Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Accidentally-On-Purpose Minimalists

How It Started
My husband Steve and I did not start out to be minimalist, off-grid, simple-living advocates: it just happened. Life shaped us this way. There were of course many factors and influences involved in our evolution into this lifestyle: economy, desire to stay out of debt, available resources, and having a large family are some of those factors. We are not really stuck on any one definition on what being a minimalist means, we have simply tried to learn what would work for us in the situations we were in.

We've Always Lived and Worked Small
I suppose we have been living this lifestyle for a long time. We have only lived in smaller homes. Steve has only had small shops to run his business out of. That has forced us to learn to make small spaces do big things for us.
 When we were first married and up until we had three children, we lived in a 890 square foot house without a basement. We then moved into a small, older home for just one year which was maybe a little smaller, but had a basement that was partially finished. That gave us more storage, laundry facilities downstairs, and an office and sewing space. From there we moved into the house we have rented for over 14 years. It is 930 square feet. The basement was almost totally unfinished when we moved in, but with an agreement with our landlady, we have finished the basement over the years. We also had five more children over those years. That makes us 10 people in our little house....with often many friends over on the weekends! It is busy, loud and fun. The only way to survive with sanity is to have limited stuff.

I stress that point: Limited Stuff (aka: Crap).

As our family grew, I learned how to cut back and deal with limited space. It was indeed a process. While in some ways we were forced into simple living by our circumstances, it is something that we have embraced and delighted in along the journey: thus, Accidentally-On-Purpose Minimalists.

Now We Are Moving To A Real Small Home
That process is what has enabled me to take this next step without it feeling like the end of the world. In fact, I welcome it! I would also add that the incredibly long time it has taken us to build this little house, has added to the feeling of anticipation for us all! Our plan right now is to move early this spring (2015). Our two oldest kids, ages 20 and 18 will stay here and keep renting our present house. The remaining 8 of us will move into our tiny, 500 square foot (plus loft), size home. We will be adding on another 500 or so square feet with another partial loft area. It will have two bedrooms, one bathroom (with a double out-house outside), large kitchen, cozy living and dining areas, and two fireplaces for heating. While it will require creativity to manage with one bathroom, and limited space, it will be more than sufficient for our needs.

How We Ended Up Off-Grid
Our choice to go with solar power was also an accidental choice. We have always been intrigued by solar, but would have probably just brought power in anyway. However, the quoted price to bring power onto our land ended up being so high, that we thought we would pursue solar after all since the initial cost will be the same.
Wood heat was a natural choice since our new house is in the middle of timber country.
Propane over natural gas was a big debate for us. We finally settled on propane. The initial cost of getting propane set up is much less than bringing in natural gas. It would take a lot of consumption to neutralize this difference.
Lastly, water is a problem where our land is located. Most folks either a dugout for water with a water filtration system, or a cistern that you have to fill from a water station (there is one just 5 miles away). We plan on going with the cistern. The dugout is a lot of work and money to get set up, and there is regular maintenance required. Thy cistern will be fairly demanding as well as we will either have to get a trailer and tank to fill it ourselves, or pay someone with a water truck to come fill it. However, the initial cost is much less and we felt it would be the better choice since there is talk of a water line being installed down our road within the next five years.

We are looking forward to seeing how this all works out...and I've started packing to move!