Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moving into a Small Home - Attitude

Going on the assumption that you might be planning to make a change in your life toward smaller living or that perhaps you are curious as to what it may be like, I want to start with the most obvious area: space.  This is a really big topic, so I am going to try to break it up a bit.  There are some basic areas I want to try to cover in the next few posts:

Necessities - You are going to have to re-assess what you have always thought of as being necessities.  I was just certain I couldn't make it without all of my kitchen equipment, for example.  Surprise!  Not only could I, but I had to, so I might as well learn it!  You may have to break a lot of basic living habits.

Personal belongings: Storage - It's hard, but some things just have to go.

Daily Activities and Ministrations - Reading, writing,, paying bills, cooking, doing dishes, home entertainment, sleeping, etc... all of these situations become more interesting when you are only a few feet apart.

Cabin Fever? - Any way you slice this pie the pieces are small.  You can enjoy it or not.  It's your choice, but it's a situation that requires some reprogramming, a lot of self-education and preparation leading into it, and a whole lot of deliberate patience.

Attitude! - I want to say at the outset that we are not perfect family and any one can do this, but wrong or bad attitudes can make it very, very difficult.  If the whole family understands this and has made a quality decision to give their best effort you are WAY ahead of the game.

Which brings me to the topic I wanted to deal with first:
Perception -  I want to address specifically the attitudes you are probably going to get from other people when they learn you're planning to move into something small.  To the world's way of thinking we're going the wrong direction. We're supposed to go bigger and bigger not smaller.  I've had people think I was crazy, they've gotten angry, (yes, really) they've been sorry for me, afraid, confused, you name it.  Some wished they could do it, some tried to talk me out of it.  You will hear it all.

As I said in an earlier blog post, living small is historically very "normal."  It's only in the last few generations that we have decided we need big  homes.  We think that if our children don't have their own 'XX' square feet of privacy that we have somehow injured their development.  If I can't have perfect surroundings for each activity I have to perform then I just can't do it!  Even though this is NOT TRUE, it is accepted by society completely.   As a result you can get any number of reactions from people. Be prepared! Pick your battles.

Some people don't matter a whole lot in our everyday world.  We like them, they are acquaintances or whatever, but they don't factor into our day to day life very much.  Not everyone needs to know or even wants to know what you're up to.  Don't even bother to tell them.  If they find out and feel it necessary to pipe up about it, don't feel the need to explain yourself to them.  A simple, "Really? We like it," or something similar will do.  Some are bold or just nosy, but they can be politely dismissed.

Among the people who do matter to you there may be some strange responses.  Some of them we are in close enough relationship with to sit down and intellectually discuss it, and walk away with understanding and even support.  That's how it should be with most of the people, but there are those who are actually sad or afraid and you can't make them understand.  Honestly, I can not figure out why anyone would feel that way.  I've tried and tried to explain our hearts and minds to them, but they don't get it.  That's why I say now you should just politely dismiss them. They will wear you out and it is pointless to belabor it.

This is what I mean by pick your battles.  Those you care about who are having trouble with your "weird lifestyle" are just going to have to be marginalized in any future discussions about it.  A lot of "yeah, uh-huh's" and letting them know you're "fine" and life is good.

In our own situation, there were those who meant well, I have no doubt, but they really didn't get it.  They will point out a lot of negatives and they can stress you out about things where you don't need any added stress.  Everything has a negative side.  If you start listening to too much of that and begin to dwell on it you doom yourself to failure.  Don't allow it.  Dance around the topic however you need to, smile and talk about the good things.   I suggest you avoid the subject altogether if you can once you have determined they aren't going to support you.  If you felt you needed to tell them your plans, then you've done your part.  Now it's time to protect your family and home, not defend your decisions to people who, other than being a little concerned, aren't really directly effected by it.

We had people in our lives that we were very close to, people we loved and who loved us, begin to look down their noses at us over this.  OK, yeah, so that's their problem, but in a discussion about the effects of this lifestyle and it's ups and downs, this needs to be mentioned because it hurt us.  A lot.  And it happened.

I have an internet acquaintance who actually had a "friend" turn her into the state child protective agency because he felt that the rooming and sleeping accommodations they made for the children was  somehow not up to snuff.  They were actually investigated.  That is a nightmare scenario!  Thankfully it was tossed out, but the point is, some of the consequences are far more severe than the situation deserves, so, if they can be avoided by just keeping it to yourself, maybe that's the best game plan.

With most people, it's out of sight is out of mind anyway.  They'll drop it if you will.  Just leave it.  Ask yourself why you feel compelled to discuss it with anyone you might be getting ready to discuss it with.  It might just be excitement on your part, but not everyone will be as excited as you are and you might be borrowing trouble, so weigh it out.

I guess I said all that to say this: Be ready for some opposition.  Who knows why; it just happens.  Just be sure going in that it's the thing you want to do, and do it for real, well thought through reasons.  The best way to calm everybody's nerves is to be a success at it.  You can only do that if you're sold on it yourself.  We just recently passed our one year mark.  If, later on, anyone who had any of those thoughts about us in the beginning actually let it cross their minds that we live in a small place, which I doubt, then they would probably say to themselves, "Wow, they did it."  That's good enough.

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