Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tiny Homes and No Kids

I started writing this post in early August and then shelved it. But tomorrow I leave for the first ever conference for women without children. And, oh yeah, I am the co-administrator of the conference. This is something I have always wanted to do but before quitting my corporate job, and freeing my time and money, I couldn't have attempted it. 

On Saturday, August 1st I woke up to an amazing surprise. It was International Childfree Day, a celebration designed to demonstrate that choosing not to have children is a valid life choice. On that day the annual winners of Childfree Person of the Year are announced.

And I discovered that not only had I been nominated but that I was given the honor of Childfree Woman of the Year.

I don't often talk about my decision not to have children in relation to having our tiny house. And I certainly don't think that being childfree is the only way to live tiny. In fact, many of my favorite people within the tiny house movement are parents. I respect all choices, which is why I expect others to be respectful as well.

But there are ways in which not having children has affected the decisions I've made around my home, my career, and more.

Let's take a closer look.
  1. Smaller space for fewer people. Our tiny house is 120 square feet, which is of course also the name of this blog. Many people suggest that this is too small for even two people. It isn't for us, but it might be for someone else. For us, it is the perfect size but we didn't have to make considerations for additional people so we had more freedom to choose a design that worked perfectly for our specific needs.
  2. Reduce expenses and income. One thing I couldn't have done if I had kids was feel free to quit my job without any sort of safety net. Not that other people with kids can't make similar choices but since I don't have kids I couldn't even begin to understand the trade offs and sacrifices that are necessary. I had plenty of fear that I couldn't sustain myself, but not having a mortgage and not having expensive bills that come with a large home helped give me the confidence to quit. 
Update October 6, 2015: 
The NotMom Summit

Tomorrow I make my way to Cleveland to meet a woman I have been working with since 2012. I am excited to bring together 125 women from all over the country (and Canada) who share this experience of not having children. When you don't have kids the conversation is different and we are just looking for our tribe.

And that's the thing about women without children.

We belong to all kinds of demographics from tiny house dwellers to large home dwellers. We are all colors, all cultures, and all ages. And for the first time we're getting together in one place to share our stories and learn from one another. And that I had a had a hand in it - because of the opportunities I've had after building a tiny home - is incredible. 

This is exactly what I mean when I say "Live Deliberately." 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Tiny House Changes in the Air and the Future

This seems like a good post for the first day of fall!  Happy equinox everyone.

I'm not ready to share all the details but I wanted to give my readers a heads up that within the next couple of years there would be some pretty big changes happening here at Life in 120 Square Feet.

Don't worry, the tiny house will play a major role.

In the meantime I wanted to share some of my thoughts about my place within the tiny house community.

In October I have the amazing honor of helping to run the very first conference specifically designed for women without children. Being childfree by choice has been a big part of my identity as a woman, especially as I reached 40, and I've been working with The NotMom blog for several years. We finally decided the time was right so here we are about to launch a real life conference.

The reason I mention that is because not only am I the co-administrator of the entire event but I will be speaking on a panel titled "Lasting Impressions: Philanthropy, Volunteering, and Work that Gives Back." This topic is extremely important to me. As a childfree woman I have been told, far too often, that I am selfish and shallow for taking this path in life. I think it is important to break that stereotype and volunteering is extremely important to me.

That being said, volunteering and the tiny house go hand in hand. It was because of the tiny house that Matt and I had the opportunity to visit South Africa in 2011 and work with a group to build a sustainable shelter for orphans and other vulnerable Zulu children living in the townships outside Durban.

And now we are volunteering on a more local level.

We are working with the Asheville Small Home Advocacy Committee and the city of Asheville to make small and tiny homes more legally viable. We believe this could be one answer for the affordable housing crisis that affects our city. The city is interested and we are hoping to do more in the coming years.

Right now and for the foreseeable future this will be the biggest push for me as a tiny house activist. Our tiny home gave us many opportunities and we are grateful. There are things we couldn't have done, both with our time and money, if we had not built our tiny home. Because our experience was transformative I want to help others find ways to do this in their lives.

You can read about that experience at our website www.ashevilleshac.org.

So what else is on the horizon and why do I have to be rather cryptic? Ultimately it is not my story to tell, not yet anyway, but there are things that will affect my life moving forward that will be an incredibly positive experience.

In many of our talks about tiny house living Matt and I have been asked about our relationship and how it was affected by building a tiny house. I have become fond of saying, "We've been together a long time and building a tiny house was just one more weird thing in a long list of weird things we've done."

I think that sums it up nicely.

Rest assured the next phase will be one more weird thing, but weird doesn't mean bad. It just means unexpected. Stay around to find out more.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Asheville Housing Fair September 19th

Are you in Asheville? If so, I highly recommend that you swing by the Asheville Housing Fair on Saturday, September 19th from 10am to 2pm.

It's free!  

I will be there, along with my friends from Wishbone Tiny Homes and other members of the Asheville Small Home Advocacy Committee to share information about making tiny homes more legally viable in the city limits.

From 10am to 10:30 Matt and I will be outside the house that Wishbone is showcasing at the site answering questions about living well in 120 square feet. Come by and talk to us!

The rest of the day we will be primarily representing Asheville SHAC. We even have some informational brochures that describe our mission and what we're looking for in terms of a developer in town. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Dragon Con 2015 Geeky Recap

This was our 9th year at Dragon Con in downtown Atlanta. The crowds set a record at 70,000. Certainly can't fit that many people in a tiny home! 

I love general geekery. It is like Halloween, Christmas, my birthday, and everything else fun that I can ever think of all rolled into one. This year we had friends from Asheville, Atlanta, Bermuda, Seattle, Michigan, Minnesota, and more all hanging out with us. It was the best Dragon Con ever.

You may wonder why I am posting about it on my tiny house blog. Well, as this is about my life in 120 square feet it is also about my life outside of it and Dragon Con is one of my very favorite things.

So - without further ado... photos! 
(These were taken by a variety of people in our friend group)

Emily and Bill as Wonder Woman and Batman

Bill and Emily as Rockabilly Batman and Bombshell Wonder Woman

John from EPBOT as Dreamfinder and Figment

Our entire group as Harry Potter adult characters.

Our entire group plus a Hagrid and Snape that we found

Heather as Liv Moore from iZombie

Heather and Jill as Princess Daisy and Luigi

Jay and Heather as Lupin and Tonks from Harry Potter

Our Super Mario group

Slytherin Karl Lagerfeld?

Emily and Bill as Steampunk Kaylee and Mal from Firefly

Matt with Thor's Hammer. It weighed over 50 pounds!

Matt and me as Lucius Malfoy and Sybill Trelawney
We'll be back for Dragon Con 2016 so stay tuned next year for more costumes and geeky fun! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Hobbies and the Tiny House: Cosplay Edition

Half a month later and I am back at the blog. I took part of the summer off from blogging here so I could concentrate on my freelance work, Asheville SHAC, and preparing for my most favorite time of the year.

Yes, it is Dragon Con again. 

Every year over Labor Day weekend we make a pilgrimage back to Atlanta to celebrate all things Geeky with 65,000 of our closest friends.

This year, in fact, we have friends coming from as far as Michigan and Minnesota to share our hotel room.

The last time I wrote about it extensively here on this blog was in 2012 when we moved into our tiny house.

So, a question we get asked often is how we store our costuming stuff when we only live in 120 square feet. 

I think a big misconception about moving into a tiny home is that you are forced to give up anything that brings you joy in life if it takes up any space at all. I think that is patently untrue and there are a variety of ways to make something work if you have a hobby that requires "stuff."

When we first moved into our tiny home we had gotten rid of a lot of our cosplay. That year I only did one costume and it was an easy one. I was Amy Farrah Fowler from The Big Bang Theory. With only a sweater vest, button down shirt, and a pencil skirt the costume was pretty compact and could store in my closet until we packed up for Atlanta. But after that Con I missed some of the more elaborate costumes and wanted to find a way to make that work with our new tiny lifestyle.

This year, 3 years later, I am bringing three costumes with me. It still all fits in one big suitcase. Oh, and I also 2 of my friends costumes packed in there... as well as all of my non-costuming clothes for the weekend.

So how do I store them when they're not in a suitcase waiting to go to Atlanta?

We were really lucky when we built our tiny house: we have a barn.

Just some basic supplies...
While we camped in the barn while we were building today it is perfect for storing anything that doesn't fit in our tiny home. We have two hobbies that have a lot of gear: Costuming and Glamping. These things stay stored in the barn room. We keep airtight plastic bins to prevent bugs and mildew as much as possible. Lots of the glamping stuff, like our tents and canopy, are made to be outdoors so they're fine.

Of course, this might not work for everyone. A tiny house that travels frequently may not be able to have auxiliary storage. The people who live in them probably want to keep their lives unencumbered, too. For tinies that are stationary or on foundations like mine additional storage is fine. Downsizing and simplifying is great but not if it means you can't live the life you enjoy. I wanted to have this lifestyle so I would have time and money to enjoy them.

After Labor Day I'll share some photos of our geeky adventure!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kai Rostcheck and the Tiny House Tribe

Matt and I didn't make it out to the Tiny House Jamboree this year. It made sense at the time - we really needed to stay put after traveling a lot in the winter and spring. But as the event started to unfold we found ourselves longing to be around our tribe.

But we were lucky enough to be on the map for Kai Rostchek's return trip. Kai is the mind behind Tiny House Lending and Tiny House Dating, both filling very important roles within the tiny house community.

 See a guest post I did for Tiny House Dating here.

I has spoken to Kai in the past when Drew Odom and I did the Tiny r(E)volution podcast. But that was really about it. Like many friendships in the 21st century we got to know each other in soundbites over social media. And meeting new people in person is sometimes a terrifying thought. Social anxiety gets the better of us and we just want to say, "No thanks, we're good."

But never, not once, have we been disappointed after meeting someone else within the tiny house house community. 

These are our people. Our tribe. In fact, the talk that Kai gave at the Jamboree was about just that. He invited several other tiny housers to help him demonstrate the interconnectedness of our community and it was glorious. I wish I could have seen it.

Kai got to see what a tiny slice of life was really like in our house tucked in the woods as we wage a never-ending war against ants who have infiltrated our fortress. Living in a tiny house isn't always glamorous, but big houses get ants too. But he saw the good things too and the things that directly reflected who we are as people.

The thing I am most struck by whenever I have an opportunity to meet someone who is involved in the tiny house community is our shared passion for the possibilities of our community. Not everyone has the same personality but we all share this drive for how going tiny can change our lives in the most dramatic, and positive, ways. It is always inspiring to spend time with others who have taken steps on this path.

Thanks for visiting, Kai!  We will see you soon.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Feeling Impatient About Moving Forward

I just stumbled across this draft of a blog post that I abandoned back in 2011!  At this time I already knew I would be quitting my job sometime within the next year and i was getting very anxious. Here were my thoughts from four years ago.

With the tiny house finally coming together and our years of hard work are paying off, I am feeling more and more anxious about the next steps. Next weekend we'll be heading up to Mt. Matt for four days (we took Monday and Tuesday off of work) and based on the work schedule, I think we can get a lot accomplished.  I just have to get through this week and I am sorely in need of a vacation.  Yes, working on our tiny house is definitely a vacation.
September 2011

I decided to spend my pent up energy on organizing some information about the things that will go into our tiny house.  See, all I really want to do is live simply and be solely responsible for myself (and Matt and Piglet, our Sphynx Cat).  I've written briefly before about our gray water and composting toilet systems. Matt has also shared in his one and only post here about our power system.  I don't need to go into much detail about that. But there are some practical items we will be getting soon.

In regards to furniture, we have two small chairs that are actually from our larger sectional that we had in our great big house. Before we even began building the house we spent a lot of time measuring the chairs to make sure they would fit in the space we were building.  We also bought a wall mounted drop leaf table for our "dining room".  With that we will have two directors chairs which can be folded and stored if we didn't need them.  Behind the "dining room" area will be the ladder up to the loft.  I like the design this New York woman uses in her 90 square foot apartment with the safety railing. Since I am afraid of heights, having the handle gives me some peace of mind.

Speaking of the loft, I am also planning on building some cat steps that will mount to the wall on the other side of the loft so Piglet can access the loft easily. Though Matt thinks she can navigate the ladder. We can see if that is an option.  Maybe if we wrap the ladder rungs in sisal. That will help her with traction. In either case, we'll make sure our kitty has access to us. 

The cat will also need a litter box, and like other tiny house dwellers with feline companions, we will  be setting aside the floor space of one small closet for Piglet's box.

The kitchen is exciting. We have designed some shelves that I am excited about installing and then sharing here on the blog. We already have some dishes for the house so having a place to store them feels so advanced.  We are also going to be getting a water purifier.

Then I stopped. And never published it. I think about that time and remember the equal feelings of excitement and fatigue.  We were looking forward to moving into the tiny house and starting the next chapter of our lives but at the same time we just wanted it to be over with because we were tired of building all the time. (Though, we managed to find other projects to keep building. We apparently can't sit still. Within a couple months of moving into the tiny house we were already building other things.)

Now, in 2015, I am so grateful to have had this experience. From building the house for three years to living in it for three years. It has been exactly what we needed to propel us into the next phase of our lives. What will happen next? All kinds of things are brewing so you'll just have to stick around to discover them along with us.