Various Matters

Greetings,

It’s 7:20 AM. I’ve got coffee by my hand, and a light breakfast (1/2 a grapefruit) in my belly. The sun has officially risen, but as I’m shadowed by the East Bay Hills to the East – and closer in, another building in my complex, I have yet to see it, but that will change soon. I’ll let you know when I first see the sun.

First (of many) tangents: It’s now been almost 10 months since I stopped working, yet I still can’t sleep in! I thought that, after arising at 0445 for many years to be at work at 0600 (or for weekend political shows at 0500), I would slowly adjust my personal waking hours to coincide with what is ‘normal’ for most of the rest of the world. Yet despite no need to get up for work, and my weekend political start shifting to 0700 (see this post), I’m still usually – not always – wide awake at 0530. Perhaps that will slowly shift later and later. Perhaps not. I no longer care. I am what I am.

Back on track. Why am I writing now? A number of reasons. I’m long overdue for a post on this blog – and emailing it to my Peregrination email list, and the guilt of not updating my friends has finally risen to the point of action. Also, a number of things in my life have coalesced into some new directions, and I want to get them on the record. Finally, I have a short term question I’m asking myself that I would like feedback from my friends, blog readers, and family – and an action I’m asking in support of the likely answer.

Sunrise update – 0733 hrs – The sun has hit the tips of the trees outside my window. My sunrise won’t be long now.

Where to start?

I blogged on my arrival home from my Peregrination. It was brief. It said, essentially, that having absented myself from my home for almost 5 months, I was filled with self-disgust over the clutter I found in my home when I returned. And that all other Peregrination thoughts …

Sunrise update – 0735 hrs – I see the sun!

… would wait until I did a serious decluttering of my home. Much of September was spent doing that. And it’s continued to this day, and still continues. But I’ve now got the the point where I’ve had my sister’s family over both for a dinner party and for brunch on Christmas Day! I’ve had a number of ongoing plumbing problems fixed (brought to a head by my 17 year old hot water heater deciding it no longer wanted to give me enough hot water for a shower!).

I’ve given away almost all remnants of my 1990’s hobby of model railroading – mostly tools, PC board fabrication equipment (I designed a few boards to automate my club layout), model detailing parts, and most of the engines and rolling stock I’d accumulated, but not used in a decade. The remnants of my HO scale modeling are a couple of engines that are dear to me, and they are displayed in a nice case in the living room. I still have some N scale stuff in the garage that I have to deal with: A switching layout, a couple of cases of rolling stock – including a beautiful 15 car passenger set + 3 engines for the UP streamliner, and a couple of other things. I want to give my N scale modelling buddy first refusal on these (you know who you are – call!).

Once my modeling stuff was cleared, that enabled me to move my office into my bedroom, which in turn allows me to work on turning my 2nd bedroom (nee office) into a guest bedroom. However, since the beginning of July, my cousin has been living in that room, and he prefers to occupy it in more of a camping mode – sleeping bag on the floor with a thin air matters – than as a standard bedroom, so as long as he is there, finishing that particular project isn’t a priority. But I also freed up a 7 ft long folding table (that was previously my modeling work table in my bedroom). It’s moved – temporarily – to the living room where it give me invaluable space to start to declutter that part of the house. So far, I’ve used it to lay out many of my books – to agonize over which ones to divest. That in turn gave me space on my living room bookshelves to store much of the small appliances and speciality pots and pans I find myself using more and more as my love of cooking continues to grow. THEN I realized that I didn’t like the organization (or lack thereof) of my pantry. Again, the table allowed the space to implement a new plan: swap my appliance/pan storage with my pantry! So far, by dint of the available organizing space, I’ve been able to:

  • Empty my bookshelves of the pots/pans/serving dishes/small appliances – to the table
  • CLEAN THE BOOKSHELVES
  • Rearrange the bookshelves with books (except cookbooks) occupying the left 2 bookcases, with the 3 bookcases on the right destined for cookbooks (originally 2 shelves, now just one) and pantry.
  • Move the pantry to the bookshelves. My cousin will testify that I was surprised more than a few times by things I discovered in the pantry that I didn’t remember I had – and had recently purchased NEW for various recipes (capers, tahini and apple cider vinegar – just off the top of my head)
  • Clean the shelves in the pantry (all but 2 done – and they still lie empty)
  • Move the stuff on the table (see above) into the pantry.

I’ve still got stuff to do here. Clean the final two shelves. Finish another project I started (strip and re-season my cast iron. All pieces – 4 of them – currently stripped but not yet re-seasoned).

I’ve probably – OK, almost certainly – included far more details of decluttering that ANY of you really needed. Hey! It’s my nature to both ramble and to report too much details. But I recognize that (sometimes), so I’ll spare you a lot of OTHER details since I want to move on in this post to other things! Here’s the summary: I’m slowly, but fairly ruthlessly ridding myself of stuff I don’t use, and organizing the stuff I DO use so that it’s easy and convenient to actually use it!

So what’s next in my report? How I want to live. It’s actually fairly central to a number of OTHER realizations I’ve come to have about myself and my life.

Some background:

  • I own outright the condo that I currently call home. It’s a 2BR, 2BA, 1,200 sqft 2nd floor flat that I’ve come to realize is FAR more than I need. I’m also 1/2 owner of a 1,400 sqft 2BR, 2BA condo that was my mother’s. It’s located about 1/2 a mile from an on ramp to I-80 West just before the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge that is arguably the best place to be if you’re a commuter to San Francisco (or points south) who insists on driving, but doesn’t want to live in the city.
  • In addition to the above real property, I also have savings (both taxable and non-taxable), about 1/2 of it inherited, that a year ago I thought would allow me to both take my Peregrination, then live on for 3-5 years (if necessary) while I decided what else to do with my life.
  • I’ve wanted to “find” a calling. Something – likely political – that would ignite my interest enough to be central to my life and (hopefully) to provide enough income to let me live modestly – no longer relying on my savings. But I’ve found no single calling. There’s just too much wrong in the world to focus on one thing while ignoring (OK, not ignoring, but not investing much – if any time – in ) other equally important issues.
  • I want to live in an intentional community. One where I have my own personal space, but where community activity – particularly meals – are a part of life.
  • I started out with the idea that I wanted to move into a situation where it would be easy to choose to be car free. That has now evolved to a firmer statement: I want to live car free. I am going to live car free.
  • I want to live my values. What does that mean? Lots of things. The most important ones are:
    1. I want to severely reduce my carbon footprint. Living car free will be a big part of this, but not the only part. I also want to live “small”.
    2. I want the time to participate in politics.
    3. I want to be part of a community of like minded people.
    4. I want to work in an endeavour that supports my – and a few other people’s – desire for work that supports my values and provides a living wage.
    5. I want this work to be with/for an entity that reflects my newly crystallized belief that the solutions to our economic problems must be local, easy to spread, and most importantly NOT centered around profit for the investors.

Many of you may recall my prior post: Musings on how I want to live. I’ve now realized that 400-600 sqft is too much! I really don’t need even that much personal space. With the exception of the fairly large kitchen where I derive great enjoyment in cooking for myself and others – and the dining room table where I entertain, my living space has already evolved down to my 315 sqft bedroom/office/bath/closet. And all of these elements are themselves far larger than they need to be! With aggressive scanning of paperwork, moving of DVD’s to a media server, and reduction of my wardrobe (which is FAR larger than I really need), I can see myself reducing my needs to below 200sqft – exclusive of laundry/kitchen/dining facilities. Especially if I don’t have a car! Not painlessly – it’s HARD to say “I really don’t need this.” It’s even harder, once you’ve managed to say that, to get RID of it!

Yes, I could do a number of runs to the dumpster, but I prefer to take the time to find a way for those things that might be useful for others have a chance at reuse. Towards that end, unwanted books are going to a local free book exchange, clothes to a local rescue mission (and before you say “Wait! Aren’t you supporting a religion?” – yes, I am, slightly, but the local rescue mission makes sure ALL donations goes to those who need it – administration is funded through a completely separate fundraising stream – and there is no secular charity nearby that will redistribute the things I want reused), and anything else goes to my local – secular! – re-use enterprise: Urban Ore. To date, completely off the top of my head, I’ve rid my home of over 2 TONS of “stuff”, of which less than 200 lbs has gone to the landfill!

So how do I end up both living small, yet still enjoying my love of cooking? Answer: A Tiny House Community! One that I design myself. Because of zoning laws that are still stuck in the “American Dream” mode, it’s likely to be – on paper – an RV park. Yes, an RV park! But it won’t be the RV parks you see on the road, where people in huge RV’s stay while they travel around the country in gas spewing behemoths. Nor will it be what probably comes to your mind when I say “Trailer Park” – although it will likely consist of tiny homes built on trailers. It will have a hot tub with community showering facilities – which let’s people get clean without having to deal with a cramped shower or sit-bath in their individual homes – and the hot tub can be a focus of casual interaction with your neighbors. It will have laundry facilities, probably coin operated, definitely with LOTS of line drying space. It will have a common building with a well equipped kitchen, dining/lounging facilities. Perhaps – almost definitively – a shop. Common outdoor space with enough grass for the play we as Americans are accustomed to, but also with community food gardens. Most tiny houses built on trailers have the main (and almost always only) entry on the “back” of the trailer. These will be parked, backed in to a common COVERED walkway that connects a group of “spaces” to the common areas.

Ach. Again, I could go on with many details, but I’m still at the brainstorming stage. But there is one more thing I want to mention: Bike Parking.

Bike parking? Where did that come from? Well, that’s the final change in MY life that I want to tell you about.

As many of you know, one of my Peregrination goals was to get in shape. And as many of you know, that didn’t happen on the Peregrination. But it is happening now! Since the end of September, I’ve biked 123 out of the last 125 days – the only 2 non-biking days were due to illness. I’ve gone from gasping for breath after a fairly slow 3 mile ride to routinely riding over 10 miles. I’ve equipped my bike with cargo storage that allows me to do most of my shopping by bike. Since the Peregrination ended I’ve put over 1,050 miles on my bike – and only 1,200 miles on my car! At a guess, at least 400 of those automobile miles occurred before I started pedaling, and the remaining 800 include 1 trip to Sacramento (~200 miles round trip, including local travel in Sacramento) and quite a few far shorter trips with the car filled with books for the exchange or other stuff for Urban Ore or the Rescue Mission.  I’m only using the car to shop when I’m buying something that’s outside my normal biking range (about once/week), or going to a daytime event that isn’t well served by transit, or an event that starts or ends in the dark (as I’m not yet comfortable riding at night.) Also, I have yet to bike on a shopping trip where I’ll need to carry eggs. There’s enough potholes and poor pavement conditions between home and the places that I shop that I quite worried that eggs won’t survive the trip – no matter how well I might try to package them. I’m probably being paranoid here, but egg shopping hasn’t added to my car use as I integrate it with other car trips.

And I am getting into shape. In fact, I’m rushing to finish this post so I can try to do a 30 mile ride today! My current “best” is 25 miles, but I’ve got to start pushing it farther. Why? Glad you asked!

I’ve blogged every ride I’ve done since the end of September on my OTHER blog: Me and My Bike Sunday. Early on, I announced a goal: By the time the 2014 Eat Real Fest in Oakland rolls around, I’ll travel to and from it (13 miles each way) by bike. Well, that isn’t until the end of September, and I already have no doubt that (barring catastrophe) I’ll meet that goal easily. Thus it’s time for something more ambitious. And I’m very close to deciding what that goal will be: Take the 2014 California Climate Ride as part of the team from Transform - a non-profit centered around sustainability through transit and land use that I wholeheartedly support (and would LOVE to work for!). My ride today will be part of training for this 250 mile ride over 4 days in late May.

But I want your help – and your encouragement! I’ve promised that I will go for it if — nah, I have faith in my family and friends — WHEN I’ve received $300 in pledges to donate to Transform. So far, with only one tweet, I’ve got $50 pledged. I don’t want your money now! Nor to I want you to EVER send me money. What I want is your promise to support a good cause (Transform) as a way of encouraging me to keep getting healthier by adopting the goal of my participating in this ride,

So please, Pledge! How? Any way you want! Here are a few good ways:

  • Post a comment on this blog post with the amount you pledge
  • Email me (if you have my email) with the amount you pledge
  • On Twitter, publicly pledge an amount in a tweet directed at me: @sjdorst. Or if you want to be private AND I follow you, make it a DM.
  • Send me a LinkedIn message

I’m hoping to do another blog post over the weekend with more hoped for details of my RV park. I HAVE to do some brainstorming as I have a Tuesday meeting with a Tiny House advocate to educate myself as to the challenges I’ll face. But for now, I have to get on the bike!

Thanks – and remember to pledge!

Steve.

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  1. 31 Jan 2014 at 10:31

    First I have to tell you, I really admire you for trying to live your values. That is something I have thought about for so long. I don’t think I will ever get it together to do so. Also, getting rid of personal possessions is a HUGE DEAL. That’s a big step and I’m proud of you for doing it. If you still have N Scale or HO train stuff, send me an e-mail. My husband had to sell most of his years ago during an econimic crisis, I would love to replace what he had to sell. If I can afford it, I will buy some or all. Last but not least, Austin is building a tiny house community. Housing here is very expensive, it’s an answer to getting people a roof over their heads at a price they can afford. There is one community being built and “micro apartments” are also being utilized here in the downtown area. You may be able to look at them on-line for ideas. Keep on keepen on.

    Love,

    Melissa

  2. 31 Jan 2014 at 11:21

    ha Steven such an enjoyable read. I’m so glad we are on each other’s side. Not the nutty kind.

  1. 31 Jan 2014 at 16:12

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