There is a ‘small house’ movement afoot in this country. It’s incredible. Creative, brave people, mostly young people who will change this world, are leading the way living purposeful and fulfilling lives as they redefine the ‘American Dream’. You know that dream: the one about home ownership that turns out to be a nightmare for so many. I’m glad I’m alive to see this happen. These are people who are changing the rules that define ‘success’ in our country. Take a look at these sites if you want to get a taste of what is in store for the future of home ownership in this country: TinyHouseBlog.com, Tumbleweedhouses.com, TinyHouseLiving.com, ThisTinyHouse.com.
This is part of a larger movement to live more simply, with less ‘stuff’; like what you have to do when you live on a boat. In a way, it’s literally a counter-culture attitude that is 180 degrees from what constitutes ‘normal’ in our country. These people live in small spaces, with few things to weigh them down. I’ll bet they don’t shop till they drop, either. Sorry, Wall Street. It’s never going to be the way it was before. We all know it. Some of us are just better at saying it out loud than others.
We don’t live in a tiny house. We live in a 3000 square foot rambler built in 1964. It was the definition of the word ‘fixer’ when we moved in 11 years ago. The only thing tiny about this house is the size of the closets. People just didn’t have the same level of stuff in 1964 that we have now. I’m pretty sure there were no Walmarts or Dollar Stores on every corner back then. If part of our plan is to rent out the house and live on a boat, we have a LOT of stuff that needs dumping first if we don’t want to spend money on some huge, ridiculous storage space. Which we don’t.
To that end, it helps to pretend that we’re going to be living in a tiny house. And this is true in more ways than you think. A boat is basically a tiny, floating house. Also, when we move to our final home, wherever that is, that house is going to be much smaller than this one, although the closets will definitely be larger. Finally, although we plan to rent our house furnished, we’ll want to store selected personal possessions in our attic while we’re away. So we’ll pretend that the attic is a tiny house and that’s all the stuff we can keep.
In preparation for The Great Purging, I’ve been reading Peter Walsh’s book It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff. Apparently this guy has had a TV show on which he helped people de-clutter their lives. Who knew? It’s not a bad book, really. As self-help books go, it has some meat to it. One of his main ideas is to focus on the life you want to lead, not on what he calls ‘the clutter’. And he gets into the emotional holds that ‘stuff’ has on people and how they get stuck in these emotional contracts with their possessions. As a psychotherapist, I can appreciate that. His idea is that every time you are confused about whether you should get rid of something, you should ask yourself whether that object helps you get closer to the vision of the life you want to lead. Pithy stuff. Halfway through the book I could envision myself tossing those old college yearbooks into the Goodwill box. Holy crap, Batman!
So with that in mind, I’ve created a staging area in (where else?) the garage. One corner is for stuff that is leaving this house forever, one way or another. One corner is for stuff that will fit in the tiny house in the attic. It will be packed and labeled. And one corner for stuff that my kids need to make a decision about, unless they want me to make the decision for them (said in the sternest possible ‘mother’ tone).
I enter this Great Purging with fear and loathing, but also with hope. I fear the moment when I will have to release the hold some sentimental item has on me. I loathe the fact that I have to spend all this time and energy sweeping things out of my life in order to create space both emotional and physical. And I hope that all those people who say that this process will give me a profound feeling of freedom and peace are completely correct. Otherwise, this is really going to suck because we have some cool stuff and we’ve had a lot of it for a long, long time.