The Difference Between Failure and Success

As I stood in my kitchen, I honestly wondered whether or not anyone would show up. I would eye my phone every couple of minutes, yet it remained silent. No texts, no messages. I couldn’t help it. The thoughts snuck up on me and inhabited my brain before I could refuse them entry. “What if no one shows up? What if I did all of this for nothing?” This is what failure feels like.

I sighed when an hour later, my phone had still not uttered a sound. Perhaps this was just it, it wasn’t mean to be. I would accept this as a failure and try to work harder to make the next event a success. Or at least, a little more successful than having only your boyfriend’s best friend sitting in the living room watching videos on youtube.

This is a failure, I thought to myself.

I was just about to start putting things away when I heard a ding. Oh. Well, I suppose I should go take a look at that.

It was a message from a friend I hadn’t seen in a really long time.

“I’m here, I think!”

And in an instant, everything changed.

But how? Why did I suddenly feel differently? Why did it suddenly feel like this was not a failure, but in fact, a success? One word: company.

As soon as this friend walked into the house, my heart began to smile. I wasn’t even super close with this person, and yet, what an impact he made just by showing up, being there, celebrating something that was important to me. Wow.

A few minutes later, more friends showed up, two of whom I was so happy to see given their interest in the project. And then more people came, and more still, until finally, the living room was filled with all these wonderful, caring people. In that moment, I knew that this was what success felt like.

Some people probably looked at my invitation or saw my event on Facebook and thought nothing of it, but all these people did not. And what an incredible feeling it is to have this kind of support, especially when it is in regards to something you hold dear.

Last night, we invited people to come over to our house to celebrate the launch of our Facebook page called Tiny Adventures, which will be used to share information, experiences, photos, videos, and whatever else you can share on Facebook, all about our journey as we build our very own Tiny House.

I wanted to celebrate this moment because I wanted to mark the beginning somehow. I wanted to start actively working and sharing our work. And there’s no better time than now.

We welcomed 10-12 people throughout the night and I – very excitedly – showed them what we had to offer. I decorated the house a little bit and prepared a few things, because it wouldn’t be a launch party without having a theme! And so I present to you: A Tiny Party!

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People were encouraged to play some Tiny Games – Word Search and Pin The Door on the Tiny House! We also had lots of food and refreshments, notably some Tiny Cupcakes, and some Tiny Cups (for regular sized drinks).

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My favourite part, by far, was the Tiny Photo booth. I set up my new Instax polaroid camera next to our Tiny Adventures banner where you could take a photo and pin it up. We got so busy we didn’t take many pictures, but Max got a great one of the gang sitting around the table together, laughing.
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All in all, it was indeed a huge success. And the one thing that made a difference was having such amazing company.

Side note, if you’ve never watch the Youtube video entitled “COMPANY IS COMING!” – or even if you have – you need to click on the link and watch it. Because that was completely me the morning of the event.

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How To Host A Get Together

Get Togethers are one of my favourite things in the world. Having people over, whether it’s to celebrate, to mourn, to hang out, or to vent. I love it – especially when there’s a theme!

Every time I want to plan one though, I always wonder where to start, how to get it done. I’m constantly checking Pinterest and the likes to see how I can improve, how I can organize a night that everyone will enjoy.

After doing some research, I decided maybe it would be best to just do a “How To” of my own, combining everything I’ve found as well as my own ideas.

  1. Pick a theme – this is always my favourite part about planning a get together. Even if it’s a simple theme, I love the idea of there being an idea or a reason behind inviting people over. My newest upcoming event is a Fondu & Friends night!
  2. Pick a date – obviously very important. I find it tough to pick a “good” night because most people my age (myself included) don’t have weekends off. I always hesitate when thinking about which day of the week to host, but typically I will go with weekday nights, or Friday nights, always earlier in the evening.
  3. Make invitations! They are so much fun to make, whether you decide to print some out and give to family and friends, or if you want to send them online. Get creative if you want, or even use templates that already exist to make it easy. I always go to Canva’s website for mine. Here’s an example: FONDU & FRIENDS (2)
  4. Choose your guest list wisely. This is the most challenging task for me, because most of my friends don’t hang out in the same circles, some of my friends don’t even speak the same language. So it’s important to keep in mind who you’re inviting in terms of individuals, but also as a whole. Oh, and don’t invite too many people.
  5. Food is always a good idea. I mean, don’t go attempting some new and complicated recipe, but I love it when there’s appetizers, or snacks, or even better – dessert.
  6. Don’t be scared to decorate – another personal favourite. Sometimes it’s really not necessary, but even for my Fondu & Friends night, I will rearrange the living room a bit and make sure there are lots of comfy pillows and cozy blankets for everyone who will attend.
  7. Make sure you tidy up before the event – that means any public areas that guests can access like the living room, the dining room, the kitchen and the washroom.
  8. Enjoy the moment. Make sure you aren’t too caught up in running around during the event that you can’t have fun after all that hard work!

Tiny Adventures Facebook Page Launch

We’re doing it – we’re gonna launch a Facebook Page for our Tiny House project next Saturday!

That gives me just a little over a week to prepare everything, and I’m actually way more excited than I thought I would be. We aren’t ready to launch our website yet, and I’m sure that will be exciting too, but this kind of feels like the real first step in documenting our Tiny Adventures.

Here’s the game plan – I’ve created a Facebook Event to announce the Facebook Page launch, and we’re hosting a little drop-in get together at our house! OK, so this may or may not be why I’m excited…

I decided we’re going to have a theme for this little get together. Can you guess what it is? I’m not going to ruin the surprise, so you’ll either have to show up or wait for the pictures on Saturday evening!

What I can tell you is a little bit about the project itself. My boyfriend Max and I have been talking about building our very own Tiny House for the past couple of years, and we are finally starting to get things on track.

The most important part for me – other than obviously having my own home – was to document our journey, and publish everything on an independent website for the first time. So we did some research and were so fortunate to have one of our very good friends offer to host and create a website for us, which will hopefully be launched sometime in the near future.

And obviously, before we could start documenting anything, we had to have a plan. And more important, a name! Max and I did a lot of brainstorming and research to see what other names existed out there for Tiny House projects. We wanted something that was direct, so you knew what the project was about, and something simple enough that you didn’t have to type a long sentence to get to our website. After much debate, we finally came to agree on a name we both loved: Tiny Adventures.

One thing that I particularly love about the name is that it doesn’t even have to be limited to the tiny house build, it can reach beyond that and extend to so many more adventures that are to come in our lives as Tiny Housers.

After choosing the name, it was time to figure out what we wanted to do with this project. The website was my main priority, but I think we are all aware that the best way to reach people is to be present in social media, namely on Facebook and Instagram.

Of course, you can’t just decide you want to create an account or a page without any content. So our next step was to do research, read books and articles, talk to people, attend events, and just get involved in the Tiny House community. We wanted to be able to post things that were relevant, interesting, and obviously, all about Tiny House living.

Among other things, I am super excited to share some blogs and podcasts we stumbled upon, as well as resources that are accessible in the Maritimes! And of course, my favourite part is always writing about my own life – surprise!

 

Tiny Tips for a Tiny House

When I think about the idea of downsizing to living in a Tiny house, my first thought is, “Oh my God, I need to figure out how we’re going to be able to do this.” In other words, I need some tips.

And so the search began. I started looking up websites, and blogs, and videos, and podcasts, and books galore. I needed to get as much information as I possible could. I needed to be prepared.

But where does one even begin? I’ve already started talking a bit about downsizing, and I will continue to do so as we progress in our journey towards living a more minimalist lifestyle. But aside all that, where do we start to prepare ourselves for the adventure we are about to embark on?

The first thing that came to my mind was reasoning.

Make sure you know WHY

This tip can literally be applied to any facet of your life, but especially when it comes to a big (financial) decision like building or buying a Tiny House.

If you aren’t sure about something, you should probably do a little bit of self reflection and figure it out. Now, I’m not saying that you should be 100% sure about everything – we are human after all, no one is perfect, everyone has doubts. But what I do mean is that you should make sure you ask yourself why you want to do this, and be mindful of the reality that you might want something for the wrong reasons, or for no reason at all.

As for us, we had our own personal and individual reasons as to why we wanted to build our own Tiny House, such as:

  • Financial Stability
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • A very personalized home that meets our every need
  • Sustainability
  • Self-sufficiency

Make sure you know HOW

Now, I’m not going to pretend to know how to fully build a house on my own – but fortunately, I have friends and family who do.

I never wanted to start this adventure before figuring out at least some parts of the “how.” I am so lucky to have such wonderfully talented and skilled family that I am confident a lot of it will work out very well. For starters, Max is trained in woodworking, insulation, plumbing, and welding. My dad used to be a carpenters, and so are half of his brothers. My step-sister’s boyfriend is a plumber, and a family friend is an electrician. And lots of other family members and friends are very supportive and willing to lend a helping hand through the entire project.

The one big “How” that we – and most people – worry about, is how to finance the build. We do have quite a bit of money saved up for it, and will be using it little by little as we begin our journey. However, we will definitely need financial help, either in the form of a loan, or as a credit line. We’ve already met up with a financial advisor, because we are looking to buy land before we start the build, although we haven’t gotten to the final stages of doing the application.

There is also a LOT more stuff that goes into the whole “how” process, but the important thing, I believe, is to make sure you keep thinking about it and talking about it so that you have some part of it figure out. And if sometimes you don’t, that is completely OK.

Make sure you know WHEN

This has been the toughest challenge for me – time frame. You can’t just rush into things – really, you can’t rush into anything. Timing and planning is very important, especially when you’re talking about a big investment. Personally, I’m a rusher. When I get an idea, I want to get it done, I don’t want to wait around. But obviously, without proper planning, that idea would never be half as well executed as it should be.

We first started talking about the idea of building a Tiny House about 2 years. The idea had already been on my mind for a while, but it didn’t seem realistic for where I was at in my life back then. But all of a sudden, I had this very skilled boyfriend who was even more dedicated to the idea than I was, and things started to take shape.

That first year, we attempted to make plans, start building a mini model of what we thought it should look like. Unfortunately, we did not share the same vision and we had a very hard time making compromises. Definitely off to a rough start.

We put the idea on the back burner for a while, because we weren’t even where we wanted to be yet – at that point we were both living in Alberta, and we knew we wanted to be building and living in New Brunswick. A couple of months went by and we started mentioning it again. The Tiny House project  still held just as much room in our hearts as it did when we first talked about it. Alright, I told myself. This is actually something we’re doing!

And when I finally felt like it was a realistic goal that was achievable because we knew the “why” and the “how,” I forced myself to try to plan out the “when.” For me, that was in the foreseeable future. For me, this whole project was a two-year plan. One year to find land and start planning the whole thing out, then one year for the actual build. Side note: Setting aside only for year for the build is due to the fact that Max and I don’t work all year round so we have a lot of time at home to work on it. Also, my dad is retiring soon so that’s gonna help too.

Another reason why I hope that this will be a two year plan is because I’m tired of paying rent, and the sooner we make the investment, the sooner we will start saving more money.

Now we just have to wait and see if it’s actually possible or not. And another tip I should make sure to add is:

Always be flexible.

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

We’ve all heard the quote before, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” I’ve always teetered on whether or not I agreed with it. I understand the premise behind it – don’t let the fear of losing keep you from playing the game. And when you look at it that way, you have to believe that it’s worth something, that we need to push ourselves every day (or as often as we can allow ourselves to be) to be better than we believe is possible. That’s how people achieve greatness. That might even be how we find happiness.

But where do we draw the line? It has been said that if something both scares you and excites you, then it is something worth doing. Most of the time, this makes a heck of a lot of sense. Personally, in the past few months, I have been trying to be kind to myself and to respect the things that I actually want and need for myself. What I mean by this is that I no longer force myself to say yes to things I know I don’t actually want to do.

You might think it weird that all of this was my thought process when a friend asked me if I wanted to try the new Rock Climbing gym with him, but that’s what happened, because I was torn about what to say. I had to decline more than once, due to circumstances out of my control, but part of me wondered if I should just let it be and not mention it again, because I wasn’t even sure if it was something I wanted to do. And why should I force myself to do something I don’t want to do? Unless that I’m just letting fear get in the way, in which case, I should push myself to do it even though it makes me uncomfortable…

After much arguing with myself, I took the leap. I saw an ad for a Girls Night event going on at that Rock Climbing Gym, and figured it was a sign. I tagged my friend in the comment section and we made plans.

Not gonna lie, I almost completely forgot about those plans because I didn’t write them down. Thank God for Facebook advertising – a lightbulb lit up over my head and I remembered about an hour before our set meet-up time. I cancelled all my other crap, apologetic to others because I had just realized I had double-booked, and hurriedly got changed. I wasn’t too sure what to wear, but I figured gym type clothes were a good option. I scarfed down some supper and sent a text to my friend to give him a heads up that I was heading out.

I only got lost twice on the way there – this place is way out in the industrial park, really odd place, but I was impressed by what I saw when I walked inside. It was well designed and had different climbing options such as bouldering (not attached to anything), rock climbing with hardness, and my personal favourite, an Augmented Climbing Wall. More about that later.

I was surprised by the amount of people who were there, but I suppose it made sense given that they were offering free access to all women that night. My friend came to find me right away and kind of explained how it worked.

First things first – there’s a waiver form to fill out. It was odd, I didn’t remember ever signing something like this when I was young – nor do I remember my mom signing one – but I suppose it was a different kind of climbing gym, and I know requirements are a lot stricter now than they used to be. So I went online and I filled out the form, waiting for my turn to speak to the employee at the reception desk.

After the waiver is all done with, I guess maybe normally you would pay, but it was free, so the guy working offered to get me some climbing shoes – at no extra cost – and some chalk. I accepted and went to find a spot to put my bag and my normal shoes after having changed into the climbing shoes.

I saw a lot of women crowding around what I assume was another employee giving them a little lesson on how things work, so I waited until they were done and went to speak to her. She briefly showed me how to climb, how the routes were colour-coded and also numbered from easiest to hardest, and how to jump/fall down safely. And that was it. I was free to do my thing. Oh God.

Ok, why am I all of sudden slightly scared of heights??

I went to find my friend and we chatted a little bit. I told him I had no idea what I was doing. And also I was kind of expecting it to be the attached kind of rock climbing, not the free form kind. The whole falling thing made me nervous. I mean, you’d think I’d be fine, I’ve done Tree-Go a bunch of times – even once in the dark! But the thought of actually falling, with nothing saving me, hit me pretty hard.

I should probably note that all the floor was covered with very – VERY – soft foam, and you would have to fall pretty badly to hurt yourself. And then I overheard my friend telling a stranger that someone he knew fell and broke her ankle. Well. Alrighty then.

I still decided to give it a go, see how far I could push myself. I obviously only tried the easiest one, making it a little past half way. It was pretty packed by now so you had to wait a while between climbs.

I looked over to the three routes with harnesses and thought maybe I should do that first, to get the feel of climbing with the security of the harness. There was one open spot so I got all set up and climbed next to two other women. I asked them how they found it, especially since it was an “auto-belay” – which I assume means the rope thing automatically drops you down slowly. They said it was scary the first time, but then you get used to it and know what to expect.

They were pretty much right. I climbed halfway up and then let myself go. There was a small moment where it felt like nothing was going to stop you from falling, but then all of a sudden the pulley catches and you slowly start hopping down the wall. I chatted with those two ladies for a bit and we climbed up and down a few more times, although I never did make it to the top.

I met up with my friend again and I watched him try some of the more challenging routes. Apparently, they had just done a complete gym reset, which means all the routes were new and exciting for those who liked to come every day.

One thing that caught my eye was not all the experienced climbers, but rather this young little blonde girl who was giving it all she had. Wow. I should also mention that this girl’s arms were as big as mine – and she was a small child. You could tell she just LOVED doing this, and spent hours going up and down weird and challenging routes. I couldn’t help but think how proud her parents must be, that she is not afraid, that she isn’t letting stereotype stop her from doing something she really liked, and that she was working hard to get better every day. Now that is good parenting.

I was pretty exhausted after a while, but I really wanted to try the games they had on what was called “Augmented Climbing Wall.” Long story short, it’s a climbing wall with a projector, and the wall itself acts as a touch screen. There’s a monitor on the bottom of the pole that holds the projector and it lets you choose what game or challenge you want to try. The two women I had been climbing with were just coming off the wall and I asked them how it worked. They briefly explained you could choose levels and different games, depending what you liked doing. One of the women, who later introduced herself as Sophie, offered to play a round with me. So we hopped on the wall and started playing a round of “Whack-A-Bat!”

And the coolest part of all this – they do live recordings and send you an e-mail with your video in a private link on Youtube so you can watch it again! Check out Sophie and me getting the 2nd best score in the game so far!

I swear, I don’t remember the last time I had this much fun. And then those initial thoughts came flooding back. Well, I guess I knew what the truth was after all – I was in fact scared, and maybe what I needed was to push myself, to get out of my comfort zone and do something a little bit scary.

I smiled at the realization.

Downsizing Diaries – My First Step Towards Minimalism

Today marks the beginning. The beginning of a new chapter, that is, in preparation for our biggest adventure yet – building our very own Tiny House.

A lot of thought and careful planning needs to go into such a project, and I know that one of the biggest challenges is always downsizing. And that is why I have chosen to start the Downsizing Diaries, to keep us motivated and on track with paring down to just the basic (and our most cherished items, of course).

Getting rid of stuff used to be very difficult for me. I have no idea why, if I was just attached to my things more so than I am now, or if I just didn’t care about clutter. But at this point in my life, I know I’ve come a long way because I am able to look at something I own and quickly decide if it is useful, and whether or not I love it. That is my go-to question when I am unsure if I should keep something. And that question might be a little different for other people, but that’s what it comes down to for me – usefulness and meaning.

If an item means something to me, it is always much harder to say goodbye. That’s why usefulness also comes into play. If I cannot use it, then perhaps it is no longer necessary for me to have it. Maybe someone else could make better use of it, someone who might even desperately need it. These are the things I try to keep in mind. It makes things a lot easier knowing something that no longer brings you joy could do just that for another person.

But where to start? That is always the hardest part, I believe. Luckily, I have a system set into place – which I usually follow.

Step 1 – The Bedroom

It’s the one spot where I spend the most time, even if a lot of it is while I’m sleeping. I need this place to be stress-free, and there’s nothing more stressful than clutter.

I begin by cleaning out my closet. That’s usually where stuff piles up – unwanted, unworn items. The closet needs to be emptied in order to really look at every item that’s been hiding in there. After you’ve created a giant mess, it’s time to start sorting.

There should be two piles, and two piles only: Keep and Give Away. Or you can sell it, which is what I’m currently doing – check out my Facebook Photo Album here.

You might be asking yourself how you can decide whether or not something is worth keeping. Well, with clothes, it’s pretty simple – have you worn it lately? Do you even like it anymore? If the answer is no, you know where it goes.

Our room doesn’t have very much in it, so after the closet is done, there’s only a chest of Arts & Crafts supplies, and stuff under the bed, so I go for whichever is the least organized, and then do the other. Mostly, I try to downside by donating anything I haven’t been using lately or that I know I will never have a use for. And today that means saying goodbye to loads of strings for making bracelets, as I realize I don’t do that for fun anymore. So why bother keeping it?

Step 2 – The Bathroom

The bathroom is another spot I spend a lot of time, other than the kitchen. But the kitchen feels a little bit too overwhelming to be this close to the beginning, so I do the bathroom beforehand.

Fortunately, bathrooms are normally small enough that they don’t accumulate very much clutter.

Things you should keep in your bathroom:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo
  • Towels
  • Toilet Paper (I hope to God you don’t run out right before you remember you didn’t refill…)
  • Feminine products (I always keep a full box or 6 reusable items in there)
  • Shaving items
  • Cleaning products
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Medication
  • Bandaids
  • Q-Tips
  • Nail clipper

We don’t keep anything else. OK, sometimes we do. Like bath bombs. But I only own two, and they were both gifts. And it’s way too hot to use those in the middle of summer. But other than that, our bathroom contains only what is on the list, so it’s easy to keep tidy. The reason for this is because I’ve already done major downsizing.

Things we threw out:

  • Expired stuff
  • Medication we no longer use or did not finish
  • Old contact lenses, because they aren’t even the right prescription anymore…
  • Nail polish I have accumulated for years (mostly gifts – sorry to anyone who gave me some)
  • Duplicates
  • Old towels we never used in the first place

I do also own make-up and a few girly products, although I have a small container and bag for those personal items that I keep in our bedroom – which we have already cleaned, organized, and downsized.

If you feel like you keep too much crap in your bathroom, you need to start looking at my list (or make your own) and realize nothing else matters, nor does it belong in your bathroom. So get rid of it, or store it somewhere more practical.
Side note: it’s way too humid in the bathroom to keep expensive make-up in there.

Step 3 – The Kitchen

OK, so obviously you all knew this was coming up next. It is my favourite place in the entire house, and I feel like I still have a lot of work to do when it comes to downsizing in this area. The reason being that I love baking and cooking, and that requires a lot of stuff. Stuff I know I will have to get rid of, because it doesn’t serve more than a single purpose, maybe twice a year. We haven’t finalized our kitchen list yet so I won’t publish it, but I will say that downsizing in the kitchen is always done on a separate day than all the other downsizing tasks. It’s gonna take a while.

Maybe your kitchen is smaller than mine, and if so, feel free to do a combo day. As for me, I know how much time it will take me to go through every single cupboard and drawer, and I know I won’t be able to close them until they are sparkly clean. (I mean come on, don’t tell me you’re downsizing without cleaning at the same time!)

If you happen to be like me, and you realize that this will be a gruelling task, you know that we still have to make a plan. My plan goes a little something like this:

  • Fridge
  • Pantry with canned goods
  • Pots & Pans
  • Dishes & Glassware
  • Cutlery
  • Other drawers
  • Other cupboards

I always start with the fridge because guess what? No one is perfect and we all have crap we need to throw out from the fridge. So might as well start with the easy one.
You might be wondering, “Well why would I throw stuff out from my fridge? That seems like a waste.” Boy, do I ever agree. Fortunately, I’ve come up with a brilliant idea on how to minimize food waste.

Fridge Inventory

Of course, there are still some canned items that go bad after I put them in the fridge. But usually, we try to plan our meals around what’s left in the fridge to avoid that. And when we make meals with too many leftovers, we bring some containers over to the homeless shelter a few streets down.

The pantry with canned goods is also a good place to start because there shouldn’t be that much to throw out. If it’s expired though, definitely throw it in the garbage. If it’s something you’ve had in there for months – for example that item you bought one time to make a very specific recipe and turns out it sucked – try donating it or giving it away to someone you know who will use it.

Next up is usually the pots and pans area, where you will somehow always find one thing that doesn’t belong. Take that thing and decide whether it is useful or not. Then, find it’s rightful place – whether that be in another spot in the house, or in the donation box.

Dishes and glassware are always tough though. Why? Because I feel like such a wasteful person to throw out that random glass that doesn’t match with anything. I mean, come on, there are poor children in Africa with no glass at all, so I should feel fortunate to have a glass regardless of its appearance. But guess what? I don’t even like that glass, and I never use it. I don’t offer it to guests, and I don’t even put my cat’s water in it, so I should not be keeping. I will donate it to goodwill, where someone else can make good use of it, someone who will appreciate it a whole lot more than me. And that way I feel a lot better knowing maybe I’m giving a glass to some poor kid or family, right here in my own town.

I usually open up the cutlery drawer at the same time as my dishes and cups because it’s easier to spot all the mismatching items. I actually didn’t pare down that much on cutlery, but that’s only because most of it belongs to my brother, and I’m not about to throw out or give away someone else’s stuff. But we did throw out some old (disgusting) wooden spoons, and we donated all the items we had more than one of, such as a peeler, a spatula, etc.

Then come the other drawers and cupboards. They always have random crap in them. And you just don’t know what to do with any of it. Well, that’s OK. We’re all in the same boat. Seriously, one of my drawers has always been, and will always be a mess. That is, until we build our Tiny House where everything will have it’s own specific place.

But seriously, where else do you put batteries? And the cat’s nail clipper? And the spare key? And yada, yada, yada.

Well, you gotta start off by emptying the entire thing and keeping only what is still useful. For example, that one spare key for that car you no longer have – throw it out, for God sakes. Those batteries? Are they even still alive? Maybe try them out and only keep a few in case you need them – it’s not like a lot of things run on batteries anymore anyway…

I think you get the point. But make sure you are getting rid of stuff – that’s the real point.

Step 4 – The Living Room

The abyss. That’s how I refer to living rooms in general. So many things pile up in the living room. I mean, it basically just accumulates everything you don’t have a place for. And then some.

Books, I’m sure you have plenty. Or magazines. Well, do you even read them? I know I don’t. So I finally downsized, and it was surprisingly easier than I thought. Basically, I made a pile of books I have already read or do not think I will ever read – those are being donated. Then, I made another pile of books that I want to read before I give them away – but they will be donated as soon as I’m finished. And the third pile consist of books that I am attached to, that have meaning. Hopefully, there aren’t too many for you, but here are mine:

  • Into the wild
  • E-mails from India
  • Lonely Planet: Australia
  • Haiti: After the Earthquake
  • The Withern Rise Trilogy (still some of my favourite books)
  • What To Listen For In Music
  • Atlas Shrugged (I spent so long searching for it, it would feel weird to let it go)
  • My grandma’s journals
  • My personal journals

As you can probably tell, most of my keepsakes are all about travelling, and I think that maybe I feel a closer personal attachment to those things because of the memories I made during my own travels.

I think the main reason I was able to let go of everything else on that bookshelf is because I finally got myself a library card. It’s basically the best card I’ve ever owned – I can get books, for free (including e-books, oh em gee).

DVDs were a little harder to go through, because I would usually ask for a season of my favourite TV show every year for Christmas. I still proudly line up all the season of Lost and Smallville, but I think that after I’m done re-watching them this year (that’s the goal), I will donate them to goodwill. I watched them all when they came out, and it feels good to watch them again, seeing lots of things I had missed, still living moments of surprise when I forgot how things played out. Nevertheless, you can only watch a show so many times, so I think this will be the last time.

Fortunately, we don’t have lots of storage space so it’s just the bookcase and the coffee table that get piled up with stuff. So the last thing I needed to go through was the coffee table. Honestly, I have a hard time with it. I try to clean it every few months, but it’s never as organized as I would like it to be. I mean, the top of it is nice and tidy because we have guests coming and going through AirBnB, but inside the drawer is what’s always a bit hectic. Things get thrown into there every time I don’t have time to go put it in its rightful place. Random things get put into there and I don’t even know what they are.

So what shall I do with all that random crap? Either figure out what it is – it’s usually some paintball part that was misplaced or taken out of someone’s pocket – and put it where it belongs, or throw it out. Side note: it’s never a good idea to throw things out without asking others about it first. I know I would be particularly upset if someone threw out some of my stuff without asking me about it.

The only other thing we have in the living room is our files – although if you have the space, you would normally keep it in your office. Given that our office space is limited, and we also never go into there, I keep all our files in the living room in an organized filing box, underneath a little corner table. I’ve only had this box for one year now, so I haven’t had to go through it and throw things out, except for a few duplicate items – why does the insurance company send you like a billion copies of your car insurance? I swear we have 10 pink slips for the same vehicle and I don’t know what to do with them.

As soon as summer is over though, we will have to go through that entire box to see what’s what so it doesn’t start getting cluttered. And then again when tax season rolls around, we’ll do another clean up and then start fresh.

Step 5 – The Office

Some people might not have an office space, some people might just have a desk in another space or a filing box like us, but either way, there’s always something that can be downsized.

Our office space is kind of particular. Why, you might ask? Because it’s pretty much everything but an office. It’s a gun and ammunition room. It’s the sewing room. It’s the storage room. It’s the printing room. It’s the knitting room. And it’s usually a little messy, because a certain someone keeps his bagpipes in there, which need to be taken apart after every practice. But it is generally organized, and we do a lot of downsizing as often as possible.

I think the hardest part about downsizing in the office is always going to be craft items. I just love doing those types of hobbies and it’s hard to have a hobby that doesn’t require a lot of stuff – especially knitting and crochet. I have so much yarn in there, it’s actually a little crazy. I bought it all on sale, so it was definitely worth it. But I think the only way I will be able to downsize is by motivating myself to keep creating and then selling my products. That in turn means less clutter, and a little bit of a profit! Win-win situation.

Step 6 – The Basement

For those who have one, this might be something you avoid cleaning – all the time. For us, it’s not a huge issue because my brother actually lives down in the basement and he keeps every very, very tidy. The only space we use in the basement is the spare bedroom (currently being rented out as an AirBnB – check us out!) and the closets in my brother’s lounge.

Fortunately for us, there is very little downsizing. We know that there is limited space for storage since it is shared with another person, and we try to only keep non-perishable food items in there (if you haven’t heard, I’m a stock-pile-a-holic), as well as household or kitchen items that we have bought in preparation for our Tiny house. The only time we ever go through everything is when/if we realize some cans or boxes have been untouched for a while, and then we double-check all the expiration dates.

But regardless of whether it is a small clean-up, or a large one, it’s important to go through everything.

Step 7 – The Garage

This, for me, is always a dreaded spot. There is no easy way to clean the garage. There just isn’t. So let’s not lie and pretend this is gonna be pretty.

The worse part is that we technically have two garages. But the second garage belongs solely to Max so I take no part in cleaning that.

Honestly, I never really know where to start when it comes to the garage. Here is the main reason why – it is where I keep everything I have downsized from the rest of the entire house. It basically stays in there, as organized as it can possibly be, until I am able to sell it, give it away, or bring it to a thrift store as a donation.

I am constantly working on getting rid of our downsizing items, and I would much rather be able to make a little bit of money on all of this stuff – you should see how much, it’s actually pretty crazy to see it all piled up in one place. Well, actually, you can take a look:

Downsizing Items

And the thing is, I know I can do better in my downsizing. I know that in a month or so, when work finally calms down, and we aren’t short-staffed or visiting family on all my days off, I will definitely be doing a second sweep of the entire house and keep adding to this pile. But I think I also need to motivate myself to do better at getting rid of all the items I already decided to downsize.

And that’s the last step! If you have any tips you would like to give concerning minimize personal possessions or if you have any questions, please leave me a comment below!

xo

Wonderful Winnipeg Wedding

That there is some beautiful alliteration if I do say so myself.
But seriously, there are no other words to describe how incredibly perfect this wedding ceremony was – you know, except all the ones that will follow the ones I’m typing right now. 😉

As most of you might have heard, I flew to Winnipeg last weekend to attend/sing at one of my very good friend’s wedding. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to make this trip happen, it was just something I didn’t want to miss. And I am so happy with my decision!

Here’s a little bit of info on the bride, Chantal:

  • She is one of the kindest women I have ever met
  • She has such an incredible laugh (I can just hear her now!)
  • She’s got the kind of effortless beauty you can’t help but admire
  • She’s got the planning skills of Monica Geller – with 4 arms
  • She’s someone who I hope will always be present in my life – she is just that great of a person

So of course, I expected nothing short of perfection – and that’s exactly what it was.

The entire ceremony was set at Chantal’s parents’ beautiful farmhouse. On the front lawn, they had an area where the marriage took place, with beautiful white seats and plenty of umbrella’s set up to create shade on the hot summer day. They had used an old cabin wall as the backdrop, with the letters C and R hung up.

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The same cabin’s walls were used for the backdrop where the dining tables, bar and dance floor were located in the hay barn – flawless!

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The entire decor revolved around bicycles – based on their first date, and how Robert proposed.

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Every last detail was planned to perfection. There’s no other way to say it. Chantal thought of everything – she even had kids toys and games to entertain them during downtime! On top of that, they invited all guests to come and camp on her parents’ property for the night so no one would have to drive home after the ceremony. Did I mention it was an open bar??

I wish nothing but happiness and ever-lasting love to this incredible couple.

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I’m not usually a nervous flyer

As I woke up at 4AM for my flight to Winnipeg, I felt nervous. Except this time, it wasn’t like an excited nervousness. No, this nervousness stemmed from two things that were stressing me out to no end.

A small part of me was nervous because I felt unprepared for this trip. If you know me, even in the slightest, then you know that I am constantly planning and prepping things – way in advance. And for I don’t know what reason, I had not done any of my usual travel planning. I did not make a checklist. I did not print a packing list until the very last minute (I am stressing out just typing this). I did not pre-pack. I did not think about the size of my suitcase, or that checked luggage was not included on the flight that I booked, so then I had to downsize  and leave behind half of my liquids. I did not, I did not, I did not. But I did feel stressed as fuck.

But the worse part is that all that stress wasn’t even the main reason behind my nervousness. The real reason was all because of a guitar. Specifically, my very expensive Gibson Blues King 3/4 size guitar that I needed to bring with me.

I was absolutely THRILLED when one of my very good friends not only asked me to attend, but also to sing and play in her wedding – in Winnipeg. I obviously said yes – as you can probably tell from the fact that I’m writing about how nervous I am to be travelling there – with no hesitation. But it later dawned on me that I had never actually travelled by plane with a musical instrument.

PANIC! UTTER PANIC! What do I do?! I have no idea what I’m supposed to do! How do I protect it? How do I keep it safe? Dear God, WHAT IF THEY BREAK MY GUITAR?!

Oh, and did I mention this realization only hit me a few days before the wedding day?

Well, I supposed that the best thing to do would be to ask for help, so I did what any young adult would do – I turned to Facebook.

Judge me all you want, but I actually got feedback from a lot of travelling musicians, some of whom I had not spoken to in a very long time.

I had a lengthy conversation via the comments section about whether to have it fly as checked baggage, or as a carry on, and whether to put it in a soft case, or a hard case. Pretty much everyone was in agreement – carry on, and soft case to take up less room.

Despite everyone’s helpful tips, I still decided to try to figure out a plan B. I e-mailed a man at the Long & McQuade music store in Winnipeg to see if there was any chance I could rent the exact same guitar (yes, I’m that picky). I got a response a few hours later, and unfortunately they didn’t even have any that resembled it.

So I was back to square one. I decided to call my local Long & McQuade to see if my warranty would cover any damages that might happen during the flight. More bad news.  At this point, I figured I might as well as him what he thought would be the best way to travel with my guitar. He gave me some useful information that I hadn’t actually thought of. He said to make sure to pack the entire case so that the instrument doesn’t move around in it (sweet, less clothes to put in my suitcase). And most importantly, he told me to loosen my strings!

I got right to work and started tucking my baby in for the night.

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Another kind musician left me a comment on Facebook reminding me to loosen the strings if I’m flying, so I want to take the time right now to say thank you to all those who gave me tips or advice during this stressful time. I really appreciate the help, especially those who went out of their way to leave me a comment even if we haven’t spoken or seen in each other in forever.

And you’ll all be pleased to know that that both my guitar and I made it to Winnipeg in one piece!

Flashback Friday – Udaipur, City of Lakes

Today, I really felt the need to post a Flashback Friday blog post given that I spent half my morning talking with a good friend about my trip to India 3 years ago. It was a roller-coaster ride for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The memories I made during that trip were unforgettable, engraved in my mind and my heart forever.

So here is a blog post I had written in December 2014 during my stay in Udaipur, India.

Udaipur, also called “the white city,” is quite a stunning place. We were lucky to have stayed at Hotel Pichola Haveli, which is directly next to the glorious Lake Pichola. Its two greatest features, aside its lakes, are the City Palace and the Jagdish Temple. We decided to skip the temple, and it ended up leading to a wonderful set of events nevertheless.

We started off our day early and headed to Sahelion Ki Bari, a beautiful garden built by Maharana Sangam Singh. I won’t go into the history details, but I will quote a bit from our tourist guidebook, Fodor’s Choice: “The garden is painted with exotic flowers and themed fountains that have carved pavilions and monolithic marble elephants. The fountains don’t have pump: designed to take advantage of gravity, they run on water pressure from the lakes.” For the minimal cost of 50 Rs each, we took a lovely morning stroll through this glorious garden. It felt like being in some cheesy romantic film, I swear.

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Directly afterwards, our driver brought us back into town. He dropped us at the entry for the City Palace, where we paid for our tickets (115 Rs per person, 200 Rs camera fee) before heading inside for a nice long visit. Honestly, as magnificent as this building was, eventually, you get tired of the “forts and temples” routine. Around halfway through the tour, we decided to high tail it to the exit and managed to by-pass two large groups; we felt much less rushed afterwards. This was surprisingly one of the busiest spots we’ve visited since the beginning of our trip.

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I should take the time to mention it now that one of the reasons I loved our experience in Udaipur was the size of the city. I actually felt comfortable walking around the streets, trying to make our way back to the hotel (if I haven’t already mentioned it, we’re actually horrible with directions). It was evidently a city and not just some small town, but it had a homey feel to it and it helped me get used to the hustle and bustle of India.

Walking through Udaipur’s streets is also what led us to having a great (but partially nerve-wracking) day. We began by having no fixed goal in mind, but were just checking out some shops along the way. We stopped into one music shop, which seemed pretty good, but not more so than any other shop we had seen so far. We kept going and saw a quaint little shop one street over from our hotel called Krishna Music. We figured we’d go in for a look, especially since Richard’s been looking into getting some prices on a decent-quality tabla. There, we met the shop owner named Krishna, whom we chatted with for 45 minutes about music and different cultures. He showed us his personal tabla, which he was willing to sell to Richard for 9000 Rs (about $167 CAD) with a case, covers, tuner, and all. He played for us and said he could also give Richard a lesson. He offered us some chai, which we instantly accepted, and also showed us some of the more traditional music he played in concerts on Indian drums.

After all this, Richard was convinced he had found the right tabla, so it was time to make the purchase. We didn’t have enough cash on us (duh) so we went back to the hotel, the two of them on Krishna’s motorcycle, me on foot. Here’s where things started to get scary…

When we headed back out to go and pay, Richard got on the motorcycle again and Krishna yelled out to me “You wait here,” pointing to the wharf next to our hotel. I assumed he meant to wait so that he could come back and pick me up, but the distance to the shop wasn’t even a 5 minute walk, so I shrugged it off and walked anyway. At the shop, I found the door locked and no shoes on the front step. Weird… I waited 5 minutes, saw no sign of anyone. I thought to myself maybe he had another shop where he had a payment machine and that’s where they had gone. So I walked back to the hotel and waited. I mean, if we got lost somehow, the hotel would be the best spot to reconnect, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t have the room key so I was stuck in the lobby, hoping not to be bothered by any passer-by. I waited for 40 minutes, sitting on that fancy little couch, trying not to let panic get the best of me. Richard was a grown man, he could handle himself. Not to mention, he is about twice the size of that Indian guy. I shouldn’t worry, I told myself. Get a grip, I’m sure everything is fine… So after that whole 40 minute argument with myself about what could have happened, I decided to try my luck by walking back to the shop.

Relief washed over me as soon as I saw Richard’s yellow and grey running shoes on the front step of that music shop. The door was still locked, so I knocked to ask what had happened. I know Richard must have seen the panic in my eyes, despite the fact that relief was flooding through my body from that point on. He apologized for the whole ordeal, even though it was really no one’s fault, and explained that Krishna had taken him to the ATM to get cash out to make the payment. OH. Doy. That makes so much sense. And right after, Krishna only had an hour or so of free time to offer the lesson so they had gotten right down to it, assuming I would come to the shop. Well, lesson learned: always communicate clearly with someone before splitting up!
When I think back upon that experience, I’m glad I didn’t actually let myself freak out, because I could have. But I needed to trust that he had made safe decisions that hadn’t led him into a bad situation, and that we could handle being on our own even though we didn’t have cell phones to communicate with each other every time we didn’t know where the other was. It reminds me of the good ol’ days, as they call them, where you couldn’t just text someone saying “I’m here,” when you arrived at someone’s house. You had to knock, sometimes numerous times and hoped they would hear you and answer the door. And if not, then you went back home, assuming they weren’t there. End of story.

Anyway, regardless of all that drama, we had a fantastic day, and it wasn’t even over yet. You couldn’t have asked for a better ending: riding off into the sunset on a boat ride with a view of Udaipur City. Just remarkable. Absolutely breathtaking.

So to finish up, here are our tips and tricks for spending some time here in Udaipur:

  • Don’t bother taking the City Palace boat rides offered at 600 Rs per person. You can take boat rides for as cheap as 250 Rs per person anywhere along the lakeside; score!
  • You can feel safe about walking the streets in this city, even as a woman on your own. Don’t get me wrong, most places are completely safe as well, but this town just has a homey feel to it and makes you comfortable about being there despite the fact that you are obviously a tourist. (Always be vigilant nevertheless.)
  • Take a break from sight-seeing if you’re tired of the fort-and-temple routine. You won’t enjoy your experience if you force yourself to do something you’re not that interest in. Make the most of your time by according time to what you prioritize.
  • Richard’s tip of the day: Say no to heroin if someone offers you some on the street.

That’s all for now. Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures; we hope our intel has been interesting, at least, if not useful for some of you!

Namaste. xo

I applied for a new job today.

I don’t think I’ll actually get it, but I applied anyway. I applied for a number of different reasons, but the main one being that my boss told me I should.

OK, that sounds weird. Why would my current boss tell me to apply for a new job? Well, it’s pretty simple – I am a casual employee going nowhere fast and the only way I can move up in the company is by getting a job in the union. Ugh.

So now you’re probably curious as to what job I applied for. Well, I won’t ruin the surprise, but I can tell you that I’m actually somewhat qualified, and it’s an internal job posting so it’s not open to non-company employees.

I definitely thought long and hard before applying to this job, even though I am well aware that applying for a job doesn’t mean accepting a job. The first thing that came to mind was, “Why would I want to leave a job I love?” And as hard as that is to do, I know that I can’t stay here forever. I need to acquire new skills and new experience somewhere else, so that I can hopefully someday come back and get a permanent job doing something I love even more.

Who knows if that will actually end up being at the zoo, but I kind of have my fingers crossed. I love everything about where I work right now. I love where it’s located, I love the people I work with, and I love my non-human workers just as much! I love the routine, and I love the spontaneity of everyday problems. I love my office and all of tasks. And I am super fine with admitting that I love being surrounded by toys and stuffed animals every single day. Oh, and organizing. Duh.

But deep down, I know that all of that is not enough. All of that won’t bring me anywhere, because this job is at a standstill. It’s a casual position, 9.5 months of the year, 3 of which are not full time. No benefits, no sick days, no vacation. And of course, no weekends off, and no overtime pay. Basically, it whomps.

It sucks to think about leaving – which is not necessarily the case – but I know it’s the right time to be doing it.

So today, I filled out a huge form – half of which I did not even understand – and I sent off my cover letter and resume to apply for a new job. I have no idea if I’ll even get a call for an interview, but I did it anyway. I took a shot. And I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens next.