American Road Trip #1 – Birmingham, Alabama

Team Vlogging

Sweating & smiling & sweating in Birmingham, Alabama

Ron and I started to get excited for this road trip long before we moved to Tennessee. I had been poking around the internet, trying to get to know the area where we’d eventually be living when I saw a post about the Tiny House Roadshow. I had no idea how far Birmingham, Alabama was from Memphis because I had never been to either place, but a quick search revealed that it was a 3.5 hour drive each way.  No problem, said Ron, because he is the best. I swear I’m going to get my driver’s license while we’re here.

The plan was still a go when we bought Tangerine Tina and we couldn’t wait for a little weekend away. Unfortunately, Ron has a lot on his plate at work and he realized that he would have to work on the Sunday. Not the type of folk to turn away from an adventure, especially one that involves teeny tiny homes, we decided to go for it any way. Ron got behind the wheel, I took the navigator seat, and we prepared for a nearly eight hour day of driving.

It was so worth it.  We first drove through Mississippi and then Alabama, it rained a bunch, a fog rolled in, and the trees were so green they looked like they were photoshopped. We remarked that it looked a bit like Ontario, except the forest that lined either side of the highway was so dense that if you ran at it, you’d probably bounce off the edge and fall back on your ass. The drive alone was incredibly beautiful and nourishing, we were feeling refreshed before we even rolled in to the Tiny Home Roadshow.

Ron in a Tiny Home

I caught Ron off guard in a rare moment of having the tiny home to ourselves

The first sign that this place was going to be full of adventurers was the volume of camper vans parked around the Birmingham Convention Centre. Ron and I paid our $12 and entered the world of tiny living. Check out Vlog #3 below for an inside look at the home show, plus we decide if a tiny house is in our future.

Aside from the Nature’s Head composting toilet (!!!), one of the coolest things that we saw was a company called Volstrukt that builds tiny home frames from steel instead of wood. Their designs were modern and sold in kits that you assemble yourself or with a team. Ron had an obvious favourite – a kit to build a food truck!

The biggest aspect of designing a tiny home on wheels is that you’re limited to the weight your trailer can take.  Wood framing accounts for a significant chunk of that and often sacrifices have to be made in the interior design to balance out the final weight. We’re going to continue looking into building with steel because:

  • It can be up to 60% lighter than wood
  • Recyclable
  • Free from VOCs
  • Don’t have to worry about termites and other pests
  • Stronger against certain environmental threats

I hope this isn’t boring for you, I find it fascinating, choosing the foundation material for your home sets the ball in motion for the rest of your design decisions. Ron and I had never heard of steel framing like this before and the benefits seem hard to deny. It really inspired us to keep seeking out information and better alternatives for our future space.

Babalu Corn

Polishing off Mexican street corn at Babalu Tacos

Even though we spent more time in the car than in Birmingham, we had a delightful day. We listened to two of our fave podcasts, Beautiful Anonymous and The Black Tapes as we drove across hills covered in wilderness as far as the eye could see. Ron and I have thoroughly been enjoying exploring the South while we’re living here – we had no idea what Mississippi and Alabama would look like and we were blown away by their beauty. Next time we hope to keep driving until we hit the sandy beaches of Gulf Shores, maybe we’ll even swing by New Orleans!

We hope you like Vlog #3 and if you’re into keeping up with our adventures, please subscribe to our channel or follow us on Facebook. Thank you for watching!

xoxo Amarina

Advertisements

We Bought Our First Car From A Vending Machine?!

carvana trek crop

Carvana in Nashville is a little spaceshippy – do we look excited?

I know exactly the moment that we decided to buy a car. Even though we live in a car-centric city, Ron and I were holding off on taking the big plunge in hopes of saving enough money for a significant down payment. We’d have frustrating times when we’d need to get something done and it wasn’t possible without wheels but we’d say to ourselves, “let’s wait just a little longer.”

Untillllllllll June started to get really hot, hotter and more humid than we’d ever experienced before and we would wait until 10 pm to walk to get our groceries. If we didn’t, everything would be warm and melted by the time we got home, not to mention the sweat that starts the second we step outside. It was a swampy, hard to breathe outside night. We were locked out of our apartment complex because we didn’t realize the entrance was only accessible to drivers after a certain, constantly changing hour. It was that moment of choosing to hop the gate with our bags or walk on the dark parkway for a kilometer to get in on the other side (maybe) that finally triggered our change of heart. Three days later we were on the road to Nashville – to buy our new car from Carvana’s ridiculous and cool car vending machine.

We filmed the trip and reviewed our Carvana experience, skip down to the bottom for our vlog if you want to go straight to our video.

vending machine small

It’s novelty coin time, about to get our car!

Some fact-y info about Carvana and why we chose to buy our car from there:

  • It’s relatively new and flashy, it opened in 2013
  • They have about ten locations across the U.S.
  • But only Atlanta and Nashville house their trademark car vending machine (for now)
  • Their stock is listed online with a ton of cars going up all the time. They have a 3D overview of each car with all of the details you’d need to know like the mileage, rating, shots of the interior, etc.
  • Our favourite was the big, novelty coin you get to put in the slot to retrieve your car from the machine. Watch our video to see if we got to keep it or not!
  • You basically buy your car online, they ship it to you for free if you live in a certain radius of the nearest city – I think it’s 100 miles. We live about 200 miles from their Nashville location and were quoted $600 for delivery. Unsure if we were even going to keep it, we rented a car and drove there to pick it up ourselves, costing us only $100!
  • They are able to charge less than their competitors because they have a smaller overhead with online sales
  • They have in-house financing (more on this below)
  • You get to drive your car for a seven day test period and you can change your mind at any time up to that point and get a different car or cancel your purchase
tina in the tower small

We could see our car in the machine from a mile away! I love how obviously excited Ron is.

Being Canadians in the U.S., there were a few extra hoops and shitty things we had to go through in order to get this car. It took a bit more time and effort on our part to make sure all of our ducks were in a row before we could finally go all in.

First off, Ron needed to get a Tennessee driver’s license. By law, that needed to happen within thirty days of our moving here regardless of us buying a car or not. The process can vary by state but he had to show up at the DMV with all of his id, including his Ontario Driver’s License, of course. He also had to bring a printout of his three year abstract (this is his Ontario driving record) which you can order online and it’s emailed to you right away. It cost $12 and if you find yourself in a similar situation, you can get yours here. We initially thought that Ron was going to have to re-take all of the tests to be licensed but with the abstract in-hand he only had to take a new photo and the cost of his state license was just $28.

Next, we were reminded of the harsh reality that our Canadian credit rating does not matter here. Even in opening an American bank account we could only get a credit card with a $1000 maximum at first. We’re not big on shopping sprees, but we were expecting a bit more so we’d have an emergency buffer. So it goes. The same went for our financing, which Carvana will give you an online quote for your interest rate if you choose to finance through them. Despite having a decent annual income and pay stubs to back it up, we were still quoted at a 14% interest rate which, after looking around, seemed pretty standard (and stressful.)

The race is on for us to further master the art of budgeting (having a hybrid car helps in that department too) and pay off our tangerine beauty as fast as we possibly can. We are sacrificing taking a holiday this year and will do a few day drives instead. Everything in Tennessee is new to us, and we have a car now, so there is nothing to complain about.

Please enjoy our road trip vlog and Carvana review below, and as always let us know if you have any questions about purchasing a used car, being a Canadian in the U.S., or anything at all.

We’ll be back in two weeks with a report on our Alabama road trip and the Tiny House Roadshow!

Thanks for watching,

xoxo Amarina

It’s Not Perfect But…Vlog #001

Vlog #1 – A Hike through Meeman-Shelby State Park

For years now, people have been telling Ron and I that we need a Youtube channel. We didn’t get it. “Really?!” we’d respond in disbelief and all I could think about was the unavoidable onslaught of hateful comments that have become a big part of vlogging.

What would we even talk about?

On top of the bad vibe commenters on Youtube, Ron and I are actually pretty shy. Maybe me more than him but after so many friends and even strangers suggested it, we decided to consider the idea. It might sound random, but initially we were going to vlog about The Bachelor/The Bachelorette. We’re shamelessly obsessed with it. Bachelor In Paradise might be our favourite of the whole franchise but we’re not picky. We always have a lot to say about who may or may not be on the show for the right reasons and for us, it’s a fun way to kick up our feet on a Monday eve.

But it never happened. Without fail, we’d start watching a new season and halfway through one of us would remember that we were going to vlog it, we’d both shrug, and continue to eat chips and gossip about the cast. Next time, we’d say.

Moving to the U.S. and embracing our unconventional life plans renewed our discussions of having a Youtube channel. There’s a lot on deck for us, we’re going to be doing a bunch of traveling on the cheap and we’re eventually going to buy land somewhere and build a place to live on it. We decided that our channel should reflect the blog – a visual diary of two chubby artists choosing to swerve away from what’s expected of us and live creative, sustainable lives together. We hope that we can inspire others who want to do their own thing but are nervous to stray from the traditional paths that we’re often pressured towards.

We thought it would be appropriate for our first vlog to be about something that used to make us feel uncomfortable but we’ve managed to overcome – the stigma of fat people being active in public. For years, I chose not to do some of my favourite things, go swimming, hike, do yoga. I was embarrassed of how my body looked when it was active and being made fun of for my weight made me self-conscious about looking sweaty and flushed in public. It took time, a lot of personal work, and self-care, but eventually I was able to make steps towards and truly embrace not giving a fuck. It’s been liberating beyond what I thought possible.

One of the things that helped so much was finding kindreds who are going through similar experiences. People like Jenny Bruso who blogs (and just started Unlikely Hikers on Instagram!) and Mat and Danielle of Exploring Alternatives have been endlessly inspiring. We’re now ready to throw ourselves into the mix.

The first vlog isn’t perfect, we’re still learning. In fact, 90% of our footage had no sound because we didn’t set up our camera properly (ooooooops), but we made it work and we’re sharing it anyway. There’s no growth in doing everything right the first time.

We hope you like our little video and if you do, please subscribe to our Youtube channel.

xoxo Amarina

Oh, and because we accidentally cut it out of our video, our hike stats:

Where are we? Meeman-Shelby State Park, TN
Hike: Woodland Trails
Miles: 5 Mile extension (1 and 3 Mile loop options too!)
Elevation Gain: 459 ft
Difficulty: Moderate

 

 

 

An Epic Road Trip On The Cheap – Part Two

For #ThrowbackThursday yesterday, I posted the first of this two part series I wrote for Fat Girl Food Squad last year, offering money saving tips for road tripping around Southern California and beyond. We’ve just arrived in Joshua Tree and if you’ve spent any time in our social media, you know it’s our be all, end all. Onward to sound baths, mystical hikes and romantic sunsets!

Airbnb

Inside our adorable Airbnb apartment/Outside of The End Vintage in Yucca Valley

Don’t miss part one, which left off with Ron and I not dying in the middle of the desert at night, and actually arriving at our Yucca Valley Airbnb in one piece.

The first time we stayed in this area we had the most delightful time living out of an artist’s goat farm, feeding the cuties hard boiled eggs and chasing them around the property was absolutely the best. This time however, we needed something quick and cheap and lucked the heck out on this one bedroom apartment. Built and operated by the owner of The End vintage clothing store, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t booked. This place was about $100/night and we had a full kitchen, bathroom, a little deck, free parking, and free wi-fi. It was so close to everything and we popped over to the local grocery store and bought groceries to make all of our meals while we were out there. I wanted to move in and never leave, it was heaven!

the desert

Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park/The magical Integratron

A lot of our favourite activities in this area happen to be almost free. We spent a whole day hiking in Joshua Tree National Park and the only money we spent was the $10 park fee at the front gates. As the ranger handed us the payment receipt to tape to the windshield he said “you’ve got seven days to find your way out” like we were all in an expensive miniseries and Ron and I were driving to certain death. I felt like Indiana Jones.

Maybe that adventurous energy stirred something inside of me because I had an explosion of inner joy and body love, resulting in me doing a touch of topless hiking among the joshua trees. As Ron was taking a picture, the largest hare I have ever seen in my life jumped from a bush that was too close to us and bee-bopped over a hill. It was bigger than a medium-size dog. It was magic.

Next up: The Integratron. Speaking of magic, this is the part of the trip when the stars aligned and we somehow got an appointment at the coolest place ever, which usually books up months in advance. We first visited the Integratron two years ago and it’s safe to say that it changed our lives. Built in the 50s on a geomagnetic field, it was intended to be a vessel for communicating with aliens and also time travel. Currently it’s being used for sound therapy, ideal in the perfect acoustics on the second floor. The last time we were here we went for a private sound bath (DO IT) which for the two of us cost $250 for one hour. To us, it was worth it and we actually brought our rolled coins from home to the bank before we left so we’d have a chunk of money to spend on this experience guilt-free. To our disappointment we didn’t have enough time to book a spot, but were directed to a group pop-up session that was happening while we were in the area. It cost us ONLY $25 each and it was still soul-nourishing plus we got to meet some fun new weirdos and have a bit of extra dough for later. WIN WIN WIN.

IMG_8344

Giant hunk at Giant Rock, Yucca Valley

I also want to quickly mention that if you’re out here and you are in a rental car with all of the insurance, please drive very slowly and with incredible caution off-road to the sacred Giant Rock, the Integratron folks with tell you how to get there. It is the largest free-standing boulder in the world, people think it’s an alien hot spot, and it’s the most rewarding feeling to reach this amazing mass after a lengthy patch of driving where you’re convinced the wheels are going to fall off your vehicle. If you’re driving a Jeep or truck or something, you can remove pure terror from the experience because you’ll probably be fine.

IMG_8593

Salvation Mountain in all it’s religiousy, folk arty glory

After saying a dramatic and reluctant goodbye to Yucca Valley, we hit the desert roads again with one mission: don’t stop until we get to Salvation Mountain. It’s been a dream of mine to visit this place for over a decade, even though I’m not a religious person. The sheer amount of creative force and dedication that went into this place is awe-inspiring, and it comes as no surprise that people have likened a visit to this place as a sort of pilgrimage.

Perpetually in a dust stormy state, it was a real Mad Max scene out here. Salvation Mountain is in a lawless area known as Slab City, “the last free place on earth” where you will 100% see things that you have not seen before. As we were driving we caught a glimpse of a small group of people building what looked like a space ship out of maybe a shed and pieces of a trailer. They were living around the structure in tents, some of which were blowing away and no one cared. I still can’t believe we finally made it out there and it was maybe my favourite day of the whole trip.

It’s absolutely free to go there and walk around inside the mountain, you can even bring a small trinket or a memento to leave inside. The place was full of visitors, including a couple from Japan who were getting married at the top of the mountain as we walked up to it.

A heads up that there is a U.S. check point when you’re driving out of here, you have to stop and show your passport and maybe answer a few questions. And as always, gas up, bring some food and a ton of water, just in case.

Salton sea

We always check in on The Salton Sea

No matter which route you take to Salvation Mountain you’ll probably have to drive past the Salton Sea. Please take a moment to check out this strange and wonderful (and maybe a little stinky) place. Decades ago it was going to be the next Palm Springs but an environmental disaster poisoned the human-made body of water and the resort town imploded. Some people never left and efforts are being made to salvage this place but there are still a ton of abandoned hotels and intriguing places to look at. I highly recommend checking out this documentary narrated by John Waters(!) that tells the Salton Sea’s wild story.

Untitled-1

Donut Dreamz

After being relatively off the grid for a while it felt really foreign and weird and actually a bit wrong driving into L.A. It was nice to be greeted with a friendly face as we met up with one of my favourite Instagram buds, who recommended that we eat some California Donuts in Koreatown. My matcha green tea donut was out of this world, and the never ending late night line up is a testament to the deliciousness of these sweet treats. No excuses for not visiting if you’re in the area, this place is open 24 hours and I think my donut was under $1.50.

Hwy1

The elephant seals of San Simeon/Majestic sunset in Big Sur

We spent way too much money on a crappy hotel in L.A. because we didn’t have enough time to book something decent, so we threw some more money into the fire and had breakfast at IHOP before hitting the road again. It was obviously great.

The next leg of the trip was the prettiest. We drove straight up Highway 1 to my dad’s place in Santa Cruz, stopping to blow kisses at the elephant seals in San Simeon and skipping the Hearst Castle (it’s expensive to get in but there’s a free and  cool museum that you can stop at plus bonus clean washrooms) to get to our dreamiest destination in time: Big Sur at sunset. It got cheesy. We had been upgraded at no cost in Vegas to this Mustang convertible and we put the top down and slow danced to Will Sprott on the edge of the continent and I will remember that forever.

Last leg

Trader Joe’s picnic in Big Basin National Park/Celebrating our ninth anniversary at Half Moon Bay!

The final week of the trip was spent with family before we headed up to grab our flight home in San Francisco. Ron and I took the red eye because it was the cheapest and to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be even though I didn’t sleep a wink.

A final money saving tip: we did this whole three week trip with one small suitcase, only a size up from what you can take as a carry-on. Notoriously an over-packer who preps for every possible disaster scenario, it was so worth it to get over the anxiety of living with almost nothing and go for it. Ron and I packed clothes that we both could wear, like a hoodie, some basic tees, and a cardigan. Even with the few clothes we brought there was still stuff that never came out of the suitcase and we only did a small load of laundry once. We saved a ton of money on baggage fees and the stuff that would have put our bag overweight at the airport we shipped back to ourselves using USPS. It was like opening a little treasure chest when it finally arrived.

Hope this was helpful, I think the best way to save moolah while on the road is avoiding restaurant eating and being smart about where you stay. California is so gorgeous you hardly need to spend a cent on touristy things, the environment is vast and diverse and gorgeous all on it’s own. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions about our California road trip, I’d be happy to answer!

xo Amarina

*This post first appeared on FatGirlFoodSquad.com, you can see the original post here.

An Epic Road Trip On The Cheap

For #ThrowbackThursday, I thought it would be fun to revisit a two-part piece I wrote for Fat Girl Food Squad last year. 

Ron and I spontaneously decided to take three weeks and drive though Nevada, Arizona, and California. We didn’t have a lot of money but that wasn’t going to stop us! This was the trip that I’ve already blabbed so much about on here – the catalyst that shifted all of our decision making towards being more adventurous and embracing our unconventional goals for the future.

This is part one of two, check back for the second half tomorrow.

IMG_8004

It didn’t take much (or any) persuasion to jump on an opportunity to leave this for a while.

It all happened very quickly. February had just begun and it seemed as if there was no light left in the dark hellscape of Canadian winter. 

I was checking my email when I noticed a major flight sale from my preferred airline, tickets to Vegas were going for less than $200 a pop. The catch was that you had to be wheels up within the next fourteen days. The plan came together easily, my partner Ron and I would fly to Vegas, visit the Grand Canyon, drive through the Mojave Desert to Joshua Tree National Park, visit buds in L.A., and then take Highway 1 up the coast until we hit my dad’s place in Santa Cruz. We would fly back from San Francisco after three weeks on the road and we were going to do it on the cheap.

To me, vacations don’t get any better than this. I want to share a few neato places we visited, plus some dollar-saving ideas because there was no time to budget properly.  

Untitled-2

Hit up Pinches Tacos if you like food that tastes amazing and won’t cost you a ton. Also a fire-spitting mantis!

First Stop: Vegas

FGFS babe Aviva gave me a heads up that the Golden Nugget Hotel/Casino not only had a killer brunch buffet but also the heated pool has a three storey shark tank in the middle of it. PLUS there’s a water slide that goes through that damn tank. Right. Through. It. We stayed on the off days (Sunday-Tuesday) and our room was only $49 a night. The hotel wi-fi was outrageously priced so we found it for free in a small cafe on the old strip and that became our little social media hub while we were there.

I had never been to Las Vegas before but I had an idea of what it would be like based on the gazillion Facebook photos I’ve seen from buds who visited, plus a myriad of pop culture references over the years. Straight up, I had a suspicion that this would not be the place for us (we’re not super into gambling or drinking) and it took a while for the charm to set in.

We found Container Park on the second afternoon and I had no idea that it even existed. By this time we had started posting pictures on Instagram and some American babes gave us pro tips on what to check out off the strip. This place was GREAT. A small community of indie businesses, all of them running out of storage containers and most without the tourist trap prices. We went for the tacos (you really want to go for the tacos, trust) and we stayed for the atmosphere.

IMG_8149

Revealing naiveté – I didn’t realize that it snowed in Arizona. Like A LOT

Round Two: Grand Canyon National Park

Ron and I grabbed our rental car and went straight to Trader Joe’s for road trip food. Before we left Toronto I picked up a $3 cooler that went flat in our suitcase and did a fine job of preventing us from getting food poisoning. We loaded up on fruit and veg, yogurt and scones for breakfast, some pre-made salads, tea, and the best cheesy snack ever ever ever.

You can look at the drive on a map or even street view it on Google and you won’t be prepared for how gorgeous it is this time of year. We drove through a rainbow, which I thought was impossible and the weather was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It was a cornucopia of rain, sunny skies, hail the size of gumballs, more sunny skies, that rainbow and a blizzard. It was stressful and magical.

The woman at the park gates warned us that there was low visibility of the canyon itself but we paid the ten bucks or whatever and went in. It didn’t take long to realize that we had planned our visit on the off-est time of the off-season, evidenced by the small handful of cars in the parking lot.

Even though you couldn’t see much, it was still completely breathtaking and more than worth the four hour drive to get there. Snow, so clean it was almost blue, blanketed the park and we hung out with a pack of wild deer like it was a Disney movie. The one person we did see maybe didn’t make it out alive. He was climbing down INTO THE CANYON on icy terrain, propping his phone in snowbanks to get that perfect selfie at dusk. It was hella dangerous. Bring a selfie stick, people!

IMG_8177

A misguided selfie-focused tourist might be found at the bottom of this snowy vista

Overall it was cheaper for two people to rent a car instead of buying a pre-packaged bus tour where you have no control over your visit and you have to purchase an expensive (probably crappy) lunch. Don’t count on having access to the internets out there (plus it can be super expensive) so ask for a free map from one of the car rental joints that are in every hotel and hit the road!

Chapter Three: Driving to Joshua Tree National Park

Up to this point, Ron and I were on a more traditional vacation trajectory but this was our fourth West Coast road trip and we wanted off the beaten path. Let’s get weird.

IMG_8208

First things first, some practical road trip advice from a paranoid navigator — gas up before you leave Las Vegas, because it’s a no man’s land the second you leave the city limits. The pumps are expensive, few and far between, and not exactly places I would want to stop on my own, even in the day time. It should go without saying but drive safe and watch your speed, there are state troopers pulling cars over EVERYWHERE. You don’t want to cut into your travel budget paying off a ticket. Bring lots of water too, just in case.

Despite attempts to get tourists to drop tons of mons on shooting ranges, steak dinners, and sporadic casinos, there are some great fun sights along the way that won’t cost you a cent unless you want to buy a cheap souvenir. On a pretty baron stretch of road you start to see the signs for Baker, California long before you get there. It’s an odd, hyper-isolated tourist hub that includes an alien-themed convenience store, complete with an animatronic family of extraterrestrials out front. Their biggest draw is a ridiculous selection of jerky but I recommend throwing a few coins in the Alien Psychic machine and taking a selfie with one of the life-size cardboard Star Trek characters in the back. Across the street is the world’s biggest thermometer, a digital reminder that you’re in the desert and it’s hot.

Drive a few miles down the highway for a cheap and terrible meal at the legendary Peggy Sue’s Diner. They’re not trying to impress you with their culinary skills but it’s a fun stop and they have plastered the walls with real and fake movie memorabilia, photos of celebs who have eaten there and don’t miss the metal dinosaur sculptures behind the restaurant.

IMG_8269

Watching the sun set on the open road, not knowing I was about to convince myself that we were going to be murdered in the middle of nowhere

From here Ron and I made the somewhat terrifying drive to Yucca Valley. It was night at this point, you drive for miles without seeing anyone or anything, there are no street lights and the few locals that we saw were seemingly up to no good. One car drove past us at 150 km+/hour in the pitch black with no lights on and even though we were in the desert, some of the roads had been flooded out. So again: gas up, bring water, and make sure you know exactly where you’re going.

That night we arrived at our Airbnb in Yucca Valley safe and sound. It was absolute heaven.

Keep an eye out for part two of our journey tomorrow, when I decide to go hiking topless in the desert.

xo Amarina

*This post first appeared on FatGirlFoodSquad.com, you can see the original post here.

Future Plans – Should We Build a Tiny House?

Here’s something that used to stress us out but miraculously doesn’t anymore: we have no set plans for our future. We do have a vague idea of where we want to end up and how financially stable we want to be (very stable, obv) but specifically where or how we’re going to get there remains undecided. 

In terms of where we’ll end up, the slate isn’t blank. We’ve been seriously considering one traditional and four unconventional (for some) dwelling options and I thought it would be fun to freak out our families and outline what we’ve been talking about for a future home and where it could be.

image

A Yurt in the Woods

This one frightens me but financially is the most realistic for us if we’re going to go for it in the next few years or so. Buying a bit of property and setting up a yurt home while we save moolah to build a more permanent place is an idea we’ve been drawn to for years. We’ll have more dough to put towards a dreamier location instead of having to divide it with a house right off the bat.

We’re picturing charming outdoorsiness – stargazing through the clear dome roof, clean air, and waking up to deer on our lawn. Yurt life conjures visions of affordable tranquility, a wood burning fireplace, and living in a spot where it doesn’t snow for six months of the year. To acknowledge a big con among the dreamy pros – this option will definitely have the most spiders. Coming from a virtually insect/arachnid-free 17th floor urban apartment, we weren’t prepared to deal with the spiders here in Tennessee and it’s going to take some big time adjusting. Ron and I try our best to live harmoniously with all living things but two traumatic interactions with brown recluse spiders in our new place have shaken us a bit. Alas, we’re treating it like prep in case we decide to live in the woods after all.

Despite our arachnophobic tendencies, there are so many pros to living in a yurt:

  • They’re cheap
  • They’re portable
  • More $$ = better land/location options
  • Yurts are cool!
  • We can Airbnb it or use it as a separate studio when we eventually move into our more permanent home
  • Aforementioned romantic stargazing
  • We’ll be able to live more sustainably, and go as off-grid as we want
  • Big garden! Fruit trees! Chickens! Lil goats?

image_2

An Urban Condo

As much as we love the outdoors, just living in the suburbs for the past month is enough for us to start missing Toronto pretty hard. We’re definitely torn between the pull to live in nature and wanting to be walking distance from our friends, family, and cheap sushi. Choosing to live in the Memphis burbs was a strategic decision for us, it would have been so easy to get a cool apartment downtown. The separation is a test and we’re giving ourselves time to see which direction we’re drawn to more – the woods or downtown. The jury’s still out.

There are plenty of good reasons to invest in a downtown condo or small house:

  • If we’re smart about it, we’ll be investing in a neighbourhood that’ll always be in demand
  • We LOVE urban life!
  • We won’t have to own a car
  • Close to our buds, loved ones, city amenities
  • There’s always something fun to do
  • We’ll never not love summer in the city

image_1

A Geodesic Dome Home

These beautiful structures were in vogue during the late 60’s, early 70’s and have more recently become popular again because of their customizable designs and affordable floor plans. Both Ron and I have always wanted to build a home with our bare hands and of all the options, we’re drawn to this one the most.

At first into them because of their beauty, we didn’t realize how financially accessible and absolutely amazing they are until we started looking further into dome home life. The more research we do on them, the more benefits we see to building one.

  • Green construction, completely customizable
  • More energy efficient than a standard boxier home
  • The strength in the triangular construction of the dome makes it highly resistant to natural disasters!
  • We could buy the dome home kit and build it ourselves or with a small team in a really short period of time
  • The largest space option for our budget – they are surprisingly cheap compared to building a traditional house from scratch
  • Less spiders than a yurt!
  • Can easily deck it out with solar panels, plumbing, the works – as one would with any normal home

image_3

A Mobile Home

Option #4 is probably the wildest for us and in some ways the most appealing. This isn’t to say we couldn’t have a camper van in addition to any of these other homes or that we’d live in one for an extended period of time, but it would definitely be very cheap and fun to only have a camper or trailer for a while. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying mulling over buying a charming vintage something-or-other, renovating it in the most adorable of ways, and hitting the road for a while. We’d further be motivated to set ourselves up to work from anywhere and it’s potentially not an option that will always be ideal for us.

We love the idea of a home on wheels because:

  • We can fully customize a vehicle to fit our needs
  • Giving an old trailer a second life would be easier on the wallet, the environment, and the soul
  • Being able to work while on the road automatically extends the amount of time we’ll have to travel because we won’t have to get back to a job
  • Setting up an adorable mobile store that we can drive all over North America is something we’ve wanted to do for years and I’m not sure if we’ll be able to let that go until it happens
  • Like the yurt, it’s another dwelling option that we can upcycle and either sell when we’re done or hold on to it to use as an Airbnb or for our own trips down the road

image_4

A Tiny House on Wheels

The tiny home movement has been growing exponentially over the past few years. Several tv shows are now featuring tiny house hunters and builders, plus a bunch of great documentaries have come out on the subject. I’ll admit that pretty much every day for the past two years or so I’ve been watching tiny home Youtube channels while I eat my lunch. I can’t get enough of them.

A happy medium between living in a mobile home and a small house, tiny homes are built on wheels so they are portable, but most aren’t meant to be on the road all the time. It’s a great option for folks like us who want to try life in a bunch of different places before we settle down somewhere for a longer period of time.

Why a tiny house would be a super cool pad for us:

  • There are enough resources out there that we could build one ourselves in a reasonable amount of time
  • Because they’re classified as a recreational vehicle, standard building codes don’t apply
  • No matter where we go we’ll have our home with us
  • It’s small enough that we can temporarily park it in a driveway, a backyard, or a small property
  • We can personalize the design to accommodate our lives and the cats
  • They’re hella cute

Ron and I are keeping an open mind and will continue to explore the pros and cons of living small and being mobile. We’re definitely going to stay in as many unconventional spaces as we can before we decide and we’ll be sharing our experiences as we figure it out. 

xo Amarina

*All illustrations by Ron ❤

Getting Settled in Memphis

map o us

It still hasn’t fully sunk in that this is our current home

Yesterday Ron and I celebrated our first month in Memphis and although there were a bunch of bumps during our transition, we’ve thoroughly been enjoying getting to know our new place. I had originally planned on talking about our strategies for cheaper utility bills and setting up all the boring essentials as Canadians in the U.S. but I’m going to wait until it’s all done so I can pass on as much info as possible. There’s still a ton to do.

One of the biggest challenges to settling down here for me personally is the loneliness. Ron heads downtown while I work from home during the week. I had anticipated a certain amount of isolation and counted on a substantial period of time to pass before we start to make friends, but the contrast between Toronto and our new home has still been a bit of a shock. For the last eight years I lived and worked exclusively in Greektown on the Danforth. It didn’t matter where I was off to, any time I left our apartment I would run into at least one person I knew. Even taking out the recycling would result in a chat (gossip sesh) with one of our neighbours. We loved our friendly little corner so much and that’s one of the reasons why we chose to leave – it had become too comfortable, easy, and familiar for our liking. 

Primo Sidewalks

The sidewalk across from our place ends in a ditch that is usually filled with water and garbage

When we were considering areas to live around Memphis, we ultimately chose the suburbs and not downtown because it is undeniably safe here, close to a farmer’s market and hiking trails, and the amenities are off the charts amazing. We have a wood fireplace! We’re on a little private lake and you can take out charming paddle boats! There’s a hot tub and infinity pool that don’t set my germ fears on high alert! Did I mention the fireplace? 

Our new apartment is fantastic but of course there are drawbacks – the biggest being the near impossibility of getting around on foot. We live off of a sizable parkway, the sidewalks are few and sporadic, and public transit is pretty much non-existent. I tried to go for a little walk during our first week here and a dude pulled his pickup truck over, trying to get me to hop in for a lift. I’m unsure if he had good intentions or not, but I was obviously shaken – and deeply motivated to invest in pepper spray. 

I have been able to walk to a neighbouring Starbucks to work and be around people but man, living in the burbs without a car stinks.

Antique Mall

Already looking forward to checking out the Antique Mall again

That being said, Ron and I have been taking advantage of the early summer vibes here and our free time together is a blast, as always. We’ve browsed some of the best antique markets I’ve ever been to and hiked through beautiful forest, surrounded by seriously stunning flora and fauna. We can already swim outside and the nights still have enough of a chill that we can use our little fireplace. Once we get a car we’ll be booting off on mini-adventures and getting to know the South while we’re living here.

As for meeting people, I’m going to try to insert my awkward self into my community through some new creative projects and hope for the best. Ron has already been accepted as a vendor at the Memphis Comic Expo this year (!!!) and we’re really looking forward to participating in more creative events in the area.

Treasure Hunting

‘Browsing not buying’ is a rule we’re always tempted to break

Anytime Ron and I travel somewhere new, I check out the Design Sponge City Guide to see if they’ve featured my destination. Often a like-minded local pro has prepared a list of interesting local businesses, restaurants, and landmarks to check out. I’ve always found it a great way to get started with plans and the Memphis Guide was the perfect introduction to the city. It’s going to take some time but we’re so looking forward to becoming Memphis pros too.

xo Amarina

P.S. Give us a follow on our Facebook page if you want to check out more from our adventures!

Moving Mistakes and Triumphs

Last shot in 655

Our last family portrait in our lovely home of 8 years

After months of emotional roller coaster stress and prep, Ron and I have made it to our new home in Memphis, Tennessee! Ron’s already started his job doing creative directory things downtown and I’ve been home unpacking and trying to find our buried marriage license so I can get my social security number. Without it I can’t open a bank account, apply for jobs, or be a person on the grid, but I’m taking a little break to write about our wild moving experience.

In the weeks before we left, I thought we had our shit together. Despite it being an extremely busy time, we were still able to see most of our friends and visit family for proper goodbyes. I spent time looking at blogs about moving from Canada to the U.S. noting tips on preparation and found out everything we’d need to cross the border. The original plan was simple: pack the truck on Thursday, sleep on our mattress in our empty apartment that night, grab the cats in the morning and head out! Even with all that prep, packing day was an absolute mess. We cried a lot, we learned a lot.

When my best friend showed up on Thursday afternoon, the first thing that came out of her mouth was, ‘wow you two have done so much since the other day.’ This felt good. We felt accomplished. Unfortunately, the first impression of our preparedness was deceiving.

There were a bunch of things that foiled our plan of success. First, I didn’t know that the apex of the worst ice storm of the winter was on it’s way. We were worrying about so many things that snow wasn’t on our radar at all. In the first hour of packing the truck, the ramp froze to a solid sheet of ice and no amount of salt would thaw it while the freezing rain kept pounding down. Furniture and heavy boxes had to be lifted up and into the back of the truck, our trusty dollies were basically useless, and it was taking forever.

Anxiety

Just looking at this picture of our packed truck gives me anxiety

When you’re moving with all of your stuff to the U.S., you’re required to bring a typed inventory of the contents of your vehicle. Every last box needs to be tagged with a list of what’s inside so if you’re asked where a particular item is in your truck, you should know where it is. I chose to write a number on every side of the box that coincided with the printed list, mostly because I’m paranoid and was picturing moving truck pirates breaking in, seeing a box labelled ‘treasured possessions’ and that’s that. This fool-proof plan would surely slow them down. It slowed me down! Organizing the list properly while packing simultaneously took ages and I definitely should have given myself more time to do it. 

In the end we weren’t asked for the inventory but I’m glad that we were prepared anyway. I had three copies printed, one for us, one for the guard, and an extra in case a different person was assigned to go through the contents of the truck.

Finally my biggest mistake, I had refused offers of moving help from friends and family because I know that moving is the worst, Ron and I would be having emotional breakdowns about leaving Toronto, and most embarrassingly because I can be a control freak who likes to do important stuff myself. In our hour of need, when everything was taking so much longer than we thought and I found myself crying in our elevator because we weren’t going to get everything done in time, my phone rang and it was my mom. She had driven in the storm to the city with her partner Bruce and they were pulling into our parking lot to help us with all the last minute crap. We couldn’t have finished without them.

Dream team

Letting our wheels thaw a bit before hitting the road

At The Border

It was exciting to pull up to the Peace Bridge and find no lines at all. I had earlier scoffed at the border wait times site that correctly informed me of a 3 minute wait, which seemed comical on a long weekend. We were instructed to pull our truck over to a small lot and enter Door #2. Sure enough, a quick look around revealed a plain door with a simple sign above that read, you guessed it, Door #2. We didn’t have to wait too long and there were a couple complications that were sorted out with a bit of time but all in all it was a straightforward process and we were out of there in a few hours and back on the road with our shiny new American visas!

*Useful tip: If you’re planning on heading into the States and getting your visa approved at the border, do it during regular business hours. We thought that we could go at any time (we passed through on Good Friday) and it is possible, but it’s a lot easier for everyone if you show up during the work week.

Road sights

This is the only picture I took while we were driving! I think it’s somewhere in Kentucky

On The Road

Full of good vibes, we let our moms know that we were on our way and headed for Cincinnati, Ohio. We had booked a room at one of the Hampton Inns there, one of the few reasonably priced, cat friendly hotels that we tracked down in the area. Google Maps told us that it was going to be about an 8 hour drive to get there, but with our big truck packed to the gills it didn’t take us long to realize that if we pushed through we’d be checking in at dawn. I quickly phoned around and scored the last room available at a Hampton Inn in Columbus, although I’m still not sure if that particular location was pet-friendly or not. Erring on the side of caution, we took the cats in their carriers up the back stairwell and crashed for 90 minutes before grabbing some continental breakfast and getting back on the road.

We started day two of the road trip nearly two hours behind our tight schedule, tired, and stressed out. I wish we could have been more upbeat about things and had the time to stop and check out all the cool stuff we were driving by but we had to make it to our new apartment by 5pm to pick up our keys or we’d be homeless until after Easter weekend.

IMG_0527

Saved by Trader Joe’s

Ron worked his driving magic and aside from a quick stop in Louisville, Kentucky to grab gas and lunch and we rolled into our new place a only a few minutes after the office closed. We knocked loudly on the door and a second later we were greeted with the smiling face of one of the leasing agents who knew we were coming and had stuck around to make sure we got in okay. I don’t know what she thought of the two greasy and exhausted humans standing in front of her but we were so elated that it was smiles and high fives all around. WE DID IT.

Realizations

  • Even when you’ve been boasting about minimizing your possessions, you still have double the crap that you think you have.
  • Packing your shit in Ikea bags seems like a genius revelation: easier than carrying boxes! an excuse to go to Ikea! the folks at the lcbo are sick of seeing your box-needing faces! you can reuse them for laundry! Until you arrive at your destination and everything has spilled out and the stuff that remains inside is covered in gross truck dust.
  • Do not turn down offers of help from friends and family because pride/moving sucks/feeling sad. My fam showed up anyway and we could not have packed our truck without their help.
  • Moving during the worst ice storm of the year is not recommended. And yes, enough freezing rain will fall from the sky to completely envelop your 15 ft truck, the ground, and your previously convenient loading ramp in a centimeter of ice.
  • When factoring crossing the border into your tight moving schedule, consider an amount of time that seems like too much and double it. Also you can’t bring your pets into the office with you, so make sure they’re warm/cool enough and comfy.
  • Google Maps is magical human innovation up to the point when you’re in a race against time and the directions tell you to get off the highway, drive in a complete square and get back on that same highway.
  • Renting a hotel room so you can sleep in a bed for two hours seems like a great idea until the cats you snuck in start screaming because they’ve been cooped up in a truck all day and now they want you to pay attention to them.  
  • Trader Joe’s salads and wraps are life savers when you can’t stomach the idea of eating fast food on the road. Bonus, the general good vibes that everyone gives off in there is a refreshing change from the sheer gamut of emotions that are happening inside your moving truck.
  • The abundance of roadkill on American interstate highways is shocking. We cannot unsee the things we saw.

Home Sweet Home

Our first night in our new place! In direct contradiction to her personality, Yma was unfazed by the move

Actually Useful Tips

  • If you’ve got a long move, grab a little cooler bag and some ice packs (we got ours for $3 at Dollarama) and take lots of water and healthy snacks with you. There wasn’t a lot of room in the U-Haul cab once the cats were in with us and we weren’t going to leave them unattended in the car to eat at a restaurant. This cooler of joy was everything at 4am when we were zooming through Ohio and even the truck stop McDonald’s were closed.
  • You can hire movers that will show up (you provide dollies, etc) and load or unload your truck for you, same day, with only a couple of hours lead time. It was through the site emove.com, it cost about $150 for two hours with two movers and it was an absolute game changer for us.
  • We had a two day drive but I packed us a bag of clothes and stuff we’d need for four days and I’m so glad we did. Once we arrived, all we could do was drag our mattress inside and sleep. When we got up on our first morning to get some basic groceries, we were grateful to grab what we needed and go without rifling through a bunch of bags.
  • Pack a small box of stuff you’ll need to unpack and leave it right at the door of the truck to save digging around. Our box included paper towels, a small tool kit with allen keys/screwdriver set/hammer, scissors, a box cutter, hand soap, toilet paper, big garbage bags, and cat food/litter.

In our next post, we’re going to be talking about energy conservation and how we are transitioning from living in an all-inclusive apartment to paying for electricity, gas, and water.

xo Amarina

On Time Apart & The Power of Walks

The beginning of a very enlightening walk – sculpture outside The Cannon Center For The Performing Arts

When I first visited Memphis to start my new job, Amarina and I hadn’t spent more than a night apart in almost three years. This is not a coincidence. Amarina is awesome and time apart is stupid. This is not to say that we both don’t cherish time to ourselves, we’re both tireless artists who thrive when lost in creative pursuits. But generally we’d rather be doing these things within arm-poking, thigh-pinching range. Suffice to say, when I needed to fly to a completely foreign city for a week it seemed incomplete without my other half.

My second visit to Memphis was two solid weeks BUT at the end Amarina rolled in for 36 hours of Memphis experience. It was so great to immerse ourselves in our new city as a twosome, even though most of the time was spent locking down our future apartment.

That first week was excruciating. Knowing that I had to get through a week, a weekend, and another week before I could see Amarina and sort out so many things was building a serious queaze in my stomach. This lead me to the most therapeutic activity I could think of, I went for a walk. An enormous walk. My adventurous afternoon combined several Favourite Human staples:

  • Going outside for some fresh air
  • Exploring new worlds on foot
  • Killing stress with strutting

It worked incredibly well!!! I definitely went overboard, walking 8+ miles over a 4 hour period. I covered a big chunk of downtown Memphis on foot before heading back again to my hotel home, my feet screaming in my shoes. 

Abandoned Bureau Of Weights and Measures

I was able to find my bearings in places that I had only driven to once or twice before, and it was nice to come upon something that I actually recognized. Strolling past a fantastic Vietnamese restaurant that I had eaten at the previous week, I decided to take Amarina there when she arrived (and I did! For our first meal together in Memphis.)

I got to Overton Park just before night fall to take a selfie with a majestic cement hippopotamus in front of the Memphis Zoo:

Making friends at the Memphis Zoo after hours

Wandering through the historic Evergreen District I realized virtually NO ONE gets around on foot for anything farther than a couple blocks. Like NO ONE. On my entire walk I came across maybe 30 people on foot, MAX. Coming from Toronto, a pedestrian playground, it was fascinating and eerie.

These birds in flocks of about 300 were everywhere in the Evergreen District, which smelled impossibly like campfire

Midtown wind sculpture after dark

Walking forevs made me feel normal again. I got out of my hotel tomb and saw some stuff. I did what I would have done had Amarina been there. Whenever either of us is juggling thoughts or cul-de-sac’ing on a particular problem, we walk it out. The very idea of this move to Memphis was tackled on a late night walk and many that followed.

BigMemphisWalk

The Route

A good walk can sort out:

  • How are we going to pull off ______ in so little time?
  • Where haven’t we walked to?
  • Where are all the adorable camper vans / trailers in the area?
  • What will be our next fantastic voyage?
  • Will “cul-de-sac’ing” ever take off as a verb?

One of the major advantages of moving south is being able to comfortably walk outside all year round, which brings this post back to the “Time Apart” theme – with a slight twist.

Living in Canada, we are forced inside by the diabolical winters which can last from late October to late April. During this period of blistering wind and variously infuriating precipitation, our walks are rare at best. This is when we both experience time apart from ourselves, from the outdoorsy people we are during the hospitable months of the year. The rest of the time we live in parks, we sling a mean hammock, we picnic, we LIVE to be outside. And every winter feels like an identity crisis.

I’m looking forward to not packing away our fair-weather selves every six months. Gone are the days of staring feebly out of our frosted windows into the gray blech of Canadian winter. 

xo Ron

On Owning a Ton of Crap

IMG_0088

Ron continues to send me ridiculous photos, this gem is from a gloomy day last week at our new place in Tennessee! Ducks live there!

In addition to locking down our new digs and getting to know the wonderful world of banking in the States (ahem, most seem to close at 4pm?) Ron worked his buns off in Memphis last week. I’ve been home, packing and cleaning out the apartment and reflecting on my relationship with owning a bunch of crap and how we got rid of it.

The week of my 16th birthday, I got my first steady job working at a Salvation Army thrift store. My passion for thrifting developed over the four years that I worked there, and having first dibs on the goods before they hit the floor meant I never left a shift without buying at least one thing. My bedroom was full of amazing vintage treasures and it became a safe place when I was a weirdo teen that never totally fit in.

I spent the four years after high school moving to residence every September and back to my mom’s place for the summer. The layout of my room at university changed every year but the size remained the same, an 8 x 10ish tiny space with a shared bathroom, no kitchen of course. I became used to living with almost nothing, a handful of cds, some posters on the wall, five of my favourite books, enough clothes for ten days. I didn’t have money to buy a bunch of stuff and I was too busy to shop anyway.

After living in residence for way too long, I got an apartment with a friend and her boyfriend. Together we acquired a ton of furniture from all over the place. I started a new job where I was making slightly better money, and a lot of it went towards accumulating lots of stuff that I didn’t have space for in residence and I relished in the warm satisfaction of consumerism. I bought dvds, filled my closet with clothes, and a bunch of other random things like a big Elvis bust that seemed essential at the time, and an enormous wood plaque of the Pope. I was only living at Eglinton and Bathurst for a year when I decided to move back with my mom in Aurora and sort out a dramatic quarter life crisis.

I didn’t realize how much stuff I had until I started prepping for the move and pulling all the crap out of my bedroom. My roommate came over with a weird look on his face and asked how he could possibly not know that I owned a recliner. He hadn’t seen it before but there it was, massive and sitting in the middle of the hallway. This unfamiliarity was not because it was a new addition, I just owned so much clothing that I never put away and the pile had completely enveloped the chair – like the tar monster that ate Tasha Yar on Star Trek TNG.

graph

This graph depicting how much crap I owned at different times of my life seemed like a neat idea in my head, I get that it only kind of makes sense.

In a really short and awesome period of time I moved back home, met Ron, and moved in with him and his two friends. We’ll write about our experiences living there in another post, but the short of it is that our place was cramped and I reduced almost all of my possessions to one plastic tub. One. Plastic. Tub. It felt great not having to sift through clothes and I never lost anything because there was nothing to lose. We lived at that place, right on the corner of Dundas and Dovercourt for two years and it was the best. When we decided to go out on our own we moved east to the Danforth, where we’ve happily been for the last eight years. Ron and I didn’t have much stuff when we moved and it didn’t take us long to fill our new home with a ton of neat things. Friends would come over and spend time looking at all the little trinkets and books saying, ‘it’s like a museum in here’ and ‘wow, you guys have a lot of stuff.’ 

And we did. We found things, went thrifting often, turned our small dining room into a full studio with an industrial sewing machine and plopped a 6 ft drafting table right in the middle. Our walls are covered in art and vintage rugs overlapped across the floors. Ron and I were having a chat one night about going on an extended adventure and we both shrugged and said, ‘but what are we going to do with all this stuff?’ It took a while to acknowledge that curating our beloved little apartment was awesome, but not when it had become a roadblock to pursuing cool opportunities. Making the choice to simplify happened very quickly and pretty soon we were gleefully giving away things that we once thought we’d never part with.

There’s no way we’ll ever be ultra minimal people. Ron and I have sentimental hearts and there are impractical possessions that we’re going to hold on to. That being said, we were able to cut what we had in half over the last year. The process helped us in ways that we hadn’t considered: anything that frustrated us (like our stubborn coffee maker) was out, it became easier to keep our shit organized, and we developed a further appreciation for what we did choose to hold on to. Most importantly, when we were presented with the idea of moving to Memphis, we jumped right in because we were that much closer to being ready to go.

adios microwave

This microwave developed a mind of its own and had started turning on at random times when no one was in the kitchen.

So coming from a couple of people who really love stuff, I thought I’d share a few of the ways we painlessly scaled down our possessions.

  • We started with a full sweep of the apartment and got rid of anything that was straight up useless. I found a stack of TTC passes from the last three years that we had been saving for no reason, we went through the fridge and cupboards and got rid of expired cans and jars, there was a bag of toilet paper that we bought but didn’t like so it was taking up a bunch of space in the closet, the list goes on. This was an easy way to feel accomplished without making any tough decisions.
  • Next we talked about what drove us nuts. I hated owning a microwave, it started turning on all by itself so we had to keep it unplugged and I only used it occasionally to heat up a rice bag for sore muscles. Getting rid of that thing felt fantastic and it really invoked a drive to get rid of more stuff. Paranoid that those vintage wool rugs are harbouring germs that could kill you? See you later, alligator! Hate your old, humongous television that you never really watch because commercials are the worst and also Netflix exists now? Goodbye forever.
  • Anything that we had multiples of, went. For some reason we had two sets of wine glasses, more towels than we’d ever use, I had 4 pairs of leggings that were identical, and so on. We kept our favourite of each item and donated the rest.

The most challenging part at first was giving away items that I like very much but never use or wear. For clothes I followed the standard rule, if you haven’t worn it in the last 12 months, it goes. This was stressful at first but my attitude changed when I realized that not only did I not miss the clothes, I forgot that I even owned most of what was in my closet. I was able to do another cut, and then another, leaving only what I’m excited about and what makes me feel good. I stopped buying new clothes because I look forward to wearing what I have and these pieces aren’t buried in a sea of sale items that I thought I needed in the moment but never actually cared about.

IMG_6064

We teamed up with a bud who has access to her front lawn and had a garage sale in the fall. She made a perfect new wave playlist and we danced a bunch while selling our treasures.

During this process we tried to generate as little waste as possible. We gave stuff to our friends, donated ten garbage bags of clothes, had a garage sale, sold the bigger items on Craigslist, and traded a bunch of my vintage treasures for consumable goods like organic olive oil, cider, and tea in my favourite online community, Bunz Trading Zone. It’s a Toronto-based group that started on Facebook and quickly became a little sensation here, with side groups like Bunz Dating Zone and the Curvy Bunz Clothing Swap for the fat babes like myself. They recently launched an app that I haven’t tried yet, but if you’re curious I think the code to get in is 777777. We’re not affiliated in any way with them, but I’ve traded lots of our stuff this way and it’s been pretty fun so far.

Finally and most importantly, we significantly reduced our consumerism. Ron and I found that the more we cleaned out the place, the less we wanted to bring in new crap. When we were tempted to buy something we took the time to consider its usefulness, how sentimental we felt about it, or if we already had something similar or better at home. We took a break from buying books because we each had an unread pile on our night stands. The two of us discovered a joy in going out for the day and seeing wonderful things that we walked away from and built some true appreciation for what we chose to keep around.

If you have any questions about how we minimized or tips on what you’ve done to cut down your possessions, we’d love to hear them in the comments. I don’t think we’ll ever reach that point where we’ll stop assessing what we have around us, even though our biggest household challenge is about to happen. We’re moving from a one bedroom apartment to a place that has two bedrooms and two bathrooms! We’ve been repeating to ourselves, ‘we will not fill it with stuff. We will not fill it with stuff.’ Let’s see how we do.

xo Amarina