By Jacki Michels, for the Redoubt reporter
When we were first married, I announced to my husband, “I have an idea!”
That idea led us to living in a very remote cabin in Southeast Alaska with four children under 5 and no running water (unless it rained and filled the cistern). Wahooo! It was hard and awful and truly the best of times.
A few years ago I made a similar announcement, “I have an idea!” We agreed on this “idea.” We sold our suburban mansion of 1,500 square feet and traded up for 325 square feet of log loveliness and an amazing upgrade on outdoor elbowroom. No, we’re not a boat ride away from civilization and we have running water so we don’t qualify for own reality show. (Darn. There goes my chance to be a millionaire.)
The other day I did some rough calculations. Once I subtracted the stove, cabinetry, beds and so on we had approximately 125 square feet of actual unoccupied space, divided by three persons and three fur creatures, that leaves about 20.83 feet per being, give or take boot driers, fishing/hunting/musical gear or other seasonal trappings.
In our spare time (Ha ha! Like we actually have spare time) we are building a slightly larger log cabin. The first cabin will be a weaning pen for our youngest and a storage facility for company. We have never built a log cabin before, but we once had company for a month. That’s THIRTY days!
And we are still married. (Applause.)
Before we started this craziness, we heard horror stories about couples arguing over paint swatches and fixture styles. So, from the start, we decided it was going to be challenging enough without adding more insanity. It is our dream cabin, so why turn it into a nightmare?
Our tiny cabin has been a wise teacher. A few lessons:
1) It’s very freeing to live with less junk. Because once you drag those little trinkets and treasures home they quickly disintegrate into junk. Junk leads to messes, messes lead to chaos and chaos leads to unhappiness. Therefore “stuffage” equals unhappiness.
2) The lack of cable TV is a gateway drug that leads to more reading.
3) It’s wise to buy the very best cat litter you can afford.
Last fall we notice the holidays marching toward us like a herd of locusts seeking to devour that last bit of personal space we possessed. Wrapping paper. Tape. Lights. Bake sale goodies. Potentially hundreds of articles of stuffage were campaigning to pressure us into purchasing MORE peace on earth and good ol’ American commercialism toward credit card companies. Terrifying!
Then, like the Grinch, we got an idea — an awful idea. We got a wonderful, awful idea. We would give gifts as they were needed and enjoy them. No particular day. Our loot consisted of custom teas, specialty soaps, a quality tea strainer, several book series we can trade around, jumper cables, flashlights and a few certificates for an afternoon of thrifting at the used bookstore. What an incredible savings — er, I mean, haul!
Now we can relax, bake up a few goodies, read and sip our teas as we celebrate our faith and enjoy our family.
- Grounds for Divorce No. 3,486-3,495.3: Getting excited about the mysterious brown paper baggie on the table only to discover it was nail plates. Nail plates! NAIL PLATES! Not chocolate eclairs! The chocolate eclairs with that soft whipped scrumptious filling that I was HINTING about the day before! The ones your wife HINTED would be a nice surprise!! She was not surprised.
- Grounds for Divorce No. 3,496: Trying to locate a man in a camouflage coat, wearing a ball cap in the sporting goods store on black Friday, only days after the discussion regarding thanks giving as opposed to thanks getting. (Side note: While at the sporting goods store, the clerk inquired if he could help me locate anything. I replied, “My husband.” He asked with a grin, “What model are you looking for?” I couldn’t help myself. “The old, used model whose warranty is outdated.”)
Jacki Michels is a freelance writer who lives (and loves) in Soldotna.