Monday, May 18, 2015


I recently spent a long weekend at our Quaker Yearly Meeting which was held at the Quaker Settlement in Whanganui. It was reassuring to look back on YM last year and appreciate how much better I am healthwise compared to then. I managed to stay up chatting for 3 out of 5 nights away from home which I was very impressed with myself for managing given there was no leeway for a lie in!

One of those evenings was spent talking to Tracey about our future life options - downsizing featured big time for both of us. Seeking the flexibility it gives you to pretty much go anywhere fairly easily was high on both our lists of priorities. I'm in no hurry to move house, but when the time comes to do so I love the idea of being free to go wherever the spirit blows me without having to spend a silly amount of money moving or keeping things in storage. I (still!) don't have a long term life plan, but various posts on Facebook from friends struggling for assorted reasons have kindled the idea of having a time of being a Mary Poppins and going where needed to help out for a few weeks or months at a time before putting down roots anyplace else, although that obviously depends on being healthy enough to be useful.

One possible option to make that work (albeit with the cooperation of willing drivers!) is of course to have a Tiny House. Then I can take my home with me as sadly I don't have a carpet bag like Mary Poppins' or a handbag like Hermione's to fit in everything I'll need, and more importantly it would give me a quiet space of my own which massively increases the odds of staying healthy.

So when in the session the day after Tracey and I had been discussing this it was mentioned that QIET had funded a loan for a Tiny House our ears pricked up! Oooooh, maybe it could actually be possible?

The next day again after a presentation about the Settlement there were various guided tours around parts or all of the grounds. Lured by the words 'close and flat' (as opposed to a quick march over the hill in order to see the new dam and still be back in time for lunch!) and 'food forest' I followed Merilyn to see some of the new food production areas that they are developing on permaculture principles. I'm a big fan of improving the food productivity of the space we have available in an easy to maintain manner so I was keen to pick up a few tips and see how this aspect of the Settlement was developing.

At the end of the tour we stopped by at Michael & Merilyn's very small caravan which they are now living out of and renting out their house to a family who need the space far more than they do. Wow, it makes a Tiny House seem palatial! Granted they have all the communal facilities of the Settlement available to them, plus their daughter's house a few steps away complete with hot shower should they choose to use it rather than the cold outside one, which is quite different to having just that space available to them. But still it was a huge eye opener as to what they have found to be possible. Apparently the biggest challenge according to Merilyn was paring their clothes down to fit in the small wardrobe - which is about the size I thought would do just fine for me alone, and I thought that was fairly minimal!

It was lovely to hear Merilyn share how much she had enjoyed gifting various possessions that they needed to get rid of to fit into such a minute space, especially after recently writing this post about much the same. It renewed my determination to keep up that process and part with other things I've long since stopped using but haven't quite been able to let go of yet.

On a practical level it was interesting to hear how well insulated their caravan is, it is even double glazed and so is quite warm enough in winter. It could be another option for me, but I'm not (yet?) ready to let go of the few items of furniture I've inherited which could fit in a Tiny House, but not a caravan. Plus I suspect that a modern caravan of those specs would be a considerable financial outlay and the advantage of a Tiny House build is you don't need all the money at once, although it sounds like QIET would be up for lending it if needed. Something to ponder on, just as well there is no rush for a decision to be made!

Part of passing on the baton of my FWCC YM rep role to Ben was leaving him and Thomas with my supplies of spare copies of various AWPS newsletters and Friends World News etc whilst at YM. And that's another folder of stuff cleared out into the bargain! What's more that now means my files all now fit in my box-shelf properly and it looks a whole heap tidier, excellent.

So I got home with added determination to work my way through the remaining boxes that are out at Pukepoto, and reduce further the stuff I have here. I knew I had to get straight on to it whilst the fire was still burning in my belly rather than let it go back to smoldering embers which take that bit more effort to get going again. So I resolved to let go of a couple of much loved but rarely worn up here thick woolly cardigans. Perfect for Edinburgh and Wellington winters they might have been, but they just don't work for Far North frost at breakfast but back in t-shirts by lunchtime kind of days. I've hung on to them partly as I initially didn't know how long I'd be up here (at 8yrs and counting I think I can safely say it'll be a while...) and they'd come in handy if I ever moved back to Welly or similar. Well yes they would, but my multiple thin layers also work in cold places and when I do go there in winter I never take my big thick cardies anyway as they are big and thick and fill up half my rucksack!

So after a flash of inspiration one has already been re-homed to Christchurch, the other is still being deliberated over, but I'm ready to let it go. Looking round my room I was wondering 'what next?' and kept coming back to a shelf full of photo albums. I've scanned quite a lot of my photos now, mostly old Quaker ones to upload to Facebook so even though they pre-date film developed onto cds let alone digital I do now have electronic copies so I'm contemplating making some printed photobooks which will take up a fraction of the space. That will be a long term project to work through, but distinctly possible... my books on the other hand pose far more of a challenge.

Since getting home I've been on a roll of ticking off little jobs needing done, and I hope to keep up the momentum. Some of them are things I've been meaning to do for ages but haven't quite had the time and energy simultaneously, many of them are UFOs and PHDs (unfinished objects and projects half done) which take up a disproportionate amount of space in that state, both literally and mentally. The trick now is not to start other things but leave them unfinished as I uncover more potential projects!

Once getting the YM Minutes ready for the printers is done I'll be back to waiting in faith that 'something' work-wise will turn up. But it feels like I really have a longer term life project (downsizing) to focus on, and give a sense of purpose to my time. No matter where I end up living after here likely is to have less space rather than more, and it will be easier to go where the spirit blows me if I have less 'stuff' to move/store/fit in. However I can't quite see me reaching this level of downsizing, no matter how inspirational her story is!


dawn said...

I do find your decluttering posts so helpful. I'm actually going the other way with photos and putting them into albums which take up more space but will actually be looked at. I suppose it does mean I'm getting rid of all the really dud ones and just keeping the best so is downsizing in a way.... (yeah not!)

If I could guarantee I'd stay the same size and not put on 3 stone with steroids or manage to lose some but not all of it, I'd find it a lot easier. but even with a kindle I couldn't do books - how on earth do you cope without lots of books????

Anna Dunford said...

You ask how to cope without lots of books? I've no idea, I haven't managed that one! I have shrunk my book collection considerably at various points in time, but it just grows again... Currently half my Anne McCafferys are still with Audra in Edinburgh, and a lot of my books are out at Pukepoto. Fitting them all in here will definitely be a huge challenge, however there is about 10' of bookshelf space in my room full of someone else's books. I have commandeered the other 30' though so I can't really complain, and I do have other stuff on the shelves not just books, but that will probably have to change though before long! I've found myself buying paper copies of books I've read as ebooks and want to read again. Ebooks will do at a pinch (especially when travelling) but you can't beat the real thing.

Anonymous said...

I could if I absolutely had to reduce my 1500+ books by a couple of hundred at the most, but books are so much part of my life it would be immensley hard.