Lessons In Stripping Down
One of our intentions in ridding ourselves of more than half of our belongings and living for several months in 150 sq. ft. of space was to really challenge our thinking about what we have considered to be ‘vital’ for a happy and comfortable life. We are looking for lessons in striping down. This has been a most interesting exercise and each of us has gained valuable information that we will be able to take with us when we re-enter our lives back home in the U.S.
For us, it has been vital to strip down to the very basics to see what we miss and what we don’t even notice being gone. Take, for example, kitchen space. Our current kitchen is comprised of a very small gas stove with three burners, a mini-fridge, a sink that measures 18”x18” and a work surface about 18”x12” deep. We have some hanging shelves and a little bit of storage space under the counters for food and cooking/eating utensils. The three burners are more than adequate and even the size of the tiny cooking range suits my needs. We have more than enough space for food storage and cooking and eating utensils. A larger fridge would be nice, though.
In terms of kitchen implements we brought just the basics; a frying pan, two pots of different sizes, plates and utensils, a potato peeler, can opener, wine bottle opener (have yet to use that one), several sharp knives, a cutting board, lime juicer (used almost daily down here), stirring spoons, tongs, and BBQ skewers. That’s it. There hasn’t been any other kitchen gadget that I’ve missed in our time here and we cook pretty much every single one of our meals from scratch since Terra must eat gluten-free. All of these items fit into two very small drawers. LEARNING LESSON: When back in the U.S. creating our dream home at some point, we will design a very efficient and small kitchen with apartment sized (rather than full sized) appliances.
In this small pop-up trailer, our living and dining rooms are combined. We actually spend a lot of time in the trailer because we don’t have an outdoor sitting area (other than folding chairs). Our small table (2’x3’) is great for all the card games that we play, for Terra’s home -schooling, for Andrew and I to do our Spanish studies, for us to watch movies on our laptop, and of course for sharing meals. With organization (we each have our own plastic bins for storing our personal belongings) and as long as each person puts their things away after use, the table surface is available for the next activity. Underneath each of the bench seats is storage space for extra belongings such as our backpacks, batteries, games, printer, etc. We rarely need to access those things so they are just fine tucked away. LEARNING LESSON: In designing our dream home, create built in furniture that can multi-task as storage. Also, we have seen that we actually need very little space to do fun, family oriented activities. Our living room and dining rooms can be combined and need not take up a lot of space.
Our tent trailer has two beds that extend out from either end of the main section. One is a queen and the other a king. The bedding material is simply a 3” thick piece of solid foam on top of a plywood base and we are all extremely comfortable. Andrew and I have the king and Terra the smaller of the two beds. Our beds also serve as our ‘closets’ (each of us has a large plastic bin in which we keep all of our clothes which sits on our beds). We all have plenty of space for sleeping and it actually feels like we have more clothes than we need down here.
LEARNING LESSON: Having just a basic wardrobe that can fit into one container is blissful. I will be scaling down my wardrobe even more when we return home to the U.S. and aim to be able to fit it all into just an armoire, rather than a walk-in closet. Also, we will downsize to a queen bed from the king we had before we left and create a simple bed frame with a foam mattress and storage beneath.
We actually have a ‘bathroom’ in our trailer which we have used when necessary. It’s an all-in-one unit comprised of an RV toilet, shower and shower basin. For privacy, one can pull a curtain around oneself. We’ve chosen to not use it unless absolutely necessary and to camp in places with outhouses because the odor in such a tiny space is really unpleasant. Our toiletries fit into a small storage bin which we keep on the counter. Before we came down here we were amazed by the drawers full of toiletries we had managed to amass over the years and I can’t at this point understand why we thought any of them were ‘essential’. On this trip, we each have toothbrushes, hairbrush, nail clippers, nail file, floss, cleansers and lotion, razors, and ear plugs. We take solar heated showers and each of us can come away feeling totally clean with just 4 gallons of water use. LEARNING LESSON: Whatever bathrooms we design in our new home will be very small with just one sink, small shower stall, toilet, and just a couple drawers for toiletry storage (the more space one creates, the more that things will find their way into them and the more clutter there will be).
Having a sturdier housing ‘shell’ is definitely something I will want in a home, especially considering Oregon’s climate. A soft sided home has worked just fine on this trip, however it feels like a temporary home. Whenever the wind blows, the sides flap loudly and on the nights that it has gotten chilly, we missed having a structure with more protection from the elements. One thing I have learned about myself is that I actually don’t mind being a little chilly when I’m inside. I enjoy sleeping under a thick down blanket while my face stays much cooler. LEARNING LESSON: Create a home which has thickly-insulated walls (preferably straw bale) but with plenty of opportunities for bringing the outside into the home when the weather is pleasant.
In the end, I think that we will design a three bedroom home that will be relatively small (perhaps something in the 700-900 sq ft range) and that is hyper-designed; something that can be cleaned easily in an hour and which we can build and maintain ourselves. The purpose of making these changes in our lifestyle is to minimize the time and energy that we have to put into our lives in order to pay for housing and utility costs. Without the burden of expensive housing, we’ll be able to spend more time doing the things we really love as a family.