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The tiny house movement will make your bachelor pad seem like a palace.

RIGHT AFTER I MARRIED my husband Logan I started working in investment management. I had recently graduated with a masters degree and was excited to start my new job. At first, things were going smoothly. From an outsider’s perspective it looked like I had the perfect life. I was married, lived in a luxury apartment, had a cute little car, and spent a lot of time shopping.

But as the months wore on I became depressed. I was spending two or more hours commuting to the office every day and then sitting in a gray cubicle for another eight hours. As a result, I started drinking too many glasses of red wine in the evening. My all time favorite was a merlot from R. H. Phillips, a winery we visited frequently on the weekends.

Logan and I started talking about downsizing our lives. We started reading books and blogs on living simply, but we didn’t take any action until we saw a video featuring Dee Williams and her tiny home. When I watched the video, I immediately thought about how freeing it would be to live in a little house. We had talked about buying a traditional house, but knew that would constrain us because of the expense. However, if we bought a tiny house on wheels, new possibilities could emerge.

Seeing the video of Dee and her little house was a turning point for us. As a result we started taking steps to transform our lives, like paying down our debt, selling the cars, and giving away tons of stuff. It gave us a whole new perspective on what our life could be like. For instance, I finally realized I didn’t have to spend my life in a cubicle or spend so much time commuting to and from work. The realization that I could live life on my own terms empowered me to simplify my stuff, work life, and commitments.

Deciding to live in a tiny house

So what qualifies as a tiny house? Mimi Zeiger’s book Tiny Houses is a wonderful showcase of many little homes, all under 1000 square feet. If you’re thinking of moving into a micro-home check out Zeiger’s book — it’s full of helpful ideas.

We started this process seven years ago, and we recently moved into our dream tiny house, about the size of a parking spot. It’s 8 feet wide, 16 feet long, 13.5 feet tall, and it’s roughly 128 square feet in total. It sounds like a super small space, but the height and windows make the house seem much larger on the inside.

Since our place is so small, we have to be mindful of clutter — here are a few of my own de-cluttering and design suggestions:

De-cluttering tips

We’ve been living in the little house for a few months and one of the things I’ve noticed is this: If I don’t pick up my stuff immediately, the house looks like a bomb went off. I don’t have much, but it’s still easy to create clutter piles with my limited belongings.

When I get home, I typically unload my bike bag, which contains my camera, computer, journal, wallet, iPod, and a plethora of power cords. I’m always tempted to leave my stuff on the counter and make a cup of tea instead of putting it away. Rather than procrastinating, I use a few simple strategies to keep clutter to a minimum.

First off, when I walk in the door I immediately put my stuff away. For example, shoes aren’t allowed to be worn in the tiny house, so they either stay on the porch or sit by the heater to dry off. The same goes for my wet rain coat. I hang up my coat above the heater to dry and then it goes into the closet.

In addition, each of my belongings has a designated home. I have a spot for my computer, power cords, clothing, and books. Putting stuff away saves me time because I don’t spend 15 minutes looking for my keys or iPhone every morning. If I don’t follow these simple steps, I can’t seem to find what I need and it’s frustrating to constantly look for the same thing over and over. The trick is forming a ritual of picking stuff up and putting it away.

Design ideas

Living in a small house means you have less space to store stuff. However, it’s impossible to get rid of everything and we made sure to include plenty of storage space in the design. For example, we have a shelf above our kitchen counter and it holds glasses, dishes, and other goodies. Right below that shelf we installed mason jars to hold spices, coffee, and tea. It’s a great way to keep bottles and jars off the counter. In addition, we have a magnetic block that holds knives, scissors, and other kitchen tools. These solutions are visually appealing and save space.

Also, the loft is above our kitchen. It’s cozy, warm, and it’s a perfect space for sleeping in such tiny quarters. By using vertical space, the loft is a great solution that creates more room in the little house.

Finally, the window nook we added serves many purposes. It’s a great reading area and underneath is storage space. Plus it doubles as a single bed. You just slide the sitting platform out and you have a sleeping space for company! In addition, we have French doors right by the window nook so that it makes the space feel even more open.

More with less

A piece of advice I learned from my grandparents is to imagine doing more with less. If you are faced with a problem, try and think how you could use your current tools in a new and creative way. This perspective helped us downsize and identify durable, multipurpose items and then remove poor-quality, single-purpose items from our life.

My grandparents also taught me that living simply isn’t about self-deprivation. Instead, it’s about giving yourself the time, freedom, and money to pursue your dreams.

Home + Garden


About The Author

Tammy Strobel

Tammy Strobel is a writer, coffee addict, and tiny house enthusiast currently working on her first print book. The connecting thread in her writing is "simplicity." Her story has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and in a variety of other media outlets. Tammy spends her free time volunteering at Living Yoga, a Portland based non-profit, taking photos, and hanging out with friends and family. She currently lives in her very tiny house in Portland, Oregon.

  • Rose Byrd

    I love Tammy and follow her RowdyKittens site almost every day!  This are excellent tips to living comfortably and cozily in a Tiny House.  Such a great gift to Mother Earth and to  your own budget!

  • Leonie

    I’m intrigued at the idea of living in a tiny house and it’s so fascinating to hear details of what it’s like for you. I also follow you on RowdyKittens and as a result I’ve been looking around my house getting very ruthless. Look out stuff! I love the idea of minimalist living, making space, time and spare cash for the stuff you really want in your life… I have two little boys though and they need space to roam. I wonder how they’d do in a tiny house? We may drive each other crazy!!

  • Carlo Alcos

    Good on you Tammy, this is great. I like to think I have a fairly simple lifestyle, but truth is as I get into some sports like climbing my intake of gear is going up! I definitely could do the tiny house…just not sure about 128 sq. ft. Especially with a partner.

  • Greg Watson

    Great tips Tammy! Just the other day I was thinking that an article on the “how” of living in a small space would be a great idea. I’m especially curious about the interpersonal aspect of small space living. Since Ahava and I both work primarily from home navigating “our relation-ship” becomes all the more important, to my way of thinking. Cheers G

  • Paul Frolov

    Awesome ! Just recently I came across “Cabin Porn” blog that shows many great ideas for small cozy living-

    Have always dreamed about building my own log house…

  • Hal Amen

    Very cool. How often do you move it around?

  • Regaleonline

    They are called “99ers”…

  • Chris Stebbins

    Of course you’re from Portland!  Greetings from Alberta!

  • Travel Yourself

    Where do you park/keep your tiny house?! :)

  • Scott

    Very cool . . . nice, too, to have those words of your grandparents in your head :)  In the fall of 2010 I bought a Basque sheepherder wagon and lived in it for over a year in southern Utah.  Thinkin’ it’s about 88 sq. feet.  I’d lived on small sailboats (29′ and 20′)(on the 29-footer, for ten years just south of the Sellwood Bridge in SE:) before this so the space (or lack of) wasn’t a stranger to me.  I admire your choice, decision.

  • Jeff Bronson

    I really like these small houses. I think the hardest part is finding a place to park it, not in the middle of nowhere. Also, dealing with minimum size restrictions, building codes, etc. 


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  • Paul David Olson

    Yes, wheels are good. Great post.

  • Manu Stanley

    Very practical tips, Tammy. I live in a tiny apartment , though it’s not wheeled. The idea of de-cluttering every day is part of daily routine. It maintains space, makes it easy to search things whenever I am in a hurry. :)

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