Tiny Tricia

My journey to a tinier me.

Practicing Tiny: Laundry

I've been living without an in-unit washer and dryer for a year now and it hasn't been a big deal—I just haul my laundry 3-floors down to the basement and pay about $2 a load to wash and dry. It's annoying, but by no means a lifestyle deal-breaker.

As a result, I don't see the need to include a washer/dryer in my tiny house—it's just too much space, energy, water, and expense wasted to justify the convenience. 

I plan to take my clothes to a laundromat—or, because I live in the Bay Area where anything can be delivered, use a service like Washio. Since the first of these options is inconvenient and the second is expensive (and possibly one of the many businesses that won't survive the impending bubble burst), I wanted to see if I had other options.

Enter the Breathing Mobile Washer.

It's a really simple concept—manual agitation of small loads of laundry. There are other models out there for this kind of old school laundry (barrels you turn by hand or washboards for the really homested-y types), but they took up more storage space than I'm willing to give.

So I bought this simple plunger-like device and a rod that doubles as a great way to stretch my shoulder muscles. Did it work? Here's what happened:

Pros

  • Fast: The whole washing process took less than 15 minutes.
  • Cheap: I don't pay for water in my building and I didn't have to pay the coin-operated washing machine. The item itself only cost me $16.51 plus the rod and the bucket (maybe $10 together?).
  • Reliable: This works without regard to power—no drain on my energy source!
  • Private: I can do this in the privacy of my own home—no traveling, no waiting for a machine, no one watching me literally deal with my dirty laundry in public.

Cons

  • Physical: This isn't a task I'd want to do if I was sick or getting on in years.
  • Drying: This doesn't solve my need to dry things, and since there's no spin cycle, you need to wring things out by hand and let drip dry (or have an alternative). It's the next day and my dresses are still drying.
  • Small loads: I put in 3 dresses and it doesn't seem like I'd want to put in much more than that.
  • Water use: Although I only used about 6 gallons of water to wash and rinse my clothes, that's still water I'd have to have on site (as opposed to using the laundromat's). How I source my water for a tiny house may or may not make this a big deal. But hey, that's still way less than the 14-27 gallons of water the front-loading, high-efficiency washing machine uses!

And last but not least—are the clothes clean? I mean, I think so? I didn't have anything with serious stains and the water wasn't clear when I poured it out (not sure if that was due to dirt, color leakage or both). My clothes smell clean, and that's what I care about.

I think I'll keep using this tool for small items like underwear, socks, bras, and things that require hand-washing, but I won't be switching to it for all my laundry needs any time soon. It's an easy alternative to have around when you really need it, but I can't see it being my first choice in laundering. 


Practicing Tiny is my series of experiments with tiny living—it's my "try before you buy" way of testing out what my needs are before committing to a build. It's fun.

8 Women Who Inspired Me to Go Tiny

I know some really amazing people, and a bunch of them have been part of my journey to the tiny life, whether they knew it or not.

Vivian

The first person to trust me with working on her home! Vivian has never been shy about customizing her home to fit her needs and style, and she enlisted me as a curious high schooler to help with all kinds of things—from painting cabinets to texturing walls to sanding and polyurethaning wood floors.

I still wear that painting shirt. I love that it has marks from all my projects.

Coming from a home where painting walls was considered a major project, it was really cool to realize I could get more creative, and didn't necessarily have to pay someone else to do the work. I could learn.

Vivian was also a model for me because she purchased her first home on her own—something you don't always hear about. I decided then that if I wanted to be a homeowner, I'd never feel like I needed to wait for a partner to make it happen.

Eliana

After a hatha flow yoga class one Friday night, a group of women went out to eat Thai food together. Eliana was the teacher of that class, and happened to be sitting across from me.

She mentioned that she was building a tiny house with her boyfriend and was so gracious in answering tons of questions from me, thereby rekindling my interest in tiny houses and my hope of home ownership in the Bay Area. In less than a week, I'd decided this was the path I wanted to go down.

Victoria

I've known Victoria since junior high when we were in choir together, and we ended up living together in college. Besides my Mom, she was the first real model of minimalist living I'd seen, although neither of us called it that at the time.

For Victoria, making tea isn't something you do in a rush on your way out the door every morning. She was meticulous about it—boiling fresh water, timing the steep, and enjoying the cup at the table. I, on the other hand, was lucky to throw a bag of Earl Grey into a mug before I ran late to class.

The way she cleaned her bathroom was also fascinating for me to watch. She did it every week, first of all, and she emptied the entire contents of the room each time. Needless to say, her bathroom was always cleaner than mine.

Victoria was (and still is) a model of the pleasure of simple routines well done, and since living with her I've strived to achieve the same kind of order at home. 

Roxanna

Roxanna is another long-time friend from my choir days, and we've remained close as we each went to different colleges and pursued our careers. Not too long ago, Roxanna decided to take a job that would allow her to move back home with her parents and brother.

Not "force her"—allow her.

For Roxanna, spending lots of quality time with her family is really important, and what I admired is that she doesn't just say "family is important to me"—she made significant changes in her life that show how important family is to her.

On top of that, Roxanna is one of my more financially-attuned friends, and she knew that living at home would also allow her to save substantially more than she could otherwise on a fine arts salary.

These are the kinds of choices I admire in people—big changes to align your actual life with the values you express as important.

Paula

Built-in bookshelf filled with cookbooks.

I first spent quality time with my godmother Paula when I was in college and visited her to look at NYU for graduate school.

I absolutely fell in love with her home and how she lived her life.

Paula had been single for a long time and didn't have children—a life I could see myself having as well. Her home was filled with things she genuinely loved: art, books, vintage cookware, family heirlooms.

It was a conscious curation.

Since then, I've tried to make the same kind of choices about what I own and how my home feels, and a tiny house feels like the epitome of that (and how perfect—she was also the first to tell me about the existence of tiny houses!).

Lisa

I've known Lisa less than a year and I've been privileged to help her build her 21' tiny home here in the Bay Area.

Lisa in her storage loft before we put the roof on.

Lisa has children around my age who've been helping her with her project, but she's been a one-woman show in a lot of regards, working on the house full-time off her own hand-drawn designs.

While Lisa had more building experience than I currently do when we started, she was new to a lot of things. She taught me to use drills, tack on Tyvek, install windows, and run electrical wiring. 

Liz Rose

I'm not going to lie: Liz Rose has pretty much been inspiring me on all kinds of things since college. From living all over the world to starting her own design-for-good business in her early 20s, this girl shines.

When I visited her incredible 3-level, former school attic loft in Pennsylvania, I was impressed by how such a small and open area could be so cool. (Somehow I wasn't able to find a similar small space in the neighborhood and ended up in a 3-bedroom townhouse. Oops.)

She still keeps up the cool in her Washington D.C. studio, not to mention her under 100-squarefeet WeWork office space.

I can honestly say I don't think I'd have considered living in a studio apartment if it wasn't for her showing me it can be really lovely.

Teresa

When I met Teresa, she had the cutest small house I'd seen (it probably didn't hurt that she's a designer and has great taste).

I remember being really impressed with the kitchen renovation she and her husband had done through the power of IKEA and time.

When they got pregnant with twins, they renovated their attic to be a master bedroom—adding creative storage and a bathroom to boot.

 

I'm grateful for the influence these women have had on my life, and I hope they're all able to come visit me when my tiny house is done!

Small Spaces I Have Loved

These five spaces were significant in teaching me what I really enjoy about a home, and the common denominator is their size.

My College Dorm Room

This was my half of a dorm room for my sophomore year of college. The wooden furniture and bed was provided, but the couch was a hand-me-down (still my favorite couch I've ever owned). 

My College Apartment

My roommates called this lofted bed setup "the lair." I enjoyed the privacy it gave me, and furnished the rest of my room with childhood furniture and the hand-me-down couch's cousin, the best reading chair I've ever owned.

I also had this huge bulletin board I collaged with keepsakes from my semester abroad that made me really happy.

My First Solo Apartment

Built-in bookshelves, a garden tub, and a small balcony I could take the couch cushions out onto to sleep on cool nights—what more could an almost-broke cub reporter ask for? This is still one of the nicest apartments I've ever had.

 

My First Reading Nook

Living in a townhouse was a bit challenging since it was so long and narrow, but this little nook was one of my favorite parts of the house. Nothing beats a comfy papasan for afternoon reading and naps, curled up with a handmade afghan from my great aunt.

The front window had some nice boxed herbs and the curtains I sewed myself. I also made the bookpages wreath (check out the tutorial I used).

 

Airbnb 1960s Camper

To this day, this 1960s camper in Nashville is one of my favorite Airbnb adventures. I was a bit worried about staying here since it was January (brrrr!) but it was totally toasty and listening to the rain hit the metal roof was a dream.

 

I keep trying to recreate feelings I had when I lived in spaces like these—and I'm getting closer!

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!