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 ( 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.