Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Monthly archive for May 2017

Wants Vs. Needs

By night, I write about and share my budgeting and personal finance journey. By day, I’m a Grade 7 teacher who recently had the “Wants Vs. Needs” debate with my students as part of a Geography lesson. I’m amazed at the number of students who claimed that their PlayStation 4 is indeed a need that they absolutely could not live without.

It seemed ridiculous to me as I tried to convince them that although they would not like to live without these items (tablets, laptops, and TVs also made their list), they would in fact LIVE if those items were to be taken away from them.

Wants vs. Needs

 

But if I’m going to be completely honest with myself, I too have been guilty of blurring the line between what is a want and what is a need, and blurring that line has lead to overspending throughout my adult life. I could step into Target and within five minutes find ten things I didn’t even know I “needed”.

Part of breaking my bad spending habit was to truly define what in fact are my needs vs. my wants.

Defining Your Needs

After a solid half hour of debate, I finally convinced my Grade 7 class that a need is something that is required to survive and live somewhat comfortably:

  • Shelter (no mansions required)needs
  • Food (Fillet mignon every night for dinner doesn’t count)
  • Clothing (just not those $200 basketball sneakers)
  • Basic Furnishings (one TV is fine, having more TVs than people might be overkill)
  • Access to some form of transportation (including comfortable shoes if your main way of getting around is to walk)
  • Basic hygiene and personal care products (including access to medicine)

 

We could all agree then that anything above and beyond these needs could be classified as wants, and there is nothing wrong with wants, as long as you can afford them and you’re not putting them before your needs.

Once I had a solid definition of what in fact a need is, I found that I became much more content with what I have and the list of what I “needed” became much shorter. I also realized that a lot of those things that I thought I needed have simply become stuff. Luckily Ryan has already written about the purpose of stuff and the questions I need to ask myself as I begin the daunting task of decluttering in an attempt to simplify.

Your Turn! 

  • What item do you now realize was a want that felt like a need at the time (Hint: Mine may have been a red pair of heels)

What is Minimalist Living?

Minimalist living is an all inclusive lifestyle – having a minimal, clutter-free environment is a large part of it, but it’s so much more than that. The minimalist lifestyle includes looking at the way you spend your time, your money, and even the way you think.

minimalism nature quality time

1. Owning less stuff is a large part of it…

Keeping your environment as minimal as possible will ensure a less cluttered mind. I’ve noticed that I tend to focus better in a clean space, with just a few necessary items. Even when I’m not working, I feel more calm in a minimalist environment. When I am in a cluttered or crowded environment, I tend to feel anxious and unproductive. When you don’t have a lot of clutter, your mind is freed up for other, more important things to think about.

2. …But minimalist living doesn’t just apply to your house

minimalist homeI’ve started taking a more minimal approach to the way I structure the desktop on my computer, to the way I plan my days and even the foods that I eat. With less clutter on my desktop, I can look at my computer and focus on what I need to do, instead of getting distracted by photos and documents that are scattered around. With a more simple diet, my body functions at a more optimum level, and I have to think less about what I’m going to eat that day. Life becomes more simple, easier, and much more intentional.

3. Mindfulness and minimalism

Minimalist living can have a wonderful effect on the mind. When you are living a less cluttered life, you will have much more focus and intentionality in everything you do. Instead of seeing clutter and thinking about how you need to clean it up, you’ll have a clean environment, a clear head, and the ability to focus more clearly. Instead of living reactively, you’ll have the opportunity to think about what you want to do, and focus completely on that.

4. Freedom

Minimalist living has given me something that I will be forever grateful for: freedom. Through living simply, I’ve been able to create a life in which I feel completely free. I’m free to spend my time how I’d like, I’m free to pursue passions that I want to explore, I’m free to go to a cafe in the middle of the day on a Tuesday.

Before I took the journey to minimalism, I was working in a 9-5 job. I was making a salary, but I still was required to be there from 9-5 PM, whether I had already finished my work for the day or not. It started to feel like I wasn’t in control of my life anymore. I was looking for meaning in a career, but I found meaning in minimalism and pursuing my passions.

minimalism time

5. Quality Relationships

Minimalism has led me to create even stronger friendships and relationships than I had before. Because I spend my time in a more intentional way, I am able to connect with people on a deeper level. Instead of just “hanging out,” I now only spend time with people who inspire and motivate me, which brings great value to my life.

Minimalist living has changed my life and helped me accomplish so many goals. I’m now focused on actually living instead of just keeping up with the Jones’. To learn more about minimalism, see my post on what defines a minimalist (link to post when published).

Your Turn!

  • What does simple living mean to you?

 

Urban Homesteading: Growing in the City

Urban homesteading holds a special place in my heart because that is where my homestead journey began, in the city. So many people look at the homestead movement from the outside, thinking there is not a place for them because they don’t have a vast spread of land or plans to move to the country. Homesteading is a mindset before anything else. A mindset that says I can produce that!

Creativity and ingenuity are usually realized when there is a challenge to overcome. I love seeing people that are harvesting rainwater and growing their own food in the heart of major cities. They are not hampered by their circumstances but use them to come up with new ways of doing things. Here are some fun ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

Learn how to preserve food

My homestead journey began in the kitchen when I learned how to can. A change in our diet many years ago opened my eyes to buying foods while they are in season and then preserving them to eat later. I would buy cases of whatever I could find on sale and then take a few days to learn how to can or dehydrate it.

food preservation

 

As my food storage began to build, my dependence on weekly trips to the grocery store began to diminish. It was so empowering not to be tethered to the grocery store. The next step was looking for alternative ways to procure the food I wanted to can.

Buy from local producers

I started buying grass-fed meat at the local farmer’s market. I often found a case of tomatoes or apples I could bring home and can as well – another way to disconnect from the grocery store and gain independence. Then I found out that many of the vendors at the farmer’s market will sell direct from their farms. The joy of driving out and seeing where your food comes from is hard to describe.

beef in butcher paper

In buying directly from the farmers, I developed relationships with people in my community. We were making a difference in the world. My dollars were meaningful to them, and the food they produced was more than just something to fill our plates. It is ok to be homesteader without producing everything you need to sustain your family.

Learn how to grow plants

Very few people have a truly green thumb. Tenacity and not being afraid to try are much more important if you want to become good at growing food. Don’t limit your thinking to rows in the ground. Grow in raised beds, grow in pots, grow vertically in rain gutters or create an edible landscape. There are so many ways to be a successful gardener.

Compost

Composting is a miraculous process of turning waste into nutrient-rich soil to feed your plants. Here again, there are so many ways to make it happen. My favorite method is keeping deep bedding in the chicken run and just throwing our scraps out for them to pick and scratch through. Anything they don’t eat breaks down with the manure and the bedding. There is no turning or watering involved; the chickens do the work for me.

deep bedding for chickens

 

Even if you live in an apartment, you can create compost. Worm bins are perfect for an urban homesteader. With only a few week’s time, a little water, kitchen scraps and some high carbon material (like newspaper) your worms will create nutritious plant food. You will be growing 7’ tomatoes on your balcony before you know it,

You can homestead no matter where you live! Don’t let someone else’s version of homesteading hold you back from carving out your own. Be creative with your space and start with something you love.

Your Turn!

  • What have you begun producing?
  • How have you been creative with your space?

Checking in With Your Budget

When we first started budgeting many years ago, the biggest mistake we made was that we never took the time to check in with our budget. I was under the false assumption that once the budget was written everything would just magically fall into place. This was certainly not the case.

Our financial picture only started to turn around when we not only made our monthly budget, but more importantly, began regularly checking in to make sure we were sticking to the budget. Let’s look at some of the ways you can manage your budget on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

Budget Check In

Daily Budget Check Ins:

If you love your smartphone, you’re about to love it even more when it comes to sticking with your budget. With many apps available, you will be able to establish and manage your budget on a daily basis while on the go.

One of my personal favorite apps is Mint. It’s user friendly and you can link up your bank accounts free of charge, allowing you to track your spending in the various categories of your budget which you can also create using this app.

Everydollar and You Need A Budget are two other budgeting apps available to use. For a yearly fee you can link these apps to your banking information. The one advantage of these apps is that you can have two people access the same budget which is great for both you and your spouse to stay in the know.

My one complaint with the budgeting apps is that the purchases made aren’t always categorized correctly so you do have to go in and edit as necessary.

budget pen calculator

Weekly Check Ins:

Since I’m a paper and pencil girl at heart, this is my go to. Every Friday I’ll sit down with my online bank statements from that week, receipts, and my budget and start entering in what I’ve spent and add it to the previous week’s spending. This weekly check in allows me to see where we are in each of the budget categories and how much room is left.

 

Monthly Consolidation:

This is the most important step when checking in with your budget. At the very least you want to make sure you consolidate your budget at the end of every month before the next month begins.

When consolidating my monthly budget, I’ll add up the total amount of income and subtract all expenses. At this point I can ensure that we didn’t overspend, and that with any luck, more money came in then went out. Any money left over we then put toward our debts until all of our debt was paid off.

stay on budget

Once you start paying attention to your budget and track your spending, you’ll really feel as if you got a raise. Paying attention will cause you to spend within your means, if not below your means, freeing up a lot of the money that would have slipped through your fingers to now put towards a more important financial goal.

 

Your Turn!

  • How often do you check in with your budget?

Three Years In My Tiny House!

I can’t believe that it has been three whole years since I first moved into my tiny house full time!  Life has flown by and so much has changed.  Let’s start with where I was three years ago and where I am now…

Where I Was

About four years ago I was still working full time at a job I didn’t love.  I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay.  Knowing that I was about to make the move into my tiny house, I took a chance, I left that job and went on to do my own thing, making the leap to self employment.

first dinner in my tiny house

It was kinda scary, but I had a lot of things to get done so I just buried myself into the work to the point that I didn’t have time to worry about it.  I moved out of my apartment and into my tiny house and my new life began.  It was odd in a way, I remember sitting in my chair and feeling very much at home.

One thing that I learned is that it is better to have your house 100% finished before you move in, I had several things I needed to get done and honestly it was years before I finished it all.

 

Where I Am Now

Today I’m still working on my own, having built two companies and sold one of them very recently.  During my tiny house journey I’ve landed two book deals, writing the number one selling tiny house book to date!

I’ve traveled to many countries: Croatia, Hungry, Bosnia, Belgium, France, and a few others.  I also have been able to take some extended trips here in the US: Pacific North West for 2 weeks, New England for 2 weeks, twice went to Portland for 6 weeks, St. Louis, New York, Grand Canyon and spent several weeks at the beach.

I’ve also had a chance to spend more time with my family and friends.  It’s been really nice to take time when friends or family have the odd day off.  My sister is a teacher, so its great to spend time when she has random vacation days.  I can take extra time to go see my brother or go spend time with my parents on a random Friday.

friends and free time

The funny thing about working on your own and living the tiny life is you have a lot of free time, but most people have normal schedules and spend a lot of time at their job.  The irony of it all is I end up keeping a semi normal social schedule because that’s when everyone else is free to hang out.

Some other ways that my life has improved is that I get to have a solid night’s sleep almost every day, between 8 and 9 hours.  Despite not having to be anywhere at any time, I still set my alarm to wake up at 9:30 am, I get up, shower, shave, get dressed and make breakfast.

There is something very important about that ritual, it helps me not laze around the house.  I will go somewhere to work: one of my favorite coffee shops, a coworking space, or other place to get my work done.  I do my work until I am done for the day; sometimes its a full day’s work, sometimes it’s 45 minutes of work.  After that I try to get out and do something.  Often I go for a walk, get groceries for that night’s dinner, or work on a fun project or hobby.

Lessons Learn

I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I like and what I need.  Below is a random stream of consciousness of things learned over my three years.

If it’s something you are going to use daily, don’t skimp, splurge.  Great examples are my sink, my stove, my pans, my couch, and my mattress.  For example, when I choose my stove, I was shocked to find the one I liked was close to $500 for a two burner, but now I’m so thankful that I spent that money.  My sink was $250 plus $200 for the faucet, they are super well built and work perfectly in the space.

Don’t park your tiny house near trees, I’ve had many trees almost hit my tiny house, if I could do it all over again I’d clear the trees before my house was brought in so if any fell, they couldn’t reach my house.

Spend the money on a cement pad to set the house up on.  Make it 2 feet bigger than you need it in both directions. Make sure it’s perfectly level and getting your house on blocks will be much easier and much safer.

When you’re leveling your house, spend the money to buy treated 2×12 boards, cut them into 12″ x 12″ squares, have at least 30 on hand to level your house.  Again, much safer.

tiny house solar panelsOn your solar panel system, figure out what you think you need and then oversize the system by at least 30%.  Make sure your system can scale several times its current size.  Also make sure you can put in a propane/natural gas generator that has auto start and an inverter that supports it.

Always keep 1 year’s worth of propane on hand.  Have both 20lb tanks and a dozen 1 lb tanks.

Have a back up for everything: a shower, cook top, generator, batter powered lantern and head lamps, Mr. Buddy Heater and a battery powered fan.  I talk about off grid living misconceptions here.

Make plans in your house to have a serious pantry.  I thought I had enough space, but I really didn’t until I added something in my bathroom.  I’d suggest a space that’s at least 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep and 6 feet tall for all your food items, toiletries, and other household stuff.

Having your toilet outside is great, there is rarely a time I’ve wished it was inside.  The lug-able loo toilet seat is great and for $12, well worth the money.

When it comes to flooring, hire someone that does it professionally.  It’s back breaking work and they will do a much better job, much quicker and it’s money worth spending.

Tile totally works in a tiny house, I love my bathroom floor.

Standing seam metal roofs are amazing.  They look great, they are bomb proof and I wouldn’t do it any other way.  This is another place to hire someone.

 

That’s all I have for now!

Your Turn!

  • What life changes do you want to make when you go tiny?

 

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