Category: Small House Living

The Stages of Eliminating Stuff

One of the pieces I didn't want to part with




We buy it, we find room for it in our homes, we clean it, pack it, move it, store it and sell it.

For most of us, stuff becomes an obsession until we no longer own it, but it owns us.

When we moved to Our Little House from a 1,100 square foot house packed with stuff, we realized just how little room we needed once we got down to it.

We were accidental in the Small House Movement, finding out through living it how freeing living without our stuff could be.

The problem became what to get rid of, as I not only had our stuff we had accumulated through 21 years of marriage, but we had my mother’s stuff, some of it sentimentally priceless.

Here’s the process by which we eliminated (and continue to eliminate) stuff from our lives:


Gulf Coast Beautiful and Tasty

The view outside of Gulf Shore Plantation Condominiums in Gulf Shores, AL

If you’ve read Living Large for any length of time, you know we’ve done a lot to adjust our lifestyle to help the environment and with food, our own health. We eat at home much more often than we did in the city and when I can get it, I’ve been buying organic meat, produce, eggs and milk for years now.

Some weeks before I left for a trip to Gulf Shores, Alabama last week, a story came out from Al Jazeera about deformities being found in some Gulf of Mexico seafood. Although unknown, the implication being that it is caused by the 2010 oil spill. Of course, the story was alarming.

I did some research into the issue and found a lot of information, none of it able to disprove the contention by scientists the government has hired that the seafood is safe. The contention is between some environmentalists and scientists saying the Gulf Coast, like Alaska after the Exxon Valdez spill, will need years of study to determine the full impact.

The FDA allows things into our food that we would find repulsive. Pink slime, for example, that ground up mixture of beef trimmings and ammonia in some ground meat products. The FDA also allows for a certain amount of insect parts in any processed food.

What they don’t allow are sick animals of any kind and especially not seafood.

Once one wades through the hype of the article by Al Jazeera, while raising questions about the full environmental impact of the spill, it doesn’t prove a thing but making the seafood unappetizing. What the article fails to mention is that any seafood found with illness today, just as it was prior to 2010, cannot enter our food system and even the article admits that the fish and shellfish found with problems make up a very small portion of the seafood caught.

It’s also true that the seafood coming from the Gulf is the most tested in the system.

I looked back at an article I did several years ago on how seafood is ultimately affected by anything anyone puts into the water, from pesticides in the Heartland that run down the Mississippi to the trash taken out to sea and dumped.

There are chemicals in all of our food, from factory farmed meats to the processed food we eat at restaurants. Our own bodies contain a huge amount of chemicals already that is naturally filtered. There’s no escaping it unless we do not eat anything.

So, here’s how I approached seafood on my trip: I ate lots of it.


The Woodsy Writer’s Life

Mark Twain


I read a lot of true crime and watch some of those true crime shows such as “Disappeared” on the network ID.

The other night, I watched a show about a woman who disappeared from New Orleans in December 2001, but her family didn’t realize she was missing until after her body was discovered after Hurricane Katrina in the fall of 2005.

How could this be, you might ask.

According to the program, her family, which included her sister and father, thought she had made good on a dream, having “gone to Europe to write her memoir” all that time.

The show, while terribly sad – also illustrates something that sometimes annoys us writers – the misconceptions of how difficult it is to actually get to the point of making a living from writing and the misunderstanding of what the writing life is really like for 99 percent of us that aren’t best-selling authors.

The fact that a poor woman could go missing for almost four years with her family believing  that she had just picked up and moved to Europe to write her memoir with no experience and very little money is symptomatic of what some people envision is the writer’s life.  Where did they think she was living? How was she supporting herself, given she hadn’t actually sold that memoir and had no prior writing experience?

A writer’s surroundings may provide us with our muse, but it will not provide us with the means to be there or the experience or talent if we didn’t have it before.


Tomatoes, Rats and Other News from Our Little House

Our cherry tomato plant started getting buds about a week ago.

This week, those buds morphed into teeny-tiny tomatoes.

I’m very pleased, but a little surprised. Although we put our container garden in about one month ahead of schedule due to the unusual warm
weather, I really didn’t expect buds and tomatoes this soon.

Particularly since it turned cooler the past couple of weeks. There were even a couple of nights I threw a sheet over them just in case of a frost.

In other news from the Party Deck this week, we’ve had to resort to exterminating some mice ad wood rats that have taken up residence in our basement and around the house.


Exploring old Tastes that are New Again

Photo courtesy of Brette Sember, No Pot Cooking


I wrote last week about getting my husband to try Beer Butt chicken, although I know he is not a roasted chicken fan.

This is actually the third thing in as many months Dale said he didn’t like that he ended up liking.

I think this is the beginning of a wave of things I might get him to try and I have the Cookbook Goddess Brette Sember to thank.

Her book, “The Parchment Paper Cookbook” (some recipes from the book are now available on Kindle for .99!) opened up this world of new tastes for Dale. Her recipe in the book on Brussels sprouts, which she blogged about on No Pot Cooking, was what got him hooked.

When I read the first line of her blog, “I’m married to a man who doesn’t much like Brussels sprouts…” and it ended up that her husband liked this recipe, I knew I had to give it a whirl.


Who do you Have to Convince of Small Space Living?

The Belle Writer's Studio solved our issues regarding work space and privacy

In case you missed it, Kent started a conversation over on his Tiny House Blog last month about how to convince your spouse to live in a small space.

I didn’t have time to join in the discussion, but wanted to make a few points about living small and making it work for two people.

For us, there was no “convincing,” neither of us actually thought we would be staying in a 480-square foot space and if we had known what we know now, I doubt either of us would have made the move.

Truthfully, I told my aunt a few months after we got here, “I cannot live in this small of a house!”


Our Earth Day Challenge

JT, your name was drawn for the copy of The Muffin Tin Cookbook. Please email me at with your snail mail address by Wednesday, April 11 to claim your book!

Iris in front of The Belle Writer's Studio

Breaking a lifetime of habits isn’t always easy and this we have found true with breaking the habit of using paper towels.

Our mothers came from the era of all of these wonderful inventions that would make life more convenient: Paper towels, microwavable meals, dishwashers, processed foods, dryers, dryer sheets, etc.

Of course, no one ever explained what impact these things would have on the environment, if not our health.


Satisfying end to a Work Weekend at Our Little House

This past weekend was a work weekend at Our Little House. We started on that to-do list and Dale had a few unplanned projects, such as replacing that heating element in the hot water tank.

The serviceman came out last Monday, spent all of 10 minutes on it, declared the solved the problem without draining the tank and checking the element.

It worked till Wednesday and we couldn’t get them back out here until this Monday, so Dale did it himself.

So much for my praise of extended warranties. We’ve decided we will not purchase them anymore on things Dale can fix, which is quite a lot.

Everyone knows around here that the well water is extremely hard, making it hard on heating elements in hot water tanks. Dale decided if the “Yahoo” who came out here didn’t know that much, he didn’t want him back (besides, I was getting tired of not having enough hot water to even shower).

Now we know the tank is cleaned to Dale’s standards and it’s been properly fixed and everyone from here to Chicago (where the store is based) knows we’ll never shop at their store again.

Dale also got the new window air unit installed and we needed it. We’ve had three days now of near 90 degree or over temps and high humidity.

My main job this weekend – in addition to getting our paperwork ready for the tax accountant and organizing The Belle Writer’s Studio – was planting our deck garden.