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. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Lifecation Part One: St. Augustine

There was a time when this blog cataloged the things we were doing as we built the tiny house. Not only would I write about the construction but also the adventures we would have while we were building.

I want to do that again.

This time in the form of a travelog of our month long adventures. We are calling this our Lifecation because we are doing all the same things we would at home, such as working, just from a different location.

St. Augustine

Piglet exploring our tiny cottage.
Of the four places we are visiting in our month along the southeastern coast, St. Augustine was the only one we hadn't been to before.

We left Asheville at the crack of dawn on Wednesday, February 4th and drove straight down until we got to Anastasia Island where our tiny AirBnB cottage was located. The owners created an amazing jungle landscape in the back yard of their own home where the little cottage was nestled.

And when I say small, I mean small. And that is no small statement for someone who lives in a tiny home. The square footage was probably about the same size as our tiny house but the layout was quite different. Most of the space was taken up by the bed. There was a very small kitchenette and a bathroom with a boat-style shower. We are very used to small spaces so we didn't have a problem staying in this cottage. There was also a screened in porch and a large backyard deck that allowed us to expand our living space a little.

What I will say is that over the course of the week we started to find it difficult to work in the small space. Because there was no desk or living area we were working from the bed which was fine for a while, but became frustrating. But we coped.

I very much enjoyed St. Augustine. It is a tourist town and so is Asheville so I am used to those types of crowds. We enjoyed plenty of great food and beer.

We also took advantage of the beach. We brought our bikes and rode down to one park and the next day drove to a beach that was a little further away. That afternoon we ate an amazing seafood boil on a restaurant balcony that overlooked the ocean. It was beautiful. 

We were able to meet up with some friends who had recently moved to the south Georgia area. They came down to St. Augustine and we all went on a Historic Pub Crawl, which was full of beer and history.

After a week in the tiny cottage we packed up and drove just three hours north to Savannah where we will continue this story next week.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Location Independence and the Tiny House

London Trip, October 2014
Here's something you might not know. When Matt and I discovered tiny homes we were already working hard to become location independent.

What is location independence? 

The concept of location independence is that you can work from anywhere in the world. It is part work from home and part travel. Some location independent people are called "digital nomads" and there is a strong RV culture around it. There are so many possible careers that could be considered location independent. I spent years cultivating a career as a freelance writer while Matt works remotely for the technology company he's worked with since the late 1990s.

The main goal with location independence is to be able to take your work anywhere. And while we were looking at this as an option for our lives we stumbled across tiny homes. We realized that by building a teeny home that didn't require a mortgage or rent, or utilities in our case, we could save more money than we spend and transform our lives to be more location independent. And by building our tiny home on a foundation in the mountains we would always have a low maintenance home base that we could come back to any time we needed to.

There are so many possible paths to this lifestyle that there is no one right answer. 

Since moving into the tiny house we've practiced location independence several times. Within our first year we traveled to Michigan, where our families live, for two months over the winter holidays. We've traveled to New Mexico and Arizona. We've gone on extended camping trips. We spent 10 days in the UK.

As a freelance writer I no longer get traditional "vacations" - I either have to work while we're traveling or get as much done as possible before we leave so I can have more free time on the trip. I usually do a combination of the two. I love having this flexibility and I love to travel and experience new things so this is perfect for me.

So, tomorrow we leave for a month trip up the southeastern coast. By "we" I mean myself, Matt and Piglet. We travel every Wednesday relocating to different AirBnBs each week. We will both work and explore the town where we're visiting. I am very excited for this adventure.

Every tiny house is a catalyst for a new life. 

And for us, a new life means the ability to travel and work from anywhere in the world. There is no right way to do tiny living and it can be different for everyone. That is what I love most about this movement.

Why do you want to build and live in a tiny home?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tiny House Survey

February means its time for the 2015 Tiny House Survey. It will collect data on people who live in and are building tiny homes to be able to provide real numbers and details about this movement. The survey is anonymous so you can feel perfectly comfortable participating.