Category Archives: Baby steps

Eating my words: I want to go home!

I loved the idea of being footloose and fancy free, of downsizing to so little Stuff that I could live happily in a carefree studio apartment or tiny cottage with just a handful of my most special Things around me.

I loved the idea of being so unshackled to Home and Stuff that I could pick up at a moment’s notice and go to Italy, India, or indeed Indianapolis. Well, maybe not Indianapolis. But wherever the whim wafted me.

I thought house-sitting for others would also be a workable option. Take care of their pets and plants in exchange for a place to stay.

The house-sitting thing hasn’t been so great though. In turns out that I’m still a nester at heart. My own nest. It’s one thing to live out of a suitcase when you’re traveling, as I was for a month.  But when I returned to the community I call home, I re-entered the world of obligations and responsibilities. Where were my files? my printer? easy internet access?unrumpled clothes?

Worse, I didn’t enjoy cooking in someone else’s kitchen without my favorite knife or Caphalon skillet. I missed my radio and CD collection. I worried that my cat would scratch their favorite chair. I wanted my own bed. In short, I was getting crabby.

In the nick of time I fell in love. With a house.  A darling Craftsman, built in 1926, updated in 2002. Great walkable neighborhood, close to everything. Many friends nearby. It is 30% smaller than my last house, and the yard is about 1/5 as big.

I made an offer, they countered, then I countered and they accepted. I move this weekend.

The amazing thing is that most of the furniture that I saved from my former house fits beautifully here. In fact, I’m having to retract some of the furniture I’d planned to give my peripatetic son, because I will have a second bedroom for guests after all.

So… I’ve gotten to a lot less, but not as LESS as I originally intended. My excuse is that one must ease carefully into these transitions…

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Rent or buy?

Solstice = return of the light? It’s still DARK.

Salmon Creek - early January

I know the light is returning, but I don’t see it yet. It’s cold, damp, and dark in the Pacific Northwest right now.

I want to huddle by my own fireside, but I don’t have one any more. I should get off my duff and go for a walk, but it’s too yucky (and my dear walking buddy is IN HAWAII where it’s 83 degrees and sunny). That pisses me off too.

Whine, whine, whine.

In his book, The Winter Solstice, John Matthews writes:

The Winter Solstice has always been recognized as a mysterious, shadowy, uncertain time, when the conviction that the sun would return becomes doubtful and the gates between the worlds stand ajar.

We need the dark – the fertile time underground without which we couldn’t grow. We wouldn’t know Light if we didn’t have Dark, Up without Down. The tide comes in and then it goes out.

But I want to rush through these transition times. I don’t want to linger at the threshold, just being where I am. I want to be settled again. New home, new adventure. Clear and in the Light.

A little sun wouldn’t hurt either.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues

Home-buying on the rebound: bad idea

100-year-old charmer could have been mine...

I closed the sale of my beloved home on December 11, and thought I’d be perfectly happy floating for awhile.

Wrong. I hate living out of a few boxes. I’m already itching for a new love. Need that warm cozy feeling of Committed Relationship to My Place.

So a couple of days ago I started poking around the real estate listings to get a feel for what was out there. Wondering: should I buy or should I rent?

Two things make me think I should rent:

  • Renting is less expensive (no property taxes, expensive repairs, interest payments).
  • Renting is more flexible – you can unencumber yourself relatively quickly, stay light on your feet. Some time here, some time there, some travel, whatever. No seller’s outrageous closing costs.

More things make me think I should buy:

  • You can put your personal stamp on a home – colorful paint, yard revisions, open a wall here, build shelves in there. You can rarely do this with a rental.
  • Packing up and stuffing my stuff into a storage unit was A BIG DRAG. No sane person goes through that process more than once a decade.
  • You can settle into a neighborhood in a permanent sort of way – make friends across the street, join the neighborhood association, walk your neighbor’s dog when he’s away and vice versa – that sort of thing.
  • Oh yeah… and there’s the $6500 tax credit if the place is in escrow by April 30. That would cover a lot of paint.

My realtor friend and I went out for a look-see yesterday where I want to live in the downtown area. The 3rd house we saw was a charmer, and I was ready to buy! It was 100 years old, airy, quirky. Right across the street from a good friend. Four blocks from the grocery store and a 15 minute walk to my yoga class, the farmer’s market, restaurants.

I even made my ex, who’s very real estate savy, come and do a walk-thru.  He saw thru the charm to the ancient plumbing, the jerry-rigged kitchen and drafty Victorian era windows. The unreinforced brick construction (god forbid we’d have an earthquake!).

I slept (badly) on it. Woke up in the middle of the night realizing there was no closet for hanging coats, no place to put the broom or vacuum cleaner, and that my rugs were about two inches too long.

Called the realtor back and told her no deal. But now I feel as deflated as if I’d just lost a lover.

What I’ve learned: It’s one thing to live out of a suitcase when you’re actually traveling, but when you’re back in your regular busy life, you need a place to call home. I’m on the case now.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life

Living out of a few boxes ain’t so easy.

All my stuff is in a storage unit except for: 2 suitcases, 2 boxes of files and office stuff, a box of random kitchen & bathroom stuff and a box of books. Oh, and the laptop on which I write.

Since I’m house-sitting for two different friends till mid-February I don’t have to worry about a bed, a refrigerator and the other necessities of civilized life.

But already I’ve had to trowel into the bowels of my storage unit, seeking this or that particular thing that I suddenly need and I KNOW IS IN THERE SOMEWHERE. But damned if I know in what box it lurks.

You see, in the throes of moving you simply can’t label every single thing that goes into each box. Where is the lined cutting mat I need in the design class? The sketch pad ? I must have a gazillion partially used pads tucked away — did I pack them with office stuff, art stuff, sewing stuff, random stuff?

And where is the white blouse my volunteer usher gig requires?

A friend suggests that every time I open a box and don’t find the thing I’m seeking, I write on the box for next time: “sketch pads not in here…” “no white blouse inside”.

I eventually found the white blouse, but I ended up buying yet another sketch pad.

Sandra Tsing Loh may enjoy living peripatetically, but it’s wearing thin for me.

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Filed under Baby steps, Downsizing, Envisioning a simpler life, Getting organized, Storage

Consumer mentality dies hard

I have let go of more Stuff in the past six months than many people acquire in a lifetime. I felt good about this. Victorious! Virtuous!

“Consumerism,” I proclaimed, “you’re dead to me.”

Then at the end of a lovely afternoon at the SF Museum of Modern Art I made the mistake of swinging through the museum store. (Minimalist alert: museum stores are booby traps for the unaware.)

Although somewhere in a box in my storage unit I’ve stashed a perfectly adequate collection of assorted mixing bowls, strainers and colander, on the museum’s display shelf I spotted this:

It was so cool — the bright colors, the perfect way everything nested — even the colander,  strainer, and measuring cups which were part of the set.

But $50?  That stopped me. Plus it would just be one more thing rattling around in the back of my minivan for weeks (months?) till I land some place.

Curious, I went online to learn more about the company that made them and was glad I didn’t bite: the reviewers were uniformly disappointed – snagged like me by the pretty colors and clever design, but disgusted with the product’s poor quality.

Phew!! Saved from myself one more time…

A reminder that a padawan minimalist must be especially vigilant because she is as vulnerable to bright colors and shiny things as the early Native Americans were to the white traders’ worthless beads.

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Filed under Baby steps

On schlepping stuff.

So… all that stuff I threw into the back of my Toyota minivan just before I left town Friday?

  • 2 carry-on size suitcases
  • 3 boxes of important stuff I couldn’t live without for two months
  • 3 boxes of essential stuff required for our traditional family Christmas
  • 1 box of emergency stuff for winter driving over the Siskiyou summit
  • 2 boxes of random stuff that sprung out of hiding as I was doing the last minute sweep and cleanup of the house.

All that stuff. (Not counting my dog Molly, who’s staying with friends…)

I must have put it there to teach me a lesson, because it’s already rapping me on the noggin like a zen master  – it will not be ignored.

Yesterday I pulled up to my son’s apartment in the slightly rough Mission District of San Francisco, where he lives in an old Victorian, on the 3rd floor.  After he greeted me, he peered into the back of the car:

“Ma, what IS all this crap? I thought you got rid of most of your stuff!”

“It’s my stuff for the next couple of months.”

“Well, it can’t stay in the car. It’s a recipe for a break-in. We’ve got to take it upstairs.”

So up three flights we humped 2 carryon suitcases, 3 boxes of important stuff, 3 boxes of Christmas stuff, 1 box of emergency stuff, and 2 boxes of random stuff PLUS, for good measure, my traveling craptastic basket between the front seats and the faceplate off my car radio. This left only a couple of rags and a lot of pine needles on the floor.

Unfortunately, this is just the beginning. When I leave for a house-sitting gig in Oakland in a week, we’ll haul all the boxes back downstairs, and then I’ll have to hump them inside again for safe-keeping.  When I return to the Portland area for my next house-sitting gig, the cycle will be repeated.

And so on. I wonder how many more schleps before I learn a lesson…

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Filed under 101 Reasons to Downsize, Attachment - Vairagya, Baby steps

I’m OUT! and gone.

I thought I could finish packing and cleaning in three or four hours on Friday, so I could head south before noon – but the piles of crap were like mushrooms after a rain and more grubby corners kept revealing themselves.

Even with all my ex’s cleaning assistance, I didn’t finish till 3 – and could have gone on longer if the eager new owners hadn’t pulled up in the UHaul and told me not to bother with washing the floors, etc.

Those last few minutes locking up the house for the final time were hard. I cried.

A wiser person might have stayed in town one more night to recuperate from the strain and get a fresh start in the morning, but I’m not that person.

I drove out the driveway and kept on going… up 78th and onto I-5. I was headed for the holidays!with my kids in California.

Never mind that rush hour was beginning and I fed right into a traffic jam all the way through Portland, making for a getaway with all the drama of a morning commute. I didn’t care – I just needed to get out of town.

By the time the traffic thinned my spirits had lifted and I imagined myself making it at least to Medford before quitting for the night, up and over the Siskiyous in the morning and on into SF by supper.

Right.

A little south of Salem it began to drizzle. Traffic slowed to a crawl. Then my car lost its connection with the road – and I began to skate. It turns out that the week of 20 degree weather made the ground so cold that when the rain hit it, a sheet of black ice formed instantly. Thank god the road was dead straight because staying on the road was challenging enough at 15 mph.

I decided to bag it in Eugene with dear old friends if I could just make the turnoff. Miraculously the off-ramp and Eugene streets were clear and Christine and Bill plied me with champagne and cracked crab to celebrate my exit and safe landing.  The gods were definitely smiling on me.

When the streets thawed (after a tasty lunch – thanks guys!) I got back on the road and made it over the  Siskiyous before the next spate of bad weather rolled in.  Still, it was seven hours on the road today and my butt is sore.

What amazes me is how serene and blithe I feel. I know I did the right thing by selling, and even though the next step has not yet revealed itself to me it’s ok.

As Christine pointed out last night, this is the first time I’ve not been responsible for someone or something else. No kids, no pets (for the moment anyway), no house, no yard, no spouse, no official job…  just space and options.

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Filed under Baby steps, Emotional issues, Envisioning a simpler life, Inspiration & encouragement