Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taming the storage monster...

One factor of downsizing is deciding what to keep and then finding a place to store it.  And then asking myself do I really need this?

The latest issue is clothes. Using what I have and space I believe I can claim, I worked out a nice way to store clothes in drawers on a shelf (currently non-existent) above my bed (also currently nonexistent) .  I can even use the plastic drawer set I am currently using to store parts for the trailer repairs.  And the way the back curves, I could probably even store a suit bag above them for my dress clothes. 

(This would free up the original not very efficient closet for other storage.  I could add wire drawers instead.  Then I would actually have a place for linens!)
Which led to the reality that I need to figure out a clothing strategy.  It's the old "have enough to wash laundry less often", or just have a few things you "fully utilize".  (This goes with linens too - how many towels is too many?)  And of course, just how wintery do my winter clothes need to be?  I got an image last Sunday in church of how I want to dress, and that can help me weed out some of my collection.  I realize that I did a lot of dressing for other people, and then comfort clothes when hanging around the house.  Now I want to impress me, and comfort is a large factor.  But comfort includes liking how I look in them as well.
  • I will have/need sturdy work clothes, but do I really need 8 pairs of sweatpants?  However, 5 or 6 hoodies in a variety of colors seem like a very good choice.  
  • I hate polyester, why do I have any?
  • Just how many dress clothes do I need?
  • Is it better to have more to rotate thru, or less that I replace more frequently as they wear out for the variety?
  • I have three gorgeous suits I bought when I first moved back to KC - in anticipation of working again at EPA.  I have never worn them - their have always been just a little too small - but do I keep them?
  • I have a large collection of tank tops, I wear them all the time when it's warm.  Using them to layer with is in keeping with the image I have, so putting them away for winter isn't a problem, but how many pairs of shorts should I keep in storage?  
  • I choose to have a sewing machine with me in the trailer, and to dedicate a portion of storage to quilting and such - would it make more sense to plan to make (or alter) clothes for myself rather than store them?  I guess incorporating quilts into my clothing style is a good plan too.  I really can't keep all the quilts I make with me, blankets are a huge storage hog.
I think I have been a clothes hog - and much of it has been stuff I'll "wear again someday".  On the other hand, I will keep all of my scarves, seems the better choice to create variety, and they take up very little room.  In fact, they are stored in a space I can't use for anything else right now.

Just sharing my thoughts about downsizing as a public service.  Ideas? 

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Giant Puzzles, power tools, and a (warped?) sense of humor

This last week has been a case study in why very few people live in a trailer while working on it.  Weather conditions, finding adequate workspace, competing uses, and financial demands make this an everyday challenge.  But a perverse streak in me enjoys that immensely.  Not that I am trying to make life harder than it should be (whatever that means), but I like feeling that I am creative enough to find ways around the hurdles.  It’s like my life is a giant puzzle I am assembling – and I dearly love puzzles!  I even have a box full of them to take on the road with me to work on when the remodel is done.  Much tamer I guess, but still something to look forward to.

For at least the last five days we have had strong winds (go figure, I live on the plains essentially), punctuated by surprise rain bursts – some quite intense.  Cutting paneling on whatever surface I could find – tailgate, picnic table, and boards on the ground - in a heavy wind is a really funny thing to watch.  Of course I was the one doing it so at times I lost my send of humor.  But with patience and persistence I got it all cut and moved into the trailer to work with on a rainy day.  Then I found a bad spot in a board and had to maneuver around it all to get it taken out.  Still working at it actually.  And in the middle of it I found nails to remove, and had to go in search of a nail cutting blade for my oscillating saw.
I must say I am collecting quite a respectable number of power tools! Not top of the line maybe, but not disposable either.  The lure is strong for more, but I’m not sure I can justify a portable table saw.  Hmmm. Nah.

After three months of constant blowing, one side of my pretty blue tarp for the roof has lost most of the grommets on the prevailing (?!?) wind side, so I took it off to protect it.  (Not in this month's budget to replace it.) Then I got the brilliant –I thought – idea to turn the damaged side of it to the opposite side.  So yesterday, with the kind assistance of another camper here, we covered Gypsy Lilac, and I felt kind of smug.  Well, the wind reversed direction and although the trailer roof stayed dry, I did not.  Not wanting to have to redo any of the work I’ve done so far, I stood out there holding the tarp down thru the heaviest burst we’ve had.  Cold rain. 

Silver lining, I’m getting to try out my new drying rack this morning, and the heat wave has broken!  The next 10 days are predicted to be fall weather with brilliant skies and gentle winds.  And no rain.  We shall see.

Key task for today, remove the damaged board, since everything else I have ready to do comes after that board is replaced. 

On the flip side of all this, the slow pace and setbacks have allowed me to do some of the best work I’ve ever done.  Just hope I can get it all closed back up before the first snow comes….

Enjoy your day!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What a mess I've made...

One of the great things about the internet is that I can find all kinds of information on just about anything.  People share what they are doing, and what they have learned, and I value that!  Some I don't follow of course, but some of it has saved me much money and time. I also love the various pages on Facebook - specifically Tin Can Tourists.  Great bunch of folks!  I have no idea it anyone else is doing what I am, or considering it.  Our economy has changed radically, and finding workable options is a challenge.  So I share my journey.

I moved into Gypsy almost immediately.  She spent some time in the storage lot while as I navigated matching up the towing equipment, and then a week in a shop while the kind folks there tried to reason out some repairs.  I got a better tongue jack, tow chains added (they had disappeared somewhere along the way), and some changes for a sway bar when needed.  What took a week was the lights, electronic brakes, and wheel bearings.  And I got my first lesson in vintage vs junk.  The thing to note about something older is the lack of standardization when they were built, and the perception that anything this old needs to be rebuilt.

There are three electrical systems involved in a trailer.  There is a 12 volt / direct current system inside the trailer to power those systems by battery.  There is a 120 volt / alternating current system – commonly referred to as shore power – that is similar to what you have in your home, and is plugged into when parked.  And then there is a system that runs off the tow vehicle battery to power lights, the electronic brake (with controller in the vehicle), and often recharge the battery in the trailer while the vehicle is running.  The truck I have is well equipped for towing, and has a 7 way plug for the hook up.  And there it all fell apart.

There is a wiring color code used for the 7 way that tells which wire goes where – on the truck end.  In 1971, however, that code wasn’t in place.  And over time the wiring inside the trailer has gotten damaged, severed, or co-opted by previous owners for other uses.  So until I tore the walls out they couldn’t get to the wiring inside to work.  And as I’ve already explained, I live in her (although essentially she is an aluminum tent), so walls come out bit by bit, addressing only the worst damage first.  (Who knew that would be all of the back wall?!)  So the wires for all but the running lights and electric brakes are connected outside as before.  The electric brakes are not connected.  The running lights don't work yet.  The light fixtures themselves are new.  Which of course created holes in the aluminum skin, since they don’t make lights like this anymore.
There was no battery (I'm sure long dead and hopefully properly disposed of), and this trailer did not have a converter in it.  The 12V and 120V systems were completely separate, and under the main bed, a delightful gaucho bed which converts back and forth from bed to couch.  (Since I am already doing the walls, I will be moving them and upgrading to a converter.  Someday in the future I long for solar panel. But I digress.)

Now the electronic brakes and wheel bearings.  Their solution was all new – with a hefty price tag that was well beyond my means.  And maybe not the right choice? To their benefit, they saw it as the only sensible thing to do on something so old.  And the clear message was that I had myself a heap of junk, although said kindly. (Of course, today I realize you probably wouldn’t take a Model T into your local Ford dealer for repairs…)  Impasse. 

So with the grandkids and large tarp (did I mention the leaks), we were off to Smithville Lake to camp. Since it rained almost non-stop while they were here, we spent a lot of time in the trailer with electronics and crayons, and visited the library almost daily.  Once they left for home, I started the cautious process of removing damaged wood, and assessing what to do next, while I pondered the axle dilemma.  I have two of them, which I have since learned means tandem.  And doubles the cost of anything I do.  But since a huge concern of mine when looking for a trailer was weight stability, I see them as a benefit.  I have seen too many fiberglass trailers laying in pieces on the side of the road in my travels.

I have since found an RV repair person who has great respect for vintage (and antique for that matter) who is a partner for this project.  A very important find for me!  And secondly, I have found a location that lets me make repairs – I owe them a huge debt for their patience!!  Short of having a friend with a driveway to park in (and city ordinances that allow it), trying to live in my home while working on it is quite a challenge.  And I’m quite sure there aren’t many people around who would want to.
I have a friend who constantly reminds me that our first ever conversation was about how much I wanted to find an older home – a “fixer-upper” – and remodel it.  Careful what you manifest!  Of course I always add that I didn’t expect it to have wheels.
But I do love my Gypsy Lilac.  Guess I need to get back to work...

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I'm not unnecessary

This morning I received a notice from Facebook that my page has been deactivated, and realized I haven’t posted in a very long time.  So I fired up my old laptop, opened a Word file, and … nothing.  Two hours later, a reinstalled version, and I am back at it.  Seems there was a problem in Microsoft-land this week.  I just hadn’t been on line to find out.

On to the day’s musings!  Yesterday I had, again, a conversation about the wisdom of the choices I’ve made for my lifestyle.  My Gypsy Lilac is a very old trailer.  And she is lovely to me.  On the one hand – there is a LOT to fix.  On the other, she is 45 years old and is remarkably sturdy for simply being that long in the weather.  Given an aluminum skin and wood skeleton – water is a problem.  It seeps in to corners and along strange paths and selectively removes section of the frame.  And that is the good news!  She only has bad spots.  Of course, they aren’t always easy to get to.  And there is where I part ways with many people.  How to approach "getting to it".

I repeatedly run into the attitude - presented as wise and sage wisdom by those who know better than I - that the entire thing should be gutted and then rebuilt, while I am staying elsewhere.  For a number of reasons, that isn’t what I’m doing.  Many of them are financial I guess, but a good portion are the core of a philosophy.  And I guess a third thing is what I might call a financial philosophy. 

I am on what some (many) would call a limited income.  And I essentially live on a cash and barter basis.  The first is a fact, the second is a mixture of reality and philosophy.
I don’t consider everything that is old to automatically be of lesser or no value.  That means I take the time to evaluate what is (and how it came to be) rather than assume it is defective.  I am immediately reminded of the craftsmen who built so much, one at a time, lovingly fitting each piece together, rather than on a production line.  (Coincidentally, I am currently staying at a lovely campground built on an antique showgrounds, and am surrounded by the still functioning equipment of old, that many today would consider trash.)  I do not support the strongly held belief today of “built-in obsolescence”.  And that permeates everything we have and do – services, products, fast-food, environmental policy, and even farming policy.  We are always – in the name of progress – building a better mousetrap.  Some of the old ones worked just fine!  That term is so frequently a ruse for finding a way to “get rich quick” – at the expense of anyone who gets sucked into buying by all the money spent on marketing and advertising.  And almost never is the benefit to the inventor.

Parallel to that is a nostalgia craze – at huge costs – to “restore” it exactly like it was.  Even if there are better performing materials that could be fashioned into the same thing, that wouldn’t be “authentic”.
I fall somewhere between better mousetrap and authentic, focusing more on respect and functionality.  And of course, cost has to be included. My little trailer is my home. Mine and Keifer’s.  Not yours.  Your discomfort about my choices is your choice, and actually, no concern of mine. 

As a sage friend told me years ago – “If I agree 100% with you, and you agree 100% with me, one of us is unnecessary.”  And I have no interest in being unnecessary...

Enjoy your day!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Rolling with the Flow (if not the trailer quite yet...)

I'm still waiting for the work estimate on repairs for the trailer.  Called this morning, and was told that there is more to do than originally anticipated, but it is in the shop and they'll call me this afternoon with the results.  Need I say that seems disconcerting at best?  But road safety and a solid base are prime considerations before I even think about getting on the road.  (Always assuming I will be able to eventually).  But enough of Henny Penny thoughts!

This week, the adventure expanded, and my grandkids are coming to spend some time with me while dad takes a job out of town. Summer, single parent, mobile skills - grandma gold!!!  So not to waste any of our time together, we'll be tent camping at Smithville Lake (being near their aunt in KC, and near the repair shop are an added plus) at Crow's Creek  Campground to start.  It's a great way to get settled into a routine, and a chance for test runs to find out what we forgot to bring or don't have. Or what I put in the trailer already that I need to retrieve for immediate use.

If the rain comes back, there is a very large and comfy bed in the back of the truck we can snuggle into, so being without the trailer for a bit will not be too hard. 

And of course there are always s'mores!!!  Keep you posted (smile, wink, wink...)

Monday, June 1, 2015

Breaking (and braking) it all down...

The most daunting task facing me these days is figuring out where to start.  Limitless funds or fully frugal, what to do when still has to guide a project.  So pulling back from the fun world of solar panel and composting toilet choices, I need to focus on pairing the trailer and truck for towing.  Then what do I need to park it when we stop.

First.  No matter how carefully I worked thru Towing 101, if the hitch and tongue don't match up, you're not going anywhere.  The current tongue jack, and the blocking under it, can't bring the tongue to the height I need to set it on the ball of the hitch.  And since it is a weight distributing hitch, that also means I won't be able to fit in the spring bars and connect them to the tongue.  The second thing is not so much of a problem, since the trailer isn't currently loaded, but it will be soon.

And as I stood there contemplating what to do next, looking around at the other trailers hoping for a clue to resolving this dilemma, I realized I have none of the normal equipment used once I got it to where I was taking it.  Pieces of 2x4's are not good wheel blocks, the jacks needed to level the trailer are missing important pieces, nor do I have any of the necessary hoses or plugs to connect up.  I have the adapter plug for the wiring from trailer to tow vehicle, but not sure about the trailer brakes. Um, do I HAVE trailer brakes?  What kind of hose do I need for the sewer connection?  Oh.  The bathroom needs water first.  What kind of .....

No.  Wait.  Back up.  The only  brakes I need to use are the ones in my mind.   Today's problem is how do I get the block changed under the tongue jack so I can raise the tongue up high enough to fit over the hitch ball.  Then I can move on to the other questions...

And spend a minute thanking all those people who took care of this stuff for me in the past, when I didn't even know to thank them!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Dark Side...

Not Star Wars..

I have spent hours planning and designing my new little home - collecting ideas on Pinterest and a list of materials I might like to use.  That is the fun part.  Renovate, refurbish, remodel, restore?

The other aspect, however, of tiny house living is down-sizing.  SERIOUS down-sizing.  And since I came in the "back door" so to speak  of this new life style, I'm not sure if it is temporary or permanent.  So for now I am "making piles" - give away/throw away/donate; trailer living requirements; and those things I would want in a more traditional home were I to return to one.  Heirloom furniture, unique Christmas decorations, those incredible oil paintings Gram did, family photos, and an extensive library.  I am a book nut.  That stuff is labelled "KEEP"!!!  My current plan it to set up bookshelves in  storage so they are easy to get to and I can rotate my "on-board" collection periodically.

Again, since I am approaching this from a financial angle rather than an ideological one - I have STUFF.  Two large storage units of stuff.  The one here has a lot more temporary and outdoors items than the one in Idaho, but there still is stuff. 

And there is the trash/treasure thing - I was so excited about those window sashes I collected for my greenhouse I had planned to make - but how do I find a home for them with another enthusiast?  Habitat Restore said they simply didn't have the room for them because of the HUGE variation in window sizes for homes that might use them.  And there are other building materials.  Maybe they could be repurposed into my new home, or...

I have a fun collection of gently to well-used tools.  Is that a Craigslist item?  I have a phone, but being "house mobile"  and them being in a storage unit adds another layer of difficulty.

And just how many suitcases does one person need?  Or clothes?  Certainly I will be living somewhere with a much broader range of seasons, but how do I make sure they are stored properly when not in use?  I'm pretty sure I will be joining the ranks of snowbirds for a bit, and just how many sweaters do you need in that case?  Or coats.  Maybe those go into the donate pile, and I get to rotate my wardrobe as I discover thrift store treasures and unique designs along the way.

Lawnmower, weed eater, and garden cart.  Portable dishwasher.  Sure I could put that in the trailer, but that is a electrical/water/wastewater nightmare for my little home.  And there really isn't room for enough dishes to make it worth the space I'd lose.

Now what to do about that rain barrel...