Cabin Renovation: Simple Green Living

Protected by Copyscape Online Infringement Detector Umbrellas-PublicDomainThirty years ago my husband and I were city dwellers still spending most of our time working  for someone else.  Then we made a life changing decision, a decision to make our simple dream come true.  We moved to where we wanted to live,  purchased a home, committed to voluntary simplicity and built our own business from the bottom up.

A decade later we purchased a larger piece of land and built our own green home and business space on it in the same building.  Throughout two decades we repaired and painted as every home owner does, until last summer when my hubby announced it was painting time. Well, that project morphed into Green Home Renovation Lessons Learned.

This summer we will be helping another couple with their green home  renovations on their small summer cabin.  They are also into simple green living. And,  I’m using the royal “we” as my hubby is a qualified carpenter and tradesman, who has building skills that I don’t have. I’m merely a consultant and assistant but we work very well together and we come as a package deal.

cottageOur friends won’t expand the square footage of the cabin beyond adding a covered deck but they will make better use of the space they have.  There are non-bearing walls that will be removed to create an open house plan. There will be major changes when it comes to flooring, solar panels, heating and lighting.

As winter rain drips down my friends are sending us green renovation ideas and concepts from many sources. We are discussing them by email and  telephone and longing to store our umbrellas so we can get to work. This summer is when the project will begin but I’m looking forward to spring. That’s when we will be traveling to view some other green cabin renovations and incorporating what we can into the green cabin reno project.

Graham Hill, Writer, designer is the founder of travels the world to tell the story of sustainability. He asks: Can having less stuff, in less room, lead to more happiness? He makes the case for taking up less space, and lays out three rules for editing your life.

Graham Hill: Less stuff, more happiness

We’ve got to cut the extraneous out of our lives, and we’ve got to learn to stem the inflow. We need to think before we buy. Ask ourselves, ‘Is that really going to make me happier? Truly?

1.  Edit ruthlessly – cut the extraneous from your life.

2.  Recognize small is sexy and space efficiency is key.

3.  Multifunctional spaces, furniture and housewares.

Some inspiring articles:
The Truth about Simplicity
Declutter 101: Where Do I Start?
Declutter 101: Strategies To Cut Clutter
Declutter 101: Staying Clutter-Free
25 ways to make the most of a small space
5 Strategies for Decluttering a Small Space
Ultimate Pallet Furniture Collection: 58 Unique Ideas
Cabin Renovation Ideas

Our green renovation priorities were keeping it simple by improving comfort and flow. Our friends are setting the same priorities for their green cabin renovation. When it comes to renovating your living space what priorities will you set?


  1. Thank you for sharing this! I have the same dream of settling in the countryside and building my own green home and this post just gave me the inspiration to hold on to my dream. But for now, I will just have to think of ways to renovate my home–“keep it simple to improve comfort and flow.

  2. Hi, it’s funny how things change, 90 odd years ago our original cottage (about 70 square meters at the time) built out of stone and mud was occupied by a family that slept with their animals to keep warm! Now, having just finished the refurbishment and adding on another 60 sq mtrs (using straw bales and cob) our animals, (3dogs and a cat) sleep with us to keep cosy!
    Small really is Beautiful !
    (The smallest place I lived in was a converted ambulance, from choice, and I loved the freedom)

    Now my take on ‘stuff’.
    Stuff defines who we would like to be, and who we think we are, Space defines who we actually are.


    ps, if I may be a little cheeky, some beautiful tiny natural houses

  3. I heard about Simple Living from some individuals in an online community I was on, and my wife and I actually went out to Ann Arbor, MI to meet them and some others. I don’t know if I could do everything they did– at times they seemed very anachronistic, because they were very devoted to the lifestyle– but other things, well, we do some of them right now.

    I’d have to explain better in a post of my own.

    • Simple living can be defined in many ways and incorporates many lifestyles from apartment living to homesteading. Green renovation is focused on using sustainable construction methods, materials, and practices, enabling a more sustainable and usually a simpler lifestyle. Downsizing can mean moving into a smaller space unencumbered with stuff and.or making the most efficient use of the space you live and/or work in.

      One doesn’t have to move back to land as we did and live that basic lifestyle to be part of the minimalist movement. That kind of thinking is not prevalent in younger years when one is trying to acquire a home, parent and family and become successful in whatever their occupation is. But all three (simple living, green living, downsizing) can come into play in mid-life for many people.

      My hubby were not typical starry-eyed young lovers from comfortably well off middle-class families. came from large and poor families wherein we were eldest children raising little ones. We had each had a past relationship that had gone sour. We were close friends who became best friends and eventually we became lovers and married.

      We were not part of the consumer driven world of the 70’s with the more, more, more acquisition mentality that has persisted since then. We had next to nothing but recognized if we chose to live a mainstream life based on never ending accumulation we would be buried alive in stuff and burdened with ever rising debt. We would have to devote lots of money to keep a “big” roof over us and our stuff. And we would be devoting much of our valuable time managing stuff or just trying to find it.

      We had a dream in our mid-20’s and we knew needed to become skilled and frugal minimalists to achieve it. We began living our dream and continued to live it throughout our 30’s and 40’s. In our 50’s we re-evaluated our lifestyle and recognized we had drifted into accumulation. We reduced the stuff we had to minimal but within 5 short years time we were accumulating once again. So as we approached our autumn years, we redesigned our living space and/or working spaces with multifunctional use for space efficiency in mind.

      P.S. Thanks for your comment. Maybe all of this should have been included in the post above … lol :D

      • I have figured not everyone follows things the way Sindi and Jim do (the people I referred to). They did live very, very minimally, as Cimmy and I saw in person. Someone in the online community accused Sindi of being an affluent woman play-acting at being poor, and that Jim might be a figment of her imagination. Sindi didn’t get upset but she did reply in a somewhat Spockian way (as she often did) that she had no idea what the woman meant. I suspect she didn’t meet her in person– I had– and I knew Jim was dyslexic and didn’t log in much, but he did, to prove he was an individual and not some person Sindi referred to all day long.

        That said, yes, I think your article could benefit from a quick definition of Simple Green Living and the minimalist movement. I think many of us are familiar with downsizing– my parents did that recently– and green building, if not renovation. I get it, I do. But it’s possible that even if your current readership is familiar with it, others might not be.

        Sorry if my reply is a bit long!

        • Hi again,
          Here’s my attempt at definitions.

          “Choosing to live the simple life involves severing attachment to things, clearing clutter from your mind and premises, and replenishing mindfully. Frugal living is making do with what you have. Simple living is about learning how to do more for yourself. Conscious living is choosing to have less impact on the planet. “

        • Well done! It certainly crystallizes these concepts for me, and should be very helpful for anyone less familiar with the terms. Thanks for humoring me on this one.

  4. Perfect timing! We’re in the process of relocating to a smaller space in a few months. Right now we’re in the “editing” stage. Soon we’ll be in the envisioning smaller stage. I will definitely be reading your recommending articles and taking this advice to heart.

    • Hi Sandra,
      I’m so excited. My friends are happy today and so am I. I made a fabulous find online last night. A shipment of new triple thermal-pane large bay windows and smaller garden windows were being liquidated. I passed on the information and a phone call was made. My friends bought them for their livingroom, dining room, kitchen, bathroom & 2 bedrooms at 45% off retail price. We are all happy dancing.

    • I’m sorry Sandra. I was so excited I forgot to wish you well with your relocation. Visualizing doing more with less and in less space is a vital part of the whole green renovation and/or relocation and downsizing process. Just 50 years ago 800 square feet was a space where families with 3 kids lived. Wow! We have come a long way and consumed so many resources and created so much debt and stress to get here –only to discover here is not where we want to be. I’m so glad that we are surrounded by people the world over who are doing what you and our friends are doing and what we did – downsizing, going green and living a minimalist lifestyle.

  5. There’s something about less being more that is truly satisfying. It also demands a lot of confidence and strength of mind to go against the grain, and buck the ever-increasing monetary, consumerist, and greedy aspects of our society. At least with the internet, it’s easier to connect with people around the world with similar perspectives and feel slightly less alone.

    • That’s so true and yet we found ourselves suffering from “stuff-creep” again and again. It makes us wonder if the acquisition syndrome isn’t some kind of dis-ease we will never be truly healed of. If there were vaccinations available I’d line up for one because I’m clinging to a lot of books that are available online. Now that I have a Kindle I have to talk myself into letting them go.

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