Downward-sizing Dog

We got a dog! Jane is a one year old boxer mix who we adopted from a local event. She is a sweetheart, but, like every dog she has her quirks.

When we took her home, she had a case of happy tail. Happy tail is common for short-haired dogs. When they wag their tails and knock it against a hard surface like a wall or a crate, the unprotected tail opens up and begins to bleed. If you think about a dog who is wagging a bloody tail all over your house, you can understand what a disaster happy tail can be.

To help protect her tail, we held off on getting a crate so she wouldn’t whack her tail against the sides. This meant that when both of us are out of the house, she has free range.

Well, it turns out that we got a minimalist dog who knows that we still have a long way to go in our downsizing adventures. She has destroyed many items from around our room, including headphones, a hairdryer, plates, a pair of shoes, yoga mats, seashells, and our gerbils’ food.

glasses carnage

My only pair of glasses… I had to go to work like this.

Through her destructive hijinks, Jane taught me an important lesson. Downsizing your belongings is not fun if the choices are made for you. We are so fortunate that we are in a position where we get to make the lifestyle choice of building a tiny house. It is something we have chosen, not something we were forced into by necessity. We have the time, energy, and other ability to build this house. We get to choose which items we would like to keep and which we would like to get rid of. When this choice is made by someone else (like Jane), or circumstances beyond your control (like a house fire, robbery, or flood), there might be feelings of revulsion, anger, and resentment.

Jane also sparked us to make some more progress and make our own choices before she destroys something else. We went through about six boxes of things still packed away from when we moved a year ago, and kept only two.

Hopefully we find a better solution for Jane when she is left alone. I look forward to modifying our house plans to include doggy accomodations.

Paper Wrangling

Adventures in Downsizing: Part Three

Next on the list is papers! Any non-sentimental papers like manuals, receipts, pay stubs and the like are on the chopping block this time. I’m surprisingly excited to get rid of these things.

I used to save every single pay stub, even after leaving a job. I’m not really sure what I was afraid of, but I’ve come to accept that we live in a digital age. There are copies of everything. If I recycle the manual for my printer, I can find it again online if I need it, though I can’t think of a single time when I’ve referred back to a product manual after owning something for more than a week. If I do feel like I need to save a copy of something, I can save it digitally instead.

This was cathartic! I saved only a handful of papers to scan into our files, and the only physical paper I have left is the title to my car. Christopher got rid of piles and piles also, and in the end, we have only two hanging file folders worth of papers.

Boxes Remain

The accumulation of “stuff”

We have been living together for nearly five years. We first shared a house with housemates, where we had exclusive use of a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and shared space in the basement, kitchen, and garage. When it was time for a change, we moved into a studio apartment. Before the move, we didn’t think we had very much stuff, especially compared to the average person. However, in the process of packing everything and moving each box ourselves in a pickup truck, we learned just how much stuff we were still holding onto. There are still boxes that we haven’t unpacked. Chances are, we really don’t need whatever is in them. 

We have some experience working on inventorying the contents of houses that have been ravaged by fire. Through these experiences, we have seen the kinds of things that people keep- the things they store in boxes in the basement and attic, the collections they’ve built, the supplies that they hoard. Inevitably we find things that have not been touched in years, and often the homeowner has forgotten about them.

I will be the first to say that I understand living like that. I understand assigning meaning to each object, and the feeling that you need to hold on to everything because you could need it… someday. Growing up, I was a self-described pack rat. I love crafting, and amassed vast amounts of odds and end that I thought I might use for projects… again, someday. For many of those items, someday never comes.

My great-grandmother and great-great aunt had a huge impact on how I viewed stuff. As children of the depression era, they learned that everything has value, can be reused, and should be saved because you never know when you might be able to get another one. They would save the twist ties from every loaf of bread, the plastic bags from every package of deli meat, metal cookie tins, magazines, pens, cotton balls, you name it, they kept it. This survival-based way of living is valid, and it is easy to justify keeping the things that you acquire.

There is also a sentimental quality to tangible items. We might find that keeping a loved one’s gifts or former belongings keeps us closer to that person, and keeps their memory fresh in our minds. Anyone who has helped to clear out the home of someone who has died knows that the process of going through their things is emotionally taxing, and there can be a lot of guilt connected with getting rid of anything.

I kept nearly every school assignment I brought home, from kindergarten on through high school. I kept toys that I had stopped playing with years ago. I was afraid that if I got rid of any of these items, they would be forgotten and have no value anymore.


However. There is a tipping point where too much is too much. We have made a conscious decision to simplify our lives, and part of that process is downsizing our belongings. We’re not perfect, and I’m sure we will get rid of some of the wrong things, but I’m willing to take that risk.

Adventures in Downsizing: Part Two

Each shelf used to be jam-packed with books! We have yet to go through the CD’s and magazines.

The next section in Marie Kondo’s downsizing plan is books. For me, this was tough but for Christopher, this was a breeze.

We both have clunky old versions of Kindles that we use regularly, but there is something about having a book in your hands that the e-reader experience will never duplicate.

When we moved, books were the category I spent the most time downsizing, and we donated about 150 books to Goodwill.

I broke the rules for this section and kept several books that I’ve had for a while and still intend to read. This is a battle to be continued another day.

At the end of the day, we have set aside 26 books for donation. Hey, progress is progress.

Update: I finally read one of the someday books from my bookshelf, and it felt like a great accomplishment. For anyone interested in learning about bipolar mania, I can now recommend Andy Behrman’s Electroboy

Overtaken by Clothes

Adventures in Downsizing: Part One

We moved into a different place back in September 2015, and we got rid of a lot of our stuff in the process. We still have so much more than we need! We’ve decided to use Marie Kondo’s famous book to get us started. There are plenty of criticisms of her methods, but even if they don’t end up working for us, at least it’s a jumping-off point.

For those who are not familiar, there is a specific order that Marie recommends for downsizing belongings, and step one is clothing.

This was a pretty easy day. We are primarily jeans and tee-shirt people, and it was painless to get rid of the things that we just don’t like or ever wear, and things that don’t even fit properly.

At the end of the day, we donated five full garbage bags of clothes and shoes at an American Red Cross collection box.

Inside Dresser

After our clothes purging, we are now sharing this dresser. It is about the size of what we are planning on using inside our new home.

Currently, we share the use of one full sized dresser, and we have two 24″ sections of hanging clothes. In our loft, we are planning on each having a small IKEA dresser, potentially these. That should give us about the same amount of space for folded clothing that we have now. For hanging clothes, we will have approximately a 7″ wide space under the stairs, so we still have some work to do in this section.

This feels like a good start!

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