Showing posts with label Small house book reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Small house book reviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Into the Wild


I brought this book along on our vacation. 
In short it was about a young man named Chris McCandless who came from a well-to-do family and left all his money and possessions behind. The book chronicles all his encounters with those he met on his travels and then describes his last days as he set out to unsuccessfully survive in a remote part of Alaska.
Chris would pen postcards to those he met along the way. This one caught my attention.
“I think you really should make a radical change in your lifestyle and begin to boldly do things which you may previously never have thought of doing, or been to hesitant to attempt.  So many people live with unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventourous spirit within a man than a secure future.  The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.  The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.  If you want to get more out of life, Ron, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter syle of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy.  But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”
His final manifesto he scrawled on the bus wall he died in said, "Two years he walks the earth.  No phone, no pool, no pets, no cigarettes. Ultimate freedom. An extremist. An aesthetic voyager whose home is the road..."
As we paddled down rivers and climbed up to the top of the Smoky mountains I  reflected on the words of Chris McCandless.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Material World, A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel

This is one of my favorite books.
Peter Menzal photographs various families from around the world with their belongings.

Representing America:

Check out the method of transportation in Albania:

Each photo has a key to describe each person and names each item.
In this photo from Thailand, some entries are, "family dog (has no name) ,and chickens (under wicker cage)"

The dirt poor of Mali:

Here are the Yadavs in India who have no savings.
In difficult times, they have gone two weeks without food.

I try to assemble what my photo of possessions would be for our family in my mind.
Material World is my "go to" book when I need a reality check.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Not So Big House by Sarah Susanka

the- not -so-big-house-by-sarah-susanka
Sarah Susanka is an architect who believes we should not focus on square footage of a house, but how we live.  Numerous clients in large houses come to her to create a "home". She specializes in creating blueprints for the way people live and defining spaces by what activity and how time is spent in various spaces. 

She showed how this 3000 sq ft house can look so small.
On the same page, she showed how this 900 sq ft house can look so big. 

It is important to have a entrance that highlights something and welcomes you.

So I placed our ceramic birds in the entrance. Come on in.

The number one request that Sarah received from clients was to have a "light filled house".

I looked at this photo of the kitchen and noticed how the tools were always within reach.

So I imagined my top utensils. Even though they are mismatched, they work.

Indoor lighting is important as well.
Sarah showed how you can change the focus from the meal in this photo...
lighting-creates-mood-in-home the adjacent entertainment area.
I am way ahead of Sarah with my Halloween lighting.
I start with the timed lighting of candles and twinkle lights...
halloween-lighting the two pumpkins in the entertainment area.

Although this book was written over 15 years ago, I still found it interesting and inspiring.

 I found this book in the give-a-way table up north.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

happier at home by gretchen rubin

Gretchen’s book, Happier at Home, caught my eye with its subtitle, “Kiss more. Jump more. Abandon a project”. The thought of abandoning a project was intriguing for one who owns a craft shelf of supplies waiting to be used.  The topics vary from marriage to neighborhood. My interest was on the first chapter called possessions.

Gretchen broke up possessions into two “forms of engagement”.

1). Engagement by use. 
I have had a surrogate buyer for my purses for the past few years. I am not a typical woman who changes out with the season or for even the year for that matter. The search is endless and any contenders get shoved to the side if they don’t comply with my list of functions.   Recently I discovered a shiny silver hand bag where the leather felt like the fur of a basset hound's ears. This could be my final purse...until the next dog.

silver leather purse

Those items that are NOT used, end up dragging us down and causing guilt. For example, the hanging rocker in my garage.  Years ago we paid to have my mother's rocking chair dipped in acid to remove the black paint. After years of guilt of not starting the project and carrying the burden of a family heirloom, I mentioned it to her. The real story is my dad picked it up at a dump and it was missing a wooden leg.

2). Engagement that elicits a response.
These items trigger a memory. In my environment those are usually handmade items like a lovely handmade card, or a lopsided ceramic coil cup. Even the Basset magnet that has been in the donate pile has found it’s way back twice. When you flip the 3-D magnet over it is titled” Velvet Ears” and signed by the artist. I can't help but grin.

My favorite quote from the book was from Frank Lloyd Wright who cautioned, “Elimination, therefore, may be just as meaningless as elaboration, perhaps more often is so.  To know what to leave out and what to put in; just where and just how, ah, that is to have been educated in knowledge of simplicity”.

This book helped me to consider abandoning some projects, but the rocking chair stays for now.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Way of Zen downsized into one page.

“From the sky, everything looks small, but from the ground, everything looks big. In all of life, nothing is fixed —everything depends on perspective.” 

 “We feel that our actions are voluntary when they follow a decision and involuntary when they happen without decision. But if a decision itself were voluntary every decision would have to be preceded by a decision to decide - An infinite regression, which fortunately does not occur. Oddly enough, if we had to decide to decide, we would not be free to decide” 

 “When we attempt to exercise power or control over someone else, we cannot avoid giving that person the very same power or control over us.”

 “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” “Possessions, outward success, publicity, luxury— to me these have always been contemptible. I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone, best both for the body and the mind.” 

 “Since opposed principles, or ideologies, are irreconcilable, wars fought over principle will be wars of mutual annihilation. But wars fought for simple greed will be far less destructive, because the aggressor will be careful not to destroy what he is fighting to capture. Reasonable - that is, human - men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life.”

 “You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

 “We think that the world is limited and explained by its past. We tend to think that what happened in the past determines what is going to happen next, and we do not see that it is exactly the other way around! What is always the source of the world is the present; the past doesn't explain a thing. The past trails behind the present like the wake of a ship and eventually disappears.” 

 “Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it.” “To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountain that sustain life, not the top.”

Monday, March 25, 2013

"You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too." by Tammy Strobel

My discovery of an article about Tammy Strobel and her journey of downsizing, led me to purchase this book. The video shows Tammy and her husband logan in their 128 sq ft house on wheels.

Tammy describes three methods she used to simpify her life.
1. Give away 10 belongings a week. When I started letting go of my stuff, I started with one room at a time. At first the idea of giving away my things was overwhelming because I had so much. I found that giving away 10 belongings a week -- in the beginning -- propelled my downsizing process. We gave most of our belongings away to charity and sold a few items on Craigslist. It turned out that most people didn't want to buy our old stuff, so giving it away was a better option. Plus, it made us feel better!
2. Pay off your debt. If you are anything like me, this process will take time. But don't fret, you can do it! Sit down and make a list of all your debts, including credit card bills, student loans, car loans, your mortgage and more. Focus on paying down your debt a little bit every month. It took us years to pay off my student loan debt, but it was worth the wait. When I was stuck with so much debt it wasn't possible to change careers or move to a new city. Without debt, I had the freedom to make a broad range of choices.
3. Prioritize people in your life, not stuff. Rather than going shopping, pick up the phone and call a good friend. Go out to lunch with her, go for a bike ride, a long hike, or make a fun dinner with your partner. Making time for people you love is incredibly important. Interestingly, happiness research has shown that having strong relationships is correlated with a happy and healthy life.

The book contained many interesting motivational facts and studies.
Tammy and her husband started in a 1,200 sq ft apartment, 
then reduced their belongings to a 800 sq ft. apartment. 
It took them five years and three moves to fit into the 128 sq ft home on wheels. 

Tammy used the book,  How We Decide, by Johah Lehrer as a resource.
Lehrer discovered that,  "the desire to avoid anything that represents loss often shapes our behavior, leading us to do foolish leaving a wedding ring in a jewelry box for years without wearing it." My house and life are FILLED with zillions of these things that are kept for when my kids move out, or to hand down from generation to generation. 

This house on wheels is parked on a section of a backyard Tammy and Logan rent. 
They shower at the gym and do laundry at the owners house.

I found this study included in the book interesting.
A psychology experiment from the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology explored the connection between people, their stuff and their sense of security.  
People value their belongings because "ownership of goods promotes feelings of security". 
When asked the value of a pen or blanket, those who felt loved and accepted placed a lower monetary value on the possessions, than people who did not. 

Below, furniture is pulled out as needed.

Tammy mentions participating in a project called 333
It is a movement that asks one to try and create their wardrobe out of 33 pieces.
I have begun my decent into this project.

Imagine just hooking up your house and traveling somewhere new.

My favorite quote of the book was from Yongey Mingyour's,  Joy of Living

"Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflications and the discomfort of being ruled by them."

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tiny Homes by Lloyd Kahn

Tiny Homes Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn is a collection of over 150 builders. 
The maximum size house allowed in the book is 500 ft.

The book starts out with this snowboarder's haven by Michael Basich.

Michael used rocks and wood milled from the land.

What an amazing picture window.

Cathy Johnson designed a studio that was based on building with a small budget and a lot of recycled supplies.

Scott Holmen's large covered deck creates covers more footage than the shelter.

This tree house ceiling is made from thrown out picture frame samples.

Kay House was created out of 99 percent pure salvage. 
Tiny Texas Houses feels that there is  presently enough building supplies in the USA to build much of the next generation of housing. 

Tiny Homes Simple Shelter by Lloyd Kahn is a great resource book for inspiration and finding alternatives to using recycled materials. After reading this book I am inspired to find a plot of land and just start creating.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Solomon

This book reinforces reasons for choosing a small house, including preserving natural resources and living a simple life. Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Solomon asks questions like, "How much space do we need?" and "How much stuff is required to make us happy?".  Over a dozen interviews of people in various small houses fill the book with inspiration.

My most memorable story is about a woman who lived in a 3000 sq foot house and lost all her possessions to a flood. She ended up tossing the traditional lifestyle of a house and living on a sailboat that was only 30 feet long with another person.  The flood forced her to eliminate her possessions quickly. She said "If my stuff isn't making my life better, why do I have it?"  She ended up spending fourteen years on the ocean.
I was intrigued by the design of this bathroom in one of the houses. This design allows multiple uses for one bathroom by just installing doors in between the different utilities.
Another interesting concept was called the Maxwelton Creek Co-housing set -up.  On a 21 acre parcel in Washington state, they built eight houses and one community building. THe zoning established no house bigger than 1500 square feet and they placed a parking lot away from the houses so you had to walk in.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The 9-inch "Diet"

Book Review: The 9-inch "Diet". Exposing the BIG conspiracy in America.
Author: Alex Bogusky with a little help from Chuck Porter
"America has been suffering from a severe case of gigantism" Alex Bogusky.

The premise behind this book is identical to my philosophy on houses.

Not only have our houses, garages, cars, and televisions increased in size, but so have our plates.

Alex Bogusky, a decorated creative at Crispin and Porter  + Bogusky Advertising agency wrote "the 9-inch "Diet" after purchasing a vintage cottage and discovering that his plates would not fit into the cupboard.
Over the past thirty years, many plates have increased from nine inches to twelve, especially at restaurants.  Alex reflects that, "our perception of small is bombarded by new standards".  Why is it when I go to a coffee shop the smallest purchase is called a grande? As smalls become mediums, and super sized drinks are increasing to over 64 ounces, it makes us lose our perspective and ultimately our inhibitions. 

When I left the city for the suburbs, I wanted more room for my kids.  I was thrilled to go from a one car garage to two.  What could be better than having three bathrooms and four floors of a house to fill? Fill we did.  All of a sudden a couch was not enough. We needed a additional casual couch system to watch T.V, since we had a new family room.  One or two shovels were replaced with over six (I just put them away yesterday).

As Alex states, "in a culture of bigness, it is hard to embrace small. Hell, it's hard to find small."  Alex is credited with the MINI Cooper campaign. His strategy for selling the small vehicle was to create a momentum for the culture of small and starting a SUV backlash. His plan worked as the MINI's sold out months ahead of schedule.

My favorite line in the book is when Alex says that we are, "innocent victims of this elephantitis."

When we have bigger plates, we eat more. When we buy bigger houses, we buy more.

I am off to measure my plates.
Time to not only consider how much I put in my house but also how much I put on my plate. It's a downsize win-win for house and body.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston

I am a reader.  I love books.  Many have changed my life.  Probably the one  at the top of the list is, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston.  I was in a book club years ago, and book club member, Barb Etzkorn, suggested we read it. I had just been dabbling in reading Feng Shui books and was intrigued.  

That book lit a fire under me unlike anything else and found that I couldn't read it before bed.  One night I had to leap out of bed and clean out my makeup drawer.  I got so energized I couldn't wait to clear my clutter.  So take caution if you read it yourself.

Sometimes I would read a section heading and get very defensive, for instance when it was regarding books.  Note aforementioned love of books.  I truly thought that I loved all my books, they were neatly on a shelf, so how could they possibly be clutter? 

She convinced me to consider my collection.  Were there any that no longer suited my tastes and values? Were they an accurate reflection of who I was now? The trouble with our things is often times we don't even look at them anymore.  They are just sitting there.  When we actually intentionally look at our stuff with questions in mind like, "do I love it? Is it useful?" we often find that the answers are, "no."  I went to my shelf and easily, without hesitation, removed several boxes worth.  I couldn't have been more surprised.  

Since then, I have continued to clear clutter from our home (we are never done) and have launched my own business to help others do the same.  That's one influential book. 

Lori Koppelman
Owner & Coach