From the Blog

We Are the Odd Ones

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We think we are normal, as most people do. We lead a fairly conventional lifestyle for urban Americans. Some may argue that we are outside “mainstream” America just by living in Portland. Because we are so weeeird up here. But it’s as easy to lead a totally normal, conventional life here in Portland as any other mid-sized American city. You don’t HAVE to manage a compost pile on your balcony, or grow a big fluffy beard, or wear plaid, or drink IPAs so bitter they make your hair curl. You don’t have to do any of that. But it is recommended. Otherwise, the hipster police will roll their eyes at you HARD.

We think we are normal, but we are aware of the glaring indicators that we are not. First of all, we don’t have a TV. That makes us hippie moonbats right there. It cuts out a whole dimension of small talk and casual connections with people. I can’t tell you how many conversations have begun with “Oh! Did you see Glee last night? Oh, never mind.” Which sounds a lot like, “Oh never mind, I forgot you have the plague.”

I remember when I was a kid, there was a family down the street and they didn’t have a TV. I thought they were hippie moonbats. I mean, what is there to “do” without a TV? What kind of wholesome bullcrap was that family trying to pull? Did they read books? Were they intellectuals? I grew up in a small town. Having intellectuals down the street scared the bejesus out of me.

So now we are that type of odd family, without a TV, and clearly pop culture deficient. But we do sit on the couch probably as much any typical Americans, because we dink around on the internet. So we don’t have that aloof wholesome bullcrap going on. Thank god.

Second indicator that we are rather bizarre is that we live in a pretty small apartment. This helps us save money. In order to live in a small space, we are getting rid of a lot of stuff. When we first started living together, we combined households and we did a little nesting together. Now about two years later, we are getting rid of much of the stuff we acquired.

I recognize this is the opposite direction most newlyweds go. But less stuff = smaller space = less expense on housing. Less expense = I got to quit my job. It’s not a bad trade off.

I get looks of puzzlement when I say we reduced our cost of living so we can reduce our income. It’s unfathomable. I get outright objections. Isn’t that the whole point? To make more money? For stuff? And security? And stuff? Isn’t the world a scary place? Shouldn’t you just hang on and not let go?

People sometimes get a little ragey if you stray outside the norm, or if they catch a whiff of self righteousness. They can see it from a long way off. Getting rid of stuff, living in smaller spaces, reducing income all seem like huge sacrifices. And that’s where folks get judgy. Because when they see something as “sacrificing,” it must mean we are holier-than-thou self righteous dickwads.

But what if it’s not a sacrifice? What if it’s just quietly going our way? These are just choices we make, we know they aren’t for everyone. People have kids. People have houses. People have obligations, and people work hard for the sake of others. These are valid choices. They don’t make someone else’s choices less valid, however. Just different.

I know we are the odd ones, but I still feel pretty normal and conventional. I know we aren’t hippie moonbats yet, because I still smell okay. I think.


  1. If you start buying things that are patchouli scented, that’s when you start worrying about being a hippie moonbat.

  2. Actually, I’ve known some hippie moonbats. They ain’t such bad peoples. Smell a little too strongly of patchouli, though, yes … a little of that stuff goes an awful long way.

    We’re a strange peoples, we Americans. We all want to be unique, but we all want to be unique together, so when we really do blaze our own trails, we feel like traitors to the culture and we punish ourselves. We start rationalizing and inwardly apologizing to ourselves. I’ve always been an odd bird, sometimes a strange fit into social circles – when I can fit myself at all. This caused problems growing up, but I’ve learned to embrace my strangeness. I’ve never had a ticket for entry into the Normal Kids’ Party, but the older I get and the more I see the normal kids, I’ve realized that I like my strange, and I don’t think I’d be very happy normal.

    I think you guys are cool just the way you are. And you need justify yourself to nobody.

    You can be normal, and not quite yourself, and a little unhappy, or strange, gloriously yourself, and happy because you are who you are.

    The hardest part is getting over the fact that you feel you have to justify it, but that comes in time.

    As the man once said, “F#©k ’em if they can’t take a joke!”

  3. @SJK, I never went to the Normal Kids’ Party either. But I was a regular at the Awkward Kids’ Party. Convention is such a lofty goal when we are young and we want to belong. And convention is such an obstacle when we are adults and we want to do our own thing. The bearers of convention wish everyone was as boring as they are. Thank goodness you aren’t, my man.

  4. michael lewallen says

    Heather changed her hair style! and what is Dave reading on the mac? he looks a little concerned.

  5. @michael, I just looked over, and yep, that’s Dave’s usual face. He’s a deep thinker.

  6. michael lewallen says

    Why not combine Dave’s history lesson with your dwgs? It could be Dave and Heather do Oregon history. Each day you could draw a scene with you and Dave placed in historical context. such as passengers on the steamship Beaver…. i guess this sort of sounds like a job, daily task, verrrrry little or no pay. Wait, this sounds like what i do! yep your an Oregonian.

  7. Gloriously yourself… something I (and you) have been becoming more and more lately.

  8. I have a very little sense of what “normal” is anymore. I’ve met very few people lately who are “settled” in that old-fashioned way that our parents or grandparents were. Sure, most people have a TV, but who cares? We have Netflix and an awesome projector instead of a TV but mostly live in front of our laptops and iPhones– I think more and more people are like that these days. That makes for less cultural unity in the things we watch or listen to, but that was happening with cable TV and satellite radio anyway.

    Plus, I think with the housing crash people are less excited about the nesting thing than they were–for a while people were pretending to enjoy home improvement because deep down they had faith it would be financially worth it, but turns out it really wasn’t. So you might as well stay downsized if you can.

  9. @Sue, So true. I’m finding when we make different choices, like the choice to be “unsettled,” it can be taken as an affront to the values of folks who go a more conventional route. Some people get fricken hostile. I think of our friends Tammy and Logan who live simply and are building a tiny house. When they are featured in the media, you wouldn’t believe the bile and venom hurled at them. I can’t fathom why people get so angry.

    I think we’ll certainly stay downsized for a while. Neither of us would be adept at fixing up a house. I remember you were quite fond of home improvement, right? It was your favorite! Wait Sue, put down that sledgehammer!

  10. Actually, what I’m astounded at is that you live in less than 600SF. I fancy I’m a person who doesn’t need much, me and my wife have a good-ol-what-they-used-to-call-East-County “house” because it was our dream and what we wanted, but we’ve lived in small spaces before – and I just don’t see how you can do it. Bravo.

  11. @SJK, It’s been a fair amount of work for us to fit into 533 sq ft. I don’t mind admitting it’s not all kittens and giggles. Though we got rid of a lot of stuff, it’s still a tight fit. We have 15 inches of walking space on either side of the queen bed. It’s a good layout between sleeping and the cooking/living area. But bizarrely, the bathroom takes up at least a third of the space. But, we haven’t killed each other so I think that means success!

  12. i admire the whole living simply movement. i like my large-ish house, but want to get rid of some things. i kind of constantly want that, i think it is reflex of the child-of-a-hoarder go the opposite way thing. but lately, i’ve been considering getting rid of some other stuff. cable for one, though i think my roomie would not like that. the house phone too, could go. books are another thing, like you, that i have been thinning out. clutter, clothes… knick-knacks. it feels good. i personally don’t really believe there is a “normal” anymore. we are too fractured as a society. the idea of the “american dream” still exists, the house, the picket fences, etc… but i think more and more peeps are going there own way. the individuality movement has gained some serious converts in the past 10 years. and this next gen of peeps, whoa re coming into their 20’s now, seem completely comfortable with the individuality trend. i think it is a good thing.

  13. I live alone with my dog and my place is about twice the size of yours. Now, admittedly, I have a lot of crap and I am trying to whittle it down a lot but I still don’t know if I could do it. Bravo you two for making things that are a priority for you happen :)

  14. Jim Sifferle says

    This resonates with me big time. I’m a wannabe downsizer living in a pile of stuff! Joy and I have a big family and an appropriately sized house full of stuff, much of which I don’t want to keep. Stuff, stuff, stuff. Garage sale stuff. Sentimental stuff. Stuff that doesn’t fit. Other people’s stuff. Stuff in the attick, in the garage, in the shed, in every room and closet, simply everywhere! I admire what you and Dave have done!!!

    “We reduced our cost of living so we can reduce our income.” – What a great quote. A simple idea and goal that can be hard to accomplish.

    With the current state of the American family, it’s so easy to become a slave to income. There are days when I wish I could take my family to the hills and live like Swiss Family Robinson. Then idealism crashes into reality and I go back to work! :)

  15. Jim, you are dealing with a whole other level when you have a big family with kiddos. But if you are even thinking about downsizing, you are ahead of 90% of the families out there. Space filled with stuff “costs” something, beyond the initial price when you bought it.

    Start small, get rid of the easy stuff, keep chipping away, and for the sake of your sanity, don’t get more. Also, build a tree house if you need to. ;-)

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