Stuff. We owned a three bedroom, two bath house less than a year ago. Once we moved in, we brought with us a bed, some kitchen stuff, clothes, beach stuff, and that was about it. The house was empty comparing it to others. So, we started buying things to fill it up. Even after doing that we were still told by friends and family our house looked very empty – but we were new at this, we gave it our best shot. Futons, couches, tools, more kitchen gadgets, more plates and dishes and cutlery, more bedding, more tables, carpets, flat screen TV’s, outside furniture, grills, more clothes.
In the end we filled our garage up to the point we could rarely park a car in it. And while this was occurring, we were also becoming less and less happy with living in this house. We lived in a subdivision that was once low-income housing. Houses offered only to people under a certain income bracket that were pretty nice but priced below market value. It had been over ten years, so the requirement of owning it that long had passed, and these houses were being sold on the general market. The thing with subdivisions is your space is decided by someone trying to make money. So things like privacy and freedom were not on the checklist of top priorities. We never once thought about price per square foot while living there, but the people who built it did under a close watch of this number. The longer we lived there, the longer this number started suffocating us. Surrounded on all sides by neighbors, some violent, some immersed in drug culture, some just unhappy. We did not fit and couldn’t imagine “just making it work” for much longer. It was killing our spirit to feel so boxed in, no freedom to walk more than twenty feet outside our own door without fear of consequences.
So, one day we realized we just could not live in our house for one more day and showed up at a friend’s house. The incredible person that he is, he then proceeded to let us live there for nine months. No questions asked. He even moved out of his own bedroom to give us a separate space from the rest of the house, and asked for nothing in return. We are blessed to have him in our life.
At first, most of our stuff stayed in the house we owned. Eventually, we started getting rid of all the stuff we had filled our home with, or slowly moved it up to our friend’s house. We spent most of the time living with our friend searching or looking for land to build on. After nine months of this and coming up empty handed, we stumbled across a rental property on three acres, off grid, and under 300sqft. It looked incredible from the photos, and so we immediately called the owner and asked to come and see it. It was exactly what we had wanted to build for ourselves, and it was already there, right in front of us. So we wrote a check on the spot and moved in after about a week.
While we had gotten rid of some of our stuff from our house, much of it traveled with us. Downsizing to 300 square feet involved serious purging of stuff. Slowly letting go of things we barely used, but still were somehow attached to. When we moved into the tiny house, we still had more than could fit, and way more than we could possible use. Most of it sat in plastic tubs under the porch for the entirety of our time there. Our most valued items ended up being a couple of inflatable boats and mosquito coils. Once we made the decision we were leaving the island, it was clear the downsizing needed to continue. This was a process that happened relatively organically. We would wake up one day and decide it was time to get rid of something or put a few items on craigslist. Over the course of about three months, we managed to get down to a point where everything we owned fit in four bags, two hiking packs, and one backpack. And then we put it on a plane, and flew to Las Vegas.
Once we arrived, we didn’t have our truck or camper set up, so we landed in a vacation rental with Chris’ family and climbing friends. At first, we weren’t able to find a camper, so all we had was a pickup truck to live in. We easily lived out of these packs in a big house, but knew that once we were in a truck, things needed to be a bit more organized or the stuff was going to overtake us. Which eventually, it did. We attempted to create categories of stuff and then get containers for each category.
This was really only minorly successful. We really tried to avoid buying big bins, because it was clear we’d have to then throw them away once we got a camper. However, after getting caught in a hail/wind storm, we opted for containers until we found a camper.
It should be noted that even though we had downsized tremendously, this still felt like way way way too much stuff! It was impossible to keep organized, and one of us would organize in one way, and the other in another way, and so things got lost and hidden and reorganized all the time.
As luck would have it, that evening we found a camper. That camper also did not have a long enough cord to plug in the taillights, so we were forced to very quietly camp in a shopping mall parking lot that night until we could get the materials to wire in an extension. Excited to have a home, we started the process of organizing. With all those plastic tubs on the floor and on the bed of the camper, there wasn’t much room left for us. This continued for about three days while we reorganized, returned a few containers, and found homes in the camper for our stuff. This picture summarizes how our life felt during those days. It includes everything but the kitchen sink.
We are about three weeks in now, and it’s still a process of trying to really identify the things that are necessities and those that are not, what will make life easier and what will just weigh us down. When your living space is about 100 sqft, you quickly become aware of each item and how it impacts your life, and whether it is more of an inconvenience to have or worth the space it takes up. One lesson was a stop for a yellow light and everything we owned was immediately re-arranged for us. Imagine taking your house from 55MPH to 0 in one hundred feet. Every shelf would be open, coffee spills, and anything tall or round finds a new place to call home. Dish detergent makes friends with cell phones and your forced to ask yourself why do I keep things where I do?