Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Building A Basic Electrical Kit

My sister is a new home owner and with it comes a lot of handy man projects that she and her husband have to figure out.  So I was called in to teach them how to install a new chandelier in the dining room.  As part of it I decided to put together a little kit for them to handle all the basic needs of a DIY homeowner when it comes to basic electrical work.

Things like changing lights, adding a fan, swapping a switch of plug all are done very easily and most people can figure out how to do it safely and successfully with a few basic tools and a little know-how.

Here’s What I Put In The Kit

 

First is the tools of the trade.  A good set of wire pliers and a box cutter.  I used to think it was silly to have a set of pliers just for wiring, but when I had to wire my own house I got a pair.  It was there I realized the value of these very specialized set of features.   I’ll often strip wires with the pliers themselves, but sometimes a good ole box cutter is needed.  The pliers ran me $15 (get yours here) and the box cutter was $5 (found here)

Next was electrical tape, I don’t skimp here and I always buy name brand.  Nothing special, but a must have supply to have on hand for any electrical work. You can get them here

wire tape

Next were wire nuts.  Often lights and fans come with some, but if you ever need to redo the connection, it’s best practice to use a fresh wire nut.  These are pretty basic, but I found a good deal on them here

wire nuts

Zip ties are just one of those things that you can’t have enough and they are amazing useful.  I just buy them in packs for cheap here

zip ties

Finally I included a small bit of 14 gauge wire which is good for low power draw items and things up to 15 amps.  For 20 amps I’d go a bigger wire, but for most uses this is fine.  Having some extra is great when you need to make a pig tail or extend a wire because you had to cut it kinda short and need some working room.

14 gauge wire for 15 amp

Finally I packed it up in a nice box for them as their gift.  electrical tools

If you want to learn more about doing your own electrical for your tiny house or even a big house, check out our guide to electrical, click here.

How Minimalism Helps Me Travel The World

I found minimalism about two and a half years ago, and I’ve been traveling the world for about two years now. This is how minimalism helps me travel the world.

The Stuff

Being a minimalist to me means that I have only the stuff I need and nothing more. The challenging part of this is finding out how much or how little I actually need. Either way, I can easily fit everything I need in a backpack, which makes it easy to travel the world full time. I travel carry-on only, which means that I am not only traveling light physically, but I’m saving a ton of money on checked baggage (and a bunch of hassle when getting to and from the airport).

Minimalism and Travel

The Financial Side

Minimalism has helped me figure out the best ways to spend all of my resources, including my time, money, and energy. When I turned to the minimalist way of life, I decided that my 9-5 job was not making me happy and taking up way too much of my precious time. Life is short, and I am not about to spend 3/4 of it bored, in an office without a window. I saved quickly and persistently for five months, then quit my job and left the country, with just a backpack and a passport. Having a year of travel and no income is a great way to teach yourself how to budget – I knew that if I wanted to make it for a whole year without going home to get another job, I’d have to be good with money. And I was.

The Mindset

So many people tell me that they could never be minimalist because it feels like they are depriving themselves. They think that minimalism is all about saying no when you want to say yes. I think of it as the opposite – you are saying no to things that you don’t want to say yes to things that you do. I started saying no to happy hours with coworkers I didn’t like, invitations to events I didn’t want to attend, and weekend shopping sprees at Target, so that I could say yes to something I wanted even more – a lifestyle filled with passport stamps, new cultures, exotic food, and valued friendships. Minimalism helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

Minimalism and Travel

Giving Back

Though I don’t agree that it’s necessary to work 9-5 to give back to society, I first felt like I was lost and ungrounded. I was traveling and experiencing so much; I was learning and growing, but I wasn’t sharing this knowledge with others. I eventually started a website and youtube channel about my journey and what I learned along the way, and even wrote an ebook. I have worked abroad in one country (soon to be two), and I have plans to go on volunteer trips when I can save up enough money to do so. Before minimalism, I was giving my time and energy to building a business that wasn’t part of my vision. Now, I’m giving back to the world in terms of time, resources, and information.

Minimalism led me from an unfulfilled life to an exciting adventure. I’m so grateful for finding this lifestyle when I did – I’ve benefitted from it greatly.

Your Turn!

  • How has minimalist living impacted your life?

Upgrading My Stairs To My Tiny House

I recently re-leveled my tiny house after some settling had occurred over the past few years.  I had noticed that my sink wasn’t draining all the way and it tipped me off that the house might be a little out of kilter.  So this time around I ended up changing from jack stands to cement blocks and adding more of them so I had a more stable foundation and in the end my entry way was a good bit further off the ground.

before and after stair build

I decided to have a permanent set of steps that was actually tied to the house, not something I could just pick up and go.  I discovered at my local big box hardware store that they had these stair kits.  Basically pre-cut stringers and milled treads that took all the guess work out of it.

When I found them I was surprised how inexpensive they were and for only $9 each, they took all the guess work out of me needing to figure out the complex angles, something I had been dreading.  The treads were around $8 each, but they were nicely milled and the best part, they were designed to fit the stringers perfectly.  So for $58 I had the full kit for my stairs without needing to figure out a single angle or make a single cut!  I was sold!

tools to build stairs

The Tools:

  • Impact Driver
  • Speed Square
  • Carpenter Pencil
  • Ext. self tapping screws
  • Tico hanger nails
  • Palm nailer
  • Shovel
  • Level

 

 

 

Next I dug down to solid dirt and placed two solid blocks, leveled them with sand and then laid the stringers.  After about 30 minutes of fiddling with it I was able to get the blocks, the stringer and the house to all be perfectly aligned.  A quick check with my level and I was off to attach the stringer to the house itself.

To do so I used these flexible angle hangers to firmly attach it to the house.  I was fortunate that behind my trim was 3 inches of solid wood to mount into.  So I got the hangers mounted and then attached the stringers to the brackets with “tico nails” which are galvanized beefy nails that are designed to be used with these metal brackets (very important that you use the right nail to prevent corrosion).

I used this palm nailer for this and shot a quick video showing you how it works because most people haven’t ever heard of this tool.

One I got the bracket nailed in, I nailed the stringers in place, you can see it here:

stair hangers

I rechecked my level, made sure the stringers were going straight out from the house with my speed square and then I started installing the bottom stair.  I did this because I knew the top of the stair was straight and level where I attached it, by doing the bottom stair, I could ensure it was straight and level too.

What this meant was if the bottom and top were all good, everything else would be good to go in between. If the set of stairs had been a longer run, I may have done a little more checking because the longer the board, the greater the warp comes into play.  On this short of a run I wasn’t going to worry about it.

It was here where I decided to add an extra brace in as a redundant support because I’ve never build any stairs before and I just didn’t want to have to worry about it.

stair supports

After I finished all the bracing, way over-engineering it, I dropped in the remaining treads.  Now before someone points it out, my treads aren’t even on purpose.  The left side I aligned the overhang so that it aligned with the outside edge of my house.  I could have cut the treads to match the offset on both sides, but I liked the look and it allowed me to have places to put potted plants on the side without obstructing the main walkway.

new stairs build

A little tidying up and a new welcome mat and I had a nice looking set of stairs!

Your Turn!

  • What projects are you looking forward to on your tiny house?

Everyday Habits for Sustained Simplicity

Living a simple lifestyle is something that takes work daily. The benefits of this lifestyle are endless, and there are a few everyday habits that can help make this way of living even easier. These are five everyday habits for sustained simplicity.

Make It Easy to Put Things Away

I used to have a dresser filled to the brim with clothes. I would often opt to throw my clothes on the ground after a long day instead of putting them in the overflowing laundry basket or back in my dresser. Once I decluttered my wardrobe, it was so much easier to fold my clothes and put them away or chuck them into the laundry basket – which wasn’t overflowing anymore.

Sustainable Minimalism

 

Declutter Before Organizing

I used to be a big fan of organizing. I would watch YouTube videos of people’s perfectly organized homes, with different compartments for every item you could imagine. Once I found minimalism, I decided to declutter instead of organize. Decluttering first meant that I would have less to organize, and I wasn’t organizing things that I wasn’t even using (or didn’t need in the first place).

One In, One Out Rule

Every time I buy something new, I get rid of something. This helps a lot, especially because I used to buy multiples of something that I only needed one of. I used to stock up at Bath and Body Works during their sales and I’d buy more cheap jewelry than I’d ever need. Now, I have a rule that I can’t buy a new lotion/soap/piece of jewelry unless I get rid of one that I already have. This means that I don’t buy anything perishable until I run out of the one I have, and I hardly ever buy jewelry or clothes. This rule works only after you’ve decluttered, of course.

Sustainable Minimalism Tips

Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat

I am known for wearing the same sort of clothes all the time. Creating a uniform is one of the easiest ways to streamline your life. Planning and repeating the same meals helps me save a ton of money on groceries but still ensure I’m eating what I love. These are only two practices that I’ve adopted that have helped me save tons of time and money – and has made my life so much simpler and easier.

Simplify Your Finances

Have a simple budgeting system that ensures everything gets paid on time (including yourself). I used automatic payments and have my banking and credit card system set up so that I have a very small amount of input. I am very conscious of my spending and only spend on things that will have a positive and fulfilling impact on my life or my day. This way I am spending less than I make, saving some, and not worrying about creating debt.

These are just five tips for making your everyday life easier. These everyday habits for sustained simplicity have changed my daily life for the better.

Your Turn!

  • What habits do you have to make everyday life easier?

Why you need an emergency budget

Money experts have long recommended emergency funds, a money buffer to allow for the unexpected to happen, as one of the most important keys to a healthy money life. This money practice is important, but you also need an emergency budget, a plan to go along with your savings to be best prepared when a crisis strikes.

What happens to your hard-earned savings when an emergency arises and you need to dip into those funds? How do you know how long your money will last? What should you spend it on and what should you stop spending on?

In the middle of a crisis, no one is the best at managing their money. We spend emotionally. We panic. We don’t have the stability and guidelines that our budgets normally provide us.

The Emergency Budget

– your new favorite tool for peace of mind –

Building one is simple and does something that can’t be bought.  It lets you know exactly how much money you need to live off in an emergency situation.

Our regular monthly budgets account for a lot of things: paying bills, putting money in savings, debt repayment (for some), sinking funds, eating out, etc. In an emergency, many of those things won’t have a place in your budget anymore.

By creating an emergency budget NOW, you’ll know the amount of money you really need to survive the month with a roof over your head, clothes on your back and food in your belly.

saving money for emergency

Creating An Emergency Budget

1. Make a copy of your regular monthly budget.

Go through it line by line and cut anything that isn’t absolutely necessary to survival. Rent, electricity, food, car payments, insurance and gas all get to stay. Savings, restaurants, entertainment and “fun” money should all go. Be ruthless.  Read how to make a budget.

2. Add in lines for emergency expenses

Include things that could come up in an emergency situation. If your job covers your family’s medical insurance, COBRA could be a necessary added expense in the case of a job loss. If the potential emergency issue is medical, an increased child care budget may be a need.

3. Total your budget

Fully total your budget out and save it as “My emergency budget.” Put it somewhere safe and update it annually or as your financial situation changes.


You should now have an approximate number of how much money you need for one month. This “bare bones” budget can be used to see how much money you want to save for your fully funded emergency fund or to see how many months your current savings will last.

That number will also give you an idea of how little you need to be bringing in to survive. It is likely much less than your current income and will give you some peace of mind knowing that number when facing a potentially long-term emergency situation.

Doing this now allows hard decisions to be made with a clear head, versus later when you’re in crisis mode.  Armed with an emergency fund and an emergency budget, you will be much better equipped to weather any financial storm.

Your Turn!

  • Do you have an emergency budget in place?
  • Have you ever had an emergency impact your budget?

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