Beginning a journey to live more simply…

Monday, December 26th, 2011:

One of the things that drew us to this project was a desire to simplify our lives through paring down our belongings. While liberating, we knew that this would be one of the biggest challenges of the entire tiny house experience. With construction complete, we took a deep breath, squared our shoulders -revisited The Story of Stuff a couple of times- and dug in.

We had a basic plan of attack -categorize our stuff into four areas: Stuff to be Gifted; Stuff to be Donated; Stuff to be Stored-long-term-for-future-use; and Stuff to Join Us in the Tiny House. While simple, the plan turned out to be every bit as hard as anticipated.

We’ve been gifting many belongings throughout the past year, which has been enjoyable. Deciding what belongings to take with us in the Tiny House has been exciting as well. The hard part turned out to be deciding what things we’d choose to keep in the limited long-term storage space offered by Gabby’s Mom and what we’d donate to the local Goodwill store.

The desire to hold on to “keepsakes” can be overwhelmingly strong, but what do things really mean to us, anyway? Attaching a memory or an emotion to an item is likely fairly common to most. For us, this resulted in box upon box of things competing for a pardon as we lined them of for the chop.

While often difficult, the experience was a great exercise in examining each belonging with a deliberate and critical eye. Utilitarianism became our marching orders, and when some thing tugged at our heart-strings it was set aside to be reconsidered at another time. Some items needed to go through the ‘set aside and reexamine’ process several times before we were able to come to terms with its keeping or giving up. The secret weapon ended up being the ability to truly give ourselves permission to look at our things with intentionality.

Though this was an exhausting process, we have come out the other end with a tiny house containing just the things we need to live and thrive as well as a few storage shelves holding the items that have true family, utilitarian, and sentimental value.

Several truck loads of other items that were really just consuming space in our lives were either given away to friends and family or donated to the Goodwill. While some folks have suggested that we are misguided and have expressed concern about us parting with so much of what we’ve worked to accumulate over the years, the process has been incredibly liberating. We are able to enter this next chapter more lean and light hearted…

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Comments on: "Paring Down: Preparing to Move In" (11)

  1. 20 years from now you won’t even remember most of the things you parted with. 22 years ago I got rid of the majority of my possessions and went traveling for several years. I’ve never regretted it.

  2. Loved the report on your process towards simplifying the things of your life! Beautiful. No concern here, just full support! The covet-er of your tiny house…

  3. It’s not you who are misguided, but those that think their stuff defines them. Kudos to you both. You will be stronger in character for this. I’ve been paring down over the years, and have actually developed an emotional dread around the accumulation of stuff. It makes me feel heavy and burdened. I recently have had to deal with the notion of loosing my condo, and leaving everything behind in a sudden flight. If you think about what you would take with you if you were being evicted, you may be surprised by what things realy matter, at that exact moment. Nothing of mine realy matters, but my son wouldn’t understand the situation, and that would break my heart. Somehow there is a difference between getting rid of everything purposefully, and leaving everything behind in its original place,……toys on the floor in the closet, pictures on walls, bike on the porch, etc. It’s somehow sadder, right? It’s the difference between strength and tragedy, and yet, it’s surviving tragedy that makes us stronger. Although, I think the strength you are both showing now, may spare you tragedy later. Good luck to you both.

  4. It’s really amazing how much *stuff* you can accumulate without realizing it. It’s also amazing how much of that is truly just *stuff*. Things you don’t need. I’ve heard of the trick of taking pictures of things which hold sentimental value then getting rid of the actual item. That way you can have those memory joggers without giving up space to them. I, myself, would love to get to that point like William Morris, have only those things which are both beautiful AND useful.

  5. where did you get the tiny house ornament, or how did you make it? I love tiny houses. I hope to one day live a tiny house of my own. Love your blog enjoy all the post.
    Annie

    • Hi Annie,

      Gabby’s Mom made the ornament out of a block of wood carved with a dremmel tool. She cut up a tin can for the roof! She’s incredibly creative and we loved her Christmas gift!

      Best,
      Evan & Gabby

  6. Lina Menard said:

    Congratulations Evan and Gabby! Paring down to live in a tiny house is tough work, but definitely worth it – it’s amazing how liberating it can be! I agree that giving things away is satisfying and I second the idea of taking photographs of things you’re passing along to remember them by. Speaking of which, when I was preparing to move into a tiny house I also found it really helpful to have a goodbye story for heirlooms to accompany the story of how they entered my life. For instance, when my grandfather passed away I inherited his old camera. I moved it from box to box, apartment to house to apartment, more than 10 times but never used it. It was a cool looking old camera but worth very little monetarily, so I found a vintage camera collector to could fully appreciate it. He was surprised and delighted by the gift. I think my grandpa would approve!

  7. This is one of the next big things we need to do as well to get ready to move into the tiny house. It is a little daunting, but we keep telling ourselves that if something has been in storage for the last year and a half and we haven’t used it, then we don’t need it! I find that I am no longer sentimental. I just want to get rid of it all. Maybe because it seems like a fresher start that way. Like shedding the mantle of the old life and beginning a new journey.

  8. Thank you for sharing your process of moving in. I took a picture of all my wonderful possessions and created a picture book of memories, sentiments and all my favorite things and then sold, gifted, or gave it all away. My motto, while I am waiting to build my tiny house, is that what I keep must fit in my car – simplicity, freedom, and completely debt-free!

  9. Joyce I was going to suggest the same thing. I wish I had photographed some of Gramma’s stuff after she died but before it got hauled away only b/c sometimes I can’t remember a color or pattern of an outfit or piece of furniture.

    I wonder what really needs to be stored for later? If you need it now great keep it but if not what could you need that couldn’t go with you?

    I moved from a small apartment to a larger townhouse – thought I needed more room for the kids. It’s already full of “stuff” and aside from my sewing area (the former dining room taken over by my new found gift of sewing and obsession with quilting for every child I know from birth to teens) and Civil War Reenacting garb, I can’t tell you why I need any of it.

    If I could afford to build a small house on “my” small piece heaven I would downsize so fast it would scare my family. I have already paired down my clothing and my closet looks like another bedroom. I am working on my daughter’s room now. I have even managed to get down to just enough dishes to fill the dishwasher so the cupboards are bare when the dishwasher is full. If I can’t tell what all the other clutter is it’s time for it to go.

    Evan and Gabby thank you for the example and constant updates. I hope to be where you are someday. 🙂 Best of luck in deciding!!!

  10. I am so glad I found your blog, you have SOOO much helpful information on here, thank you for documenting your whole process!

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