Downsizing- Can you have too little stuff?

I lived carefree on the road as a wild hippie teen- basically with a blanket and a backpack. Half the time I didn’t even wear shoes. I spent as much time as I could camping in forests with friends while I tried to determine my place in this crazy world. Well- three kids and 12 years of college/grad school later, and we have a lot more stuff than I ever dreamed. Mind you- we have a lot less than most middle class Americans- a car, a three bedroom house with kid-stained/ripped furniture, books lining multiple shelves, and toys that are begging to be stepped on everywhere you go.

But, as a Gypsy in both blood and spirit, I have always longed to be free of these material fetters and be able to flow more with the spirit of life. To have our family be more present in the moment and to appreciate the little things. So, as life has slowed down a bit after graduating from Acupuncture school, we had the opportunity to reexamine our priorities. Did we want to work towards the modern American dream of owning a large house in the suburbs, paying off cars and mortgages and things you don’t really need- or did we want to find a piece of land somewhere where we could farm and live peacefully and use as a base to travel from? Unequivocally the answer was the second.

So we come to the issue of downsizing- how much do we get rid of, how much do we try to put into our tiny house, and how much do we store??? At this point, we are getting rid of all furniture. The items that are nice enough, we will sell. The rest will be donated or dumped (not the best option, but I don’t think anyone or anyplace would want our toddler destroyed couch). I have been slowly, painfully gleaning down our book collection. There are some that are essential- my Chinese medicine books (although I am selling off many that I don’t need anymore), our favorite crafting books, homeschool books, and the kids favorite books.

Toys are a whole other issue. We have been working for the last year on replacing our plastic, bright colored, closed-ended toys with more natural, open-ended versions, but it is a challenge. We have put all of our meager, post-grad school savings into the TIny House build, and so have been using our intermediate crafting skills to make wooden and felted animals and dolls for the boys. We have cut back on electronic use (although it is a big challenge here in the desert as there is not a lot to occupy kids, especially in the 6-month long super hot summer) and are encouraging more outside play as well as creative play inside. The other issue with natural toys is that they can be just as bulky as the toys we want to replace. So we are going to take the smaller natural items that we have made/gathered/bought and are planning on encouraging the boys to make their own play items from outdoor materials when we get up North.

Then we come to the kitchen- my favorite place in a house and undoubtedly the place I spend the most time. I love my kitchen gadgets- especially the ones that make my life as a from-scratch cook easier. We can pare down to a large pot, medium pot, small pot, large pan, and small pan and a few cooking spoons/spatulas. We are planning on carving our own wooden bowls/plates/utensils- one set for each of us- and treating them with respect and care. I could do without my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, but I saved for months and waited for a sale just so I could get one. Torn. And I use my Vita-mix every day- multiple times. Not sure what to do about that one…We will have solar cells and may create a bicycle powered unit but it is another bulky item. And it can do most things that a food processor can (my food processor is old and falling apart anyway, so that will definitely not be coming).

Clothes are getting pared down to essentials and favorites. I think the majority of our space will be taken up by musical instruments and art supplies. Three guitars, a large djembe and a tiny one, two violins, and a number of flutes/recorders will be tucked in wherever possible. Art and craft supplies will be in the loft and under the bed. The challenge here will be containing the art/craft explosion that is in our house now. A big part of our homeschooling in creating, so we will be doing a lot of creating outdoors- which is exciting. Nature art, observation, gardening, storytelling, and making music around a campfire will become our new rituals and we are so looking forward to it!

What are your favorite small living solutions?

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