Saturday, June 18, 2016

Living Small(er)

My new and humble abode at the dealership - washed and ready for my New RV Owner's Class
Ah, the next challenge. How, why or should I even attempt to live full time in a home so small? The answer always comes back, "Why not?" Life is an adventure, isn't it? I don't have to report to work daily. I surely have enough housewares from a two bedroom apartment to make it work. In fact, I'll have to rid myself of a lot of collected ... stuff.

Several years ago, I decided that I had a lot to do before I could even attempt it to live smaller. I just had too much stuff -  material things that I purchased for one reason or another, for needs real or imagined, to make me happy or perhaps even less sad. Who knows? It would be a big job, but I had to start somewhere. Immediately, we all think, "Yard Sale". I did too, at first.

My initial downsizing target would be my collected media. I had three bookcases full of media, not counting the storage area underneath my entertainment center furniture. Let's start with my VHS tape collection. Internet research revealed that I could purchase a "gizmo" that would wire-in a VHS tape player into my computer and then burn a DVD from there. Effective, but cumbersome, time consuming and utilizing too many resources for some old movies and TV shows that I recorded from Cable TV .. once upon a time and not always at best quality mode. Some I wanted to keep, other programs, I didn't. Editing would be ongoing.

The method I chose was to purchase a VHS/DVD Recorder/Player from Sony. Put the tape in one side and a blank DVD in the other side, follow the directions and then, "Let the games begin". It worked. I had lots of homey-tapes, but I also had lots of purchased movies that I wouldn't copy .. illegal, you know. I thought I'd sell them, but selling VHS tapes in a Blu-Ray DVD World is tough.

I gave them to my brother in Tennessee, who had decent cable TV access on his hilltop land, but (like me) sometimes you just want to get into a story without commercials every 8-minutes. Altogether, I had four Banker's Boxes of neatly stacked tapes. It took my spare time for an entire winter. Some people collect other things, but I collect media. Had I lived 100 years ago, I'm sure I would have had a pretty large library.

Oh, my books ... What about them?

So, the next winter, in a similar process, I converted all my cassette tapes to mp3 music files. That was another tedious project. My Windows XP-driven desktop computer took this moment to die. I completed this project on my Windows Vista-driven laptop. Connecting the cassette player to the computer was easy enough, but the conversion process created ONE file for the whole side of the tape. So I had Side A and Side B for each cassette that I copied. This process also created very large files in WAV format. So, each side had to be split and renamed for each song title on the album. Then WAV files had to be converted to mp3 files and the original WAV files deleted. Not only that, but meta-data had to be filled-in for each song so that they could be easily filed and cross-referenced in my iTunes software. Whew! I'm glad that's over.

Years later, I find myself this summer, engaged in a similar project with some great old, out-of-print, 33-1/3 LP vinyl albums that my friend, Steve, had for sale in his Antique Mall business. I freaked out at some of the great old Jazz, Big Band and other genres that over the years I've come to appreciate. Here's an old Louis Armstrong album that was given to radio stations as a promotion - not available in stores, as they say. Definitely a rainy day project, but very worthwhile. (Psst. I also got "Abbey Road" for free.) It's a similar process to the cassette tape conversions in almost every respect except using a special turntable. The bonus is that you get to hear each song played while in the capture process. 

The computer does all the work, but keep that album jacket handy to input meta-data.
The DVDs in my collection were a different matter. I just wanted to cut the labels out - preserving as much cover art as possible - to allow them to fit inside a DVD folio. Once done, I took two large plastic bags full of DVD cases to a plastic recycling bin. Ta-Dah! Downsized. That dismissed and reduced my entire media collection to a few folios, a few boxes of DVDs and CDs and many gigabytes of music incorporated into iTunes on my computer hard drive.

Oh, my books? What about them?

The furniture would have to be sold and clothing would have to be pared down to just the good stuff. It was weird to know that I'd never see that ragged old T-shirt and sweatshirt that were more comfortable because they had been lived-in, but I would need lots of cleaning rags ... maybe. The good stuff, I donated.

Dishes, pots and pans -  how many would I need and do I break up the service for 8 set, complete with serving pieces? Tough call, but I'd cross that issue later.

So, by now, you get the idea. It isn't a new idea at all. People think it is, but I remember reading Henry David Thoreau and how he lived so small, to live deliberately and unencumbered. It made an impression on me then and it still does.

Henry David Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond (replica)
Not bragging, but my camping trailer is bigger than Thoreau's cabin, but I don't have a fireplace. 

I still can't decide about many of my collected books. Some, I've donated. Some, I've gifted to my grandchildren. Some, I just can't part with now, so I'll carry them until I can't carry them any longer.

Hey, I guess that could describe me.... maybe.

Take care, be cool and stay tuned-in.



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