Tiny Tricia

My journey to a tinier me.

Filtering by Category: Tiny Life

Christmas Haulin': My Minimalist Holiday

My family is what minimalists hope for when they decide to stop prioritizing the accumulation of more possessions. 

For as long as I've been able to make a wishlist, my family has stuck to it about 90%. While I'm a big lover of surprises (and that's not something I get too often as a result), it means I don't end up with a lot of gifts I don't really want.

 

Keep a Wishlist

I keep a running wishlist on Amazon all year long—it's actually a great way to satiate an impulse to buy something.

Then, when Christmas comes around, I have a variety of things I'm confident I want because I've been thinking about them for a while.

Ask for What You Want

One of my friends is so great at picking out accessories that fit my style and it's something I find frustrating to do myself. So when she asked what I wanted for Christmas, I told her earrings or a necklace. And she delivered!

I'm so glad she asked that from now on I might actually be more proactive with people I always exchange presents with. Even the people who know you best aren't mindreaders, so if they really know power drills or external hard-drives or whatever, let them put that ability to good use on something they'll know you want or need

It's Okay to Be Practical

As a kid, I was terrible about appreciating gifts like clothes because let's face it, I was 5. This year, I actually asked for socks and towels.

Why? Because these are things I use almost every day and nice versions can be pricier than I want to pay myself—so I'll just keep wearing mildly worn out items. Excuse me while I go enjoy my new fluffy microfiber bath sheet.

Be a Gift-Giving Model

Sometimes people aren't accustomed to thinking outside the box when it comes to gifting. Step one is rejecting the idea that giving something is the most important thing—does your friend really need mediocre candy or your niece  another a holiday stuffed animal?

Spend the time and energy it takes to consider what each person would genuinely enjoy. This year, I bought my brother a ticket to a 2Cellos performance in his new town since he plays cello and loves rock music. On that note...

Ask for Experiences

Last year, I asked my Dad for a gift certificate for a workshop at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Earlier in the year, I'd taken an intro bookbinding class and loved it, but the next binding class was too expensive for me to comfortably buy for myself.

 

This year, my favorite part of Christmas was, hand's down, interviewing my grandmother with the Storycorp app. I love her to death and she told me some great stories—which I can listen to any time, forever.

If minimalism is about getting down to what you really love most, I couldn't have asked for a better haul this Christmas.

Dealing with 116 Hangers

This weekend, I emptied all my clothes out of my closet and drawers. By no means am I a fashionista, but I did have 116 hangers on just 44 inches of closet rod space and a dresser full of folded stuff.

Everything included (tops, shoes, costumes, underthings), I was stunned to find I owned 320 items.

Despite that volume, the experience of sorting things with the KonMari method wasn't as overwhelming as I'd expected. Taking things out of the closet and off hangers let me evaluate what items really "sparked joy" for me and which didn't (and I was pretty surprised in some cases).

Here's what I learned from the process.

Giving Yourself Permission to Pitch

When I got all my things out of the closet and thanked them collectively for their service to my body, I gave myself permission to get rid of anything for any reason—brought up a bad memory, didn't fit, looked worn, I'd owned it too long, just didn't like it that much, anything.

That last reason required the "permission" step the most because I grew up using things until they were beyond repair and consider myself a "use it up, wear it out" kind of adult. 

It was like I'd been waiting for someone to say that was okay to get rid of things I didn't actually like—I instantly grabbed pieces I didn't really like that much to pitch them. 

Practical But Unliked Items

I had a lot of tops I was keeping because I knew they fit fine, but I didn't get excited about wearing them. 

A lot of these came from my mom years ago, and I didn't look terrible in them but I also didn't look great. It was time to purge luke-warm outfits.

Knowing My Palate

You know that feeling you get when you catch yourself eyeing something in a store that you realize you basically already own? I've decided to lean into that. 

For example, I know I like jewel tones and that reds emphasize my skin's red undertones—so I pruned my wardrobe of red pieces I knew didn't flatter me. Picking a consistent color palate also makes it much easier to mix and match.

Comfortable Fit

Some of my clothes I knew I'd been avoiding for fear that they would fit too tight—and now I decided that they don't get to stay if they don't fit comfortably now. 

Having pieces like that in my wardrobe, I realized, just makes me feel exasperated when I go to pick out an outfit. Besides, if/when I lose a few inches, I'll get the pleasure of buying something lovely and new.

Trying Things On

For the most part, things I tried on ended up being pitched because they didn't fit comfortably. 

I'd definitely recommend trying on tights/hose for this reason—besides a comfortable waist fit, tights are hard to properly evaluate when not stretched. Putting them on lets you spot holes, snags, pilliness, or just plain this-color-looks-weird-with-my-skin in a pair you might otherwise have kept.

Liked But Worn Out

Some pieces I'd just loved past their prime, but I didn't necessarily know it because I pick out clothes in a pretty dark closet. 

I evaluated each piece in the harsh light of day and actively looked for holes, snags, and pilling. Pieces that I loved I made a mental note to replace, but I wasn't going to hold on to them until I had a replacement—or they would never leave.

"Memory Clothing"

I had plenty of T-shirts to remind me of projects or groups I was a part of and too many gift scarves—it was time to accept that a T-shirt from my friend shouldn't be my key reminder of her.

I thanked these things for the thoughtfulness of the gift, and let go of what I wasn't regularly wearing.

The Remaining Wardrobe

So what was left? I made a pie chart because why not?

In total, I got rid of total of 111 pieces and just 52 hangers remained, including:

  • 9 dresses
  • 3 suit jackets
  • 4 pencil skirts
  • 3 coats and 2 hoodies
  • 13 tops and 7 cardigans/shrugs
  • 2 pairs of trousers
  • 1 renaissance faire costume

In addition to my hanger items, I had plenty in my drawers; here's what made it through the purge:

  • 24 pairs of underwear (90% of which is brand new)
  • 7 pairs of jeans and 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 swimsuits (1 bikini, 1 single piece)
  • 2 belts
  • 9 tank tops and 5 pairs of leggings (used for layering, yoga, and PJs)
  • 2 pairs of hiking pants, 1 pair of horseback riding pants, 1 pair of long underwear
  • 2 pairs of sweatpants and 2 pairs of PJ pants
  • 3 pairs of bike shorts to make wearing dresses and having thighs work
  • 13 T-shirts
  • 4 pairs tights, 32 pairs socks
  • 22 pairs of shoes (includes slippers, work/hiking shoes)

Altogether, I kept a total of 212 items or roughly 2/3 of what I started with (that doesn't account for the pieces I'd been gradually picking out of my wardrobe over time, which might get me closer to half). 

Now I can actually move hangers on the rod and I'm not stuffing things into drawers. Can't wait to see what it feels like to get dressed for the next few weeks!

The Millenial's Guide to Living Tiny

Hello, fellow millenials. Lovers of subscribing instead of owning, experiences instead of things, animated GIFs instead of words. Welcome to your guide to living a badass tiny life.

Automate your house supplies.

Are you really going to try out a new toothpaste brand any time soon? Amazon Subscribe & Save (or their fancier new "Dash" button) was made for the mundane. Stop wasting energy remembering to buy, making a trip to get, and schlepping home the 16-pack of toilet paper every month and go the set-it-and-forget it route.

When you figure out the right cadence for these items in your life, you'll be cutting down on errands, making sure you always have the right amount available in a limited space, and saving money.

Bonus: PillPack is an amazing way to just-in-time your regular medicine needs.

Clean up your papertrail.

The PaperKarma app may be one of my favorite downloads of 2014. It's been a wildly successful (and simple) way to almost completely eliminate unwanted mail from my life.

And if you haven't switched all of your bills to paperless billing, get on that. I tossed pounds of credit card statements and receipts dating back to 2009 in my company's secure shredding bin.

No one needs that many jewel cases.

If for some reason you can't bring yourself to rip you CDs and DVDs then donate them to the public library, at least get rid of all those bulky cases and put the discs in a binder until you catch up to 2015.

But seriously, this is why we have external hard-drives, da cloud, and every flavor of streaming service known to man. 

Enjoy it—or let someone else enjoy it.

You know how when little kids hoard toys just so other kids can't play with them? You're probably doing that.

This is actually a really fun problem to deal with—when you go looking for things with this mindset, you'll find yourself enjoying more of your stuff (burn those fancy candles already!) or actually finding your house filled only with objects you really love.

Choose experiences over things.

I work for a company that's all-in on the idea that experiences are superior to possessions—at Eventbrite we call this the experience economy, and millenials are rocking it. I would much rather do something I've never done before and build memories with others than simply receive an object as a gift.

And in cutting down my possessions, I can attest that gifts carry the most guilt—so please, no more stuff.

 

More than our parents' generation, I'm excited by the idea that success no longer needs to be showcased through impressive possessions. I don't need an impressive TV or radio or massive DVD collection—I have access to everything I need on my computer and phone. 

Ownership fuels classism and it's increasingly unnecessary. Instead, common technology has allowed us to shrink our lives—and I intend to enjoy it.

5 Modern American Conveniences I Happily Live Without

One of my first indications that living a tinier life might be a reality meant for me was the pride and contentment I feel when I think about the things I can live without. Here are a few that generally baffle my parents.

Television

When I moved to California, I realized it would cost me about as much to properly pack my nice new TV as it would be to replace it. So I sold it to a friend and never bought another. I watch movies and TV shows from Amazon Prime on my laptop occasionally, but generally I'm thrilled to avoid the time-suck that is TV.

Microwave

The studio I moved into didn't include a microwave and didn't have much counter space to add one, so I didn't get one. And guess what? Everything I eat can be handle by the stovetop or oven.

Dishwasher

I thought I was going to hate doing dishes by hand because it's been terrible in the past, but I think the difference is I eat at home a lot less than I used to. Since I only cook at home a few times a week (I'm lucky to have a job that feeds me well and often), I only do dishes a couple times a week. I've learned to like it.

Air Conditioner

I live in the Bay Area, where most (but not all) homes don't have A/C, and that's fine 95% of the year. A wall fan helps out.

Car

This one, I'll admit, I'm beginning to question. When I moved to CA, I sold both my motorcycle (no way was I about to tackle San Francisco hills!) and my sedan (it's expensive to bring cars into this state and parking can cost as much as most people's car payments). Now that I moved to the less-crowded East Bay, I do feel like I'm missing out on exploring my area, hiking, and camping so I'm considering buying a beater.

BONUS: Internet

Since I now work for a company where the entirety of my work is online, I do have Internet now. But for the first year of my adult life, I went without. 

 

I think a lot of us don't take the time to question the status quo of what a comfortable life looks like until we have to. Nothing is a given, really. Asking myself what I really need has been one of the best things I do in my life.

My Tiny Backstory

I first heard about tiny houses years ago from my godmother. I was spending spring break of my senior year in college with her (the first time we'd really spent much time together). Her home was packed with art, books, cooking tools, and vintage knick-knacks. I loved it all, and I aspired to build a home like hers—full of stories and warmth and cuddly pets.

After undergrad, I got my first real apartment (and my dog Paparazzi), and despite being in the middle of nowhere Texas, it was definitely the nicest place I've lived to date. Garden bathtub, built-in bookcases, a huge walk-in closet, and a small outdoor balcony. It was perfect. It was also probably too expensive for my barely-above-poverty-level journalism job.

But then I got offered a better job, less in the middle of nowhere, and I moved to Central Pennsylvania along with everything I owned (plus a series of things my parents didn't want anymore). I moved into a 2.5-bedroom townhouse (complete with a basement), and I had plenty of room for everything. This was the life, right? I'm a grownup now?

Not really—despite all the space and a lot of nesting on my part (I made the half bedroom into the library I never had and planted a vegetable garden in the tiny backyard), I was pretty lonely in this house. And since it was in a "changing neighborhood," I wasn't able to get anyone to be my roommate.

So I moved into a smaller 2-bedroom apartment across town and proceeded to share my home with two fantastic students I found on Craigslist. I was happier, but eventually, I landed a dream job in California and it was time to leave again.  I knew enough to know the Bay Area housing market would be vicious, so it was time to cut things in half.

After living in a cramped and not-so-cozy Airbnb room in a less-than-desirable San Francisco neighborhood for 2 months, feeling like I'd made a huge mistake moving to the West Coast, I was thrilled to move into a 3-bedroom home in the Castro with two great roommates. With the help of our garage and the fact that neither of them had much common area stuff, my half-POD of stuff fit just fine.

When our rent was raised unexpectedly after the first year, I decided to look east, and I was fortunate to find an affordable, 1920s studio apartment in Berkeley. More downsizing commenced. Once again, my life shrunk to fit into a smaller space.

And that's where I'm sitting now—at a desk donated to me, with my bed on one side and a couch that's too big for this space behind me. My apartment was advertised as 400SF but I think that might be a stretch—the main room is just 200SF, then there's the small bathroom, walk-in closet (used to be a Murphy bed), and kitchen.

There are a few things I wish were different (like having windows on more than one wall for ventilation and maybe a view), but generally I really like this space. It fits me.

I know my neighbors. There's a yoga studio a half-mile down the road. There's a vegan grocery right next door, a pole-aerobics studio on the other side for flare, and an underground theatre one door over. To get to and from work, I walk through a park often filled with senior volleyball players, young ninjas-to-be, and banjo-fiddle duos. I take my dog to a dusty park filled with friends. I feel happy here.

My only real complaint is the money I pay in rent every month. Though affordable by local standards, it kills me to throw money out my tiny windows. The homes here in Berkeley are so adorable (what can I say, I like a craftsman bungalow), but a fixer-upper starts at $600K. What's a non-rich girl like me to do?

Build a tiny house. That's what.