in the fridge and a pair of shoes on my feet. I can wear my bra or toss it on the kitchen table if I want. (I won’t) I can admire Marie Kondo or make fun of her. I can sing off key. I can check the mailbox three times a day. I can skip recycling. Anything is possible. Well, except pregnancy.
And it all started ten years ago today, when I finally became a non-smoker after 41 years. Freedom isn’t free, but the rewards are immeasurable.
Ten years, 12 hours, 17 minutes and 53 seconds. 146100 cigarettes not smoked, saving $41,784.73. Life saved: 1 year, 20 weeks, 3 days, 7 hours, 0 minutes.
I never wanted to be in charge. It’s just that everyone else was doing it wrong.
I needed to be less than two hours from the ocean and the mountains and any potential grandchildren. I needed a table and a big refrigerator and a ground floor bed. I needed to keep my cast iron and my fairy costumes and my sewing machine. I needed 400 square feet that could go wherever I ended up, and I needed it soon.
While I love just about everything about the tiny house movement, I’m not too keen on the term. “Micro home” was probably my favorite, but that term is now reserved for something under 200 square feet, often way less. I couldn’t get as much space as I wanted in the location I found, so most of the month of February was spent on Facebook Messenger with the builder who is 400 miles away. There was a little bit of fantasy sprinkled on this choice, because sometimes it is hard to find the line between reality and the imaginary world I call Figment. [see http://www.fairy-fizz.com] This builder and I have known each other since he was born, and our mothers played with dolls together. I try hard on occasion to avoid thinking of us as Kissing Cousins, but I have seen his work and have attempted to enchant him into the tiny house building world for a couple of years now.
He is finding ways to build exactly what I want. Instead of a loft I have a privacy deck for moondancing once every 29.5 days. It is not a pretty sight, the dancing. It’s a DeckHaus. For a moondancer. Who lives alone and wears fairy costumes and cooks with cast iron for self defense. Who grows teaberry for extracts nobody’s brave enough to swallow. Who has triangular fixtures to save space for looking in the mirror and reaching under that dreaded corner cabinet. Who needs neighbors to keep an eye on her so the panic attacks don’t get out of hand. Who might wear the same t-shirt three days in a row if no food spills on it. Who ventures back “home” to visit her doctors and her Things. Who can do anything she wants to do at any time of day or night. Who can gaze at the stars and be glad to be grounded.
Rumspringa is an Amish tradition in which the community rules are relaxed and Amish teenagers are allowed to experience worldly activities. It is believed that by doing so the youths will be able to “find themselves.” (from http://www.welcome-to-lancaster-county.com)
Rumspringa is also the model that Liberation Tiny Homes calls, “Our most affordable home, with simple choices and a design that works for everyone.” It is not their fault that I whacked my left butt cheek going down their stairs. I had no business sleeping in the loft when there was a queen-sized sleeper sofa right underneath it. I am a little old lady who sheds dental floss throughout every tiny house I have ever visit. Rumspringa was tiny house number nine; not to be confused with Love Potion Number Nine, which belongs in the other blog (www.fairy-fizz.com).
After practicing the tiny lifestyle for most of the year, I came within a week of selecting a custom build from Liberation, when the Fairies From Figment arranged for a new alternative. My builder will be a lifelong friend, a Younger Man and teacher who has visited my dreams off and on since high school. No worries – his wife knows.
I left Lancaster County with a signed contract for a spot at Tiny Estates. I returned with a new perspective regarding my Stuff in the house. If I ever get to the bottom of the piles to reveal my treasures, I will likely discover that they have been taken over by the mice and termites. An ex-husband makes a very poor landlord.
This doesn’t mean the hoarder gene has been removed from my DNA. I was born with it and will be buried with it. What’s different in the last couple of years is the attachment to personal possessions that I will never use. I will never be a minimalist, but a hoarder lives in very little space when you consider how much of a room is filled with possessions. The “living” actually occurs in the center of a pile. Mentally, these possessions are the adult children that won’t leave the nest on their own, forcing the mother to kick her own children to the curb….
If you can follow the story in this little picture book, I can get a degree in psychology. Here’s where the journey started:
No, actually. It started before the vernal equinox in Valley Forge, honoring the nomadic life of my father during his retirement with Mom. It started when I visited Mom and Dad’s motor home at the curb.
Actually, it was even before that, when we had a VW Camper while we were growing up.
You get the idea. Living on wheels is in my blood. That being said, I spent over thirty years raising three boys in my forever-nest, which my mother-in-law called “a fine starter home” when it was built. I thought it was huge.
Eventually it got too small to share with my now former husband. Financial considerations forced me to reconsider the itinerant life, which I had attempted in New Hampshire and it was fun. My first blog posts are about that. This newer journey has been more serious – and funny – than the earlier one.
The first and last tiny experiences for the year were hotel rooms with a micro-fridge. Somehow the freezer space in April was much larger than the one in December… Neither experience was anything to write home about. There were three additional hotel stays in 2018, all with microwaves and refrigerators. Again, nothing to write home about. There were a few options I avoided: The Yurt, The Cottage, The LEGO, a Relaxed Shack and Cinderella’s Coach. The yurt was so small that I ate it.
There were a total of eight Tiny Estate THOWs I stayed in, each for seven nights. In order, they are:
The Journey (April), The Eagle (May), The Low Country (June), The Chairman (July), The Vision (August), The Prairie Drifter (September), The Capital (October) and The Moonlight (November). Each had features I knew belonged in my own design, and at least one feature that I could not live with. On the whole, I learned that the lifestyle would work for me, provided I tweaked it a little in some places and a lot in others. One month I forgot to pack my clothes. Another month I had no patience for the induction burners. Once I couldn’t get water to run in the shower. Another time I couldn’t get to the loft. One place had trouble getting internet. Another month there was too much duck poop. But it was never so bad as the first visit, when it was just me and Cody and 14 acres of cold bright moon glow and no shades in the windows.
But that’s a story for the other blog, fairy-fizz.com
Even an empty nester needs a community; a tree or a branch or a rafter. Sometimes even a gilded cage.
When last we met, I was in one of my quandaries. Was I willing to give up my Stuff on an accelerated timeline in order to ensure a spot in a particular location?
Spoiler alert: sort of.
The dilemmas crept up on me and despite analyzing them one by one, what it boiled down to was a question of size. A tiny house, by most definitions, is under 400 square feet. If you have your own plot of land it can be a 20 by 20 garage. Generally speaking, with a wide load permit it might be 10 by 40. That was my dream for my circumstances, allowing me to live within my means without giving away all my hidden treasures.
Most of my items are in fact hidden, in 2000 square feet, because the house is full of things that were functionally necessary for raising three children who have now fled the nest and become capable adult humanoids on their own. They cannot be blamed for much of the clutter, since they brought most of it with them to their own nests. I lent my vehicle to all three of them this year to move from one nest to another.
The Forever Home in my head – and on graph paper – contained a hundred square feet of hidden storage for items I wanted to use on occasion but not daily….costumes, crock pot, sewing machine, sleeping bag, spare stationery, toilet paper, jewelry, mittens, sandals, shovel….all organized for easy access and quick return. If you love something, it needs a home, too.
When I was blindsided with the news that Tiny Estates could only handle a 28 foot unit, I was stumped. Could I risk losing the spot by waiting for a larger lot, or should I get something too small for me, be assured of the larger spot when one opened up, and be stuck with an extra house in a few years?
The Stepping Stone is in the design stages right now.
Because there is something magical about the prospect of starting over, there is also something very sobering about losing that magic to a series of realities.
So far this year, I have been to two Tiny House Expos and spent up to a week in eleven different tiny options, eight of which have been at Tiny Estates. Most of the education has been about me, not my dreams. Now it’s time prepare for the final exam, and I’m having that nightmare where I don’t remember ever going to class. It’s time to sh*t or get off the Luggable Loo.
What I know so far is that I’m still a work in progress. My dreams and my reality weave a story of slow progress. I do not “turn over a new leaf” so much as toss it back into the air to watch if it lands somewhere else in the yard. I try on several coats before deciding which one keeps me warm in the winter without making me sweat in the grocery store. I sit in a chair and wonder about a new walking route I’m not taking. I always know that in the back of my head there is a better answer to a harder question.
And that means trying things that need tweaking, don’t work out, distract, confuse, annoy and exasperate. For this reason and a million others, I am re-evaluating the decision to go from a hoarded house to a tiny one.
All of the directions from my October Tiny Estates unit to the Tiny House Expo in Maryland took me directly through a town I had promised not to visit. More precisely, I had promised to try not to visit. So being a somewhat hip and modern woman, I took a poll on Facebook to get input from my friends, which resulted in a shocking number of morally conservative responses. None of them was interested in fuel conservation.
During my return trip – where I had 3% cell battery and no charging cord – Google Maps, in an apparent effort to conserve time and gas as well as cell phone battery, sent me directly through Heartbreaker’s hometown – on his wedding anniversary no less – to make a left onto … Memory Lane. I kid you not. I would have taken a screenshot right then and there, but my phone died.
By the time the week was over, I was back to business, catching an ordinary event on the odometer as I drove onto Route 283…. This is the highway that flooded last month, leaving me half convinced that a spy was attached to my tow hitch.
There is no room for clutter in my new life, and that includes the stuff in my head and on my devices. Coincidence is going to have to be nothing more than co↔incidence; two unrelated occurrences. Fate and Destiny are easily spotted in The Real World because they belong on the other side of the river with the witches and fairies. There are plenty of concrete issues with making a dream a reality without confusing the process with fantastical crossovers. There is little room for messing around with symbolic messages from nowhere.
Besides resolving the issue of which land I was parked in for October, another event happened for the first time. My sons visited. I suspect they were relieved to see that I was going to a real place every month, and that there was actually room for us all to sleep on real mattresses, eat real food and connect to real internet. Middle Son was even disappointed that there was no real tent. Sadly, between the four of us we couldn’t come up with a real lighter, and the s’mores were left for another occasion.
This unit was built by Spencer Sousa, and its delivery on September 1st made Tiny Estates the largest community of tiny houses on wheels in the world. It was the first unit available that was built with a metal frame. There were periodic glitches with the internet connection, but it otherwise shared the general features of the others. It’s called The Capital and named for Univest, one of many partners allowing this concept to come to fruition.
There have been so many surprises in my first year of converting my lifestyle. Heck, there have been surprises in all my years of living, period. You can plan for just a small percentage of them, but in the end you need to just go with the flow.
IF I had stayed on 83 beyond York after leaving the Expo, IF I had ignored the whispers, IF I had been traveling just a few days later, I might have been another fatality in an eleven vehicle pile-up, leaving all my worldly possessions strewn across the road, and not a shred of it would be useful to anybody.
Don’t make your dream a reality. Make your reality a reality. Dream your dreams.