I’m in the Pursuit of Happiness

I’m in the Pursuit of Happiness

Have you ever put off things when you’ve really wanted to do them? How many times have you said, “Oh, maybe next year”? How often have you wished for the financial freedom to live out your dreams?

I can tell you that my answers to those questions are probably not surprising. They may even coincide with yours. If I had a dollar for everything I wish I could’ve done in life, I probably would have had enough money to have done them. I’m not even talking big trips or vacations, but small excursions that someone else may take for granted. One example: Each year I see a list of concerts coming to Pittsburgh, PA and I list out all the ones that I’d love to go to. I check ticket prices, I check sales dates, and I mark my calendar. And do you know how many I go to? I’d say, on average, 1-2 per year. (And that is only because last year and this year I’ve gone to more than usual.)

Here’s another for you. I often get too lazy to see my friends. I rationalize to myself that it will cost too much in gas, plus then we meet somewhere to eat, plus a drink or two, and before you know if I’m crashed on my couch pants-less eating Cheetos and Twizzlers for dinner having canceled on my friends yet again.

Does that ever happen to you?

I hope so, because if I’m the only one that does this, that’s pretty embarrassing. Well, me and Ron White

In any case, I’m going to operate under the assumption that I’m not alone since I know plenty of procrastinators and putter-offers. You don’t have to admit it here, or even to others, but for the sake of your own mental health you must at least admit it to yourself.

We all have different ways of doing this. Some people fill their schedules to the point of bursting until they have a mental breakdown. Others feign being busy so as to rest, watch TV, or Netflix and chill (alone). Still others just ignore problems until they no longer can, which in my opinion is the worst approach to take.

I’ve been guilty of each of these at different times, but at least I know it now. I know that when I put off doing my dishes for the third straight day to watch reruns of “Law & Order” that I’m not being productive. I know that when I wake up earlier than usual and waste that time on Facebook rather than getting ready or taking out the trash that I’m not making good use of my time.

So why do we do this? Why do we procrastinate? I’m guilty of it, obviously, and in many more ways than I mentioned above. But why do we do it?

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One theory I have is that we always assume that we’ll improve our circumstances by next week, next month, or next year. Much like our oft-forgotten and ill-begotten New Year’s Resolutions, we assume we can change our lives without making much effort. I see all the infomercials and ads for “quicker-faster-better” results. Burn fat now! Get rich quick! 22-Day Fix! But does any of this really last?

No, is the short answer.

We have to want to change our lives and ourselves before we actually embark on this journey.

First, we have to WANT to change. Now I don’t mean:

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Or:

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I mean you actually have to define what you want in real terms. It’s too easy to ignore a goal when you have no accountability for it. But if you take the time to lay out a plan, it will seem like you’ve wasted time by giving it up. Rather than joining a gym alone, get yourself a work-out buddy. Instead of promising to read more on weekends, join (or form) a book club. Instead of wishing you were outside, go outside.

The great thing is that we all have our own goals. We all have the right to pursue our dreams the way we want. But in this TV-watching, movie-streaming, Facebook-stalking “modern” world, we have to hold ourselves and each other accountable.

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So now let’s focus on the JOURNEY.

We need to accept that the best things in life are worth working and fighting for. Is it more rewarding to work hard to buy your mother a birthday present or to steal it? Would you rather earn your diploma or cheat your way through school? Is it better to read the entire book or just the CliffsNotes? (On second thought, don’t answer that last question. I’m afraid of your choice…)

When I started college, I assumed I’d graduate in four years like any “normal” student. After all, I was always smart and I did well in school. That didn’t happen for me. After giving up for five years, I went back and reached my dreams. I finished that journey.

And I started a new one. After four years of being in a so-so relationship, I made the very difficult decision to break up and learn what it meant to me an adult in the world. It’s been tough and it’s been wonderful. It’s necessarily had its ups and downs. It’s been a learning experience and I hope it never ceases to be. I have found pieces of me that I never knew existed. I’m still trying to regain pieces of me that I thought were lost forever.

This journey that I’ve embarked on this year has taken many twists and turns and it’s only been a few months. I’ve changed my mind, made decisions over and over again, and changed my mind some more. I’ve angered people, pitied people, been angry, and been pitied. I’ve taken some hits and I’m sure I’ve dished some out. I’ve made some good deals and I’m sure I’ve made some bad ones.

I just know that I am no longer willing to exchange the life I want and the life I lead for the life I could maybe-possibly-someday have. I’m no longer willing to suffer today in hopes that tomorrow is better. This life is a journey, and I’m going to enjoy it until the end.

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Financial freedom?

Financial freedom?

So as you all know, a large part of my Tiny House journey has been about finding my way financially in life. My ultimate goal is to live on the income from one job without sacrificing things that are important to me. I don’t want to have to give up all of my worldly possessions to live in a huge empty house, right?

So I have been keeping track of the things I’ve bought so far for Tilly. I’m going to give you a run-down of what I’ve gotten so far as well as costs associated and pictures, if I have them.

KitchenSo here is what I’ve spent on my kitchen so far. I’m not completely done, but there are some amazing things to note here!

I got some items for FREE! I got my cabinets and countertop from a friend who was tearing out his kitchen.

Nearly everything else I’ve bought so far has come from Craigslist or eBay. I negotiated WAY more than I could at a big box store or even some specialty shops. I still have a couple of big appliances to get, but this is a great start!

I had to make a really painful decision regarding my appliances. I bought a beautiful stove and microwave set from my friend but ultimately they were just too big. I had to sell them and settle on smaller appliances. I’ve decided my best bet now is to go with a cooktop and large toaster oven rather than a traditional range.

Living Room

 

Next up is the living room… Originally I wanted to purchase a brand new couch from Ikea immediately. It has a chaise lounge and pulls out into a full queen mattress for company. But after crunching some numbers I decided to wait. I’m going to keep my almost-new sofa a while longer and use an old brown leather ottoman as a table/footrest.

I’ve been searching Craigslist for a couple of months now and I bargain for everything I want. For example, I got two antique sconces for just $15 after they were originally listed for $65. When I got there to pick them up I realized what bad shape they were in and he just wanted rid of them. SCORE! I also picked up free white shelves/cubbies from my old job and a brand new ceiling fan (with a remote) for $40.

I purchased some plywood to build a desk/table and I’ll jazz it up with some stain and metal details. I also bought a brand new fireplace from Wayfair when it was 20% off.

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So many of my plans changed from my original bathroom layout. In fact, most ALL of my layout has changed. More on that later. But for the purpose of this financial post, I must address the bathroom. I nixed the idea of a smaller-than-normal shower and opted for a smaller-than-average bathtub. How much smaller you ask? It’s 46″ long. Here it is:

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Bathroom

I picked this pretty puppy up on Craigslist brand new for $125. As it turns out there is a local warehouse that gets lots of run-off from Home Depot. While I was there I also picked up an American Standard toilet, the most beautiful vanity light (below), a kitchen faucet (also below), and a sink. Now I’m returning the sink in order to get my dream antique sink (below), but it was still a great find!

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Now for the big category. This last category includes everything from exterior stain to my water heater to my contractor who’s doing the electrical and plumbing installations.

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The items in red are items that I’ve budgeted for but haven’t bought yet. Since the plumbing and electrical are set to be done by the end of this weekend and the insulation is next, there’s no sense in buying the walls, ceiling, and flooring until I’m ready.

The big ticket item on this list is my radiant heat floors from Thermosoft. I couldn’t be more pleased with the experience thus far! I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed to I called their Customer Service. They had me send them a layout of my floorplan so they could work up a quote for me. The representative called 4 or 5 times to get it all right and still got me a quote the same day! The price above got me my heated floors, underlayment, thermostat, and extra floor sensor. As if that wasn’t enough shipping was free!

So there you have it. I’m trying to be as frugal as possible so as not to break the bank. I took a pay cut to work for a local non-profit and I love my new job. I am also only working on job right now, so money is tight. I will pick up a second job again soon, but for now I’m just enjoying my summer with Tilly.

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Back from the dead…

Back from the dead…

First, I want to apologize to those of you who were/are loyal readers. I obviously took a more-than-brief hiatus from blogging about my Tiny House journey. I shan’t do it again.

Second, I’d like to take a brief moment to appreciate the beauty that is young Bruce Campbell from his “Evil Dead” days.

*pause*

Le sigh. Now that that’s out of the way… It’s time for some Tiny House (and life) updates!

I will try to blog each day this week to document what has been going on with my Tiny House. For one, I must introduce her in all of her glory. This is a picture of my THOW the day it got delivered to my parents’ house…

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Tiny House delivery

This, my friends, is Matilda; I call her Tilly for short. I named her such for several reasons.

  1. I loved the childhood book-made-movie “Matilda”. I even re-typed the entire book in grade school to improve my typing. #goals
  2. In the book-made-movie, Matilda is small but magical. I’d like to think my Tiny House will be the same…
  3. Tilly is the name of my high school lunch lady. She was small, adorable, and gave us extra tots. Who doesn’t like free tots?!

I have been working on Tilly most weekends since she was delivered. Needless to say, things have been taking much longer than expected. Here is Tilly’s near-finished exterior. (It’s still got painters’ tape on it so she doesn’t look 100%.)

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I’ve also updated my interior plans for Tilly, which I’ll show you later this week. #teaser

All in all, things have been going well. However, I’ve had many changes in my life since my last post…

  1. I changed jobs.
  2. I am only working one job right now.
  3. I am happily single and not looking for anyone.
  4. My depression is a bit more under control.

I am working for a non-profit very near my apartment now. I ditched the waitressing job for a few reasons, but mainly due to the long drive. I will pick another one up here shortly, but for now I’m enjoying having my weekends to myself.

I have also been buying MANY things to outfit Tilly which I will probably update this weekend. I am also thinking of switching my blog over to a wordpress.org site so I can generate some income from my writing. That is probably a big part of my lack of blogging the past few months… I was afraid to blog more on here in case I switched over. But since I haven’t made that decision yet I couldn’t wait to post any longer!

More to come later tonight…

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Good afternoon Tiny House enthusiasts! I know I promised I’d post about my research regarding insulation and other super fun things (like drywall), but first I need to put some things down that have been bothering me…

I was asked this weekend who I am writing this blog for. While I am hopeful that my audience will find this to be both amusing and (eventually) informative, I am primarily writing this for myself. I want to be able to remember the decisions I’m making now and why I made them. I want to be able to look back and show things I accomplished and things that deflated me. For this reason, some of my posts will be less about decisions I’m making and more about how I’m feeling or why I’m confused.

Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time at both of my jobs lately…

The restaurant I work at started (and kept on) messing up my schedule. I was working Monday night, Friday night, and sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m not even available to work Sundays or Mondays. It was stressing me out quite a bit and for quite a few reasons. First, with the amount of time I’m spending working I need a full day off each Sunday. Having to find someone to come in on what is actually my only day off was stressful, primarily because no one would ever want to work the shift. Second, I have been at this restaurant since the day it opened. I was one of the first three people hired and I didn’t understand why I was being singled out to work on a day I wasn’t available. So I sat down with them, had the conversation, and have been given my preferred schedule. I now work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, as well as all day Saturday. My knees are killing me but I’ve already made an extra $1600 this month. (And it’s only halfway through the month!)

Now on to my full-time job. (I find it hard to call just one of my jobs “full-time” now since I’m basically working full-time at both jobs, but I digress.) Things are feeling increasingly stifled to me. I work for a private company, but a large one. We recently moved to a new location and the vibe around the office is becoming more and more corporate. There is a lot more micro-managing and a lot less creativity. There is also an awful lot of inter-office pettiness that stresses me out daily and negatively affects my mood. I’m annoyed or upset more often than not these days and it takes all my energy just to get up in the mornings.

I know part of this is my depression but knowing why you feel a certain way doesn’t change that you do feel that way. My new medication takes the edge off the depression like ibuprofen may dull joint pain, but it doesn’t take it away.

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I worry about what will happen when this Tiny House push is over. I know I’ve outlined all of the reasons I’m embarking on this journey, but what happens when it’s all done? I have always been good at pushing through and working toward a goal. What happens when I attain that goal?

Time for a story.

When I started college I was 17 and very smart. I earned several scholarships for writing and academics. I was excited for all that college would bring. I enrolled in interesting classes like one about Marxism and another called “Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma”. It was exhilarating to open my mind up to topics I’d never really heard of, yet alone dared to study. Coming from a close-minded Catholic education, this was really a treat for my mind.

And then it all crashed, and crashed quickly. My depression quickly spun out of control and by my sophomore year I was failing classes. I had to transfer to a larger and less prestigious school, but I did so well there (while living at home with my parents, mind you) that I was convinced I was cured. I even managed to convince my parents of that. I returned to my fancy (see: expensive) college, and promptly ended up back on academic probation. I quit college just one year shy of graduating.

Why am I telling you this sad story? To tell you this better one:

Fast forward five years. I’d never gone back to school and I’d moved around Western PA a lot. I was fed up with my job after two-and-a-half years and ready to move on. When they said they’d pay me unemployment if I quit, I quit that very day. I decided a few weeks later that I’d return to school. And I decided to return to my school. Sure, I could have gone somewhere closer or cheaper or less distinguished, but I wanted to prove to my 17-year-old self that I could do it. I filled out the paperwork, I got my loans, and I returned to class.

My first time around, I’d planned to graduate with both a Psychology and an English degree. Each Professor who knew me way back when told me to take it easy and choose one major and allow the other to become my minor. I didn’t listen. I couldn’t do that. Instead, I took 22 credits during the fall and 23 in the spring. I re-enrolled in classes I had failed or gotten a ‘D’ in, just to pull up my cumulative GPA. When I returned to school, my GPA was a measly 2.3. My goal was to graduate with a 3.0.

After just one year and enough classes to fill at least three semesters, I graduated with both degrees. I made the Dean’s List each semester and my GPA was a 3.0. (Well, it’s technically a 2.97 but we all round up, right? Math, right!?)

So again, why am I telling you this? Because I need to remind anyone who is listening that you can do whatever you put your mind to. And I need to remind myself that I can do it. Despite any craziness at my jobs or with my family or the battle against my inner self, I will not succumb. And neither should you.

It shouldn’t matter who is with you or against you, as long as you are with and for yourself. So long as you keep your own hope alive, you can do anything.

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     – Dylan Thomas

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

If you’re a fan of “Sex and the City” you’ll undoubtedly recognize the photo above as Carrie’s closet from her apartment. (And if you’re like me you’ll even be able to identify which outfits were in which episodes…) It used to be one of my dreams to have a closet stock-piled with clothes and memories like hers. The teensy-weensy difference is that Carrie’s Chanel dresses and Manolo Blahniks cost just a smidge more than my Forever 21 tunic shirts and Charlotte Russe wedge sandals.

One of the things I’ve been both dreading and dreaming of through this process is paring down my wardrobe. Allow me to explain… It takes me a very long time to pick an outfit in the morning and even longer to second-guess my choices. I have at least 30 pairs of heels and yet I wear ballet flats to my first job and Payless-brand non-slip sneakers to my second. I can’t remember the last time I wore heels, in fact. I own dresses I’ve never worn and shoes I’m afraid to ruin. During one after-Christmas sale at Old Navy I bought the same sweater in 9 colors. You read that right – NINE DIFFERENT SOLID COLORS.

In addition to the sheer insanity that is “nine of the same sweater”, my gluttonous need for closet space has inadvertently affected my living conditions. Anywhere I’ve lived I’ve needed a huge amount of closet space. I have even had to buy an extra wardrobe to store my myriad of clothes when the closet in my apartment is too small. (FYI: To me, “too small” is a double closet of normal depth.)

I have bras I haven’t worn in years and hand-me-downs that still have the tags on them. Due to years of going to a laundromat, I have more mismatched socks than correctly matched ones. (And with my OCD I cannot wear the ones that don’t match. I just hope they’ll turn up again someday like a long-lost puppy.) I have leg warmers. I have banana clips. I have at least 20 non-winter scarves. I have…a problem.

I can admit it. That’s the first step right – admitting it?

Here is a picture of my old closet, just for kicks. I don’t have one of my current closet.

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(Please note that in this apartment I had another closet with almost as much clothing in it too.)

So now that my Tiny House will be here any day now and I’m facing the reality of downsizing, I’m beginning to panic. I’m beginning to panic a lot. Where am I going to put all 18 pairs of skinny jeans? How many of my nine solid-colored Old Navy sweaters can I afford to keep? Can I still have my size zero dress from high school to remind me of how skinny I used to be?

AND WHERE WILL I PUT MY SHOES?

I’ve read about people who have pared down to capsule wardrobes but I think I’m just going to call myself out.

I’ve been a hoarder of a clothes and a shopaholic. It was fun. We had some great memories. But it needs to end now.

And isn’t that part of the reason I’ve decided to live Tiny in the first place? I wanted my life to be more simple, less cluttered, and more about actually living. I want to spend more time outside and less time doing chores. I’m going to digress for a moment but bear with me: Do you know how quickly cat hair gets on clean clothes? I estimate it to be about 1/10 of a second. That shit is everywhere. So the natural conclusion must be that the more clothes I have, the more clothes I have to launder. And don’t even get me started about putting them away.

I think the above reasons illustrate that I’m getting myself psychologically ready to part with some of my clothes. In a way, I’m pumped. But I haven’t yet addressed why I’m dreading this process at the same time.

If you read my last blog post you saw my plans for my Tiny House in 3D. If you are a woman (or a well-dressed man), you likely noticed that I was missing something crucial; I had no traditional closet. Not many Tiny Houses do, and I was convinced I could get on board with this notion.

But then I couldn’t sleep last night because I was looking around at all my clothes, panicking about not having anywhere to store them. This is the first time my Tiny dream has truly scared me. Because it is getting to be so real, I am starting to really stress. As such, I’ve had to make a change to my floorplan. I’m going to move my washer/dryer into the kitchen where I have plenty of storage and take 2.5′ from the bathroom to create a closet. See below:

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I may try to install a pocket door but I also may just leave an open doorway to the closet. I can’t decide yet. I am also going to place the washer/dryer under the stairs, but I’m now wondering if I may change the stairs to a ladder. Happily, that can all be decided later.

I hope this new solution alleviates my fears a bit. Maybe I will be able to do my laundry in peace tonight, with no nightmares afterward.

Designing My Life

Designing My Life

I have my delivery date nailed down for my Tiny House and I have some great news to share as well! My builder is delivering the shell himself on March 13th to surprise me. YAY! But the biggest news is the best surprise. My parents have reconsidered their position and are allowing me to store my Tiny House on their property until it’s almost finished.

This makes me feel better since I’ll only be able to get out to my land once a week or so to do the demo. This makes my future home safe, secure, and protected.

Sure, I’ll have to endure endless suggestions from my dad, but honestly suggestions are pouring in from all angles now. That’s part of the problem of going public and of documenting your journey; everyone has an opinion. But it’s also very cool. Some people are pointing me in directions I’ve never thought about before. I’ve talked to a guy building a yurt and a gal who is funding her trailer in a creative way. (BTW, that gal’s name is Melanie and you should read her blog too. It’s called Little House in the Steel City. She is offering to paint small portraits for $15 to help fund her trailer – click here to order yours! She’s an amazing artist. I’ve ordered three!)

Now I’m making decisions about super-fun things, like drywall and insulation. I hate it. I want to keep looking at tile and flooring and paint colors and shiplap (damn you Joanna Gaines…). But instead I’m looking at cement board and radiant heat flooring mats and trying to nail down a budget.

I did make my first fun purchase though. I bought this fireplace from Wayfair.com to heat my Tiny Home. The flames change colors and so do the ambient lights. This won’t be my only source of heat but it will certainly be a fun addition!

I also did a 3D creation of what I think my Tiny House layout will be. I’ve never done one of these before so keep that in mind…

The stairs are all individual cabinets that will open in different directions. Those will have to be custom-made. I also changed my mind for the size of the vanity and shower, but that won’t change the picture much. Here are some of the materials and furnishings I’m thinking of using:

There’s one thorn in my side right now – no news on the land front. The loan is still going through the process so I’m just waiting to hear back.

Giant Leaps

Giant Leaps

I mentioned in my last post that I put an offer in on a piece of land. Yes – it was the land that I’d mentioned previously. (If you missed it, read about it here.) I have good news to share and bad news to share.

The good news is that the sellers accepted my offer!

The bad news is that the sellers accepted my offer…

So I now have the very interesting task of tearing down the structure that is on the property. I wanted to share a few pictures before I begin the process. I will try and get to the property soon to take some more pictures since I don’t have any of the view, which is the best part.

WARNING: They are not pretty!

I also went to the bank to set up my loan and payments, and since I’m documenting my process I will share with you the strange way I’ve had to go about my financing.

First I got a personal loan to pay my builder, Tiny House Squared, and pay for some immediate upgrades to the property. I paid my builder a down payment, plus paid for the order of building materials. (He chose the materials but we worked collaboratively on the layout of windows, the door, walls, etc.) In lieu of a traditional personal loan, I went the route of refinancing my car. This made it a secured auto loan, which gave me a much lower interest rate. I highly recommend it if this is an option for you.

I knew if I bought this property that I would need to pay for some things immediately, like fixing the driveway and renting a dumpster to haul away the trash. (I also need to hire a company to haul away a car that is on the property, but I have to get a abandonment title first since I don’t know who owned it.) Additionally I’ll need to buy some tools I don’t currently have, like a reciprocating saw. I don’t think I’ll need the entire amount of the loan I took out, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry in this situation.

My next step was to find a bank that would lend on a piece of land. The trouble I ran into was twofold. First, most banks will not give you a mortgage for less than $50,000; the risk-reward is just not in their favor on these loans, I’m told. Second, few banks will give a land loan, which is what I need. The suggestion I ran into again and again was to take out an additional personal loan. With a 4-5% difference between a personal loan and a land loan, I continued to pursue the latter. I was finally referred to a small bank about an hour away from where I live for my land loan. To save yourself a lot of time and a migraine or two, I suggest starting with smaller banks and credit unions if you need this type of loan.

Now that the loan is in process, I have to focus on tedious tasks, such as getting the aforementioned abandonment title and calling electricians to get a quote on temporary electric service. I am also getting a quote from a demolition company just to see if it would be worth my money for someone else to tear the modular home down. I’m currently doubling my income with my second job, so I think about one month of my second income is my cut-off amount for the demolition. I’ve also left messages for the Fire Marshall to see if the volunteer fire department would come and do a controlled burn. That would be ideal!

Either way, once the structure is down I will need to get someone to take the I-beams that the house is resting on. They are very long and obviously heavy, but I have a few options.

The most exciting part so far is that my trailer is finished and my build has begun! Here are some pictures of that as well!

Thank you for continuing to follow my journey! More exciting updates to come!