Friday, March 22, 2013

toward tiny: 3 Ways I'm Trying To Radically Downsize

In my last post, I discussed why I want to build or purchase a tiny house (I'm beginning to lean strongly towards building).  As I mentioned in that post, my main concerns are the financial and lifestyle benefits that radical downsizing can offer, at least for me. But, how does one go about downsizing so dramatically? I don’t necessarily have a large number of possessions, but I certainly have more than can be crammed into a structure less than 200 square feet. And I definitely have more than can be comfortably or practically housed in such a small space.  So, the downsizing plan is already underway. Here are some of the strategies I’m undertaking in moving towards tiny:

1. Being Creative

First and foremost, I’m focusing on my downsizing as a creative endeavor rather than some tortured form of exhausting drudgery. In my case, I have plenty of time to prepare, so I’m moving slow, making lists, generating ideas, and gradually organizing my possessions into categories such as Essentials, Maybe’s, and Unneeded. But, even as I’m doing this, I’m trying to think how any or all of these objects can be put to better use, so the categories are somewhat fluid. How can I repurpose something from the Maybe list into something that serves my Essential list?  How can I do the same with something from my Unneeded list? Right now, much of my larger furniture is on the Unneeded list (or perhaps I should call it my Impractical list because some things simply won’t fit.)  However, perhaps I can take a shelf, drawer, or some other part of that furniture and use it differently.  I’m getting some great ideas from looking at repurposed furniture and DIY projects on Pinterest, where I’ve started a board to help inspire ideas. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Being Resourceful

Something just clicked in my brain over the last few months. Perhaps it's just some manic swing from an unknown, undiagnosed bipolar disorder (ha!), but I've come to a point where suddenly I've realized I have an amazing number of resources at my disposal. Unfortunately, I all too often did "dispose" of them. I've taken so many resources for granted or simply haven't made the time to consider how to use them. This includes skills I've been fortunate to learn. I have a master's degree in sculpture. I've also worked "professionally," or at least consistently for pay, doing graphic design, writing, photography, and video work. This blog, among other endeavors, is my attempt to use those resources to help me accomplish what I truly want - a lifestyle of simplicity, community, independence, and expression. So, what does that have to do with tiny houses or radical downsizing specifically? Well, I want to use as much of my existing possessions, in addition to my skills, to make this project happen without falling into the trap of feeling like I need to buy or purchase more than is necessary. 

As mentioned above, looking at the amazing things people are doing to repurpose, re-use, and upcycle objects is a huge inspiration. I realized recently that I spent years in school learning to do just this type of work! I had long ago written off my background in sculpture due to a bitter attitude about the disposition of the academic and gallery-oriented "art world." I realized that I found little reward from even the modest successes I found in that context, much less the failures. What I always did love, however, was making things with my hands, and, specifically, I always loved making work that incorporated found objects and other assemblages. So, my plan is to begin looking at all of my furniture and possessions and trying to figure out how I can take them apart, saw them up, and/or add elements to make them into new objects/furniture/storage for a tiny space. I already have ideas brewing to turn a long coffee table into a sitting storage bench/love seat. I have some beautiful solid walnut shelving planks that I hope to use to make a back for the bench. This is just one idea of many. It feels so empowering to realize I know I have the skills, tools, and resources to make furniture that is interesting, aesthetically beautiful (hopefully), and wholly practical without spending a boatload of money. What took me so long to figure this out?

3. Using Technology

Using technology is the operative word here for me, rather than abusing technology. Like many others, I often find myself spending too much time online simply for the sake of distraction. I'm trying to think more about the internet and technology as a resource for community, inspiration, and financial gain rather than simply entertainment or the world's largest commodity marketplace. As that concept relates to downsizing, I'm trying to make sure I take full advantage of ebay and craigslist to sell those things I simply don't need and don't plan to repurpose (yes, that is part of the commodity marketplace, but put to use rather than abuse, hopefully.) I'm also hoping to donate some things, but rather than simply giving everything to Goodwill (some will go there), I also want to take the opportunity to find other groups and organizations doing interesting things. I want to dig around online and see who's doing what in my city, and possibly donate kitchen supplies to the Nashville Food Project, for instance. They are only a mouse click away and offer me an opportunity to meet interesting people doing creative work I find important and inspiring.

As I begin to dust off my old sculpture and building tools to repurpose my furniture, I'm also hoping to explore some new projects that can possibly be sold on Etsy. I'm a bit dumbstruck to find myself so excited about making objects again, and, honestly, simply having that feeling is its own reward. However, if I'm able to supplement my income even on a very modest scale doing something I love, all the better.

So, there's a bit of the how I plan to downsize for a tiny home, along with a little bit of vanity-rambling (apologies - I warned you about the manic swing vibe earlier). In future posts, I hope to share some of my repurposing projects and document some of my downsizing efforts in more nuts and bolts terms. Thanks for stopping by.

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