In July of 2015 we moved from a 1,400 square foot house with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and an oversize double garage to an 880 sq. ft. apartment. Four months later, we downsized again and moved to a 670 sq. ft. apartment. With the goals of shortening our retirement horizon and simplifying our lives, we jettisoned most of our belongings and took the plunge into an ongoing adventure in downsizing.
Our next downsize will happen when we retire early, on or before January 19, 2019 (one one nine one nine!). We will once again whittle our belongings down to whatever we can fit in a modest storage space in Sister Grumby’s basement (thanks Dee Ann!). Then we’ll hop on our touring bikes and ride around our beautiful US of A.
The Monthly Downsizer is a once-a-month post that documents our continuing process of intentional reduction. Here’s a link to last month’s post.
The Grumbys were true to our blog name in May … on the move! Yes, we moved again to keep ourselves on our downsizing toes (OK, actually it was to save $$). We also saw The Minimalists on their Less is Now Tour and celebrated a few important milestones with some friends.
Move No. 3: A Downsizing Test
Less Storage Space, Fewer Places to Hide Stuff
Though our new apartment has the same square footage as our old one, it has about half the closet space. We now have two small closets for our clothing, gear, and miscellaneous stuff. Whatever doesn’t fit is now in overflow kitchen storage. The kitchen has crazy-tall cabinets with shelves that are waaaay too high to store the kitchenware that we use every day (we are not basketball players, people!) So the higher-than-refrigerator shelves now store suitcases, extra blankets and pillows, camping and cycling gear, and Mr. Grumby’s bobble head collection. Since we also lost Mr. Grumby’s free bike storage space with this move, our one bedroom apartment truly houses us and all of our earthly belongings.
Still Neat and Tidy
Some of you may be cringing as you read this. Maybe you’re picturing 2 closets worth of stuff strewn across the floor in a chaos of clutter. And bicycles parked in the middle of the kitchen. Do not fear! You, Mr. G. and I all have something in common: a low tolerance for clutter and crap. In fact, I composed a brilliant song during our first move:
Let’s get organized
Every thing has a place
Every thing has a happy home
And we love our space!
OK, OK. Cheesy, I know. But you have to admit, it’s kinda catchy … right? I don’t know about you, but I find that when my physical space is organized there’s a greater sense of ease in my mental space. So much ease, in fact, that I make up entirely goofy songs!
What’s Our Score on the Downsizing Test?
If I were a Downsizing Instructor, I’d give us a B. Why?
- We thought it would take us a full weekend to move, but we were 98% done by Saturday afternoon. This included organizing our new space, cleaning the old apartment, and making one more trip to Goodwill. Our only remaining task for Sunday was hanging some artwork, so we had time for a glorious bike ride!
- Our stuff fits in our new reduced-storage space: 2 closets and some oversized kitchen cabinets for all clothing, camping and cycling gear, Mr. Grumby’s bobble head collection, memorabilia, and miscellaneous doodads.
- I’m not giving us an A because there’s still room to clear away more clothing, paper, and sentimental stuff.
Money Matters (because it does, you know)
May 2017: A 7-year Low!
Despite my grumblings throughout the month about our grocery expense being too high, we spent less in May than we have in any month over the last 7 years. How? The primary reason was that part of our rent reduction came in the form of a $700 concession … woohoo! For the first time since we’ve been tracking our spending, we spent less than $2,400 for the month and our non-housing expense was just $945. What’s really cool and interesting about these record-setting numbers is that that the only effort involved was taking a day and a half or so to move down the hall. And zero sacrifice. We were not sitting around twiddling our thumbs the whole month saying things like, “Wow – sure would be nice if we could go out and spend some money!”
I would still like to grumble one more time, though, about our grocery expense. For us this includes household items and I hereby point the finger at personal hygiene for May’s grocery overrun! We seemed to run out of everything during the same week: laundry soap, dish soap, hair soap, body soap, and tooth soap! With all that said, our grocery/household item expense was still under $400.
Gearing Up for the Countdown
January 19, 2019 or before (our date to pull the plug) is within sight and it’s time to start planning for how our expenses will change in early retirement. Here are a few adjustments that we’re anticipating when we hop on our touring bikes and pedal off into the sunset:
- Lodging expense will vary as we spend our nights on tour in campgrounds, city parks, churches, fire stations, the homes of family, friends, and Warm Showers hosts, and sometimes Airbnb’s and hotels. For an example of where a fellow touring cyclist spent his nights, check out John Meiners’ numbers for geeks (scroll down for lodging details).
- Food will be more expensive when we have fewer options and gadgets for cooking for ourselves. We’ll put our creativity to the test with our camping stove, a pot or 2, and what we can find in grocery stores and farmers markets. And we’ll support the towns that we ride through by eating in some of the local restaurants and diners.
- If we decide to pull the plug before 1/19/19 our health insurance premiums for the remaining months of 2018 will be quite costly. This is because our 2018 income will be too high to qualify for subsidies.
- I will no longer have an employer-provided mobile phone and Mr. G. and I will both need decent coverage for traveling in remote areas.
In the months to come we’ll take a closer look at our Expenses on Tour. Stay tuned!
The Minimalists Less is Now Tour
Do I Have to Live in a Tiny House or Count My Belongings to be a Minimalist?
No! As Joshua says in the in the Tour Trailer,
Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things
so we can make room for life’s most important things,
which actually aren’t things at all.
If you’re interested in exploring your relationship with stuff, I highly recommend checking out The Minimalists.
The Story of The Minimalists
The story of The Minimalists began with the death of Joshua Fields Millburn’s mother. He went to Florida to sort through her belongings, which he described as four apartments worth of stuff in one apartment. After arranging for a U-Haul truck and a storage unit, he realized that his mother’s stuff was not his mother. He set aside a few photos and sentimental items, cancelled the U-Haul and the storage unit, and donated or disposed of her remaining possessions. This discovery about the true value of his mother’s things led him on a journey of self discovery that transformed his relationship with his own things, his finances and his relationships. He became a joyful minimalist. When his long-time friend Ryan Nicodemus followed in his footsteps, the two of them started a wildly successful blog. They have also written books, have an entertaining podcast, and released a thought-provoking documentary in 2015.
Less: Why Now?
For Mr. G. and I, minimalism has been an essential component of our early retirement plan. The process of intentional reduction is helping us to achieve our goal of having the freedom to spend our time the way that we choose. Soon we will be touring our beautiful country by bicycle!
A few things that we’ve minimized since the beginning of this wild ride:
Noteworthy results so far:
- Greater happiness and ease
- Increased savings
- Accelerated retirement date (was 2022 when we began; now 1/19/19 or sooner!)
Letting go of life’s physical clutter creates a mindset for releasing other things that hold us back: unhealthy habits, fruitless ruminations about the past, senseless fears about the future, etc. We then have more space for the things (which actually aren’t things!) which help us grow. For us it’s time in the outdoors, contribution, kindness, relationships, creativity, laughter, and time to slow the hell down and just be.
One of our friends retired on June 1, so we invited her and her husband over for an afternoon. After chatting over pita pizza and salad, we went over to a nearby park for a stroll and then sat on a couple of benches to enjoy a little vitamin D therapy and more conversation. It was fun to share retirement plans and to listen to Mr. Grumby try to convince our friends to include ‘running the Grumby sag wagon’ in their travel plans. They are interested in taking some road trips, so who knows? Maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised one day when we’re out on the road. K&P will pull up next to us in a cozy van and say, “Hey! Would you like for us to haul your gear up that big hill up there? Oh, and how about some cookies and ice cream?”
While we were enjoying our retirement discussion the park service turned on the fountain, so we got to watch some giggling kids play in the water. To wrap up the celebration we all went back to our apartment for some double chocolate zucchini bread and ice cream.
Another friend celebrated her 80th birthday in May. Thirty or so of her friends and family gathered at her daughter’s house to spend an evening with the birthday girl. When her daughter sent out the invitations, she instructed us to bring 2 things: a side dish to share and a song to sing with her mom. We were all savoring a tasty variety of food in a cheery backyard picnic, when our friend announced that she would be singing a few songs for us with her guitar/ukulele instructor. A lively performance ensued and all were captivated by the energy and beautiful voice of an admirable octogenarian. My favorite song was Swimming to the Other Side by Pat Humphries – worth a listen if you have a few minutes.
After the birthday girl left the stage a few others got up and sang. And then we ate delicious cake. A truly lovely and memorable birthday party. I hope that I have such good health and energy when I’m 80!
Grumbys’ Final Apartment Lease
To celebrate signing what is likely our last apartment lease before we pull the plug we accepted a neighbor’s invitation to a Memorial Day gathering at a farm outside of Portland. We made a reservation at a nearby campground so that we could double the fun with some bike camping. We hopped on the light rail with our bikes and gear in the morning, rode out to the end of the line in Hillsboro, and then rode our bikes about 15 miles through farmland to the Banks-Vernonia trailhead. From there it was about 10 miles to the beautiful walk-in (or ride in!) sites at Stub Stewart Campground .
After we set up camp, our neighbors picked us and our bikes up and gave us a ride to the party, where we all lounged under shade trees and and saw an impressive demonstration of an electric log splitter. At the end of the day the host showed us a mountain bike trail that led from the farm back to the campground trail. The scenic intermediate single track route was an exhilarating test of our cycling skills and a great way to end the day. Our Surly touring bikes with their wide tires handled the challenge beautifully. Back at our campsite we were ready for one last meal before we crashed. Waking up to the sound of birds in the towering trees was a great way to wrap up our celebratory escape from the city.
Milestones, Minimalism, and Money
What was the last milestone that you celebrated? How did you celebrate?
How could minimalism be useful in your life?
How much money do you think the Grumbys need for 1 year of bicycle touring?
Here’s a link to The Monthly Downsizer: June 2017