Small House Magic


How much do I really need?

That was the question I asked myself as the calendar left 2010 and I turned sixty-one. My life wasn’t working. The numbers I scrawled in my journal every morning didn’t add up to an early retirement – more like no retirement – ever. Too many bills. Too much debt. Too little IRA.

As blizzards stormed through that January, the thought of another winter in Minnesota gave me cold sweats. It wasn’t just the sixteen-hour arctic darkness, or icey steets, or no parking so the plow could get through that I dreaded. Or snow snow and more snow, or shoveling off the roof, the driveway, the sidewalk, or frozen pipes, broken pipes, ankle-length down coat over layers of fleece, socks, boots, hats, mittens, heating bills, aching joints. It was all that and more that made it unbearable.

And…I…was…over…it.

So when the numbers didn’t add up to the right answer, I tried a different question. How much do I really need? That sentence hounded me. The truth stared me in the face. I needed very little and had way too much. The weight of my belongings crushed me. I was imprisoned by abundance.

I’m a Capricorn – a goat-like being with stubborn drive and dogged persistence toward a goal – the top of the mountain will do. Without that vision it’s a slippery slide into grumpy discontent. I was teetering perilously close to the pit. But one thing was clear: I had to purge possessions.

Was it easy to let go of prized belongings? Not the Ralph Lauren farmhouse table. I knew if I could part with that I could part with anything. So I took photos and put it on Craigslist. It sold within hours. I whirled and whooped in the space where it had been and paid off two-thirds of my credit card debt. I couldn’t get rid of the remaining treasures fast enough. By winter of 2011 everything I owned fit into three plastic bins and a suitcase.

Debt-free from sales of all the unnecessary excess I could afford to dream. Without the responsibility of stuff I could go anywhere. I’d vacationed in Bali several years earlier. As I journaled through that December, visions of terraced rice paddies and swaying palms floated through my mind. Could I retire early and move there? My 62nd birthday was a month away. On March 1, 2012, a week before the first Social Security check came, my plane touched down on the Island of the Gods.

I took some risks those first years – used every dime of savings to lease a parcel of land in the center of Ubud and renovate the old house that sat on it. I knew nothing about building in Bali but I drafted plans for a major overhal and the patient crew told me I’d drawn walls too high to sustain earthquakes. They would build them for me if I wanted, but just FYI. Back to the drawing board…literally! Finished, my new apartment was a hair shy of 500 sq. ft. and it was perfect.

There’s magic in small spaces. Since upkeep is minimal, I have time and energy to do all the things I love. I possess only items I want to look at because there’s no place to store anything else. I get fresh produce daily because my small fridge will accommodate only one day’s fruits and veggies. I eat simple meals because I don’t own a microwave or an oven. I save money because it’s less expensive to care for 500 sq. ft. than it is to maintain a mini-mansion.

That leap into the unknown has changed me. How could it not? I no longer have to cope with winter. I love my tiny house, my giant view, and the wild freedom to live life full throttle. But to get here…

I had to take that leap.

The custom teak table and chairs do dual duty: desk and dining. Behind the carved door is my only closet…gulp!
The kitchen is compact and functional. I love the hand-carved apron and the hand-woven under-counter storage baskets.
The dorm-size refrigerator tucks under the counter. The only other appliances are a blender and yogurt maker.
During the day the doors slide open to give the breezes and butterflies free access.
The daybed (original paint) was buried under logs and branches in the corner of Ketut’s family’s woodcarving shed. His father made it years ago for his growing family. I’d been looking all over Bali for exactly that! It’s my sofa.
The queen-size bed faces east. I love waking up at 6:30 to the sunrise!
Sometimes the first thing I do when I open my eyes is grab my camera.
I’m standing in the shower to take this photo of my sweet 4′ x 6′ bathroom.
The shower occupies the far end.
The ceiling peaks at 20 feet and lends volume and beauty to the simple room.
And my view over Ubud’s rooftops…to die for!

26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. tizzietime@aol.com
    Apr 02, 2019 @ 22:53:49

    Dear Sherry, Thanks for showing”us” your home. It makes it so much easier to imagine your life.I am a friend of Gary and Gabriel’s. Gary and I have been dear friends for more than 30 years and I have been told about your journey. I empathize with a lot of what you have to say and truly look forward to your blog. Thanks for many things,Sandy Perkins

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. Lottie Nevin
    Apr 02, 2019 @ 23:44:13

    Love love love your house. I’m so glad that you took that leap, Sherry. What a beautiful and inspiring woman you are 🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Kate
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 00:34:35

    I love seeing how you did all this, Sherry! I downsized as well into 610 sq. ft., but I find I’m still holding on to too much… both physically and emotionally. It helps so very much to hear and see how you have parted with what you knew for so long. We are approximately the same age; with family in the States. (I am in Seattle and know that something is urging me to make a leap and experience somewhere else). Your writing is generous and self-reflective for me; I so wish we could sit down over tea and talk about life!

    Liked by 1 person

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 03, 2019 @ 07:22:40

      I know! Even with seriously reduced space it’s easy to continue to acquire! I’ve made a rule that I can only buy something if I truly love it, but my loves seem to be outgrowing places to put them! Sitting down with interesting people and talking about life – or anything for that matter – is one of my favorite sports! Maybe you and I will do that one day…!

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  4. Sharon Lyon
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 00:42:53

    It is so beautiful Sherry. I’m so pleased to have seen the before and after process. Bold move. Great life.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. lindaharris1948
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 01:19:54

    This is so beautiful! We should go visit her!

    >

    Liked by 1 person

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  6. Barbara Parcells
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 02:21:13

    I love this! I downsized 4 years ago and I’ll never go back to the way I used to live. I now occupy 400 square feet in a sweet little studio apartment with a view of hills, trees and cute old houses up and down the block. At almost 70, I’m loving my life more now than ever!

    Liked by 2 people

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  7. slanglee
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 04:55:45

    Sherry —

    I read all of your posts and I must say this is one of my favorites! Your little slice of heaven looks so perfect….

    Susan

    On Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 9:13 AM writing for self-discovery wrote:

    > writingforselfdiscovery posted: ” How much do I really need? That was the > question I asked myself as the calendar left 2010 and I turned sixty-one. > My life wasn’t working. The numbers I scrawled in my journal every morning > didn’t add up to an early retirement – more like no reti” >

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 04, 2019 @ 18:51:39

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Susan, and I can’t wait to have you visit Bali later this year! This is obviously my ‘happy place’ and I never tire of writing about the experiences of living here. Thanks for commenting!

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  8. Lisa
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 10:40:42

    Hi Sherry, love your post and your apartment! I’ve been reading your blog for a while and it’s so inspiring! I live in Perth Western Australia and love Bali, particularily Ubud, in fact my husband and I were married there. I am not retirement age yet (early 50’s with a teenager) but I can definitely see the appeal of retirement in Bali, or perhaps just for the Perth winters. Would love to see some pics of your apartment at night, I find Bali at nightime so beautiful.

    Liked by 1 person

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 04, 2019 @ 19:04:45

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for reading my posts! Until I moved to Bali I had never met anyone from Australia. It seems strange to me now since most of my ex-pat friends here are Australian. I envy them their quick commute to visit family in comparison with my grueling 30-hour journey to the States. It makes so much sense for you to retire here.

      I’d be happy to post night photos if my phone took better ones!

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  9. Jan
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 11:35:51

    So fun to see the beautiful, completed project–how different (and wonderful) than when I was there during the project! I’m so glad you’re still loving everything about Bali. Amazing that in a few days, most all of my family will have visited you :-).

    Liked by 2 people

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  10. healingpilgrim
    Apr 03, 2019 @ 13:18:13

    Such a warm and cozy space you carved out for yourself! Tiny houses / spaces rule 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  11. Anonymous
    Apr 15, 2019 @ 22:35:46

    STUFF! OMG! I completely get it. I live in a 1920.s building, my apt is 1,750 sq ft, I use the massive living room to store most my Vintage Clothing Collection. I have 10 of those huge Space Bags along with a nice sized storage unit that I rent from my building. I have a custom over sized Cherry Mahogany bed, it is larger than a Cali King. I look around and I am overwhelmed. I have promised myself that when I retire I am only taking luggage. I’ve set a goal to open an online store this year and start a blog about my vintage collection. I have been in my apt for 27 years. Did I say that I was overwhelmed LOL!

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    • writingforselfdiscovery
      Apr 15, 2019 @ 23:01:46

      And once your online store has successfully sold the Vintage Clothing Collection, and you’ve disposed of the 10 Space Bags and the oversized Cherry Mahogany bed…then what? What is the dream fueling these radical steps toward change?

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      • Sondra Jackson
        Apr 16, 2019 @ 22:50:36

        Hi Sherry, I forgot to sign in before I posted that comment. My plan is still the same to get out of the US. If my cat is still alive then it’s Thailand or Vietnam, if she isn’t then it’s straight to Bali. The part of your story where you talked about downsizing really clicked with me. We accumulate so much STUFF, especially us women. I do not need over 100 pairs of shoes, but I have them and hardly wear any of them. I am craving something much much simpler life than I do in Los Angeles. I want to once again tap into my creative side, designing clothes and I want to learn how to make jewelry. I want to walk and never get behind the wheel of a car again and I want to travel, not to Italy, France etc, been there done that many times. This time I want India, Nepal, I want to throw away my comfort zone.

        Liked by 1 person

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