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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 get to the bare essentials.  For me, this really comes down to what 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 others 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 your 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 you 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 these things.  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 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, and 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?

 

 

There Are No Joneses.

FinishLine

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.

Gravestone

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.

IMG_2384

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.

IMG_2390

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?

 

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