Hartsel: Part I


Do you ever forget certain parts of your life? Sometimes it feels strange like a dream, like a different cloudy world, another dimension. Sometimes we just plain black it out. We all have our reasons – rage, jealousy, heartache. We cover certain memories with a nice down comforter, tuck them in, turn out the light and never go back again.

I recently went to the DMV to obtain my Colorado state driver’s license.  When my number was called, I walked up to the window and sat down. The dialogue went something like this.

DMV: Have you ever had a Colorado state driver’s license before?

Me: Nope.

DMV: Please fill out this form.

I fill out the form and hand it back to the lady. She looks it over and starts typing.

DMV: Are you sure you have never applied for a Colorado state driver’s license?

Me: Absolutely sure.

DMV: Could you please check this form again and verify the information?

Me: Yes…it is correct.

DMV: Well, we already have you in our system.

Me: That’s impossible…did somebody steal my identity?

DMV: The address on file is a P.O. Box in Clifton, CO.

Me: I’ve never even heard of Clifton, CO.

I start to worry as she rattles off a random post office box number as my address and I am in disbelief. What was going on? I’m annoyed and she is definitely getting irritated with me.

DMV: Let’s look at the driver’s license photo on file…

She looks it up.

DMV: It sure looks like you.

As she turns the computer monitor in my direction, she presents to me a photo of myself from around 1996, a time period when I practically ran away from home with my boyfriend. Glancing back at the photo, I remembered a time when I was a hippy rug rat living in the back of an Astro van we had bought off a random old man in Sun City.  My hair was naturally dreading, I had no makeup on, my eyebrows hadn’t been plucked in months, and if pictures could smell – this one wouldn’t have been pleasant. I was wearing a worn-out snowboard T-shirt and it all came rushing back to me. The down comforter had lifted.

Me: Oh. Wow… Yeah that’s me. I forgot about all of that.

What I really wanted to say was I had forgotten him.  She must have thought I was on drugs. I had looked horribly homeless, and I was horribly embarrassed.  Surprisingly at the time of that picture, it was a new start. Freedom. We were free and detaching ourselves from “the man.”  But there is no getting away from the man and some things always come full circle.

Stay tuned for Part II –

Pitch 30: Cleaning the clutter

Moving from a three bedroom house into a one bedroom apartment was going to be an easy task, or so I thought. Afterall, my house was only 936 sq feet vs 700 sq feet in the new apartment. It couldn’t be that much of a difference – I’d just get rid of lots of random stuff before I left for Colorado. I didn’t even use all three bedrooms. Was I ever mistaken.

First yes, I gave a lot of stuff away as donations. But I hadn’t even scratched the surface. Add in yard furniture, tools and random items laying around and the entire moving truck was packed tetris style.  One huge moving truck full of one persons things.

Something was seriously wrong with that picture. In the past while helping me move, friends and family would say: “You have a lot of stuff!”  But it never sank in. Yes, I had accumulated items over my 37 years of living on this planet.  I felt it was natural for people to have belongings.

The psychology of belonging is another story in itself, but I sincerely believe that the items that surround us are like insulation, the womb. They make us feel comfortable, as my big comfy down comforter and pillows do when I am cold, weary and ready to rest. A nest.

I read a great quote once from one of my heroes, Pema Chodron.  It reads:


This holds true on so many different levels. When my house was broken into, that’s how I felt.  When I had gone through tough break ups, or experienced betrayal from family and friends, that is exactly how I felt. The list of life occurances go on… but it’s important to recognize, the less attached and clingy you are, the less you have to lose. Now, some may find that very pessimistic and negative to mention. I believe in the richness of relationships and in allowing ourselves to love and be vulnerable, don’t get me wrong. But it’s our thoughts and emotional attachment to people and things that really mess us up.

So when my friend and I pulled up to my “new” one bedroom apartment in Colorado Springs – driving that big moving truck that toted all my shit – you better believe I was in for some surprises worthy of tears.

Instead of digressing, I will just list some tips to decluttering your mess.

1) Pitch 30: On the first of the month, I set an alarm on my phone to go off. It says “Pitch 30.”  Pretty self explanatory. I set aside 30 things to donate to charity. If I lag on this task, then the next time my alarm goes off to Pitch 30, I make myself Pitch 60!  I usually find myself getting rid of things over the entire course of the month – I have a box at my front door to toss items in. I generally go over my 30 item goal.  I think the most difficult thing is not getting money in return for giving things up, but the space and peace of mind is worth it.  Bigger price items of course can be sold on craigslist or ebay, or sell your clothes and accessories at second hand stores. Taking a box of items to work is also a kind way of getting rid of things you don’t use – a lot of people, and even their kids, may appreciate some random items like old clothes, cds or tapes (seriously, my friends 10 year old loves his walkman).

2) Be honest with yourself: I have the biggest time getting rid of clothes and accessories. My stagnant mental attitude is “…but what if one day I want to wear those overalls I’ve had since 1995?” or “…what if I get an office job again someday… I might need those business casual skirts.”  Please. It’s ridiculous. Fashion changes! If you didn’t wear something in a season, donate it. If it’s designer, sell it. Yes, you will probably someday ask yourself “what did I ever do with those overalls from 1995?” But trust me, that temporary moment of remorse you feel is totally worth not having to haul unused crap around with you for decades.

3) Knick knacks:  Souvenirs or gifts from loved ones, or simply just something you really enjoy looking at…or not – these things usually hold memories and gather lots of dust. Knick knacks usually serve zero purpose besides hanging around taking up space. Keep a few for style and design; toss the rest. A streamlined environment with no clutter is much more pleasing to look at than that funny figurine you got in Mexico. It’s liberating to have less to clean and knock over…and it’s more Feng Shui. Maybe you will find an burst of energy in your home life.

4) CDs & Cassettes: With the popularity and convenience of itunes, amazon music and apps like Pandora and iheartradio, all my CDs and cassettes were in boxes; they weren’t even sorted or displayed. Instead of giving them all away, I decided to sell them on Amazon Trade In, which then offers you site credit.  Fifty cents for a cd is a pretty sad compensation in my opinion, but it does add up. Maybe it’s better to have some credit saved than a few boxes of stuff you don’t use taking up precious space. From browsing my old music collections, I ended up adding a few great stations to my pandora account. I also sold my DVDs and old iphone. Amazon will buy back books and just about anything that holds some resale value.

5) Photos: Memories. Sigh. Again, boxes taking up space. I recently learned of a few companies that will scan and digitize old photos.  I have yet to use one of these services, but will be doing so in the future. Click the link for a comparison of these digitizing companies.

By no means am I a minimalist…yet…but hopefully some of these ideas are helpful. The most important part of downsizing is not accumulating more. Please share your own ideas below.

“May life be as spiritually rich as it is materially simple” Aboriginal Proverb


The Journey Begins

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Lao Tzu

In the early summer of 2014 I discovered the Tiny House Movement. I don’t even remember how – it just appeared. I spent months researching online, from all the different companies that build tiny homes, to how to build one myself, to the best heaters and composting toilets – even Tiny House Dating.

As the summer heat pressed upon me, I realized I didn’t want to live in Arizona any longer. The scorching desert and scarcity of water had always freaked me out, and the continuing drought in California wasn’t making Arizona look any better.  I had a few places in mind, and after careful consideration about climates, it made the most sense to move to Colorado.  I had a few days off, so I decided to get new tires on my Jeep and packed up for a long road trip.

The employer I was working for had facilities all over the state but I applied in Colorado Springs, and did a quick interview. I enjoyed the rest of my vacation and went back home to Tucson.  I never got a call back. I was bummed out and frustrated. I called facilities in Denver, but they didn’t need anyone full-time. I started to realize it’s difficult to get a job from out of state,  so I let it go.  But I was still day dreaming about tiny’s. Maybe I’d just start building a tiny in my driveway? I had lots of space and even if it took me 5 years, at least I would be chipping away at it. But who was going to help me? My dad and brothers? Where was I going to get the money?

Three months later, I got a call from the place I had applied to – they wanted another interview and a quick start date. I told the lady no, as I had moved on from the idea of moving 800 miles away.  But the very next day, I was calling her and asking for more details.  Six months after my initial itch to leave Arizona, I got the job. I moved to Colorado Springs just before the first snow of winter 2014. Little did I know that this city was full of tiny enthusiasts! Was it divine intervention or just dumb luck?

The tiny A frame cabin I stayed in - The Timber Lodge in Colorado Springs. One room, approximately 100 sf with a teeny tiny bathroom attached.

The tiny A frame cabin I stayed in – The Timber Lodge in Colorado Springs. One room, approximately 100 sf with a teeny tiny bathroom attached.