Monday, October 19, 2009

Heat

It was 34 degrees outside when I woke up this morning, and my furnace (heat pump, not designed to handle cold weather as I know it) ran for about 4 hours non-stop. I've been running a little space heater in my bedroom to keep me at 75, and leaving the rest of the house a bit cooler. Last winter, my electric bills ran over $200/month. I'd rather not see that again this year, so I went out after lunch today and bought two oil filled electric radiant heaters.

I'd been considering a couple of the radiant electric heat panels that mount on the wall, but they're pretty expensive. The oil filled heaters seem to be the most cost effective of my other options, and with a $10 coupon, I got both of them for only $75. I put one in the bedroom, one in the dining room (for the cat's benefit), and put the other two "regular" space heaters in other rooms, where they can be run as needed. I'm really enjoying the quiet heat so far. I'm a huge fan of total silence.

I cleared out a few more things this weekend. I've gotten rid of so much stuff, and still have too much, mostly things I need to try to sell. Perhaps I can get to that this weekend. Perhaps.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Empty Basket

I got everything that I think I want to keep out of the office closet, went through my sewing and crafting stuff, threw out a bunch more stuff I don't need, and I still have one large basket completely empty. The other large and the medium both have a little room left. And I think I may not need some of the stuff in them, either, but I'll let it simmer a bit and revisit them at a later date.

Files are not a good fit in that large basket, so they're going to keep living in the wire mesh file boxes they've been in for years. For now, anyway. I hope to find an attractive natural fiber container for them some day.

The empty basket is bugging me. I suppose it will get filled eventually, but my mind keeps picturing things I could put in it. However,having "extra" space does mean I've done a good job of reducing "stuff," so I'll call it a job well done for now.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Further organization

The table is working out well as a desk. I do miss the handy drawers, but I'm getting by so far without. The table is 14x39, as opposed to the desk at 24x44. The table is a perfect depth for the netbook, and still wide enough to hold my purse, cell phone, and coffee without being crowded. In my last post, I also mentioned rearranging the furniture, which I did, and I got the cabinet and a couple of pictures hung, and brought in one of my fake plants.

My new external DVD ROM drive came yesterday, and definitely passes muster for watching movies on the netbook. I'll give that some more time before I sell off the TV in the living room. I do like watching movies on a big screen, but I've gotten rather accustomed to kicking back in bed with the netbook on my lap to watch stuff. I also have one of those little folding TV tables that I use sometimes, too. I store it behind the bedroom door when not in use. The DVD ROM also fits nicely in (or on top of) the cabinet when not in use.

Today, the first of my underbed baskets arrived. I ordered one medium and two large. The two large ones should get here tomorrow. I'll try my files in one of the large ones. I'm not quite sure what's going in the medium and the other large, but I do have quite a bit of stuff still in my office closet that needs a home. I'm hoping that will be it for my storage needs.

I'm still looking for something to use as an attractive laundry hamper. I've been eying storage ottomans, since that would serve as a seat, too. Or a footrest. I also have my eye on a reclining desk chair for more comfortable movie viewing or chat sessions with the netbook.

So... things continue to shape up in my simplification plan. Storage, multi-purpose items, and less stuff!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Less Stuff

The cabinet came today. It's currently sitting on top of my desk. I just put all the useful stuff from my desk drawers into the cabinet, and it's a pretty good fit. So the few things left in my desk drawers are things I don't really need. I haven't used any of it since it went in the drawers, thus, I do not need it.

I have a nice wood sofa table that matches my other bedroom furniture fairly well that I'm thinking of turning into a desk. It's a bit smaller than this nice new desk I have, but this is a work in progress, and things will change as I fine tune the simplifying. I'll try out the table for a while and see how it goes.

I also haven't decorated my room yet, so I may swipe some things from the living room and give the bedroom some "finishing" touches, and perhaps rearrange the furniture and get this cabinet hung.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More decluttering

I wish I could remember the web site I read it on, but I can't. The gist of it was: get rid of the paper, pens, and other junk on the desk. I'm in the habit of scribbling notes on paper, and they stack over time into a big mess. It's a very hard habit to break, but I'm going to try. On that note, without paper, do I really need a stapler, paper clips, and rubber bands? Probably not. I'm not ready to tackle the desk drawers just yet. Another day.

I also tossed another heap of stuff that I'd set aside in the garage for a month or two, just to be sure I was never going to miss the stuff. I don't even notice it's gone now.

I am making a new addition to my stuff, though; I finally ordered a wall cabinet that matches my other bedroom furniture. It has a couple of little drawers in it. I'll figure out what's going in it once it's assembled and on the wall. I have several choices of things that can go in it; maybe my letter holder, where I organize my bills... it could hold a small TV... my netbook might fit in there... I'll see when it gets here.

On that note, I will try soon to get some pics or a video of my bedroom so you can see where I'm at with all this minimizing and organization.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Composting Toilets

I did a little research into composting toilets the last few days. The ones you can buy are, apparently, rubbish. I read review after review about several brands of them, and 99% of the reviewers had nothing good to say about them. They cost well over $1,000 and have complicated drum and rake systems. Then I found a link to The Humanure Handbook, and found my answer. This is an utterly simple system for a composting toilet. A box, a bucket, some sawdust, and seat. And it doesn't waste a gallon and a half of perfectly good drinking water with every use, since there is no water required and no flushing.


They sell these very reasonably, but I can't see any reason to buy one when they are so simple to make. There are some great pictures on that site of toilets made by the readers of the book, and some are very, very nice! The only other point to using one of these is that you need a compost bin, or a service to haul away the "produce." I'm pretty well sold on this composting toilet, but I wonder how accepted they are by local health departments. Will I still be required to have a septic system just for the grey water produced by my shower and sink? That I will have to find out. 


On another note, I finally came up with an acceptable floor plan for a 12x18 cabin, which is as small as I can go to get in all my requirements for space and storage capacity. Yay!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

To solar or not to solar, tiny house link

Today I spent some time looking into solar power again. I figure the system I would need for my cabin would cost me between $2800 and $4000, but paying for grid electric would probably only run me about $500 per year, if that. So the system would pay for itself in 5 to 8 years. Which is simpler? I like the idea of having my own power with a low impact on the environment, and one less monthly bill. On the other hand, paying that one bill would allow me to be lazy; not having to monitor my batteries, and what ever maintenance is involved with a solar array.

A lower cost system would force me to live more simply. I would not be able to run an air conditioner very much, if at all. I'd have to do without that nifty radiant electric heat I'd like and just use some sort of propane heater or a wood stove. And I could use a propane refrigerator instead of electric.

Another point to solar is that power outages would not concern me. I will definitely be giving this much more thought.

I made a brief decluttering pass today, and found a few more things I no longer need or want. Last night I ordered something new, though - I found a really cool looking basket that will fit perfectly underneath my nightstand for more storage. I'm also in the market for similar containers, preferably with lids, that will fit under the bed for functional and decorative storage purposes.

By the way, for those of you that think I'm crazy for wanting to live in a small house, please check out Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, which has given me some inspiration and a few ideas. These little houses would work for me, but not for the dogs; they're just a bit too small!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Still searching, good neighbors

I've had a flu since last Friday. Have spent the days since then alternating between sleeping and web surfing, scoping out MLS listings and craigslist for land and cabins. Being sick also reminded me why I do not want to live out in the middle of nowhere; if I can't get toilet paper and over the counter drugs for a cold/flu within 15 minutes, it's too far out for me to be living by myself.

Today I found a possible lot and a possible cabin. This cabin is 12x16. I emailed the seller for more pictures and information. I also emailed the listing agent of the lot, though I am not very hopeful for a reply. Realtors, for the most part, suck at answering email. My agent back in Texas got my business because she was the only one that answered email, and kept my business because she's fabulous. If you need a realtor in Rockport, TX, call Pat Redmond.

I also wanted to touch on the topic of neighbors today. I know none of my neighbors here, except on a waved greeting basis. In the RV park I lived in, I knew quite a few of the neighbors by name and by sight, attended a pot luck or two, and was checked up on by them when they felt I had not come out of my rig for too long. The lady that was the assistant park manager at the time brought me an Easter basket. Everyone was helpful and friendly.

Best neighbors before that were back in Michigan out in the boonies. Farm country. You depended on your neighbors and they on you. You help them put up hay, they help you put up hay. Those with snowmobiles got supplies for those without when everyone got snowed in. You watched the neighbors kids and fed their critters if there was a need to. Everyone knew all the kids, so the kids didn't get away with much.

I hope where ever I end up, that I will know my neighbors and have that sense of community with the folks around me again.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Transportation and Living Simply

I've been thinking for a while now about getting a bicycle. Today as I was watching folks biking around the UGA campus, it occurred to me that bikes are really only good for going somewhere. Just you, and maybe a bag or backpack. I could not use a bike to take the dogs to the vet, bring home 80lbs of dog food, get groceries, or transport 8' lengths of crown molding.  Sure, I could hit the grocery store every few days and carry back just a little food each trip. I could probably bike to work. But... I am not fond of being out in the rain and can't imagine biking in it. I have no idea how much a taxi costs. And the nearest bus stop is a mile from my house. I've hit a brick wall when it comes to simplifying my transportation. Can't be done at this time in this place.

I sometimes wish I could step back in time to when people walked where they needed to go, and it wasn't all that important that they arrive at a given time. I've watched specials on National Geographic that show "primitive" people and I so envy them and their simple lifestyle. They get up, gather their food for the day, make or repair clothing and tools and shelters, visit with friends and family. They don't have a mortgage, electric bill, or broken appliances they can't fix. They work as much as they need to for that day, for their own needs and those of their tribe or village, and they're done. They aren't slaving away for some faceless corporation doing work they may not enjoy that doesn't directly benefit themselves or their people. And they just walk; around the village, to pasture with the herd, to hunt, to gather food. Simple.

Me, I have to work to afford the car I need in order to get to work, the house that has all the stuff required by laws to be able to live in it, of a size determined by the zoning in my city. And the media implies that I need to have a better car, a bigger house, fancier appliances, fancier clothes, and it will all make me a better and happier person. Bullshit. Those villagers on Nat Geo have none of that, and they all look pretty happy to me, or at least content with having a full belly and a place to sleep. And that's really all I want. Simple.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Utilities and Mechanicals

I spent a lot of time today thinking about the utilities and mechanicals I will want in my cabin. I know I want some sort of solar energy, at least for lighting and items that don't draw much power, like my netbook. For a long time now, I've wanted electric radiant floor heating instead of a furnace, but ... I'm not sure how much solar power I would need for it, and it is very expensive to purchase. And if that can't go solar, or there's a cloudy stretch, I absolutely want a backup heat source, perhaps propane. The other option I'm considering for heat is electric radiant heat panels - no noise, no moving parts. It just seems like the floor heat would be more efficient, and the heat panels require precious wall space, but about 1/5 the cost of floor heat initially. I think they would use about the same amount of energy to operate.

I did run my refrigerator on propane a few times in the travel trailer. It works, but seemed more expensive than electricity. I will probably get another under-counter fridge, like I had back in my condo. I loved that thing. Then there's the air conditioner. That pretty much has to have grid electricity. I'm leaning toward a small window unit mounted through the north wall (so the sun never hits it - more efficient that way).

I've heard good and bad things about tankless water heaters, but I am sure I will want one; propane. My only hot water use is sinks and showers. I do all my laundry with cold water. I think I can live without a dishwasher. I think :)

That leaves me with cooking. I rarely do actual cooking, on a stove or in the oven. I tend to use the microwave for the most part, with the occasional slow cooker use for chicken or a roast. And I never use more than one stove burner at a time. Rather than take up space with a cooktop or stove, I think I could do just fine with one of those little buffet single burner things, that can live in a cabinet while not in use. And/or a propane camp stove for those pesky power outages.

Oh, almost forgot! Internet! I've been watching Clear (www.clear.com) for a while, and hoping that service spreads like wildfire. The technology for it is also being built into laptops and netbooks. By the time all my plans fall into place, perhaps I'll be ready for a netbook upgrade and be good to go in that regard.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Decluttering

I've been working on the decluttering for a few months now. I pick an item up and say, "Do I need this?" I have read "need" being determined by the fire test: If your house was on fire, and you had 5 minutes to save what you could, those are the things most valuable to you. The rest is crap and you can get rid of it. For me, though, after getting the dogs and cat out, I'd grab the stuff that's the most tedious to replace. My purse containing driver's license, insurance cards, glasses, cell phone, etc... and the folder holding my birth certificate, Social Security card, and title to my car.  I've been stashing digital stuff on the internet (Google Docs, Picasa Web, and an online file storage service), but I'd probably still take my netbook. Next up would be my prescriptions, and a change of clothes. Tax documents if there's still time remaining.

I tend to keep stuff "just in case" I'll need it some day. Mostly, that some day never comes. I've recently thrown out a whole bunch of old computer component boxes, clothes I never wear, old papers and bills, magazines and catalogs, and plain old "junk." I've also sold a whole bunch of stuff via craigslist, and have a few things that will eventually go on e-bay. Old dog and cat collars and things get donated to rescue groups.

The other half of decluttering is organizing the stuff I'm keeping. I replaced my glass desk with a wooden one with five drawers. I bought a nightstand with three drawers. I got all my spare computer cables into a big plastic bin with a lid. All the manuals for the heat pump, appliances, and other house stuff are in the same cabinet instead of all over the house. The linen closet is even neatly organized now.

I know that sounds like a lot,but I have a long way to go in simplifying. I still have too many clothes, and a few pairs too many shoes. I don't really need 6 cat-5 cables or 4 co-ax cables or 3 s-video cables... I don't need 8 ice cube trays (they came with the house), or 4 phone books, or hundreds of DVD's.  When I finish scanning in all my old photos, I can get rid of the printer/scanner. And the printer stand. The list goes on.

I try to tackle just one room or closet or drawer every week. I'm ignoring the garage for now, but its day will come. Every armload of stuff I get rid of gives me a greater sense of freedom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

How much space do I need?

Some of my readers may be familiar with the story of Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond. It was 10'x15' and contained a bed, desk, table, 3 chairs, and a lamp. In my case, noting where I spend my time during the day, I require a bed, desk, chair, and a dresser and nightstand. A small closet will do, and a small rv or boat style kitchen and bath. Toward this end, I've moved into the smallest bedroom in my home, about 10'x10', to experiment and get a feel for the space. After more than two weeks, I'm finding the space sufficient for me and the dogs. Of course, there is no kitchen or bath in the room, but I have determined that this space is adequate for living area.

I do not entertain. I rarely have guests. My home is my sanctuary.  I like it uncluttered and clean. The clean part is difficult with the dogs... I think I could live well and cheaply in a 10'x18' or so cabin.

Today I found a steal of a deal on a 12'x30' cabin. Unfortunately, it has to be moved and I have no land on which to put it. It is much larger than I want or require, but the price can't be beat! I'll keep looking for land to buy, lease, or borrow and try to figure out something for funding. I'm not ready to sell my house yet, and that is where all my money is at the moment.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Beginning

Welcome to my new blog, and thanks for stopping by! I suppose I should give you a little background to explain why this blog is here...

See, I used to live a pretty simple life. For nearly two years, I lived in a 17' Casita travel trailer. It was quite an adjustment for me to scale down my belongings from a good sized one bedroom apartment and to figure out just what I truly needed to keep. Clothes, shoes, kitchen stuff, bathroom stuff, computer, important files and papers, bedding. Within six months of moving into that tiny space, I discovered that a lot of the stuff I brought with me had not been seen or used; out it went. The Casita was my little nest, shared with my cat. Most of the time, it was parked in an RV park, but I also took it with me to Michigan and to the Texas Gulf Coast to visit family. My electric bill in the RV park averaged about $20 per month. I went through about 4 gallons of propane per month for cooking and hot water. I saved enough money to pay off the Casita within a year.

Then I blew my blissful simple life by "moving up" to a park model RV, then a condo. I accumulated more "stuff." I had more and bigger bills. And now, finally, here I am in a 3 bedroom/2 bathroom house with a mortgage and big utility bills wishing I had never left the Casita!

In the meantime, I also adopted four rescue dogs; not all at once! As much as I long for the Casita again, there is no way the dogs and the cat would all fit in one.  So now I'm trying to figure out just how small a space we can all live comfortably in. I'll get started on that in my next installment.