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Thursday, January 6, 2011

How To Lose A Lot Of Weight

When I was a kid, I used to love stumbling around in the dictionary.  My parents were the sort of people who always said, "Look it up!" whenever we asked them what something meant.  I would go to look something up, and happen on something else that caught my interest, so I'd get stuck on that for awhile.  And then I'd wind up looking at something else when a synonym was referenced in the definition.  The internet is a lot like the dictionary that way.  I can seriously go off on another tangent while trying to research something.  I frequently close up my laptop and walk away from my work area, and then realize that I never did get to the subject that had me open it in the first place!  Sometimes, I even have to make a list of stuff that I want to remember to research, just to keep myself focused on my purpose.

Lately, what with cleaning out the Room of Pending Stuff, at which I've honestly only been slowly chipping away, and reading Early Retirement Extreme, in which Jacob Lund Fisker insists that by seriously paring back your possessions and learning to live more leanly you can retire at a very early age, I have been mulling over personal downsizing.  Last night I was also thinking about the Bug Out Box for emergencies, which is on my 2011 Goals list.  What last minute things I would throw into it?  What would I grab if we had to leave?  What in this house is so important that I would rue the want of it later?

Can you see the closet?
Conversely (or maybe perversely), while I am trying to figure out what in the Room of Pending Stuff I need to get rid of and what needs to be kept, I am also planning on turning the closet, which has sliding doors, into a craft closet to hold my various project materials, which would require new doors on hinges. I'm thinking that I may have to try to come up with some sort of something that I could sell because this job-hunting thing is proving pretty fruitless.

And then on top of that, I have been leading Steve down the primrose path toward putting a much smaller, but never-the-less necessary wood stove in the master bedroom.  The Lopi Revere insert we have in the living room does a swell job of heating most of the house, but by the time you get down to the end of the hallway, which is still warm, and enter left into the master bedroom, or right into Steve's office, the heat just doesn't follow you into those rooms.  The bedroom suffered some mold in the closet and along the wall side of the box spring last winter, and forget the bathroom, which is as cold as a tomb without the space heater.  My plan, once we get our king-sized bed replaced with a queen, is to move the dresser which is opposite the end of the bed, to the left of the bed, and put the wood stove where the dresser is currently.   With an Eco-fan on the new stove, hot air would be pushed out the bedroom door and into Steve's office, and I think between a new stove in the bedroom and the big stove out in the living room, we should be able to keep the house more comfortable and a lot dryer.  So long story short, I've been looking for little stoves.  And I've been stumbling around discovering stuff on the internet.

In my quest for small stoves, I've discovered tiny stoves, like the Hobbit.  I had to show this one to Steve, and then I realized that he was enamored of it only because of its name.  But I also found some interesting wood stoves for boats, like the Sardine.  Neither of these tiny stoves are large enough our purposes; they're just interesting and curious, and fun to learn about.  Somewhere in here I ran across the Tiny House Blog, which made me remember the book from my wannabe hippy-bippy days, Rolling Homes, which is now out of print.  I would love to get my hands on a copy again, just not at fifty bucks or higher.  But I can't tell you how many times as a young teenager that I checked it out of the library, I loved it that much. For some reason, tucking your entire life into a house the size of a boat really appealed to me.  It still does.  And these homes were mobile, which meant freedom, which I've discovered is something I still value.

I mentioned Jacob Lund Fisker earlier.  Because he lives extremely leanly, he is managing to live on around ten thousand dollars a year, which he makes from his investments.  So he is retired, and pursues things he wants to pursue.  I asked Steve the other night how much we'd need to have socked away if we were getting five percent on our investments, and he reckoned that we'd need a million dollars.  But I'm thinking maybe we could learn to live on a lot less than fifty thou a year.  (I don't mean the current us, read 'me', I mean the future us.) Then reading Fisker's ERE blog, I tripped on over to the In The Trenches blog which he linked.  Carol Schultz-Weil has included a free online copy of her book Financial Survival In Times Of Hardship, on her blog, which I read.  One of the things that she wrote that struck me was her argument for moving out to the country, if you can swing it.  You all probably know this already, but the further out away from town that you move, the cheaper housing is.  So naturally, I'm thinking about an equation that begins pay this house off + reduce household stuff to the bare essentials + proceeds from selling this house + all our investments - the cost of buying a place more in the country -  the cost of a much, much smaller house and leaner lifestyle (read more sustainable as well) = a reasonably early retirement.

Then, as if all this reading and thinking and mulling ideas over in my head wasn't enough, this evening while waiting for my regularly scheduled program to come on (I'm sadly addicted to The Big Bang Theory), I idly picked up the January 2011 issue of Sunset magazine which I hadn't read yet, and opened it to an article entitled The zero-waste home, which is about a relatively normal family in Northern California that produces no garbage because they are extremely careful about what they buy and how they buy it, plus a few other strategies.  Their story started because the wife had once nannied for a family that lost everything in a fire, and she decided that she wanted to live a life where she knew about everything she had and used everything she had.  And kept nothing she didn't use.  What's interesting to me about this is that this family has found paring things down to the very barest essentials to be wonderfully freeing, and it dovetails neatly into what Mr. Fisker has been talking about all this time.   John Michael Greer, who writes The Archdruid Report, has been envisioning a future that will be very, very difficult for most people, because of the way that we live.  So it seems to me that the way to avoid that difficult future is to stop living such a wasteful, resource-hogging existence.  The question is, can I do it?

Well, I'm going to try. I am struggling with the stuff in the Room of Pending Stuff, but I had the contractor by today and he'll call me in a few days with the estimate for my craft closet.  I will have to decide what to keep and it will all have to fit in the closet. I am fortunately not given to crafting for craft's sake, but I do sew for the house, and knit, and have a few other productive hobbies. Plus, the bookkeeping needs to go somewhere.  Then the Room of Pending Stuff will truly be turned into a guest room.

I can also think of some serious paring down that needs to happen in my clothes closet and my dresser.  I have a lot of books in the bookcase that I don't like or want anymore.  I might even go through the stuff in the kitchen and start getting rid of useless-to-me stuff from there.  And Lord knows, the garage could use a good purging.

If I were to really try to plan a future in a seven hundred foot square house, which is half the size of this one, I'll probably have to get rid of more than half my stuff.  If I remember correctly, we got rid of nearly half our household items before we left Florida, and that was a freeing experience.  But we still moved over four thousand pounds of stuff.

And even if I can't talk Steve into starting over in another, smaller house, or moving to the country, I could still stand to lose two thousand pounds.


Miriam said...

I really understand the feeling of freedom that comes with paring down belongings. When I moved away to grad school I pared down to two plates, two bowls, two mugs. All by belongings fit into a trunk.

But somehow here I am, 25 years later, with a house full of stuff - plus a workshop and a tool shed, come to think of it. How did that happen?!

I'll be really interested to see how this goes for you. I wish you luck!

Rae said...

I hear ya on the paring down and especially the "room of pending stuff". Getting mine cleared out took a couple months, but goodness did it feel great to have a guest room where we could see the bed!

A little off topic, but your dictionary comment reminded me of a kid I went to highschool with. He was being difficult, and the teacher told him that gullible wasn't in the dictionary... He grabbed a dictionary and looked it up... And never got the joke. :)

Diane said...

We have a small stove (Waterford Leprechaun) which heats the whole 900 sq. ft. house, eventually. When guests stay on the couch in the same room we have to let the fire go out early because it gets too hot. A stove in the office, if there is room, might be more comfortable.
And if you retire early you have no health insurance. What do the financial experts suggest?

Toni aka irishlas said...

Well, we've pared down to the smaller house but with a bigger plot O' ground. I think in all honesty we pared down too much on the house. Our house is 1200sq ft which all in all for two people is just fine. Problem is, 400 sq ft is office space which leaves us roughly 800 sq ft of living space. Just a tad too small for my liking. But, we're surviving so far!

Lot's of food for thought in this post.

Miriam said...

Going along with your theme of paring down and cutting back, I thought you might be interested in the $50/week grocery challenge at She might have some ideas you can use! Sounds down near impossible to me, but then again I'm the one with 47 chicken breasts in my freezer...

Paula said...

Miriam- I'll go check out the challenge, but I'd have to say we'd fail- we spent $109 at Costco tonight, but a large chunk of that was for water filters. $50 is a good challenge though.

Rae- good to know that it can be done. If I work on it a little bit every day, I'm able to figure out where the stuff has to go.

Diane- where did you find your leprechaun? I'll go check them out as well. Our plan was to only fire the thing in the morning anyway, and maybe once in the afternoon on really cold days. You have a point about healthcare, but it's looking like Medicare may not be available if I were to retire at 65 anyway, me being born at the end of the boom. I'm not sure what we're going to do about healthcare, but working where my husband does is taking its toll on him now.

Toni- If you both retired, you'd get 400 square feet back! :^) I'm not sure I can do it either, but I need to start somewhere.

Paula said...

Bummer. The Waterford Leprechaun is a cute little stove, and Waterford no longer distributes in North America.

Anonymous said...

We're retired, and I think I have a house of pending stuff...LOL! I just cleaned out the junk drawer in the kitchen, and I really want to do something with my spices. That is going to be the next big project around here.

Paula said...

Sissyjane- if it's any help see my post, which is labeled Food.

And I don't have a junk drawer, because it all got thrown into the Room of Shame!

Diane said...

For reference, the best features of our stove are: small size so it is almost impossible to get dangerously hot, baffle allows installation closer to the wall, reburn design meant it was considered clean-burning enough without a catalytic converter and rear air intake allows connection to outside. We didn't connect this until a couple of years ago and it made a big difference. It used to require a slightly open window to burn well which isn't really comfortable. So maybe you can look for these features in another brand.

Jennifer Montero said...

I'm no expert on heating systems but we have a Jotul woodburner in the front room, and generic multifuel in the other (burns coal or wood). The jotul is so efficient I have to open the doors to cool the room down. But, it's hard to keep a wood fire in (one of us gets up in the middle of the night and feeds it).

Coal isn't as green but the multifuel gives you options when wood is in short supply /costly (and it means I can sleep through the night.) I can heat water on both stoves, warm up stew, and even put bread dough behind it to rise.

My secret desire is an AGA or Rayburn.