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

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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?

Blue Genes and Other Conspiracy Theories

Jack Poker hand

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.

 

 

 

 

April’s Fool Goes on the Road

pexels-photo-52599.jpegApril marked the beginning of my part time tiny house lifestyle, and it was not smooth sailing, let’s just get that much out of the way.  Trip Number One, to a small motel room in Amish Country, started two days late because of a delay in the delivery of a traveling scanner.  April Fools Day probably wasn’t the wisest day to start a new life anyway. –

Lesson one: Be flexible.

Lesson Two: Expect your navigation device to get restless and fall asleep.  A human, you can whack on the shoulder.  When you’re driving alone, you’re stuck pulling over onto the shoulder just to make sure your device hasn’t lost interest in assisting you.  Then you have to wait for a red sports car to cut over into the passing lane so you can actually get back on your journey.

Lesson Three: Do not pack more than your back can carry, and once packed, make sure your Stuff can’t slide around in transit.  Twelve banker boxes full of paper sit quietly behind me going west.  Eight banker boxes are far less cooperative going back east.

Lesson Four: Find a way to get your emails every day.  Even a three-year perfect payment history will not protect you from losing your cell service while you sit at the side of the road trying to call AAA.

Lesson Five: Never assume that you can leave your Stuff in the vehicle until your next trip.  Your son might get a job and need to haul his sofa to a new apartment.

Lesson Six: Plan for a lot of sitting.  When traffic is slow, I have learned to blow bubbles out the window.  For an extra advantage, the inevitable spilled soap is great for coffee dribbles. Keep water nearby for these laundry issues, as well as for thirst and medication.   The smaller the bottle, the less likely you are to bump into the ceiling to get to the bottom of it.

The Biggest Lesson: Laugh.  Whatever goes wrong will teach you something about yourself or the world around you.  Sometimes both.

 

The Saggy Baggy Elephant

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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.

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.

 

 

 

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.