I have been blogging here for about four months now, and have never told you about the dream my husband and I are living. I’m not going to pussy-foot around it; I know the exact reason why I have avoided this post.
I was afraid of losing my credibility.
Why? Because we’re not living the stereotypical dream life: driving expensive cars, living in a big house, having tons of extra money to spend on gadgets, vacations, and fashionable clothes.
None of that stuff matters to us. We are both into living simply. Jerry mostly just doesn’t like to bother with all that, where as for me, it comes out of an acute awareness that part of my calling as a citizen of this planet is to be a good steward over it. In other words, I believe strongly in living as sustainably as possible.
Since I preach everywhere how fear interferes with dream fulfillment, I decided I needed to get over this fear and be real with you.
Just to be clear…
I’m not sure, but I get the feeling that some family members think that we have chosen to live super-simply because we don’t have enough in investments to keep up with our prior standard of living, when Jerry had a job and we lived in the suburbs.
Au contraire. We could have easily afforded to stay in Plano, where we paid over $3200 in property taxes our last year there, $63 a month for municipal utilities, an average of $170 a month for electricity, and $63 a month for Internet service. But we were tired of the city life, tired of not having much freedom when it came to choosing sustainable options, tired of getting a letter from the city in the mail most every year that we’d better cut the weeds in our alley, or else!
Jerry’s dream was to quit his stressful job and live somewhere quiet and picturesque where he could work on creative endeavors at will and whim. I wanted that, too, but even more I wanted to be able to breathe fresh air, have a big enough property so that Benjamin would be able to safely “free range”, and have a lot less house to clean and a lot more space to garden.
We chose to move the (smallish) mountains of southeast Oklahoma, where land costs much less than it does in Texas. We bought the five acres in late 2011, and moved there the end of January 2014.
It will never be perfect, but it’s pretty close.
Right now, we are living in a tiny house.
Time to ‘fess up: it’s a Home Depot Tuff Shed that Jerry finished out with insulation, vinyl flooring, drywall, and a big loft. The plan was originally to build an earthbag house ourselves last summer and live in the twenty-one foot travel trailer we bought in the fall of 2013 for just a few months, until the house was finished. Then we decided, since we were going to need a sizeable storage outbuilding, to have this shed built so we could start collecting rainwater (more on that in a moment).
A few weeks later, we were up here for a weekend, and I realized that I was going to go crazy if I had to actually live in the travel trailer for more than a few weeks. Benjamin had no space of his own, no room for most of his toys. Jerry and I had no privacy. We were constantly bumping up against each other’s butts in order to get from one part of the trailer for another. Not to mention the fact that the winter of 2014 was miserably cold (remember?) and therefore so was the trailer.
So if you think living in a sixteen-by-twelve-foot shed sounds redneck, it felt like a mansion when we finally moved into it. It has a 132-square foot loft that serves as Benjamin’s bedroom, nearly doubling the space.
Which brings us back to why we’re not in an earthbag house. Turns out it’s not easy to figure out the exact ratio of fill material for the bags, nor to find out where to get the material. That made me sad, because one of my big dreams was to be able to live in an energy-efficient house made from sustainable materials.
After thinking and talking about it, we decided on an earth-sheltered house. Thanks to the concrete, it’s not nearly as sustainable, but will be energy-efficient. It had been one of the options we’d talked about early on, and a couple of years before we moved I had found a company near Austin, Texas that has been building earth-sheltered homes since the 1980’s.
We hope to be moved into our 576-square-foot home by the end of the summer.
I know, that will still sound tiny to some of my readers. Maybe if I told you that I have heard of at least two families of six that are living in less than 400 square feet of space, it would put things in perspective.
But, listen! I loathe housecleaning, and I love being outdoors. For me, a small house on an acreage isn’t a constraint, it’s wonderful.
Other crazy decisions that have nothing to do with our financial situation
We do not have, and will not have in the new house, running water. I’ll talk about that decision at length in a later post – but this is why we needed a building to collect rainwater.
We do not have a conventionally-sized oven/stove, a refrigerator, a washing machine, or a clothes dryer.
We tried to do without the Internet, but…it…was…too..hard. And I wanted to start blogging again.
Mine and Jerry’s bed consists of a bunch of afghans and quilts stacked together. During the day they are folded into thirds and sit on top of a wooden platform against the south wall and act as a couch. At night we move the living room furniture to all corners of the shed, unfold makeshift mattress, rearrange the pillows and covers, and voila!: the bed.
This will change once we are in the new house, but except for having an actual bed and being able to have a bit more furniture and storage room (I can’t WAIT to have a decent place to store our clothes!), we will keep living as we do.
Are you still with me?
If you are, thank you. I’m going to assume you get, at least a little bit, where I’m coming from. Not everybody wants to, or even “should”, live like we have chosen to. And we are not living super-simple because we have to, but because it is part of our dream life.
We have no debt or jobs, eat well, and own and live on five beautiful wooded acres. Benjamin loves finding critters and climbing trees. I love not having to raise him by myself all week long – and I love having the time to do a lot of writing.
Jerry is happy not to have to work for someone else, ecstatic that he no longer has to mow a lawn!
We have a couple of neighbors who do target-shooting or hunting once in a while – none of us likes the sound of guns going off – and it’s a pain to have to drive two and a half hours to get to a Whole Foods Market (which we currently do once a month). It’s not perfect. Life never is.
But we are free, and we’re happy and healthy. This is living.