Saturday, April 18, 2015

Tiny House Conference Updates

Hey All!

Greetings from the tiny house conference!

I just wanted to remind you that I'm posting updates throughout the conference over on my Facebook page. Be sure to follow for photos and a behind the scenes look.

Monday, April 13, 2015

We Have Scienced - Now On To Portland

On Friday, the folks at the Schiele Museum in Gastonia, North Carolina, got a taste of the "Tiny House Bump."

Tiny houses are popular. And no, you will never hear me refer to them as "the next big thing." Because they are popular, when non-tiny house programming brings the topic of tiny houses to the table, it is exceptionally well received. The turn out for our talk at the Science Cafe on Friday, April 10th, was fantastic.

The event featured snacks and beverages as well as some games. We played Tiny House Trivia, which was really environmental trivia, and built buildings out of marshmallows. Then Matt and I presented a slideshow of our tiny house that included the philosophy of tiny house living, the environmental impact, and some basics on building.

We had a fantastic time and would like to thank Sara and the team at the Schiele Museum for putting the Science Cafe programming together.

Our next adventure is Portland Oregon for the 2015 Tiny House Conference. We leave on Thursday. Our first night, we are staying at the Tiny House Hotel and are super excited about that. Then, on Friday, we convene with the other tiny house folks and speakers and get this party started right!

Stay tuned for more about the Tiny House Conference and our adventures in Portland. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Three Years Ago Today

Photo from April 2012 right before we moved.
From my Google+ Page on April 2nd, 2012:
My anxiety use to just come up when I was in bed at night. Now, I am sitting at my desk feeling like my heart is going to pound out of my chest. I am trying to act natural. I pull the trigger in about two and a half hours.
Actually quitting my job was simultaneously one of the hardest and most rewarding things I have ever done. I couldn't control the shaking when I handed in my resignation letter. My voice cracked. I did it. Then I went to the bar.  
I feel so relieved. There have been many things I haven't been able to share with the world, and now I can.

I gave my notice to my employer of 8 years. My boss was extremely awesome and I might be able to work out some part time remote work for them as well, which will help the transition a bit until I build up more freelance business.

I gave 5 weeks notice, because I am loyal to the company. My last day is May 5th and we'll move into the Tiny House by May 17th (that is the last day of our lease so we have to be out one way or another by then).

"Tiny House?" you say. Yes, you read that right. My partner Matt and I will be moving into the 120 square foot house that we spent the last three years building by hand - pretty much just the two of us. Oh, our crazy little cat will be coming with u too. You can read all the adventures that led up to this at my blog. And I'll be posting regular updates as the construction of 120 Square Feet turns into "Living in 120 Square Feet".
I had been sharing small things on Google+ because it was more private and less populated than Facebook. Only my very close friends and family knew that we were planing on moving into the tiny house full time. On April 3rd, after giving my notice, I posted the following:
I had expected the worst, but my experience was quite the opposite. I am really glad that my co-workers of 8 years are actually happy for me rather than being upset because I am changing their world as well. I mean, they are sad that I am going but not angry about it.

Moving into a 120 Square foot house will be a huge change for us. But we have never stayed in one place for that long. When we moved to Georgia 9 years ago we had no idea what to expect. We made a lot of great friends and really liked the city, but we got complacent. We commuted to our jobs and worked all day and came home. We had personal lives relegated to weekends and evenings and 15 PTO days per year. We are taking back our control of our own lives. There was no use in waiting any more.

Speaking of - if you know anyone looking for a freelance writer/blogger - send them my way!

I will be regularly updating my blog. Matt went up to Asheville this weekend to get some things finished (you know, like the bathroom) before we move in. I will be spending time this week getting some things in the apartment organized to either be donated or put into storage or moved up to Asheville. (Or just thrown away! It is amazing how much junk two people can collect in one apartment in just two years!)
Of course things didn't go exactly as I had described. I never did remote work for my former employer. Ultimately, I'm glad about that. It forced me to push harder to get freelance work right out the gate. I've never spoken to any of them again which I find kind of surprising, but it is what it is.

Overall, the experience of moving into the tiny house, and specifically to Asheville, has been the greatest change in our lives. We found a community where we feel like we truly belong and we want to make a difference here.

I quit, and it was the single greatest decision I made in my entire life. 


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Am I Lucky?


I've seen this graphic shared a few times over the last few days. It resonated with me a great deal. I spent far too long trying to shoehorn myself into a life that was practical but not very nourishing and I suffered for it.

So, because this graphic reminded me of my own experience I shared it on my social media. Of course, various friends commented on it but one comment was particularly concerning.

"It needs one more circle. You're lucky."

And I would argue, luck has very little to do with it. 

Since I started this blog I came to realize my own life philosophy was rooted in Deliberate Living, an idea I co-opted from Thoreau. The premise is that you can't just let life happen to you, you need to make deliberate choices - whatever those choices are - to live the life that fulfills you.

I have worked extremely hard since 2009 to get to the point in my life where I am today. There were literally blood, sweat, and tears spent in the building of the tiny house. The tiny house gave me the confidence to quit my day job and start working for myself in 2012. I spend the next three years building my business through a combination of marketing, hard work, and sheer will power. Today I make a comfortable living and love the work I do every day.

I was not lucky. 

Saying I was lucky minimizes all of the work I put into what I have built over these years. It suggests that I was merely in the right place at the right time and doesn't account for much more. To say I was lucky allows others to believe in their own excuses and not make whatever life changes they need to do what they've always wanted to do.

I would say I am fortunate, but I don't believe that luck and fortune are the same thing.

Fortune is when you have something to do with it.  

I can't tell anyone else how to live their life. All I can do is share my experience. And when I was only focused on "you are paid for it" with a little "your are great at it" (profession) I was slowly dying inside. While it was good to be able to pay bills, I had to realize that those bills were self-imposed and what I needed was a catalyst to propel me toward the middle of this diagram. And I think everyone is capable of it - it isn't just about being lucky. You can create your own fortune.

So - what would you do if you could do anything?

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Happy Anniversary, Life in 120 Square Feet!

5 years ago today, on St. Patrick's Day, I started this tiny house blog. 

Before that, I had been sharing our build progress over on LiveJournal. (I think that might show my age!) The only place you could see photos was on my Flickr page (now a link at the top of this page.)

But then in early 2010 a little blog called The Tiny Life shared some photos and a small piece of our story. Suddenly I had other people - people I didn't even know - asking me about my build.

March of 2010 was still pretty early in what is now the Tiny House Movement. People knew Jay Shafer and Dee Williams but there weren't very many online resources about how to build a tiny house or stories of average DIY builders who did it themselves. The few that were out there were huge resources for us so I figured it might be a good idea to share my story as well.

And so I wrote this:
If you're just tuning in, my husband Matt and I are building a Tarleton, designed by Jay Shafer.  It really all started a few years ago.  Matt has always been interested in building and especially sustainable or self sufficient building.  We spent time researching other types of alternative building including Cordwood Masonry and Earthships.  Then one day our friend Nicole told us that she saw this guy on Oprah who built a tiny house on a trailer.  And our love of the Tumbleweed Tiny House began.  We had the pleasure of meeting Jay Shafer at a workshop in Asheville about a year and a half ago and after talking with him about the building and our ideas we knew the house was for us. We bought plans for the Tarleton and got to work on the 15 acres we owned in Western North Carolina.  You may see that we named our mountain after my husband. [Mt. Matt]  He is a funny, funny guy. 
I can't believe it has been 5 years since I started this blog and 6 years since we began building. I am so grateful and fortunate for every opportunity this journey has given us.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Conferences A-GoGo

I am super excited about the upcoming Tiny House Conference.

Matt and I spoke at the first event in Charlotte last April. It was pretty amazing. We got to meet some great people we had only previously known online. We camped in the cold along with Drew Odom and his dad.

That is actually the back of Matt as he talks to Teal Brown





We spoke on two topics at the conference: Building Basics and Off Grid Living. We're excited to bring both of those talks back to the Portland event.

Right before we leave for Portland we'll be in Gastonia, NC speaking at the Schiele Science Cafe. I've been to similar events in Atlanta and am looking forward to that as well.

Matt and I enjoy telling our story. We believe that sharing our motivations, the process, and the results are an important part of the Tiny House process. We want others who may be considering such a bold move to understand that it is completely doable, even as a beginner like we were. We also feel that the message is important even for people who may not want to live tiny. We believe that Deliberate Living is a philosophy, not a type of building. We truly believe in what we're doing and want others to live as fully as possible as well.

Speaking of conferences, I am also participating in a big conference in October. It has nothing to do with Tiny Houses, but my involvement wouldn't have been possible without our journey. A couple of years ago I began blogging for The NotMom, a website for women without children. I am childfree by choice and as I began looking for freelance writing jobs I came across quite a few companies looking for Mommy bloggers. I wasn't upset by the existence of mommy blogs, but wondering if there was an audience for women without children as well. Serendipitously, I discovered The NotMom and began working with them. And out of that, I am helping the founder develop the first ever NotMom Summit which will be in Cleveland, OH October 9th and 10th. I've always wanted to help organize a conference and without the steps I took to become a freelancer, including building a tiny house, it wouldn't have been possible.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

My Job and My Tiny Life

We're in this middle of this amazing trip. I feel so fortunate to have these opportunities. People keep asking me how I started working for myself and how I got to this point in my life. I thought it might be helpful to answer it.

In 1999 I got my first job in the temporary staffing industry. I worked as a recruiter for a franchise of a national chain in Michigan. I made $12 an hour. That was the most I made an hour ever, so I was excited. I quickly realized there was a problem, but I didn't trust my instincts. It turns out the company hires "recruiters" in bulk. They hire college graduates who don't have a lot of experience, give them training, and then throw them from the frying pan into the fire. My training class had about a dozen people. After six months of working for the company, there were only two of us left.

A Facebook update from February 2012. I quit that April.
This was a red flag, but I am a resourceful person so I made it work. It was more money and experience than the retail jobs I had before. My college degree in Anthropology wasn't landing me anything else so I stuck with it.

And you know what? I was pretty good at it. 

So, after a year I started looking for another job in temporary staffing. I found a job with a small, local staffing firm and quit.  But I hated that job too. I quickly realized that my training from the first company was sadly lacking.

I was still good at it, so I stuck with it. Eventually, I got recruited away by a company who wanted to start internal recruiting. I took the job because I was unhappy.

That third job wasn't any better. I was making a little more money but they didn't have enough business to really justify a full time recruiter. I volunteered to work the front desk after their previous receptionist went out on maternity leave. I was making a recruiter's salary for answering phones and playing around on the internet. It wasn't so bad.

Then we moved to Georgia.

My first job in Georgia was actually the first I really loved. But the company was a start up and 8 months later I was unemployed.

So I went back to agency recruiting. I was good at it. It was easy for me. I just didn't like it all the time. 

I justified things a lot. My co-workers were pretty cool and it was a small office. My boss rocked. Those things were quite true. But the job itself? It just wasn't what I expected I would be when I grew up. I didn't always like who I was while I worked there. I was at that job for 8 years.

Somewhere in the middle Matt and I came up with this harebrained idea to build a tiny house on a mountain in the middle of nowhere. It would be off the grid and if we lived there we would have no expenses. Suddenly, I recognized the possibilities. If I worked really hard at this thing, I could completely change my life.

I realized one thing that I hadn't before.

I was the one who had to change, not my job. 

Every time I left a job due to dissatisfaction I thought a new place would be the answer. I thought things would be different. They never were. I finally recognized the truth that there is one common denominator in all of my unsatisfying relationships...and that was me.

I needed to make a big change in my life. I needed to change the way I thought about things. I needed to give myself permission to explore possibilities and even fail. I needed to stop following the path of least resistance because it was the responsible thing to do. I took a leap...without a net...and I didn't fall. In fact, I'm still soaring.

That's what deliberate living can do for you, regardless of the path that takes you there.