Managing Stuff and Living Smaller

We live now in a 2300 sq. ft. house. This summer we will be moving to a 600 sq. ft. apartment in our pole barn. How on earth are we going to manage this?

Let me acknowledge as I have in the past that I married well. Not every upper middle class wife in Vestavia Hills, Alabama would be willing to do this. Okay,

no other wife I know in Vestavia Hills would be willing. I won the grand prize in the bridal lottery, and I know it. We are talking about a huge change in the way we live. This came home to me a couple of days ago when I washed some dishrags in the kitchen and put them back in their designated drawer. Couldn’t do it. The drawer was so stuffed with hand towels, dish towels, and bread towels that I physically couldn’t close it after returning the rags to it. We can solve this problem by shedding a few of the towels, but what will we do when we have room for only two dishrags, two towels, and two bread towels? This may seem trivial to a reader who doesn’t know my wife, but this is a woman who has identified hospitality as her primary gift from the Holy Spirit. This is not trivial. And on that subject of hospitality, how will we entertain? Having 2-4 people come by for a meal shouldn’t be too challenging; we could accommodate them in the apartment around a couple of card tables. But having a larger group almost demands that our gathering be outside, which will mean working with the weather and dealing with bugs (always an issue in Tallassee, Alabama). Parking is doable, but we don’t have a nice, clean paved driveway, so if we’re entertaining on a rainy day everybody who comes to see us will take a little of our ancient river shore mud with them. We will have less space to store books. Amanda and I both love to read, as did our parents, and we have been surrounded by books all our lives. It will be quite a change to give up so many of our books, but that’s probably inevitable. I must confess that we do far more of our reading on the Internet now anyway, so we’re talking about giving up a physical artifact, not reading itself. Gotta keep telling myself that. So the likely result is that we keep those books that are keepsakes or whose authors we know personally and give away those that are merely interesting or enlightening. That’s going to hurt. We will have no conventional oven. We will have our induction cooktop (more about that later), a gas grill, a countertop toaster-oven, and the solar oven (more about that later too). We will also use our Coleman camp stove (burns gasoline), because so far it’s the best tool we’ve found for canning. As I say that, it sounds like a bewildering array of choices for cooking, and it is, but Amanda’s specialty is bread pudding, which requires (or at least has required in the past) cooking for more than an hour at 350 degrees F. The solar oven is good, but not that good; about the most we can count on from it on a sunny day is about 325. So will she change her recipe? Borrow a friend’s oven? Cook something else? (not gonna happen). Our present kitchen is already small, much smaller than the massive kitchens that are so popular today in America’s McMansions, so we have less adjustment to make there than most people in our area. We will have a double sink, a regular refrigerator, and yes, a dishwasher. Countertop will be limited, so we’ll need to use a rolling table from time to time when we need extra room for food prep. Although our kitchen is small, it has 2-3 times as much storage capacity in its cabinets as will the kitchen at Longleaf Breeze, so more than half our pots and pans will need to go. We’ll save the cast iron because it works better on the induction cooktop and the thin, dark pots because they work better in the solar oven. Out with most of the rest. Should be a fun series of trips to the Salvation Army. We have four complete sets of dishes, countless cloth napkins, and I won’t embarrass Amanda by telling you how many glasses of all shapes, sizes, and descriptions. My guess is that we won’t give many of them away; we’ll probably store them. And then we’ll give them away 10 years from now when we haven’t used them. We own three television sets, three stereo amplifiers, four sets of speakers, two DVD players, two VCRs, and about 15 radios. Most of that won’t make the trip. We have massive amounts of clothing suitable for upper middle class suburban life, and most of that won’t travel. We have about 12 big boxes full of Christmas decorations, and an assortment of odd Christmas decorations (wreaths, etc.) too big to put in boxes. Here’s my quiet, desperate hope that most of that never makes it on the truck either. And then there are the 20 or so boxes that I packed up several years ago to make room for a renovation in our house while Amanda was overseas, boxes we haven’t yet bothered to open. About 80 square feet of our basement is filled with the objects from Amanda’s childhood family that we needed to take when Amanda’s mother moved. What will become of them? I believe, I hope, I pray, that when this over we will have found it liberating to offload so much of our stuff. I realize, however, that the offloading process will be brutal, more brutal for the woman I love than for me.

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