Of All the Towns in All the World


This never happened before. I don’t know if this story belongs in the reality blog or the fantasy blog. I keep them away from each other, just as I do in my life. Fairies actually don’t belong in tiny houses, and my pleasant life demands that they stay on their own side of the river. This week there was some trespassing going on behind my back, and the flooding only made it worse.

It seems my tiny house resort is built upon the playground of Beloved, the first recipient of the bubble rider fairies. I am not certain that I can park my tiny house on hallowed ground without stirring up a witchy potion that will burn a hole right through the cauldron.

Just this once, I will tell a story of both tiny houses and tiny sprites; of yesterday and tomorrow; of joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure.

And then we will sort the laundry.

Once upon a time, there was an old lady, a shriveled up, used up, washed up old woman who had accomplished all that she had set out to achieve long before her life was meant to be over. On her sixtieth birthday, she had been given a gift. She got her life back. Her own life. No longer her husband’s nursemaid nor her children’s cook, she was handed the task of holding her own life to her heart. To treasure. To honor. To elevate. To share.

If she was provided with the means to accomplish this task, it was not to be found in her purse. Creativity was an absolute necessity in this endeavor. If there would be tiny income, there would have to be tiny expenses. The castle would have to go. A lifelong camper, she had long ago learned to make do. She had also learned to squeeze every drop of usefulness out of a thing, be it an apple, a coat, or a pillowcase.

More often than not, it wasn’t a thing that was on hand but a thought. Like Uncle Sir Isaac inventing calculus so that physics could be explained, the old lady invented an alternate reality, with witches and moon dancers and gnomes. She called it Figment, after Uncle Fig, and she divided the two worlds with a river that was already running through the area anyway, knowing by now that life was too short to spend any of it arguing with Mother Nature.

The old lady started getting younger, and indeed her wrinkled old self began to fill out and fit around herself better. She was down to about 55 mph in Figment when the mud from the rains started getting into her engine. When the rains had stopped and the ground had dried, an assessment found uprooted trees and fallen eaves. Over at the village of tiny homes, the swing set had tipped over and an old grave was uncovered beneath it.

“Here Lies Beloved”,

the headstone read above smaller letters:

“worlds baldest viking”.

The cleanup went on from the Equinox until the Ice Moon. The Home Depot had run out of brooms for Halloween rides, lumber for Homecoming floats, and candles for Christmas displays.

But the New Year started with great hope and fireworks. Life on both sides of the river was just about perfect again.

I have elected to ignore the history of the Tiny Estates location and accept that everyone has a past.  This is where I will both play solitaire and dance under the full moon.  It is in Figment and it is not in Figment.  Uncle Isaac probably explained it in The Principia.

Battening Down The Hatches


The ten and a half inches that fell on my route to Tiny Estates last week would have been in the neighborhood of ten FEET of snow in January. Neither snow nor rain could have been blamed on the first mistake with my trip, though. I left my clothes back home.

There was a perfectly reasonable explanation for this; I had to empty the van so that I could help my youngest son use it to move off campus. Having done the same in April for the middle child, I knew it was a managable change in plans. What I did not allow for was the fact that the clothes, in a large Rubbermaid bin, were in the garage instead of the main portion of the house. Most months, this Rubbermaid bin also acted as a work-table. It served absolutely no purpose in the garage at home.

I got much less work done on that front, but the design of my own tiny home moved closer to reality. As always, I learned even more with this new unit, both positive and … not so much. The Prairie Drifter was the first unit that had a true first floor bedroom, but it also had a smaller refrigerator. It had two loft bedrooms which I never used. It also had induction burners, which was a personal challenge. There were issues with the shower which ultimately left me assuming I was an idiot when no water came out at all. It was a water main break.

With less ability to work in the pattern I had been developing, I was free to entertain a friend from college and his teenaged son. After a few hours they were demanding a return visit. Even my own sons have not visited. That was nice.

This was also the week I left my keys and my bra hanging on the doorknob as always, and I went outside to comb my hair. Yep. As I jiggled down the road to get the spare key, the lawn maintenance people arrived, muttering “mucho muchas somethingorother.” Served me right. Once properly attired, including my Fitbit to measure the wasted steps, I returned to the office with yet another story for the records.

Clearly, I have made myself at home.

Location Location Location

Home is where you hang your heart. And your keys. And your backpack. And your wet mittens. And your dreams.

The first step in designing your home, tiny or otherwise, is to decide where to put it. There has been only one objection to my chosen location, coming from the third wife of an old heartthrob from college, and whose opinion doesn’t carry nearly the weight of a building inspector or a zoning board member.

I really lucked out with this initial part of my journey. It is still more difficult to find a legal plot of land than a fabric swatch for the curtains. It might not be my last stop before the urn, but it suits me right now in a way that few properties anywhere else could. I even thought Destiny had me in mind when she designed the location and the business model. It is truly ideal.

It’s a former RV campground. It is now a resort community of tiny house rentals. I go for a week a month. For perhaps a year. I love what I’m learning about myself, including the arthritis which taught me that a loft bedroom has its drawbacks. I love what I’m learning about the kinds of people who want to take back their leisure time by getting away from their suburban castles. I love what I’m learning about the capacity for human creativity…..unless it’s coming from a disgruntled third wife, of course.

Front Porch Light

One of the things I noticed right away at my Tiny Resort was a pair of night lights blinking a red line across the gates. It was during April’s full moon and Tiny Estates had just opened. The lights blinked to the beat of my heart, and although I was the only guest, I didn’t feel as alone as I needed to if I was going to dance naked under the full moon. There were also no curtains in The Journey, which has since been rectified. And so I danced naked in the shower and then treated myself to the thickest white towels I’ve ever seen.

All the units have fluffy white towels and flushing toilets. They also have a porch light, although each is controlled at a different location on the switchplate.

I find a symbolic comfort in the ability to welcome potential neighbors with the flip of a switch. My porch light in Harleysville is never on unless it’s Halloween. This is so far from the vision I had of my home life that I sometimes turn it on for ghosts of the past that needed shelter and were forced to look elsewhere.

I have a wish list for my tiny home: a first floor bed, a bedside light, an adequate sized refrigerator and a porch light.

It All Comes Out in the Wash


It is snowing.  I am six years old, and because there’s another baby in the house, I am sent outside to play.  Mama’s lap is always full with one brother or another.  My nose is cold.  My mitten fell off.  The icicle I was licking has my snot all over it.  I beg to come back indoors.

The other mitten comes off.  The boots and four socks.  The scarf.  The hood and the cap.  The jacket.  The sweater.  The snow pants.  I stand by the door somewhat mournfully, because I have shed the layers and seen what is left – a big sister who loves her brothers but misses her Mama, and has no idea who is standing next to the pile of wet outerwear.

There has come a time in my life where all my wet clothes are beside me and I am forced to look upon my naked soul in the harsh light of day.  This is not a bad thing; my clothes are both designer dresses and ragged T-shirts.  Some are stained but otherwise serviceable.  Some should stuff a sofa in some third world country.  Whatever the article of clothing, it does not hide the truth of what lies underneath.

It turns out that none of my decisions is entirely altruistic.  With each step forward into the future, another costume is obtained for another pretense.  I return from my latest tiny house visit and am bombarded with all the indecision associated with my possessions.  The only good news is that I returned with less stuff than when I left.  The emotional clutter will continue to reveal itself, I know.  But will I throw the baby out with the bathwater?

The Saggy Baggy Elephant


Yes, I used to hoard this collection of Kathryn Jackson’s Golden Book elephants.  It started long before I met the elephant in the room, the X I like to blame for all my negative characteristics.  Everyone brings baggage into a relationship, but X was down two hundred pounds when we met, and that was long before anyone had heard of Gastric Bypass Surgery.

But this is not about X.  While I am aware that many “declutterers” get a kick out of weighing their trash on its way out of the house, I could not do that without bringing It to the local meat packing facility, which in fact was once suggested by his doctor.  And X is not on his way out of the house.  I am.

What drives me toward the direction of a minimalist lifestyle is simple.  If there is space, I will fill it.  If the excess skin isn’t removed like they do on television, there is always room to grow, and physical growth is not a great idea once you’re collecting a pension.  Downsizing is good exercise for the condition of a person’s legacy even without hoarding.

My first trip to Lilliput Little Life had to be put off for two days, but there are benefits.  For one thing, I’ll have my new laptop by then.  For another, I can still have my ninth annual celebration of lung decluttering.  (Eight years, eleven months, three weeks, two days, 23 hours, 26 minutes and 24 seconds. 131359 cigarettes not smoked, saving $37,557.73. Life saved: 1 year, 12 weeks, 1 day, 2 hours, 35 minutes as of Tuesday, March 20th)  And maybe most important, my sons can help load the van with the stuff I plan to go through while on the road.  The plan is to not let it back in the house.

But back to Sooki the elephant, whose wrinkles gave him character: One Two Three Kick – when the Stuff is gone, there will be room to dance.

I Refuse to Set One More Trap

We grew up with hamsters.  They were only a little bit uglier than chipmunks at camp, but they were sure more cuddly than the field mice who have invaded my current space in suburbia.  I know.  I’ve only seen that one so far, but like flies, you kill one and a thousand come to the funeral.

Don’t tell me they were here first.  I know.  My house was built on the edge of a dairy farm.  I met them before we moved in, thinking I’d lay out my white satin fabric on the brand new builder’s carpet.  When the view was similar to something with Bibbity Bobbity Boo in the foreground, they ran me off.  Ultimately, the wedding gown ended up in an upstairs closet, above the only clean carpet left in the house after 32 years.

The secret to keeping mice to a minimum in a neighborhood where corn grows a hundred feet from your front door is to thank your neighbors on both sides for their cat.  I get to skip those gifts of dead birds also.  Pity the lady next door who finds a dead mouse still attached to the trap, because I am one of those women who think any living thing within my four walls is unwelcome, ugly, and creepy.  No spiders.  No bees.  No stinkbugs.  No bats.  No woodpeckers.  And especially NO RODENTS.  Even houseplants don’t survive here.

I’ve seen those Hoarders shows where Matt Paxton can’t get the scientist to understand that her possessions are contaminated because of the mice.  I’ve seen Cory Chalmers provide a nebulizer treatment to an asthmatic hoarder because of the mice.  I’ve seen a hoarder cry when he had to get rid of his pet mice because they were eating his walls.  And now I see me, holding the best excuse for a complete clean-out of the house, wanting to see every piece of evidence that each of my treasures is truly ruined.

I forgive myself for the glitch in my brain, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for giving up before my children get the job by default.  Flylady tells a story about a woman who left behind only what could fit in the trunk of a car, but she had the biggest funeral in town.

I hoard the names of my teachers, as you can see.  Add Dorothy the Organizer to the list.  And Zach Giffin too.


The Catch 22 Lifestyle


What has more buts than a locker room?  Clutter – But I might need it. But Mom gave it to me. But Toddler made it. But it was expensive. But I could make something out of it. If there were no buts in this world, there would be no clutter.
Clutter overwhelms us because it is the evidence of our indecisiveness. We know – we are absolutely certain – that the moment an item leaves us, we will need it. We have many examples of this from the past, but we can never seem to recall them at the moment they would be most useful in an argument. That’s the thing about clutter. There is so much of everything that we can find nothing.
I had an especially difficult relationship with my possessions while I was deciding to  divorce. I simply could not find a way to decide which one of us would be leaving, so I neither packed up nor put away anything.  Now that I see that I’m not staying, I can’t decide what to bring with me. Every decision leaves a trail of others that weren’t chosen.  I mourn the loss of all the lives I will never have, even as I mourn the life I wasted by not choosing sooner.
My creative solution for my indecisiveness is to live a week a month away from my hoard, not unlike my earlier test runs in the mountains and foothills of New Hampshire, trying on different lifestyles and noting what items I regret leaving behind.  I hope to report my struggles and achievements here, while learning to deactivate the glitch in my brain that says I must keep my entire collection of cast iron pans, even though I only use one.

Full Haus to Empty Nest


Imagine a little old lady and her rubber tree plant, living in a VW Camper with no vacuum cleaner, curling iron, or closet.  Every night she sleeps in view of the stars, never twice in the same location.  Imagine all the room she has in her head for the people she meets, the stories she shares, and the incredible weightlessness of knowing she never has to dust anything.

I could not aspire to become quite that unconcerned about living without my treasures all around me, but it doesn’t hurt to start redefining what a treasure really is….people are always more important than things.  Unless you’re a rubber tree plant riding shotgun with a little old lady in a Microbus, offering nothing but high hopes.  For no other reason than the fact that other RV full-timers found her life amusing, she has found immortality; even if she hasn’t breathed upon this earth for two dozen years.

I like to think that she memorialized her life in a digital blog as she boon-docked her way across the country.  And the rubber tree plant laughed all night long as she sat by the fire, recreating the stories that fed her life and filled her private library.  But I don’t even know her name.  Ann Onnie Ms or something.  When I hit the road, I’m going to look for her, and if I can’t find her, I will become her.


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.