I just got reading an inspiring post from Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet (you should read it to get an idea about this post). I thought I’d respond to it in a way and maybe expand upon it from my viewpoint. It basically sums up so much of what I believe when it comes to tiny houses, a career and life. It is easy to make excuses for not doing something, to follow the path of least resistance, to settle into complacency, but to our own detriment. Even today I do this, but I am now more cognizant of it and call myself out on it.
The point is when it comes to making drastic changes, whether building a tiny house, making a career change or some other life altering decision, IT IS HARD. More acculturate, it is REALLY FREAKING HARD and by hard I mean lots of sleepless nights, tons of work, years of making your way to the goal; The saying “blood, sweat, and tears” only begins to cover a rough approximation of it.
Right before I started building my tiny house I realized that the only thing that was stopping me from building my tiny house was myself. I had no idea where I’d live in it, I had no idea how to build, I didn’t know how it would all go down, but I went for it. When I started, I didn’t know about how the building codes and zoning would work, how I’d get utilities, where I was going to park it, but I decided that I needed to move to action now, because otherwise me saying “someday” would turn into never.
What I realized about the changes in my life, career and my housing options was that no matter how scary it would be to change these things, the price of doing nothing was too high. Living in house loaded with debt, working in a job I hate and in a life left uninspired was not worth it. To make the changes I have made – and am still making – was the only rational option.
The truth is when I started this journey I was unemployed, loaded with debt, didn’t have any money in the bank or any assets. Since doubling down on me and my life, I own my tiny house, I should be able to clear all my debt in the next year, I have a job I love done on my terms and I have money in the bank. What I did was nothing special, the concepts and ideas are already out there for free, you just have to stop making excuses and say “I am the priority and worthy of an epic life”.
So today resolve to make you and your life the priority, to make your life epic. Realize it is a ton of work, it’s scary, it will take years and after laying all the excuses to rest, you will have a life others only dream of.
- What did you do today to achieve your dreams?
- What excuse have you left behind?
Many of you have been following me in my journey to The Tiny Life for a while now. While I tend to focus on the building and design of tiny houses, what I have come to realize is that even though its fun to talk about the houses and how to build them, it really isn’t about the houses, it’s about the life you lead in them. In an odd way, its not the house that is so great, its the life that is amazing.
Recently I was thinking about this fact as I was re-reading my book that just released (find it here) and I realized that in many ways you can still live tiny, without a tiny house at all. So here are some ways you can live The Tiny Life right now.
Learn To Say No
In this world saying no is almost unheard of. We often either get pulled into things we really don’t want to do or we say non-committal things like “Let me get back to you” when you hope they never follow up. One thing I’ve learned is important is when there is something that I am not interested in participating in or doing, I just clearly decline and make no apologies for it. Be willing to say no, you don’t have to be rude, but be clear, “Honestly, I’m just not interested in it” or “I don’t have the time to do a good job with this, so I’ll have to pass, thanks.”
Proactively Remove Negative Influences And Sources Of Stress
I have had two people that really shaped this rule for me in my life: I once worked with a person who always had some sort of drama in their life, no matter how good things were, there was always some catastrophe happening. The second one was when I found myself in a situation where I had to regularly interact with someone who frankly was just a really terrible human being; they were manipulative, easily moved to violence, and had a lot of self destructive behaviors that they inflicted on others.
It taught me a valuable lesson, there are people or situations that you must actively work to remove yourself from. If they cause stress, unhappiness, or cause drama in your life, you need to get them out of your life. This goes for friends too. I will only put in effort into relationships that I feel the other person equally values me. There have been times where I have had friends who were flaky, always late, or didn’t ever develop into a deeper platonic relationship that I just let go and let them peter out.
Thin Your Email In Box
One thing I have learned with running this website is how to handle a lot of email effectively. I have developed a few rules that I abide by to make it easier. I realized that I don’t want to be efficient with email, but instead I have worked hard to reduce the email volume, which I must be efficient in handling. Spending an hour to help setup a system where people can find their answer on their own, has come back 100 fold. Think of how you could do the same in your life or situation, just adapt it.
- Realize your email inbox is a convenient way for other people to organize their agenda.
- Always think about how you can reduce the volume of emails you get.
- Always to clearly define the next needed action, otherwise close the loop on that email.
- If they don’t ask a question, it isn’t actionable or are not clear in message, don’t respond.
- Set up email filters for things that you get often or as a way to segment different areas of your life.
- If its a newsletter that I find myself not reading regularly, I unsubscribe right away. I can always add myself back.
- If they ask for something I often follow up with a request to do a small task (want to talk? I ask for an agenda) this weeds out people
Define You Career By The Life You Want To Lead, Not The Other Way Around
Your job/career should support and accommodate the life you want to lead, not the other way around. To do this you must first know what life you want. It is easy to fall in the trap of letting your career dictate the life you lead (work schedules, vacations, soul crushing activities),
I’ve been there myself and there are times where you just need a job to pay the bills. So if you are in a tight spot, get a income source, but once you have gained that stabilizing income, you must then quickly move to a more proactive place where you either morph your job to be what you need or start looking for / building your perfect job that accommodates your life.
I once took a job that I knew I would hate, but I realized that it would buy me just enough time (3-6 months) of income to allow me to find the job that I really wanted. It meant that I could walk away from offers that weren’t great and hold out for a better one, at that point I really didn’t have anything to lose.
The Pareto Principle
This is more commonly known as the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of the outcome or effect comes from 20% of the cause. For example, 80% of the happiness comes from 20% of the people in your life, because they are the most important people to you. On the flip side, 20% of your time spent at work actually yields 80% of your income.
The trick with this rule is to identify that 20% that causes the 80% and if its good, focus on it; if it is bad, eliminate it. So in the instance of something good, say relationships, spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your relationships. Conversely, if 80% of customers complaints at work come from 20% of your customers, break it off with them.
Learn To Slow Down, But Be Intentional
I’ve learned over the past two years that I can be far more productive if I am intentional. I have had so many people in my professional life say to me that I always seem laid back, but get a ton done. The truth is I do a lot less work then them, but when I do work, it is calculated. I actively work to minimize what is on my plate instead of working longer hours to get an overloaded to do list done. I think about what I can do that is most effective and then how I can achieve it most efficiently. Finally anything I do more than a few times, I look for ways to automate.
So when it comes time for me to do something, I have the time to do it correctly, I have worked out the best way to do it, and then in many cases I have automated it so I don’t have to worry about it at all.
So these are just some of the ways you can start living The Tiny Life now, even if you don’t live in a tiny house just yet.
- What things have you done or do to live The Tiny Life?
Having been working with Tiny Houses for years now, I have run into many instances where people have some perceptions of tiny house folks that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sometimes I feel like informing them of how it really is to live tiny, but other days, I just don’t have it in me to say anything. So today I thought I’d lay to rest some of the common misconceptions about tiny houses and the people who live in them.
1. We hate stuff
While it is true we don’t like the gratuitous, debt accumulating, clutter creating consumption of stuff for consumption sake, we aren’t against things. In fact the things we own and take up space in our tiny houses, we really really like. We have decided to only have those things that make our lives richer, happier and in some cases easier.
2. We don’t have a lot of money or a job
I remember one conversation I had with a woman that came walking off the street to see my tiny house. After talking a while, I mentioned it had taken a while to build because I could only work on it when I wasn’t working. She looked at me with astonishment and said “oh you have a job” she then alluded that my job must not be well paying and I informed her I had a good job white collar job that paid very well. Her face was filled with a look of confusion.
The ironic thing is that most tiny house folks actually make more than the average American, are gainfully employed at good jobs. What is more, we keep most of what we make, meaning we often don’t have any debt and we have more saved up. Recently a report release by PEW showed that someone with no debt and $100 in the bank account has a higher net worth than most people in America.
3. We say no to big houses
For a long time I thought I was saying “no” to big houses, fancy cars, nice clothes, etc. but I realized one day that I wasn’t saying “no”, but in fact saying “yes”. I am saying “yes” to a life where I have no debt, where I have exactly what I need, to a job where I only have to work a few hours a week, and “yes” to travel, pursuit of passions, hobbies and interests.
So its not so much I’m rejecting bigger houses, but embracing the benefits of smaller living.
4. You can’t have a relationship or a family in a tiny house
Time and time again I get asked about families and relationships in a tiny house. There are plenty of examples of people who are couples and also plenty of examples of families who live in a tiny house. The truth is it’s possible, but its not for everyone. Don’t get caught up in “I have to be ____ number of square feet because that is what a tiny house is” Forget that notion, do what makes sense for you and those you live with. If I were to want to cohabitate with someone else, would I live in a tiny house with them? HELL NO! Would I get a bigger house than a tiny house, but small compared to most houses, most definitely. For some though, a tiny house as a couple is great. For some families, they might live in 800 square feet or maybe more; that’s okay too.
5. A tiny house isn’t a real house
Every time someone learns that I live in a tiny house that don’t know what they are I get all the same questions. Does it have a bathroom, a sink, a kitchen, a shower, a toilet, a bed, electricity, water, internet? The answer is yes, yes, and yes. My house has every creature comfort you could want and so do most tiny houses. Tiny houses have all the same systems that a traditional house has, it is built the same way (mostly) and uses most of the same materials. There are some things that I have chosen not to have like a dish washer and microwave, but that’s because I didn’t want them.
On Easter morning I had the pleasure of speaking with Kerry Lindsey, an innovator and developer in Flat Rock, North Carolina who has begun a project to bring tiny houses to his existing retreat centered community. I was excited to hear about his plans and what he has going on in this gem of a town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was so inspiring to speak with Lindsey about his experiences living the tiny life, what he’s accomplished and his continued plans involving tiny houses, community and the importance of mindfulness in our current world. Check it out!
How did you discover the tiny house movement and what drew your interest?
My interest in tiny houses began when we were kids. My folks built their first home from the rock and logs off the land of their mini farm, and as kids we copied them; building 2 fairly sophisticated tree houses (for kids) and a tiny log cabin. That interest continued and a couple of years out of high school I bought a junked school bus for $150 and converted it into a camper/house , traveling for several months (Kesey style) around the southeast in it with a handful of hippie friends . I continued building small outbuildings at my own first mini farm and after buying this property, restored all the old summer camp cabins here as we started the first conference center. By the time Jay Schafer came to town the first time, 4-5 years ago, I had the bug bad and was dredging and creating waterfront sites in the early stages of this project.
This place is the intersection of three strong paths in my life: creating artistic buildings, a 5 business entrepreneurial streak and the understanding gleaned from my own spiritual community about the essence of community. So many of the outcomes we’ve looked for in the so called “American Dream” can’t be found in a media driven consumerist approach to life. It takes slowing down. Living a simpler lifestyle (like Tiny House living) as well as creating a more intentional approach to community can be a great support for the peace and happiness we all aspire towards. While I think many folks want to build these to garner more independence, I think its the fact that one can both have that, and create truly supportive communities (by “rounding up the wagons” so to speak) that is so interesting. We all need privacy but there is also a certain magic in coming together more collaboratively to create things together.
What influences stylistically are you basing your designs off of?
I lean towards the Appalachian cabin vernacular but with a whimsical twist. Tree houses….hobbit houses…. Creativity is energizing and the more that people are connected to the shelters they build or personalize, the more life it brings into the community. It creates a felt-sense of place. This is not to say we don’t have guidelines….we are in the middle of a retreat center business after all, and the place needs to feel congruent with our reason for being here.
Like we did in our first neighborhood across the street, we strive to appeal to an inter-generational market because diversity adds to the value of communities. I can see our larger models clustered together around a common house to create a pocket neighborhood akin to a senior co-housing community: because we also put an emphasis on creating business opportunities within the projects we’ve done, and have kid friendly areas, I’d also expect to see a younger crowd here, learning both how to build a home and start a business. The third market is “second home” folks like here in the Garden Hamlet People that are simply wanting a quiet place to get away to on weekends or to take a vacation. Like the Hamlet cottages that surround the goat meadow, these cabins can also be placed back in the retreat rental pool so that folks can earn a little off their investment when they’re not using them.
What is your timeline for development? Have you started construction and when do you project to complete this community?
We are 28 years into the overall community and the retreat section is the 4th of the 7 planned phases. We’ve got our primary infrastructure in as well as the new cafe/community building. Four tiny’s are under way (mostly students from Dan Louche’s workshop here last fall) as well as our first double-sized one, a 400 sq ft unit. This is a two module design that can be moved with a normal pick up truck. Because there are many great Tiny House providers on the market today, our focus is primarily on the next size up. While its not something one would haul around day to day like an RV, it would be moveable so that people could have more flexibility about where they live. Here we’ll have lots that can be leased which will make it a very affordable community for young folks starting out or retirees looking for an unencumbered, active, learning, community based life style.
In what ways do permaculture and tiny house ideals coincide for you? How do you feel they compliment each other?
Well the obvious first part is their small footprint and how well they can be integrated into a mini-farm like layout. Here at the Garden Hamlet, even though the cottages are larger, over 60% of the land is held in permanent open space for gardens, greenhouses, fruit trees, farm animals and gardens.
The fundamental learning tracks in it grew out of my experience working with key employees over the course of my 43 years in business….helping them take a more “intra”preneurial approach to running their departments. My approach is more along the lines of the Integral Incubator Series at Integral Institute in Boulder. Beyond the basics, I’m more interested in helping folks with a Four Bottom Line approach. . . People Planet Profit & Personal Transformation. Part of the purpose of the incubator is to help people create meaningful work in their own communities. I deem myself lucky because I always found myself in a business that arose out of personal passions and creativity and always kept me learning and evolving. So many folks work so they can retire. I prefer to help people create work that’s inspiring.
Are you going to have workshops this summer geared towards building tiny houses?
Yes our next on is May 24th-25th. It will be taught by Teal Brown of Wishbone Tiny Homes here in Asheville along with some of our students and staff for certain elements. It will also include an introduction to building with cob for folks thinking about creating more fixed structures.
To find out more about workshops, retreats and the community visit www.highlandlakecove.com!
Thanks again Kerry for talking to me and for growing tiny house love and community in the Carolinas!
- Are you inspired by tiny houses to build community? If so, how?