I have had a stagnant winter. I know in advance and through experience that winter is always a hard season for me. The cold and the darkness are imposing and affect every area of my life. I barely treaded water through Lent and the Easter season.
I’ve been feeling particularly challenged by my tiny house. I moved into it two years ago, and I loved the space initially and through the first year of my lease. It was a perfect little house, set back from the street as a second unit owned by the homeowner. The dogs seemed to like it, though it was a tight squeeze for the three of us. It was cozy, everything was accessible, and the limited space meant that I had limited storage, which was good for me in my attempts to maintain a simple and uncluttered lifestyle.
This past year the space has felt much more cramped. With the change in my position at work, I needed a true office space, which was not possible where I lived. My landlord began construction on the back yard, which was my front yard, in the middle of the winter, which meant that there was mud everywhere.
Every time it rained, the situation was exacerbated. The dogs tracked unavoidable mud into the house constantly, I was dodging puddles and ruining numerous rugs and pairs of shoes, and the noise was nearly constant on my days off. That, paired with the fact that my dogs react to every noise as a possible threat, was affecting my sleep and ability to truly decompress between shifts at my incredibly intense job. I began to feel “closed in on” with no room or place to rest or put my work life on hold, as all things collected on the kitchen counter or on the tiny desk I had in the corner.
I considered buying a house, but the price of living here in Austin is continually increasing. So I ruled that out pretty quickly. But I knew I needed a change. I began to look at a different rental, but I was also missing the chance to garden and have a yard. I have been lucky in the past to have lived in houses or apartments with front yards where my love of gardening has been cultivated. But for the last 6 years I’ve been in apartments or units with no yard or garden.
Gardening, working with my hands in an active way and seeing the growth of color and life, has been a big help to me when I have felt significantly depressed. Applying myself to something completely different, outside of myself and engrossing, has been therapeutic. I have missed it for the last six years, and have missed the outdoor space that comes with it.
In the middle of March, I decided I had to make a change. I was not sure about it, but I got to tour a 2-bedroom place with a great sized front and back yard, a perfect guest-room space/office, two separate living areas, and a real kitchen separate from the dining and living rooms. It was a bit worn down and needed some love, the front and back yards were completely overgrown and weeds covered the entire front of the house. The yard had not been mowed in months. The price was a bit steep, but with some smart saving I would be able to meet the rent.
I decided to take the plunge, and I slowly started collecting furniture, packing everything into my tiny space. I moved at the end of May. The day I picked up the keys, I took a picture of the outside and the front yard, the “forest,” and started moving odds and ends. My sister flew in and helped with the big move, which was a marathon due to a scheduling snafu with the moving company, but we got it done. Over the weekend we organized and moved and tore apart the front yard, pruning and pulling weeds.
I instantly noticed the massive increase in space, as I unpacked and began to distribute furniture, artwork and set up a new bed in the guestroom. I filled the kitchen cupboards, and still had room left over for more things. I was able to sell and donate furniture, and kept telling myself I didn’t have to have things packed into a small space, since there was a room for everything now. I find myself still walking into the house and getting excited to see room in between furniture items, and only 2 piles of papers still to organize! The dogs took a liking to the huge area to run their zoomies, and ran and ran and ran around the back yard chasing each other. As soon as I could, I bought plants and soil and began to fill the front gardens with my purchases.
I got to revamp my walls and hand new sets of artwork, figuring out the best placement of furniture and arranging the rooms. Every day still, I come home from work or wake up with a list of things to do. Just yesterday, I put together my new battery-powered lawn mower and got to mow my front lawn for the first time in almost a decade. And I realized how much I had missed it!
Starting over in a new place, with more space and a fresh environment to decorate, has been massively refreshing. It feels like exiting a tunnel in many ways. I smile on my drive home. I look forward to waking up and sitting in my light-filled living room, cooking in my kitchen, spending time in the garden (very early so that I don’t get completely drenched in the humidity and heat), and just walking around the house breathing. I look at my quirky furniture and wonder at how much fun this has been, to start again and do one of my favorite things, make a house a home. It has energized me, given me joy and renewed my love of being in a space, making it beautiful and living in it.