Pracktical Magick

aerial photography of brown house on body of water beside powerboat
Photo by Ibrahim Asad on Pexels.com

No man is an island unto himself.

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.

 

 

 

 

Getting Lost

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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.

I live.

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.

Stay tuned.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

When I set Mom’s ashes into the grave last week, all that was left of her was a granite urn weighing 20.8 pounds. She had been downsizing since the mid-eighties, and she arrived at the Pearly Gates completely used up and emptyhanded. Her children will not be arguing over the holiday dishes or her teeth. There is no estate to settle.

Mom is my hero.

As the detachment of my current possessions becomes more psychologically sophisticated, I notice that everything at Home Base is in my way. Today my dinner, briefly perched upon one of many piles, marked its territory by slaloming into credit card bills, my Zack Rabbit, a ball of rubber bands and some origami instructions. Creamed spinach from Boston Market lost its appeal pretty quickly, and after trashing all but the Zack Rabbit (by Zack Giffin, skier, and tiny-houser extraordinaire) I was happy for dinner to be a spoonful of Skippy right out of the jar. In the blink of an eye, several decisions were made for me, and I believe this new tiny house I end up with will truly be just another step in a journey I have been on for a very long time…..long enough for me to have hoarded an article from a Worth magazine from September of 1995 when this journey was called Downshifting. You can’t even find a stick shift anymore these days, so the term, if not the magazine article, was discarded.

And so, without ever realizing it, I have become my mother.

Waterfront Property

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July’s Tiny Estates adventure taught me one thing right off the bat.  Ducks have this composting toilet idea down pat.  Yes.  The grass is always greener.  Whereas June provided the comfort of evening bull frogs singing lullabies, July was a month for watching your step.

Still, the view was gorgeous, day and night.  With unseasonably warm temperatures that week, it was sometimes possible to avoid the actual outdoors and finally get some work done.  This was the first unit that offered a table, and I took full advantage.  With my seven pound printer/scanner on the counter, laptop on the table, bra draped over the handle of the front door, and shades wide open, I set about condensing the most pressing paper categories on my agenda.  Using the seating area in the entertainment area for casual review before recycling, and refusing to carry any paperwork to the loft bed or bathroom, I stayed on task for the first time since this series of journeys began.

For a quick refresher, this is my fourth Tiny Estates unit and seventh tiny adventure since April 3.  I have also done a similar test in New England, but that was some time ago, and I didn’t even see a single true tiny house on the whole trip.  I did learn, though, to bring a dish basin for shoe washing at the front door.  If I had taken time to do a little fishing this trip, I would absolutely have needed it in this unit.

On another note, this is the first unit where my elbow hit the ceiling in the loft bedroom while rearranging the covers.  It was also the first wit a bedside lightswitch, so ya gotta take the good with the bad in all things, I see.  All four Tiny Estates units so far have had barn door style bathroom doors.  This was the first unit that prevented the use of the refrigerator in the open door position.  I am an architect’s daughter and this might not have been obvious to others.  I am also a grazing eater, and this took all week to remember.

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As for the Carbon Footprint, a unit like this which is wider by a sneaker length on each side, provides more elbow room than you’d think.  The extra width was most noticible by the fact that there was room for an aisle down the middle of it instead of along one wall.  imag0141 I found this arrangement in the center of the unit to be espescially useful for my purposes.  If it were my unit, the loft here would be for storage, and not a spare bedroom.  Then I could keep some of my paperwork as a momento of my former life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Genes and Other Conspiracy Theories

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Others call it Playing the Hand You’re Dealt, and I am holding a Full Haus.  Full from basement to attic, side to side, front to back.  No matter how the cards are shuffled, the process of playing those cards will take me on through to my little urn in the ground, however long that takes.

It starts with genetics.  For me, and others around me, the Baby Blues started when I was a toddler.  Full-blown depression hit me in my teens.  Panic disorder joined in.  I was both blessed and cursed with a critical eye and a serious orientation, even as I became known for my dry wit and tendency toward humorous expression of ordinary events.  I was also most likely given DNA which prevented me from acquiring that subtle trait called Organized.  I have never gotten to the end of a calendar or list or agenda without a detour of some sort, so I should have expected my new lifestyle to take detours as well.

But no.  The absurd complications that have been arising from my journey from a Full Haus to a Tiny House are keeping me awake at night.  Just as I dive in, the lake freezes over and I land with a splat.  And the ice skates were finally donated just last week.

The plan, after taking into account the limitations of income and legal expenses, was to obtain a very large pocketbook and tow it behind me.  Never again would I concern myself with forgetting the grocery list or wishing I had worn different shoes.  It got complicated immediately.

First, it needed to be a part-time endeavor, beginning in April.  Three of the first five adventures were simple hotel rooms with a micro-fridge.  Generally the rest are resort-style units on wheels in a former campground serendipitously created at the exact time that I started looking.  The towels are plush and the appliances are new.  Each unit has something I will decide to keep for my own design and something else I will discard as unworkable.

Once the concept formed, the clutter issue had to be addressed.  For better or worse, I started with paper.  Digitizing all the paper in my home was a ridiculous concept, so when the new printer/scanner and laptop combo didn’t work appropriately, there was still plenty to shred or recycle directly.  A good deal of paper clutter was actually created  in the first few weeks that the devices failed to meet their sales pitch descriptions.  One such scrap contained the Golden Ticket to allow for a refund.  Toss in low back pain and a cranky ignition and I was soon wondering if I was ever going to be able to pat myself on the back.

As June approaches and five units have been explored, I find myself joyfully pushing that rock up the hill in spite of everything conspiring to make it more difficult than expected.  Unstable Internet.  Rain.  GPS errors.  Mud.  Wrinkled clothes. Broken plastic silverware.  Squirrels.  Rude restaurant servers.  Long lines.  Ripped grocery bags.  Split seams.  Melted ice cream.  Can openers for righties only.  Pills.  No cell towers.  All first world problems, to be sure.

So deal again, Mr. Karma.  I will ace this.

 

 

 

 

Baggage on Wheels

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Living on the road has a much greater appeal now than when I was a kid sharing a tent with a bunch of brothers. At least half of it is probably genetic, and the other half is circumstance.

I remember the family trip that formed my approach to all the packing decisions that followed. I was 16 and we had rented a motor home for a heavily planned journey around the country. As the only female teenager, I was given more latitude than the others in terms of packing. My hair accessories alone, which included soup-can rollers in those days, took up more space than my little sister. She could verify this, because she was not trapped in the bunk with me the night my head got stuck between my pillow and the ceiling.  Circling my room, I gathered everything except what I knew I could leave behind.

This is the packing method I used for everything.  From purse to diaper bag, car to basement, everything was ready for possible use at a moment’s notice.

Until it wasn’t.

Like car keys that keep burrowing into the bottom of your pocketbook, I eventually noticed that the convenience of owning something was no longer worth the time it took to retrieve it.   So now comes the time to stop packing and start living.

Very few of us have the good fortune to start fresh at retirement.  Previous decisions restrict our options.  Downsizing is a tedious process that takes so long that we sometimes die before we complete the job, leaving the work to those we want least to burden.  In a couple of weeks I start the process of removing my Stuff from the house where I spent half my life suffocating in, living part time in a series of small spaces, and returning to the place where I raised my children, refreshed and prepared to waltz where the baggage once covered the dance floor.  And free to spike the punch bowl.

 

 

 

The Thanksgiving Table

Thirty two years ago we had not yet moved in.  Finally, after sorting and piling and flinging and stashing, we have figured out which one of us is leaving.  Me.

The kitchen table has been a hot spot for thirty-two years now, and I can finally say that it has seen its last Thanksgiving Dinner.   And the TV room has also seen its last football game.

My beautiful picture
TV Room
My beautiful picture
Kitchen Table

My oldest son is at Base Camp on Mt Everest.  The mountain here at home is sure to tumble.  I took  the other sons to a restaurant.   Spouse remained at home, as always.  It was great.

However thankful I may be for the years of overabundance, I am ready now have Less Much.  Nowhere am I more aware of this than when I see my kitchen table.  What I mean to say, of course, is when I DON’T see my kitchen table.

We are all such creatures of habit.  Whenever I crack an egg into a pan, a voice inside me says, “This is your brain on drugs.”  I can’t help it.  I’m pretty sure that if I didn’t hear that voice I would notice, and thus I’d hear it afterall.  And so, whatever is in my arms when I walk into the house lands on the table.  A couple of things have been there for a year.  Seriously.

The good news is that I’ve had a table at all.  The better news is that it isn’t coming with me when I leave.  I have finally begun to see these Things as stuff that sucks the life out of me, and I’m almost ready to live.