Living Small And Loving It! – An Archive on Living with Frugality in Small Spaces

I was going through some of my old files today. I carry my 500 gig external drive with me on long trips, and this seemed like a perfect time to clean up and remove duplicates. I’m also looking at creating “Binders” in Adobe of my published articles, my essential documents and my business portfolio. If it works well, I may create one for my fiction pieces — current, past, complete and still underway. And, I may swap over my many formats of journals (since 1979 when I started keeping journals) into a binder organized in date order. Yeah, I know, … it’s anal-retentive… but I like being organized and I like being able to “lay my hands” on what I want when I want it. I may be a minimalist with the physical stuff in my life, but my “digital” belongings are getting rather overwhelming… so I am “cleaning” virtual house.

I’m also knee-deep in the decision making process on what type of portability I’ll be seeking for my business and my life during the next year. I think the UMPC’s are really cool, but I don’t think this first pass is what I’m going to need for real productivity. I’ll probably wait until the new VISTA OS comes out (which promises some energy saving additions, particularly helpful for mobility) and that new hybrid hard drive so I can have quick boots and PDA-type response times on a full-fledged hand-held PC. I want the touch screen and the Tablet-PC write-on screen capabilities… but for now, I’m going to get a Tablet PC (probably a Motion Computing model) and learn to think about my computing styles in different ways. I’ll learn to write more and type less and get comfortable with the concept of “pen” computing. Right now, I’ll concentrate on organizing my data and learning the new software — the software types that I think will be the future of the everyday-computing styles of average individuals within the next 5-10 years.

So, all this led to cleaning things out to determine how much HD space I need in the Tablet I’m going to get while I await the next generation of UMPCs. And, while doing so… I came across the following article that I wrote back in 2002. I never pursued getting it published, and I still feel that it’s relevant to my own personal philosophies of living small and deliberately, so I decided it was time to post it to the web.

Living Small And Loving It!

We live in a world where the belief that “bigger is better” has finally begun to subside. This change is due, in great part, to technological advances, which have miniaturized the most basic of our entertainment gadgets, and have made “small” desirable. Manufacturers charge handsomely for the reduction in size. Our television screens may have grown in
breadth, but have shrunk in depth until they can hang flat on a wall. DVD’s have replaced VHS for a new economy in size. Thin, prismatic CD’s have replaced the bulky storage requirements of albums, tapes and reel-to-reel machines. The most extensive personal computer needs are now met with a laptop that weighs less than four pounds.

Although this penchant for the miniature continues to grow in the areas of electronics and entertainment, it has not yet reached the living quarters of most Americans. We still take up an enormous amount of interior space. We still collect things and packrat them around, complaining about all the stuff we manage to accumulate — even as we become more mobile as a nation.

It is only a matter of time before the majority joins the ranks of the minimalist-thinking individuals currently at work to simplify and reduce their footprint on the earth. As the technologically savvy and the earth friendly sides of these individuals meet, we end up with a new breed of individual… those who desire most to “Live Small.” Space becomes more precious, but less necessary, and more planning goes into needing less of it.

Living small is an art form.

One of my favorite concepts on quality of life is captured
by the following quote:

“My riches consist not in the extent of
my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants.”
J. Brotherton

So, wealth may be seen as making more money or wanting fewer things – quite an empowering concept!

In my own life, I have left the so-called civilized company of cities and towns to retreat to the woods and commune with nature — my own pursuit of an American dream. These wooded acres in southern Kentucky are both a blessing and a challenge. But, I would rather own 25 acres of woods in the wilderness and a tiny, cozy cabin than have the largest mansion in town with my neighbors close enough to see, and a manicured yard without trees. I did the big house in town routine. I never felt quite at home there.

The move, for me, was a lifestyle choice. And it’s not always the easiest choice to make, but it is a fantastic way to live — even with the inherent challenges.

Thankfully, since I’m a techno-lover as well – the energy requirements of my computer equipment, my DVD and CD playing equipment is minimal. I’ve learned that a small, under-the-cabinet style refrigerator is not only sufficient, but encourages fewer gatherings of leftovers. It’s economical and expands my countertop space while reducing my energy needs.

When you have a smaller space, you keep it neater, if only in self-defense. Smaller spaces make you reconsider the value of every item you own. If it’s not extremely valuable, useful or visually pleasing – out it goes.

It’s part self-defense and part practicality.

Storage space becomes a priority. Organization MUST happen. Simplicity of thought, action and a conservation of motion in daily routines all come as a byproduct of the choices to live small, rather than living large. Living in this deliberate, thoughtful way becomes its own reward, its own hobby, and its own science. This philosophy — inherent in the choices
that result in this lifestyle — changes the individual who adopts it on a basic level.

You may not hide in a small living space – not even from yourself. While on the path to living small, you have to take inventory not only of your physical possessions but also of the emotional and psychological baggage you carry. To live small, you have to get back to the basics in all things. You learn to love yourself, even with your shortcomings. You learn to avoid situations where your resolve is tested.

You have less to prove when living small. You seek out and enjoy situations where you are the person you always intended to be. You grow up.

Living small isn’t for the weak of spirit, those in personal denial, or those that equate belongings to personal worth. With a clear, uncluttered living area on a small scale – one begins to become more creative, more visionary, less tied to traditional views and more able to find their own individual path.

Living small is a process – like the journey of life. The process is a difficult one, bereft of a blazed trail and without guidelines from your mentors. You endure some pain; a lot of work and a tremendous number of hours, days and months spent planning. It’s the process of getting there that makes all the difference – and once you arrive, it’s pure pleasure from
there on out. I have found that getting back to the basics is a fantastic experience.

Learning to enjoy the basic daily chores of life is simplicity’s reward. Cleaning by hand becomes enjoyable – a small space doesn’t take long to clean. There is no need for a vacuum cleaner to store, a “Swifter” to push around or a carpet cleaner – not when your floors are warm wooden tongue and groove and your area rug is small enough to take out and shake or beat clean. Your primary need is a place to hang your broom and a cloth for
mopping the floors once a week. Simple.

Dusting is a 10-minute job for the entire living quarters if your space is economical and knick-knacks seldom inhabit your surfaces.

There is no need for a dishwasher if you keep the number of dishes you own to a minimum and clean as you go. The more dishes you own, the more you can let them pile up before doing them. A sunny window with a great view is the only enticement you need to do your dishes as they are dirtied.

Keep the number of kitchen gadgets to a minimum. After all, most of the time those are just sitting there, cluttering your countertop or tucked away, absorbing precious storage space.

Living small encourages cooking as an art instead of a chore.

Meals aren’t often “readi-made” for the microwave when you live small – they are more often created from fresh vegetables from your own garden or purchase from the community farmers’ market. There is a tendency to try new recipes, sprinkle different spices and enjoy the process of creating a meal instead of rushing through it. Filling your little dwelling with the aroma of fresh baked bread, chili, or stir-fry vegetables is it’s own reward.

If your clothes are kept to a minimum — and the few that you keep are all well-fitting, comfortable, easy-care and flattering — getting dressed is no longer a chore. Maintaining your wardrobe is simple – there are few pieces and they are ALL favorites. Imagine waking every morning and opening a small closet with a dozen possible outfits – all of which you love.

Select clothing that will span seasons. Learn to layer. Get down to the basics. Your storage needs diminish, the amount of time spent staring into a closet is reduced and your daily comfort level is increased. When you find a great article of clothing, buy it – and remove one piece from your existing wardrobe. Never bring in something new without retiring something old and you will never have to sort and pack away and handle clothing.

Decorate with natural items and those things that appeal to you on that “there is just something wonderful about it” level. In small spaces, what you do display becomes much more important – it has to be worth the space and the upkeep it requires. A crystal pitcher does double duty as a daily use item for juice and water, and as a container to showcase a large bouquet of spring wildflowers gathered on your morning walk. A collection of fruit in a wooden dough bowl not only improves your diet, but accents your decor.

You decorate less with purchased items and more with memories. Small spaces become quickly personal. Large spaces tend to be more commercial in feel. They are colder, more sterile and less a reflection of the inhabitant. Not so with those dwellings where the owner is living small. A favorite family photograph, displayed on a wall is matted with grandmother’s favorite hand-embroidered hankie and framed by Uncle Joes handcrafted cherry frame. There is no room for anything that is not precious, practical and beautiful in a small space, and most items are all three.

Every piece of furniture is selected for it’s size, function, beauty and for what it adds to the feel of your small home. Furnishing a “living small” house is a joy. It’s often a challenge, but it’s an exacting experience with no room for errors or miscalculations. You know your space, you have your measurements and you know what daily needs must be served by each piece. You find multifunction pieces and above all else you never crowd your small dwelling. Even small, it needs a feeling of openness, it must invite free movement and it must have an inviting, workable layout.

Storage is essential. You must find creative ways to incorporate the necessary storage for your small home. It must never be crowded or overpower the rest of the dwelling, but all possible storage options should be considered. Built in storage is the best – with doors to reduce the cluttered look while keeping dust at bay on the contents. Never overlook an opportunity for storage. If your armchair has an ottoman, be sure that ottoman opens up to store board games, a spare quilt, or other items needed at fingertip access. Use small trunks for end tables. Have enough shelves to house your books – preferably covered with glass front doors or barrister-style drop downs to reduce dust on your volumes.

Plan for and use natural light, be sure your little house is bright and inviting. Incorporate passive solar options if possible. Build a good-sized porch, screened room or gazebo where you can enjoy the outdoors thorough most of the seasons, without the upkeep and expense of interior space that must be heated or cooled.

Most of all, when you begin the process of living small – remember to plan well in advance of taking any action. The old carpenters – wisdom dictates “measure twice, cut once” that’s priceless advice for those choosing this lifestyle. Plan and draw your layout, check it and double-check it. Consider your essential needs, your aesthetic wants and how to get it all
into a small, easy to maintain and economical space… then begin your journey.

Happy trail-blazing!

(c) Copyright 2002 Angela L. Allen, Wicked WordCraft (www.WickedWordCraft.com)

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