Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Tiny House Living vs the Japanese Art of DeCluttering

So I've been immersing myself in episodes of Tiny House Nation, and reading Marie Kondo's "the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing". Both of these have been helpful in my quest to sort through the clutter in our home and prepare for our new nomadic lifestyle.

In many cases the two agree. Sometimes, not so much.
Take the pretty shoes, for example.

I'm more or less always a tomboy and usually live in jeans or shorts and a t-shirt, but now and then pretty shoes and a simple black dress set the right tone for a night out.

Tiny House Nation would say - they only do ONE thing, and in a space-conscious home they must do at least two things to be considered. Do you really use them often enough to justify the space?

The Japanese method would be to hold them and really consider them, and if they bring joy, then keep them.

The truth is that I feel invincible and downright SEXY in my pretty shoes.
Wait.  Invincible, sexy, that's two things, AND they bring me joy; we have consensus. The pretty shoes are coming!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

25% of an RV

I sold my sports car today; my beautiful, low-maintenance, zippy little convertible Z350.
While it was perfect for a busy professional life of zipping around in L.A., it doesn't fit in our new nomadic life at all.

It pinched a little, watching her pull away down the driveway. But I did not cry.
Because in my pocket resides 25% of the RV budget.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Getting Healed

Hurdle number one, my fucking feet. AT&T paid for three months of medical insurance after my lay off.  In that time I have had a partial amputation of my big toe (left foot) and a surgery to reduce the bony prominence in my right foot. The amputation went well, the right foot a bit more problematic. As in, it developed a ulcer on the bottom at the surgery site that shows little sign of healing. At this time the Dr. has me in a non-weightbearing cast, hopefully this will do the trick. I have started a different approach to managing my diabetes after watching a TED talk by Dr. Sarah Hallberg. If you are a type 2 diabetic you know that as your insulin resistance increases you require more and more medication to keep your blood glucose levels under control. Dr. Hallberg, who studies obesity at Purdue, has found in her patients with diabetes severely restricting carbs has lead to many becoming asymptomatic, requiring no diabetes medication at all. In three days of low-carbing it I have reduced my insulin requirement by 75%! As a pleasant side effect I've lost 5 lbs. Mo' fat mo' protein! Any of my type 2 friends out there, I highly recommend watching her TED talk.

My immobility has created some problems with the rest of our goals, mainly house repairs, and frankly attitude.  It's hard to remain positive when you are stuck in the house all day.  On a positive note the sun is shining and maybe I can find a house painter who will show up.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Stuff, stuff and more stuff (or why do I own a telescope in Los Angeles)

Where did all this crap come from?  We've been watching a lot of a show called Tiny House Nation, part of the show is waking people up to the reality that they can't have a player piano in a 240 square foot tiny house.  What I initially thought would be getting rid of our furniture and the large items around the house has morphed into getting ride of basically everything but the clothes on our backs, sports equipment, and some kitchen stuff.  BTW we participate in some really gear-intensive sports. For instance SCUBA, no way will there be room for 2 sets of SCUBA gear on a 30ft RV, but it will be essential on the cruising sailboat.

We have come up with a multi-pronged approach to getting rid of our stuff:
  • the garbage can never goes out partially full
  • Craigslist for anything that has value*
  • garage sale for anything that doesn't sell on Craigslist and knick-knacks.
  • keep a Goodwill bag by the front door
  • turf it off on friends and family to hold for us
*value is a slippery concept, as we define it it means what is the lowest no-sentiment-attached price we will take. Be prepared for some surprises, we had some Disney stuff we were told was highly desirable, long story short... we gave it away.

Garbage. Pick a shelf, drawer, closet, or toolbox. Bring a garbage bag, if you can't think of a use for it long-term and it would be impossible to sell, chuck it.  It's hard at first but it gets easier.

Craigslist, look for similar items, not just Craigslist but eBay etc. Price accordingly. If it doesn't sell right away slowly reduce the price to the minimum you will take. If still no luck save for the last chance garage sale. We have used the free category on Craigslist with great results, but I would rather get a buck or two at a garage sale.

If it doesn't sell it's going to Goodwill anyway.

Garage sale: furniture, appliances, knick-knacks, basically everything left in the house. Last stop before Goodwill.

Goodwill, as you go through your closets keep a bag near, you know what to do.

Friends and family, invite local friends and family to come by and pick through your stuff.  Don't be afraid to be generous these are the people you will count on while you are on the road. Distant friends and family, take pictures send out an email blast. This is problematic with big items, but small things and family memorabilia can work.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Some Joy Along the Way

There have been a lot of random tearful outbursts this last few weeks.

It took a moment, but I finally just realized why I'm struggling with this plan of letting go of a house that is finally beginning to take the shape I want, in order to go in the search of the perfect boat, with a brief stop in an RV on the way.

Aside from dreading the future good-byes, when I look down the horizon, all I see is projects.  Get the house-ready-to-sell-project, a rushed RV project, a potentially long and very unpleasant boat project.

So... new plan. There will be some joy in the RV somewhere along the way.  We will NOT be rushing from the house to the boat (read: boatyard and projects). We will pause and enjoy our beautiful nation from the RV along the way.  And we will be very picky about the boat in order to minimize the pre-launch project time there.

Deep sigh. That's what was missing. Mo' betta.

Now I can see a life that fits, I can imagine some joy riding our motorcycles through the slot canyons of Utah, paddling on a high lake on the SUP and kayak, capturing photos of the early morning light on the water at Mono Lake, hot cocoa around the campfire.

This is a life I can live with.

We have consensus.  We are heading in the same direction.  We have goals and a timeline.
...We have a lot of stuff to purge around here to get this house ready for sale.

So. Much. Stuff.

Friday, September 30, 2016

The Debate Continues

The debate continues.  
Over time it boils down to several things on which we agree:

No more corporate W2 jobs for Lance.  
Corporations don't allow enough time to actually enjoy life.
From here on out, whatever work he does will be of his own design, and based on a remote platform. More brainstorming required here.

We want to travel. We've always wanted this.
My little company is portable, all I need is internet and a solid computer. As long as I can carve out quiet little windows to work it's manageable.

We don't want to grow old in this house.  
While we love the home that we've made and the friends, family and clients we've surrounded ourselves with, it's still L.A.

While we're working on a map for our plan, it's clear that no matter what we decide to do, we need to first address some medical stuff for Lance. His feet are a mess due to complications related to diabetes. We are facing down at least one surgery, perhaps two, to get him walking on his own two feet again. We've been putting it off for a couple of years now, with the buyout and transition there just hasn't been a good time to take time off of work. Now we can finally make it a priority. Surgery is scheduled on October 7th.

So, the plan is... sell the house and buy a 40' sailboat. See the world.

We want to take our time, choose the right boat.
We need a home base from which to do that.  So let's start with an RV. Then we can take our home with us while we choose the boat and get it ready to go.

Later, the RV will be waiting for us when we come home to visit, we'll have a place of our own to use as home base.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A better life

What we needed was some ocean time for respite. We scooped up the dog and the laptop and fled to Catalina on our little 28' Hunter sailboat.  This is our happy place, the place we always retreat to when we need a little elbow room in L.A.

With the phone tethering turned on the laptop is pretty quick. I am able to work quite well with the internet connection from the boat.  He does the cooking while I work, then we clean up together and relax on the deck together. Tonight's entertainment: the dinghy dock is full. The Marina had us park pretty close so we have a front-row seat. People are arriving from an afternoon at the bar, trying to find their dinghies in the growing dark, others are jockeying their way in. It's pandemonium. Delicious. We sip our cocktails and revel in the insanity, not even attempting to hide our glee at the mayhem.

Ahhhhh. This is the life.

Wait - this is THE life.  Why are we doing anything else?

That afternoon, while sitting on our little boat in Two Harbors on Catalina it all became so clear.  We live in harmony on our boat.  When things break or don't go as planned we work together to resolve them. We are in sync.

At our house we are always struggling against one another for resources and time. Mostly time.  This is not new knowledge, we've noticed this before, but owning a house and struggling to keep it filled is the life we're supposed to be living, right? Working to the point of exhaustion all week to collapse gratefully in bed in a heap, living for ourselves on the weekends not otherwise gobbled up by house chores or overtime, doing it again and again and trying to stay positive by remaining focused instead on the measly two weeks of annual vacation the corporation allows?

What if we do something else instead? Can we build a life we don't need to plan a vacation to get away from? Can we agree on what that would look like?

We start the debate.

You want to do what?

With a little shuffling around of Shawna's clients we were able to spend most of a week at Two Harbors on Catalina island.  Time for some serious relaxing and strategizing.  After a couple of days of rest we realized, we are at our best on the ocean.  We work together, no bickering, no stupid arguments, both of us working together.  Like thousands before us we felt the lure of the ocean.  "Wouldn't it be great to do this. What if we just sold everything and left?"  I have to point out here that my wife is the best, most would have dismissed this hare-brained idea immediately.  To her credit she gave my idea fair consideration.  In our relationship I'm the dreamer, and Shawna is the planner.  I like to say I'm the 'big picture guy', which is shorthand for terrible at details. As we looked at what this would entail I think we were both waiting for the 'dealkiller', the one obstacle we couldn't see a way around. A way back to the safe wage-slave existence.

First, my health.  One of the many lovely side effects of type 2 diabetes is something called Charcot foot.  Which in my case means where most people have an arch in their foot, I have the opposite, my foot is convex on the bottom.  I had surgery on the left foot to correct the condition, but the other one still had to be done. On top of that I had given myself a diabetic ulcer on my left big toe wearing inappropriate shoes. I made an appointment with the podiatrist, told him about my situation and asked if he could schedule this very demanding surgery (left foot surgery lasted 11 hours) while I was still covered by my employer's medical insurance. Long story short, he could do a different surgery, less invasive, outpatient and this week!  It turned out I needed two surgeries, the ulcer on the big toe wouldn't heal requiring a partial amputation (nobody said this would be easy).

Second, our stuff.  We have lived in Southern California for 13 years, in our current house for 9 years. We have a lot of stuff.  You know the old saying "How do you eat an elephant?... One bite at a time." To meet our timetable (we want to sell the house in April) we have to get rid of about 99% of our possessions in 3 months. Hello Craigslist.

Third, home repairs.  We bought our house from the bank during the 'unpleasantness' in the economy 2008.  The former occupants had been, let's say disinclined to make any repairs or, near as I can tell live like humans. We have been slowly making repairs and improvements as we could afford them. The house still needed exterior paint, interior doors, baseboard, etc.

Fourth, what to do with stuff we wanted to keep.  We don't want to pay for storage every month, but we also don't want to burden our relatives with a bunch of our stuff.

Fifth, all the stuff you don't think about when you give up a fixed address. Things like voting, getting mail, paying taxes (what state?) insurance and I'm sure a dozen other things I haven't thought of yet.

Last but not least how am I going to make some dough, Shawna is a great wife, but I don't think she will let me goof off while she works all day (or as I call it "living the dream")

These are the challenges we have in front of us as I see them at the end of February 2017.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The End of the Beginning

It was surreal, walking into a conference room with my site manager and a couple of HR flacks.  Directv had been acquired by ATT about 6 months ago.  As a satellite broadcast technician I felt my job was reasonably secure, stuff breaks... right?  Wrong!  You can guess how this ends, as I left the conference room, unemployed.  What now? I asked myself.  First call the wife, not a call anyone wants to make, my second in 15 years.  A short conversation, mutual reassurance and a promise to come straight home.  That evening we discussed our options, start looking for a job in LA, work with my wife in her business, or SOMETHING ELSE.

After a lot of discussion we decided to go with SOMETHING ELSE.  Before I get into what Something Else entails, a little about me.  As I write this I am a 52 year old, overweight, type 2 diabetic, in need of foot surgery. Not good for long term prospects.  I am also an avid sailor, scuba diver, road cyclist and adventure motorcyclist as is my wife (yes she rides her own motorcycle).  The thought of starting over with yet another company was distressing, but I know we would have a hard time paying the bills any other way.  It wasn't the work that bothered me as much as losing seniority and vacation time.  We have a 28' Hunter sailboat that we love, and any new job would limit our time aboard.  Well, for now I'm free, off to Catalina.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Beginning of the End

"I've been laid off", he said.
The words hit me like a punch to the gut, and all of the sudden my feet got unbelievably heavy.
The grip on my hand released involuntarily and I nearly dropped the phone.
I had to sit down quickly on the sidewalk while I still had control of my limbs.

It didn't come as a a surprise. Not really.  The corporation that bought up his company had been laying people off left and right.  The past year had been literal hell for the survivors who were each preparing for their turn on the chopping block.  He'd been dragging a black cloud home for quite some time now as his friends were ushered out and the morale of the remaining coworkers fell into a doom spiral.

In my typical fashion I got home and started strategizing.  I built spreadsheets and crunched numbers.  I examined our debt, our assets.  I was a wildwoman.  It was a mad attempt to avoid the inevitable truth that I already knew. The bottom line: we could keep the house on his unemployment income and my business income, but only barely. It would mean a lot of belt-tightening.

And it definitely wouldn't be any fun.

So now what?

Well, this is where adventure begins, always with the ending of something else.

I suppose introductions are in order. I am a 43 year old small business owner, wife, and  mother (the kids came with the man I love, a ready-made family I embrace as my own).  Up until this morning I was living happily in marital and homeowner bliss in La Mirada, CA, a quiet and safe little suburb on the border of the counties of Los Angeles and Orange County.  The winds of change are blowing.