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:
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.
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.
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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.