Here is an interesting juxtaposition for you. Can you imagine downsizing from 5,000 square feet to only 50 square feet? That is living in 1% of the largest amount of space I had ever occupied. Just think about that for a few minutes and see if you can wrap your mind around that contrast.
|In the Beginning - my parent's first house - about 900 sq. ft.|
My first house was also about 900 sq. ft..
From my early youth, I remember, my parents' first home. It was around 900 square feet of finished living space. The next house was larger, the house after that was larger still and the next three houses were each slightly larger with the last home my parents owned, at the time of my father's untimely death, being the largest of the six homes they had.
I left my hometown of Clifton, New Jersey at 22 and moved to Syracuse, New York to attend graduate school at Syracuse University. I moved to a one-bedroom apartment. Then I moved to a two-bedroom apartment. Within less than two years I had moved to a four level townhouse about twice the size of the two-bedroom apartment. Then my Uncle Sam called me and I enlisted in the Air Force. Ultimately, I went to Washington, DC where I started out with a 400 square foot efficiency apartment.
Moving Up To 5,000 Square Feet
With the Air Force behind me, a wife and the future prospect of a family, I moved to my first house. Interestingly, it was about the size of my parents' first house, 900 to 950 square feet. From then forward, the houses got larger. When I moved to Winchester, Virginia in 1984 I moved into a house with a total of about 5,000 square feet. Unfortunately, it was while living in this house, after 18 years together, that my marriage unraveled.
The period from the end of 1989 until October 31, 2008 I lived in five houses ranging from about 1,000 square feet to approximately 3,000 square feet. I shared part of those years with a second wife, (less than six months) and about five years of an eight-year relationship sharing space with a significant other and my son. But, of that 19-year period, I lived alone for about 13 years. Of course, I worked from home all of those years, so my businesses shared the space with me. I believe it's fair to say I occupied an average of about 2,500 square feet during that period.
Let me say I have lived comfortably most of my 47 adult years (to date). However, looking back, it's also fair to say I really didn't NEED all the space I occupied. The only regret I have is that I don't have the money it cost to live in all those over-sized living spaces. Imagine if I had chosen to live comfortably in half the space at half the rent or mortgage payments, half the utilities and half the upkeep and maintenance. Hindsight doesn't count for much. There are no do-overs in life. I accept how I lived without regret.
I can say the 400 square foot efficiency apartment in Washington, DC was probably the most efficient living space I lived in during my 47 years, of self-sustaining, adult life. I guess that's one of the reasons they are called "efficiency" apartments.
Rethinking My Space Requirements
During 2006 and 2007 I began to realize, as a single guy with the family (my, by then, adult son) long out of the nest, I really didn't need all the space I had. I had come full circle and had created an efficiency apartment of about 400 square feet in the master bedroom suite of the ranch house I had on my small 49-acre horse ranch. The balance of the more than 2,100 square feet of space had been offices, recording studios, storage, packing/shipping and "public" space. For most of preceding two years (prior to October 31, 2008), the extra space was just costly storage space.
I no longer had any employees and I was wrapping up the book publishing business with the intention of selling it or dismantling it. I was also downsizing my interests and capabilities in the recording business. I was approaching 65 and had recently survived prostate cancer a few years earlier. My interests, dreams, goals and desires for my future life had begun to take on new meaning. It was time to think about downsizing.
I had an interest in the nomadic, mobile lifestyle since I was in college. With few obligations at this time of life, I was drawn to serious consideration of this lifestyle dream. I also became aware of the "Tiny House" movement. Believe it or not, I always attempted to run my businesses with as small a footprint and as efficient operation as possible. Of course, the exception to this was during my early business career when I was thinking like an "empire builder."
The timing seemed right for making such a change. I was tired, drained, frustrated and disillusioned by the business world, the government, the economy and my businesses in particular. I had accumulated more stuff than anyone should be entitled to have. And, I no longer had a spouse or family to be responsible for. It was definitely time for a major lifestyle change.
Downsizing To 50 Square Feet
I began to research and design a plan to wrap up the second half and launch the third half of my life. It required downsizing the house, 49-acre ranch, all the "stuff," minimizing my lifestyle, reducing my cost of living/overhead, living frugally and reinventing my professional future. Little did I realize we were at the beginning of what would become the deepest plunge in our economy and lifestyle since the Great Depression. Whatever financial security I had would soon vanish very rapidly. Yet, it was the most opportune time for me to make these changes.
|Ny friends', Roger & Joyce with their 40' motor coach.|
This became "overkill" in my plans for simple, frugal living.
The plan included acquiring a large (40') motor coach, a small car to tow behind and reducing my technology and recording equipment requirements to be accommodated in a 300 to 350 square foot condo on wheels. Ultimately, after the major part of the downsizing process and after the economy took its toll, I realized that, while I had lost a significant amount of my security, I was way ahead of the pack in so many ways. I had reduced my cost of living/overhead by about 80% in one day when I left the 49-acre ranch on October 31, 2008 and became, for all practical intents and purposes, happily "houseless" for the first time in my 47 years of adult life including all the expenses and encumbrances that represents.
|My McVansion and its 50 sq. ft. of compact, efficient living.|
I learned how to live in small rooms and spaces at a couple friends' houses when I wasn't traveling. The plan to acquire the behemoth motor coach downsized to acquiring (another) 17 foot high-top conversion van and building it into a 50 square foot, micro condo on wheels (or a mobile "tiny house") It had, fortunately, before I made the plunge, become very apparent that a huge motor coach, especially during this massive economic downturn, would be an expensive white elephant.
So, I began my new life. I'm still downsizing. I still have "stuff" left from the original downsizing in 2008. I find it enjoyable and a constant challenge to build and refine my tiny, 17-foot (50 square foot of living space) van, named "My McVansion," into the most comfortable, efficient tiny house on wheels. Just imagine at one time living in 5,000 square foot and then moving into 1% of that space. In future articles, I'll describe in more intimate detail the emotions, the challenges, the joys, the setbacks and the self-discovery of this journey.