Tag Archives: environmental issues

Tiny House Plans

20 Apr

UPDATE 4/25/2016: Interested in the tiny-house lifestyle? Self-reliance? Zero-waste? Going off-grid? Check out my new podcast, A Sustainable Mind. Listen online at ASustainableMind.com or subscribe via iTunes.

I have been prepping for the few weeks for an event that I am now out of town for so my posts have been sparse. Today I’ll post some simple fun stuff. My tiny house plans!

I made these on Icovia’s The Make Room online software and then made a few corrections/alterations in Photoshop and SketchUp. I’m new to Icovia but have learned to use the program very quickly and enjoy it for 2D drawings a bit more than SketchUp. I’ll be going 3d on these plans soon. Icovia is free, you can save several layouts, group components and copy/rename docs to create simple multiple versions.

There were a few things that were very important to me in designing my tiny home:

Able to sleep 5 comfortably

I wanted to be able to sleep a few guests comfortably without sacrificing living space when I’m awake by myself in my tiny house. As you can see I have a queen mattress in the sleeping loft (2), I have a convertible sofa (2) and the 2nd loft above the porch is obvious storage but big enough to be a very comfortable sleeping/reading loft (1). I actually think this will be my favorite spot in the house and I plan to situate the window to take full advantage of the view from there. For the convertible sofa I couldn’t find anything that fit my criteria: only 30″ deep, 70″ wide and a style that I liked so I think I’ll make my own. I’ve completed the simple design I just need to learn how to weld (LOL) and upholster 2 cushions. When laid out it will be 3 inches short of a queen sized bed…not too shabby!

Kitchen with high countertop, utilitarian sink, fridge & oven w/ hotplate

Taller countertop space (36-37″) is easier on my back and that of my family. I’m 5’6″ but am the shortest of my close family (except for my grandmas). So that was a must and actually ended up being a gift because then I can stack a 20 inch refrigerator cube and my 15.5 inch oven with hotplate on top and still be able to cover this area when I’m not using my hotplate and use this it as countertop prep space.

My one concern is creating enough space between the fridge & oven for ventilation. The oven’s feet give about 2 centimeters as is and I may add a bit. As for the sink, I’m thinking of a plain double basin turned sideways. The back basin will be a dry rack/storage for plates. I plan on having my foldable faucet extend from the wall as opposed to the counter so with a cover this can also be countertop prep space.

Open Kitchen to Living Space 

You can’t see this in these 2D layouts but there is a bookshelf in the wall between the kitchen and living area and that bookshelf is only 36-48″ high. When my friends and I get together at someone’s place we cook together and I felt like I wanted to keep this area open to encourage conversation between the two spaces. Also with a TV swing arm mount I can view the screen while cooking. The bookshelf on the couch/closet side goes all the way up to the loft and may double as a ladder if my movable one is being used in the 2nd loft.

Covered porch as interior space

The Fencl model has this but at an angle. I plan on having mine completely vertical. I got the idea from Johnathen to put my electric box here and would still have plenty of space for hanging out up there, for plants or an indoor herb garden, storage or just a shelf for some of my unnecessary but super cool stuff: statues, guitars, and whatever else I like to look at on a daily basis but don’t really use.

I spend so much time looking up fixtures and appliances and really laying out everything. I’m inviting in money, resources and a workspace to build and in the meantime I am having the time of my life getting creative with space usage…really fun.

Here is a video of something that would open up a 6th sleeping spot if I were to incorporate it and is definitely worth considering in any tiny house with multiple occupants. Long video but interesting interview. Skip to 6:30 to hear about their sleeping layout.

It’s a “drawbridge” bed that stows away snuggly under the loft taking up zero space when stored…brilliant and totally doable.

Okay that’s it. I have a few posts in the chamber but they are unfinished, unresearched, unspell-checked…I should have more time next week.

Tiny House Interlude #3

11 Apr

I started this entry yesterday after finishing an 18.5 hr overnighter finishing up a site for a client so I was not gonna “get into too much detail on anything”. Just list a few awesome tiny house links, resources, videos…with a bit of commentary of course, and a personal update. But then again the tiny house underground is quite large and I couldn’t help myself. So, first a word on interior aesthetics. For those uninterested you can skip to the next section.

Drywall

It’s odd, I never considered having a home with an all wood interior until I started researching tiny houses. When I thought, “wood” I always pictured the faux wood paneling or the traditional log cabins…neither of which I liked very much. And then wood was pretty much all I saw for probably 100+ tiny house videos…and I never really thought twice about it. It’s probably one of the most obvious characteristics of most tiny homes…other than the fact that they are tiny of course, and somehow it totally felt right. Obviously, for those who are using recycled/reclaimed wood, building more green in general and want a more hand-crafted look this seems to be the way to go. Just recently I saw 2 tiny homes with drywall interiors. Here’s one of them. The most obvious difference: more light.

Personally, I’m not a fan of light. Odd I know. I love solar energy but to be out in the sun isn’t really my thing and it really saps my energy. Yes, I know that I live in LA. However, I’m assuming as I get older and my life simplifies I will start appreciating sunlight and lots of windows more than I currently do. I’ll just call it planning ahead.

So at one point I did ponder the possibility of drywall inside a tiny home but the main utilitarian purpose of drywall is as a fire barriar which…in a tiny house…good luck. (Jay Shafer did say in a video that his bedroom window, which was pretty tiny, was big enough for him to crawl out of in case of emergency. Good thinking Jay.) So then it must have other benefits, right?

Con’s

-It’s not green. And if you are a less experienced builder/DIYer and you break the pieces poorly you will probably notice all the fiberglass inside.

*Further research: Drywall is usually paper-faced or fiberglass-faced. Fiberglass-faced is more mold resistant so it’s sometimes used in basements, hurricane territory, per local building codes I assume…the restaurant I did construction on used it in parts of the kitchen and bathroom…(in my experience you know it when you see it because the face is green or blue/purple instead of white [you see this in a lot of unfinished basements] and it costs more but reading the label is always good to be sure.) Then there is ‘monolithic’ drywall (disperses cellulose throughout the gypsum so I guess no facing is required). Seems to be a few select companies though and was designed mostly for under-tiling and is not the standard for walls.

-Not so hand-made looking. Although if you like a contemporary feel this is probably the way to go.

Pro’s

-Cheaper…unless you get sustainable/eco-friendly drywall which costs the same as the non-eco, high end stuff: $14-20 per sheet according to some sources in 2008.

-Light weight in comparison to wood which would be good for hauling weight (this is assumed, i still have to research it).

*After more research I found that drywall is about 3.4 lbs/sq ft and pine interior paneling ranges from .75-1.75 lbs/sq ft (per various current manufacturer’s specifications)

-Reflects light better inside if painted a light color. Even darker colors I think would reflect light rather well because of the smooth surface.

-Repairs are easier when you can just cut a hole through and cover it up seamlessly. Repairs in wood are a bit more difficult and take preplanning if you want to allow access to main utilities throughout for future maintenance & repair.

-It can be painted or given a textured finish.

For all the positive attributes I still like the idea of a wooden interior but it seems a bit busy, visually too much for me to handle long term. And that’s a lot of material to use to decide in a few months that you don’t like it. All in all I need to see one in person and then the lighting and eco issues will guide my decision.

Another thing about this house…great storage options. Look closely at some of their photos (1, 2, 3, 4) to see what I mean.

Laundry

I’m really lucky to have laundry on the other end of my building but after yesterday and last night that was the last thing I wanted to do…in the rain. It reminded me to look into this. A mini washer, no electricity or plumbing needed. It has a warranty & money back guarantee which makes me feel a bit better but the reviews are great so…definitely something to look into.

Tiny House Blogs

A few awesome tiny home blogs I’m either just discovering or just now getting around to actually reading.

Tiny Home Builders – more than just pretty pics, they have good info if you’re willing to click around for the real content

Sarana Park – Two Los Angelenos build 2 tiny homes and head north. One tiny house has wooden interior, the other drywall interior. Very nice site.

Forge Ahead – Tiny houses by Jenine Alexander & Amy Hutto. They’ve got 2 under their belt, one is rented, the other sold and Jenine is finishing the interior on a 3rd which was constructed on a boat trailer! Might be a good possibility with so many boaters here in SoCal.

Tiny Houses: Small Spaces – found on someone’s tumblr. Haven’t gotten too far into it but this site seems to have a lot of great videos.

Can A Tiny House Withstand Natural Disasters?

Video of tiny house after a EF3 tornado by Travis162002

The Compact Kitchen – Best thing since sliced toasted bread

Avanti Appliances – I saw this in a faircompanies.com youtube video and I was able to make out the logo so I visited their website. They also have countertop ovens which are the same size as or smaller than microwaves, which I dont use, so I’ll get one of these instead.

Tiny House Drafting

This free online drafting software from Urban Barn was written about in the Tiny House Blog. Much faster than SketchUp for drawing up multiple rough floor plans for comparison.

In other news…

Macy is making awesome headway on her tiny house flooring and going vertical! Congrats Macy!

My dad is teaching my cousin to drive this week…yikes. After doing one of his typical freak outs and making lots of annoying sounds in the passenger’s seat she kicked him out of the car. He sent me pics. He did the exact same thing when he tried to teach me to parallel park between 2 metal barrels.* Hilarious. 

I finished some insane WordPress site integration and tons of branding & marketing materials for a client (hence my 18.5 hr long day) who has a huge event later this month…it’ll be good publicity, I’m looking forward to new clients 🙂

I’m totally addicted to this new app, Scramble with Friends (by Zynga, the Words with Friends app people). I think I’m 3 and 7 since I started 3 days ago. I’m not great at it but it’s fast paced so it keeps me interested at all hours of the night.

*for the record I turned out to be an AMAZING parallel parker…thanks dad

Old Habits

7 Apr

Last week I emptied my refrigerator. I’ve been needing to do this for weeks, months even. I had stuff in there from my mom’s visit in late October and other food that was gifted to me for Christmas. Yikes! One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I am forgetful especially if I don’t have a specific place to file stuff in my brain. If I didn’t personally buy it, need it and make meal plans for it I forget it’s even in there. Sad but that’s just how my brain works…I’m getting use to it.

A few posts ago I spoke about passion, preferences and habits. So there are a few I am adopting. Some for the planet, others for myself, and some I even practice or at least use to but not regularly enough for them to make a significant impact. Experts say it takes a certain amount of time to integrate new habits and that you should never try to integrate more than one at a time. But then again I could never keep my car clean until I had an accident, went through the entire buying process on my own and bought a new one. Now my car is always clean. My point is I don’t think it’s the multitasking that makes new habits not stick but rather that there isn’t a dramatic enough change in environment to jar the old habit loose and reinstate a new one. So out with the old in with the new:

#1. Give Away Food

When I go to Trader Joe’s and get a great deal on the biggest bag of tiny oranges that I couldn’t get through in 2 weeks if I tried I will hand them out to the homeless that I pass at traffic lights. I did this once when I had a bag that I couldn’t eat all by myself and thought it was a much better idea than giving away money. And everyone was super happy and grateful. There is also the quandary of “do I really want to get the rest of this to go when I know that tortilla is gonna be soggy and disgusting by morning?” I HATE leaving food on the plate at restaurants so I always get it to go but some stuff simply wont last even in a fridge…wet burritos are one example or anything starchy that is gonna have to sit next to something liquid. You get my drift. So I feel like this might be a good opportunity to give it to someone on my way home. Instead of asking for money I’ve been asked to buy stuff by people waiting outside a fast food place so I think this is similar. The food, although cold at that point, is still fresh and hopefully good quality and a decent portion since it came from a restaurant. I will have to figure out the utensils though. Plastic? :/ The dollar store sells 4 stainless steel forks for a dollar. I may get a pack or two just for this as a test. Same goes for stuff in my fridge that I know I just wont get around to. Better than it going to waste in a dump.

#2. Let the Toilet Flush Itself

Go with me here. You can skip to the next habit but if you can tolerate it I would say this is worth reading. So I had to pee in the middle of the night a while back but didn’t want to wake my roommate so I didn’t flush. I come back in the morning and it’s like it never happened. I thought to myself…hmm, that’s curious. I know most things don’t evaporate that quickly so I assumed it just made its way down the drain over time somehow. And then a strange thing happened. My toilet started to run. Most new toilets run every few hours on their own. That cycles a good amount of water through the system in addition to the water used for each flush (mine is 2.5 gallons/flush) and does in fact work exactly like a regular flush just with very little force. So I’ve been “not flushing” liquids for about a week now and it totally works! I still come back to an empty bowl every time (except for the paper). I have a couple friends who go by the rule “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down” regularly. I think it’s worth a try just as an experiment if nothing else. If your toilet runs at random times give it a shot. Of course #2’s are treated as toxic waste and should be flushed. Now I will admit still always flushing on the rare occasion that my roommate is around. Even though we don’t share a bathroom I don’t want her to think I’m unclean. I may have a conversation soon with her explaining my findings.

#3. Stuff Exchange (for accumulation elimination)

A lot of people who practice voluntary simplicity shop by this rule: “buy one, give one away”. A friend of a friend is taking her daughter shopping for clothes this weekend because she gave away two bags of clothes to good will last week. Like I keep saying I don’t buy that much so I think my best and easiest way to integrate this is with food. I finish a box of cereal I can buy a package of pasta. Crude example but you get the picture. Even though I want to eat everything I buy sometimes my plans for consumption don’t quite line up with how long things last in the fridge and I end up wasting it because it went bad a few days after I opened the package. I am only one person so this means a lot of trips to the store and eating a lot of the same thing for a few days straight. I kinda already do this so…no change there. I just want to be more conscious of the timing of my purchases so that I don’t waste things simply because I couldn’t eat it fast enough. I also have a Macy’s gift card I want to make good use of so this is the perfect time for a closet cleanse.

#4. 15 Minute Daily Cleanup

When friends visit, when my mom’s in town or when it’s hot or cold enough that I want to let some air circulate by leaving the door open my room is immaculate. Otherwise there are clothes piles. And shoes piles. And luggage. I have a habit of not ever completely unpacking. If I’m going to live in a tiny house or downsize at all I’m going to have to consistently keep my room clean. I had a 15 minute daily cleanup routine that got away from me a while back so I’ll be reinstating that. The great thing is, if done daily it doesn’t take but a few minutes and the rest of the time I can organize, wash dishes, etc. And the main culprits are clothes so I think getting rid of the useless 2/3 of my wardrobe and moving the remainder of my clothes from one side, behind my desk chair and far from my bed closer to the door where I get dressed anyway will make me more likely to hang jackets and belts up immediately and anything else I can wear more than once instead of putting them on the back of the chair. Shoes are one issue though. Door/closet shoe hangers aren’t cute but they work. This may be a solution to look into. Overall, clean is sexy and I won’t have to stress about cleaning up for an impromptu houseguest so…I think this one will do me a lot of good.

#5. Inspirational & Educational Audio

Hot talk radio has been around forever; less political and way more edgy and comedic than regular talk radio but usually still hitting on the big news topics of the day. I’ve been listening to Heidi and Frank (Frosty, Heidi and Frank) for about 4 years now and I haven’t missed a show in well over 3 years. These days they’ve created their own network online where they broadcast live each day and they have on demand podcasting so I listen to old episodes all day and sometimes go to sleep with it on. I am a devout fan but I will admit it’s probably one of my worst habits. It’s not the listening that’s inherently bad but more the topics they talk about. Not only is it hard to get stuff done because I’m actually trying to actively listen but their topics aren’t always the most uplifting. They are self-deprecating, everything and everyone is a target for a joke and their events are pretty much a kegger combined with a live radio show. I love you HF but you are no good for me. I won’t stop listening entirely but for working hours it’s probably for the best. Technically, classical music is the way to go but sometimes I need a bit more substance especially if I’m doing mindless work. So I’ve started listening to TED Talks instead. Most are 10-20 minutes each and are educational and inspirational. They are equally as distracting especially because I’m learning something but I figure it’s helping to balance out whatever negative energy HF puts off. I also listen to the 4-Hour Workweek, The Secret, and interviews from Niurka or Michael Bernard Beckwith. As cheesy as The Secret is I am the most productive when I listen to it. I’ve heard all of these so many times they are no longer distracting but just background noise so I am still getting the benefit of the topics and the tracks are wordy enough to keep me interested.

So that’s it. A little bit of everything. I’ll report any interesting findings.

What Sustains Me

7 Apr

The food, water, electricity and shelter that keeps me alive I don’t contribute to at all. I am so disconnected from my own sustainability. I turn on the faucet and there’s water. I plug something in and there’s electricity. I go to the store and buy food. If I leave the faucet and lights on and leave for a week they’ll still be on when I get back. I don’t have to worry about running out. That bothers me.

These are not the fruits of my labor but the labor of others. I want to know what it takes to power a light bulb for a day. I know how electricity works, I could draw you a diagram and I understand it intellectually. But what about harnessing the power to make those light bulbs burn? Is it something I can create by myself? Why (over)pay a company that puts money in the pockets of people I’ve never met to do all these things? Each hour enough sunlight hits the earth to power the world for year. When you get outside of our seriously polluted ozone and study the sun itself it radiates more energy every second than has been consumed by the entire world since the beginning of time. Wnd we use almost none of it. why?

Solar panels use to be super expensive. They still are but nothing like they use to be. If one is willing to make panels themselves  (and that a BIG if for most people) and consumes very little energy  (another BIG if) you can generate all your own power from DIY panels and a well regulated battery system. My first project in self-sustainability solar power wise will be to research and make a mini solar panel to run my laptop off of and go to the beach to work for a day to test it out. You can buy solar laptop bags or a mini panel specifically for this purpose but that kinda takes all the fun out of it.

In terms of food…I’ll stick to buying it all for now. Making solar panels seems so much easier to me than remembering to water a plant everyday and put it in the right sunlight. Trust me…I’ve killed many a green thing. But I may put in some hours at a community garden. That way I know my efforts wont be in vain.

The same for the home I live in. I designed my first complete home at age 11. A simple 7th grade school project turned into complete blueprints drawn to scale of a 4K sq ft home complete with 2 self-contained units, one on either end for both my parents complete with their own independent entrance, full kitchen, elevator. The blueprints also included a glass-enclosed atrium off the back with a mechanical roof that opened up and a winding river style pool that traveled between the plants and trees. A home that big in Hollywood would be easily priced at 8 figures. Only in recent years have I rekindled my love for designing homes but they’ve been minimalist in design, have contemporary finishes, use recycled and sustainable materials.

I figure building a tiny house would be a fun challenge that would actually make a profound impact on my finances. The trick is in the design since it’s such a small space you do have to plan carefully…and I’m great at planning.

Okay enough with the talk. Some of these are easy to put into practice, others will take time, here are the changes I am implementing TODAY.

You can’t take it with you: stuff and other clutter.

7 Apr

A few posts ago I mentioned having a very long solo therapy session…I suppose you could say I was NLPing myself (don’t laugh), getting to the root of some of these new ideas evolving in my consciousness lately. What they mean to me, why they matter now and how I’m planning on implementing them in my life. I feel like if I don’t put some of this into practice I might explode. I started looking at all the excess in my life and thinking….I can do with so much less…and would be better off for it either because of money or just to free up space in my brain and my bedroom.

I met back up with some NLP classmates a few days ago for dinner and we got on the topic of ‘stuff’. One friend had basically moved into a friends place several months ago with the clothes on her back and her car. She just now realized that she turned into a gypsy overnight completely by accident and was totally cool with it.

Stuff (noun): a group or scattering of miscellaneous objects or articles, unspecified material (these definitions were not at the top of the list but they hit the nail on the head)

Personally, I have all this ‘stuff’ and it’s driving me nuts. I have boxes in my closet that I moved to LA with. Literally the same boxes that I shipped from Pittsburgh to a storage unit in Gardena…they still have the shipping labels on them. And about once every year I think “hey what ever happened to that thing…oh it’s in the box next to the other thing”. I spend an hour figuring out which box to open, open it, retrieve what I need, close it up, put it back in the closet…and there is sits for another 12 months collecting dust.

I think sometimes the stuff we have really holds us back. That certainly holds true for me. I’m gonna get a bit out there and I hope you all don’t mind. Everything is energy, literally. All my old stuff holds energy from when I actually use to use it. For better or for worse it’s simply not a part of this current version of me and having those things around doesn’t help in my personal evolution. And if not the energy itself effecting me just knowing that it’s there occupies some amount of brain power on a regular basis. I don’t know about you but I don’t have a ton of brain capacity to spare. I’m running on overdrive in my head a lot these days.

There is a path between my door and my bed that I almost never deviate from. I go right once a day to get clothes out of my closet, and go left to my top drawer only for socks and skivvies. I have a queen sized bed, half of which acts as my laptop and paperwork…’holding spot’. *sigh* Okay, lets get real. My closet is storage, my desk is a catch all and the other half of the bed is covered in books, paperwork and whatever I was too uncomfortable to continue to wear all last night. And this is when my room is clean! I’m actually very organized but I simply have too much stuff. I have 2 jars FILLED with writing utensils yet I can never find anything that I WANT to write with. (Odd example but go with me here. After all, most things are a microcosm of the larger picture.) This is both wasteful and petty. I’m gonna start using every pen/pencil/dry erase marker/highlighter/sharpie I have until they run all the way down or run out. seriously I feel like this alone will make me feel better. I NEVER walk around the other side of my bed. its literally an entire half of my room that I never set foot on. it gets vacuumed only to make both sides of the carpet look the same…ridiculous.

but I digress. let me get to the point because I do have one.

I require very little to be happy.

  • Limited use of my current belongings: Other than my laptop and accessories there is NOTHING that I use daily. My dry erase board and my oven/stove I use almost daily. There are 10 shelves of books filled with college textbooks I thought might become relevant again, empty DVD cases that I put up to look cool I guess (the actual disks are in a huge album in the ugly or oversized portion of my shelf), film books that are just a reminder of how unattached I am to the industry at this point, old journals that I should fill before buying new ones. I own clothes that still have tags on them (from grandma’s who didn’t grasp the narrowness of my preferred wardrobe until very recently), other clothes that are too big for me (left over from my baggy is cool phase),
  • Limited use of my currently oversized living space: I already touched on this and will downsize my stuff before looking for a smaller place.
  • My unattached lifestyle: I’m a single, virtual professional with no dependents, no pets and no extraneous vehicles.

Making a smaller footprint on the Planet.

  • Use less natural resources: I think a really funny thing happens when all the water you have at your disposal lives in a 15 gallon tank under your house. “Conservation consciousness” wraps it up pretty well and something to expound upon in a future post.
  • Create less trash: This actually starts at the purchasing phase. Buying at the farmers market instead of the grocery story, buying cereal, nuts, grain, everything in bulk cloth bags instead of in traditional packaging, and the easiest of them all that I constantly forget…reusable grocery bags. All this helps reduce our trash output dramatically.

Less expensive living.

  • Minimized utilities – this is worthy of its own post so I’ll hold off.
  • Live rent/mortgage free – I’ve always found paying someone else’s mortgage wasteful. With rent inflated as it is it’s almost the same as paying your own mortgage. Obviously without all the homeowner responsibilities but you don’t get any of the benefits either.

PRIDE

  • I want to build the home I live in and work for what sustains me – Again this is another post entirely (hence the cont’d below) but I really feel strongly about being connected with the home I live in, the food I eat, and the energy I use. Right now I’m not and a void is starting to open. If I were the one responsible for sustaining myself instead of shopping for it in the grocery aisle, so to speak, I think I would look at my life a lot differently.

cont’d in WHAT SUSTAINS ME

What things will become…

21 Mar

This blog has been turned completely upside down…but it has not turned into something it isn’t…which for a while I thought it had.

My intentions at the beginning of all of this were the following:

• How to get as much as possible for as little as possible.
• How to have a certain level of (consumer) “quality” of life for less.
• Getting by without all the expensive luxuries but feeling like you have everything.
…and a little ranting and raving about the consumer system in general.

I’ve never been one for buying lots of stuff and have still noticed a dramatic change. Somehow in the last 6 months it has become:

• Inviting my lifestyle (and all my stuff) to reflect my values and beliefs truly.
• Taking action that adds value to your life and the lives of others.
• Living fully without all the stuff that society or capitalism says you must have to be happy.
…and still a bit of ranting and raving about everything that is wrong not quite right and what I/we might be able to do about it.

I will admit that I’m relieved. I thought I’d lost it for a second but really I was just finding myself.

-Half-price

Identity Crisis

16 Mar

My father was in town for business about four weeks ago. We talked about everything from politics to religion, philosophy to web applications (like father like daughter)…and of course money and work. I came to a point in the career portion of the conversation where I basically expressed that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a company whose values were not congruent with my own; that I didn’t want to waste my time, look back in 30 years and regret it.

Now I don’t really believe in regret. Everything I’ve done including my major, MAJOR mistakes make me who I am in this exact moment and that person is a pretty cool, good hearted person with a lot to offer…and my feeling is that his sentiment is the same. So it surprised me to hear him say that he spent the last 30 years working as a programmer, mostly for large corporations, who made it their job to screw the little guy. I’ve always known what my father did but I never thought about how those programs effected the masses. For many years his company’s main client was a major corporation and somehow, even though everyone in my family is a customer of this Goliath and know how ridiculous and lame they are I never made the connection. Ignorance is bliss and I suppose my parents did a good job at sheltering me from some things.

Anyway it seems like a simple thing but in the moment, hearing his exact words and the look on his face…kind of broke my heart. It’s like superman saying that every time he saves one person, there are 2 more people that died. Well maybe not exactly like that but my dad is my hero. Most brilliant guy I know. To hear him say that hurt a lot and has made my last 4 weeks enlightening…and painful.

So. What’s it mean to me? Of course by the end of the conversation he simply said, “Find what you will do for free, then find someone who will pay you for it”. That’s always been his work advice but this time it hit me differently. So I did a little self-reflection and sent in a few applications for 3d design jobs by the end of the week. I, of course, do not have an architectural design degree but I do make a mean custom green home in SketchUp. Actually, I would say I’m better at that than most things I’ve done…and they actually pay people to use that program specifically. My portfolio was enough for an interview however I emailed yesterday and the position has since been filled. I started with architectural design firms, then to green home design, to solar energy and after that its been a brain scrambling spiral into…all of these issues that I didn’t realize I cared so much about.

Super-consumer culture
Fossil fuel peeks/renewable energy
Super-cheap super-sized food/food monopolies/buying local
Homelessness/mortgage crisis/bigger-living-is-better-living obsession

…There are a lot of things I care about and a couple non-profits I wanted to start eventually but those seemed way in the future and required a lot of resources to get done. And knowing me I probably made it more complicated than it needed to be. However these four issues not only are so immediately crucial but also they are things I can do my part to change right now. Habits I can incorporate today.

*sigh* Let me get off my soap box for a second and be real. This is NOT what this blog was supposed to be about. It was SUPPOSED to be about how to live a decent quality of life without killing our pocketbooks. And it has caused me to do so much reflection, on myself, my values and lifestyle which I see now are two totally different things and on the world around me. What is the cost of cheap goods? Where are those goods made and who made them? And I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t even know if this blog is valid anymore. The “Price” of this blog seems to refer less to the ticket price of something and more to the long term affects of those same products on the economy, the environment, and international relations (based on the fact that we are practically owned by China and half of the Middle East depending on your point of view).

A lot of people donate money to youth programs in the inner-city when the smog from our cars, city landfills and rabid product supply chain causes them cancer. Does that make any sense to you?

I am by no means more of a help than a hindrance. I’ve been educating myself and changing habits slowly but I am no saint when it comes to these issues or when it comes to anything. It’s hard. But now that I know that I know – because I did know…I guess I just didn’t care or didn’t think about it – I can’t stop thinking about it.

So what am I doing about it:

#1. I am inviting an increase of income in my life (I estimate I will have applied to 100+ jobs and temporary projects in the month of March alone in case you thought I was only “inviting” and not taking action). Need is no longer an applicable word really. There are people who do with so much less. But let’s get real, everything costs something: time, energy, money, or favors, and knowing that you can keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach makes room for everything else that is important to you. In my case:

#2. Shopping for the food that I want, buying local and juicing more. I believe the FDA certified organic is overrated. My family owns a farm and the land nor the animals have been touched by anything unnatural for 4 generations. Can’t get more organic than that. FDA regulations make it hard on farmers and ‘local’ often means organic in a purer sense. If you aren’t sure shopping at the Farmer’s Market will always give you an opportunity to ask.

#3. Consuming less. I’m already what I would consider a ‘low-consumer’. Outside of food I typically only buy things when what I’ve got is worn out or when I need supplies/business attire for work. I’ve never been a big shopper, prefer making gifts for family and friends and don’t have many possessions I truly care about outside of my laptop. My three big products this year thus far have been a juicer from my parents for a late Christmas gift (mine was in the $80 range and works great), a replacement phone when mine was stolen and a pair of wrinkle free sheets…they feel amazing.

#4. Gasoline alternatives…I admit that I have a gas card from one of the Seven Sisters. It does not make me happy. I thought that Diesel was the devil up until I watched a few documentaries and learned that Rudolf Diesel’s original design ran on corn oil alone. Huh? Standard Oil, who I was already familiar with, bought that patent and started marketing it as strictly a petrol engine, a fact whoever taught me conveniently left out. So now I’m considering dumping my car or altering it to a gas engine (runs on fumes only, can go for 100+ miles per gallon), diesel engine or solar electric system. This is pricey, time consuming and requires a ton of research before making a decision so I have a couple years to work on that one…

#5. Down-sizing. I’ve been obsessed with Container Homes (recycling 40 x 8 ft. shipping containers as building structures) and Tiny Homes (any house smaller than 800 sq.ft.) for a few years now. Since home design is a hobby, I already have a lot of construction experience and own a decent amount of the required tools I’ve decided I want to build a tiny home. I like living small. It’s a fun challenge, is inexpensive and my entire life thus far has always fit into about a 13 x 13 ft. space anyway. So why not dump the roommate, the landlord, and the utility companies? I want to own a home. I’d like to design and build that home myself. And with almost no space to build in LA this provides so many more options. If I build it myself I’m looking at about $20k just for the structure and basic amenities. I’ve got a few ways around this (sponsorship, recycled lumber, fundraising) which I think will cut my costs in half. The rest…well that is 1 year’s rent in a 1 bedroom apartment. Not too shabby for something that could last a couple decades.

All this will enable me to save a lot of money and use it to travel, see family more, have more barbecues with my friends and sail much more often. And all that sounds pretty good to me.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. I started so many posts in the last several weeks; going on and on about my job search, oscillating between points of view on certain issues, trying to come up with topics that were applicable to my original topic without getting to preachy and complaining about the ongoing poor communication skills of a couple of my clients as well as myself (I just got my NLP Practitioner certification so I have no excuse). But all that stuff’s not really what makes the world go ’round ya know? I think this time I actually got out what I needed to say and it feels good.

-Half-price