Friday, June 28, 2013

The Journey Toward Simple Living

I have been doing this tiny house thing for so long sometimes I forget that others are just tuning in for the first time.

I thought I would give you a little insight  into our story.

A view from land that we didn't buy.
Matt and I live in a 120 square foot tiny house that we built ourselves over the course of three years. Our house is in a secluded area of a mountain that is part of the Great Smokies in North Carolina.

We bought our land in 2007. This purchase was the result of a lifetime of decisions and dreams that both of us brought with us to our relationship. (For reference, we've been together since 1995.) Matt dreamed of building his own house and I dreamed of becoming a full time writer and living an unconventional life.

It is important to know that when we bought our land we didn't know what we wanted to build at all. All we knew is that we wanted to be in the mountains near Asheville and we wanted to live simply and off the grid.

Building a tiny house did not lead to off the grid living for us. Rather, the desire to live off the grid led us to tiny houses.

Before even learning what tiny houses were, we had a lot of different ideas. At one time, before we knew where Asheville North Carolina was, we thought about living on an RV and traveling the country. We also considered a similar nomadic lifestyle on a sail boat. Once we knew we wanted to to live in Asheville, Matt began to learn about sustainable building techniques that we might be able to use.

He learned about Earthships. 
Earthship in Taos, NM
 He learned about Cordwood Masonry
Cordwood Building in West Chazy, NY

Eventually we were introduced to Jay Shafer's original Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. After we bought the land a friend mentioned that she had seen him on Oprah. We looked into the concept and decided it was perfect. It could easily be built to be off the grid and because it was so small we felt confident that we could do it ourselves as our first building project ever.

Both of us wanted to prove - mainly to ourselves - that we could build our own home and live off the grid. The experience needed to be inexpensive (both for construction and for future living costs) and comfortable. We didn't want to build a hut in the woods and live like feral mountain people.

I am grateful that we discovered the Tiny House Community throughout this process. I have met some of the most amazing people and forged connections and launched projects with many of them. My tiny life is very different from many others, and that is exactly how I like it. Most tiny house people are rebelling against a cookie cutter life and whether we have gourmet kitchens or not we all want to live deliberately and really connect with the world around us.

Tiny house in the Summer

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Further Aventures of Matt and Laura

I just wanted to do a quick post to show that we are still here! 

Last week we drove up to Michigan for Matt's brother's wedding. It was held at the Bavarian Inn and Lodge in Frankenmuth, Michigan. It was a gorgeous wedding and a good time was had by all.

So - I thought I would share just a few photos of our adventures.

We had to start our adventure with the acquisition of a Slurpee from 7-11. There aren't 7-11s in Atlanta or in Asheville so we don't get to enjoy them very often. I went with a mix of Pina Colada and Banana for that tropical flavor combination.

Piglet joined us for the trip. This is her at Matt's mom's apartment waiting for Matt to get out of the shower. 

On our way up to Frankenmuth, we stopped at a fast food place specific to the mid-Michigan region. We were a little nervous because Big John's Steak and Onion looked like it hadn't been updated since 1975. While that may actually be true, I was surprised to find my steak and cheese sub to be delicious.

Of course, Matt and I had to try out the local beer scene. Frankenmuth is a small town and they have two breweries. The rehearsal dinner was held at Frankenmuth Brewery on Friday night. Before the rehearsal Matt and I went to the other one - Black Forest. I was pleasantly surprised to find it featuring American microbrew styles rather than German beers. We had their IPA and it was really tasty. 

And finally - a photo from the wedding. This is me, Matt, and our friend BJ. Matt and I both lived with BJ in college at different times. Matt was the best man and he looked very nice in his tux. 

I'll get back to posting about tiny houses soon. That is kind of the thing about building a tiny house and living in it - there really isn't that much novelty to it. Now it is just where we live and it seems perfectly natural to us.

Monday, June 17, 2013

My Tiny House Job

I am often asked the question about what I do for a living. It seems like many tiny house people work from home or are creative types. People often assume that I make my money blogging on this site and while I do earn some money here it really isn't my bread and butter.

I don't make much money on this blog.

Since leaving my 15 year career as a temporary staffing recruiter, I work full time as a freelance writer.

Most of my clients are either marketing companies or small business owners. I provide online content for them to help increase their SEO and I also help promote this content on social media. My job is 100% location independent so I can do it from anywhere in the world.

However, just like tiny houses, employment is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Working from home is not a requirement of tiny living but many people who want to simplify their lives feel that working from home is an essential part of their personal journey.

Last week I read this article which gave some great advice for how to develop a location independent career. 

I thought I might give you a bit of an outline of how I was able to leave my full time job and pursue something I love.

Step 1: Pay off Debt

This meant I had to kick it into high gear for a while. While I never really hated my job I also never really felt fulfilled by it so some days were harder than others. But, I had a goal in mind and I just needed to get there.

Step 2: Adjust Living Situation

We were able to sell our 2700 square foot house in suburban Atlanta and we moved into an 800 square foot apartment closer to town. This reduced my expenses quite a bit and helped me be able to pay off my debts quicker. Rent was cheaper than our mortgage and the utility bills cost significantly less. During this time we continued to build the tiny house.

Step 3: Research Freelance Writing

Freelance writing wasn't something I had ever done before so I needed to learn how it all worked. Once my debt was paid I could concentrate on how to make it happen. I set up my own systems for billing and marketing. I spoke with other people who were already doing it. I began to write for a small client after work hours to get my feet wet and start to build a new resume.

Step 4: Quit

This was absolutely the scariest thing I have ever done. I left a job that was comfortable and that I had known for a long time to try something new. I had no safety net and very limited savings. I just knew that if I didn't do it then I may never do it at all. As soon as the tiny house was finished I gave my notice.

Since that time I have been dedicated to building my business. I have marketing plans in place, I follow multiple freelance writing job boards. I've even been working on my first eBook - slowly.

I can't tell you how to start your own work from home career any more than I can tell you what kind of tiny house you should build or where you should live. But just like the tiny house - if this is something you need to do then you can find a way to make it work for you.

What I can say with authority is that I love what I do. I never hated recruiting but I knew from the first day I ever did it that I wouldn't want to do it forever. In some ways I wish that I could have felt confident enough to take the leap sooner - but at the same time I don't think I would have been mature enough to handle it then. I am happy to get up every day and do this job and decisions like building and living in a tiny house made it possible.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Our Archway Willow

In December of 2009, Mt. Matt was in the middle of a snowpocalypse of epic proportions. Our neighbors were without power for 8 days. She knit me a scarf. I understand she knit a lot of scarves that week.

There were a lot of tree casualties after that storm. Just to get to our barn we had to cut through dozens of fallen trees. We had built a shower platform nestled in the woods. In the summer you could shower there without any screen or curtain and no one could see you. After the trees were gone, we had to rethink that strategy.

Right next to the shower platform were two tall black willows. They were the only two trees like that anywhere on our mountain.

One was a victim of the snowpocalypse in 2009. Flat as a pancake - but now excellent firewood.

The other bent over and became lodged in the ground on the other side of the path creating an archway. We weren't quite sure what to do with it so we didn't do anything.

Today, our Archway Willow is alive and thriving. We'll have to keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get too heavy, but right now it is doing just fine.

A view of the barn through the archway willow.
It has become one of our favorite things on Mt. Matt - besides, well, everything else.

As a random side note, while I was Googling "black willows," I came across this website - a winery that features a sphynx cat on their wine labels. How cool is that?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

*Hashtag* My Morning View

Earlier this year, Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens started a photo project called My Morning View.

Her morning photos have encouraged a number of other bloggers to do the same and has created its very own hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. 

Up until today, I hadn't taken the time to do it for myself. An average day for me starts with rolling out of bed, turning on the computer, and starting to write.

This morning I decided - for the first time in a while - to slow down a little. I slept in and when I woke I leisurely made some hot cocoa and thought, "I should take a photo of this!"

And so - #mymorningview

The night before while I sat up in the loft with a book and the cat, Matt was sitting on the sofa playing some music. I snapped this photo - let's call it #myeveningview

Matt and I like to take on a lot of projects. Our tiny life isn't necessarily any slower paced than our previous life - but it is the life we want. We currently have the opportunity to rehab a gorgeous 1940s bungalow near downtown Asheville so we've been spending a lot of our days doing that. We have some ideas for future projects, too. I can't imagine a world where we aren't building something.

What projects are you working on right now? How do you take time off and relax from them?

Monday, June 3, 2013

I know I know - The book!

As you may have noticed, 120 Ideas for Tiny Living is not yet available. Most of this is my fault - the editing process has been more brutal than I originally imagined. Because of it, though, I hope the book is the very best it can be for you.

The editing is very nearly done and then I have to complete the layout process. The book features a lot of photographs so it is time consuming to make sure everything looks great on the page. It will be available both as an eBook and a paperback.

Thank you so much for being patient with me. I'm guessing it will be published by July.

Teaser - Not the Real Cover!