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July 29, 2008

A lot of words for a tiny house!

Reader Lynn wanted to see my shoe closet:


It's not very impressive. Have I mentioned my house is tee-tiny? It's smaller than most one-bedroom apartments, even though this is a two-bedroom house. I use the smallest of the two rooms as my bedroom, the larger room is my home office. My most-used shoes are there on the floor and my fancypants shoes (heels, ankle boots, etc.) reside in a set of plastic drawers. It keeps them free of dust and cat hair!

My bedroom is roughly 8 feet by 10 feet, just big enough for the bed, two very tiny bedside tables and a dresser. I don't believe in having electronics (TV, DVD, computer) in the bedroom. My long history with insomnia has taught me to keep the bedroom as spare and peaceful as possible, so my room is very quiet and cozy and small. The closet has those awful sliding closet doors -- you can only see half of your closet at one time, how annoying. But these doors are heavy mirrored monstrosities and the last time I tried to remove them I almost broke the doors, my toes and the mirrored panes. So they're staying put and I just keep the closet very tidy, my main wardrobe fits all on one side anyway.

The clothes hanging above my shoes make up the bulk of my wardrobe. I've pared down my clothes to just a fraction of what I used to have, but I probably still have a few things I could get rid of. (Rome - not built in a day!) My basic wardrobe is very simple -- I don't want to waste time each day worrying about what to wear for work, what's appropriate for the dress code, what matches, what is business professional enough, etc., so all my work clothes are based on one color scheme (black) and I have a limited but good quality selection of work clothes. Instead of buying 37 cheap tops and 19 pairs of inexpensive bottoms, I invested in eight really quality pairs of trousers and ten or so high-quality tops. I have two skirts (I don't wear skirts often at all) and a few jackets and that's it. Also hanging in the closet are some tops for nights out and jeans and so on. My work wardrobe is probably boring but I don't lose sleep over it. I realize this automated method of dressing for work makes the more fashion-minded folks in my circle break out in hives, but it really works awesome for me and I never have to wonder what to wear to my job. I get to expend that energy thinking about other stuff, like vacation and Al Gore and ice cream.

Accessories like hats, gloves, scarves and little things live in these bins on top of the closet:


On the other side of the closet three big pink plastic drawers hold out-of-season clothes, swimwear, hosiery and sweaters. One drawer holds the clothes I don't quite fit into but don't want to give up on just yet. I know that also makes some people break out in hives (some people are so sensitive!) but this works for me. I am nostalgic and hopeful and that can be a deadly clutter combination. Therefore, getting my entire wardrobe clutter scaled down to a single pink plastic drawer is a considerable accomplishment in my life, and I am very happy with my progress.

I don't have anything on top of the pink bins since this is Bob's Super Top Secret Hiding Place. He loves this little nook of the closet, so I keep the doors pushed to the side closing in his hiding spot to make it cozy but keeping the other side open so he can come and go as he sees fit, plus he can peer out into the bedroom to keep posted on the day's events. I learned the hard way that any clothes hanging on the rod above Bob's Hiding Spot get covered in fluffy orange cat fur!


I do have a coat closet in the hallway for scarves and coats. It is very small, a little less than two feet wide and is crammed with my winter outerwear. I have more coats than anyone in Southern California needs but coats are a weakness of mine!

Someone else asked where I keep the catbox in a small house. Here is my solution:


It's in the closet in the office. I managed to get the doors off the closet and installed a little curtain there in its place. One half of the closet holds yet even more plastic drawers, these are full of yarn and crafty stuff and paint and glue and so on. I also keep the extra cat litter in this closet. Since I am renting and I'm sensitive to the germaphobic among us, I carefully lined the walls and floor of the closet with three layers of contact paper before putting the catboxes in there. My cats are very good with the box and they don't have accidents but I still felt this was the most sanitary way to handle having the litter pan in a closet. When I move out, I can remove the barrier of contact paper, give it a thorough once-over with disinfectant and feel good about it.

The biggest problem in this room is dust! I really wish this house had a half-bathroom or a separate utility room or laundry room or mudroom where I could put the litter pans. I don't love having the cat pans so close to my office nook but hey, everyone has to poop somewhere.

I knew before I bought my desk that the room was imperfect -- cat trays, clutter, storage, books, yarn, alleged guest room. For a long time my picture of the perfect office was so at odds with the reality of my house that it kept me in a stalemate, always hoping that "one day" I would wake up and find myself in a new life. But because I didn't feel like I had the perfect home office I just kept using that room as a dumping ground and it stayed a constant source of anxiety.

I didn't have a real at-home work area for almost three years and it wasn't what I wanted but I just assumed I would keep making do until... until I had a perfect house, until conditions were just right, until I had time, until I could work from home, until I had enough in my savings account, until I was a size whatever, until I was certain, until, until, until.

You can read all the self-help on the shelves and you can ponder your navel and listen to all the inspirational and motivational stuff you have the stamina for, but until you actually know what you want and start moving in that direction you don't really change. I guess one day it finally sunk in with me that even though conditions are not yet perfect, there is only one way to get to the picture I have in my mind of the future: start walking toward it. My ideal future did not contain a room full of boxes and me hauling a laptop and file box from room to room looking for a decent scrap of workspace. So I cleaned that room and bought that desk and it isn't perfect but it's definitely one big step in the right direction. I really do love it, catboxes and all.

Sometimes I am amazed at how much my life has changed simply from getting un-hitched. I'm pretty sure everyone has formative times in their life, maybe it's a before-and-after event from which they emerge so changed they wonder who they were before it all began. My life is radically different now but strangely I'm more myself than I ever was before. If that makes any sense. It feels like I got really lost in the middle there somewhere, accumulating so much crap and trying to be somebody I wasn't, and slowly (sometimes painfully) I've had to de-clutter, de-stuff, de-box, and de-construct my house and my habits. And my life.

Secretly I hated being a slave to my stuff. I hated that I still felt empty after I bought something I thought would make me feel whole. This past three years have been about not buying, not accumulating, not spending money just to buy something intangible and finally understanding the difference between want and need. I thought all that "not" and "don't" would be a downer, that I'd feel somehow poorer and less happy. But oddly enough, getting rid of stuff -- not an easy task at first -- slowly began to lighten my life up in both the predictable (less stuff to clean) and the unexpected (less anxiety at home). And when I do buy something now I make sure it's exactly what I want, not just whatever will make do.

My best guess is that we make things real by starting to picture them in our minds. We dream them up, we fantasize over one day, one day when I have the life I really want... Then we start building the picture in our real lives. The house isn't perfect, the location is not my ideal, I still go downtown five days a week. But I have a crucial part of the vision in place, and it's a start.

And of course, there's a cat! The cat is perfect. The catbox, well. One day.....


Posted by laurie at July 29, 2008 8:27 AM