The paradox of the fixed income (aka: Should I get a roommate?)

Living smaller is a choice. And being on a fixed income, such as for older people on Social Security with little retirement/savings – it is a necessity.

Many older people are now considering the option of having roommates or homesharing. Our culture has, for decades, encouraged individuals to be independent until starting their own families…so this is a difficult shift for many people and may feel like “going backward”. Especially as they have become used to their solitude, privacy, and routines.

Yet the financial reality is, that if you are in a big home with many bedrooms, it is a burden to care for and pay for. Even if you are lucky enough to have paid off your mortgage – utilities and taxes continue to climb, while your income is fixed.

And if you do not own property, rents continue to rise, as well as healthcare costs. While your income stays the same.

It is a “no-brainer” to look for roommates in your age group when finances are fixed. And there are some applications out there such as Silver Nest at www.silvernest.com  and Senior Home Shares at www.seniorhomeshares.com. But they are not yet well-known.

And of course, sharing a place is not for everyone – there are many considerations – such as:

  • Do you have pets?
  • Does the home-owner or apartment renter have pets?
  • What happens when you want to have visitors?
  • What about family?
  • What happens if there is a medical emergency?
  • What happens if the person you are renting from – dies?
  • What happens in the event of a natural catastrophe (earthquake, fire, etc)?
  • What happens if there is a burglary?

Plus is it truly a “roommate” arrangement with shared responsibilities or are you simply renting a room?

While you answer those questions for yourself, there are upsides to shared living for seniors:  Companionship and Safety.

You may not think you need to have someone to say “good morning” to, but it is good for your health to interact amiably with another human being; and if you have a roommate, and you have a medical emergency – there is someone there who can call for help. And surprisingly for some, having a roommate, ensures a few more years of independence.

So if you are on a fixed income, and thinking of living smaller to help make your dollars stretch a little further, consider a roommate.

 

 

Freecycle.org

Once every couple of years I do an article on Freecycle.org (established in 2003)- like this one I did on Narrative.org : https://www.narrative.org/post/the-freecycle-network-tm – and while I know that not everyone who tries to use this service has had a stellar experience, those bad experiences are the result of other users, not the service itself.

Their mission: “Freecycle aims to keep items out of landfills by providing an internet listings service to help people give unwanted items to someone else for free in their own community. Keeping stuff out of landfills helps build a sustainable future, is good for the environment and builds local and world communities.”

Since researching it again for my Narrative article, I noticed that the City I recently moved to had a post saying they were looking for moderators. I am currently a moderator-in-training for the Moreno Valley group.  If you browse the groups available, you will find that there are groups all over the United States and all over the world from Albania to Zimbabwe.

When you join one (or more) of the groups, the Moderator will send you a welcome email with all the rules and how-to’s. Very simple, and easy to use – if you have something you no longer need that is clean and safe – you can post it as an “Offer” if you need something – you can post it as a “Wanted”.

The rules specify the no-nos and they make perfect sense for safety and liability reasons. And the Moderators job is to make sure that those simple rules are adhered to, and to help publicize the service.

I support anything that keeps usable items out of the trash – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – and this is one of the ways we can all do that, while helping others.

A quick suggestion to you, gentle reader: If you know of a non-profit that looks for donations of goods (for example: old towels for animal rescues) – share Freecycle.org with them. It is one more way for them to get their message out and ask for the items they need. 

 

Cryptocurrency and living smaller

If you follow my blog, you are probably wondering about the nep-5 wallet and the links for cryptocurrency, and for those who have not already invested in Bitcoins, or looked into cryptocurrencies – I believe it will be a boon to you in your search for making a living while living your life.

Many people who are pursuing downsizing, do so because they are searching for ways to make the most of the salaries they are receiving, while keeping debt at bay. Some people pursue tiny living, in order to speed up paying off debts in the hopes of “getting out from under” the massive debts that seem to pervade our society. And once someone has “gone smaller” they seek ways to provide alternate incomes in case they are “downsized” at work, or when seeking to work less and live more.

Cryptocurrency has been around for awhile. Like many technologies, early adopters were more technically educated and could get their heads around shifting and expanding their definition of money.

After all, money is a symbol that we use to barter for goods and services. The days when that money had actual gold and/or silver to back up the stated value of the currency have passed away. (If you don’t believe me look at old money versus newly printed money. Example: a 1935 E series One Dollar Bill “silver certificate” is currently being sold for $299 dollars on Etsy.com).

Once the concept of cryptocurrency became well understood by the technologists of the world, many other cryptocurrencies were being created, and today there are as many (or more) cryptocurrencies out there as there are paper currencies.

What are some of the advantages of cryptocurrencies?

  1. They are faster to send and receive, and have lower (and sometimes no) extra fees to handle. So things like “remittances” being sent from one country to family in another country, can more easily be done with smaller amounts of money.
  2. Developers who create games, can establish an economy that is based on pennies (or fractional amounts of whatever currency) and still make money, because there are not those heavy bank fees to contend with.
  3. “Tipping” and “Donating” can happen worldwide, because the currency is easy to transport in the internet and easy to convert.

Some disadvantages are:

  1. You need to establish a wallet or wallets, virtually, to receive and send from; and the “key” to these is often a long string of characters, making it hard to remember and to secure. For example, if you keep your wallet on your computer and your computer crashes – boom, no money. You need to keep a copy of the wallet on a usb stick (also known as a thumb drive, or jump drive), in case – which means remembering to back things up regularly.
  2. Also, not all wallets work for all currencies, so you may wind up with a few wallets.
  3. The process of buying, transferring, and spending cryptocurrency; while it is “simple” is not EASY, and you must truly pay attention to the details, and be focused on what you are doing. Because if you transfer currency to a wallet that is not compatible, you will (usually) lose that currency. It is like putting your money in your pocket but your pants don’t actually have a pocket, so the money falls to the ground wherever you happen to be…

The fact is there are growing numbers of ways to make cryptocurrency on the internet, from connecting your blog to a browser that allows “tipping” in the form a the BAT cryptocurrency (Brave which also allows you to keep those intrusive popups and video autoplays that eat up your bandwidth) to sites that allow you to earn cryptocurrency with your original content (Narrative, Publish0x, Steemit) and the variety of mining sites (CryptoTab – a chrome compatible browser that mines Bitcoins while you browse) and faucets (sites that let you “collect” bitcoins during time intervals in the hopes that you will spend time playing games or looking at their advertisements). I am certain, as people become more comfortable with cryptocurrencies, we will see even more ingenious ways to make money with them.

And of course, there is the old fashioned approach, as well – which is investing in cryptocurrencies. A site like Coinbase,  allows you to invest and also keep your currency in the coinbase wallets. It doesn’t handle all currencies, but it does have some of the major players – plus while it lasts – they have instructional videos to teach about the various currencies, and once you have registered an account with them, you can go through the videos and earn some of the currency they are teaching you about.

If you are already making a living, or at least a side hustle that pays in cryptocurrency – please share you experiences!

If you have questions, ask them, and I’ll try to get you the answer.

Cryptocurrency is the next evolution in “money” – here’s hoping you have good experiences with it.

 

 

Circle Pond Tiny Home Community

Recently an article in the Tiny House newsletter caught my eye. It was about “A real tiny house community in Florida (not a vacation place)” located in Ruskin, Florida.

When I clicked on the article, I was immediately inspired to find out more about the woman – Debbie Caneen, who created this tiny community and how she did it. I also wanted to find out more about how someone with a tiny home should go about contacting her in order to join her community.

I reached out to Debbie and she immediately got back to me and agreed to let me interview her. We traded a couple more emails – I sent her my questions ahead of the scheduled phone call and we spoke on Saturday morning (June 15, 2019).

The moment you hear her voice you know that this cheerful woman juggles multiple projects and priorities with good grace. She seems to be the epitome of “The more you do, the more you get done”! We wasted no time getting into the nitty gritty of how her tiny home community came to be a reality.

Part 1.

Giving me some background on the area, Debbie told me that three miles east from her property is Sun City Center’s retirement community where it includes about 22,000 retirees; and the particular residential facility that she works for has 400 under one roof on any given day. In addition, in her role as President of the South Shore Coalition for Mental Health and Aging, she sees the growing requirement for services to and for the retiree demographic. The needed services for them, such as: food preparation, housekeeping, general living assistance, and more – are typically lower wage jobs, which presents a problem. Where will these support service people come from if there is no affordable housing available locally?

While pondering that question, serendipity arrived in the guise of a local realtor who made an announcement at a meeting she was attending, about a local investment property – a mobile home park. It sounded like something she should look in to.

The four and a half acre “park” had been on the market for over 3 years, and had six ancient and decrepit, yet occupied, mobile homes on the property. The pond at the center had been fenced in and overgrown – so much so that it was nearly impossible to see the water due to the algae grown covering it. The local offices of the county routinely cited the park for code violations. In short, it took a great deal of imagination to see this land for what it could be, and not walk away from what it was.

But Debbie is no stranger to hard work, or to tiny living. Having worked on 40 acres, farming earlier in life, and an avid lifetime sailor – she knew that the land could sustain determined people and she knew that tiny homes were livable and efficient. In her mind’s eye, she saw a community of tiny homes, with edible landscaping, and a community garden.  A place that would be affordable, and sustainable; a place where people could afford to live. Her vision was strong, and she began the process of due diligence and upon purchasing the property, rolled up her sleeves and dug in.

Part 2.

The hard work turned out to be the easy part. What caused her much soul-searching and many sleepless nights, was what to do about the six families currently living in the dilapidated park. These old structures were not only in disrepair, the costs for electricity to keep them cool in the Florida heat was more than most of these families could afford. Often they paid their utility bills and had nothing left for the rent. If Debbie had been a “run of the mill” developer, she might have simply hired a lawyer to evict these people and sent them on their way. Instead she worked out a way to help them move, speaking with each family and assisting them with their move to a new locale.

Once they were all moved away, then the process of clearing the land, breaking down and removing the old homes and trash, removing the fence around the pond, and cleaning the pond could begin.

The surrounding neighborhood loved seeing the evolution of the area from tired and a bit trash covered to a tidy oasis. With a community college close by, gas station, shopping, the Amazon Fulfillment Center and restaurants also within a couple of blocks, the Circle Pond Tiny Home Community is not only improved greatly, it gives other residents nearby a nice boost of intrinsic and real value.

Part 3.

I asked Debbie what advice she would give to others who might want to do what she has done; what did she wish she had known, or what would she have done differently. After a thoughtful pause to reflect, her answer was that since this whole project was pretty much new – to the county and to the city, she learned a lot just by trying to get things done. “You discover what you need to do as you need to do it.” If there was any one thing she would advise it would be to “Be Proactive! Imagine the worst case scenario and plan for that.” For example, while it isn’t a requirement for RV’s (how tiny homes are viewed on site) to be strapped down for hurricanes, she asks that the tenants strap down their homes for safety. That attention to details translates to a safer community.

She also went on to say, that whenever she hit a problem or a snag, she would let it alone for a while and go do something productive (like planting another fruit tree on the property) and often the answer or inspiration leading to the answer, would come to her. From her list of the fruiting trees that she has planted on the property, including (but not limited to) peaches, plums, avocados, pomegranates, jack fruit – and she named off lots more, I am guessing she had her fair share of obstacles and challenges. She happily mentioned that her belief is that if you are trying to help others, the answers will come. I have to agree, and the proof is there in her accomplishment!

What she has created on her four and a half acres, includes: 12 spaces for tiny homes, edible landscaping in the form of many fruit trees, a stocked pond and a community garden; with plans for 12 more spaces once the local city services pull in water lines and sewage – which should happen soon, since there is a town home development being built nearby.

The current resident’s average age is 34 and they are a true community of people who are helpful to each other and enjoy tiny living and organic gardening.

Each lot is 30 feet by 30 feet leveled crushed gravel, and the space rent is $450 a month which includes the utilities including electricity (except for wifi). You will have to bring your own tiny home, but you can situate it as you please in your space. There is parking for each space, and the community is dog friendly. A fenced dog park area is planned in the near future.

If you are interested in renting a space and joining her tiny community, or just would like to tour it in person, please contact her through her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TinyHomeOnWheels/ or email her at Info@circlepondtinycommunity.com to make an appointment to visit or have a phone call.

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If you have a “Living Smaller” story, or know of one – let me know. I’d love to interview you and share your story with the world.  Contact me Natalia Corres, at: Info@idea-storm.com 

 

 

The tiny house “craze”

More than a decade ago I was living in the Dallas area and reading the Sunday paper when I came across an article about Jay Shafer (founder of TumbleweedHouses.com). I’ll admit my eye was initially caught by the reference to Northern California’s Sebastopol – mostly because of my own love of that area of Northern California – having lived in Rohnert Park, just north of Sebastopol and Petaluma, just south of it.

My interest piqued, I was then enchanted by the concept of minimalist living – the tiny home he had built appealed to my inner child as well as my responsible adult self – as I could see how there would be far less resources used, and energy required to live in such a small home.

My interest in sustainable living had been firmly planted in my psyche from this one article – although I had been avidly interested in ecology and cleaning the environment even as a preteen.

Today I write about tiny living, have reduced as much as my family can, and continue to reuse, and recycle actively.

And I’ll be doing more writing on this and the zen of living smaller in 2019. 🙂 I hope you’ll stop by and share your experiences, as well.

Power Outages and You

No matter where you live, or what size house or apartment you live in, you should be prepared in case the power goes out.  Especially if you live in an area prone to extreme weather!

Preparation is the name of the game and can contribute greatly to your survival!

So before the big snowstorm, or the hurricane season, or the tornadoes hit – here are some things to get ready, if you can.

Take into consideration the amount of space you have for storing some of these items, many of them can fit in a large backpack, or plastic storage tub, which would fit into a closet easily enough (and also make it easier to grab and take with you, if you need to evacuate) – so let’s look at the stuff you can pack ahead of time, first:

Non-perishables:

  • a roll of duct tape
  • pocket knife
  • waterproof matches in a waterproof container and some candles
  • paper and pencil
  • small fire extinguisher
  • two signal flares
  • photocopies of: your pets vaccination and license records; any prescriptions for your family and/or pets; your ids (drivers license, passport)
  • a bit of cash (you decide how much you can set aside – just know if no power, no atm or ability to run a debit/credit machine.
  • a list of shelters/hotels that accept pets
  • emergency phone numbers (if your phone battery dies…)
  • toilet paper, tissues, sanitary napkins or tampons, diapers, if needed. a roll of poop bags for the doggydoo
  • extra leash and collar (if you have dogs)
  • manual can opener
  • utensils
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • 3 or 4 pair of clean socks (they can be used as mittens, in the cold. Or as potholders, in a pinch – if you are heating something up on a camping stove).
  • first-aid kit and antibiotic cream
  • if possible, a radio with batteries or hand-crank for power (something like this – click here)

If you have cats, keep your cat carriers with your emergency kit in same place. That way you can grab everything you need and go.

If you are a regular camper, keep your camping stove and camping gear stored with your emergency kit.

Also – if you are staying at your home, having these emergency supplies in one place makes it easier on you and your family.

Now the perishable items:

  • Try to keep a 3 day supply of water  available. That would be 1 gallon of drinkable water, per person or pet, per day. So 2 adults, 2 children and 1 dog = 5 gallons of water per day, times 3 days = 15 gallons of water. You can buy bottled water, or save plastic gallon containers (washed out of course) and fill when you a preparing for a storm that you know is coming. Another trick to consider is filling those gallon jugs, and setting them outside to freeze (in winter) then using them in your coolers to keep your food cold, if the power is out.
  • Check your pantries to be sure you have at least 3 days of non-salty non-perishable foods.  You can stock up on canned goods, granola and granola bars, dried fruits, protein bars, nuts and also remember things like peanut butter and crackers.  Don’t forget to stock up on baby formula for your baby, and pet food for your pets.
  • Make sure that if any of your family has a special dietary requirements, you have enough food to accommodate that.
  • When ever you have warning of a weather event on its way, double check your family’s prescriptions to see if they need to be refilled, and do so, that way you won’t be stuck without critical medications!

If the power goes out in winter, designate one room for everyone to “hang out in” and “camp out” there. closing the doors and blocking drafts, put blankets on windows, to conserve the heat in the room. You can leave a south facing window unblocked to get natural light and some warmth of the sun from there, but block it after dark.

If you can afford it, and you live somewhere that the power goes out frequently – you might invest in a generator. There are several small ones that recharge through a regular outlet or car battery or a solar panel (usually special for that generator), but on the plus side there is no gasoline required or loud noise or fumes. You can see a sample of one of these generators here, and its associated solar panel is here.

I know that you all cannot always afford to have all of these items ready and sitting in your closet, but this list can give you a head start on gathering what you DO already have into a single “kit” (plastic storage box or backpack) so you have something ready in an emergency.

 

 

 

Best wood to burn

As it starts to get colder (and I know it is already cold up in Wyoming, where I heard it was -4 already) – you may be ready to start using your wood burning stove.  Or if you have a fireplace, you may be ready to stoke that up.

You want to make sure you know what kind of wood you have or are getting – the harder woods burn longer and produce better heat and leave a nice bed of coals at the end of the burn. Good woods include: Sugar Maple, Beech, Oak, Hickory and Ash.

Stay clear of softer woods, especially the resinous woods like Fir, Eucalyptus, Pine,  and Alder because they produce lots of smoke and can coat your flues with creosote. Unseasoned wood can produce the same issue.

If you are gathering it up yourself – best to season it for a year to be sure it is dry enough; or if you are buying your wood,  look for USDA certified kiln dried wood with a low moisture content (also known as MC).