The Simple Life

by winteryder

I live in a 400 sq. ft. log cabin. Heated with a small, fuel efficient monitor stove, it has a little kitchen and some dividers to prevent it from being one open room. There is no bathroom, no running water, no indoor plumbing. I share the space with my teenage daughter, a dog and a cat.

In this northern latitude, winter begins in September and loosens its grip at the middle of May (on a good year). I haul water in five gallon jugs, 20 – 30 gallons at a time, and that lasts us two to three weeks. Yep. When you have no shower, no running water (except the kind you pour from a jug)… you consume less, waste less.

I have a $20/month gym membership that allows us both 24 hour access to showers, albeit at the cost of driving 20 miles round trip to access it.

It’s taken me nearly a year, but I’ve reduced my personal belongings to just a few bins, action packers, boxes and outsize gear (kayak, bikes, skis, climbing equipment, packs, tent). My goal, in the next year, is to have everything I own fit in or on the cabin.

To put it in perspective: fifteen years ago, I co-owned a 3,000 square foot, custom built, three story home with a two+ car garage. And it was full to the rafters with stuff. Things. Toys. Four wheelers, truck, camper, car, trailers, toy haulers, a full basement gym, 60 inch flat screen tv… you name it, I had it. Or rather, I rented it from the bank. My credit was maxed out, but I had a ½ acre lawn and an 800 square foot raised cedar deck overlooking the park-like setting. I was lonely, miserable, uber-fit, personal trainer, eating-disordered and unhappily married.

When we divorced, I carried the debt with me to a 1,200 square foot apartment and did what I could to cram all my things into a smaller space. I lugged all the baggage, boxes, clothes, stuff and crap with me when I eventually moved into an 850 square foot house with my new partner, my daughter, two dogs a cat. Yeah. That went well. Ten years and another divorce, and here I am.

All told, I’ve been married for 17 years (to two very different men) and for the first time in my adult life… I’m single. Not “divorced” (although I am), but single… solo…

It’s… quiet. I’ve cried all the tears, shivered through frozen nights on a mattress on the floor of the cabin (I still don’t have a bed), awakened countless mornings with no shower on the horizon, an injured/sick child to care for, a full time job and a second job to require my time and attention. I’ve also watched the sun come up through the frosty branches of the spruce trees outside my living room window. I’ve seen more sunrises, more sunsets, more aurora borealis from the door-less outhouse and the many walks to and from. I’ve been bitten by a thousand hungry mosquitos in that same door-less outhouse and fought a squirrel off my toilet paper roll (and remembered to store it {the toilet paper, not the squirrel} in a Folger’s can).

I frostbit my ass on a -40 plastic outhouse seat and remembered that blue foam rules the universe. You see, I grew up with nothing. I lived for the majority of my childhood without indoor plumbing, with outhouses and “honey buckets”. I know what it’s like to only be able to bathe once or twice a week, because… water. And heating it on a woodstove. And sharing tiny spaces with four siblings and three adults. I’ve been there.

Now, I’m here.

Small beginnings are good. I’m starting where I am. I’m consolidating, I’m reducing, recycling, removing baggage and clearing mental and physical space. I’m choosing to embrace this life, choosing to discover what minimalism means for me.

My impact on the environment is smaller. I commute to and from work on my bike from April to September- I fuel my body with cleaner, more sustainable fuel. I feed my mind. I’m learning that I love my own company, that the dark and quiet evenings give space for long (cold) walks with my dog and reading things, learning things I care about.

I debated long and hard about writing again. I curated a blog for five years and shared more than 1,000 posts, 2,000 photos and a life story. I put it to rest last fall, out of necessity. The love ran out and so did the words.

The thing about being a writer is this: it’s in my blood. In my veins. I am writing a story every day with my life. Whether or not I speak my truth out loud is a matter of time, forum and semantics. For me, it is as necessary as breathing.

This chapter in my life promises simplicity. Quiet. Authenticity carved from necessity.

It won’t be easy to read. But if you’re willing to walk with me, to laugh and cry and swear by the stars in the constellations I can see from my outhouse (primarily, the Big Dipper- it sits right in front of me)… then stop by from time to time. I’ll be here.