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Determining The Needs Of Your Space

Understanding what you do in your home and work is an important step to designing any space for the perfect place for you.  The greatest thing about living The Tiny Life is that you get to design your space and your life from the ground up.  Today we’re going to focus on our physical space, what do we need in a built environment that sets the stage for our best life.

Determining

In some cases understanding your needs will show you that all you need to do is tweak a few things in the space you’re already in.  It may be the case that more drastic changes or starting from scratch may be require.  You may also be looking towards building a new space anyway so it’s time to consider what that design will be.  It’s important to understand that to live The Tiny Life, you don’t necessarily need to live in a tiny house and what you have right now may be adapted.

room-trackingThe first step in understanding what your space needs to have in it, you need to understand how you actually use it already.  We often have ideas of what we would do if… or if only I had ____ I do more of this one thing.  It can be easy to fall into the trap of future planning so let’s focus on what you do right now.

To do this I use my Room Tracking method: to start, gather a bunch of pens and some post-it notes.    Go around to each of your rooms in your house or apartment and close every door.  Put a post-it note on the door and a pen on top of the door frame of each door.  Now when you go into a room, mark down what you are going into that room for and estimate how long it will take.  On your front door (or your main door) put a post it note on it and write things down that you leave your house to do with time estimates.  Do this for a week.

What this will do is create a comprehensive list of what you actually do in your home, not just what you think you do in your home.  You can even re-purpose this exercise for your work space.  Take all the post-it notes and combined them into a list.

I put together this free worksheet to help, click here.

Once you’ve compiled a list of what you do and how long you do it, start estimating the amount of space you’ll need to do that one thing.  You can even rank your activities by which you do the longest and ask yourself, are the things I spend the most time on the most important to me?  Just think about that.

What can you outsource?

With your list consider things that could happen outside the home.  A gym membership is one example.  Instead of having a home gym, would a gym work just as well or even better?  Or have you not stepped foot in your home gym in several months, do you even need it at all?  For me I realized while I was effective at working from home, it was lonely; I then started working at a coworking space.

What things can your cut out all together?

For me I realized that I really didn’t read a book twice, so keeping books was often a waste of space.  It was then that I replaced my bookshelf with a kindle.  I did keep about 10 books that were more reference books, but the rest went.

What things can pull double duty?

Think about things that are on your list that can happen in a single area or what things are important enough to have a dedicated space.  For me I knew I wanted a work space that was just for work, but my living room could serve as a place to read, to watch TV, to hang out with friends, and to setup a table for meals.

Whittling down the list

Consider the above questions and think critically about what you really do need.  Avoid what you “hope” to do, but focus on what you actually do.  With this you can come up with a solid list of activities that can help you design your space more effectively.

Your Turn!

  • What was your most important activity in your house?
  • What other tricks have you used to determine your true needs?

Five Ways To Slow Down

It seems like so many people today are suffering from Busy-itis:  the affliction of seeming or being way too busy.  It’s become all too common of phrase “I’m so busy.”  Recently I’ve been doing some reflecting on how my lifestyle has changed over the past few years and then comparing that to others who have said they wish they could live The Tiny Life.  So today I thought I would give some tips on how slow down, remove the busy, and bring focus to your life, tiny or not.

too-busy-people-workplace-ecard-someecards

1. Look at your calendar this week and choose one thing to cancel

It doesn’t really matter what it is, just choose one thing and cancel it.  What do you do with that time?  Nothing.

2. Start doubling the time you schedule for something

We often underestimate the amount of time it takes to do certain things, usually by a good bit.  This of course relies on your scheduling out your days, which is a good practice to take up if you don’t yet.  Worst case scenario you have time extra time before your next thing to just relax for a few minutes.

3. Schedule time to do nothing

If you don’t make time for it, it will not happen.  The truth is we can’t all be engaged at all times, we aren’t made to do that.  One counter intuitive lesson I’ve learned is that there are times when you can be more efficient by stepping away from for a while and coming back at it fresh.  There are a million things competing for your attention in this world, if you don’t schedule your time, it won’t happen.

4. Removing urgency

Take a moment to think about what could happen in your home life, in your work and in your social life that if you didn’t respond to right away it would be disastrous.  There are very few things, outside of someone getting hurt or dying, that require you to be 100% on it at all times.  It can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking something is urgent and important.  The more things you have on your list of truly urgent things, the less happy you will be; its a direct correlation.

Many people argue on this point, “I have things that are so important” or  “my job/boss is always last minute” or some other excuse.  We all need to pay bills and be adults, but the truth is we allow most of these things to happen to us.  Every time we have something urgent comes up and don’t later ask the question “how can we prevent this from happening in the future” we are giving that person or situation permission to do it again.

If we have a job that is always last minute, we then need to either work to change that culture or seek out a place that doesn’t have that culture.  If we have a friend that is always in some sort of drama or tragedy, that takes it’s toll and we should consider what that relationship does to us.

5. Get rid of internet, your microwave and freezer

This is a pretty extreme, I have to concede that fact.  I decided that when I moved into my tiny house I was going to not have Internet, cable TV, a freezer or a microwave.  What does this mean?  When I get home, I don’t immediately feel drawn to the internet, I settle in and take a moment to just relax.

After taking a moment to detach I will then start cooking, but because I don’t have a freezer for convenience foods and a microwave for fast cooking.  This all adds up to me needing to take time in my cooking, something that I enjoy doing.  It makes me focus on a single task, to block out the world for a while and make a good meal.  There is something about such a hands-on analog activity that provides separation from my work which is digital.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you find helpful to slow down?

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

What is most important in life?  What is the path to happiness?  When you live The Tiny Life, these are very important questions to answer because you are removing the excess to the bare essentials.  For me this really comes down to makes me happy and doing more of it, plus figuring out what I don’t like doing and doing less of that.  Happiness is something you work towards, it’s an active process.   The hardest part for me and many is figuring out what really makes you happy.

What Makes You Happy

To understand what it will take to thrive, to be truly happy and find direction in your own life, you need to examine your current life to find out what things really turn us on.  We need to identify the things that bring joy to our lives.

Here is a quick printable worksheet for you

Using the worksheet above, print it out and take it with you during a normal day of life.  Every 30 minutes or so think about what you’re doing, think about everything you’ve done, every little thing.  Reflect on what you’ve done and mark down if you enjoyed it or not.Write-everything-down

If you’re at work, don’t just think about whether you like your job or not, but think about every little task;  you may not love your job, but you may like talking with clients, building the perfect spreadsheet, or working with others to find a solution.  Conversely, you may hate filling out reports, providing customer support, or stocking shelves.

In your personal life think about the things that make you feel energized or fall flat for you.  Do you love spending time with you friends or family at the park, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book?  Do you hate running errands, cleaning the house, or having a weekly dinner with that gossipy friend from long ago?

In each of these good and bad things, don’t just write down the good and the bad, but think about WHY they fall into the category.  Think critically about if it’s the actual activity or a factor around it that’s coloring the emotion.  In some cases it’s the situation or conditions that make something less or more pleasant.  It is in that why that we will find common threads which lead us to happiness.

HappinessA perfect example is I’ve had crappy jobs that were fun because I had awesome coworkers; I’ve also had great jobs that were terrible because the people I worked with.   Now our natural instinct would be to say one job was great, the other was terrible, but really after some reflection we can determine that what really makes us happy is having great coworkers.  We could take that even further to say, we thrive off of having positive people around us in all aspects of life.

Go through a few days, just jotting down your likes and dislikes, keeping notes and taking time to reflect on each of the things your write down.  Once you’ve done that, look for those common threads, look for trends, look for deeper truths.

In the next step don’t let yourself consider your answers, just put your pen to the paper and write, do a rapid stream of consciousness.  If you consider the answers, you might edit your true feelings.  Answer these questions truthfully on your printed worksheet:

  1. I look forward to ____ the most
  2. Before I die, I want to _____
  3. The things that I value most are _____
  4. Doing _______ makes me feel most alive

With these written down, think about what they mean to you.  Think about why they made their way on to the paper.  It can be a good time to just sit back and consider them.  Think about ways you can do more of what makes you happy and what ways can you minimize what makes you unhappy.

live intentionallyTo continue with the job example I realized one day that if I could find a job with people I like working with and a position that was constantly presenting challenges that require creative solutions, I was very happy.  Conversely I found if I didn’t connect well with my coworkers and my position was very repetitive, I couldn’t stand it.

That was when I started developing questions to ask in an interview to help me determine if that job met those two criteria.  If they did, I’d continue interviewing, if they didn’t, I’d politely bow out.

In the end the most happy people will have most accurately identified what is most true for themselves and acted upon it.  It’s not that we will ever be able to eliminate all things that we don’t like doing, but that our lives are so rich with what we love, that those unpleasant task are just a small part of what is a great life.

Your Turn!

  • What questions help you find what makes you happy?
  • Was there something that surprised you in doing this?

90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More!)

If you’ve been a follower of the tiny house movement for the past few years, chances are you’ve seen this video tour of Felice Cohen’s 90-square-foot micro apartment in Manhattan:

Felice moved to Manhattan to pursue writing, and the 12’x7′ apartment gave her the freedom to write her first book full time without having to worry about astronomical rent payments. The video tour of her tiny home in the concrete jungle has been viewed almost 12 million times on YouTube, and people from all over the world wondered how she managed to thrive for five years in such a small space. Luckily, Felice recently released her latest book, 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More), to share her experiences and tricks of the trade.Bookcover

Felice was kind enough to send us a copy of the book, which I devoured (figuratively). The book is part organization manual and part lifestyle guide. She draws from her experience as a professional organizer to dish her tips for organizing any size space. Felice bookends these lessons with a memoir of her journey to tiny living, as well as the aftermath of YouTube fame and settling into a positively palatial 490-square-foot pad.

90 Lessons is a nice quick read, but packed with immediately actionable tips to improve your space and your life. The core of the book mirrors the ethos of the tiny house movement itself – that lessening your attachment to objects and keeping them in order frees up our most precious resource – time. Felice is also a fantastic storyteller, and it was great to learn the story behind the person in the YouTube video.

Think of this book as a more approachable version of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” The central message is similar – downsize first, then organize – but this book is better for beginner downsizers just getting their toes wet. And because Felice successfully lived the tiny life abiding by these lessons, you know they’ll work for you in your tiny house!

Felice and her apartment were a big inspiration to me as I was just discovering small house living. No matter your lifestyle, her book will be a valuable addition to your bookshelf.

90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (…or More) on Amazon

 

Tiny House Update – May 2016

It’s crazy how fast time has flown by. To think I’ve been in my Tiny House for just shy of two years! I thought it would be a good time to give an update from the home front. I’ve now been through two summers and two winters off the grid with my solar panels.

Tiny-House-Update

I think the biggest change to report is that I’ve really stopped thinking about my tiny house as tiny…it’s now just my house. When I first moved in I had worries that it might be too small, not because it felt small, but because I worried that I might grow to feel that way one day. Two years in, and there are times it almost feels big.

With the move to the tiny house I made some pretty big lifestyle shifts. First off I went fully off grid for my power, which has been relatively smooth. My system is large enough that I really don’t think about it most days. Sometimes I almost forget that I’m on solar, particularly in the spring and summer.

Winters are the only time I really have to think about things, particularly when it’s very overcast for days. For this I have my generator that I can run for two hours and the batteries are fully recharged. The combination of less solar exposure in the winter with the higher power usage of heat can be tricky, but last winter I used a total of 20 gallons of gas in my generator, costing me about $45 for heat over an entire winter.

The real challenge is that I don’t use my generator enough. I use it just often enough that it doesn’t make sense to drain the fluids, but sometimes things start to gum up a bit. I know my Honda EU2000i is showing signs of infrequent use and the carburetor needs to be overhauled, but I’m nervous to pull it apart because it’s a fancy two stage (not sure if that’s the correct term) and has a lot more pieces to it; as if I really know enough to do a basic carburetor.

In the kitchen I’ve also made some big shifts since moving to my tiny house. I decided not to put in a microwave, freezer, dishwasher or oven. For some, this would be no big deal, while others couldn’t imagine not having these things. For me it came down to a few things: generally, convenience foods are less healthy for you and primarily come frozen and/or rely on microwave cooking. I like to cook, but I don’t really like baking, so no oven. Finally, I didn’t want to give up the space for a dishwasher and I couldn’t care less about having one.

food

I think the only things I really miss are easy baked potatoes in the microwave and being able to freeze meats. Freezing meats wouldn’t be an issue if I wasn’t a single person household, but most things at the store are packaged for families. Single person portions options at the grocery store are woefully lacking and I wish there were better options.

Laundry facilities have been tricky, since I don’t have a washer and dryer in my tiny house. In reality, it’s the drying that’s the hard part, because I don’t mind hand washing my clothes. I don’t have time or space to air dry things. In our humid summers, clothes won’t dry very quickly. In the winter it rains too much. I’ve decided to actually double my wardrobe from about 8ish days of clothes to 16 days.  Locally there are now two companies that will come to me, take my clothes and then wash/dry/fold them for very affordable rates. Two weeks of clothing means I can have one weeks’ worth at home and another out being washed.

tiny-house-minimalist-clothes

The last and final trouble spot I’m having is I really want a woodshop. It would be great to have a space where I can set up my tools and just leave them set up. Right now when I want to work on a project, I have to drag my tools out of my cargo trailer and then put them all back in. I really want to get into some woodworking projects that take some time, things that I may only work on a few hours here and there, but take a few weeks to complete. I want a big work table to spread out on, to do more complex glue-ups, and have a place for things to dry. I don’t really know what I’m going to do for this. I’d like to avoid paying rent somewhere and I don’t own the land, so building a shop isn’t in the cards.

Another lifestyle change is that I decided against installing Internet at my tiny house. I now own a coworking space, so I have a great office space to do my thing, but I really have to be careful that I allow myself to unplug. I love work. The fact that I get to do what I do for a living is incredible. And therein lies the problem – when you love to work, you have to make sure that you also make time to live life. Not having Internet at my house means I really have time to detach from work, and have time to reflect, be quiet, and enjoy my solitude.

I also don’t have cable TV, but download the shows I want to watch and then only watch what I really enjoy; no more idle channel surfing. I feel like this is the perfect balance for me.

Your Turn!

 

  • If you live tiny, how has your life changed since moving into a tiny house?

 

 

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