Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Perks of Downsizing

In 2007 we built a teensy cabin about 1.5 hours north of Wasilla (of Sarah Palin fame) for recreational purposes.  In 2009 we sold or gave away all of our belongings (except for clothes, vehicles and outdoor gear), rented out our 1600 sq ft house in Wasilla, and moved into the 384 sq ft cabin full time.  Getting rid of our possessions was quite possibly the grandest high I've ever experienced.  As each item found a new home I enjoyed a freeing lightness that made me feel like my future was wide open.  Apply for a teaching job in Saudi Arabia?  Why not?  Spend the summer learning Spanish in Nicaragua?  I'll buy tickets tomorrow!

small cabin alaska

The perks of downsizing:

1. More money for travel. Since moving, we've been able to take at least two international trips a year, with plenty of domestic travel sprinkled in.  For example, our 2012 trips (which would not be possible without someone else paying our mortgage):

  • one month in Costa Rica
  • ten days in Florida
  • two weeks in the Dominican Republic (kt)
  • one month in Kodiak ("working" at a friend's fishing lodge)
  • ten days in Washington and California
  • five days in Seattle (hello, Madonna concert!)
  • three weeks in Mexico
2. I don't have to buy anything to spruce up or re-decorate the house; nothing else will fit.

3. Heating costs.  Normally a huge expense for Alaskans, we have used 130 gallons of fuel in four years.  Our main heating source is derived from the dead trees we harvest and burn in our wood stove. 

4.  Cleaning.  In our old house I spent every Saturday doing domestic chores.  I despised this, and tried to make it fun by drinking cocktails (until the vacuum fell down the stairs and punched a hole in the wall).  Now cleaning takes thirty minutes, every couple of weeks, tops.

There are some drawbacks that we've learned to cope with.  

1.  No running water means no bathroom, no shower, no faucet, no laundry.  However, our energy bill is minimal without these extra expenses.

2. My closet.  It's tiny.  Even in our little cabin I've managed to maintain some pathetic consumer tendencies.  Ugggh, it's so sad to admit, but I love clothes.  I dream of a real closet more than a real bathroom.  

3.  Sometimes weekends are spent chainsawing trees, collecting logs, and splitting wood.  

4.  Hosting visitors.  TH built a man-cave that serves as an extra bedroom, but we can no longer invite my entire extended family to visit.  

We've talked about building a very small house (less than 800 square feet, including garage) on our property, to elicit more friend/family visits.  Our inspiration is this incredible book:

nano houses

TH has also been recently inclined to build a "hobbit hole".  We have a friend in Fairbanks who has been constructing really cool earthen structures, using half a railroad culvert as a frame.  The benefits of such a dwelling include minimal heating expenses (the earth is a fantastic insulator), reduced material costs, no landscape disruptions, and the coolness factor.  

What do you think?  Could you live in a hobbit hole? 


  1. I couldn't agree more - I love how getting rid of possessions really can change your approach to life and the future. Lovely to read this x

  2. Thanks, for your comment Frankie! I think your blog is just beautiful; I appreciate that you stopped by mine.