Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Finding Room For Your Stuff: Part 3 - Multi-Functionality

Some people might not have to concern themselves with some of what I write in today's blog post.  It depends on how much space you have, how many occupants, how much stuff each occupant requires, and on and on.  When inches matter,  literally inches, the more you can do with the inches you have, the better.

Our place is a travel trailer.  We have around three-hundred and forty square feet of room under the roof.  That includes space for beds, tables, closets, bathroom: everything.  We have four people living in that same relatively small area, as well as our medium sized dog.  There is one bathroom and one bedroom.  The shower and bathroom sink are in the bedroom, and the toilet is in there, too, but it's in it's own little enclosure. It's all sort of one room with dividers for privacy.  The rest of the house, living room, kitchen, dining and the kid's areas are also basically in one room separated from the bedroom part by a pocket door.

It sounds crowded, and to be honest, I guess it really is, but we have learned to deal well with it.  I read where people live in one hundred square feet.  Unless they live alone, I can't imagine how they do it.  I have done some pretty interesting things to make things fit and to keep things functional, but I can't see how I would do it any smaller.  For now, let me tell you about a few things we've done that have helped us settle in.

To start with, we gave up on the notion that we could keep everything in the trailer the way it was to begin with. They arrange things nicely, and they utilize just about every free bit of space to it's maximum capacity while still allowing for it to feel like a "home."  They generally don't manufacture them to be lived in full time.  Although they do have certain models that take that into consideration, generally they are not made to be occupied by very many people for very long.

As soon as we moved in we gave up the space that was designated for an extra living room chair.  I got a great deal on a sturdy set of metal shelves and I got some decent totes and baskets that fit into it nicely and we put it in that corner. It is my son's chest of drawers, the stash for videos, some books, miscellaneous electronic components, pantry item overflow, dog items, coat rack, and general catch all for frequently used items.

We had a small bookcase that fits neatly beside the couch in the little offset area created when the slide is out.  Our homeschool and office supplies, books, art supplies and things of that sort are in there along with the kid's video games.  The TV and game decks, all that stuff is in a cabinet that was built into the corner for that purpose.  The kid's sleeping areas both have small areas underneath and overhead where the boys can stash their personal things.  They have a small closet to hang clothes, but  younger boy still has some toys, so we gave him a toy box in their closet floor.  A small plastic-type set of drawers is also in that closet for the younger boy's folded clothes.  The shelf in that closet is for towels and the rest of their clothes.

Our room is designed for storage.   It has  big closet with a sturdy shelf and a built in "dresser" with a counter top, and then overhead cabinets.  If we are living in this trailer much longer, I'm going to take the lower dresser drawers out in favor of some shelves and put doors on them. The drawers are just not a good use of space.  They are very small and there's clearly twice that much available room in there if I can clear out the dividers and rails and whatnot and just add a shelf or maybe two.  I think some fancy shelves that pull out on rollers would be great!

There's a lot of storage under our bed. We have lots of our outdoor gear, coats, heavy stuff like that, and some bulky items down there.  We have small overhead storage over the bed, too.  That's where I keep a couple of books, my Bible, a crochet hook and yarn that I have barely touched, and other things that most people have on their nightstand.

Even with all the pre-planned functionality of the living spaces, each area of the house has a dual purpose as well, with the exception of the bathroom.  The kitchen is just a busy area.   I think anyone's kitchen is.  I don't know if that would be multi-functional or just constantly functioning, but it's definitely a frequently occupied area.

The living room area transforms into sleeping areas at night.  It takes about 10 minutes to transform them from one to the other if I can keep the kids on task and stop them from goofing off.  The couch lays flat and the dinette lowers down.  Both are roomier than I would have expected and a lot more comfortable than they looked like they would be.

The dog sleeps with whoever doesn't kick her off.  :)

In the day time we sort of situated ourselves into our own little spots.  We gravitated to these places early on, and kind of adopted them as our own.  They are rather like office cubicles or something.  I have my space at the kitchen table where I set up my computer, my books, coffee cup and glasses, my phone and whatever else I'm going to be using.  When my husband is not home, my younger son sets his stuff up across from me at the table.  When my husband is home, he sits across from me and my son has a portable table and chair arrangement he can use for his computer or his school work.

The older boy has his area on the end of the couch where he sleeps, and up near the bookcase.  He has a section of a shelf there where he keeps some personal things like his phone and his iPod and whatnot. He has a folding table that he sets his computer up on.  It folds up flat at night and his computer goes under the couch where his bedding resides during the daytime.

These little folding tables are possibly the unsung heroes of the house.  We grumble about them when they're sitting in the way, but they are used daily, and for many odd jobs.  Besides being make-do desks, they are dinner tables for the kids. It sounds bad, like they sit off away from us at dinner, losing the wonderful family dynamic and all that, but you must understand, the seating arrangements in the whole room aren't spread out much more than most people are at their dinner table.  It works for us.  It is the best arrangement.

My husband and I have the big bed in our own room, obviously, but it doubles as a quiet area in the day time.  If anyone just has to have a nap, if a class requires reading or some serious concentration, or for a little bit of extra quiet for telephone conversations, that's where we go.  Take a folding table if you need one!

The trick is to be organized. That may be intimidating for some who might think they are not that organized, but you might surprise yourself.  I never really thought I was particularly organized, either. It just happens in the course of settling in.  You have to be, so you just start seeing where things have to go and how they have to be arranged and maintained.

I'm sorry, I realize this is sort of a choppy blog.  I just wanted to tell how we all fit into things and fit things in.

I'll have to blog about thinning out personal belongings at some point.  It's a necessary thing.  I'm not talking about being a minimalist or anything. If that's your bag you're one step ahead of the game.  Good on ya. I'm just saying, if you're planning on living smaller you're going to have to thin out what you own.  I won't try to kid you; it's hard, but it's very liberating.  For now, that's it!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Finding Room For Your Stuff :Part 2 - The Bane of My Existence

Lehman's Best Hand Wringer
Oh, I so want that wringer!

Remember in my last post I said I was going to talk about the thing that has been the biggest inconvenience?  It's seemingly an unsolvable situation at this point, and it causes me problems every day.  It cramps cramped spaces, you don't ever adjust and learn to deal with it differently, it can't be overlooked, it doesn't get better over time, in fact, it gets worse, and it's unavoidable.  What could it be that is so hard to deal with?  Well, here it is:  Laundry.

I can tell you, having lived in small surroundings for about a year and a half now, I have had ample time to know which issues matter, at least to me.  When we get ready to build a house, there are a few very important things that I have discovered I will need, and at the top of that list is a place to deal with the laundry.  

In the year and a half we've lived here, we have adjusted to much: 
  • Narrow bathroom and shower: for the most part we've adjusted. 
  • Less space for personal belongings: getting there and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
  • Hand washing dishes: no problem at all. 
  • Low counter space: not great, but doable. 
  • Tiny fridge: I can do it if I must.
  • Sleeping arrangements: mastered.
  • Laundry... laundry... laundry...?
The laundry!  This laundry situation is something at the top of my list of problems to remedy.  It's "in your face" and constant.  If you are planning on living smaller, consider this matter at length.  I can't stress enough what a pain it is.

It’s a HUGE issue in our home for two reasons.  First: The dirty laundry-- there's no place to put it, absolutely none.  Secondly, I have no laundry facilities (yet!), making the first part of the problem bigger.  It piles up and up and up, right in the way.  So, what do I do?  Nothing.  It's embarrassing to admit, but I have a tote that sits right in the way, smack in the middle of my teeny bathroom floor, blocking the kid's closet door and choking the passage to the bedroom down to nearly nothing..  There just is no place to put it.

I think that once we move I may get a locking bin of some sort for it and sit it outside the door.  It seems the best solution, but I'm not thrilled with it.  Right now we live among other people in a camp ground trailer park, and I really don't want to start piling things up outside out house.  I already put several totes under the back of the trailer and we have a big tool box and a table out there.  It could begin to look pretty tacky pretty fast, and I really don't want to do that.

If that's not exciting enough, I get to corral it all every so often and drag it down to a rather unsavory laundromat, the only one within any reasonable distance, spend way too much time and money there, and come away with 'less than clean' clothes.  Several times I've gotten my clothes out of one of the machines and it had "foreign materials" in it.  Once it was cigarette butts!  I always look inside to be sure it's "safe", so I can't quite figure out how some of this stuff just manifests in there when I'm not looking!  It's gross.  It makes me feel icky all over.

I found a possible temporary solution.  I could buy an all in one, portable washer/dryer unit on wheels.  It drains wash water into the sink and vents the dryer to a window.  The problem is, it's expensive, around a thousand bucks give or take, and, as I understand it, it's not really that great of an alternative.  The reviews for almost all the ones I have seen so far say that they don't do a great job, they take a long time to complete a cycle, they have bad customer service, on and on.  Since it's expensive, I know me; I probably won't shell out the cash for something like that.  I'll make do until I have room to do things right.   

Once we move to our land 
I am considering building a shed or a small cabin, calling it a wash house and equipping it with sinks, drying racks, hanging bars, a folding table and a dirty laundry bin or two.  When I was a kid, we had a laundry chute that sent the clothes straight to a bin right next to the washer.  Maybe I'll come up with something like that.  Maybe I'll add a bathroom to the thing and it can be an addition to our main living quarters.  Who knows, but I will certainly be making it a priority to have some kind of laundry facilities.  

I bought a few things so I can hand wash my clothes.  Ideally, I'd like to get a double sink with a wringer, or, oh heavenly day, a hand operated washer like the ones sold at Lehman's.  That, a clothes line and a couple of nice drying racks for rainy days and I'm good to go.  I'm going to do all of that when I get to my own property.  Meanwhile I guess we keep kicking laundry out of the way and gathering it all up to haul it to the Laundorama.

Next time, I plan to talk about something else that's in the running for most difficult issues when living in a tiny house, second only to the laundry.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finding Room For Your Stuff

Very quickly, I wanted to throw in a blog that's actually on topic for what I claim the topic of this blog is supposed to be: Smaller Living.  Today it's about the need for space that you didn't plan for.  I'll try to keep it short.

Where does your trash can go?  What about your dirty laundry?  What do you do with the forty-eight extra rolls of toilet papers you bought when they were on sale?  What about that twenty-five pound bag of dog food?  In a "regular house" even if it is considered on the market to be a smaller home, there is generally room for some these things, but in a tiny home you can't be so sure of that.  You almost can't know until you get moved in and try 'er out what exactly you are going to need extra space for, but extra space is at a premium, and you can bet you're going to be needing it.

The next couple or three blogs are going to be about my solutions to some of these problems.  Mind you, they're not perfect solutions and they are subject to change, and I'm wide open for any good suggestions.

#1 - Where does the trash can go?

This seems like a minor issue on the surface, but that's because your trash can right now has a place and isn't bugging you by being there.  At our old house the trash sat beside an end cabinet.  Many people keep them under the kitchen sink.  I looked for all the solutions, but in our case there was only one: under the sink.  Unfortunately, under the sink is prime real estate for pots and pans as well as cleaning products, trash bag, bug spray, dish soap, scrubbies and those sorts of things.   Like a lot of travel trailers, the area under the sink is kind of "joint storage" which is accessible from outside.  My husband has the trailer hitch and the awning stuff poked up in there, and I stuffed the nut picker in there because it's handier for me from the outside, too.  Of course the plumbing to the sink takes up some precious space as well, so, nope, I can't use that space to house a trash can.  So where is it?

It sits -- out.  My trash can just sits out for all the world to see.  I leave it in front of the least used cabinet and I slide it around from place to place with my foot when I'm working in the kitchen area.  I got a small basket and we empty it every day.  When we move to our own property I will keep a large trash can with a lid for the outside, but for right now we are in a camp ground trailer park and we have a dumpster handy.

#2 - What do I do about food storage?

I have several cabinets that could be used for many, many purposes, but I chose to empty them and use them as a pantry.  We like to keep a decent amount of food storage for emergencies, and we don't consider this an option.  Food is probably the hardest thing to store because it requires extra care and because you can be sure to need access more often than just about any other storage area you are going to use.

The first thing I can, and must, do is keep it organized at all times.  In small spaces, the slightest disorganization can cause chaos.  I make it a point to arrange the shelves often.  They are used a lot, things are shuffled around frequently, and things get stuffed and shoved and knocked around all the time.  I have to get in there every couple of days and tidy things up.  It's no big deal and not too time consuming, but it is an absolute necessity to maximize space.

Despite the fact that I allowed so much storage to go into pantry space, it's still barely enough, and not nearly as much as I had or would like or need.  I have made some interesting arrangements to accommodate the excess.  Some food is not going to be used right away and is packaged in such a way, or can be repackaged in such a way as to make them good candidates for outdoor storage. I chose to take some of my canned goods, staple items, condiments, bulk items and the like, and put them in storage totes.  I put them outside, under my trailer, out of the sun and elements. I put the totes up on supports, just in case, so that they won't ever be sitting in rain water.  They are readily accessible, but out of the way.  I had some cheap totes to begin with, but I've been replacing them all with more durable ones.  The outdoor weather and temperature changes will effect the integrity of the plastic and I don't want to run that risk with my foodstuffs.

I did the same with a few pots and pans and other household items once I realized how well it worked.  I don't use every single pan every single day, so why not store some of the ones I'm not using so often?  I don't want to go nuts and line my whole trailer with totes, but I think having several in the back near my steps is fine. It has helped.  If I were settled on my own property I might have a shed and I could store them there on shelves, but for now, this is working well.

That's it for now.  In the next couple of days or so I'm going to talk a little about the one thing that I have found the hardest to adjust to.  In fact, I haven't adjusted.  It is the bane of my existence.  If I have any advice it is to plan however you must to avoid what I didn't realize I would be dealing with when we made the move into a tiny home.  See you then.

(photo credit)

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pick Your Battles

Heritage Middle School in Meridian, Idaho was put into full lock-down mode this week when authorities received a report of an armed suspect in the school.  What, pray tell, was he armed with?  A shovel.  A SHOVEL!   It was a small, folding, military shovel to be precise.  
They asked "the suspect" about it later, and I understand it turned out to be a prop for a school play.  Wow.  Why didn't they just ask him in the first place?  Read on.

On February 5, three schools in Yuma, Arizona were placed on lockdown as the result of what was later described as a “rumor” of a gun on campus. The kids were held in "protective custody" for something like three, some say over four hours by guys in full combat attire.  That's a long time to a kid.  That would be rather traumatic for them, I'd imagine.  Police searched the school and did not find any gun or any suspects.There were no reports of any shots fired or any injuries.  False alarm.  Oopsie!  Read on.

When all the smoke cleared there were no clear answers and just a lot of diversionary dialogue, but notice: the response teams were many, varied, the reports boasted that they were very practiced, they were on the scene in an instant, they were from several different agencies, and none of the parents had a problem with any of this according to reports.  The only problems the media reported that the parents had were with the waiting and not knowing.  

Now, add to this the multitude of stories recently about children as little as pre-school age being ridiculed, punished, suspended, even arrested and charged with crimes for having toy guns, for drawing guns on paper, for having a piece of paper torn into the shape of a gun, for having computer wallpaper with a gun on it, for point a stick like you might point a gun, even for TALKING ABOUT guns. Hearing of school board members, teachers, administrators, even principals losing their jobs for their opposing political viewpoints concerning guns is almost as common. Keep this stuff in mind as you read on.

So, what do I think is next?  Get ready, homeschoolers.  Gird up your loins. Watch homeschooling families suddenly being targeted by the media. Watch for it and remember I said it was coming. They'll ramp up their efforts against us soon because they can't curb a resistance, they can't control everyone, if they aren't all contained in their indoctrination centers.

There will be "example families" in the media who kept their kids home only to "abuse" or "neglect" them. They will skim over even the most horrendous of child abuse cases in the big media if it concerns minority families, urban families, families from "preferred religions, or families whose children attend public school, but the most minor details about children from homeschools will be scrutinized and scandalized, and presented by them as abuse and endangerment, and they will be prosecuted with great ferocity.  They will say they didn't "properly educate" them or perhaps not at all. There will be movies where the homeschool parents are the bad guys and the homeschool kids are weird or ignorant: haters, racists, backwater rednecks, hostile, crazy religious zealots. There will be TV shows that villainize homeschool families. Watch for it.

Why the big deal about the public school system in the face of everything else that's going on, you might wonder?  Of course I see the problems we are having with the socialization of America.  I see our economy circling the drain.  I am aware of foreign debt and disastrous social ills. I know all about how we're losing gun rights and I see the assault on freedom of speech.  I realize the government is whittling away at our liberty, and I could write pages about that, but I tell you, if we don't stop the school system we are done.  They are molding our children into parts of the collective and all those other issues won't matter in ten, or maybe even five years.

No one asked the Idaho suspect anything, suspects weren't even found in the Yuma case.  No one ever turned turned up weapons.  In both instances someone thought they might have seen someone, possibly with a weapon. The immediate response was with the most extreme possible measures being taken first.  You might say that's great!  That’s extra precaution for our kiddies.  I say it's a brazen excuse to make a militarized presence felt among our youngest, most impressionable and malleable little minds and get them comfortable with it.  Vladimir Lenin said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”  He also said, “Give us the child for 8 years and it will be a Bolshevik forever."   This process has not only begun here in the good ol’ US of A, it’s almost come to fruition.

I'd rather my kids be uneducated than go to a public "school." I would end the public school racket in a heartbeat if it were up to me.  It's a bloated, liberal bureaucracy on the surface, which was bad enough when I thought that's all it was.  Now we can see it is a subversive tool in the hands of an increasingly oppressive government.  They are training our children to be good little citizens.  They are training our children to turn on us. 

Mark 13:12 and Matthew 10:21 in part, say that in the last days children will turn their parents over to be put to death death.  I often wondered in my reading of these passages what could put a wedge between parents and children to such a degree as to cause them to turn one another over to be killed.  Only someone brainwashed, indoctrinated to a high degree of loyalty, would do such a heinous thing.  It's not so hard to imagine now.

Can we stop them?  I don't know.  Pray, friends.  God knows, He cares, and he will keep us through the dark times.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Be a Lover of the Truth

Liars lie.  Why?  Because they are liars.  

Telling a lie doesn't make you a liar.  Being a liar is why you tell lies.  It's part of a persons moral (or immoral) fiber.  You sowed it, you cultivated it, and you reaped what you sowed.  You have to discover the part of your character that has allowed lying to become acceptable and kill that root, or you might as well plan on being a liar forever.

Lying is indicative of disrespect, rebelliousness, and laziness.  How people get to that point has as many routes as there are people, but we are all responsible to deal with it the same way.  Stop it.  Stop lying.  Do not be a liar.

Liars are disrespectful.  They disrespect themselves and others.  If you lie to me it's an immediate sign that you have no respect for me or my time and you place no value on any relationship you might have had with me for whatever time we spend in each other's company.  I'm done trying to communicate with you.  What, exactly, would be the point in it?  Grandad used to say, "A liar's worse than a thief or a murderer.  You can lock your door against a thief and arm yourself against a murderer, but you can't do a thing to stop a liar."  I can't stand a liar.  No one can.

Lying is practicing disrespect for yourself, as well.  You may have convinced yourself that it's alright on some level, but lying is wrong, and no matter who tries to sell this whole bill of goods about moral absolutes being a thing of the past, and situational ethics, "little white lies," blah, blah, blah...  your heart knows you have lied, it knows why, and it also knows that it's not right to do so.  The more you practice something the better you become at it, so, over time as you lie, you become more disrespectable in your own eyes, and eventually, in the eyes of others.  The more you disrespect yourself the easier it is to lie some more, and the viscous cycle has begun.  You have become a liar.  Now you will lie because you are a liar.

It all started back when you were to lazy to tell the truth.  Yes, it's that cut and dried.  Situations, circumstances and players may change, but the underlying cause cause for lying is laziness.  It is actually fear, but unwilling to face the fear,  you take the lazy route.  It would be too uncomfortable to face the possible repercussions of being honest, so you take the lazy way out and lie. You might be embarrassed, ridiculed, judged, criticized, even punished, or maybe you only THINK you might, but it was enough to cause you to abandon truth and stoop to lying, because it will just be, well, easier.

Now your rebellious nature cranks up it's rhetoric to cover, even if it's only in your own head.  You have your reasons.  You can even paint them in such a way as to make them look as if it were the generous, kind or even right thing to do.  You can reason that it spares trouble where it doesn't need to be, or that no one would ever know or care, so why bring it up?  Rebellion that speaks softly, kindly and subtly in the beginning is still rebellion.  Reasons, rationalizations: call them what you will, they are excuses, and excuses do not release your conscience from knowing there is a truth and you chose to lie.  Be careful; rebellion will eventually over ride your conscience if you allow it.

Eventually these lazy liars who lie will become belligerent and flaunt their "rights" in everyone's face.  It's disrespectful to decent people everywhere to put them in a position to have to deal with someone like you.  Decent people in decent society should not have to encounter and possibly be made to confront a blatant liar.  It's very uncomfortable for them.  It's not packaged into the regular guy's manual of how to deal with people to confront someone who can't be held to any ethical standards.  If we confront you, you want proof.  You demand honest accusations to your lie.  Decent people feel the need to supply it.  They feel they can't say anything to you without proof.

*For the record, I do not.  I'll confront you and call you out right now.  Just so ya know.  ;)

It is easy to be a liar when you have compromised your morals.  When you have no commitment to what is true you can excuse a lot.  Commitment is practically a thing of the past.  People can't commit to be at a job on time.   They won't commit to things as important as marriage or parenting, so why would they be expected to commit to being honest where no one will know or see?  The truth can be hidden, stretched, colored, twisted, manipulated, "reinvented" and even screamed over, but eventually everyone has to face it again.  Even a liar.  

After all that you've done and cost yourself, do not lie to your child.  Lying to your children is not only disrespectful, but it forms a foundation that is unfit to build anything stable upon.  All the Dr. Spock-isms and self-esteem building techniques you try are going to fail if you, even you, the parent, don't have enough respect for them to be honest.  No amount of good publicity, no positive reinforcement, no expensive photo-shoot, no counselling session, no gift, no noble excuse making or championing their cause, no good report, no pharmaceutical, no compliment, nor any new thing dreamed up to bolster the little feller's self image is going to help your precious child live a full and confident life if you don't have the hair on your back to be honest with him.  It's all only going to serve to make him selfish, spoiled and obnoxious, and still remain unfulfilled and unstable.

Stop.  Stop now.  You may be laying low, keeping quiet, suffering alone  You may have broken trust with everyone you know.  You may be famous for being a liar.  You may not have another soul in your corner anymore, but it isn't too late.  There is first and foremost forgiveness in Jesus, and secondly, He can help you turn it around.  He can make things better, in fact, abundantly above all that you could have asked or thought would ever come out of the mess you made.  You can be known as the most honest person in town.  You could be recognized as everyone's go to guy.  You just have to find it in yourself to make one commitment.  Just one:

Be a lover of the truth.

A lover of the truth does not have a problem with lies.  Be honest .  Tell the truth on purpose.  Make commitments on purpose.  Keep your word on purpose.  Don't take the lazy road out when the pressure comes.  Develop and cultivate honor.  Honor is part of who you are, it's a character trait, part of your moral fiber, not just a thing you do.
Be a lover of the truth.


"People hate the truth. Luckily, the truth doesn't care."