Monthly archive for January 2018

Making The Leap To Tiny Living – Jody And Bill

Making The Leap To Tiny Living - Jody And Bill

Today we have a post written by Jody Brady, she and her husband had came to the very first Tiny House Conference and through their journey of learning, building their own tiny house and living in it full time ever since, I’ve had them come speak at the Conference.  You can read more about them, their life and their amazing house at: http://simplyenough.weebly.com

This April, we’re happy to return as speakers at The Tiny House Conference in Charlotte, NC.  It will mark four years since we attended the conference as volunteers, trying to figure out if we were really going to build a tiny house. Showing up at that conference was an important part of our “tiny” journey, some six years in the making.

brick house

Our first “aha” moment came almost ten years ago. We were living in a neighborhood we loved, in a big house we’d shared with more family and friends than I can remember now. But they’d all moved on, and there was just the two of us, sitting in our family room trying to remember the last time one of us had been in the basement apartment or the guest room—or the living and dining rooms, for that matter. We lived in a few rooms, but paid the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and utility bills on the entire 3,000-square-foot house. We realized the house owned us.

Money was only part of what was troubling us. We’d gone to several Solar Decathlons sponsored by the Department of Energy. At these events, college teams compete to make energy efficient homes, but the competition goes beyond energy consumption. Aesthetics, livability, sustainability of materials and cost are all evaluated, as well. Before we’d ever heard of the tiny house movement, it was these beautiful, compact, sustainable homes that inspired us. We saw that it was possible to tread a little lighter on the planet without sacrificing anything.

Add to that, all the time our house demanded of us. Painting the house inside and out took months of our “free time.” Repairing the decks. Landscaping. Cleaning. Not to mention the hours and hours and hours we felt trapped in jobs we didn’t want to be doing just to pay the mortgage.

So, though we loved where we lived, we came to the realization that the house had to go. We put it on the market before we knew what would come next. I was reminded of a phrase from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: “Leap and the net will appear. ” We leapt, and we sold the house just before the real estate crash of 2008. Thanks to that fortunate timing and all the work we’d done on the house, we made a lot of money on it. We also sold most of our furniture. Things I thought I couldn’t part with at first, but quickly came to realize I didn’t miss: a grandfather’s clock we’d bought on impulse, our dining and living room furniture, our dressers and side tables, our second set of dishes, our kayaks. (Well, truth be told, we’ve missed the kayaks more than all the other things combined.)

tiny house entertaining

What made the process easier was focusing on what mattered to us. I love my Grandma Mae’s china—so we kept that and started using it everyday, rather than storing it away for special occasions. I love the antique silver that came from my other grandmother.  That stayed. So did old books and rugs, travel mementos and art. What went: things we could go out and buy again at a store.  Duplicates. Things hidden away in boxes and closets—many of them we’d forgotten we owned. We went digital with our snapshots and music (and made decent money selling off all the CDs.)

We learned along the way how best to get value out of what we were selling. We sold collectibles on eBay, antiques at auction, furniture on CraigsList, household items at yard sales. Every dollar in bought us time to figure out what we wanted to do. When a relative asked us to fix up a condo she wanted to sell, we were ready for this rent-free opportunity to test out living in a smaller space. And with the house and most of our possessions sold, we quit our full-time jobs and didn’t have to look for new ones.

We took our time figuring out the next step. By keeping our expenses at a minimum, we were able to wander through Panama for eight weeks. We drove cross-country twice. We got to babysit our first grandchild.  We could spend time with our parents when they were sick and then be with them when they died. After our wandering phase, we lived in a couple apartments, trying out square footage, and we came to realize that even a one-bedroom apartment was more than we needed.

tiny house event workshop

Which brings us to the 2014 Tiny House Conference. We’d become aware of tiny houses and thought if we could find the right piece of land, we might want to build one ourselves. We had experience fixing up six houses over the years and figured we could learn whatever we didn’t know. Doing our tiny house research, we read about Ryan Mitchell’s conference in Charlotte and realized it would be a perfect opportunity to decide if we were ready for another leap. Around that same time, a friend living in the Blue Ridge Mountains offered us a corner of her land to build a tiny house.  It seemed the universe was sending us a message.

Volunteering at the conference made attending affordable for us, since we still weren’t working. We split up during our free time: I went to talks on design and building techniques; Bill focused on utilities—especially plumbing and solar. We learned more about composting toilets and trailers and, most importantly, we toured our first tiny houses. Seeing a picture or a video on a computer screen is nothing compared to walking through a space, climbing up into a loft, looking at appliances, comparing floor plans, or asking questions of people living the life we were contemplating.

tiny house framing

What did we take away from that conference? Most importantly, we’d made our decision: we would build a tiny house. We committed to that decision by ordering our trailer from someone we met at the conference—Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders. We also bought Dan’s book, Tiny House Design & Construction Guide, which gave us an invaluable step-by-step overview of the building process.

10 foot wide tiny house

Skip ahead to today: We’ve lived in the tiny house we designed and built for more than two years. We love it more than any house or apartment (and there have been many) we’ve ever lived in. The space fits us perfectly. It doesn’t require much maintenance. It requires little more energy than what our solar generator produces. We cook with clean-burning alcohol and do much of our heating with a cleaning-burning wood stove. We compost our waste, and we grow some of our own food. We are truly living our dream: consuming fewer resources and spending our time as we choose.

Which brings us to the 2018 Tiny House Conference in Asheville, NC, where we’ll be speaking about off-grid living and tiny house budget and finance.  I can tell you this from personal experience: If you’re considering the leap to tiny living, attending a conference like this can transform intention to action. Ready for a leap?

Why Your Decluttering Failed

When I found minimalism, I went through three rounds of decluttering before finally figuring out how to declutter correctly. These are the mistakes that I made on my journey to a clutter free home.

Why Your Decluttering Failed

When I started my decluttering journey, I made a list of every single place in my house that I wanted to declutter. I broke this list down into tiny little places that would take me 15 minutes or less to declutter, so I could easily tackle one space a day without getting overwhelmed. It seemed like a good enough plan of action, but after about a month of consistent decluttering, I was over it. I didn’t want to spend even 15 minutes a day decluttering anymore.

I am the kind of person that goes all out when I do something. If I wanted to clean out my closet, I’d spend a good 9 hours taking everything out, organizing and cleaning and replacing. I am not the type to do things slowly and methodically over a long period of time.

When I tried to convince myself that my 40 day, 15-minute-per-day plan was the best, I didn’t take into account my personality and behavioral habits. I probably would have done better with a solid three days of decluttering my whole house.

Reason Why Your Decluttering Failed #1: You didn’t find a plan that works for you.

A few months after my first semi-failed attempt at decluttering, I decided to try decluttering again. I knew the end result would be worth it, so I gave it another go, in a much less methodical way this time. My weekends and some weeknights soon became filled with decluttering time. I took it one room at a time this turn around, which worked out much better for me. I put everything I wanted to get rid of in boxes, and put the boxes in my car to donate.

Six months later, the boxes were still in my car. I’d decluttered a lot of my house, most of it was in the post-declutter stage. Boxes full of stuff to donate were now in my garage and car, and sometimes when I was too lazy to do a load of laundry, I’d go out to those boxes and find some clothes or dish towels to bring back in.

Reason Why Your Decluttering Failed #2: You didn’t donate the excess right away.

Eventually, I got rid of those boxes. I finally took them to the thrift store, where they could find new homes with people who actually needed these things. I felt happy, content, and finally had my weekends back. But now that my decluttering was finished, and my house was clean and clear, what would I do in my spare time?

I resorted to my old favorite hobby: Target. I made a decision; now that my house was clean and empty, it was time to define my style with some updated and “grown up” homewares. I started spending my weekends at Target, stocking up on throw pillows, bed ruffles, new sheets and duvet covers, and even researched the internet for over 40 hours to find the perfect headboard.

Why Your Decluttering Failed

The problem was that my “style” would always be changing. Sometimes I wanted a boho bedroom filled with plants, dreamcatchers, and crazy amounts of pillows, and sometimes I wanted a clean and minimalist look where everything was white and had some purpose to it. Because my style would change so often, I was constantly updating my throw pillows and home decor.

Reason Why Your Decluttering Failed #3: You kept bringing stuff in.

Eventually I realized what I was doing. I made another decision, this time a much healthier one. I was going to become a “minimalist,” give up trying to define my style, and stop spending all of my time and money at Target.

You don’t have to become a minimalist to be successful at decluttering. I just had to stop bringing stuff in, which just meant a simple change in my lifestyle. I started going for hikes when I was bored instead of going on Pinterest or heading to Target. I’m pretty sure I’ve made all of the mistakes possible in the decluttering process, but I’m happy to say I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Your Turn!

  • What decluttering mistakes have you made?

 

5 ways to reduce financial stress

Financial stress can be crippling. It can affect your work, your relationships and even your health. Whether you’re worried about making your rent this month, actively dodging collector calls or worried about how you’ll retire, money issues can influence your entire world.

When I graduated from college, I had about $26,000 worth of student loan debt. I wasn’t making much money writing obituaries for a local newspaper (since I didn’t track my income, I’m still not sure exactly how much I was making, but it was less than $24,000/ year.)

Going from five figures in debt in my early 20s, to now being debt free and in control of my money and financial future in my late 20s took a lot of work and persistence. It also would not have been possible without taking the following steps…

1: Know your situation

Knowing the full scope of your money situation is the first and foremost way to become less stressed about it. I wish there was a way to plug your ears, close your eyes and hum and for it to just go away, but that isn’t reality. Fortunately for those currently in the dark, the unknown is always worse than the known.

When the six-month grace period on my student loans ended, I started getting a dozen-plus bills in the mail, due immediately. Each one had its own required minimum payment and I was living hand to mouth – so I ignored them.

A couple months passed and the letters got a little scarier. They had big, red “overdue” stamps on the envelopes and I started getting phone calls about all the money I owed from less-than-pleasant people.

I didn’t know how many loans I had, how much I owed, or any idea if I was close to defaulting or getting into serious, long-term financial trouble.

Needless to say, I was pretty stressed.

I decided I had to know how much I owed and who I owed it to. There was no way to start to attack my debt while still in the dark.

Once I tracked down all of my loans and student loan carriers, and added up the total amount now owed, interest had compounded the debt up to just under $33,000.

Knowing that number was scary.

Knowing that number was horrifying. I screamed. I cried. I had several cocktails I could not afford.  But then I was able to begin to make a plan.

2: Make a plan

In it’s most simple form, a budget is a plan for your money.

Without knowing how much money you are bringing in and how much is going out, you run the risk of spending more than you have available.

America’s three biggest banks earned more than $6.4 billion in 2016 from ATM and overdraft fees, according to CNN Money. That is a high cost for miss-remembering how much money you have in Checking.

By knowing and tracking your money with a budget, you get to give every dollar a job to do in your life. Without a budget, my money tends to just disappear. I have no idea where, when or what I spent it on, and it certainly isn’t helping my financial future. With a budget, I get to plan for expenses, savings and even having fun – all guilt free because I know everything is covered in my plan.

3: Have an emergency budget

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 budget normally provides us.

Enter the Emergency Budget, your new favorite tool for peace of mind in a crisis.

Building one is simple and lets you know exactly how much money you need to live off in an emergency situation. This will give you some peace of mind as it’s likely much less than your current income. Second, it allows you to make hard decisions with a clear head, versus later during crisis mode.

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.

4: Work toward building an emergency fund

Even just $500-$1,000 saved in an account to be used only for emergencies can have a hugely relaxing effect on your mental stress.

That is enough money to pay for an unexpected medication or a blown tire.

It’s enough to turn something disastrous into something annoying.

While it won’t cover every situation, it will certainly help. Once you have an emergency fund, you’ll never want to be without it.

5: Set track-able money goals

Once you have a firm grasp of your money situation and spending habits, you can start to alter your daily choices to better your financial future.

Making room in your budget to prioritize saving for your emergency fund, paying down your debt or saving money for future expenses will all allow you to work toward things you want and will benefit you in the long term. Setting and following a plan to accomplish those goals will bring you a sense of achievement and joy as you complete them.

You will be in control of your money and much less financially stressed.

Your Turn!

  • What is the most stressful money-related thing in your life?
  • What was a money-related stress that you’ve defeated? How?

Save

Save

Clutter And Stress: Your Clutter is Stressing You Out

Whenever I’m in a room full of clutter, I start to feel my anxiety rise. Clutter has been tightly correlated to stress, and your clutter may be stressing you out even more than you think. This is five ways that clutter stresses you out.

Clutter and Stress

1. Clutter is Distracting

No wonder I can never get work done with a cluttered desk or office – when you can constantly see other things (aka clutter) that needs to get put away, faxed off, filed, etc, it’s hard to stay focused on the task at hand. Most people take breaks from staring at the computer, and if those breaks are filled with looking around at the clutter in your office, it could be greatly distracting you from what you’re meant to be doing.

2. Clutter Inhibits Creativity and Productivity

Being constantly surrounded by clutter can stop your creativity (& productivity) in it’s tracks. Personally, I feel super inspired and creative when I’m in a clean and tidy environment, and I have never been able to feel productive when I’m in a messy, cluttered room or space. I’ve always been one of those people that clean their room before doing any work.

3. Clutter Creates Feelings of Guilt

When you’re surrounded by clutter, it’s easy to think of what you should have done with it by now. It should have been donated, it should have been thrown away, it should be organized.

I experienced this firsthand when I went to visit my parents recently, and in my old room was clutter that I’d totally forgot about. It was just a few old clothes, a Vitamix, and some shoes, but I made sure that I got rid of it before I left. Arriving there and seeing the clutter made me feel so guilty, but getting rid of it made me feel so much better.

4. Clutter Makes Us Anxious

Imagine that you are standing in a field on a sunny day. The grass is cut short and you can’t see anything for miles. How relaxing is that?!

Now imagine you’re in a room, surrounded by stuff. The bookshelves are full, there are boxes on the floor, even the table and chairs are piled high with stuff. Did that feeling of being relaxed go away?

Clutter can unconsciously cause massive amounts of stress.

Clutter and Stress

5. Clutter Makes it Difficult To Relax, Physically and Mentally

I love having time to myself, to read, relax, light a candle, whatever. But it’s super difficult to relax when I’m surrounded by clutter. In fact, sometimes it feels downright impossible. Clutter inhibits our ability to relax because it’s hard to see all of the stuff that needs to get done and ignore it.

Clutter can have a huge impact on stress levels, consciously or unconsciously. The good news is that decluttering can lead you to a more stress free, creative, and productive life.

Your Turn!

  • How has clutter affected your stress levels?

How to Stop a Spending Snowball

I have a not-so-frugal confession to make… I LOVE Black Friday. I shop ’til I’m ready to drop every year with my aunt and we get ALL our family’s Christmas shopping done in that one weekend.

It’s a long-time tradition in my family for adults to distribute envelopes to each other filled with our Christmas budgets for them on Thanksgiving. As a family, we grab the newspaper and comb through the Black Friday ads, decide what we want for Christmas and use the money in our envelopes to shop for for each other and ourselves in a fun, exhausting two-day experience.

This sounds crazy, I know. But after we’re done shopping, we give the things we’ve bought for ourselves to the people who gave us the money envelopes, who then wrap the presents and stick them under the tree for Christmas.

It results in a low-stress Christmas because:
  • We get all our shopping out of the way quickly.
  • Everyone gets exactly what they want and will love.
  • We get to spend the time spent shopping together, bonding instead of running around on our own trying to come up with the perfect gift.
  • After that weekend, we just get to enjoy the holidays.

 

The only problem is, that after a weekend of handing over cash constantly, it can be hard to stop spending. And once the budget is spent, if you keep spending, it could wreck your December budget or even have you accumulating debt that will follow you into the new year.

Here are three ways to stop the spending snowball in it’s tracks:

1: Keep out of the stores and off the shopping websites

There will always be more deals. Throughout the holiday, stores online and off will keep upping the percentage off offered, keep dragging out more showstopper deals and generally try to get you to buy as much as possible.

Once the budget is spent, you have to stop. Don’t fall for the ads or even the “perfect gift” that may suddenly appear in your feed. What you have is enough. You are enough and no gift will buy someone’s love.

2: Organize and wrap what you bought

One way to rekindle the joy of your purchases without spending more money is to “play” with what you’ve already bought for other people.

Now don’t unpackage their gifts, that would be horrible and tacky. But do pull everything out and organize it. Maybe spend some time carefully wrapping things and decorating them. Add loving touches like handwritten tags or messages.

Spending a couple hours making the gifts look great and stacking them under the tree will definitely get you in the holiday spirit and maybe let you feel like shopping time is complete.

Doing your wrapping early will also reduce last minute stress by eliminating one more thing off your to do list and make your home look more festive.

3: Volunteer

Whether it’s helping a family member or friend get ready for their Christmas, or helping a local charity, church or organization help your community members, giving back is an excellent way to make yourself grateful for what you have, as well as giving back to those in need.

A lot of people struggle at Christmas time, and even a small gift of time or your resources could be an enormous blessing.

Your Turn!

  • What are your holiday family traditions?
  • What is your favorite charitable organization to give to?
Page 112