Living Small

It’s interesting how with intention comes purpose. Our intention was always just to make this house work for us because, well, honestly, it was all we could afford. Now with California prices for houses, rentals, and condos, thru the roof, we are grateful for this place we call home. Our mortgage is less than any rental would be in this area. Most rentals for 2 bedroom 1 bath run around $2200. That’s a lot of money and with only living on SS, it wouldn’t be possible. We have had the very occasional thought to sell and we could get a decent amount for this place, but we couldn’t buy again with the proceeds and then the rental cost would be very high. This August we will have lived here 27 years so I think that this is it for us.

So with intention, we plan to live here until we die and make this work. That gives us the purpose to make this place ‘aging in place’ friendly. We have a step at the front door which could be changed to a ramp if necessary/ and or a rail for support. The house is just one level except for the stairs in my office /catio area. That couldn’t be changed but I suppose some creative solution could be found or I/ we wouldn’t go down to the office area. We plan to change to a propane “wood stove” in the next few years so there would be no wood burning or for B processing wood. All of these things would simplify things and I think as we age we either can’t do what we once did or we don’t want to. I certainly don’t want Barclay using a chain saw when he’s 80!!!

Living in a small house has forced us to be creative and look at things differently. We’ve had to find creative storage solutions and declutter to make this house function. There are still ideas I have about rearranging things but for now, the way things are arranged works.

Probably the biggest asset for me is the outside space. Living in a small house is fine but if there was no outside space, personally, I would find it hard. I need to have outside space and some expansion around me. The main draw to this property was NOT the house which as I’ve said was in terrible condition but the land was amazing even though it was overgrown and had huge piles of crap EVERYWHERE. Being on top of the hill we have sky 360 degrees around( not views but sky thru the trees.)There were multiple buildings that the ‘old man’ had built for his assayer business and we had to tear these down. There was also the barn. This is not really a ‘cool’ barn but a barn he must have put up in the early 50s for his mining equipment. Barclay and my son have worked hard to make the barn more stable and usable. My son has lots of his tools for art and video production out there and it does give us the storage we don’t have in the house for camping equipment, seasonal stuff,etc. Since we’ve decluttered out there so much we don’t have a lot( us meaning B and I) out there. My son is a bit of a hoarder and does have a lot. I’m okay with that since it’s his stuff and he’s an adult and can make those decisions for himself. Plus he sleeps/works in the Tuff Shed Studio that was our original home school. So that’s cool. He likes to build things and has all kinds of tools to do that.

Living small has:

  • made life simpler
  • helped us focus on what’s important
  • made us be creative with our space
  • allowed(forced) us to accept that the house has limits(no, a baby grand piano DOES NOT FIT!!!!!
  • showed us decluttering non- essentials is ESSENTIAL
  • helped us become minimalists( to some degree)

House Lessons

There is any number of things I could say our small house taught us but here are some.

This house was sold ” as is” by the nephew of the owner who had died at least 3 yrs before, so it was in a very neglected state. Plus Mr. Clark was 90-something when he died so the house was already neglected due to the fact he was so old and couldn’t do any repairs. The bathroom was pretty much ruined by water damage. We had to gut the tiny bathroom and even the subfloor had to be removed. The prequel to this story is for another post.

It took a very long time for me to understand that this was a very small house and only so much could realistically fit. ( I know, I know, it seems only logical). BUT I didn’t learn this for many years We had moved from a 1500 sq ft house to under 700sq ft. I tried to cram in all our stuff and for years( at least 15) just kept moving stuff around. So the first lesson was the house is a container and the container can only fit what it can fit. It is too small for 2 couches, a piano, a large oak table and on and on. I tried but it really was too much but I still tried. It really wasn’t till I started doing Flylady( around 2010) that I began to understand the relationship between clutter, stuff, collectibles, furniture, and SPACE. What I wanted was a house that worked for me with less stuff, less cleaning, less dusting of collectibles, moving piles of stuff constantly, etc.

Secondly, this is an OLD house and will never have the amenities of a newer house. Our floors creak and the foundation certainly needs some attention. Old houses are harder to keep clean and are always in need of some sort of upkeep that newer houses don’t require. Accepting this house was OLD just helped me get on with the actual living in it.

Thirdly, the layout is really just awful and I’ve had to adjust to this. There is no entry wat to speak of, You come into the kitchen after stepping into what is the front door where Barclay has his desk to one side and on the other is a low metal locker for odds and ends. This room was a porch we enclosed. If we had money, I would have repositioned the front entry in a completely different way. Of course, back then in 1995, with the little money we got from the sale of our house we did redo quite a bit including all the plumbing and electrical. Still, we never changed anything structurally or added on ( like a second bath or bedroom). We just didn’t have the money then nor now.

Four, finally this house taught me to SIMPLIFY everything. Living small is possible if you remove the excess and that is what this house taught me. There’s no question, that if we had money, I would have done remodeling and building but that is not the case so, it’s do what you can with what you’ve got.

If anything, this house taught me to be a minimalist in a way that works for me. It may not be ‘minimalist’ enough for someone else but I’ve pared done to the essentials of what I need and use and love.

There’s more to the story but that’s for another time.

Simple Sunday

A very pretty morning in the park and no one there but us and the Canada Geese.

Today I plan to do some reorganizing in the pantry, closet, and the Heywood in the kitchen. There’s not a great deal to do but a few things I want to rearrange. The closet( our only closet and my nemesis) is almost where I want it. I don’t want food storage in there anymore just clothes and seasonal things. So I know there’s a bag of coffee to move out and a bag of flour. Otherwise, I’m finally getting the closet to a space that’s not so crowded with EVERYTHING.

B got the patio shade cover up and it’s very nice and really covers the whole area. It’s 13×13 so bigger than most patio shade covers. We had some serious wind the other day and it was well anchored.

This week is quiet with not much going on except the normal things like swimming, walking, some grocery shopping( not much), and just house stuff. I’d like to do a library run maybe Thursday. Next Sunday is my darling daughter’s birthday so I need to ask her(again) what she wants to do. It’s hard to believe she is 37 YO and 37 years ago we were waiting for her to arrive. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I loved being pregnant both times. I did have a miscarriage 2 years after she was born as we were trying to have another baby. I was 16 weeks. That didn’t work out and after that, we just gave up on any infertility treatment. But of course, then the miracle child(my son) showed up 9 years later.

This week is Flylady bedroom zone but I did that this week as I had B move the bed and I vacuumed and cleaned under and around the bed. This week I’d like to change the curtains out to some light fabric but I’m not sure what I have around. I might need to go down for a quick trip to Ikea.

Simple Sunday

Another great walk this morning with a pretty sunrise. Nobody else there, not even the AH which we’re not sure why or what’s up with that but still it’s great not to have him stomping by us.

It looks like a cloudy day but the temperatures are really ok with high @ 60-65. Not bad for this time of year at all. The next 10 days actually look quite nice and I think we’re going to plan a drive up to Tahoe.

This week is the bedroom zone. I’ll wash the windows and tidy up but most of it is already done as this room is very minimal. I did wash the linen cover the other day. I may or may not iron it. I do like the look of linen without ironing it. The only thing I’ll probably do is tidy the closet some.

I made some sourdough pancakes this morning from the discarded sourdough and I have a batch ready to go for bread. The pancakes were good. I’ll bake the bread tomorrow after letting it do a slow rise in the refrigerator.

Just look at that beautiful starter. Except for it sort of exploded.

Here’s one of the amyrillys blooming. I bought the 4 pack of bulbs(Costco) and one didn’t come up. The other 2 have buds and this one is blooming. They are strange plants and I don’t think I will do them again. I love orchids though and usually buy one every time I go to Trader Joes.

This week is quiet for me but B has 3 appts. , two dentist and his port flush and blood draw. I plan on swimming at least 2x but that’s about it.

My second favorite Youtube vlogger, Beneta Larsson, has a 6 part series on decluttering if you’re interested. She is a minimalist that walks the talk. Her apartment is a beautiful example of minimalism and I love her cats. I’ve definitely been inspired by her.

Looking back at 2021

For us, 2021 was a really great year in spite of Covid. For lots of people, it was horrible but we managed to accomplish some very BIG Goals. # 1 was buying Rubi( the RV), which was exactly what we wanted), then Chevy, after realizing the Santa Fe was just not going to cut it with towing, and then going on camping trips especially the new addition of Refugio State Beach.

I started chemo in January, 3 weeks on 1 week off until June. My numbers went back into the normal range almost immediately after just the first treatment but you still need to do the full course of 6 rounds. I’ve had a great 6 months but my numbers are now slightly out of high normal so it’s a matter of how quickly they will increase. I’m waiting now for this week’s labs, so we’ll see. My guess is I’ll be back on Velcade in June. Amazingly, last time ( 2016) I had 4 1/2 years of remission. Not this time and it’s questionable how long Velcade will work before it’s on to the next treatment option. Well, that’s not today so…

I m swimming in March and I continue to love it. I wish I could get more than the 2-3 times a week in but it’s just too far and too much gas to do more than that. But it is incredible.

We did quite a few projects around the house and yard including the privacy fence along the driveway. We replaced the sunroom windows that were water damaged and will do the other 2 this summer. We redid the whole laundry room. It still needs some siding up around the window and I’ll bug my son to finish that when the weather is nicer. Let’s see, what else… I painted the bathroom, and ??? I’m sure there are more things…

Today is New Year’s Eve. We’re going to have the fondue we didn’t use for Christmas and I think to watch the new Witcher series. We had a lovely walk this morning and still no dog walker. That’s very odd, so we think either he got covid or moved?? We never knew his name so can’t check it out. But really it is wonderful to not have him stomping by or trying to run us off the path. Still, he is a dark walker( early morning) so there’s that connection. Not many people do that.

I plan to go to Target tomorrow as I need my calendars for 2022. I like their very simple inexpensive ones. Not sure they’ll have any left but I’ll try there first. I do plan a no-spend January but that’s just extra stuff that I don’t need( like candles). My January budget is set including the increase of our Part D Medicare plans.

I lost count of how many books I read , maybe 75? 100? I read a lot so I don’t think it really matters how many. Sometimes I read 3 books a week. It all depends on the type of book. Maybe I’ll keep count next year except I have tried that and then give up because it starts to be too many.

Visual Clutter

I’m not exactly sure when I made the connection between how I was coping with things and the visual clutter around me but my guess is in 2012 although it may have been shortly after I relapsed in 2010 from my STC transplant and was on Revlimid. Revlimid is oral chemotherapy extraordinarily expensive as most of the Tier 5 drugs are. Fortunately, B had excellent health insurance and I believe our co-pay was @ $60 for a 12,000 a month drug. Now it is even more.

I think I felt more stressed and of course, there was the dreaded Dexamethasome weekly as well. Maybe I had just reached a turning point, Who knows? and really I don’t care about the Why just that it started to make my life flow better.

But I had started the Flylady system and was going thru each room in the house and something just snapped. I couldn’t stand to look at all the stuff everywhere. It was all too much. I was working, happily, at the library at the job I LOVED, and I started asking my co-worker if she wanted anything I was giving away. She like Bric a Brac so she became the recipient of many things. At the time, I must have done a hundred trips to the Salvation Army( that was still in Auburn) and Goodwill which had only recently opened. I think it was only Salvation Army at that time that was in Auburn if I’m remembering correctly.

Some of the collections I gave away:

vintage Pyrex

a vintage button collection in 4 jars

Vintage Fans

Navaho Rugs

Excessive furniture( antique trunks, futon, ???

some antique Sterling silver ( some sold on eBay and some given to the Cancer Thrift store

SO. MUCH. MORE.

I’m quite sure that the term minimalism was not in my vocabulary then but decluttering was and Flylady’s system. What struck me about her system was the less you had, the less you had to clean or deal with and that’s what hit the mark for me. Also, she starts with keeping your sink clean, free of dishes, and doing it every day. From there with the 15-minute rule, I followed her zone cleaning and decluttering. Now, I don’t do most of her stuff daily as it’s been done but I do the weekly zone cleaning.

Plus, I make sure daily to keep my counters clear and do a bathroom swish and swipe. On Mondays I do a whole house reset and dust, wash mirrors and the glass on the Heywood, and little things that add up.

I also set Monday as towel day. We each only have one towel and that’s it. Plus I do sheets on Sunday and we only have one set of linen sheets for our bed.

I certainly still have books in the bookcase and other visual decorations but it all has a place and is loved, beautiful or useful.

Probably our most minimal area without any visual clutter is the bedroom. We have our bed, a vintage Heywood dresser, and a Heywood bedside table that holds my nighttime medications. That’s it.

Journeying into minimalism has been one of the best things I have ever done. It has simplified my home and allowed me a different perspective. I am more intentional about what I do and what I bring into my home. I don’t think the journey really ends. It just evolves. There are still things I’d like to change up and make different but for the present it’s fine.

Snow…

Whoo Whee…it is cold. We woke up to snow on Tuesday morning and it kept going off and on. We usually get a sprinkling of snow at our elevation a couple of times during winter. This was a big snowstorm for the Sierras and is much needed. Needless to say, I didn’t venture out to swim. I probably would have been fine on the freeway but with Caltrans discouraging any travel, I didn’t feel I needed to add to it.

It’s bright and clear this morning and 27degrees. So the trees in the park were very frosty.

I went into Winco after swimming yesterday for a few things. And next week I’ll hit Trader Joe’s for a few things including fondue, which is our traditional Christmas eve dinner. So far even with Costco, I’m under budget for food/alcohol( mostly wine). If my calculations are correct, a total of @ $550 is really quite good. So if I add the TJ’s trip at about $100 that brings me under budget. Of course, there will be the run to the market here for the odds and ends before the end of the year but usually, that’s not too much. Shopping at Winco and the new Trader Joe’s, and of course, Costco has definitely made a difference from shopping just Safeway.

Other than that there are no unusual budget expenses for the rest of the month. January is a NO SPend month so no projects or Home Depot trips. Anything that the house might need is excluded like vacuum filters or the filters for the air filter thing.

Today I’m planning on taking the couch covers and washing them. I do this around every 3 months. This Ikea couch has been absolutely fabulous and I love it. When it’s time for a new one I’ll definitely do Ikea but maybe a bit more of a midcentury look. I’ve been waiting for the two chairs forever( since the beginning of the pandemic). The Poang chairs still look good and quite comfortable.

My son is headed to Yosemite today and is going to be there a few days. It should be quite beautiful as it got a lot of snow.

I need to go make some pizza dough and I was going to make bagels but the Barley Malt I ordered from Amazon was lost in the mail so I need to find it in a store. I haven’t been too inspired with cooking lately but maybe over the Holidays or not???

My minimalist Christmas decor.

Simple Sunday

I made another batch of bagels this morning using a different recipe. This one did an overnight rise of the dough. Definitely better. I need to do a few tweaks to the recipe though as I put the bagels on the parchment paper like it said but this morning they stuck to the paper and were difficult to get off. I used a spatula underneath them but next time I will spray the parchment paper with canola spray. The boiling part went fine and so did the baking. I think bagel making is like bread making that it does take a few times to really get the feel for it and how it should be.

We had a nice rainy walk and it was a Christmas Miracle….. the AH was not there. It was amazing. Of course, it was raining and he doesn’t usually walk in the rain so maybe not a miracle.

Then we had decided yesterday to hit Costco today as Sunday before the churchgoers get there is usually a good time. We went right in and it was good. We were done in about 20 minutes and back out. This will be our last trip till mid -January or whenever we run out of coffee. I bought 3 bags of Starbucks so that should last us. Since we’re having a minimalist Christmas, there was no looking at the Christmas stuff or trying to figure out gifts. It’s very freeing. I think this is a natural evolution of our minimalism and everyone is on board. We’ve never not had gifts so it will be quite different. I am totally enjoying not being part of the Christmas madness. Well, everything is sorted and put in the fridge and freezer. I did get some chile tamales for Christmas dinner or Christmas eve so that will be tasty. The cheese and green chile ones are usually only available at holiday time.

This week is the bathroom zone so I plan on doing that later or even tomorrow. Wverything is tidied up and my daughter did a reset and tidied the kitchen for me while we were gone.

It’s snowing up at Tahoe and looks like the storm door is open all week. We need the snow pack so that’s good. We’re supposed to have rain all week too.

We’re watching the new season of Shetland and it’s good. We also started the Night Manager and it’s also good but gets a little intense.

Simple Sunday

A lovely Sunday morning walk. They’ve fixed some of the path with new asphalt so it’s much nicer and has fewer cracks to trip on. I use my walking stick in my left hand which does help with stability but mostly I keep it with me so that the AH dog walker moves over when he’s walking in the middle of the path with his dog to his far-left which puts the dog straight in our path. With his passive-aggressiveness, he usually waits till the last second to move over to the side of the path he’s supposed to be walking. Remember driving, bicycles, etc, you stay to your right. Oh well, it was still a very pleasant walk.

I came home and started working on the bedroom closet which is our ONLY closet. I did a little more reorganizing and there’s still some more to do. I’ve decided for the most part to not keep extra pantry stuff in there except for the Costco size cereal boxes. Plus probably the extra coffee bean bags. Last time I went to Ikea I bought a few extra white boxes and now I have all the stuff I use for Easter, Christmas, and Hanukkah in those boxes on the top shelf. I don’t have a lot of clothes so I hang my T-shirts, denim shirts and the 2 sweaters I have. I’m not sure what my end goal is in there but definitely eliminating as much extra stuff as possible.

Then I did the kitchen zone : here’s a few photos.

Someday, we’ll have money to redo the kitchen. Not the lay-out but the counters and the cabinets.

The new sunroom windows are almost in. What happened was the nice old redwood windows had just gotten too water damaged and water was seeping in and getting on the floor when it rained. Granted it is just a porch but we use it a lot for wood, cat litter etc. So now there are windows that will open and that will help with air flow.

Simple Sunday

Well, the clocks went back an hour so it’s now only 7am and we’ve walked and I’ve done some banking and now I’m eating a bagel.

I’m planning on starting the kitchen zone in a few minutes and getting that done. Then I plan to get a bag ready for the food bank and drop it off in one of the Food for Families bins.

Yesterday, I shopped at the new Trader Joe’s and it’s a lovely store. The layout is different so I had to kind of zig-zag to get stuff but it was fine. I picked up some Thanksgiving things like cornbread stuffing and some premade turkey gravy. Since we will be arriving home the day before Thanksgiving I need things to be as easy as possible. Of course, my son and daughter will be here to keep things running smoothly like letting the chickens out in the morning and in in the evening. They’re both working all the time we’re gone so they can keep up on the chores. It’s a big help really.

I’ve been reorganizing a few drawers of things like tools and will finish that up today too. B is taking a load to Goodwill so a few more misc things out the door.

The week ahead isn’t too busy. I have an annual visit with my PCP which is annoying to me since I see Dr. L every 8 weeks but I guess it’s their policy. Still a PITA. One is Sutter and my oncology is Dignity so I guess they don’t really communicate.

Since we’re having a no-gift/minimalist Christmas it has been very interesting to go into Target and look at all the stuff and realize, I don’t need to buy anything!!! ( well, a candle but that’s all the time). I’m determined to see how this plays out and if I like it or not. We have never had a Christmas with no gifts so this will be a new experience. Besides, we all get what we need/want anyway all year long. I will send my sister something( usually Harry and David’s pears) and my brother I just give cash to. Since we have no other relatives to exchange with I guess it does make it easy.