What is minimal to me?

I went shopping this past weekend. If H and I hadn’t decided to head in the tiny direction, I surely would have bought much more than I did. I ended up leaving the mall (HUGE mall) with a new foundation (necessary as I ran out last week), a new foundation (nearly necessary as I was close to running out), and two new camisoles (more in the want category than the strict need category, but they are replacing two of my older tanks).

That visit got me thinking. I love clothing, I love home accessories, etc. I can’t say “I’m never buying anything new again!” because surely I will have to. Fashions will change, clothing will wear out, my life will evolve and the objects I use to run my life will need to adapt. But to prevent a hostile takeover of objects, I wonder if it would make sense to create a list. A list of everything: clothing, kitchenwares, toiletry items, books, etc. I have done a good amount of purging in the past week and still have a lot to go, but I’ve been focusing on the easy choices. Does it fit? No-out it goes. Have I worn it in the last six months? No-out it goes. Would I want to wear it today? No-out it goes. Those were easy choices. The next edits will be much more strategic. To help guide me on this path, I have created a numbered guide for items.  Here goes:

Camisoles: 14 (I wear these every day)
Work Tops: 14 (Can’t be wearing the same thing to work every day!)
Sweaters: 7 (It’s cold in Wisconsin.)
Jackets/Cardigans: 3 (Must wear layers in Wisconsin!)
Tee Shirts: 3 (I rarely wear t-shirts, and if I do it is just to work around the house or to work out in)
Bras: 2 (Wear one, wash one)
Long-sleeve Tee Shirts: 5 (Same with short-sleeve t-shirts, but I tend to wear these more often. It’s cold here 10 months out of the year)
Scarves: 14 (Seems like a lot, but I wear these all the time in fall, winter and spring-Wisconsin is cold!)
Skirts: 5 (This will be a challenge. I love skirts but don’t wear them nearly as much as I should)
Work Dresses: 3
Special Event Dresses: 4 (One for each season. This will be tough. I have been accumulating dresses for years.)
Gowns: 3 (I know, 3 more than the average adult. But I’m a singer. I’ve kept one black that I’ll wear at least once per year, one navy and another teal. Those I can rotate every other year for the fun concerts)
Dress Pants: 3 (Black, Navy and Khaki. I just decided I’ll be getting rid of my brown pants. Who really likes brown anyway? All of my clothes are black!)
Jeans: 3 (Dark Rinse, Coral and Fuchsia)
Capris: 6 (I know this might seem like a lot, but I wear capris all the time. With flats or sandals in the spring/summer and with boots in the fall/winter. And they take up less space than normal pants!)
Exercise Pants: 4 (three sets of yoga pants and one set of capri pants)
Sports Bras: 7 (So I can work out every day…)
Exercise Tops: 5 (Can sub in t-shirts if I run out)
Socks: 14 Pairs (I’ll definitely have to cut back here…)
Underwear: 14 Pairs
Winter Coats: 2 (One for work and one for snow)
Fall/Spring Coats: 2 (One for work and one for fun)
Sweatshirts: 3 (Get ready Goodwill-a lot of college sweatshirts are headed your way!)

I’m not sure if there’s anything else I’m forgetting, but this should give me a guide to do the hard cutting this week. I’ll think about shoes another day…

If you’ve cut back in the past, what did your “list” look like? If you’re thinking about it, how would yours be different from mine?


Design Round 1: Tumbleweed Harbinger Plans

One of my former colleagues introduced me to Tumbleweed Tiny Houses a few years ago. Since then, I have thought they were just adorable and dreamed about living in one. So when H and I decided to embark on this little adventure, of course I started there.

I played with all of the Tumbleweed designs and really liked the Harbinger. I love the idea of having a loft in addition to a master bedroom as a guest space, hangout space, extra storage, etc.  On their website, they have the option to play around with furniture arrangements, but they don’t allow you to move walls, doors, etc. After playing on their website for awhile, I took it one step further and started from scratch on Floor Planner.

Without further ado, here’s a shot of my first round of design: The Harbinger Edited.

Floor Plan Harbinger

So what are you looking at?  Starting at the bottom, there’s a small porch, leading into the living room. On the front right corner is a built-in table nook which could be used as an eating, working or board game space. The kitchen is on the right side in the middle, and is open to the living room and nook. And that little black box on the right side? That would be the wood burner, with which we’d heat the entire place. Then there’s the small bathroom on the left, master bedroom in the back and mudroom with steps to the basement on the top right corner.

Rather than show you a plan of the loft (which wouldn’t look like much anyway), I’ll just tell you that the extra sleeping loft would start with the bathroom wall and go to the back of the house. It would have built-in cupboards in the eaves and a big mattress in the middle.

This plan has 475 square feet. After designing it, H saw a photo of a beautiful Southern-style house and said he’d rather built in that style, but tiny. So the Harbinger was a great start, but probably not the final direction we’ll go in. I’ll share the next designs soon, but I’m sure they’ll continue to change as we learn about tiny living and clarify what we really want and need.

Reasons Why

In my first post, I mentioned a reason for downsizing that stirred this idea about a week ago.  But this morning, before I fully awoke, I remembered an experience, a large experience, that has been percolating in the back of my subconscious for nearly a year telling me to minimize my possessions.

Last summer (July 2013), H and I rode our motorcycles to visit family in North Carolina. We had done a number of long-distance trips before on the bikes, but never this far on our own. We had gone to Iowa for a friend’s wedding (5 hours) for three days, so packing was easy. We had gone to Kansas City (15 hours) for four days, but we sent our belongings with the rest of my family in the van. Now we were embarking on a nine-day journey to ride over 2,000 miles with no van tagging along. We were staying with family, so we could do laundry, but we still had to pack light. One backpack each with saddlebags.

That was probably the best vacation I’ve ever taken. Being on our own motorcycles, we were together, but alone. There was no mindless chatter; only observations and mindful thinking. I believe the world could solve a lot of its problems if leaders spent more time alone with two wheels.

We had had such a simple, fun trip, free of all the normal complications that come with normal travel. I couldn’t buy a whole lot because of space constraints. We didn’t have luggage to deal with because of space constraints. We didn’t have computers with us and didn’t have smart phones at the time, so when we stayed in a cheap motel we watched one of the only four channels. It was so uncomplicated and refreshing.

It was hard to come home. I crunched numbers to see how long we could do this before we ran out of money. The answer was not long. But as I thought about it this morning, I think that was a major turning point in my psyche, realizing the freedom of only having a backpack of possessions. Of being able to go where we wanted to go without worrying about our “stuff”. The ironic part of this is that I lost my wallet on the drive home.

I’d have loved to include a picture from that trip, but we were so focused on having a good time that I didn’t take any pictures. Can you imagine, in today’s society where we document everything with an instagram, that I have no proof of this trip?  I’ll just have to feed your imaginations with a photo from our Cozumel trip when we rented a Harley (another great day).

Cleaning Out My Closet Part 2: Gowns

It seems that clothing has been an easy place to start with downsizing. After taking the axe to my normal closet, I moved to ancillary closets. At this point the new minimalist will ask, “why couldn’t I fit all of my items into one closet?” Good question new minimalist…

Anyhoo, I studied music in college-voice performance specifically. With that came a lot of recitals, concerts, etc. and a great need for floor-length gowns. Add in the 6 weddings I’ve stood up in, and that creates quite a collection.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I had 15 gowns in the office closet, one of which was my wedding dress.  I narrowed it down to my four favorites: my wedding dress (I just can’t get rid of that…), a long black gown that I wear at least once a year for symphony concerts, a long navy gown that I had custom-made for my senior recital, and a long teal boatneck/backless gown that is just one of my favorites to sing in.  Here are the dresses that didn’t make the cut:

From left to right:

  • Blue bridesmaid dress from my sister’s wedding that I wore twice after that for different events
  • Baby pink gown that I wore for one symphony concert solo opportunity
  • Coral junior prom dress (I know, that was eons ago)
  • Black gown that I never once wore. Bought it when I was down some weight but never quite got there… I don’t need that reminder of my failures taking up space in my house or my life!
  • Silver gown that I wore in a friend’s wedding and several different recitals. Those friends are now divorced.
  • Blue gown that I wore once to a charity gala.
  • Tan gown that I wore in a friend’s wedding.
  • Purple gown that I wore once (or twice?) for symphony concerts
  • Green gown that I wore in a friend’s wedding and several times for various recitals and concerts.
  • Purple gown that I wore for several symphony concerts.
  • Orange gown (in the front) that I wore for my senior recital and another symphony concert. And if you’re paying attention, yes, I had two senior recital dresses. The serious navy number for the first half and the fiery orange beaded number for the second.

1Because it’s fun to reminisce, and I’ll have to rely on photos rather than the physical objects going forward, here are a few photos of me enjoying my gowns.

My wedding dress: (that I just can’t get rid of)

Wedding Dress

The green dress, shown here from a recital with my gal pals:


My senior prom dress (which I did wear at least twice for concerts and lent to a friend two years ago, but that’s ok because it’s one less dress to go to Goodwill!):

Senior Prom

My junior prom dress, that I did wear a few times:

Junior Prom

The bridesmaid dress from my sister’s wedding:

Kates Wedding

The famous orange gown from my senior recital: (funny story-my mom and I bought this thing on sale for $60 when I was down a few pounds. I went back up a few pounds and couldn’t fit into it. I desperately wanted to wear it for my senior recital, so I hung it in my kitchen as a reminder not to eat. It fit!)

Orange Gown

And finally, my favorite, one of the keepers:

Blue Gown

So long gowns! I will cherish the memories.


Cleaning Out My Closet

After clearing out my nail polish, another easy place to start was my closet. I will openly admit that I love clothes. I do regularly get rid of things that I know I’ll never wear again, but I would definitely hang on to way more than I needed to.  Today’s rule was, “if I wouldn’t want to wear it today (or in six months when it’s cold), it’s going.” So a lot went. Three garbage-bags worth.

14 dresses, 7 skirts, 11 pairs of pants/shorts, 4 sweaters and 3 blazers:1

10 tops, 1 more skirt and 11 tees/tanks:2

 7 sweatshirts:


Makes for a lot of stuff!  My sister took about half of the clothes-the big gift bag and the small tote.


I can’t tell you how exciting it is to get rid of stuff!  You know that high you get when you buy something new?  It’s the same when you get rid of stuff, I swear. I neglected to take a picture of my half-empty closet, but looking at it makes me feel great.

I think next up, I will tackle my gowns. (Yes, I have gowns. In another life I was a professional musician)


Starting Small: Downsizing my Nail Polish.

H suggested this morning that we not buy anything that isn’t consumable for the next six months. I already unofficially decided that, hence only buying gifts when we were shopping in Madison yesterday. But not buying isn’t enough. We’re going to greatly need to reduce the amount of “stuff” we already own before we can downsize by 75%, and I figured it’d be easiest to do it little by little.

Speaking of little things, I thought I’d start small, literally. I had quite a lot of nail polish although I rarely paint my nails. Space will be so tight that only my favorites can stay. I originally thought I’d keep five max, but ended up keeping a few more. I suppose I can always really narrow it down in a few months, right?

I divided them by color to see what I really had.20140617-071034-25834904.jpg








That’s a lot of polish that I mostly never wear. I narrowed it down to my favorites and this is what I was left with.


Still a lot, but I figure I’ll edit more in the future.

I ended up giving away more than 40 polishes to my nieces. It was quite a happy day for them!


The beginning of something tiny

H has been suggesting crazy ideas since I met him. The suggestions started with “let’s elope,” (which we eventually tried to do, but that’s another story) and quickly lead to “let’s sell all of our possessions and become gypsies.” I’d always laugh and think about how freeing that would be, but then keep on keeping on as normal.

Fast-forward seven years (five married), two houses, two investment properties and 2,100+ square feet of “stuff”. The suggestion had become, “let’s sell this house and move into something smaller.” Again, I’d laugh and say, “but there’s still so much left to be done here!”

And then my boss, in the midst of moving, shared this video with our staff of six. And it got me thinking about my stuff. My stuff as well as my “stuff” and everything in between. Why do we have so much stuff? Why do we have so much space? A home-office that we never use because we both spend all day sitting in offices. A family room to sit in while no one sits in the living room.

It’s official. We are hunting for land. And we’re going to sell our house. And I’m going to get rid of 75%+ of my possessions. I feel lighter just typing it.

Stick around for the ride if you want.