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!
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).
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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!
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.
The pet taxi got removed and we surveyed the territory.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
Patrick leaning in for more rat nest fluff. See how small the door is? Climbing in was scary!
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.
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!
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!
In the end we bagged up about a dozen trash bags filled to the brim.
And after that we still had a few more items that didn’t get bagged up! They did get kicked to the curb though. :)
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