Moving In To a Tiny Apartment During the Tiny House Movement
Step Number One: Get Real
If this is going to be a ‘how to’ blog of sorts I guess I should start at the beginning. Life is messy and downsizing is messy, and I think a lot of people are having to deal with this right now and it’s not the perfect, fairytale, tiny house fantasy in real life that everyone is doing perfectly in an organized manner all cute and worth posting on Pinterest. It’s hard and messy and emotional.
Michael and I knew we were going to move in together. Of course we looked at amazing cool lofts in the city. Of course we looked at really cute homes near City Park. Then we looked at reality. We could barely afford a 750 square-foot apartment in the middle of ANY city. How would we do that? WHAT WOULD WE DO WITH ALL OF OUR SHIT?
Downsizing 101: First things to look at/consider/cry over.
WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?
Downsizng isn’t just about happily going through your things and deciding what’s not important. That’s one thing I did glean from tiny house writings and observations and blogs is that it’s about a lifestyle change you want to make or in our case, are forced to make. It’s about looking at how you want your life to be, not so much what it is, and what can go in the trash because it’s no longer useful to you. It’s about what Being Useful really means and being able to ask yourself that question of what do you want your life to look like.
I suppose I could’ve stayed with my roommate and she and I could’ve found an apartment together. I could’ve looked up another roommate situation. I could’ve stayed where I was and taken on more work in order to foot a bigger rent bill. Michael and I decided we wanted to be together, we have the same ideals about life, and we wanted to do this life thingy as a TEAM. Basically because no one else can live like 9 year-olds as good as we can, we figured we should probably stick together.
If you are doing this with another person I would say the most important thing you can do is communicate. Communicate about your expectations, your fears, your goals. You have to talk about money, and real life things like leaving the toilet seat up and everyone doing the dishes and what pisses you off more than anything.
Downsizing for financial, and life goal reasons, is about more than just getting rid of old clothes and dishes. You need to talk about ugly things like what you’re afraid of. You have to bring up the worst things about yourself. You have to verbalize fears you’ve never said out loud before to another person. You are going to be living in a small, very small, space with them. There is no room for bullshit.
Michael of course didn’t have any of these fears or concerns and I had ALL of them, but nothing meant more to me than being able to say how I felt and not be judged. The fact that we talked it out and worked it out and faced everything right away made this the biggest step.
THIS IS MORE THAN JUST SITTING DOWN AND TALKING ABOUT YOUR FAIRYTALE FUTURE. I had to talk about me being afraid of losing myself in a relationship once I live with someone because…that’s happened. That is an ugly thing about me. That is not a thing I want my boyfriend to know right away. I still want him to think I’m cute and funny. Well I’m not. I cry a lot. Because I worry too much.
We also had to constantly reevaluate our expectations via our financial concerns. We had done this life thing for a while, we have been around the block, we’ve seen the strings, we didn’t want to go around that block again. We wanted this to be OUR life, on OUR terms and WE wanted to create it and WE want to make it. That involves a lot of planning and talking.
We had to be honest about not being two 20-year-olds getting our first place together. We are not 20. We don’t want to be 20. We were able to be realistic about our lives now and how we want them to be now and how we can make that happen. That took a lot of talking.
LOOKING AT YOUR REAL MOTIVATIONS
I look a lot to the tiny house movement because I have had to live a smaller life and I do live a pretty unconventional life. I wanted to look to positive examples of this ‘simpler life’ and see how people did it. Basically I wanted to look at a positive way to live if you’re really broke. A lot of what I read and find is people making this ‘tiny house’ choice by just that, it’s a choice. In reality they end up having to spend quite a lot of money to build, lease land, and reach the final outcome.
At this particular time in my life, this is not a happy, ‘get away from it all’ choice. I could not pay that much rent so I had to figure out something else to do. I didn’t quit my six-figure income job to go live on an island, my parents don’t have money. I have my own business and I do the amount of work I need to do to have the fun I want to have then pay the bills I need to pay. Yes I could take on more work, yes I could build an empire I suppose, I don’t want to. That’s another thing in my life I’ve realized; I’m 49, I’m done striving for the white picket fence. Maybe in my secretest of secretest of dreams I want one. In fact, I had it when I was married, found that it was not at all like the brochure and so I changed my life back then as well.
Michael was also drastically changing his life, how he wanted it to be, what he wanted to give up, and what he wanted to begin. Kismet. Messy upheaval kismet, but kismet all the same.
Looking at the reality of your life is probably the hardest thing you do during downsizing. Sure, I don’t have a mortgage and no I don’t have a six-figure income job. That’s perhaps because I made poor choices. Maybe I should’ve gone to college, maybe none of these things are true and maybe they are just things that are not important to me. I’ve realized that as I get older, I’m more and more OK with myself.
Michael and I have made different choices in our creative lives and we are where we are right now, and that’s the hardest thing to look at. Or the best. You decide.
For you maybe it DOES mean going back to college, maybe it means you DO want to buy a house. The motivation for me it is that I want to work the same hours I work now, have my free time and just change how I spend my money if I’m going to live smaller. So a budget was the next thing in order after a lot of pro and con list making and a lot of talking.
So throw your shit away, change your life, but have a basic insightful motivation for doing so or you’re just spinning your wheels. Which we are still doing at times but we’re learning.
Life is messy. Live it up !!
The Tiny House Movement: The Truth About Downsizing.
I had been gentrified out of my gentrified neighborhood. Less than a year ago I was paying $350 a month for a basement apartment, in a house that was rented for $1200 a month. The rent then went up to $1997 for the house in less than a year. I had met Michael almost a year ago, whose life had also undergone many changes in the last year. We decided to band together, and devised a plan where we would live together. Michael’s changes, and Michael’s new plan, consisted of having his three children on the weekends. I love this man, I’ve had kids before, I can do this.
What I had forgotten, was that it had been many, many years since my children were 5, 8 or 11 years old. Yes I had given birth to two humans, but in the interim I had become a Woman With No Children; for my children had become adult children and moved away to two separate states. I had become that woman who smokes on the patio near your baby stroller. The woman who moves to a different table so I don’t have to listen to your screaming children. The woman who can come home at 3 AM because she has no responsibilities. But this would be like riding a bike right?
If that were the case, then I was riding a Harley in Conan the Barbarian in a Mad Max gangland type of world. I would now be putting training wheels on my tricycle of parenting. Not only that, but I thought I’d moved 1000 times in my single mom life when my children were small. This would be no different. Each time, combing through my things, gladly throwing away what was no longer needed. I can do this.
THIS move, it has turned out, would not to be so cute, or sentimental, as metaphorically ‘tidying up’ or ‘letting go’. Like when you read about those people who build tiny houses and go live in the beautiful woods with no running water and brought only their 8 favorite books with them and occasionally garden in a container or have ONE MUG. How romantic.
No. This is about five people living in 750 sq ft. apartment (three days a week)in the middle of Denver. This is about me forgetting the incessant arguing that happens when more than one child is in the room. This is about me realizing I will never sleep in again. Fuck your tiny house, this is real downsizing. A downsizing I think most Americans have had to deal with in the last two years not because it’s cute or because they decided to live in the woods, but because of the economy. This blog is going to be about be how we did/are doing this.
I think the one thing that there is in common here with the tiny house movement, is realizing what kind of life you want to have and how to have that life. Michael and I are not big spenders. We like our free time to be spent having fun. We’re in our 40s we are not starting a new family. Even though we are starting a new blended family, we are not bringing home a new baby and mowing a lawn on the weekends or fixing up the house. We’ve done all that already. We are both self-employed, we can take any days off we want to, as long as the bills are paid, our end goals are now different than they were from our 20s or our 30s.
Michael’s children now think I have a cleaning problem. And I do. When you live in such a small space, if someone leaves a sock on the floor, the living room is a complete mess. We have trained them in the last 6 weeks to walk in the door and put their shoes in a certain area, all backpacks go upstairs immediately, they eat at the kitchen counter, no one here gets out alive without cleaning before they leave the house.
I also dug out my crockpot, we can’t spend $87 every time we want to eat out. We have devised a budget. We are still learning that. This will take time. I would love to share with all you parents out there of all ages, the tricks and the things we’ve devised and our trials and tribulations of what I dub: The Tiny Apartment Movement.