Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Un-compartmentalizing: 1 year later

Today I decided to check out what I wrote about a year ago today. When I went into my blog archives I discovered this draft post that never saw the light of day. I thought I might revamp it a little and post it today. 

I was thinking today [April 29, 2013] about how much my life has changed since we moved into our tiny house. There were the obvious things like reducing my expenses so I could quit my job. There were the intentional things like going off grid. There were some unexpected rewards from freeing up my time and living in this way.

One of the ways my life has changed the most is that nothing I do is compartmentalized.

My entire day, from the moment I wake up in the morning to the moment I go to bed at night, is integrated and the reason I can live this way is because I drastically changed the way I live.

An average day for me, in the years leading up to our big change, was to set my alarm for before dawn. Get up, roll out of bed, hop in the shower, dress in professional clothes, and grab some breakfast. I would also try to catch up on personal email and social media so I didn't find myself being distracted by them at work. This wasn't always possible.

I would get in my car and drive 45 minutes to a job that was only 15 miles away. I would walk in the door to the office, interact with my co-workers, employees, and clients and simply wait until the clock said 5:30 so I could leave. I had a bad habit of eating my lunch at my desk, too, which is totally unhealthy.

I was pretty good at my job and sometimes I even enjoyed it. As soon as the clock struck 5:30 I would get in my car and drive the 15 miles back to my own house. The afternoon commute sometimes took over an hour.

When I got home I would eat dinner and watch TV. Some days were reserved for "going out" and others were for staying home.

A year ago [author note, this post was written in 2013 and never published], I left my former career and followed my real passion. We moved into the tiny house and my income became 100% dependent on freelance jobs and my own ability to market myself. Now my day consists of writing, marketing, making food, going for walks, and doing my chores. It is also made up of activities that build community whether through the internet or by heading into Asheville and interacting with others.

Now there is really no difference between my work and my life. Everything I do is because I want to do it.

As a concrete example, lets look at exercise. I loathe it in general. Every once in a while I would decide I needed to "get in shape!" and would get up a half hour earlier in the morning and ride our exercise bike. It was miserable and I never stuck with it for very long.

Now, we built our tiny house on a mountain without road access. In order to from our cars to our house we have to climb a 200 vertical rise over approximately a quarter of a mile. Every day. Sometimes several times a day. Sometimes in the rain and sometimes in the dark. But now, my exercise is built into my life. It isn't something that I have to schedule, it is just something that happens.

I never want to position my lifestyle as the only right way. I happen to love this new, non-compartmentalized world view. I happen to love that I can integrate my work and my life. Others people love different things. I would be very bored if everyone in the world loved to do the same things I did or did them the exact same way.

I was able to use the tiny house as a way to un-compartmentalize my life. It allowed me to see the world in a different way and figure out what actually worked for me rather than doing what was expected of me. This, to me, is what deliberate living is all about.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Tiny House Conference

This morning was surprised and excited to see this video from Around Carolina. It was filmed at the Tiny House conference and several friends, including Ryan Mitchell and Teal Brown, are featured.

And the first thing you hear and see? Why, that's Matt and me talking about off the grid living.


Friday, April 18, 2014

The First Night In Your Tiny House

Recently, fellow tiny house builder and blogger BA Norrgard moved into her new home. She excitedly posted about it on Facebook page and her energy stirred up some emotions for me.

Even though it was nearly 2 years ago I remember that feeling of satisfaction the first night we were officially in the tiny house.

We had stayed in the tiny house before while we were finishing it, but there is a real difference when you close that door behind you and know that you don't have any where else to go. The tiny house goes from more than a concept or a project to a home.

Settling in that first night and waking up in the loft the first morning gave me butterflies. A feeling that wasn't unlike falling in love for the first time. My whole life was about to change.

Moving into my own tiny house was a catalyst for this change. Not only did we leave behind Atlanta but I also left behind a job I had been with for 8 years. Everything was going to be different. We were moving into our tiny house and I was jumping into a brand new career without a parachute.

The weeks leading up to the move were electric. I put my notice in on April 2nd and 5 weeks later I was closing a huge chapter of my life. We moved a bunch of stuff into storage (we have since eliminated or re-purposed all of that stuff) and we moved into a new simplified life.

You can read about our first night in the tiny house here.

I am in awe about all the discovery in those first few days. Even though we had spent so much of our lives building the tiny space everything seemed so new.

Then, after about a week, we settled in and got comfortable. Suddenly our tiny life was just our life. Sure, we may have to sweep more often, we physically haul jugs of water from a spring, and we regularly battle back the poison ivy but it stopped feeling special.

And this is a good thing.

But reading BA's posts about moving into her very own tiny house made me remember those feelings again. That sense of wonder and enjoyment. It reminded me of the reason I started on this path in the first place.

It wasn't just to live in a tiny house. It was a catalyst to radically change my life for the better.

It gave me courage and an opportunity to live more deliberately.

If you've built your own tiny home I challenge you to recall those feelings of your first night. If you're building a space right now, I can't wait until you have that sense of excitement when you know that you're finally home.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tiny House Cleaning Routine

It is spring and that means Spring Cleaning!

This is a time honored tradition where every last inch of a home gets cleaned and freshened.

Just after the conclusion of the Tiny House Conference, Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life, visited our 120 square foot home and got to watch (and help) me put everything back in the cabinets after it had all been taken out and the cabinets deep cleaned.

One of my very favorite things about living in a small space is that spring cleaning doesn't take very long. We can move the sofa, clean the base boards, scrub the floors, and wash the screens without even breaking a sweat.

In our 2700 square foot house I hated spring cleaning so much I avoided it as much as possible. I'm not sure the outside of any of those windows ever got cleaned while we lived there.

This year in the tiny house we took everything out of the cabinets and cleaned every inch inside. Then we put everything back in. We moved the sofa to sweep and scrub the floors that otherwise never gets seen. We vacuumed the carpeting in the lofts and washed all the blankets and linens. We scrubbed the counters and the shower. The screens got taken out and washed off and the windows were cleaned both inside and outside. The house is sparkly clean, at least for now.

Someone recently asked me about our cleaning routine. Well, in a nutshell, this is it. But this is just the kind of deep cleaning we do twice a year. Every day we sweep several times to keep the dirt from outside at bay. We clean up after ourselves when we cook and do all the dishes and put them away. We do our laundry once a week. We scoop the litter box whenever it needs to be scooped. Our cleaning routine isn't much different from anyone else's except that our home is a fraction of the size.

That being said we have additional chores that others who live in on-grid homes don't need to worry about. Once a week we collect and haul water up from our spring. Every day I fill the Berkey with about 2 gallons of the water we've collected. I also dump the gray water bucket into our reclamation system. Every time we leave the tiny house or when we go to sleep, we turn off the power inverter so no energy is being wasted when we don't need it.

Cleaning a tiny house is a lot like cleaning a big house. Living in a tiny house is a lot like living in a big house. As they say:

"Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Other Passions and Projects

It isn't often that I share non-tiny house related things here at Life in 120 Square Feet. That being said, there is more to living in a tiny house than thinking about living in a tiny house every day.

Life is life, regardless of the size of your home. 

Over the last 6 months I was working on a pretty big project: my second book. While the first is a simple book about our tiny home experience, the second is about another passion of mine.


I am proud to announce that my book, How to Drink Craft Beer: A Beginner's Guide, is now available on amazon in both paperback and kindle editions! 

I know there are a few other tiny house enthusiasts who also enjoy craft beer so I hope some of you might be interested.

And this ends the PSA about my book. We'll be back next week with semi-regularly scheduled tiny house related posts.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Tiny House Conference Recap from Life in 120 Square Feet

This weekend at the Tiny House Conference in Charlotte was a whirlwind. I don't know if I can possibly describe every detail that happened. It was such an amazing event! I wanted to try to recap it as much as possible and share some of the photos I took.

I had wanted to take more photos but I got so caught up in meeting new people and seeing all the houses that the camera didn't come out very often.

So without further ado: my recap of the Tiny House Conference 2014

I decided to work for a half a day at Bar of Soap so I could keep my mind occupied before we drove out to Charlotte. Here is a photo of my lunch at BoS before we took off. I put this here because I am told that people on the internet like to see photos of other people's food.

After lunch was a pretty uneventful 2 hour drive to Charlotte. There we met up with Andrew Odom and his Dad and set up camp. I think that we were the only two bloggers camping. It seemed like everyone else was staying at hotels nearby. After we got set up we chatted with some other folks who came out for the conference and then drove to downtown Charlotte for dinner.

This is a photo of all the bloggers and builders listening to Ryan Mitchell, the ring leader of the conference, at the welcome dinner. I did not take this picture - Malissa Tack did. At dinner we got to meet all kinds of awesome people from the Tiny House community. There are too many to list but some folks included Suzannah and Sicily Kolbeck, and Macy Miller who just had a baby two weeks before driving from Idaho to North Carolina with the newborn and her Great Dane!

After dinner, we headed back to the campground and got settled in for the night. This is me in bed in our new tent.

Saturday was when the magic happened. 300+ people converged on the nature preserve to listen to speakers and see tiny houses. Matt and I presented on Building Basics, which I think went pretty well. We also got to see Drew speak about tiny house utilities. That afternoon Dee Williams gave the keynote address. It was inspiring, moving, and entertaining. Here are some random photos from the day:

After a dinner break, Drew and I hosted the Blogger and Builder Panel/r(E)vo Convo Podcast with special guest Ryan Mitchell and Sicily Kolbeck - and, of course, the attendees of the conference. We recorded the session and will be putting it out as a podcast soon. I had so much fun!  (here is another photo by Malissa Tack)

Here is Drew pumping up the audience as we got ready to record.

Saturday night had a delightful bonfire and many people getting to know one another. It was a great time.

Sunday featured more workshops. Matt and I spoke about Off the Grid Living. I think that went quite well.

After the workshops and lunch, we packed up our campsite and got ready to head back to Asheville. We said goodbye to all of our friend, old and new. Some connections were made. We even met a few people who live in the Asheville are who we hope we will see again soon! 

I believe there will be a Tiny House Conference in 2015 and I'll be sure to share details when I have them.

If you were at the Tiny House Conference I'd love to connect with you online. You can find me on Facebook! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Adventure and the Tiny House

“We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character." – Henry David Thoreau

Piglet on an adventure!
For a while I have been trying to think of the way to phrase some of my thoughts about tiny houses and the people that build them. So much of the tiny house movement is made up of Do-It-Yourself first-time home builders that I have often wondered what attracted them to the idea of the tiny house in the first place.
Every time I am in the same place with one or more DIY Tiny House builders there is an ease of conversation. There are topics and ideas that we all seem to readily understand without even discussing them at length. And while there is variation in our population, just like any group, there is one thing that I have seen consistent with the people who choose to build and live in their own tiny house. 


I just turned 39. I have known for as long as I can remember that I needed some level of adventure for my life to feel satisfying. I had no idea what that looked like when I was 5 or 10 or 15, but I knew my life would not be "conventional." Not that there is anything wrong with a conventional life, but my body ran on adventure. And not adrenaline junkie adventure, either. I don't need to jump out of perfectly good airplanes or ride river rapids. The adventure I wanted was about traveling to new places, learning new things, and having experiences. 

Building a tiny house is just one small part of my own adventure. When I was 20 I thought I would buy a Winnebago and travel the country. Then, for a while, living on a sail boat seemed like the best idea. I wanted to be a writer since I was old enough to hold a crayon. 

Matt grew up knowing he wanted to build his own house one day. His dad, who passed away when he was very young, was a builder. He designed energy efficient homes in the 70s and left behind a number of drawings of his ideas. Matt was inspired. 

One of things that drew us together was a shared sense of adventure.

My friend Tammy and Me in South Africa.
We even try to make adventures out of fairly mundane experiences. When we got Piglet we didn't just drive to Pennsylvania to pick her up. Instead, we rented a Winnebago and made a few stops along the way. When our friends asked for help designing a shelter in South Africa we didn't just send over plans, we booked a plane ticket.

Adventure can be made up of a lot of different components. It looks different for everyone who wants to live an adventurous life. And, of course, tiny house people are small subset of the greater adventure-seeking population. 

But we all seem to have these significant traits in common:

  •  We want to live an unconventional life.
  •  We aren't afraid to take and face risks.
  •  We don't give up very easily.

      Adventure fits in well with my overall Deliberate Living philosophy. I've always referred to our experience as an adventure. We didn't just build a tiny house, we had an adventure. All of the good things and all of the bad things added up to make a singular experience that we will never be able to repeat. It also propels us to more adventures because of the freedom we have gained from it. And I see this mindset among my friends in the tiny house community as well. 

     What kind of adventure do you want in your life?