How Much Stuff Do You Really Need?
As I start to get a little older, I have come to realize how much stuff I have acquired over the years and how many of my acquisitions really serve me no purpose. I have stacks of books I have not had the chance to read yet, furniture that serves as room decorations, pages of papers that have no importance, clothing I probably haven't worn in years. Every time I would visit a new city, I would make sure to bring back something to remind me that I had been there. Postcards from Monterey, decorative paperweights from San Francisco, a collection of rocks from Arizona. While many of these items have sentimental value or were important to me at one time, they currently serve me no use and things which I occasionally glance at, and maybe have a quick and silent conversation with.
Recently, I found myself needing to move from a three bedroom house. Until you actually find yourself having to gather all your property together, you really do not realize how many things you have collected over the years. I found myself having to make a decision and looked through each of the rooms, realizing that all that the house was to me, was a place to keep my stuff. And I recognized as well, that when I had a house with several rooms, I would feel the need to fill up the empty spaces. An empty room made no sense, looked awkward and the echoes off the wooden floors in barren alcoves were a bit unnerving. Lighting looked different when it didn't have a shelf or a dresser to reflect off of. Rooms without chairs or throw rugs seemed much warmer than the rest of the house in summer, and were certainly chillier in winter. Having a larger home, meant by definition, having to increase the volume of your belongings.
And after all, what good do material possessions do for you? Do they furnish you with a sense of power, instill in you pride? Aren't those notions that carry with them a negativity of sorts. Does that decorative carpet with the giraffe design you bought from that gaudy import store do your dishes for you? Does it remind you of your anniversary or your father's birthday dates? The extra tables you never sit at because you prefer to dine on the living room coffee table (also an acquisition from that same shopping center) really is just a place to set your extra books or the clothing you have sorted through and will one day donate to charity. The stamp collections bought at the thrift store, the tools you inherited, flash lights without batteries, decorative plaques that you forgot to hang up. It's just stuff.
And if you ever have to stop what you are doing and go somewhere else on the globe than where you are now, how are you going to take it all with you? And even after that, when you leave this planet - as one day we all certainly will for there are two things which are certain as Benjamin Franklin said, "Death and Taxes" - what will you do then? We all of us as consumers feel the need to buy and own things which we probably see as a measurable extension of ourselves - the napkin dispenser in the shape of a zebra tells our guests that we have worldly tastes even though you would rather go out to a dining hall than have company. The industrial designed lamp says we are prepared for the future. The large library we have created in the guest bedroom gives you a sense of scholarship.
It's all stuff.
The Desire to Downsize
We are living in an age where mass communication has taken on a new meaning and instant gratification is not fast enough. When i was a teenager, I can remember there were three networks on television, a public TV station and maybe a local broadcaster. Television usually ended - always with the National Anthem - at midnight or soon after. There was no internet that we know of, only certain people who really needed them had car phones and you had to wait for the morning paper to be brought to you before you could read it. You waited and were patient. If you happened to see a news broadcast where the reporter was speaking via satellite, it was interesting. You had to go to a library to use a photocopier, you took your film to a developer and had to come back sometimes a week later to get your photographs. Now there are five hundred channels, all running nonstop. You can talk to a sheep farmer in New Zealand at 2 AM and he can show you the constellations above his head, while you are in UP Michigan. There really is no need for libraries, photography is an antiquated art and nobody reads the morning paper at the breakfast because there is no table.
We are also living in an era where we are being reminded of the need to lessen our "footprint" on the planet. This means recycling just about everything but true garbage instead of tossing everything into the trash. This is encouraged in a a day and age when consumption is probably at its highest than in any other previous time on the planet. It means using less electricity and saving energy when just about every household and everyone in it, is connected to several media devices. There are six year old children with personal cell phones, televisions, music playing devices, computers, laptops, tablets. When I was six years old, my father showed me a 35 millimeter camera and let me touch it. The electric typewriter in our living room however, was hands off. What lessening your footprint on the planet actually means -and pardon the grammar but I cannot recall the correct phrase that is used- is something quite perplexing.
Are we too connected
My Smaller Steps
I first gave up television after the Digital Conversion Act required you to have a converter box in 2009. I had a small TV set that could get the regular local stations through the air and that after the date - either in February or in June (I honestly cannot recall) - I chose not to purchase the converter box. I basically had given up on television, at least for the most part. There was a brief period when i bought a new TV, mostly to watch movies on DVD, when i tried cable. I did it for about six months and found myself mostly listening to the satellite music stations, while I worked out in my yard. The shows that were all that appealed to me were ones that I eventually questioned myself why i found them appealing. 1000 Ways to Die provided graphic and gruesome reenactments of true stories of the various ways certain people met their ends. Worlds Dumbest Criminals was actually a little more unfortunate because inevitably there was someone out there - usually under particularly circumstances - who had turned to illegal activity in order to accomplish something. More often than not, it was to feed an addiction of some sort. This show was narrated by Celebrities who were famous when they were younger, or by movie stars themselves who gained notoriety, usually because of criminal activities themselves, and were no longer marketable in Hollywood.
There were other types of shows involving restaurant rescues- or other hospitality oriented businesses - where a narrator would find an under performing dining establishment and then assist the owners in converting their place into one that was economically successful, aesthetically pleasing and popular with the local clientele. These shows all shared the same premise, format, and outcome. They were all alike, usually with different narrators. But if you were two put the two side by side, there would be little variation in the mechanics of the film. These were interest at first, but my interest soon waned after a few weeks.
There were a few news programs I enjoyed and I found myself pausing on some of the educational shows, but soon came to realize that even though there were over three hundred channels available through my subscription package, there were maybe only 150 of them worth watching. And all those that were in my viewing itinerary, showed programs that were exactly alike, ten times a day. TV was a vast wasteland and there are millions of people in this country who are traveling that road to nowhere at breakneck speed.
TV The Vast Wasteland
Back to My Tiny House
Before i digress too much, I should get back to the topic I wanted to write about, and that is trying to transition into a "Tiny House". I am not really sure when the "tiny house movement" began - and yes there is in fact one as i understand it. I first happened to see a specimen at a local Home and Garden show, displayed by the manufacturer who operated a factory, just outside of town. I was impressed by the amount of material they managed to combine in a space that could fit inside my living room. Not only did it have all the amenities you would need - a functional kitchen, a bathroom, a living area, and a sleeping loft, but it appeared comfortable and the delicious aroma of wood permeated the air.
A Fashionable Interior
Having everything you need to survive, all within the perimeter of a space nor much larger than a hotel room may seem convenient but will it be comfortable? This would probably depend on where your home was located and if you had a nice enough space around the exterior to get outside and relax if you wanted to, or if the neighborhood permitted, go for a evening stroll. But it makes one wonder, if your domestic environment is not much larger than a typical garage in a normal sized home, would you have any sense of privacy. In a three bedroom house, you can go to the room you converted into a library with the sense that you have gotten away from the kitchen or areas where your cohabitants might be busy with other activities. In a tiny house, everything is right there in front of you. You really cannot escape to a more harmonious environment. You do not have the sense of peace of walking down a hallway graced with familiar photographs or colorful paintings. You don't have different rooms with different views outside their windows.
One of the major benefits of having tiny house is that you would be required to limit the number of collectibles you could pursue due to the fact that your storage space requires it. You would have to temper your desire to consume which certainly is putting a smaller footprint on the planet. A benefit that is not only environmentally friendly, but has personal rewards in the fact that you would have to make the best with what you have available to yourself. There is certainly personal growth of a spiritual nature in this situation. In addition, tiny houses are a lot more economically affordable, compared to that of larger real estate. The cost of upkeep in addition, should be another incentive as a smaller domicile would certainly have a less expense ratio compared to a much larger structure. The costs of heating and cooling and the time required for cleaning are certainly things to take into consideration as well. There are models of tiny houses which are mobile which would make the ease of moving - should you have to - a lesser worry. Tiny houses seem to be an invaluable way to survive in the modern world for a number of practical reasons. And they are certainly going to grant you positive attention from many admirers and make you the subject of envy for those who find your choice of habitation one of merit.
A Tiny House
Another Tiny House from the Outside
The Transition: Second Step
Probably the hardest part about making the transition to acquiring a tiny house for me was moving out of the three bedroom place i had before. There is a picture at the beginning of this piece of my former living room. All of the furniture except for the red chair and the black futon was sold or donated before i moved out. As were most of the books, the images on the walls and any other objects you may see lying around. I didn't realize how much stuff i actually had in my possession until I had to narrow down my belongings into a collection that would fit into the back of a small moving van which was probably about 200 cubic feet total.
The studio apartment I have now would probably be twice the size of any small house I would find on the market. Even though it is a one room place, there are walls or counters that act as barriers. i hung up a curtain to create a small bedroom. The bathroom is in the back and sectioned off nicely. Even though I wanted to downsize, the place isn't as comfortable as I had hoped. Neighbors are really close by and the space can be a bit confining at times. The interior decor certainly isn't as aesthetically pleasing as the images I have seen depicting the houses in this "new movement".
Views of My Cluttered Studio Apartment
Some Uncertainty...of Course
I am still not sure if this is a decision I can follow through on. I will give myself a year and see how i feel afterwards. I have had a nice large house and really it was too big for me. A Tiny House might be too small. But if I were to look at the pros and cons of each, I think I would probably settle on a tiny house.