About me

Hey internet: I made it through January and most of February!

Sorry I’ve taken so long to write a sequel to my resolution post (as I’m sure all ten or so of my followers have been eagerly awaiting it, right?). The dead of winter has its icy grip on me, so it’s basically been a ginormous accomplishment to even get out of bed and make it to work every day (Thanks, S.A.D.). Nevertheless, thanks to coffee and the fact that my power cord reaches my bed, I am committed to producing something today.

I have been living in my tiny apartment for about a month and half now and I have to say…I love it! It has been by far the easiest move I’ve ever done as most of my larger belongings fit into two SUV loads and thanks to my ever-so-patient boyfriend, I have been slowly moving the rest of my belongings from his place over the past month. Now finally, aside from a few oddball items like a cello and a yoga ball, everything of importance to me is here.

I measured the space and my apartment comes in at a whopping 250 square feet, cabinets, sinks, and bathtub included. In order to make this space feel like more than just a bedroom with a kitchen, I decided to invest in some appropriate furnishings:

– Queen size lofted bed: $160 (Craigslist)
(Dinner for boyfriend after he assembled lofted bed: $40)

-Compact but cozy mattress to allow for more space up top: $140 (Amazon)

– Space-saving vertical dresser: $90 (Ikea)
(Drinks for myself after assembling dresser: $15)

Covered litter box for kitty so her business doesn’t get in mine: $20

All other furnishings: ~$100 (Craigslist and hand-me-downs)

So, including the nurturing of wounded souls involved in the assembly of frustrating furniture, outfitting my new place cost around $460. Not too bad when you consider professionally renovating a space generally costs thousands. For someone as poor as me however, it did set me back a little when combined with security deposit and first month’s rent.

Here’s a visual of the most important part of my apartment, my giant lofted bed:

IMG_3505

And yes, that’s me awkwardly hiding underneath it. The walls are much less bare now and the area below the bed has been turned into a micro-living room. I have one of those papasan chair cushions and throw pillows on the floor as a stand-in for a couch. I also have a TV and shelves down there. All-in-all it’s a great, cozy little space. Lita’s litter box is hidden in the “basement”, aka the area below the little platform that leads up to my bed. I also keep some odds and ends under there like bags and my camera equipment. Lita seems to like the space. She loves using the bed as pride rock to survey her kingdom from above and the fact that there’s nowhere for me to hide when she wants to sit on my lap.

Although I feel like my apartment is pretty much the perfect size to house everything I own, and in fact I’d like to own fewer things, there are some drawbacks to the space:

1. The biggest problem with my tiny apartment is the tiny kitchen. I love to cook and I also love to save money by cooking big meals and eating the leftovers all week. Although I love my gas stove, there’s just not a lot of room for heavy-duty meal prep.

2. I wish I had a closet. Although my clothes fit quite well in my pseudo-closet (a clothes wrack on the opposite wall to my bed with a smell chest of drawers underneath it), I just don’t like the way it looks. I would much rather have all my clothes tucked away in a tiny closet, mostly for aesthetic reasons but also for the extra storage space a closet tends to provide.

3. It’s not the greatest for entertaining. My micro-living room is great for two, three if you want to get cozy with each other, but that’s about it. With it being the winter and me being broke, I feel this is a pretty big drawback. But hey, you can’t have it all. With the money I’m saving on rent and fuel I do feel a little more ok going out somewhere to have fun.

4. The final drawback doesn’t have to do with the space exactly but HOLY SHIT the electric bill! I knew it would be somewhat rough because I live in balls-cold Michigan, where the polar vortex means single digits for days in a row. I also knew it would be rough because this place has an electric baseboard heater. However I was not expecting it to be over $100/month (and it is!). For someone who obsessively unplugs everything when she’s done using it, this was a shock. However, I know I just have to make it until spring and then I’ll be alright. I detest air conditioning.

At the risk of this post becoming self-indulgent I will try to wrap things up by addressing my other big change of 2015. So far, not having a car has been a mixture of pure delight and pure frustration. On an average day, I watch hundreds of people try to make their way through poorly-plowed roads in rush hour traffic and I count myself extremely lucky that I bus to work. On the weekends however, I curse my lack of mobility for limiting how often I can see my friends and doubling the amount of time it takes to run errands. All things considered though I’d say it is most certainly a win. There is absolutely no way I could afford a car payment right now, let alone gas or insurance. When the outside world stops being an icy prison of misery and slush, things will also be better as I love biking and am prepared to make it my primary form of travel. I’ve also yet to join Zipcar for lack of any real need, but it’s another option to add once I decide it’s worth paying the small monthly fee.

So there you have it, my preliminary reviews of living carless and in a tiny space. I know I am in no way the first to make these choices, but I believe the more people document their experiences with somewhat “alternative lifestyles”, the more people will see that we don’t all have to live the same way. I do sincerely wish there were more options for people who would like to live the way I do. Out of all my apartment searching, this was the only unit I found under 400 square feet and it is by pure luck that it is situated right on a major bus route and close to my work. But perhaps if the demand for these spaces goes up, developers will rise to meet that demand.

My next goal is in the works right now and it’s making my lifestyle as waste-free as possible. I already have a good jump on it with habits I picked up in Costa Rica but I still have a bit of a ways to go. I plan on making more, in-depth posts of my living experiences in the coming months. Also, feel free to leave a comment if you have something interesting to share: suggestions for me, your experience with “resolutions” or tiny living, whatever!

Categories: About me | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Poverty, Independence, and Simple Living: How my life is changing in 2015.

The conclusion to yet another earthly rotation about the sun has everyone busy making grandiose “New Year’s Resolutions”. While I recognize the inanity of making weighty promises to yourself just because you drank a lot of champagne and put up a brand new puppy calendar, I can’t help but notice this is the second year in a row in which the new year actually marks one or more important changes in my life. Last year it was pretty obvious: two days before the ball dropped I hopped on a plane for Costa Rica and didn’t return to the states (or the “civilized” world) for nearly 3 months. This year’s changes are a tad more subtle but in my mind, equally worth noting:

Epic 2015 change #1: I have no car. To my close friends who may be reading, this shouldn’t come as a surprise as I’ve been preparing for this for months. Although my “decision” to go car-less isn’t so much a decisions as it is a budget necessity (*hint* that means I’m really poor), I recognize it wouldn’t be possible if some aspects of my life were different. Which leads me to my next thing…

Epic 2015 change #2: I’m moving into my own place. Yes, my dream of living alone with my cat like a miserable spinster is finally coming true. Before you start wondering how someone making $1 above minimum wage could possibly afford to live alone, let me tell you some things about my new digs. First, my rent will be my only large expense. As I stated above, I have NO CAR. That means no car payment, no insurance payment, no gas money, etc etc. In addition, my only utility costs will be electricity and wifi. Even still, my rent needed to be cheap so that I can continue to save at least some of my money. Lucky for me, I was fortunate enough to find what I’m referring to as a “micro-studio” in East Lansing, just down the road from where I work!

So what exactly do I mean by micro-studio? Well, my soon-to-be apartment complex is essentially a converted motel. There are 30 units, all “studios” but basically motel rooms converted into apartments by adding an oven/stove and normal sized refrigerator. The studios are probably around 240 square feet (I’m not exactly sure, because I didn’t really care what the square footage was once I saw the place in person). Does this sound awful to you? It may have to me several years ago but current me says it’s a dream come true. Rather than going on a pages-long rant explaining why I feel this way, I’ll try to do this BuzzFeed style (that’s what the kids like these days, right?) and create an eye-catching list! Oo! Ah!

5 Reasons Why I’m Excited To Have a Tiny Studio Apartment

  1. It is mine and mine alone.

In a perfect world full of rainbows, unicorns, and free slurpee re-fills, I could afford a slightly nicer, larger apartment. However, in this reality I am a broke recent college grad. My high-anxiety, perfectionist nature makes it difficult for me to find satisfaction living with virtually anyone. In almost every housing situation I’ve experienced in the past several years, I have found myself unhappy for at least part of the time. That’s not to say I’ve never had good roommates, I have. But I have never stopped wanting to live alone since the concept of doing so entered my mind.

With almost every other one-bedroom or studio apartment in the East Lansing/Lansing area running upwards of $600/month, I always assumed I’d have to stick to the roommate model. Well, I suppose I will still have a roommate…but she’s fluffy and poops in a box.

  1. It will help me experience life without a car.

Since I turned 16 I have had almost constant access to a car. Being a spoiled suburban white kid whose dad works for one of the big three auto companies, I’ve never had a problem getting from one place to another. Although I’ve always been concerned about fuel efficiency and ozone action days, recently I’ve wanted to do more. In my mind, individual car ownership does not have a big place in an efficient, sustainable future version of our society. Although I recognize the necessity of owning a car if you live in the country or urban sprawl with no reliable public transportation, I do not for “city folk” such as myself. I think improved public transit along with car and ride-sharing services such as Zipcar, Uber, and Lyft are the future. I also believe in the health and well-being benefits associated with having a more physically engaging commute (walking to a bus stop, biking to work, etc.). I think if you truly believe in something, you better be willing to take the plunge and do it yourself. Thus, although my decision to go car-less may be predominantly a financial one, it has the added bonus of fulfilling a personal goal.

  1. I love independence.

I am beyond lucky to have the greatest family, friends, and boyfriend in the world, all of whom I have leaned on many times in my life. I do not expect to ever reach a point where I won’t need to lean on someone occasionally; humans are social animals after all. But I like the idea of being responsible for as much of my own living situation as I can be.

  1. I hate stuff.

This is a rather recent development in my life that was truly solidified when I lived out of a small duffel bag for 3 months in Costa Rica and barely missed a damn thing. “Stuff” is horrible. We, as human beings, need certain things to survive. Beyond those things, we “need” certain other things to lead healthy, successful, happy lives. Beyond that, we accumulate stuff. Almost everyone is guilty of it including me. It almost seems as if stuff appears out of nowhere, suddenly occupying space on your bookshelves, crammed into cabinets in your bathroom, or taking up precious space in your garage. I hate stuff partially because of my aforementioned high-anxiety, perfectionist personality. Clutter gives me anxiety and the more stuff you have, the more clutter you inevitably live with.

However, it goes way beyond that. I truly believe the more stuff I have, the less happy I am. There are certain exceptions to this rule of course. There are things I own and would purchase again and again that I most certainly do not need. These are things such as books, electronic devices, musical instruments, and outdoor and art supplies, which I perceive as enriching my life. Most other forms of stuff however I see as vampiric in nature. Stuff lures you in when it’s shiny and new, promising a break from the monotony of daily life at the low low price of $19.99. It then grows old and loses luster. As it drains your paycheck it also drains your ability to appreciate what is actually important in life, and instead feeds into an insatiable need for the next cool thing. To me, unnecessary stuff in my living space is a constant reminder of my failures to spend my money, time, and energy enjoying experiences instead of buying into our culture of consumption. With a small living space it is virtually impossible to accumulate stuff. If something comes in, something else must go out. I have already donated several boxes worth of clothes and other items and my intention is to continue to slim my possessions down to the things I need or otherwise cherish.

  1. This is still a pampered life.

Even with my meager paycheck, I recognize that I am still living leaps and bounds above the standard for most people that inhabit this earth. I believe if we could all learn to live with a little less, the tremendous inequality displayed across the world might start to dissipate.

So that’s it for me. These changes aren’t so much “resolutions” as they are ambitious plans that may or may not go the way I envision. I do have resolutions but those are always personal things I keep to myself. I encourage people to make lifestyle goals and resolutions all the time, not just at the end of a calendar year. Thinking of ways you can improve your own life, as well as the world around you is refreshing and gives us hope for the future. Implementing these ideas in the real world is empowering. What will you do differently this year?

Categories: About me, Lifestyle, Money, Sustainability | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

My Beef With Humanity

Have a Coke

I took the above photo while hiking on the most breathtakingly gorgeous beach I’ve ever seen, Playa Llorona in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica.

This seemingly lonely Coke bottle was actually found just meters from a giant trash heap on the beach that contained a myriad of man-made items, chiefly plastics. If you’d like to see the photos I took of this scene click here and click through to the right. Although our guides weren’t entirely certain of the origin of all the trash, they were nearly positive it was not a dump, as the national park is miles away from any residential areas. What was apparently going on was ocean currents occurring a certain way that a lot of the crap that gets put into the ocean, in Costa Rica or elsewhere, ended up here. I even hypothesized that some of the trash may have migrated there from the great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Needless to say, I found the scene disturbing. I continued the rest of my hike with a lump in my throat and a feeling of dark hopelessness creeping up my spine. Here I was what felt like a lightyear from civilization, taking a 10 hour hike…*ahem* I’ll say that again, a TEN HOUR hike out into the wilderness to see a corner of the earth not yet subject to human “progress”. What do I find? Trash. And it wasn’t just in the heap. I saw discarded containers every so often as we walked. I saw small fragments of plastic among oystercatcher (a bird similar to a sandpiper) eggs. I saw man-made debris just feet from a sea turtle nest. To say I was shocked would be dishonest because I have long known how far the problem of human wastefulness has stretched. However to be physically confronted with it was something I was just not emotionally prepared for.

So this is my beef with humanity. Waste. Not just any waste, but casual, pervasive, even encouraged waste. In our industrial era we have “progressed” so far yet taken care of so few of the problems that come with growth. Our culture of consumerism constantly encourages new purchases, while offering limited to no constructive options for what to do with the old “stuff”. To use the words of the director at the lodge I volunteered at, “I buy something, I enjoy the contents of this package, this thing I have purchased. But when I am done with the packaging or the item it becomes society’s problem, not mine”. Here is the underlying problem. Every thing that is produced, every thing that is purchased has externalities. These go all the way from enabling childhood labor to fossil fuel depletion (in the case of plastics for example) to the creation of trash when the item is no longer needed. Currently, these externalities are factored into neither the cost nor the decision to buy such a product, for most people at least. Because there is no personal ill effect of this waste, people go on purchasing until their heart’s content (hint: which is never) and there are oceanic garbage islands the size of large states.

Now I’m no idiot. I do not expect people to see images of trash heaps and lonely Coke bottles on beaches and suddenly develop a bleeding heart like mine and vow to overhaul their lifestyle. Not only is this a lot to ask of an animal, considering we are more or less programmed to think in terms of our own personal success, not that of our surrounding environment, but it’s also just not a practical means of changing an entire culture. The problem is not necessarily that people suck and I hate them (this is still up for debate), it’s that the evolution of our culture has completely ran away with the idea that material wealth equals success and happiness.

On a separate outing during my volunteer time in Costa Rica, I visited a coworker’s home. He was, by American standards, quite poor. His house consisted of two small bedrooms and an open-air front room and his shower was a bucket of water with a bowl to dip inside and pour over your head. He is also one of the most genuinely pleasant and seemingly happy people I have ever met. I say seemingly happy because I believe it would be inappropriate for me to decide whether someone is truly happy or not, but this guy sure acted like it. To avoid sounding cliché, I’ll assume you get the picture here. No, most people who live in abject poverty are probably not happy. But I tend to believe that once a certain standard of living is attained, more wealth and more stuff isn’t really going to do that much for your actual well-being.

The bottom line here is something big needs to change in the next few decades about how we as human beings view happiness and our place in the world. Before it’s too late. To me, finding a plastic graveyard on Playa Llorona convinced me for some time it’s already too late. In the interest of preserving my own will to live however I reserve a bit of hope that we may still have a chance to turn this around. I’m starting with my own life because really that’s all I can do right now. How will you be a drop in the bucket for positive cultural change?

Categories: About me, Environment, Humanity, Sustainability, Waste | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What I’m All About

There are a lot of reasons to start a blog.

Some people blog because they have genuinely interesting, intelligent things to say.

Other people blog because they think they have interesting, intelligent things to say.

Still others blog simply because they like writing and find it an enjoyable use of their time.

I like to think my intention sits somewhere among the three of these reasons. I can’t rest solely on the first because I’m not actually certain the things I have to say are interesting but I tend to think at least some of them are. However I am certain I enjoy writing and am starting to think it may be a better method of expressing myself than forcing my friends and family to listen to my daily rants. This way, people can choose if they want to listen or not.

Now that I’ve explained why I’m doing this, I can get on to the title of this post. The truth is, I’m 22 and I’m not sure what I’m all about. If there are any 22 year-olds out there who are sure, please tell them to email me immediately so we can discuss their earth-shattering revelations.

Who I am up through this point has been shaped by a bunch of seemingly random phenomena that may or may not have a lot to do with cats. Regardless, in the past several years I have lived through a set of events, and undergone a slew of changes that have brought me to the crux of a very interesting point in my life. What I mean by this is I find myself discontented with the majority of things so-called “average” life has to offer. I can blame this partly on my education in natural resource science, which confirmed my suspicions that humankind is in fact destroying our only planet. I can also blame this partly on my decision to skip out on “real life” for 3 months in favor of a very simple existence in a Costa Rican lowland tropical rainforest. Wherever the blame lies, I can’t be too upset about it because although these decisions have often led me to a state of mind plagued by worry, depression, and hopelessness, they have also given me a great sense of direction in my life.

Direction is a funny thing in the context of life because if you’re down with Darwinian biology (and I am) you’re at least somewhat aware that life has no direction. Evolution is not a means to and end and natural selection is not trying to achieve anything. I’m even a fan of entropy and chaos theory, generally believing things don’t happen for a reason and the whole of the universe is one big cosmic clusterfuck.

Ironically, this is precisely why direction and purpose are important to me. Being one of the only self-aware organisms on Earth, we as humans have the rather special yet excruciating task of deciding what we want to do every day. As irritating as this can be at times, I believe the ability to find purpose and meaning in complete chaos is nothing short of fantastic. So what this really comes down to is while I’m floating around in beautiful, hideous, cosmic chaos I want to make something of it. This doesn’t mean I believe I can “change the world” exactly (shh, don’t tell my 8-year-old self) and it definitely doesn’t mean I was destined for some specific purpose. It means I choose to live my life in a way that I see as not only fit to satisfy myself but in a way that might, at some point in time, make someone go “huh well that was an interesting way to go about it”.

Categories: About me, Philosophy | Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress.com.