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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

There Are No Joneses.

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Back in March when I was interviewing potential volunteers for the 2016 Tiny House Conference, I asked a married couple why they were interested in downsizing into a tiny house, and why they wanted to help run our event.

“We used to be so concerned with keeping up with the Joneses, until we realized one day that our lifestyle had gotten out of hand,” they said. “Turns out there aren’t any Joneses.”

We hear the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” so much in society that it’s completely lost its meaning. I find that I pick up on it more often now that I’m involved in the tiny house movement, and it’s almost jarring to hear how flippantly people use it in conversation. Even more often, I hear something and I can tell that this insidious, invisible “Jones” character is behind it:

“We bought a house in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs, because that’s what adults are supposed to do.”

“Real men drive pickup trucks.”

“Oof, you still only have an iPhone 4? You should upgrade. Like, yesterday.”

“Buy one of our luxury Swiss timepieces for only $199 per month!”

The idea of constantly upgrading our clothing, our houses, our cars, our adornments, and our job titles reminds me of a race. There’s an urgency to spend every shred of time and money to strive for the next shiny toy, the next symbol of adulthood, the next proof to the world that you’re buying the things you should because you have your life together. You’re racing against everyone else who is trying to do the same thing. No one seems to ask why you’re doing it.

Then, when you approach the finish line, after leaving the losers in the dust behind you, the anonymous Mr. Jones will finally appear in his impeccably tailored suit, give a slow clap and say, “Well done. You’ve beaten me. Have some cake.”

But that’s not what’s actually beyond the finish line.

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There is no finish line. There are no Joneses.

(The cake is a lie.)

Your time is your most precious and limited resource. Are you using it to spend time with loved ones? Help improve people’s lives? Create new things? Discover new places? Learn new skills?

Or are you endlessly consuming stuff you don’t need to impress people whose opinions don’t matter?

It’s perfectly fine to want and enjoy material items. We’re human – we use things in order to carry out our work and our daily routines comfortably. Sometimes we even get nice things for ourselves or from people we care about. No one is saying you should shed all material possessions to become a nudist and live in the woods (although if that’s your thing, that’s cool too).

But if you look up and realize you’re in the middle of the race, it’s not your fault. Businesses and marketers have spent billions of dollars to convince you and everyone around you that you’re right where you should be. If you’ve started noticing that you’re doing something ridiculous just because everyone else is too, it’s time to drop out of the race and start living your life. Don’t wait until you get to the end to realize that things could have been different.

Your Turn!

  • What have you done to step out of the race?

Hosting A Party In A Tiny House

IMG_2383Life has been very busy as of late with lots of new things coming down the pipeline for us here at The Tiny Life, but when I saw how nice it was going to be this past weekend I knew I had to close the laptop.

It takes work to break yourself away and make time for relaxation with friends. In a world as fast paced as ours, we need to keep sight of what’s important. The work will never be done, but time with friends and family is a precious commodity. This past weekend I decided to take advantage of the perfect weather by having a cookout and campfire.

They say the best way to clean your house is to throw a party…it’s so true! But in a tiny house, that takes me all of 15 minutes of work! It was going to be a small group, but still bigger than I could seat in my tiny house. So when the invite went out I said BYOB and BYOC (bring your own chair). We had a mix of meat eaters and vegetarians, so we had burgers and hotdogs for the meat eaters and veggie patties and veggie kabobs for my vegetarian friends.

Because of the number of folks, I decided to host it entirely outdoors. I had my grill all set up, plus I brought out a folding table that I’m able to keep tucked away most of the time and bring out when I need some more working room. With the table setup, I laid out everything we would need to keep folks outside the house. I left the door to the tiny house propped open, as people inevitably want to check it out.

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Amy and my friends Caroline, JR, Jared, and Lauren came over for food and to hang out. Amy brought the veggie kabobs and tried her hand at grilling for the first time; we all got together, chatted and grilled. Once we filled our plates we moved over to the fire.

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After eating and chatting, Lauren broke out supplies for s’mores, but instead of marshmallows, she brought Peeps. So we roasted the poor marshmallow chicks over the fire and ate s’mores. All in all it was a great time, grilling and sitting by the fire and enjoying the stars after dark.

Your Turn!

  • What type of tiny house party are you going to throw first?

 

The Tiny Life’s Goals – 2016

It’s officially 2016 and with that, many folks are looking forward to this new year and planning what they want to do. I’ve written a lot about this topic before. I’ve shared my goals in years past and even written how goals and New Year’s Resolutions aren’t effective. You can read some of the older posts here on goals. This year it isn’t just me here at The Tiny Life, so Amy and I each wrote a bit for this post and shared it below.

Ryan:

ryan1I have to be honest, this year I have been struggling a lot with what the future looks like for me. I have concrete things I want to do, but they don’t feel like lofty goals that I must strive for, but just something that I need to put in the work for; work that I find interesting, fun, and achievable, but nothing that is going to push me to my limits. I’m in a very good place with my tiny house, with my career, with the relationships that I have, and with other important parts of my life, but there is something I just can’t quite put my finger on.

Tiny houses force you to ask some tough questions and the answers are often complex, open-ended, or spur larger questions. Tiny living leads you down a road of introspection and spurs existential questions. When I think about two years from now or five years from now, I don’t really know what else I want to do and what I do now, I quite like.

Perhaps I’m circling the root problem with what many call “achievement culture,” which is the idea that we have to always be chasing the next shiny thing, to always do more, do better, and do bigger. Maybe what I need to consider is not what I want to do, but instead focus on how to be content with what is. Writing this makes me think of this story:

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The truth is, the happiest I’ve ever been in my life was during the times when I was most grateful. I also learned a valuable lesson: happiness is a hard won thing that comes from within when you’re willing to do the work. Barring having a home, food, and health, you can’t buy happiness.

So with that in mind I have come up with a few things I want to foster in my life for 2016. They’re a little vague at this point because I feel like I’m only touching the soft edges of what is a deeper truth, one that is within me, but I haven’t fully brought to light.

My Goals for 2016:

  1. Learn something totally new, try a new hobby or dig into something complex
  2. Take a class, go to a conference, workshop or other learning event
  3. Seek out situations outside my comfort zone
  4. Talk more to you, my readers
  5. Teach/mentor/coach
  6. Test things to foster gratitude
  7. Do more trips with friends and family
  8. Read a book on stoicism
  9. Book time with no phone or internet, preferably in the woods

My Long-Term Goals:

  1. Sail from Florida to Mexico, arriving to see the Giant Sea Ray migration
  2. Do a river boat tour down the Danube or Rhine
  3. Go see the fall colors in New England
  4. Go on the Trans Siberian Railroad in luxury class
  5. Learn to play the harmonica
  6. Continue being self-employed
  7. Pay for my next car with cash

Amy:

amy1I love this time of year, because I get to do two of my favorite things at once: set goals and make lists. My friends can attest to how much I love New Year’s resolutions – last January 1st, I holed up in my apartment and set goals the entire day, and no one saw me leave my room until dinner time.

Last year was also my first time taking a new approach to goal-setting. I followed Chris Guillebeau’s method of conducting your own annual review, which you can learn more about here. It helped me analyze what went well and what didn’t in 2014, and helped me chart the course toward a more productive 2015.

I didn’t accomplish everything on my list, but in my defense, I had one heck of a whirlwind year. From an insane winter in Boston, to the Tiny House Conference in Portland, to moving down to Charlotte and starting a new life, I’ve learned how to recognize opportunities when they arise – and more importantly, how to grab onto them when they do!

This year had a lot of ups and downs, and I had to grow and adapt very quickly. I like to tell people that it’s been a crash course in “adulting,” but it has certainly changed me for the better. After a year and a half of living in transition after graduating college, I feel lucky that I have a new city to call home and put down some roots. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.

Here are some of my resolutions for 2016.

My Goals for 2016:

  1. Quit eating sugar for one month
  2. Read twelve books
  3. Purchase my tiny house trailer
  4. Bench press my own body weight
  5. Create five finished art pieces
  6. Do one input deprivation day per month
  7. Write five handwritten letters

My Long-Term Goals:

  1. Build a tiny house (but you guys already knew that)
  2. Live in Japan for at least 3 months
  3. Learn to play the violin
  4. Road trip across the US in a hand-built camper
  5. Play Hamlet
  6. Deadlift 400 pounds
  7. Write, illustrate, and publish a graphic novel

Your Turn!

  • Did you accomplish your goals for 2015?
  • How do you like to set (and keep!) your New Year’s Resolutions?

How to Decorate Your Tiny House for the Holidays

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For me, one of the best things about the holiday season is decorating. When I was a kid, breaking out the Christmas decorations each December was almost better than Christmas itself (…almost). There’s nothing like the feeling of decking the halls with garlands and bows to welcome the holiday spirit into your home.

When most people think of holiday decor, they think of plastic tubs stuffed with tree trimmings and specialty candlesticks and outdoor light-up Santas. If you live in a tiny house, you probably don’t have the storage space for decor items used only once per year. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the decorating fun just because you live in a small space. All it takes is some extra creativity! Here are some of our tips for festive tiny house holiday decorating.

1. Miniature versions of existing decor

If you can spare the floor space, a tiny Christmas tree looks even cuter in a tiny house.

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Or if there’s no floor space for a tree, go even smaller with a tabletop version.

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Even the tiniest rosemary wreath will add seasonal color and scent to your tiny house.

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2. Utilize vertical space

Any sliver of wall or window can become a prime location for some holiday decor. If your door has divided lites, hang up some paper snowflakes! It takes up no space at all, but it makes a big visual impact.
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This DIY washi tape Christmas tree couldn’t be easier to make and takes up no floor space.

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And don’t neglect that overlooked swath of decor real estate – your ceiling! Hanging ornaments, paper crafts, or garlands can make your tiny house feel extra magical.

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3. Compostable decor

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to buy a single disposable plastic thing made in China in order to decorate your house beautifully for the holiday season. Greenery, fruits, herbs, and spices are all beautiful options that can return to the soil once the holidays are over.

These DIY pomanders are a traditional holiday decoration that will make your tiny house smell amazing!

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Pine boughs in jars, lined up near a window, are simple and elegant.

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Not much of a holiday baker? Tie cinnamon sticks around candles with twine and fake the scent of baking pies.

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4. Lights, lights, lights!

Twinkle lights are the perfect way to add ambiance to your tiny house; and once the holidays are over, you can use them for auxillary lighting year round. Use LED string lights for the smallest electrical draw.

Hang lights everywhere – in your loft, around your loft ladder or stairs, above your kitchen cabinets, around your windows, or hang them from the ceiling and around door frames as seen below.

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Use branches and lights to outline a beautiful Star of David.

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And don’t forget to decorate the outside of your house too!

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For more ideas on how to decorate a tiny space for the holidays, be sure to follow our Tiny House Holidays Pinterest board!


Your Turn!

  • What are your favorite small-space holiday decorating ideas?
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