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But Will It Make You Happier?

Today a good blogger friend of mine was featured in the New York Times, it talks about life simplification and what actually makes humans happy.  Not only is it inspiring, interesting and thought provoking, it is backed up with a good bit of research.  The article is really well written and I strongly encourage you all to read it.

A two-bedroom apartment. Two cars. Enough wedding china to serve two dozen people.

Yet Tammy Strobel wasn’t happy. Working as a project manager with an investment management firm in Davis, Calif., and making about $40,000 a year, she was, as she put it, caught in the “work-spend treadmill.”

So one day she stepped off.

Inspired by books and blog entries about living simply, Ms. Strobel and her husband, Logan Smith, both 31, began donating some of their belongings to charity. As the months passed, out went stacks of sweaters, shoes, books, pots and pans, even the television after a trial separation during which it was relegated to a closet. Eventually, they got rid of their cars, too. Emboldened by a Web site that challenges consumers to live with just 100 personal items, Ms. Strobel winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number.

Full article here: NYT August 2010

Big Jump

So recently with the posting of Yahoo!’s Tiny House Video (see my post on it here) we have had a huge explosion of traffic, we are up around 300% and busted all sorts of records!  Since we have so many new folks I always like to take a moment to say “Hello!”.  My name is Ryan Mitchell and I run TheTinyLife.com, to find out more about me and this site check out this post which is a more in depth introduction to the website.

With many people who are new to Tiny Houses they have many questions, some are just intrigued by the idea that there are literally 10’s of thousands of people today who are making their way to living in 100-200 square feet.  For some this concept of down sizing the space you live in is the answer you have been looking for.  Whether it is for financial reasons, environmental reasons, practicality Tiny House seem to resonate with a wide variety of people.  If you want to get a better gist of what the Tiny House Movement is all about I suggest you check out this post here.

We all know and love Jay’s Tiny Houses, his approach has been instrumental in the Tiny House Movement, To show you some variety of Tiny Houses here are few of my favorites:

CLICK IMAGES TO SEE MORE ABOUT THEM

Info Here

Info Here

Info Here

Of Course we have Jay’s Houses, here are some videos of it:

Here are some suggested readings on my site are:
-Be Weird: here
-Seeing Is Beliving: here
-Organizing small spaces: here
-A Dialouge of Hope: here
-The Jones: here
-Difference between mobile home and Tiny House: here

Seeing Is Believing

So I was sitting at work today when a co-worker of mine came in to chat about gardening.  It was at that point, I told her about my idea about raised bed gardens.  The raised beds would be about 4 feet tall, just the right height to work the garden, but not have to bend.  If you have ever spent an hour weeding, either bending over or kneeling, it can be uncomfortable if not painful.  I explained how at 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, you can be situated perfectly in terms of ergonomics.  Raised bed allow you to have perfect soil for what you are growing and help reduce weeds in the process.  Overall you have perfect soil, reduce strain and have a very neat looking garden. She left my office and I began to think how I really wish I could implement this idea today.  But alas I am not quite settled where I am living. I opened up Sketchup and started drawing out what I would like this garden to look like.  I then realized what I was doing….I was using this tool to help me visualize the future, to help cement this goal, to keep me motivated.

Then idea crossed my mind, what are the other way I make sure I stay motivated on an idea while I get to where I need to be to implement it?

Now these tools will not work for everyone and I am a particularly computer oriented, also very visual, so I find these methods work for me.

My Blog

What some of you may not realize is, I don’t yet live in a Tiny House.  The plans are in the works, designs being drawn, research on building codes in my area and seeking land, but no house of yet.  By having a blog I am able to share my passion and connect with others that love the idea or live the dream.  It is an intensely empowering tool.  Now some of you are thinking, I don’t want to start a blog or I don’t know how.  Of course there are really easy and free services such as wordpress.com or blogger.com that will get you up and running in under 10 minutes.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Journaling, plain old pen and paper, is the old school version to achieve this.  The advantage of a blog over this method is that when you have an audience, you are accountable to them in a way.  Some one, or in my case several thousand, will notice when you shirk on posting.  Even if you don’t want to go the full blog route, consider writing a guest post for a blog, I am always happy to review and possibly post your piece.

Google Sketchup

This is a program made by google that is completely free (they do a pay for pro version) that allows you to quickly design things and create them in a 3D environment.  It wasn’t until today that I realized that I have this established behavior.  When I have something in mind that I have aspirations for or dream about, I have time and time again opened up google sketchup to draw it.  What does this do?  It creates a visual representation of my dream.  It takes it from my mind into the real world, one step closer to being a reality for me.  I did this with this garden idea, see below, and I have done it countless times with ideas for Tiny Houses.

43Things.com

This is a really interesting website, it basically makes a lists of your goals, connects you with those who have the same goals and empowers you to achieve them.   What takes this to the next level is when someone achieves a goal, it has them describe how they went about getting there.  People can discuss and share ideas about how to tackle roadblocks.Stop Making Excuses
A while ago I was out to dinner with several of my friends, the conversation turned to travel and a friend and I were asked how many places we have been.  I responded 17 countries all before I was 23.  They were floored.  “How did you get to do that!?”  I am not independently wealthy, I don’t have a trust fund and my parents didn’t pay for it, so how did I do it?  I posed the question to them, why didn’t you travel that much?  They instantly said “no time”, “no money”, etc.  My other friend who had been to just as many places as I, chimed in and said “you’re making excuses”.  It then dawned on me, how many times do we make excuses, stupid excuses, defeatist excuses.  Now there is reality and responsibility, but at what point does that end and the excuses begin?  For most, they would agree it would be unreasonable to think that a high schooler could afford a trip to Europe, but I did.   I did, for a whole month, I went to 8 countries and had a blast doing it.  So it brings me back to the point, stop making excuses and do it, because too often the only thing standing in our way, is ourselves.

One particular method I use for this is to take a goal that seems too out of reach.  Write down your goals, then next to them write the very very first step you would have to do to achieve that goal.  To get a better idea, take this example.  Lets say you want to build a Tiny House, you might start by seeking out a place to purchase a trailer.  You might open up excel and make a rough budget, then go price the materials at a hardware store.  You might email someone who lives in a Tiny House and ask them for advice on how to start.  See how these are really simple things.  See how these these things take 5 minutes, 30 minutes.  See how you can do any of these things right now!

Vision Board

This isn’t my favorite idea, but it works for many folks, so it is at least noteworthy.  A vision board is basically a board where you glue photos of what you want to be.  If you want to be happy, paste photos that conjure thoughts of happiness.  If you want to focus more on family, put your favorite photos of your kids, your significant other etc.  Take this  board and place it in a prominent place that you can view it several times a day.  Perhaps place it in a place that you look at it, but others can see it to.  They will ask about it and by sharing your goals, you reinforce it, but then you are almost held accountable to them when they ask about it later.

So here is my garden idea

How I Would Improve A Tumbleweed

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We all know and love Jay’s amazing design that truly sparked the imagination of thousands.  When most people say Tiny House, we see in our minds an image of a Fencl or a Lusby, but it is important to remember that Tiny House come in all shapes and sizes.  This is important because by choosing a Tiny House we are breaking out of a mold, but sometimes we find ourselves in a new mold.  The out-of-the-box thinking that started Tiny Houses must be continued to improve an already great idea.   I submit these five improvements of the Tumbleweed Houses, but the face of Tiny Houses isn’t limited to Tumbleweed by any means.

Radiant Heat Floors

radiant floors

The Tiny House is typically heated by a small boat fireplace, which can run close to $1000, must be vented (which means cutting a hole in the roof) and I don’t like the look of the chimney.  Now radiant floors for those of you who don’t know, are wires inlaid into the subfloor to heat from the bottom up.  This gives a nice cozy feeling for your feet and since heat rises, you are heating the space as a whole.  It has been successfully done in the PAD (portlandalternativedwellings.com)

The best part about this option is that it adds about ½ inch rise on your floor level, which is unnoticeable, while the boat fireplace takes up a lot more space.  The downside to this is you will need electricity.  At 50 square feet (remember you don’t heat areas you don’t walk on) running an hour will need around 6 amps at 120 volts for a total use of ~750 watts.  Most folks are going to have power, so this is pretty reasonable when combined with a programmable thermostat.

Lockers

lockers

I came upon this idea over at Jonathan’s blog (http://gungy.livejournal.com) and it just made sense.  Upstairs in the loft he has created small “lockers” that line the side of his bed.  This frames the mattress, adds storage and keeps things looking neat while still having access to it.  He did an excellent job at taking the existing structure and integrating the storage to match.  The added bonus of this is that your mattress will have less room to shift as you climb in and out of bed.  I would take this option one step further by adapting one of the “lockers” near the head end to have a power outlet inside of it with holes to run cables to the top, this would create a way to charge your cell phone and ipod etc. neatly.

On Demand Water Heater

on demand water heater

This one will certainly take a bit more expertise and planning, but there is one thing I would miss after a long day in the garden is not having a hot shower.  These water heaters are really small, can fit just about anywhere and mean that you only expend energy when you are in need of hot water.  Take all that and top it off with tax credits and it sounds like a great idea.  What is the catch?  You will need electricity (albeit a small amount and propane), which I feel is something that most Tiny House people have, either solar or grid.  You certainly can design it so you can bypass this when you are running off the grid.

Integrated Jacks

jack

One thing many people don’t realize is that if you are going to be setting up in one spot with a Tiny House on a trailer is that just letting it sit there can lead to tire shock, which will put flat spots on your tires or break down the walls faster.  It is probably a good idea to jack the trailer up and remove the tires, this way people can’t steal your house. With jacks you also have a more stable floor, it could be argued that it is safer too.

Integrated jacks aren’t anything new, look at trailers and popup campers, but for $100-200 you can get some nice looking jacks that can be integrated into the trailer so you are never without them.  Be sure to take into account what weight they will be holding, 4 tons per jack will be overkill, but you will never have to worry about it.  The added benefit of these are if you ever get a flat tire on the road, these are already in place and are safer because they are welded to the frame.

Flexible Shelves

flexable shelves

This one is a bit of a stretch, but I decided to add it anyway.  Jay’s craftsmanship is nothing short of beauty, the quality is superb, which is why he is a premium brand.  I felt the need to have my storage in these to be a bit more flexible.  With moveable shelves, rolling shelves, etcetera you are able to accommodate a wider range of items and have them tucked away out of sight.  See my photo here and take a look around my blog for lots of ideas.

Organizing small spaces: 10 tips to make the most out of your space

1. Use vertical space

After talking with lots of Tiny House folks, I have seen this as a trend: maximize the vertical. Everything above 8 feet is all dead air if you don’t use it, so capitalize on that. You could have a small chest that takes up 2 square feet of floor space. If it is 4 feet tall, you will have around 8 cubic feet of storage. Take that to the ceiling and suddenly you have doubled or tripled your volume, but haven’t given away any more floor space which is a scarcity in a Tiny House.

shelf

2. Everything has a place and is in its place

When working with a small space I know that everything needs a place. Without it, your house goes from quaint to cluttered. Make sure every item you have has its own resting place and be sure that it finds its way back once you’re done using it. One lady who lives in a 90 square foot apartment said to me “if it doesn’t have a place, do you really need it?” and that’s a good point. Things that matter and are used are important enough to demand a place.

3. Double duty on items

There are those items which are by their nature, multi functional. You need to capitalize on these types of items. When you consider an item, you should always think if there is something else that can do it already. A perfect example of this is the end table, which transforms to a chair for extra seating. Check it out here.

builtin

4. Purpose built – built ins

Built-ins are nice, but built-ins with a purpose are even better. Think specifics. When paring down your possessions, you will identify the 100 or so items that will be contained in your house. Take stock of those items and let them dictate the form of your storage. If you are a ski patrol member, your closet should be able to fit your skis. If you live in colder climates, you will need more room for larger jackets than others might.

5. Go digital / paperless

As if being greener isn’t motivation enough, going digital, as I call it, means that you are able to reduce the tangible items you need. Digital files take up no space if you have them stored online, with the added advantage of being able to access them from anywhere. Combined with backing the files up, they become safer than real world things. The IRS officially accepts all scanned copies of receipts and bank statements. This extends beyond receipts: books on your Kindle, movies on your Roku, music on OpenTape, or recipes in a wiki.

zen rocks

6. Less is more

At this point I am preaching to the choir but, the question is not how to organize all your stuff, but on how to reduce the stuff to organize. The mentality needed is the same as you had if/when you went to college. The dorm rooms were tiny and you were broke. You only had what you really needed. Studies have shown that more stuff does not lead to happiness, so focus on the important things in life.

7. One thing in, one thing out

One principle that I like to pull from the Zen/Fung Shui school of thought is this. If you want to add a new item, consider adopting the rule that for every item you bring in, you must give up something else. Now, no cheating – like giving up a pen for an arm chair, but you get the idea. 8. Be intentional Living with intention will have a profound impact on your life. Be thoughtful in your actions and choices. This extends to your organization and stuff. When you consider purchasing an item, you must first evaluate it and decide if you really need it. I often don’t buy it right then, but next time I am in that store (in a week or two). If I still want it then, I usually go for it if it makes sense.

organized-desk

9. Think inside the box

This is a technique that I use when I feel that a certain space is cluttered or if I start stacking stuff. Take a box, fill it up with everything. Then as you need the items pull them out of the box. Six weeks later, if you still have stuff in the box – no, let me rephrase that, you WILL have stuff in the box – you can evaluate what is left. There is rarely an item that I have that I don’t use within 6 weeks that’s worth keeping. Detailed box theory.

10. Most used items easy to access

This seems pretty obvious, but having the most used items in the front means you are able to access them quicker and without disturbing other things. This ties back to being intentional. You should be intense about organizing your items in this manner. If you notice that there are items in the back that haven’t been touched in a while, it’s time to evaluate whether you still need them.

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