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From Hoarder to Tiny Houser: How I beat the Acquisition Addiction

Guest Post by Mariah Coz of www.CometCamper.com

As the next session of the Comet Camper Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course opens for enrollment, I thought it’d be interesting to reflect on my personal journey with simplifying into less than 100 square feet. I wanted to show you that if I can downsize into a tiny space, it’s possible for anyone!

I had a serious collecting problem before I got serious about living tiny. You know how people will tell you that at a certain point the stuff that you own actually owns you? It’s absolutely true. I had a problem with collecting everything vintage: clothes (2 bedrooms full), furniture (a garage full), clocks, kitchen things (I don’t even have my own house), oh did I mention clothes? And more clothes.

Two years ago I had 3 bedrooms in my parents house (me and my collections had forced my parents to move downstairs, as I inhabited the entire second floor of my family’s house). Two were filled with piles and piles of junk. Clothes from when I was in elementary school up until now – I hadn’t gotten rid of anything in 15 years. My thought process was always “One day this will come back in style” or “One day I’ll get around to mending this or making it into something new” or just that it had sentimental value. I had shoes that had never fit me in the first place, and coats that were toddler sizes that I bought because they were adorable and I couldn’t accept that “adult” clothes just aren’t as awesome as kids clothes. So I had two rooms that were literally MOUNTAINS of clothes, piled up. I am sort of glad I don’t have any pictures of this to show you guys, because it is really embarrassing.

I think that all of my guilt, shame, and frustration that came from having this “addiction to acquisition” is a large part of what attracted me to the tiny house movement. I saw a glimpse of freedom in the simple, small homes that I was so far away from yet longed for so badly.

The actual closets in the rooms were for things that I never wanted to look at or deal with. The third room had my bed in it. Besides clothes, I had art supplies that I NEVER used (and never wanted to use), which took up an entire walk-in closet. I had my “sewing” stuff stacked on shelves  – fabric, lace, notions. I hadn’t sewn anything since middle school! (but was pretty reluctant to give up my childhood dream of becoming a famous fashion designer). And vintage furniture: chrome chairs, dining room sets from the 50’s, mid-century sofas, vintage refrigerators and anything else you can imagine (I commandeered the garage to house this stuff).

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People would come over to my house and say how much they envied all of my cool stuff. “It’s like going shopping at the mall every morning in your own house!” I just looked at my endless piles of clothes: dirty, clean, it didn’t matter. I was drowning in my own stuff! It got to a point where I couldn’t even have friends that came over in my room, because I was so ashamed of how messy and crazy it all was. I was infamous among my community for never wearing the same thing twice. It sounds like a girls dream. It was absolutely awful. How did it ever get this far? Well, I could never say no to a steal or what I thought was a good deal. I didn’t really understand that buying something cheap isn’t as good as not spending money at all. I was working a full time job and was getting paid more than I was used to, so I let myself go shopping all the time. I was in a different mindset. I only ever shopped at thrift stores and yard sales and flea markets, so I was always finding things that I thought were “valuable” or “a diamond in the rough” or just too cheap to pass up. When you can buy 10 things for 2 dollars, it just doesn’t factor in that you don’t have any place to put 10 new pairs of pants, or that you don’t need them.So when the COMET became finished enough to move into, I had some serious crap to deal with. Here’s how I went about getting rid of my stuff and feeling good about it!

Sell it on Etsy (or Ebay): If you have a large quantity of things to unload, consider setting up an Etsy shop or Ebay store. Setting up a shop can take some time, but it’s a nice supplementary income. For me, setting up my Etsy shop was a dream job come true – something I’d thought about for years but didn’t realize I had so much to sell until it fell on my head from a closet shelf. I still get to buy vintage clothes (which is fun for me), but it’s for the store now instead of myself! If you don’t want to set up a permanent shop, sell your stuff on Ebay or Craigslist, and put the money back into your tiny house!

Give away to friends: This is another great way to feel good about getting rid of stuff. I had an entire closet full of yards and yards of brand new fabric I had never used, and luckily I have a friend that is a fabulous seamstress. Giving her all of the fabric I knew I’d never get around to using made me feel good and now she’s making me a special custom garment from some of the fabric! Which brings me to the next thing..

Trade! You have the stuff, why not get the most out of giving it away? Trade it to your friends for something they don’t need either. Trade it for building materials or something useful for you. Trade it at a clothing swap for fewer pieces of clothing.

Donate it to a museum: Okay, so this is mostly for those of us with serious collections that we know are pretty valuable, but just don’t have the space in our tiny lives to hold on to them anymore. If you don’t want to sell your collections, but would like to know they are being valued, respected, and treated well, donate them to a museum! No matter what your collection is, I guarantee there is a museum (maybe it’s a TINY museum) that is dedicated to preserving the history of your hobby. For me, it was an industrial design museum that was happy to take some of my vintage stuff that was valuable enough to be in a museum. This way, your collection lives on forever, in your name, and can be appreciated by everyone. And you probably get a tax refund!

Consignment: Another option for those of us that don’t want to go through the hassle of setting up an online store or selling on Ebay. Consignment shops do all the work for you, and you’ll get a check when your items sell. It’s usually not a ton of money you’d be getting, but it’s much less work. I consigned everything that wasn’t vintage, and it’s been great so far.

Donate the Rest: Whatever you can’t give away or sell, donate. You’ll be glad you did. Don’t hold out for a long time saying “someone someday will want this” or “maybe if I go to another consignment store they’ll take this” just donate it. You’ll get a tax deduction.

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I can say in all honesty that having gone through this process I feel nothing but a big relief. I don’t feel suffocated by my stuff anymore. I no longer look into an abyss of clothes and sigh, “there’s nothing to wear”, because I only have a few of my absolute favorite items now, and they all fit me and I love each thing. I only kept what was special and perfect enough to keep. I kept a box of things that may end up in a future tiny house (one with more insulation than the COMET har har) that I couldn’t get rid of. The rest I sold in my online vintage shop. I feel lighter, happier, and have a few more dollars in my pocket for a rainy day.

I created the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course to help others go through the long, difficult process I went through myself. In the course we’ll dive into the psychology of stuff, our personal reasons for wanting a simpler life, and the nitty gritty of how to declutter and clear out our spaces AND our minds (mental space!). You will have access to the private class forum, where you will meet like-minded folks, make friends, and find support and motivation.

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=> Reserve your spot for the next Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course

Here’s what a few of our students have said about taking the class:

This class has single-handedly changed my thinking and life. The email course is rocking my world with the “how” to do this, the access to the associated Google group is invaluable. You could lurk and never post with this group and it’ll change your thinking and life. Even if you just want to tread more softly on this beautiful jewel of a planet we live on, you will benefit from this course.

I’ve found my true fun self since I’ve been taking this course. My stuff was burying my life, and I had no idea that I’d done that to myself. The e-course, the readings, and the Google Group together make for a powerful inspiration to keep going. The class is already paid for itself in less stress, less stuff, and heck, I’ve even lost weight! All because I’m realizing that I just don’t NEED a lot of things. While we may or may not move into an actual Tiny House, our house of 1,100 square feet is starting to look huge. We have SO MUCH SPACE NOW! I’m looking forward to a smaller house (and a smaller or NONEXISTENT mortgage soon). ” – Andrea

“This class is changing my entire life. For the good, too. So glad I made the decision to spend the money to take this course!” – Becky R.

“I am so glad I ran across the Tiny Transition e-course. I have made such progress, and peace has come into my life that wasn’t there this time last year, I am very grateful.” — Troy

I hope that you join us for the next session, which is now open for enrollment and begins on October 5th! I look forward to supporting you in your own downsizing journey, whether you want to live in a trailer or RV, a tiny house, or just regain some sanity back in your life.

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=> Reserve your spot for the next Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course

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Mariah lives in a 1960's vintage trailer that she renovated herself to be eco-awesome and off-the-grid. Her home is also a mobile classroom. Mariah currently spends most of her time in Worcester, MA and Vermont. Mariah holds a certificate in Sustainable Design/Build, has a degree in Tiny Houses (no kidding!). When she isn't traveling the country researching tiny houses, or towing her tiny vintage home around teaching workshops and doing tours, she's at home philosophizing and scheming about the future of tiny houses and planning widespread tiny house domination. You can see what she's up to and get in touch over at www.cometcamper.com.




{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Marsha Cowan September 19, 2014, 5:38 pm

    What a remarkable story! Thanks for sharing the details that help us see ourselves. Keep up the good work. You have the thanks of us tiny house people everywhere!

  • Dawn September 20, 2014, 12:21 am

    Hi there Mariah and others!

    Wow. You are right, if you can do it, anyone can! I say this not to be rude, but because your story inspires me. 🙂 I started full steam getting rid of stuff then seemed to get caught in a quagmire.

    I have been giving art work to friends and family that want it, the rest I have donated. I am an artist, but a lot of the artwork that was hanging in my art/computer/laundry room had been there so long, I never really looked at it. So now someone else will hopefully enjoy it. Donated most of my art supplies, some of it was still plastic wrapped.

    I figured out how many shirts, pants, etc I needed to get by for a week or so and trimmed down my closet to include roughly that amount of clothing. I wear the same stuff in the fall, winter, and spring. I just add cardigans accordingly. This has saved me a lot of money over the years. I wasn’t trying to simplify, I just love cardigans. lol

    I have to go through our storage unit (live in a condo) and at the moment stuff is piled right up to the door! I don’t know where to begin. If you have some advice I sure could use it.

    I am very interested in taking your online course! I really need the support and guidance.

    Thanks everyone for “listening,”
    Dawn

  • Kaleb September 22, 2014, 10:57 am

    Alex et al…I just wanted to say Thank You for showing when comments were added. In the past, wasn’t sure when they were posted and I was hesitant to make one.

    • Alex September 22, 2014, 1:27 pm

      My pleasure Kaleb! It’s definitely much more useful with date stamps. Looking forward to more of your comments and I appreciate the helpful suggestion.

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