Posts Tagged With: independence

Checking in: Six Months of Tiny Living and Carlessness!

So remember that time I said I was going to try to write a little bit each week instead of waiting and then doing a massive thought dump? Well, I did try.

I’m not very good at keeping routines and as much as I liked writing regularly, it didn’t take long for me to become distracted by various other things. You see there are just too many fun activities out there to occupy my time. I have far too many hobbies and not enough (free) hours in the day. So much like meditation, yoga, and waking up early, my newfound habit sort of fell by the wayside. Furthermore since the golden, short time of summer is finally upon us Michiganders, I spend 90% of my day riding my bike, hiking around in woodlots and fields at work, and otherwise recreating outside. Thus, I’m not exactly sitting in front of my computer frequently.

Me, every week.

Me, every week.

Now that I’ve got my excuses out of the way, let’s get to the main purpose of this post. I am officially into month six of my simple living lifestyle design experiment, or whatever the hell you want to call it. It’s not so much an experiment as it is just my life…but since it’s all kind of new to me and more or less uncharted territory as far as my peers go, I’m taking note of the results. I have to say, so far things have gone remarkably well. I’m smitten with my tiny apartment, my job at the university is enjoyable, and the majority of the time I love being car-less. In the interest of organization and keeping up with themes, I’m going to construct this post much the same way I did my pre-move in post. Yup, cliché internet list style. Enjoy.

6 Triumphs and Failures of a Simplified Lifestyle

1. Living a 10-minute bike ride from work is amazing.

If you’re a sane human being you hate commuting to work. Who the hell wants to get early up just to sit in traffic with thousands of other miserable people? Getting to work is basically just like an extra punch in the face on top of the drudgery of the average 8-hour workday. However, biking or busing to work in 10-20 minutes has basically taken all the stress out of this experience. I find that I actually show up to work in a decent mood most days (well, now that it’s above 45 degrees in the morning that is).

2. Living in a small space has helped me prioritize my needs and wants.

When your kitchen is the size of a walk-in closet you really start to learn which cooking implements are really necessary. Spatula? For sure. Strange contraption that peels an orange for you? I’ll pass. I’ve gotten rid of a fair amount of stuff, from video games to clothes to toiletries and it honestly feels fantastic. Not only is a small living space incentive to purge (or not purchase in the first place) unneeded things, it’s a great (and valid) excuse as to why you can’t accept unwanted gifts or giveaways. “Sorry, I literally do not have room in my apartment for the most wasteful coffee maker known to mankind Karen but thanks for the biodegradable K-cups.”

3. Not having a car is surprisingly liberating.

You would think not having a car would be a hindrance, almost impossible depending on where you live. However, due to the fairly reliable bus system in my area, my love of biking and moderate distaste for driving, I’ve found it predominantly enjoyable. Finding parking, paying for parking, rush-hour traffic, wondering if I’d had one too many drinks to get my car home tonight…these are all things I miss worrying about literally 0 percent. My bike is also helping to keep me in great shape, even when I don’t bust my ass at work or take time to exercise. It’s nice not having to think about exercising, instead it’s just part of my existence. If my bike is reading this, I love you!

4. Not having a car is predictably constraining.

For out-of-city needs and adventures however, not having a car is undoubtedly frustrating. Things like the Greyhound, Michigan Flyer (basically a nicer Greyhound), and Zipcar are definitely better than nothing and I’m so glad they exist…but they don’t exactly close the gap. Zipcars get pricey when you need them for more than a few hours, and getting to and from a bus station can be an adventure in and of itself. Thus, I haven’t seen my out of town friends or traveled around Michigan nearly as much as I’d like and I do a lot of mooching off my boyfriend to get to metro Detroit. By far the worst part of this however is getting to medical appointments. My insurance blows and many of the doctors I need or would like to see are 30 minutes or more outside my city. It essentially makes the ordeal of seeing a doctor even more annoying, which I didn’t even know was possible honestly. Still though, I would take these relatively infrequent annoyances over stress and astronomical monthly payments any day.

5. Having more free time is a blast.

Until recently I was only working 32 hours a week. Due to my low rent and lack of car costs, this was more than enough to cover my expenses. However, due to my need to save for my impending move and the increase in workload that comes with field season, I am back up to full time. I was blissfully happy working 32 hours however. That extra day before the weekend hit was just what I needed to do the things I wanted to do, but was always too tired or burnt out to do during a normal 40-hour workweek. I found the extra free time gave me space to be creative, functional, and reflective, as well as relax. Saving money by living simply speaks volumes when it allows you to have this freedom. It’s unfortunate there aren’t more jobs out there that allow 32-hour workweeks.

6. Having less money to spend during it is a drag.

Chances are if you live 10 minutes from where you work and you take the bus everywhere, you live in a city. And chances are if you live in a city, you’re not exactly in range of a lot of free recreation options. Compared to the hiking, swimming, snorkeling, coconut husking free time of Costa Rica jungle living, free activities in the city are a little less enthralling. The ironic thing is that my lifestyle is what allows me to have this free time, yet that same lifestyle limits what I can do with it. Luckily I’ve found a few great low-cost hobbies that I genuinely love, like hula hooping in parks and hanging around campus on nice days. But the glory of sitting on sunny patios, drinking long islands and eating seasoned fries still beckons. Hence why I’ve eaten or drank about a third of the money I was supposed to save this month. Whoops.

So there you have it folks, a quick run through of the pros and cons of my lifestyle. I may also post some pictures of my tiny apartment (if I ever get around to taking them) in a future post, because I think it’s pretty rad. If I had to give the past six months a rating, I would probably say eight out of ten, do recommend. However, I’m still more than ready for a change…and I have a feeling fall is going to sneak up fast. It’s becoming increasingly important for me to save money and focus on how I’m going to get my ass from Michigan to somewhere warm…but that’s for another post. Till next time, Pura Vida!

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

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

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