Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Equipping a Minimalist Kitchen

The kitchen is a prime target for clutter.  With companies inventing a gadget for every little thing, anything that can make cooking a little easier.  In the end we find our kitchens filled with gadgets, multi-function counter top appliances and it all adds up to a whole lot of clutter.  Some time ago I realized one thing about all these things in my kitchen: they don’t add up to better food on the plate.  It was in that realization that it became clear to me, what really mattered in cooking was the initial ingredients and technique, very little relied upon the tools.

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With this realization I began to declutter my kitchen using my tried and true box method (read about how to do it here).  As I needed things, I would pull them out and after a few months I still had 80% of my kitchen things still left in the box.  During this time I brushed up on some of my knife techniques, read up on how professional chefs cook, and focused on simple.

A few things to keep in mind.  I have this setup for how and what I like to cook, I don’t like to bake much, I’m mainly stove top or grill.  I also am cooking for myself, maybe one other person.

In the end, I was able to whittle down to a basic set of tools in my kitchen all the while increasing the quality of my cooking/food.  So what does a minimalist kitchen have in it?  Glad you asked…

Two knives and one steel

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I see this all the time, you walk into someone’s kitchen and there is a giant knife block that contains 10-15 knives.  If we are honest with ourselves, we don’t know what half them are for and we only use a few on a regular basis.  Most of your work will be done with your 8 inch chef knife, it’s the workhorse.  Next to that I have a 3 to 4 inch parring knife for smaller, more delicate tasks.  Finally a honing steel, this helps re-align your edge between sharpening because as you use a knife, the fine edge actually rolls over, creating a less sharp edge; using a honing steel quickly un-rolls that edge and gives you back your edge.

If you ask me, put your money here.  A check knife in the $100-$200 price range with a full tang and good steel is something that is worth spending money on.  A paring knife for $50-$100 and a honing steel for $25-$50.

Two rubber spatulas and two tongs

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These two items are pretty much my go-tos when it comes to actually cooking on heat.  It keep two of each so that if I have to make things that can’t mix, I’m covered, or if I’m doing something with meat, to reduce risk of salmonella.  My tongs are a rigid silicone tipped, so they can be used on coated pans and on the grill.

One metal spatula

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I use this for grilling or if I ever use cast iron. This is a heavy duty metal spatula that is rigid enough to scrape, but flexible enough to wiggle under a piece of meat.  I’d use this a lot more if I was a big fan of cast iron, it’s not my favorite, but if you cook a lot with cast iron, this will be a go to.

Break apart scissors

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Sometimes scissors are the right too for the job, including cutting up chicken.  A solid pair of scissors that come apart so you can thoroughly clean the joint is very handy.  These can play double duty for a bottle opener.

Pot strainer (or colander)

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I use this style of a pot strainer, its very small, compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space.  If I was more of a pasta guy, I’d upgrade to a colander, but this suits my needs.

Pots and pans

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This is the pot set that I choose for my kitchen, it was the second place that I sunk most of my money into.  When you live a minimalist life, it makes sense to spend some real money on the few things you have.  For this set, I did my research and ignored prices, in the end this set cost me $600.  The large soup pot and the high side saute pan I use very rarely, but they are worth keeping on hand.  While I still keep these two, I don’t actually keep them in my kitchen of my tiny house, I keep them in my bulk storage area.  90% of what I cook is done in the small fry pan, the large fry pan or the medium sized pot.

Cutting Board

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The last thing on my list is a cutting board, I prefer a butcher block style myself.

Your Turn!

  • What else would you add?
  • What is your favorite kitchen item?

Indigo Tiny House Tour

We just had a new video go live over at our Youtube channel, check out this tour of the Indigo Tiny House!

 

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Five Ways To Slow Down

It seems like so many people today are suffering from Busy-itis:  the affliction of seeming or being way too busy.  It’s become all too common of phrase “I’m so busy.”  Recently I’ve been doing some reflecting on how my lifestyle has changed over the past few years and then comparing that to others who have said they wish they could live The Tiny Life.  So today I thought I would give some tips on how slow down, remove the busy, and bring focus to your life, tiny or not.

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1. Look at your calendar this week and choose one thing to cancel

It doesn’t really matter what it is, just choose one thing and cancel it.  What do you do with that time?  Nothing.

2. Start doubling the time you schedule for something

We often underestimate the amount of time it takes to do certain things, usually by a good bit.  This of course relies on your scheduling out your days, which is a good practice to take up if you don’t yet.  Worst case scenario you have time extra time before your next thing to just relax for a few minutes.

3. Schedule time to do nothing

If you don’t make time for it, it will not happen.  The truth is we can’t all be engaged at all times, we aren’t made to do that.  One counter intuitive lesson I’ve learned is that there are times when you can be more efficient by stepping away from for a while and coming back at it fresh.  There are a million things competing for your attention in this world, if you don’t schedule your time, it won’t happen.

4. Removing urgency

Take a moment to think about what could happen in your home life, in your work and in your social life that if you didn’t respond to right away it would be disastrous.  There are very few things, outside of someone getting hurt or dying, that require you to be 100% on it at all times.  It can be easy to fool ourselves into thinking something is urgent and important.  The more things you have on your list of truly urgent things, the less happy you will be; its a direct correlation.

Many people argue on this point, “I have things that are so important” or  “my job/boss is always last minute” or some other excuse.  We all need to pay bills and be adults, but the truth is we allow most of these things to happen to us.  Every time we have something urgent comes up and don’t later ask the question “how can we prevent this from happening in the future” we are giving that person or situation permission to do it again.

If we have a job that is always last minute, we then need to either work to change that culture or seek out a place that doesn’t have that culture.  If we have a friend that is always in some sort of drama or tragedy, that takes it’s toll and we should consider what that relationship does to us.

5. Get rid of internet, your microwave and freezer

This is a pretty extreme, I have to concede that fact.  I decided that when I moved into my tiny house I was going to not have Internet, cable TV, a freezer or a microwave.  What does this mean?  When I get home, I don’t immediately feel drawn to the internet, I settle in and take a moment to just relax.

After taking a moment to detach I will then start cooking, but because I don’t have a freezer for convenience foods and a microwave for fast cooking.  This all adds up to me needing to take time in my cooking, something that I enjoy doing.  It makes me focus on a single task, to block out the world for a while and make a good meal.  There is something about such a hands-on analog activity that provides separation from my work which is digital.

Your Turn!

  • What tips do you find helpful to slow down?

Tiny House Interior Dimensions

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This week we talk about modifying the interior dimensions in a tiny house, everything you’d wan to know about dimensions. We talk about how to customize interior measurements to your own size, while still staying safe and comfortable. Amy offers an unconventional ladder safety trick and Ryan considers the merits of back flipping out of a loft (or not).

You can listen in by clicking here

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 the bare essentials.  For me this really comes down to 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 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 you 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 your 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 them.  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 with 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, 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?