Monday, June 16, 2014

Living the Simple Life - On My Own

Mike is back in the City of Angels finishing up our Vanagon, and so I have a whole giant 1600 square foot home to myself and the pets. It is far too large for one person, I've decided. In fact, Mike and I decided together that we could live in 900-1100 square feet quite happily and comfortably - even smaller if we had a garage/shop or outdoor space. We actually prefer it - we hate not having each other within inside-voice-range, and with a huge house, we're not on the same sleeping/waking schedule anymore, which we also dislike. I used to wake up to Hall and Oates and the smell of coffee. Now I can't hear or smell anything from the 2nd floor. I guess all those years in the loft changed us. But I do love doors. When you have a bunny, you learn to love doors.

I made SJP a "digging box" and it is her new favorite pasttime. It is also extremely noisy and messy!

Having your significant other leave you for a couple weeks will teach you a lot about yourself. Especially if you live in a small town, where you have no friends (yet). I miss talking to Mike.

One positive thing I learned, is that I am quite determined when I need to be, and that I can lift a lot more weight than I thought. Our sleeper couch arrived last week from IKEA and despite the instructions (which indicated you needed three people to help you put it together), I put it together all by myself! It took me 3 hours, but hey, it's done.

Beginning, middle and end photos:

The couch arrived in 3 big, heavy boxes.

It required some flipping upside down and sideways after this stage, but those IKEA bolts held up OK!

Finished product. Those little tabs pull out a trundle part that completes the queen size bed.

I also found out that if Mike isn't here to drag me out of the house, I'll stay in it. I've been reading The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World, watching deliciously awful James Franco movies, working on a short story, and indulging my Postcrossing habit. Postcrossing is this program where you send and receive postcards from around the world. It's pretty fun, very non-committal, and you can do it as much or as little as you like; for every one you send out, you theoretically get one back. It only costs you the postcard and postage ($1.15 International and 34 cents domestic). Mike read a couple of the postcards I received and said it's like "pay it forward." There's an element of kindness and positivity when you write something personal to a stranger in the Ukraine, or Estonia, or Brazil, and forget politics and country lines and economics. It reminds you that people are people, and they live and breathe and suffer and love, just like you. I love it; it appeals to every aspect of the writer in me.

Also, people love receiving fun stamps, so I get to be a dork and plaster tons of these, in variations, onto postcards:

Just a few stamps from my current horde!

One nice thing about living alone, is you get to eat whatever you want, without compromising. This means I've been eating mostly vegetarian, and enjoying all the local produce!

fresh nectarines and cottage cheese

Oregon strawberries!

And, I treated myself to a sushi lunch, which was not half bad - 5 pieces of nigiri and a 6 piece roll - and SUPER cheap:

50 cents for tea and no sales tax!

A few people have been asking this week, how are we making ends meet? I totally get that money is a major factor in making any sort of change. Rather than get into the nitty gritty details, I'll just start by saying that you have to make a list. Make a list of every single thing you can think of that is a monthly expense, like utilities, car insurance, health insurance, cell phones, haircuts, clothes, pet food, toothpaste, etc. I personally made a spreadsheet, so it would be easier to total costs.

Then, month by month, we started cutting things out. Paid off the cars, got rid of cable, cut down the cell phone plan. Stopped buying clothes, ate out less, made do with what we had, rather than getting something new. Used kitchen towels instead of paper towels. Little things added up. We cut stuff out to the point that our monthly expenses were around $1,500.00 (not including rent) or less. 

Why do this? Well, for one, it's easier to save up $1,500.00 for monthly expenses, rather than say, $2K or even $3K. Over the course of the year, that can be $6,000 or even $18,000. If you have to save less, you can make your change sooner. Also, if you get used to living on less - step by step, that's the key - you won't feel like you're making a huge sacrifice when you're, well, living on less. Like, Mike and I can't even remember what it was like when we DID have cable. And now that we've gotten better at cooking, our standards for eating out are a little higher, so it ends up being more fun to just stay at home. These days, I wouldn't dream of wiping my hands on paper towels when I have a batch of fluffy kitchen towels to use. And I've grown to love the ease of having an older, reliable car that's totally paid off...especially since my boyfriend's a mechanic.

It took THREE years to get to that point, so it was not a quick process. But once we did it, it gave us options. Options are freedom. And then by that time, we also had a little 890 square foot nest egg saved up, too. 

Thank you, nest egg.

In retrospect, if we did it without the nest egg (and no furry children), we would have done it like our friends Adam and Emily, who hit the road and never looked back. But we have furry kids that won't travel well. So the road might be our option after our cats and the bunny all pass on. 

Anyways, that's how we did it, in a nutshell. A combination of reassessment of our current lifestyle, step by step adjustments, and a big move. Like anything, sometimes it seem overwhelming or impossible, but it's the little tiny steps that get you there eventually. You CAN do it. You can do anything.