Monday, November 14, 2016

Why aren't you moving into your house? (And where are you moving next?)

Oh, guys. I have so much to say on this topic and I want to make sure I say it all the right way. That's a lot of pressure for a post, or at least a lot more pressure than I normally feel. That's why I've been putting off posting about this. But now that my house is done and settling into its temporary home, it feels like it's time to address this.


Does anyone else feel like I've already talked about this? Because I feel like I have. And I'll likely have to talk about it again. That's how my life is going to go now. I'll spend a lot of time explaining my unusual choices to people for the rest of forever. Good thing I like to write.

So to answer the immediate question . . . I'm not moving into my house yet because I'm not ready to move into my house yet. And there are a few reasons why that's the case, but most of them come down to my finances.

I know money isn't the most exciting thing to talk about (or read about) so I'll try to make this part quick. Basically I've never been a fan of debt, and I've had to take on a lot of it in order to build this house. I had always planned to rent a space to park my house, but when I switched my plans from living in Utah to living in California, I realized that it was going to cost me a lot more to park/rent land here than there, not to mention the added expense of towing the house to California and paying higher taxes on it here.

Don't get me wrong; I'm totally glad I moved back to California. That was always in my long-term plans, as was working remotely. So I'm super glad that I'm now doing both of those things. But because I made those major life changes (moving and transitioning to working remotely), I decided I didn't want to change all that at once, plus move into my tiny house, and have to worry about all of these bills at the same time.

I needed some breathing room and I needed time to make sure I didn't overwhelm myself. Once upon a time in my 20s, I'm sure I would've jumped into all of this willy-nilly. But now as a wise, old 30-something, I have learned that as much as I love change, even I have my limits.

So I decided to plan for some transition time. At first I was considering putting my house in storage temporarily. That would be cheaper than renting a space where I could live in it. But then I found an even better solution: a tiny house bed and breakfast where they rent out tiny homes on Airbnb. This means that instead of costing me money, my house has now become an investment property and will make me money.

I don't know exactly how much money it will end up making me, but anything is better than the alternative: paying to have it sit in storage.

Um . . . let's see. Were there other reasons I wanted to mention? I talked about finances; I talked about not changing everything all at once. What else? Oh! Right! The whole parking situation.

So there are very few places in the Bay Area where you can legally park a tiny home. I don't want to get into a long discussion about zoning laws because that's even more boring to talk about than finances. To sum up: the best options are usually RV parks and some of those are really sketchy and if they're anywhere close to civilization, they're out of my price range. The funny thing is, my parents' house has plenty of parking space for a boat or RV. My tiny house would totally fit in our backyard. But the zoning codes prohibit it. You're not even allowed to store an RV there, let alone live in it.

What I will most likely end up doing, once I'm financially ready for this, is move my house to a tiny-house-friendly RV park somewhere on the West Coast either in Portland, southern Oregon, or Northern California. When will that be? I don't know for sure. But definitely not earlier than May 2017. And possibly as late as May 2018. Somewhere in that range.

Of course, I would like it to be sooner. I bought this house because I want to live in it. But I also want to be smart about this whole process and not end up moving in and then having to sell my house immediately because I can't afford to pay for it.

If anyone is actually interested in the full financial picture here, I would be happy to lay it all out for you. I am super open about my money and how I work through all that. But I'm omitting it here because I don't want to bore anyone to death.

In the meantime, until I can afford to actually live in my house, I am staying with my parents temporarily and I might start looking for another place to live with friends in the Bay Area. Or I might move to Arizona.

What?! Arizona?!


Want to know why? Because yesterday I made a whole list of places that I've always wanted to live/visit/see. And then I categorized them according to how long I think I'd want to stay there.

(Side note: It's kind of mind-boggling to me that I've finally reached the point where I can make plans like this. I've always wanted to create a flexible life where I could move as often as I wanted to without disrupting anything major. Now that I've got a mobile job, a mobile house, and a slimmed down minimalist lifestyle, I can really do it. It's so great!)

Anyway, there were only eight places that made the list of locations where I'd like to stay for a year or more. And one of them was Arizona. I know it's a big state, but I haven't narrowed it down any more than that yet. Probably somewhere close-ish to Phoenix, though. Or Tucson maybe.

I also might move to Eureka. That was on the list.

Or Santa Cruz. Or San Luis Obispo. Or Monterrey.

Are you seeing the trend? Most of the other seven places are in California. And a lot of them are locations where I would like to park my tiny house someday. But Arizona stuck out to me as a place where I wouldn't necessarily want to live in a tiny house, mostly because with a tiny house, outdoor living becomes super important and in Arizona the outdoors are sometimes inhospitable what with the extreme heat and all.

The way I see it, the next six months to eighteen months are like my last chance to live with friends or experiment with living situations that are not so tiny before I settle into my little house permanently. Or at least for a long time.

Speaking of the long term, this listing-places activity that I did yesterday also helped me to map out my plans for the next five-ish years. They look like this:

2017: Rent out my tiny house, live at home/in the Bay Area, or move somewhere like Arizona.
2018: Move into my tiny house in an RV park in Portland, Eureka, the Delta, or maybe central California or southern Oregon.
2019: Take a West Coast trip with my tiny house. Start near Seattle. Stay in RV parks for a few weeks at time. Work my way down to the San Diego area.
2020: Do the same thing on the East Coast. Start in Maine. End up in the South. Maybe head to Texas on my way back West.

So there you have it, folks, my entire life plan for the next five years. I know it would be more exciting if I were quitting my job and doing all of this cool traveling and tiny living right now, but not only would that be unrealistic financially, it would also just be too much for me. That kind of life makes for awesome television, but the drama is only sustainable for so long before you burn out and wind up selling your tiny house and moving right back into regular old traditional housing.

I don't want to do that. I want to experience my tiny house journey in a way that makes sense for me, even if that means waiting and being patient and doing things slowly.

Of course, no one really knows what the future holds. My list of places where I'd like to live might change dramatically before I ever get a chance to take my tiny house on the road. Who knows? I might even get married and that could change everything. But I feel pretty good about the fact that I have a plan for now. And I'm really excited that my tiny house is done and that it will be waiting for me whenever I'm ready to move into it.

Sorry this post was so boring and informative. I'll finish it off with a picture I took at the beach yesterday because life is lovely and when you have less stuff and less money you have more time to enjoy all the beautiful things around you that don't cost a thing.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

What should I write for NaNoWriMo?

I know this will sound strange, but sometimes I forget that I write books. I'm not one of those authors that diligently pulls out my laptop every day and hammers out a thousand words before breakfast. And because most of the books I've written have been short or on supertight deadlines, I can usually get them done in a month or less and then go on my merry way and not worry about writing again for awhile.

But occasionally something does happen that makes me remember. This week it was getting the interior illustrations for a board book I wrote awhile back. It looks so cute! To be honest, I'd almost forgotten all about this book in the midst of tiny house building and moving and everything else that's been going on lately.

I feel sort of bad. Like I've been neglecting my authorial duties by not devoting more time and energy to this project. But the truth is that there's a lot of waiting time when you're an author. You submit an idea weeks or months before you hear back about it and then it often takes over a year before it really becomes a book. So I guess the only difference with this book is that I haven't been sitting around twiddling my thumbs. I've been busy with other life things.

Anyway, all of this is to say that while I can't show you the interior pictures, I do have a cover I've been meaning to reveal for awhile.

Isn't it cute?

This book comes out in February and is already available for pre-order on Amazon, so if you're interested, feel free to check it out there.

And in related news, I'm pretty sure I'm going to do National Novel Writing Month again, or at least attempt it. For those who've never heard of it NaNoWriMo happens every year in November and you have to write 50,000 words in a month. I've attempted it off and on for five-ish years now, but I only won for the first time last year.

I like it as an exercise in writing discipline, which, as mentioned above, is not something I usually have. It doesn't necessarily translate into a finished product because you're writing so quickly, but it's definitely a start and it's just fun to write with lots of other people in this big group-writing event.

My problem with doing it this year is that I've been really indecisive about what to write. I have tons of ideas, but I can't seem to settle on any particular one. That's why I need your help. I'm going to list my ideas below and I would love it if you would vote here in the comments or on Facebook if you have an opinion about which one I should write for NaNo.

1. LDS romance, characters would probably be just out of college or a late 20s, set in DC, California, or maybe New York.

2. The third book in the Jane Journals series. (The second one has been done for awhile; it just needs more polishing, which I've been putting off until after I finished my tiny house.)

3. Middle-grade light fantasy about a family with five kids who find another world in the woods, set in summertime.

4. Historical/contemporary story with two plotlines, one in the past and one in the present. Both tied to a specific place. Probably early 1900s for the historical story. Not totally sure yet what would happen in either story. Most likely would involve some drama and romance. Possibly LDS.

5. Rewrite of my first novel that I never published. YA. Set in contemporary San Francisco about a school for psychics. First in a series. Or I could rewrite it to be a standalone.

6. Fairytale retelling, probably Hansel and Gretel. Maybe Cinderella. In either a completely new setting or else in a historical setting. I'm not sure. I've just always thought it would be fun to try one of these.

I may also decide to go into it with absolutely no forethought and just start typing and see what happens. That could be interesting. But I feel like that might just result in something completely unsalvageable. I don't know. I tend to use NaNoWriMo as a time to experiment with a new genre or flex my writing muscles with a point of view or a tense that I don't normally write. But maybe I want to go easy on myself this year. After all, I did just move and build a house.

Which brings me to some unrelated news: I am officially back in California and it feels so good! My house will be done this week and will be delivered to The Hideaway Ramona, which is where it will stay for at least the next six months to a year while I figure out where to put it/pay off more of the loans it took me to build it/trade my little car in for a truck that can pull my house. I'll be heading down there next weekend to make sure it's all settled in place. I'm not entirely sure when I'll be moving in and actually living tiny, but for now I'm just excited to be a tiny house owner if not a tiny house dweller (yet).

This whole process of going tiny has taken me years to execute, so I figure what's a few more months or another year in the grand scheme of things? Besides, I have some really fun plans for trips and things coming up to fill my time while I'm waiting. Now that I'm working from home I feel like I have a lot more flexibility both for traveling and for life in general, which I definitely want to take advantage of.

So stay tuned for more updates. And if you've got an opinion about what I should write or another idea you think I should consider, feel free to comment here or on Facebook. I'm looking forward to getting started on another book!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

When are you moving?

That is such a good question! And I really wish I could give you a specific answer. In fact, I'm pretty sure I care a lot more about the answer to that question than any of you do right now. But . . . I don't know for sure because the answer to the question of when I am moving is: when my house is done.

And when will that be? I don't know.

Last time I saw my tiny house it was two framed walls, not connected to a trailer.

And as far as I know, it still looks like that. However, that was four days ago, so there's a possibility that my builder has made some progress since then. On the other hand, he is also working on three other houses right now. Here's some pictures of one house that's about the same size mine will be.

One thing that has caused a little bit of delay is that there was some trouble with the way my trailer was registered. When you buy a tiny house, you can have it registered as a travel trailer, a park model RV, or a standard utility trailer. The trailer for my house was registered as a utility trailer, which is not ideal because that makes it harder to get the right kind of insurance for my house and to park it at an RV park, should I ever want to do that, which I very well might.

So. There's that. The house in the pictures above was actually built on the trailer that mine would have been built on, if it had been registered the right way.

I'm trying to be as patient as possible through all this. I keep reminding myself that I have waited a whole year to make this tiny house dream happen (not to mention the four years before then when I was seriously considering it as a future possibility). So a few more weeks won't hurt anything. But on the other hand, I am so excited to get back to California that any delay at this point just feels like torture.

The good news is that Friday was my last day working in the office, so now I am totally ready to move from a work standpoint. I'm really excited about working full-time remote. I know there will be some challenges and things to adjust to, but I'm just so grateful to have a job with the kind of flexibility that allows me to go wherever I need to in order to live the life that I really want to live—in a tiny house, in California. 

I will keep you all posted on the progress of my house, but right now it's looking like I won't be moving until the 22nd or 29th of October. And for Utah people, I'm still planning to hold a tiny open house before then, so I'll let you know when that might be happening too. Although, with everything so up in the air it'll probably be a really last-minute invite, like, "Hey! Who wants to come see my tiny house TONIGHT! For one night only!" I'm sorry in advance about that.

Another good thing that's come of me building this house (even though it's tiny and even though I'm not actually building it) is that this process has definitely taught me a few lessons in how to be flexible and patient. I generally think of myself as very easy-going and chill, but even I have my limits, and I think it's good for me to be tested on those limits every once in awhile.

It's just really hard to be patient when life is about to get a million times more awesome!!!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Would you like some help decluttering?

If you had told me when I started this blog that I would become the tidy, minimalist person I am today, I would’ve laughed in your face. Ask my parents; ask my siblings. They will tell you that I have never been a tidy person. I didn’t care if my bed was made. I didn’t care how long I let the dishes sit out on the counter. I didn’t care how much stuff I had stuffed in my closet. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total slob, but I definitely was under the impression that my creative, whimsical nature couldn’t be bothered with the organization and maintenance of all my many boxes of random things.

Well, folks, I have changed. And at this point, nearly 18 months into my new tidy lifestyle, I think it’s safe to say that the change is a permanent one. 

Turns out I actually really like tidying. I do it automatically now. All of my things have a place and for the most part, they all stay in those places. I won’t say that my cleanliness is perfect. My bathroom counter tends to stay a bit messy and my jeans sometimes sit on the floor overnight, but that’s a far cry from the giant piles of dirty laundry that used to creep into the corners of my room and the endless array of knickknacks that once cluttered up my bookshelves.

The thing is, now that I’ve dramatically downsized my possessions, I’m finding that my love of tidying has outgrown the actual amount of tidying that I can do. That is to say that I’ve physically run out of things to tidy. There are, after all, only so many ways you can rearrange your closet.

So with that in mind, I’ve decided to look elsewhere for decluttering opportunities to satisfy this new urge. And this is where you all come in. If you have a tidying/decluttering/organizing project that you need a little extra help tackling, would you be willing to let me try helping you? I’m definitely not a professional organizer and I don’t have any kind of certifications in this area. I don’t know if the approach I used will work for everyone, but it has certainly worked for me. And I would love to tell you more about how I made this lifestyle change and hopefully help you change your life too. Just think of me as a tidying mentor/coach person.

For now I just want to dip my toes in the water and see if this tidying stuff is as much fun when I’m helping other people as it is when I’m doing it for myself. Eventually, if I like doing it, I might try to earn some type of certification and turn it into a side business or something. But that’s a little farther down the road. 

Also, I have no idea what to charge for my services in this area, so I’m just going to leave that up to you. Propose a project to me and if you have money and want to pay me for it, that’d be cool. I can tell you that anything I earn from this will go directly toward paying off my tiny house (since I had to borrow money to build it). But if you don’t have money to spend on this, and you just need help, that’s fine too. I am here for you, and I'm just looking for some experience.

A few final notes: 

1. This offer is primarily for Bay Area people, but if you live somewhere else and have an extra room I could sleep in for a week or so (or even just a couch I could crash on for a few nights), I’m open to that idea too, depending on who you are, where you live, how well I know, how annoying your kids are (kidding, mostly), and what kind of project we’re talking about. 

2. I am not sure how soon I'd be able to get started, since I still don't know the exact date of my upcoming move to California. But I figured I'd post about this now to let you all think about it and so that we can start setting up tidying sessions for future dates. I'm guessing I'll be settled in from the move and ready to get started working at the beginning of November, but I could possibly do something earlier than that if you're up against a deadline (like you need your house to look good before the neighborhood Halloween party).

3. If you are interested, send me a message on Facebook or comment on this post. I'd love to schedule a time to chat with you about your needs and figure out if I'd be a good fit for your project.

4. I am generally a nice person and I would never force you to give up anything you truly love.

Final disclaimer: I very much dislike this sell-y type stuff. I am genuinely doing this because I think it will be fun. That's how much I'm into tidying these days. But I hope no one reading this will feel put off by it. And the most important point I want to make about all this is that I don't think you're a bad person if your house is not tidy. This blog is a no-judgment zone. If you are happy with your current level of tidiness, that's awesome. More power to you. But if you're unhappy with your house/room/apartment or how much time it takes you to keep it clean and organized, I think I might be able to help you with that. And I think I would enjoy helping.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

No more TV?

That's right, people. I am currently living through a dearth of television. Ever since my mom failed to renew our family Netflix account a few weeks ago, all I've been able to watch is Youtube. That means no movies, no shows, nothing but vlogs and late night comedy sketches.

It's been . . . interesting. If I weren't about to move home to my parents' house where they have an actual television with an actual DVR, I'd be seriously looking into my online subscription options. I don't want to own a large television myself or pay for cable. But in spite of my ultra minimalist lifestyle, I'm not a total Mennonite. Not yet, anyway. And I still want my TV shows. (No offense, to actual Mennonites, of course. I really admire many things about your lifestyle.)

Granted, there is some great stuff on Youtube. And I have definitely enjoyed the extra time to live my life without the temptation to binge rewatch Stranger Things. So I wouldn't say that the loss has been entirely a bad one. But I will definitely be happy when I can get back to my regularly scheduled programming, as it were.

What am I doing to in the meantime to make life bearable?

1. The New York Times Crossword Puzzle.

I treated myself to a one-month subscription to their app, and I've been loving it. I'm even getting the Sunday puzzles done, which is really saying something. Of course, it helps that you can reveal letters and words and check your answers. And Google helps a lot too. But I try to do as much as I can on my own before relying on cheats.

Though I will admit to some heavy cheating this past Thursday when the puzzle clues were all anagrams. It was a nightmare. And I like anagrams.

2. Knorpp and South

You guys, I am obsessed with this family. You HAVE to check them out. They have nine kids, five of whom they adopted from China. They're LDS. And they're currently traveling around the country in an RV. They are basically the coolest people ever, and I want to be just like them when I grow up. Plus their kids are totally adorable! They post videos as they go, and it's so fun to follow their adventures. Big Youtube score.

3. Good, old-fashioned reading

I started rereading Little Women the other day and fell back in love with it. Such a classic. I also reread Louisa May Alcott's lesser-known first novel, The Inheritance. She wrote it when she was seventeen and it's fun as a writer myself to see her learning to put a story together. It's like hanging out with the real Jo for an afternoon.

4. Getting outside!

It's early fall here and that means that the temperature and weather are perfect for spending hours and hours outdoors. Lately when I leave the office for my lunch break, I've been having a really hard time convincing myself to come back indoors to finish working in the afternoons.

And of course, our sunsets are always gorgeous. That's one thing I'll definitely miss when I move to California.

I also managed to squeeze in one last summer roadtrip to Colorado a couple of weeks ago with one of my very best friends. That was a blast. I should've taken more pictures because we drove through some really pretty scenery, but here are just a few.

5. And of course, lots and lots of writing Tiny Talks 2017.

As much as I enjoy writing these books every year, I'm always so relieved when they're done. I will freely admit that one of the reasons I love having a deadline is that I know that once it's passed, I'll get to go back to being lazy and only writing when I feel like it.

Speaking of Tiny Talks, though, I actually do have a proof I'm supposed to be going through this weekend, so I should probably get to work on that.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are you getting rid of EVERYTHING?

Blog! I missed you! I've been so busy writing Tiny Talks 2017 that I haven't had a spare minute for my blog in weeks. But the manuscript is done now (as of last night around 8:00 pm) and that means I'm going back to my normal reality.

And that means I'm getting ready to move to California, finally build a tiny house, start working remotely, and figure out what's coming next in my life.

In case you haven't heard yet or you were a little confused about the details, I'm currently planning to move from Utah to the San Francisco Bay Area at the end of September or beginning of October. The exact timing of the move depends on a couple of things. One is my tiny house, which I'll talk more about in a minute, and the other is a personal history project I've been working on with my grandma (not my history—hers). I've been helping her put together a book with some of her writings and photos and I'd like to get it at least mostly done if not completely done before I move.

To be clear, I am SUPER excited about this move. If I could, I would move tomorrow. But I also want to make sure that I act like a responsible adult and take care of the things that I need to take care of here before I go.

Now about my house. I am well aware that there are many people who would really love to know exactly when my house will be done and exactly what it will look like and how big it will be and all of that stuff. And let me just say, I am also one of those people. Heh.

I don't know for sure when the house will be done. The builder that I'm working with has had some unfortunate setbacks recently, and since I'm not on a tight schedule, I've just decided to go with the flow and let him take the time that he needs. For one thing, it's not like I have much of a choice. There's nothing I can do to make him go faster. And for another, this gives me more time to save up money to put down on the house, which ultimately will mean getting out of debt faster and that's a good thing.

As far as the design, I went through several rounds of changes and ultimately came back to my original idea, which will look something like this house.

I'm really excited about seeing how it all turns out, and I'll definitely post more updates and pictures as the build progresses.

I'm also really excited about sending it to The Hideaway in Ramona, California, for the first few months that I own it. The more I consider this plan, the better I feel about my decision. I think it'll be a great way to own a tiny house and have that security of knowing that I own something without having to worry about what to do with it in my immediate, still uncertain future.

In the meantime, I've been trying my best to prepare for the move and for my eventual transition to tiny living by downsizing some more. You would think that by now I'd have gotten rid of everything except the bare essentials, but you'd be wrong. I still have lots more books than I need, for one thing. However I have almost entirely eliminated the unnecessary craft supplies, bathroom products, and miscellaneous items. My clothes at least are close to being done. I'm actually down to three pairs of shoes at the moment after giving away a couple pairs of sandals last week. But I'll likely invest in another pair soonish. Four seems to be a good number: one pair of running/walking shoes, one pair of flats for church, flip-flops, and something casual like a pair of slip-ons. Right now I'm missing that last one.

In the photo above, you can see almost all of the clothes I currently own. I roll up my skirts and dresses and keep a drawer full of shirts, one drawer with socks and stuff, and another drawer for PJs and workout clothes. One of the nice things about working from home is that I'll be able to dress more casually (except when I need to be on a video conference call) so it'll be nice to be able to get rid of some more clothes when I don't have to dress up for work every day.

Since I didn't really answer the blog post title question yet, I guess I'll clarify that I'm not planning to get rid of EVERYTHING. But I honestly feel like there's a minimizing cycle where the more you get rid of, the more you realize you don't need all the things you've kept, and so that prompts you to get rid of more and re-evaluate again. I'm sure there will come a point at which I'll have to stop eliminating things, but I haven't quite reached it yet, and I'm not going to stop before then. It's really a great feeling knowing that things are just things and I don't need to plan my life around how much stuff I have.

Anyway, I could go on and on about how much I love getting rid of things, but I'll save that for another day. Like I said I'll keep you all posted about the house and everything. For people in Utah, I'm hoping to have a "tiny" open house sometime before I move away, so once I figure out the feasibility and date for that, I'll make some sort of announcement on social media.

And for people in California, I'm excited to see you all soon!

Hope you guys had a great Sunday and you're looking forward to a good week ahead like I am.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

What's next? (part II)

Well, I was planning a lot longer post to announce this, but then this morning I found out that the Primary theme for 2017 was announced and now suddenly all my writing time needs to go to Tiny Talks instead of to my blog.

So I'll just give you the short version of this and fill you in more later.

I have three kinds of news: good news, bad news, and great news.

The good news is that I found a place to park my tiny house. (Finally!)

The bad news is that it's not a place where I can live in it. That means I won't be moving into my tiny house when my it's completed in two to three weeks.

Here's where my house is going:

It's a tiny house hotel and farm! And it's totally adorable. It's also in Southern California, near San Diego, so if you live around there and you're curious about tiny houses, you should totally check it out.

I would be way more disappointed about not moving into my house if it weren't for the great news, which is that in order find a more permanent spot for my house my boss has said that it's okay for me to move out of state and work remotely, which means that at the end of September, I'll be moving HOME!!

I have seriously missed the Bay Area and I could not be more excited about returning to live there. I'm not sure at this point how long I'll stay in the area, but I'll keep you all posted as I figure out more of my immediate and future life plans.

In the meantime, I have a book to write and tiny house things to finalize and a move to arrange and all sorts of details to deal with that I'm sure you guys wouldn't want to hear about even if I had all day to blog.

So instead I'll leave you with this picture of the beach. California here I come!!!!! (In seven weeks! Can't wait!)