Monthly Archives: October 2017

The truth about living in a tiny house

A little over a year ago, my husband and I moved into a tiny house.

I welcomed the chance to downsize our lives. I envisioned paring down to a few, simple necessities, all within arm’s reach. I would discard all the rest, like nail clippings, into the nearest trash receptacle. My life would be streamlined, elegant, efficient, speedy.

Fast forward to last week, when I was looking for my bangle skirt to complete my skelly dancer costume.

“Honey, have you seen my hip scarf skirt thing with the coins on it?”

“Did you look in the attic?”

“Yes, it’s not there.”

“How about the shed? There’s a few boxes out there.”

“Nope.”

“The camper?”

“Seriously?”

We then quickly ran through all the rest of the possibilities, including my studio, both vehicles and the storage unit. It took a while. And then I realized the awful truth.

We had traded in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home where, even if I couldn’t find something right away, I knew it was ultimately going to be somewhere within a single building, for a tiny house and its seven additional storage units.

This was not efficient. This was not elegant. This is not acceptable.

How did this happen?

The same way everything happens. In tiny, almost unnoticeable steps. Like the oblivious frog slowly boiling to death in a soup pot, I fear my life is being sucked away, minute by minute, in search of things that I know I have, but just can’t find right this second. Come with me on a magical tour of all our extra storage spaces…

The (Official) Storage Unit

You don’t go from great big ranch house to tiny cottage without having a place to put all the stuff you couldn’t sell at the moving sale. The official storage unit is located 28 minutes away, which is inconvenient for Steve, who’s retired and stays home most days, but on the way to my studio, which is inconvenient for me because I hate having to go there.

The Shed

This is certainly more convenient than the storage unit because it’s in the back yard, however, my handy husband set about transforming it from a shed for yard tools into a retreat/workshop. He partitioned it, insulated it and filled it with woodworking tools, tie dye supplies, concrete sculpture stuff, guitar, computer, a desk, and a comfortable chair. Now it’s a very nice space for doing what a man’s got to do in the comfort and privacy of his den. However, it’s no longer a shed.

The Shed Addition

Because the non-shed is busy being a den, Steve’s building a lean to that’s going to hold all the things that used to be stored in the shed, like the lawn mower, the ladders, the gardening tools, shovels and bags of dirt.

The Camper

Gotta have one because one of these days, we’re going to pack up and head down the road to who knows where to have the best time ever. It’s just we have these dogs, one of whom is really uncomfortable traveling to anywhere new, and the other who’s a consummate escape artist. No problem, just drop them at the kennel, except the darn kennel owners expects us to pay for that, and the truck only gets 10 miles to the gallon when it’s pulling the camper, so maybe not a really long road trip, but if you’re just going one county over, then why bother camping? A day trip will do and we may as well take the dogs because it’s a beautiful day and they like walking in the woods as much as we do.

So the camper is now a storage unit for all our camping gear, plus extra kitchen items, like dishes and silverware and a bottle opener. Oh, and that cute string of skull lights that our neighbor down the street got us, and the lawn chairs that don’t fit in the non-shed or the lean-to, plus it’s really handy for overnight guests, since we no longer have a spare bedroom. Besides, the dogs won’t be around forever, and then we’re really going to tow it somewhere fun.

The Studio

My first studio space was large and we had dreams of splitting it equally between my work and Steve’s hobbies, but after a particularly awkward episode involving some odiferous mushrooms and multiple drying racks, we decided it was just going to be for me. Then I moved into an even smaller space and it really became just mine, all mine. Except it’s got the filing cabinet in there, so it’s mine all mine, unless something needs to be filed, and then it’s both of ours.

The Vehicles

We have two of those and the things they store all depends on what’s being moved from one of the other satellite storage units to another. For instance, my van currently has about 4,000 postcards in it, left over from ArtPrize Nine. Don’t ask me why I printed so many. I’m trying to use them for other things. Maybe to wallpaper a wall in my studio? Steve’s truck holds lots of truckworthy things like firewood, a chainsaw, bins with more camping supplies, mushroom hunting paraphernalia, fishing poles, and sometimes, the dog bag with the long leashes and portable water dish, plus cans and cans of Deet. Oh, and last week, it had my skelly dancing costume in it.

The Upshot

I still like living in a tiny house, even though I’ve stopped believing in the whole bare necessities only way of life thing. It might work if you were just starting out, before you’d had a chance to amass all these completely necessary things. But right now, at this stage of mine and Steve’s lives, we need our stuff, ergo, we need our satellite storage units.

We’re at the age where you’re not only more aware of time passing, but you’re also equally aware you’re running out of it. All those things you meant to do are now things that you’d better get done before it’s too late. Our stuff is more important to us than ever, because it represents a life we still plan on having, as soon as we remember where we stored it.

 

Tiny cat pastel painting is perfect for a tiny house.

©2017 Marie Marfia “In Memoriam,” 7×5″ pastel, $75.

 

 

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Still not famous…

…but I’m okay with it.

Earlier this spring, when I was juried into ArtPrize Nine, I hoped this would be the event that put my skellies on the map. I was gonna get 1,000 new sign ups for my newsletter. I hoped to sell not just one, but all seven original paintings. I imagined being carried through the streets of Grand Rapids by my adoring fans in one of those little tent things on poles.

When I walked into my official venue at the bitter end coffeehouse on the first night of ArtPrize Nine, ostensibly to see how my paintings had been hung, but secretly hoping someone would point at me and yell, “Look! It’s her! The artist who made all these awesome skelly paintings! Oh, please, would you sign my coaster?” there was a huge line out the door and every table was occupied. I held my breath. But as it turned out, everyone there was either doing homework or standing in line for coffee.

I thought, is it possible I have seriously overestimated the importance of skelly paintings in the minds of perfect strangers?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I didn’t win ArtPrize Nine. I also didn’t get a thousand new names on my mailing list. I didn’t sell any of my original skelly paintings. And, adding insult to injury, no one carried me through the streets in a giant palanquin.

Does this mean ArtPrize was a disappointment? Of course not.

Every day that I was there was a great day. Lots of friends and family stopped by to drink coffee with me and chat. My brother and his wife put aside a cold beer with my name on it every evening. My husband picked up my slack so I could be away every weekend during the show. My mom even refrained from telling me how much she doesn’t like skeletons when I’d stop by to give her an update, which was kind of amazing, really. She’s nearly 95 and doesn’t have many governors left.

To everyone who took the time to come and see me, who smiled and encouraged me and told me they were proud of me for participating in the biggest art show in the world, I just want you to know that it was you that made the event worthwhile for me.

Putting my stuff out there for a chance at fame and fortune may have been my original motivation, but friends and family turned it into something way better. Success is not about the quantity of people who love me, it’s about the quality of that love. I’ll never forget how lucky I am to have all of you in my corner. Thank you.

Faces of ArtPrize Nine

Below are some of my favorite pictures from ArtPrize Nine. You guys all rock my world.

Selfies are harder than they look…

Pie!

Just take the freakin’ picture!

That’s better!

Thanks for making me feel like a big deal.

Last, but not least, one of my favorite sculptures from ArtPrize Nine. This crazy bird is just a tiny part of why I was happy to be included in ArtPrize Nine. See you at ArtPrize Ten!

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Sometimes you cry

While in child’s pose this morning I was thinking about the portraits of my children, Sam and Nick, that I have hanging in my studio. (I’d have a portrait of Alice there, too, but I haven’t yet produced one that I like well enough to frame. It’s on my to-do list.)

Pastel portrait of a young man.

©Marie Marfia, Nick, No. 74, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

Hanging the portraits inside my studio was supposed to put a smile on my face every day. Nick’s because he’s grinning ear to ear. The photo reference is from a picture I took after watching him open up presents on his birthday. Sam’s portrait is not so cheerful. She’s looking off to one side and her expression is either suspicious or worried or both. This is a typical look for her. I just like it because I think she’s beautiful even when she looks like that.

Pastel portrait of a young woman.

©Marie Marfia, Sam, No. 75, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

Yesterday I looked up and saw those two faces and basically fell apart. I miss them a lot.

They’re off living their own lives. Nick’s 23 and independent and looking for work in Florida. Sam is 26 and trying like hell to have a writing career out in Connecticut. I’m proud to know both of them, I just wish I heard from them more often, a common enough complaint when you’re a parent.

Yesterday’s break down is partly me being emotional at the end of a longish day and also because I recently attended a funeral for my cousin’s daughter who died at age 25.

Pastel portrait of a young woman.

©Marie Marfia, Alice, No. 68, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

You know what the worst thing about young peoples’ funerals is? There aren’t that many stories to share about them. They just didn’t live long enough. There are only short vignettes about overnight trips with the track team, or a prank they pulled while they were visiting their family two weeks prior. And all their friends are there, all the same age as the dead person. They’re devastated and crying and in shock. And watching the family try to figure it all out breaks your heart.

There should be tons of stories, years’ worth of them. Not just two or three. People are supposed to live longer than 25 years. Especially people who are the children of other people.

Of course I wanted to hug my kids after that. Alice is near by so pretty easy to reach out and touch her, thankfully, but for Sam and Nick I had to be satisfied with emails. Nick doesn’t always pick up the phone when I call. He’s probably thinking I want a progress report on whether he’s found work or not. Sam doesn’t have a phone. I don’t know why, she just doesn’t. She’s an idiot that way.

In the emails I reminded them that I loved them and missed them and they didn’t have my permission to die before me. Not that I have any control over that whatsoever. I just wanted to go on the record as having an opinion about it. Honestly? I’m sure I’ve told them all this before, but funerals for other people’s kids have a way of bringing these issues to the forefront of my mind.

So now I’m debating whether to take the portraits down. I know Nick and Sam are fine and I’ll be fine, too. It’s just, right now, it’s hard. People die, some through no fault of their own. I know one thing, I’m going to hug my kids, every chance I get, even if it’s just an email hug. It’s better than no hugs at all.

I guess I’ll leave the portraits up. Try to remind myself to enjoy my kids while I’ve got them. I’m grateful for that, even if it does make me cry now and then.

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