The burden of stuff

I’ve been thinking a long time about starting a blog about living in a tiny home. (Does everyone start a blog by saying they’ve been thinking a long time about starting a blog?)

But long before I thought about blogging about living in a tiny home, I thought about living in a tiny home. It has been an obsession of mine for years. No, really. Years. I love the idea of taking up as little space as possible on this over-populated planet, living a meaningful, minimalist existence with no extraneous stuff.

But my problem has always been stuff. The sheer volume of stuff that clutters up my life. What does one do with all one’s stuff in a tiny home?

Over my lifetime (which spans more than a couple of decades, but a fair chunk less than half a dozen) I have accumulated way too much stuff. Part of the problem is that I get emotionally attached to stuff. And I’m a bit of a pack rat. See the difficulty here? Yeah. I know. It’s a conundrum.

Or, I should say, it was a conundrum. But I’ll get to that in a bit…

Tiny home living, for most North Americans, means some serious-ass down-sizing. And the kind of down-sizing necessary to squeeze an average North American couple’s super-sized existence into a space that is less than 500 square feet is not achieved without suffering. I’m going to be honest about this. It’s not easy. And it’s not for everyone.

But if you are determined to go tiny, then take heart. If I can do it, just about anyone can. My husband and I (together with our dog Rio) went from a two-storey, three-bedroom century house on a huge yard fondly known as “The Back Forty” to a tiny bachelor apartment in a Vancouver mid-rise rental building.

I know, right? When people think of tiny living spaces, they tend to think of those cool little tiny homes on wheels, or a container house, or a schoolbus converted into a home or some such fabulous wee domicile! While any one of these would have been incredible, we were not in a position (financially speaking) to purchase a plot of land upon which to build a little place, nevermind buying all the stuff you need to construct a tiny house. But we both really wanted to go tiny after moving from The Back Forty house on the prairies back to Vancouver. So we found ourselves a pretty little, open floorplan, sunny and bright bachelor apartment to rent in the heart of Vancouver’s West End – our favourite neighbourhood.

We had lived in the West End before leaving Vancouver three years previously to work for a hotel group in Northern BC and Alberta. After two years with the hotel, we moved to Manitoba to start a restaurant with a couple of family members (on my side).

You know how they say you should never get into business with family? It’s really true. But that could be a whole other blog! Suffice it to say that my husband and I lost our shirts and our self respect, and came crawling back to Vancouver where we now knew we belonged. (At that particular point in time, anyway). We were broke and heart broken. We had to sell stuff just to buy food and pay rent. It was the lowest point in both our lives.

But the hardest times in our lives are the times we learn and grow the most.

From the time we left Vancouver to the time we returned three years later, we experienced a series of nightmarish moves. Moving was not a new experience to either of us. My husband and I both had moved many times before we’d met. And then we fell in love and moved in together. The two of us had an incredible amount of stuff that we crammed into a one-bedroom apartment and a storage locker. Then we moved all that stuff up north to a large duplex. The place was so big, we had to get more stuff. All that stuff came with us to Northern Alberta where we moved into a three bedroom townhouse with a basement. More stuff was added. When we decided to move to Manitoba we sold, we thought at the time, a lot of stuff. We also donated stuff. But we still had way too much.

The move to Manitoba was the worst and most stressful move of all time. The movers lost several boxes of our stuff, one of which contained a priceless family heirloom that can never be replaced. A lot of what wasn’t lost was smashed to shit. I spent many days crying over lost and broken stuff. I tried fighting with the moving company but they denied it all. I reported them to the Better Business Bureau, but that didn’t get any of my stuff back.

After a long process of grieving, I began to realize that stuff caused me a whole lot of heartache. And that was kind of ridiculous. It was only stuff, after all. I began to feel that stuff burdened me. I felt so terrible about the stuff that was lost. Precious stuff. Irreplacable stuff. Stuff. I needed to let it go. It was killing me. Stuff was killing me!

Lucky for me, my husband felt the same. We were completely on the same page with wanting to go tiny. So we purged. We purged. A lot. (More about that later).

When we got back to Vancouver, our goal was to find a bachelor apartment. And we found one in a dog-friendly building! Which is no easy feat in Vancouver, or any Canadian city for that matter. But that could be a whole other blog.

This blog is about that tiny apartment we found: a little place in Vancouver’s West End, just a block from colourful and wondrous Davie Street, on the sixth floor of a 9 story concrete 70s special, facing English Bay. It’s just under 450 square feet. When we first moved in, because we’d sold almost all our furniture before we got here, we had to furnish it mostly with free stuff from Craigslist. Amazingly it looked nice enough that our landlord asked us if he could get a photographer in to take pictures for the building’s website! Really!

That was two years ago. And that was just the beginning…

2 thoughts on “The burden of stuff

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