Leaping Rats and a Christmas Tree Shed Turned Tiny House

There’s a well known concept that pervades many eastern philosophies and new age belief systems. It’s the concept of emptying space to create room in your life for new energies to come in. It’s a concept I’ve believed in for a long time but only since going minimalist have I been able to actually experience how powerful the concept is.

I’ve been meaning to blog about our tiny house project for a while now instead of hiding it down at the bottom of posts as an update. Well, the project is far enough along now, and my sanity has returned enough for me to start blogging about it! And what better place to begin than at the beginning:

It was a dark and rainy night.

Er, just kidding. The story actually begins last winter. It wasn’t a dark and stormy night. It was a windy winter day. The story is one of a chicken coop, a scared leaping rat and a scared leaping Tanja, and an entire battalion of fake Christmas trees.

See, our tiny house project wouldn’t be happening if it weren’t for the chicken coop. Clutter is like that. It keeps you from doing other things with your space… better things. And our tiny house is coming about because a chicken coop got cleaned out, and the Christmas shed got downsized to fit into the chicken coop! And yep, you guessed it, an empty vessel was born. The old Christmas shed is turning into our new tiny house.

I told you, I’m really starting at the beginning. I’ve been meaning to put up my leaping rats post since January. And I wanted to share the WHOLE story about how the crazy kernel of an idea for our tiny house was born. So here it is! A whole series documenting the entire process. Today you get a bonanza of photos (and witty editorial :) about the cleanout of the coop.

Before we get started, take a second and think about what YOU would do with an empty vessel. Is there a space you’ve been wanting to create in your home, but you can’t because there’s too much junk? My inspirational message for the day is, “Create the empty vessel and see what the universe fills it with.” Keep that in mind while you read on!

The Whole She-Bang of a Story

Cora used to have three happy chickens. I say they were happy chickens because she simply used their eggs and they were never butchered and eaten. Over the years some opportunistic hawks wittled her chickens down to none though, and she didn’t get any more. As a result she had an old chicken coop on her property that had turned into a clutter trap.

It was full of musty, mildewed old sheets and blankets along with a sordid assortment of other random odds and ends. She also had a large storage shed on the property that we (Patrick and I) had dubbed the Christmas Tree Shed. Why such a name? Well, when I say this storage shed was full to the brim with Christmas stuff, you don’t really know what I mean. I’m talking 9 full-size (not taken apart or anything) fake Christmas trees, along with a mountain of Christmas decorations and Halloween decorations. Sometimes a picture is everything. Here is “just” the entrance to the Christmas shed to give you an idea of how much was in there! And this picture was taken while all the “active” Christmas decorations were in use in the house for the holidays. These are extras!

a lot of christmas clutter

Cora had come to the realization that Christmas had grown too “big”. It took her weeks to get her set-up in gear and over a month to get it all taken back down again. She decided she wanted to downsize (yay!). Her plan was to declutter and move “all of Christmas” into the coop, clearing out the Christmas shed completely. But, as it goes with clutter, before you can do one thing, you have to do another. In the meantime, the remnants of Christmas were living on the porch.

Patrick and I were desperate to see it packed away. It was the end of January and all of that Christmas stuff was still hanging out all over the porch. We got permission and started the first step of the project, “The Great Chicken Coop Clean-Out”.

Heathcliff the headless pelican guards the path towards the chicken coop. I believe he is in place to make sure not “too” much clutter leaves the property. (Heathcliff did not get decluttered. His head gets put back on weekly and it falls back off weekly. Heathcliff is what I would refer to as sentimental clutter.) Behind Heathcliff is the old iguana rescue habitat. It is actually huge. It currently houses two of the last remaining cockatiels out of Cora’s cockatiel flock. Cora has gotten out of doing iguana rescue and is not planning on getting anymore cockatiels. Downsizing pets can be good! (All iguanas went to an even bigger rescue habitat, and the cockatiel flock, except for the two old guys left, were unfortunately the victims of a raccoon attack several years ago).

the clutter guardian


Walking up the path to the old chicken coop doesn’t look so bad on first impressions. Here’s the wooden walkway (that we’ve since removed as well… at Cora’s request).


But then as you look around you see some oddballs sticking out. Metal clutter has been rampant. Here is a random unknown squiggly piece of metal and an old metal water fountain. Neither were in use and both were decluttered.

approaching the clutter

Moving on down the walkway it gets harder to see where the walkway is and where nature ends and the edges of the walkway begin. Lots of leaves and lots of random items. You can’t see in the picture very well, but there are more items off the walkway to the left. Mostly buried pots.

how to declutter just start

And here’s a broken seashorse fountain (unfortunately still with us) along with what I refer to as a mosquito theme park… er, the empty pot just waiting to hatch some more mini-vampires. (Luckily that particular mosquito theme park did get decluttered!)

broken clutter

Now we’re at the end of the walkway. You can see the edge of the chicken coop to the left. It’s surrounded by pots!

gardening clutter

Turning left, there’s still a little more walkway to get through. Wow, isn’t that palm tropical looking? Cora has a lot of these in her backyard and I think they’re gorgeous. The mega mosquito theme parks, also known as unused plastic storage tubs, are not gorgeous though! They were off the walkway and below. Underneath them, I excavated… wait for it…. more pots!

storage tub clutter

Ah, we made it. The coop is to the right! Now at this point all we’d done is walk down the path and sweeped off a layer of leaves. Patrick got scared when he saw the inside of the coop though. I bravely donned a doo-rag over my face and dug in.

buried in clutter

The pet taxi got removed and we surveyed the territory.

approaching the big clutter

This looks so small compared to what it was. This is actually a mountain of blankets. The floor is several feet below the top of this shot. The blankets had a good purpose originally. They were for covering plants in the winter. Unfortunately some rats thought they were special hotel accommodations just for them! We found lots of signs of previous rat activity, you know, those little packrat nests they make out of stuff! I did the dirty job of leaning in and tossing stuff out. Patrick then carried it to a flat part of the yard for sorting. It was a special feat to avoid stepping all the way into the coop, grab stuff and chuck it out. I didn’t want to get into that enclosed little space and face a pesky critter.

decluttering can be simple

That’s how it went until, “Ack! A leaping rat!” No, I don’t have a picture of the rat. He (or she) was way too fast. Of course it happened when all of the cloth was out and I HAD to step all the way inside to get one last item that was tucked far into a corner. (I didn’t get a shot of the item. It was an old feed bin of some sort.) Mr./Mrs. Rat came leaping out. I went leaping straight up. I screamed. He/She screamed. And then, luckily Mr./Mrs. Rat spotted a giant gaping hole in the back of the coop and leaped out through it in two giant bounds. We both fled through our respective holes and after a few minutes of calming down I made Patrick go in to retrieve the box of heavy old records. Those rat pee covered records sold for $40 at her yard sale later. Just goes to show people will do anything for rat chewed Beatles albums!

old records can be clutter

Once all the big items were cleared out, what was left but a giant mountain of packrat nest leavings. Ewwww! We’re talking some super-stinky stuff here.

packrat nest clutter

Patrick was a knight in shining hoodie and took over the clean-up project at this point. He didn’t don a doo-rag over his mouth though like I did. Here he is still smiling because he hasn’t done the job yet! Notice the pots in this picture and the old lawn lights in the picture above? As Patrick shoveled packrat nests into the garbage bag I excavated off the walkway and dragged stuff up. The lawn lights and the pots are just a few things I unearthed. There was no buried treasure though. Only buried clutter!

patrick happy decluttering

Here’s a close-up of the nasty process. Out of all the decluttering I’ve done, this old chicken coop was the nastiest thing I’ve ever faced.

packrat nest clutter leaving

Patrick leaning in for more rat nest fluff. See how small the door is? Climbing in was scary!

even more buried clutter

Look very, very closely. This is off the walkway. There’s a wild amount of random objects down there, deeply covered by thick brush. I got it all out though! There were layers of it. Just when I thought I’d dug everything up I’d see a little something peeking out. Then I dig it out and see another something peeking out a layer deeper.

hiding clutter

Another shot of the lawn lights. But that’s not why I included this shot. It’s because of the bit of blue at the top of the shot. That was giant pool grade bubble wrap. Yep! I ventured to the west wall outside of the coop and found a bunch more clutter back there!

excavating clutter

And now, the money shot. Here’s the haul! Doesn’t look like much you say? Well look at the full size lawn lounger in the background towards the left of the shot. It gives a proper perspective for how tall and wide this pile of trash was!

the great clutter pile decluttered

In the end we bagged up about a dozen trash bags filled to the brim.

bagging up clutter

And after that we still had a few more items that didn’t get bagged up! They did get kicked to the curb though. :)

a little more clutter

In the end what was saved? Just the pet taxi and the old records. The records sold at the yard sale and the extra records that didn’t sell were given to a neighbor who is a music nut and works in the music industry as a stage hand. He loved all those classic records from the 60′s and 70′s!

Somehow I didn’t take a shot of the coop once it was emptied, but I’m sure you can use your imagination. It was 100% cleared out.

This is the End… My Only Friend The End

Oops. Sorry! I’m probably still kinda crazy from our building project, because now I’m quoting Jim Morrison from the Doors. Well, that’s o.k. We did unearth a bunch of Doors albums in that coop so it’s fitting! And this is the end of the chicken coop story, but it’s just the beginning of my tiny house story. The next installment is coming up soon. Because, you guessed it, once the coop was clear, Christmas moved into the coop (into tightly fitted plastic storage tubs… no more temptations for Mr./Mrs. Rat). And once Christmas moved into the coop, the major Christmas shed declutter happened. And that’s what I’m going to share with you next time. Before we go though, a few updates.

* We’ve been painting the outside of Cora’s house this week. What a difference a fresh coat of paint can make! We’ve been busy doing that while Super Bronson’s been busy with our finishing touches. Electricity is installed and today was insulation day! (Patrick took today off from painting to help install the insulation. He got the short end of the stick. All I did was hammer down some staples flat. I got it easy!)Tomorrow… uh, it’s after midnight so maybe that’s actually today, is the first drywall day (yep, our lovely contractor is working on a Saturday for us… no rest for the wicked). And drywall day is exciting…because after the drywall days we’re really into finishing touches!

* I STRUGGLED with images this week guys. I’m still learning the in’s and out’s of my mac and I gotta say I’m missing my old, trusty faithful outdated software (Microsoft Digital Image Pro). It was quick unlike Photoshop and easy to dash in/dash out with my image resizing and quick text notes I’d slap on my photos. Soooo, for all you mac users out there, please share your favorite image editing programs that are mac compatible! And if you know an app that’s really similar to Microsoft Digital Image Pro I’ll be your best friend forever! I’m looking for names. I’ve tried Acorn and didn’t care for it, and I’ve looked over the specs for Seashore and Pixelmator. Here’s what I need. Let me know if you’ve got a recommendation. A quick crop app. A quick add text app. A groovy filters app. I’ve got a bulk image resizer now so that app is covered. Any ideas? Hints? And does iphoto suck at large-scale image management as much as I think it does?

What Says You

And no post here at Minimalist Packrat would be complete without asking all of you wonderful, exquisite readers a couple questions. Here goes! Do you have an “empty vessel” in your house? Have you cleared clutter and created something amazing from the space you gained? Share! Share! Folks want that inspiration. Or are you still in the throes of clutter and are dreaming of converting a room into another purpose? Is the clutter holding you back? Keeping you from going forward? Ask for advice! There are awesome, awesome people reading here at Minimalist Packrat who can offer up some kick-ass advice for your situation. And last… for all you groovy minimalists and minimalistishes: what’s the smallest size space you think you could live in? Or what’s the smallest size space you HAVE lived in? Share! Share! Comments make my world go round. :0







the minimalist packrat clutter bootcamp


50 Responses to “Leaping Rats and a Christmas Tree Shed Turned Tiny House”

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  1. Laura says:

    Very interesting and inspiring! I don’t have any big stories to share, but I am definitely looking forward to reading others’ stories! I am slowly decluttering our house. Slowly, but surely. Does your mother-in-law like the results of all the work you two are doing? I can’t wait to see your little house. Keep up the good work, Tanja!
    Laura recently posted..A Bit of Remodeling

    • Hi Laura,

      Mostly Cora is happy with the decluttering projects we’ve been doing. At times she’s kicked in on her own and done some downsizing too. But I think there is a bit of nervousness on her part. She has a similar belief, like I used to, that , “You just might need it someday.” So she holds onto a lot of stuff that isn’t serving a purpose. As far as the chicken coop went she was delighted. She knew there was nothing in there she wanted (except the pet taxi). Other projects like “the west side of the house project” that I haven’t blogged about yet, are touchy. I feel it’s an unwieldy mess but she wants to keep it all.

      We’re respecting boundaries and moving forward slowly! I do know she’s happy that we’ve been doing very thorough deep cleaning around her house… but hey, doesn’t that make anyone happy? :)

      • Laura says:

        As I said, I do not have any exciting stories to tell. After reading your extreme (in a good way!) stories, mine are rather ordinary. However, I realized that there probably are a lot of ordinary people visiting here. So, I will say that our bedroom, kitchen and one other main living area in our home is getting quite decluttered. Also, this year I have cleaned out our one car garage so that know we can park inside it! Lovely! I have a bit more to clean out in one section, but I just smile when I think about how it was before and how clean it is now! For those of us still decluttering, keep up the good work! We can do it!
        Laura recently posted..Practical Simplicity

        • Laura,

          Nothing is ordinary. Especially not the ordinary. Magic lies in the simple daily graces of life. Like the common Zen maxim that goes something like this, “Enlightenment comes in the everyday moment. In the chopping of the wood and the carrying of the water.”

          Every single person who chooses to live a life with less, even slightly less, is transforming their existence, saving precious resources, and providing an example for change. It is powerful and so are you my dear!

          p.s. Your bedroom is beautiful. I love the simplicity of it.

          • Hmmm. I just went to leave a comment on your blog. I’ve run into it a few times before where I can’t because I don’t have any of the requested accounts. Any way for you to add the “name/url” field? I’ve seen some “google blogger” blogs that have it set up.

      • Wow Tanja. I didn’t realize what a decluttering project this was for you and Patrick. Cora is so lucky to have you two helping clear all of that stuff out. She had to just be drowning in it all.

        Oh, and I would love for you and Patrick to come to my house, put on a yard sale, and deep clean my house. That would be fantastic! Seriously, though, I have no idea how Patrick cleared out the rat fluff. That had to be absolutely disgusting! He was a knight in shining hoodie indeed. ;)

        And I’m pretty sure that I’ll be laughing about Heathcliff the headless pelican for days to come.

        I can’t wait to read the next part of the story!
        Jenny @ exconsumer recently posted..Less Me- More We

        • For me Heathcliff is a major energetic stumbling block on the property. He’s so prominently positioned in the backyard and his head just keeps falling off. There’s an energy associated with broken things and there are so many broken things on this property. Bad feng shui. Cora says she’s tried all kinds of glue to keep it on. Funny, that he appears to be turning into a little mascot since I mentioned him. Happy Clam is arming up the spraypaint can and moving him to the front door of our tiny house!

          Yes. Patrick doesn’t like me talking about it much on the blog, so I’ve tried to avoid it, but sometimes it’s gotta come out. Cora has a gazoodle of stuff, just like I used to. She’s definitely still attached to a lot of it. It’s probably part of the reason we’re turning tail and getting ready to hide in the backyard! We could have made it work in the house. There should be plenty of room. 1,200 square feet for three people sounds ample in theory, but our 200 square feet will feel sooo much more spacious to us!

          p.s. I had my own Heathcliff. It was a foot tall amber (real amber) Quan Yin who lost her head in a terrible bookcase accident. I spent a ton of money on her and I loved her and I still miss her a little. I reglued her head but she was never the same. I gifted her to an incredible artist I knew in Arkansas who planned to use her in a series of paintings. Broken things for me promote broken energy. A little can be wabi sabi. A lot is bad. My 2 cents!

  2. sonrie says:

    What a great coop! I bet that would make a good gift for a future chicken owner! And, great work too – such a feeling of accomplishment. :)
    sonrie recently posted..fennel

    • Hi Sonrie,

      It is actually an awesome little chicken cottage. Cora’s ex (still in our lives in a good way) built it and he’s an incredible carpenter. There’s some wear and damage to it now so it would have to be rehabbed a little for chickens.

      Right now Cora’s happy using it as her new miniaturized Christmas storage shed…. but that doesn’t mean it won’t be shared with a future chicken wrangler at some point. :)

      Her ex Steve has a regular chicken palace down the road. He has around 20 happy chickens and a big garden and he’s always graciously dropping off eggs and veggies. This week we got two different kinds of squash, some cucumbers and a batch of turnips.

      • Now Sonrie,

        I’m surprised you didn’t mention your true chicken palace here. I’ve seen those pictures you know!

  3. Laura says:

    Awesome story Tanja! I really enjoyed the pictures. It’s crazy (and scary) to see how much clutter can pile up over the years and become large mounds of junk. I’ve been doing some cleaning myself and struggling with what to do with all the leftovers. I hate to see everything just go to a landfill. Besides the yard sale, what did you guys do with random/usable stuff you found?
    Laura recently posted..2nd Only To The Nonesuch Cheesecake

    • Hey Laura,

      When Patrick and I were decluttering we only threw away complete junk. Our other avenues were bringing things in to work (they had an awesome “free bin” where people could share stuff), giving things away to friends (it was fun to match stuff with different people), donating to charities, and with some of the pricier stuff we sold it.

      At Cora’s it’s been a little different since it’s her stuff not ours. We hosted 3 yard sales because Cora really liked the idea of getting cash for her stuff. After the third sale we donated everything to a charity (made them come pick it up with a truck). Stuff the charity didn’t want (too old/broken) went to the curb or back in the garage :(.

      Interestingly, all metal has gone to “Mona the Metal Scrapper” who comes by regularly. We’ve discovered the junk yards pay a lot for metal items (something like $10 a pound) and Mona comes by whenever we have a fresh load for her. And then, with some stuff, it’s been given to friends as well. Our old computer/desk/chair and a parrot cage Cora’s stored in her back yard are going to our builder.

      I’m all about “re-use” and share whenever possible! I’ll write a big post about what to do with clutter at some point. I’ve been meaning too!

    • Laura,

      I forgot to add…. we donated NOTHING from the chicken coop except the records. Everything was too far gone to even think about saving. The metal was handed out to the scrapper, the records were sold/given away, and the hard cover pet taxi was saved (soft cover ones were trashed). Everything else went straight in the contractor grade trash bags. Sometimes you just gotta throw it away!

  4. happy clam says:

    You two are true soldiers! Faced with something as nastily cluttered as this chicken coop, I’d probably accidentally drop a burning matchstick in there after no more than an hour!!! All the while screaming AAAAAAAAAH!!!

    I can somewhat relate to your story, in a previous life I had a S.O. who would, as soon as I’d freed up some space somewhere, bring random crap to fill it. So frustrating!!
    When I declared my upcoming leaving (because vagabond and homebody just don’t match) he became very protective over his stuff thinking that I’d fight over the dining table or something like that. My reply: “You still don’t get it. I’ll just take my backpack. Keep the rest. Bye.” Which I did**. Maybe that’s not the most common way to free up some space for new energies, but at the time it felt like I regained half the universe full of empty space for myself!
    **Disclaimer: I let my mom pick up my Japanese blue porcelain afterwards.

    • Hi Happy Clam,

      I used to be an S.O. just like your S.O.!!!! I filled way too much of Patrick’s space over the years. :)

      The chicken coop was, while not fun to do, fun to write about. The best part was the knowledge that all that old mildewed nasty stuff was getting kicked off the property. A burning match had some appeal… that’s for sure! But it we soldiered through. It was fun writing about an “unsanitized” experience. Decluttering isn’t always easy. It isn’t always fun. And sometimes it’s downright nasty. But getting rid of that stuff? It was worth it!

  5. happy clam says:

    Oh, I forgot to add,

    I once saw a minimalistic apartment that had a modern/retro cabin in the woods flair, as a decoration they spray-painted garden figurines in bright orange and hung them up over the sofa/ positioned them next to the fireplace.

    How about a spraypainted orange seahorse/ Heathcliff guarding your tiny house entrance XD ?
    happy clam recently posted..Ratio vs intuition

    • Hi again Happy Clam,

      Are you reading my mind and trying to tempt me? I used to have a resin seahorse collection. They were vintage (50′s, 60′s) seahorse plaques dipped in resin with shells inside of them. It was hard to declutter them and now you’re tempting me back!

      Actually I just discovered an amazing mid-century modern store 2 towns north of me. It’s 9,000 square feet of everything 50′s, 60′s, 70′s. I stopped in looking for chairs for the upcoming tiny house and was blown away by everything they had. (Being a good minimalist I bought nothing.) I actually think a seahorse mascot on the outside of the house would be…. lovely.

      And another funny coincidence, we just painted the outside of Cora’s house an adobe clay color. It’s a brownish-orange. She really wants us to paint the tiny house the same color so it “matches”. I’m not 100% sold on her shade of paint, but we’re going to paint it that color anyways. So we will have what amounts to a quasi-orange exterior.

      • happy clam says:

        XD LOL. I think the Universe sent me vibes of orange seahorses!!

        Well, I think Heathcliff does deserve a makeover if he is going to stay, and his head too, and if you really like seahorses that much why not utilize the one that you have? The fountain could hold a fern or another plant instead of water, or one of those small solar light balls (like http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-CxoeiLvf-Fo/TWA5uJ6mZGI/AAAAAAAAJ0o/6AwUHOT5L9o/s400/Magic+Globe+Floating+Solar+Lights.jpg). Obviously I am not a big fan of visual clutter, however, I think if you really like something, a few design objects should be allowed. Exhibit A: There is a completely functionless metal gecko sticking to the wall above my desk.

        I didn’t find the original room image anymore, but here are some spray painted composers for comparison
        happy clam recently posted..Ratio vs intuition

        • I LIKE those spray-painted composers. I have two different design style loves. One is serene and ethereal. The other retro kitsch. (Both done minimally of course). When I walked in and saw that 9,000 square foot vintage showroom I freaked and wanted to find a few perfect baubles to adorn our new space with (my shopaholic tendencies lie close under the surface) so I can see this spray-painted statuary vision you’ve got.

          I think Cora would flip if I started claiming her stuff for our own space though, so Heathcliff and the seahorse fountain are out of the picture. The seahorse is also broken in a way that makes it really broken! The top water basin is missing a big chunk. She stands the base up frequently and puts the basin in place. Then it falls over because the weight distribution is off. It just won’t stand up for longer than a day. Otherwise, perhaps I would see if I could adopt the sea horse and repurpose it.

          But something will be happening outside the tiny cabin. I am planning on transplanting ferns to frame the outside of the space and we will have some kind of a mascot at some point.

          p.s. Cora has two gecko wall art pieces. She used to have a real gecko too! He was really cool.

  6. Taylor says:

    Awesome post–I definitely would have run screaming from that coop. Good on you for suffering through the cleanup!

    The smallest space I ever lived in was a 9×11 dorm room that I shared with a roommate. That meant all my possessions had to fit in under 50 square feet of space. That was my first taste of decluttering–I got to my new home and realized I had about 5x too much stuff. Instead of keeping it all anyway, like my roommate did (which drove me nuts!) I whittled everything down to my schoolbooks, laptop, guitar, art supplies, and about 3 weeks worth of clothes (which seems like a lot but every time someone comes over they ask “Oh my god, that’s ALL of them?”)

    Unfortunately, a lot of my excess stuff ended up back at my parents’ house…I’m still dealing with my attachment to it, and my instincts that I might need it later. I’d love to see a post on getting rid of grown children’s clutter from the other side of the equation.

    the empty vessel concept is inspiring. I move in to my own studio apartment in 2 weeks. Completely empty, and no roommates to fill it with junk this time. I’d like to whittle my stuff down a little more and resist my parents’ urgings to fill it up with stuff. While I will need to get a few new things, like some cooking equipment, I want to try and limit what comes in. I look forward to the freedom of my empty space.

    • Hi Taylor,

      Congrats on getting your own private space! I bet it will feel delicious knowing you only have your stuff in it. I did a post a while back on how to minimally furnish an apartment that you might want to check out. It was a q&a from Regina who was moving into her first apartment and was trying to keep her parent’s from filling it up with too much stuff. Very similar to your situation!

      Our upcoming tiny house is similar in size to a mini-apartment/studio. We plan on simply having a couch or two chairs, a built in desk with one computer chair, the bed, and potentially two nightstands. It doesn’t take much furniture and definitely not many decorations before a tiny space is filled up. I say go slow and start with the least. It’s easy to add things in later!

  7. Astreil says:

    What a great post! My husband and I have several chicken coops that we have been neglecting. Slowly, we are sorting through them. Our goal is to have, not a dirty, cramped, dark front office, but a clean, inviting one. I would also love to rip out the 20 year old brown shag carpet and replace it with tile. Little by little, I hope we can work together to fix that cluttered cave.
    Astreil recently posted..I Can Not Celebrate Today

    • Hi Astreil,

      How funny you’ve got chicken coops with clutter in them too! I guess they make a perfect clutter spot. :) With your front office you can do it. It’s amazing what a coat of fresh light paint can do for a space. And just downsizing the “size” of furniture pieces can open any room up. It takes time but you’ll get there and it will be soooo worth the effort. Trust me, if we can take a termite ridden, falling down shed and turn it into a mini-minimalist palace, you can turn your cluttered office into a paradise too!

  8. Mia says:

    Aaaaaack! Leaping rats!! Wow. I’m glad you made Patrick go in there after that.

    My honey and I are currently living in a sharehouse, which is itself quite large… however we are sharing it with 3 other people. It is trying at times, to say the least. I cant wait til we get our own place.

    • Hey Miss Mia,

      Yeah, when rats get involved it’s time for Patrick to take over. Sexist? Yes, but he humors me! I’m not afraid of rats, especially country rats (city rats might be a different matter), but I still don’t want to get too close to them. :)

      You and your sharehouse. You could almost say Patrick and I failed completely at living with someone else because we’re escaping to the backyard! It does take a special synergy to live with other people effectively. It also helps if people are on the same page. Now I remember you saying that you and your honey were saving tons of money by combining your living with so many other people. Just stay focused on how that means you’re going to be set up really well when the time comes for you both to move out on your own. And it will be delicious! Even if you share your new home with a bunch of comic book figurines. :)

      • Mia says:

        Hee hee :) I think I could handle the figurines quite well if we had more space for them. Minimal living is I think the only way we stay sane with two of us in just the one bedroom!! When we get our own place I am definitely taking up your idea of giving him the spare room to decorate as he sees fit.

        I dont think its sexists if one of you is less bothered by rats than the other, and that person just HAPPENS to be a boy. I am sure if he were scared of, say, clowns that you would help him remove any clowns that were hiding in sheds, waiting to pounce. Wow, thats a really scary thought!!

        Thanks for your words of encouragement. Sharehouses continue to be… interesting. I will keep focused on the money and try to be patient!

        • Now you know the funny thing is, Patrick has a general dislike and distrust for clowns (that’s man-talk for kind of being creeped out by them and kind of being scared of them) so if there were any clowns hiding in sheds, I’d definitely have to do the job! It’s clowns and doll faces for Patrick. For me it’s roaches and zombies. We’re all afraid of something, even if it’s only a little bit afraid. :)

          I can already envision your honey’s man cave filled to the brim with all those precious collectibles. It’ll happen. In the meantime, I know all about that one bedroom living thing. It can definitely be a tight fit.

        • Patrick says:

          It’s okay to be freaked out by clowns; they’re fundamentally evil. So are dolls.

          In addition to being the official rat conqueror, I play the role of Bug-Catcher. All that Jedi training has to be good for something.

          Thanks to everybody for all the support regarding the new space. We’re super excited to get out there and get some serious work done. Your well wishes are appreciated. Gratitude.

          Now, if I could just get the image of evil clowns leaping at me from beneath piles of clutter out of my head…
          Patrick recently posted..Blood Creek 2009 Zombie Movie Review

          • Honey,

            Did you have to put up your “scary face” photo here? I do prefer the one where your happy on the beach! Well, I suppose it’s your zombie-hunting persona.

            And you know, zombies do love to hang out under clutter piles. :)

            • Patrick says:

              My technical savvy only goes so far. I’ve not figured out how to flip the two images (jekyll/hyde style!). It’s also fantastically untopical to have my last post (via comment luv) be an evil zombie movie rather than, say…something to do with minimalism perhaps? Oh well. Maybe there are some closet horror fans out there in minimalism world.
              Patrick recently posted..2Maximus King

  9. K.D. says:

    Wow. That is some serious clutter! I was previously blown away by your ability to withstand the constant TV sound. But rats and that tiny doorway — scary!
    I’m in the very early stages of clutter-busting my home. But in answer to your question, I have de-cluttered a space and created something, I think, amazing from it. What’s most amazing to me about it is that it’s been a few weeks and I have fully resisted the temptation to re-clutter this room.
    I should note that I am not minimalist. One day I might like to be minimalistish. Right now I’m just trying to get rid of the piles of stuff I don’t use or enjoy, so I can actually use or enjoy the stuff I keep, and get more efficient, effective, and frugal along the way.
    My space was mercifully free of rodents, birds, and their droppings from the outset. But I did get rid of a pile of clutter in our guest room, and then used some things that had previously cluttered other spaces in our home. That sounds so pathetic compared to the changes you’ve made, but everyone starts somewhere and I started here. http://clutterbuster.blogspot.com/2011/05/if-you-build-it-they-will-come-maybe.html
    K.D. recently posted..A red-hot bundle of clutter

    • Hi K.D., Lucky for us the rat wasn’t actually in the house. :)

      I could tell stories from Arkansas about that… and maybe I will someday. A rustic cabin in the woods has a lot more wildlife going on than one would hope for at times! Let’s just say when we left it vacant for a few years, a healthy colony of mice was waiting for our return…. plus the brown recluse population was out of control. And that was inside!

      I stopped by and looked at your guest room transformation. Beautiful! Isn’t it nice to have all that with a purpose now instead of yet another junk room? Be proud of it. Your visitors are all going to love it. :)

      To me, no decluttering is ever pathetic. Just because you’re starting out with less junk than I had (or Cora has) doesn’t mean it’s any less worthwhile. In fact, I’d say it’s better because you didn’t dig so far into the clutter hole before deciding to change! It’s a positive. And minimalism for me (or minimalistishism :-) is simply creating a space you love, with only the things you use and love. I may be more extreme than many people, but that doesn’t matter. Finding your own comfort level is what’s most important. You’re doing great K.D. and I can’t wait to see the basement transformation!

  10. Liina says:

    Oh man, the yard clutter rings true for me. I started digging out yard clutter from my parents’ house a couple weeks ago. Unfortunately I couldn’t carry it through to the end – I just unearthed everything, from underneath ivy, and left it in the driveway! I haven’t had a chance to get back since! But they did haul off a bunch of scrap metal. Unfortunately, my dad took back two looooong metal things (I don’t know my metal things very well). I was like “What are you going to use them for?” and he’s like, “I don’t know, but if I need them in the future, they will be expensive, and these were free.” Awwwwwww well, you win some you lose some. My mom saves all her pots too – plastic, clay, broken, buried – all of them. I hope I get some good weather and good time in the near future to help them out some more. They are planning on moving in the next 2-5 years, and it’s going to take at least that much time to prepare them to move!

    My personal declutter mission has gone by the wayside, as I’ve spent the last few weeks “doing nothing” ;) But I have been thinking about how much I’d like my own space, even a *very* small space, for meditation and personal work. My husband has a tiny house with a sleeping loft on my parents’ property, that used to be mine, to do work in, but since it’s a half-hour away, he rarely gets a chance to use it. I’m thinking of trying to make some space (an empty vessel) somewhere in our home that I can call my own.

    Right now we are living in about a 700 s/f duplex. That’s just an estimate. I would like to keep going smaller and smaller! Right now it is important to me to have a private kitchen and bathroom, and plumbing and electricity, but we shall see if those things become less important in the future!
    Liina recently posted..Doing Nothing!

    • Liina,

      It sounds like your parents and Cora have a lot in common! I can’t believe how much random metal stuff (unidentified metal stuff) we’ve discovered in the yard. Along with the pots (whole, broken and buried). And it’s the same for us, there are some metal items that look completely mysterious to me but she’ll know exactly what it is and what future project she’s saving it for. Ahhh, it reminds me of the way I used to be. It’s wonderful you’re helping your parents prepare for moving (and I understand how it could take years to reach the goal).

      Don’t feel bad that all you did was unearth stuff and leave it to sit. We’ve done that many times in the last few months. Some stuff is hard to get rid of, and we’ve been lucky to have our Super Bronson (our carpenter) around lately. He’s done two trailer loads to the dump already. Not all of it was random yard clutter, some of it was from tearing off the siding and rebuilding half the roof…. but a bunch of it was just junk laying around. You may want to think about getting a dumpster (or begging a friend with a trailer to haul a load for you) especially if your city is picky (like ours) about what they’ll let you set out at the curb.

      Your priorities sound like me girl, electricity and plumbing are musts! We would have loved to put a private kitchen and bathroom in our tiny house but that would have changed the zoning/permit rules of the project too much. They’re flexible when it comes to a “workshop/workspace” but the minute you throw a sink in their rules change completely. So in the meantime we’re going to keep sharing the kitchen and bathroom with the “main house”.

      You’ve got 700 square feet? Plenty of room! Carve yourself a little empty vessel space for yourself. You’ll love how it feels.

  11. Glad to hear you survived the smell…that’s what gets to me the most with those type of projects. Thankfully I haven’t run into it at my own house. Thanks for posting so many pictures too and I’m looking forward to more!

    I love the “create an empty vessel” idea. I used to apply that when I was more involved with interior decorating, but I need to do it for my next decluttering project–the office. It’s the only room left & I can’t wait to get it in order! The room has served several different functions since we have been living here & remnants of all of them can be found. I worked on it a little bit today, but after reading this I think I’ll clear everything out and start fresh!

    The smallest apartment my hubby & I lived in was ~650 sq. ft. Knowing what I know now I think we could’ve used the space more wisely. Both of us love small spaces but we didn’t realize how much so until we bought something bigger because we thought that is what we were supposed to do…ugh! ;)
    Elle Dougherty recently posted..A Lesson in Survival The Story of Puma- Part 2

    • I used to think I needed bigger too. I even saved stuff for “when” I would get a bigger space! Somehow I never managed to get more than 1,000 square feet and where I was at in my life, that definitely wasn’t big enough!

      Then most recently when Patrick and I were renting the 850 square foot house (after going minimalist) it was delightful. We were swimming in space. It was a true empty vessel feeling.

      I bet you’re going to love your “empty vessel office”. When we had a private home office in the last house it was such a delight. There was just a desk I loved, a computer chair, two sitting chairs for talking, and the dry erase board hanging on the wall. It was the best space for creating that I ever had, and when I was in that space I wrote 30 Day Clutter Bootcamp. I haven’t had inspiration to tackle a big project like that since the office and bedroom combined. So I know clearing your office and creating a work sanctuary will pave the way for lots of inspiration for you!

      • p.s. Now that it’s been a few months since the great chicken coop cleanout the memory of the smell has faded to a dim memory. Thank the gods!

  12. We have been in our house over 20 years and raised 4 kids here. Child #4 is moving next Monday, and child #3 should be following in the next month or so. While I have tried to make a dent in my own personal belongings and the “household” items, the kids have not been so good, and I think my husband may have been related to your mother-in-law in another life. Lord knows what will happen if we decide to try to move out and travel (which we do want to do!) My husband has a 15×15 shed that some stuff has not seen the light of day in YEARS! I don’t EVEN go in there. A rat could possibly jump at me!
    I guess my hubby got it honest. His mom has a basement full of stuff and she doens’t even live there anymore, she has moved in with her daughter. It will be a mess to deal with that basement and I am not sure I want to do it!
    I vow that I do not leave this type of problem for my kids and grandkids to deal with!
    Loved your story, can’t wait for the next chapter!
    Living the Balanced Life recently posted..Four things that need to be done slowly

    • Hey Bernice,

      You know… your hubby’s shed is about the same dimensions as our upcoming tiny house. Yours is 15 x15, ours is 12 x 16. Imagine what you could do with that space if it got cleared out. Imagine that wonderful empty vessel fulfilling a new purpose in your lives. Imagine, hmmmm, a new private, serene home office for Mrs. Bernice who works full-time from home!

      When we started hauling stuff out of the “Christmas shed”, Cora didn’t know what she wanted to do with it, she just knew she was ready for the junk to be downsized. Then once it was empty a whole new life opened up for that space!

      Your kids moving out is going to make a big difference in your lives. Of course you’ll miss them, but you’ll also have all that extra space to work with. It’s a perfect time for a little transformation!

  13. Lorna says:

    I really enjoy the pictures! It’s one thing to talk about cleaning up a property, but it’s another to actually SHOW what has been done. More, please!

    • It’s funny Lorna, but in some way I feel blessed to have this situation, just so I can show some serious decluttering happening.

      When I was still digging my way out of my own clutter I wanted to document the whole process with a blog. I wrote a journal for a few days sharing the emotions I was working through (journal was decluttered along the way). But I couldn’t do it. I was simply too overwhelmed to try to document the process while I was going through it. So now I can show everyone some lovely vicarious photos through Cora’s clutter! And just check out the next post. It’ll get your eyes wide open. :)

  14. MelD says:

    Love seeing any “transformation”! Looking forward to following developments…

    What sticks in my mind about absolute minimalist living is a Wiki How To piece that has unfortunately been removed from the net, for some reason.
    Whoever wrote it suggests a 4×7′ board placed under a window as a combined bed/table, at half height (18″), say, or whatever height is good to sit at on the floor or a cushion. A futon or sleeping bag to lay on it at night and roll away in the day (or used as the floor cushion!). Room under the board to store clothes or other personal items in boxes, just 7 days of outfits and a hook on the door for a coat. Then they suggest a small fridge with a chopping board and one or two hotplates with/without microwave for cooking, and minimal kitchen implements, reusing jars that some foods come in for other things, too.

    I adored this idea and imagine my own space with a beautiful piece of wood used in that way as a bed/couch/windowseat/table/desk in front of a window with a beautiful view and no more stuff than would fit under it. I have a long way to go (and cohabit so need to compromise somewhat!) but that sounds like bliss to me…

    • Hi MeID,

      That sounds beautifully monastic. I know Carwin from Less Please (currently on hiatus, hopefully not permanently) had started sleeping on the floor with just a blanket underneath for cushion.

      I’m, uh…. a princess. A rat-dealing princess, but still a princess. I believe in the softest, cushiest bed I can get my hands on. But I crave the idea of not being burdened by furniture. When I get more nomadic I’m planning on using a high quality camping mattress (the small individual style, not the Walmart specials).

      Wish I could have read that post! If you come across it and remember, please send me the link.

      • Oh yeah. 7 days of outfits sounds like fun though. I’m currently working my way down to 30 individual items. I’m at around 35 right now (counting pj’s too). I’d like to try for 20 + pj’s, a winter jacket and a sweater.

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    CPCS Test Answers recently posted..CPCS Test Answers


  1. [...] part 1 of the series Bernice from Living the Balanced Life commented that her hubby has a shed of almost [...]

  2. [...] Minimalist Packrat – Leaping Rats and a Christmas Tree Shed Turned Tiny House [...]

  3. [...] few days ago you and I started at the beginning of the story. I shared the horrors of a chicken coop gone wild. Then we progressed to the revelry of a Christmas shed cleanout. Now it’s time for the big [...]

  4. [...] Leaping Rats and a Christmas Tree Shed Turned Tiny HouseĀ  * [...]

  5. [...] Leaping Rats and a Christmas Tree Shed Turned Tiny House [...]

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