Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

The Purpose Of Stuff And The Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself

Recently I came across this post about “The purpose of stuff” and I thought it was a really great way of thinking about the items in our lives.  To Summarize, we have all this stuff in our lives and they largely fall into four distinct purposes: Functional, Aesthetic, Nostalgic, and Dream Placeholders.

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I liked this line of thought and realized that this frame work is useful, but it contains a lot of pitfalls.  For example: Functional.  There are a lot of things that could be deemed functional in our lives, kitchen gadgets are the first thing that comes to mind.

Many of us have drawers stuffed with gadgets that will peel garlic, steam broccoli and core an apple.  The kitchen gadget industry has come up with a solution for every possible problem.  The truth is, much of these purpose built items don’t make us better cooks and most of these things serve an outlier need.  How often do you actually core apples?

So I wanted to offer up some questions that can help you navigate around the pitfalls of each of these.

Functional:

There are things that we simply need to get through our daily lives.  We need a bed to sleep on, a fridge to keep food in, a towel to dry our hands and so on.  Much of what is in my tiny house has a very strong functional purpose, but it’s easy to say we NEED something.  What most people fail to do is examine motivations and take a step back and understand the motivations.

compact-can-openerA perfect example for me was: do I need a washer and dryer?  I was convinced I did, but I didn’t know how I was going to fit it in my house.  It was then I took a step back and said “I hate folding clothes, why would I want to have a thing in my house that caused me to do things I hate doing?”

Now it would be easy to say, well everyone wears clothes, clothes get dirty, you need to wash them, therefore, you need a washer.  That is a pretty logical argument, it’s how most houses are built, and how it’s been done for a long time.  But I was willing to ask myself, what if I didn’t have a washer/dryer?  So I said, well maybe there is someone that I could instead pay to do my laundry in lieu of buying an expensive compact washer/dryer.  Low and behold I found a company that will come to my house, take my laundry, wash/dry/fold, then bring it back to me… for $15!

Ask yourself these questions around functional items:

  • What assumptions am I making about this item and the “need” it fills?
  • What are other ways I could achieve this same end result?
  • Is there something I could use instead that does this in a smaller form or is multi-purpose
  • How often do I actually do this function?
  • What if I didn’t have this thing?  What would the impact be?

Aesthetics

There is a great quote from William Morris: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”  Aesthetics is very important in a small space and for minimalists, we have very little so we must be intentional with all our decisions.  When it comes to minimalists choosing beautiful things for our lives, we need to be discerning.  This is the case where less is more, not out of some dogmatic adherence, but by have a few beautiful things we bring focus and honor to their purpose: enrichment through beauty.

have-nothing-that-is-not-useful-and-beautifulThe trouble with aesthetic items we can have too many of them, which leads us to have a cluttered feel.  Focus on a few select things that allows you to enjoy them without being distracted by other things.  If you find yourself not appreciating it’s value each day, it might be a sign it needs to go.

Ask yourself these questions around Aesthetic items:

  • Where will this item have a home, a spot, in my house?
  • How do you want your space or home to feel?  How does this item help you achieve that goal?
  • Is there enough space to draw your focus on this item each day?
  • What items will distract you from enjoyment of this item?

Nostalgic

This is the most difficult of them all, because we are human beings and as such, we are inherently laden with flaws and complications.  Nostalgia is a powerful force of the human experience and its valuable, healthy and an important part of life.  There are times when it can weigh us down.

memories-posessionsIf you ever have watched a show of Hoarders, you hear over and over again how people don’t want to throw something away because it reminds them of their late spouse, passed away family member or some other part of their past.  While hoarding is an unhealthy expression of this need to connect with the past, we can all relate to these feelings.

For me I spent a significant amount of time sifting through my memory boxes and was able to organize into a few albums and boxes.  I then placed the whole thing into a large waterproof container for safe keeping.  I think what I really need to do is get better is spending a little more time enjoying these memories.

Ask yourself these questions around nostalgic items:

  • Is it possible to keep this memory from some other prompt?
  • Is this a healthy memory to keep coming back to?
  • Would a picture of the item suffice?

Dream Placeholders

I have a soft spot for nostalgic items, but when it comes to items that are place holders for our dreams, hope and even fantasies I take a pretty hard line.  Dream placeholders are things that we involve in our lives that nod to a life we wish to live, the are things that we want in our lives, but we don’t have them, so we instead have things that remind us of that.  Dream placeholders are toxic. Period.

We should have goals, but the difference between goals and a dream is that goals are things we work towards, we are driven to achieve and we make meaningful progress towards; dreams are things we just remind ourselves that we don’t have them with no end in sight.

born to liveIt’s the difference between someone saying they hate their job and going home only to do it all over again, versus a person that works 9 to 5, only to come home and work on their side hustle until midnight.  It is the difference between people who say they want to live in a tiny house and the people who I’m going to do it and are building their dream home weeks later.

Dream placeholders can be toxic.  Living this lifestyle is one of purpose, of intention and of pursuit of your best life.  If you can’t actively pursue something, then it’s best to come to terms that it will not happen and move on.

Ask yourself these questions about Dream Placeholders:

  • What have you done in the last week to achieve this dream?
  • Why haven’t you achieved this already and is it just an excuse?
  • Does this item serve a function in getting you closer to your goals?
  • Should I lay this dream to rest and move on?

 

Your Turn!

  • How do you make sure the things in your life are meant to be there?
  • What tricks do you use to keep down clutter?

My Tiny House Saved Me From Financial Disaster

why-youre-broke-tiny-house

I’ve been back and forth on writing this post for a long time, 5 months in fact.  Baked into this story is a fair bit of embarrassment. But in the end, I know that many people out there have been put in similarly compromising positions and this might be helpful.

This is the story of the worst financial disaster of my life.  The story starts with me working with an accountant for the first time in my life.  I’ve always done my own taxes, but things have gotten very complicated now with owning multiple businesses, a small army of contractors, etc.  I earn very little from this website, it’s my other ventures that bring in most of my income.

Tragedy Strikes:

I had submitted everything to my accountant way ahead of time and he had informed me that my taxes for the year would be around $3,000.  Not great, but as a self employed person you usually get pretty slammed with taxes.  From there I made a lot of decisions about spending, planning and budgeting for the next year.  I was feeling really good.

Then I got the bad news in a phone call….   “Ryan I’m so sorry, we made a mistake with your taxes, you don’t owe $3,000, you actually owe, $30,000 in taxes.  We made a decimal mistake”

I was at a total loss for words.  I was sick to my stomach. I felt hopeless.

I eventually calmed down and started to think.  This was a problem, a problem that had a solution.  It was a budget that needed to tighten the belt in a way that I had never done before.  So I broke out my computer and started a spreadsheet that allowed me to fully understand what I owed and when.

Identifying two important facts:

1. I needed to come up with a lot of cash, which I now had a real world number for

2. I also understood that timing was going to be a huge factor.

The name of the game for me was to earn more income while I timed very precisely spending to meet all my commitments.  Certain bills weren’t due for several months and my taxes weren’t due for about two months because I had done them so early.  Each time I paid a bill I had to quickly ramp my account back up in a perfect way so that I could be on point for the next bill.  This meant that there were times I’d be close to zero, but it would be part of the plan.

The ripple effect… of Death

The real chaos came from the fact that I had some other big bills coming up, having to pay $30k in taxes all of sudden was creating a ripple effect that left unchecked, would spell disaster.  A lot of my planning deals with working with cash flow, I don’t get a steady paycheck since I’m self employed.  This means I earn money and have to make it last until the next time I get paid.  Timing is so critical and a shock to the system of this magnitude was devastating despite me having a solid emergency fund.

The main considerations to my budgeting:

  1. Understand my expenses down to the dollar.
  2. Understand my income, but operate under the worst case scenario
  3. Develop a strategy to increase income, assumed most would fail
  4. Remove costs that weren’t critical, go as lean as possible
  5. Stick to my budget no matter what

The big thing here was understand expenses and income, but operate in the worst case scenario when it came to my income projections.  For expenses, I used my real fixed costs and projected variable costs with 6 months past data

I then needed to come with a strategy to earn more income fast.  What this meant was I needed to get two big projects I had been casually working on out the door, I had to hustle a second income from somewhere and I had to make this happen quick.  This lead me to my first lesson:

Lesson Number One:

I’ve learned that sometimes it comes down to income, not expenditures.  This is a particularly tough pill to swallow at times because when we talk about budgeting, debt and savings its often a discussion of what we can cut out.  The truth is we can cut out all the fluff, go very lean and still not have enough; that is what happened here for me.  What this means is that we need to work on the other side of the equation: income.   I realized that was the case with me, cutting lattes would get me no where.  I need to earn more to make this equation work.

How I Boosted My Income:

As I mentioned I was able to get two projects out the door, but I didn’t stop there.  I operated under the assumption that most of my efforts would fail.  With that mindset I knew I needed to move on a lot of ways to earn income to find a success.  So from there I looked at my skills and sent some emails to connections offering my services.  I was able to land a business coaching gig and a marketing strategy coaching session.  I did a few other things, but you get the idea.

Lesson Number Two:

One thing I realized at this point was I’m pretty good at a lot of marketable skills .  This brings us to the second lesson: be valuable.  Whatever this means for you is the correct answer as long as you can do some thing and people are actually willing to pay you for it.  For me I realized I have experience in building businesses and marketing.  I can do these things and the outcome of that activity is I can earn other people money.  Hence I’m valuable in my own way.  Think about how you are valuable, because everyone is, the trick is identifying that talent and who you’ll sell it to.

How My Tiny House Saved Me:

Through out all of this it struck me how different this time in my life would have been if I been in a traditional housing option, namely renting.  Right now the average rent in my city is around $1000 a month with utilities.  What compounds this fact is that if I had been renting I would have not be able to pay off my student loans earlier so in addition to rent and utilities, I’d also have to content with a $250 student loan payment.  This all would add up to me needing to come up with additional $5,000 on top of the $30,000!

Beyond money considerations living in a tiny house meant one thing that was extremely comforting: I would always have a place to live.  That comfort of knowing that, let me take a deep breath and know I was going to be okay.  To top it off, my utilities are $15 a month with my tiny house and push comes to shove, I could work any job part time and make it if I had to.

Lesson Number Three:

Tiny Houses buy you security, peace of mind and a place to lay your head.  More importantly, it let me say “I’ll be fine” and move from trying to survive to finding a solution.

Once I realized that I would always have a place to stay, I could focus on executing my plan.  The plan gave me confidence, it let me put aside the knot in my stomach and get down to the work at hand.

Lesson Number Four:

With a budget in place, I found that I could move past fear and act with confidence.  Simple things like grocery shopping became empowering experiences because I could buy the food I needed AND it was a positive reinforcement because I knew the money was there for me, that it was part of the plan.

The Results

After all the worry and hard work, it came time to start paying the bills.  I think the daunting thing about the entire process was that I knew the entire plan was going to take 4 months to execute.  This essentially meant that I was holding my proverbial breath for that entire time.  Even though I had a place to live, a budget to rely on, I found it very difficult to keep pushing.

Part of this journey was trying to keep myself above water emotionally.  I knew I was on the edge of slipping into depression, teetering there in a very precarious way.  I felt a knot in my stomach, knowing that the stress wouldn’t end for months at which I’d either make it out barley or crash horrifically.  I carried this with me and it weighed heavily on me.

As I moved through the critical execution phase of my plan I had to trust the plan.  In the budget I trust.  The plan called for at one point I’d have a whopping $256 in my account for a period of 48 hours; After which a payment would hit and I’d ramp up for the next bill.  The whole thing hinged on me hitting things perfectly paying bills and crushing income strategy to face the next big bill.

In the end I was able to earn enough and then some.  Along the way I got hit with some unexpected bills and needed to up my game, to keep pushing and never stop.  At the end of this I have started to rebuild my rainy day fund, which I hope to expand to $30,000 with enough time.

I’m also cognizant that even though I paid those bills, it’s a double edge sword, I now have to pay taxes on the money that I earned to pay them.  A lot of this can be offset with business write offs, but not all.

Your Turn!

  • What tips have you learned from your own tough times?
  • How has budgeting save you?

Ryan’s Tiny House Kitchen

It’s been a long time since I’ve done an update on my house, I had my kitchen done a long time ago, but never really took any photos.  So today I wanted to share some of those photos and the design that went into my kitchen.

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So first off I started by putting together a Pinterest board of ideas I liked (I’ve since deleted it).  This let me consider features I wanted to bake into my design, I also narrowed down to my color scheme for the tiny house interior.  I have such a hard time choosing colors so this was a big hurtle for me.

I then got into the design:

tiny-house-kitchen-layout

Some renderings before hand (note the colors aren’t correct here):

tiny-house-kitchen-rendering

With this rendering you can see the main cabinet which will house the sink, the hot water heater and it has this pull out storage bin which was designed for cans.

tiny-house-kitchen-cabinet

This is the main storage cabinet which allows me to keep pots, pans, food below.  In the top drawers I custom designed them for utensils and spices.

The whole thing came together like this:

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Your Turn!

  • What features do you want in your tiny house kitchen?

 

To Build Or Buy A Tiny House – Experts Share Their Advice

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out weather to build a tiny house or buy from a builder?” The question weather to strap on a tool belt and build your own tiny house or hire a tiny house builder is a tough one. Hopefully thoughts from those who’ve been there can help.

kristie-wolfe

Can you afford to buy? If not I’m certain you can acquire the skills to build!

steven-harrell

Focus your due diligence around money and time. Building yourself will cost less money and LOTS of time. Having one built for you will cost more money and much less time. Which is more important to you? Where does your gumption lean towards, spending time or money, saving time or money?

alek-lisefski

If building, ask for help and hire help for stuff like the electrical work at the very least. If buying, really do your homework on the builder you choose. There are so many new builders popping up each day and many are in it for the money and nothing else. Make sure you really get to know your builder and talk to people who they have built for in the past. If there are any red flags, find someone else.

ryan-mitchell

It really functions on budget and time.  I’m convinced that almost anyone can build a tiny house themselves with enough time and hard work.  A tiny house that is built by someone else is going to cost 2 to 3 times more than a DIY tiny house. Understand that when you hire a builder, they have to pay the wages of staff, tools, overhead, insurance etc.  If you do go with a builder, make sure you have a very solid contract in place.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

I would say, look at your reasons for doing this, and what kind of tiny house market is in your area. If it’s about simplifying your life and reconnecting, it could go either way, you could build or buy. If you are in a location like NC, where several tiny house companies provide some pretty great options, and you have the budget, then buy. If it’s about financial freedom, independence, self-reliance…I absolutely recommend you take on the build!

deek-diedricksen

IF you have the time, the space, and the knowledge that you WILL make mistakes along the way, and that the build will take AT LEAST twice as long as you think it will, do the DIY route- you’ll then have a chance to craft the house to your specific needs, and will addition know you home inside and out, when it comes to future fixes, tweaks, or needs.

ella-jenkins

Building one takes FOREVER. Like way longer than you think. And then longer than that. No, really (mine took me 13 months). But it is also extremely gratifying. Buying is of course more expensive and you typically get less opportunity to make changes along the way if you come up with new ideas, but it is faster and the logistics are someone else’s responsibility. If you’re physically unable (or unwilling), don’t have the time, or are the kind of person who has trouble finishing projects, buying is a great option.

ethan-waldman

Decide if you have 800+ hours to devote to building your own tiny house, and also decide whether your body can handle 800 hours of hard labor.

gabirella-morrisson

Time is money. If you don’t currently have employment and have a lot of free time and the desire to DYI, then a self build is a no-brainer. The decision becomes murkier if you do have a paying job because your time away from your work will obviously mean a decrease in pay assuming all other aspects remain the same.

jenna-spesard

Consider the time, money and resources it takes to build a Tiny House versus buy one. It’s a commitment, and you need to be passionate.

laura-lavoie

Make sure everyone is on board before you start. If you have a partner who is uncertain about tiny living, you need to have a longer conversation about it. If you think you can “convince” someone to live tiny, you can’t.

macy-miller

DIY, you are capable even though you may not feel that way. You can learn the things you don’t know. You don’t have to know how to do everything, just know how to find answers.

kent-griswold

Take a class or work with someone to get an idea of what construction is all about. This is a house and it needs to be built correctly and if you don’t have the skills it is better to hire someone who has them.

andrew-odom

Would you put your mom in a house that you built? Would it be safe enough for even your mother? If not, buy one that is.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What tipped you in favor or building or buying?

How To Find A Place To Park Your Tiny House – Experts Share Their Tips

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “What is the one tip for you would give to someone looking for a place to park or land for their tiny house?” I asked this question to 15 top tiny house experts to get their best advice on such a big topic: finding land for your tiny house.

alek-lisefski

Talk to friends and community members about it all the time. You never know where the parking spot will come from. While I have been lucky on Craigslist, I think bar far the best way to find parking is through a friend of a friend of family or friends. Network and ask all your local contacts before resorting to CL.

ryan-mitchell

Get out and talk to people. You need to expand your social circle in a big way. Have a solid game plan in place, develop your pitch for land owners, focusing on overcoming objections and putting fears to rest. Then, let people know what you’re looking for it a clear concise manner.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

Ping your own network of folks that really enjoy and support what you are doing. Provide a quick message about who you are and what you are looking for, that they can forward along. They are far more likely to connect you with people of a similar mindset, therefore more open and willing to help you out or further your cause.

deek-diedricksen

Honestly – be secretive. Get along with your neighbors and they’ll have no reasons to rat on you- zoning enforcement is often complaint-based. In some areas its legal, or “more legal”, and in others it just won’t happen, so do your research. Farmers too- look into talking to them, they could use the rental income, and have the land.

ella-jenkins

Check out wwoof.org, a fantastic organization that places volunteers with organic farms the world over. I see it as a great resource for someone looking to move somewhere unfamiliar. Find a willing farm, tow your house over and you have a place to park, food to eat and work to do.

ethan-waldman

Start with people you know and put the word out. Your network will produce your best leads when it comes to finding parking.

gabirella-morrisson

Flyers on local supermarket and library walls are actually a very sensible place to advertise this kind of information. We know a lot of people who have found their tiny house parking matches using those channels.

jenna-spesard

Reach out to local communities. Try facebook groups, meetup and craigslist. Don’t be afraid to talk about your Tiny House. The more people that you meet, the more likely you will have an opportunity to park it somewhere.

kristie-wolfe

I think the best way is to find land and then ask the owners if you could work out a deal. People are more receptive than you might think.

laura-lavoie

I wish I had a good answer. We bought land well before we decided to build a tiny house, so it wasn’t an issue for us. I do recommend that people get involved in local politics to make changes in their own communities that can help pave the way for tiny homes.

macy-miller

Get creative, build your network, be open and honest and try to be ‘on the radar’, it will make you feel more secure during the ‘living’ part of tiny house living that you will appreciate once you are living, it stinks to feel like any knock on the door may be asking you to go.

vina-lustado

Don’t be afraid of building your tiny house before finding a place to park it. The majority of my clients and other tiny housers found their spots during their construction. After finishing the shell with the exterior siding, you can place a photo with a description of what you’re looking for on Craigslist. Most property owners will rent their space only after they can see an image of your tiny house, and what utilities you will need. This has proven a success time and time again.

kent-griswold

Check with local codes in the area you wish to build or park a tiny house. If it is not allowed you need to find an alternative route or do it under the radar somehow.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What tricks have you learned about finding land?
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