Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015: A Tiny House Year in Review

Every year I like to take a quick look at what I was up to and consider some ideas for the New Year. Here is this year's recap.

In January, I had a great conversation with a friend who suggested the best way to remember things every year. So I wrote a post about his idea of making more milestones.

For February, Matt and I went full nomad and traveled along the South Eastern coast for the month. While we were traveling, I wrote about how the tiny house facilitated this kind of lifestyle and what it meant to me. While we can't hitch our home up and take it with us, it has made everything possible.

March was another milestone for me as I celebrated my 40th birthday. But, in the same month, Life in 120 Square Feet celebrated 5 years!

April marked yet another important day in the history of our journey. On Matt's birthday, three years earlier, I quit my job.

In May, after we got home from the Tiny House Conference in Portland, Oregon, I wrote about the questions we were asked at the event.

For June I took some time to write about how the feeling of not doing enough only paralyses us from doing anything at all.

With summer in full swing, July was a time for reflection on the future and why I hate the idea of bucket lists. This has been one of my most popular posts this year.

Life was a little lighter in August when Matt and I welcomed Kai of Tiny House Dating and Tiny House Lending to our own tiny home.

As Autumn fell across our mountain in September, we found ourselves looking at what we are doing now and forward at what we will be doing in the future.

In October, I talked about some of the big changes happening in our lives including the small bungalow in the city of Asheville that now plays a large part of our lives.

Continuing on the role of huge changes in 2015, we chose to sell the Element in November. I hope it has a good home now.

December, of course is spend surrounded by friends and family as are visiting Michigan for the Holidays. We just got home from our trip yesterday. It was a lovely visit and now we are happy to be home.

Each year, after I've looked back at what we've done, we consider what we have in store for the New Year. We pick a word, or a concept, that will be the focus of the year. 2014 was Hospitality and 2016 was Adventure. 2016 will be full of transitions that we are looking forward to, so I suppose that is as good a theme as any. 2016 will be a year of positive Transition. I can't wait to take you along on this journey.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

I'm an Expert!

Recently, I was contacted by PDH Contractor Academy and interviewed as part of their Expert Interview Program. While I did inform them that I was less an expert and more an amateur with a blog, they were still interested in hearing the story of how our tiny house came to be.

Check out this excerpt: 
What advice do you have for others who are considering building a tiny house? What are the most important things to think about?
The first thing I would suggest is to really think about the reasons why you want to build a tiny home. What is your motivation? Is it financial? Is it about travel? Is it about being environmentally-conscious? All of these things are important to consider so you can better decide how to approach the process. What you put into the house is what you’ll get out of it in the long run.
You can read the complete interview here. I'd love to hear what you think! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Goodbye, Element

I've written before about the things I couldn't live without in my tiny house and the tools that were most important while we were building.

One of our first trips after buying the land. 

But there has been an unsung hero in our tiny house journey: our 2003 Honda Element.

Matt bought the car new in 2003 the day we moved down to Atlanta from Michigan. See, he was driving a used Saturn and I was driving an old station wagon (a car I miss dearly but was totally impractical for Georgia). So I sold the car to my brother, who drove it for a while after that, and we moved down in the Saturn.

But, of course, we needed a new car and Honda had just released the Element - a quirky, shoebox of a car. Eventually, over time, the Element became mine.

We used that car to travel all over the south east exploring our new home. We drove it up to Michigan, even in a blizzard, multiple times.

And, most importantly, it was the car the enabled us to build the tiny house.

You can fit a surprising amount of things in a Honda Element. In fact, we've never lost the "that won't fit in there" argument.

Brush hog? Yep.
8 foot 2X4s? Yep.
Lots of them? Yep. 
A small cement mixer and about a million bags of cement? Yep.

We've camped in the Element. We've gotten lost in the Smoky Mountains in the Element. We've helped people get their cars out of the snow with the Element.

And, after we found ourselves spending so much more time in town at the city bungalow, the Element became less essential. I work from home, I'm within walking distance of a number of things, and if Matt and I go somewhere together we take his car. I was driving the car, on average, about twice a month. It was just taking up space in front of our house.

So I sold the Element. I posted the ad on Craiglist and less than 3 hours later, it was driving off with its new owner.

Thank you, Element, for helping us make our dreams happen. Thank you for driving back and forth from Atlanta to Asheville countless times between 2007 and 2012 from the time we bought our land to the time we finished our tiny home. Thank you for helping us make our dreams come true. Hopefully you'll have a few more good years and be a good car for someone who really needs a reliable set of wheels. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gnomes for Everyone!

"Hahahahahah! I get it! GNOME Chomsky!"

That is every conversation I've ever had with everyone who visits our tiny house for the first time.

Sitting on our porch is a little Travelocity gnome that was given to me by my sister and her family for Christmas a few years ago. Our tiny home was nearly complete and they decided we needed a tiny gnome.

And then - because we are unoriginal and great big nerds - we couldn't pass up a chance to give him a punny name straight out of the video game Left4Dead2. In a game-within-a-game, called Guardin' Gnome, you can use the red-capped gnome as your only weapon to fight off the zombies. And, in the game, the gnome is cleverly named "Chompski," after both the American philosopher (Noam Chomsky) and how zombies bite (Chomp Chomp).

That, my friends, is the long story behind the name of our little porch gnome.

In fact, Chomsky is such a part of our tiny house journey that he warranted his very own section in my book, 120 Ideas for Tiny Living.

So when I got an email from THE BEST BUSINESS EVER, I couldn't possibly pass up the opportunity to share it with all of you.

If you've been reading this blog for very long at all you know that I include very little advertising. I almost never promote other products directly. But for the chance that all of you can have you very own tiny house gnome, I had to bend my own rules.

The owners of Gnome Depot have offered a special discount for readers of Life in 120 Square Feet!  The first 100 readers who use the code 120FEET will get 5% off the purchase of their very own gnome! Get one for your tiny house - or your not so tiny house - today!

Go get your very own Chomsky. Also, I think "Alaska" would make an excellent Gnome name. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

That Time We Accidentally Bought a Bungalow

It wasn't a complete surprise, but it hadn't necessarily been on our radar.

Our tiny home, up on the mountain with no road and no running water, wasn't designed particularly for the winter. Not to say we couldn't stay there in the winter but the plan had always been to travel during that time of year. First, we would go see family for the holidays and then we would go somewhere warm. Location independence was as important as building a tiny home. But somewhere along the way our priorities changed.

We fell absolutely, madly in love.

Asheville City Building
Not with each other. I mean, yes with each other. I mean we were already in love with each other. But we fell in love with the city of Asheville. Not in an "I kind of like it here, I think I'll stay" kind of way but in a desperate, soul-wrenching kind of way. I found that I simply couldn't breathe any more if I didn't have mountains in my line of sight. I found that the culture, community, and people were the ones that I had been searching for my entire life.

Asheville is, without a doubt, our home.

It is a city that gets under your skin, but it is also a hard city to live in. The cost of living is high and the jobs are scarce. But we weren't coming at it conventionally in the first place so we believed we could make a go. We decided after living in our tiny house 30 minutes away for almost a  year that we really wanted to put roots down within the city limits.

And that was how we accidentally bought a bungalow.

City House, Halloween 2014
Well, I mean it wasn't an accident as in, "Hey, how did that happen!?" I just mean that it wasn't exactly in the plans. Our first winter after moving into the tiny house was already sort of planned. We decided to go to Michigan for two months to spend time with family and friends. Originally we thought we might go somewhere else after that but the aching feeling of being away from Asheville for too long was hard to ignore. Then we thought maybe we'd rent for a couple of months downtown so we would have a downtown experience and go back up to the tiny house after that. Then we discovered that rents are high in Asheville, and higher still for month to month.

Just for kicks we checked out the local real estate market. And I'll tell you - that's not inexpensive either. But we were patient. So we worked with a local Realtor and started scouring listings in our spare time. When suddenly, a little 700 square foot bungalow in need of a LOT of TLC came on the market.

"There isn't anything in that neigborhood in your price range," our agent said. But we pushed him to look. He quickly changed his tune and said we needed to see it right away. So we did. But in those few minutes the seller had accepted another offer.

We started looking again. And to our surprise the first offer fell through for a variety of reasons so we immediately put in another one. We got the house. For way under market. But it needed a lot of work - which we were now prepared to do because we had just spent 3 years building a house from the foundation up. It's amazing how things work out like that.

As it turns out, part of the reason we could buy this house was because we had reduced our expenses so much. It is all related. Simple living meant more savings which meant more possibilities for the future. 

We just finished the attic in 2015.
So from 2013 to earlier this year we spent a lot of our time fixing up the city house. We're kinda slow that way. It was helpful to have the tiny house to retreat when things got a little messy. But in that time we realized that being walking distance to the downtown we love so much was something we didn't know we were missing.

The division of our time becomes more complicated every day. As we become more involved in social activities and advocacy in Asheville the less time we spend up in the mountains, but we have by no means abandoned the tiny house. In fact, as I continue to share some of other things happening over the coming months you'll see that the tiny house is playing a very large part in our future.

For now we are fortunate to be able to have both in our lives. And we are fortunate that it has given us immeasurable opportunities, and will continue to pay those dividends in the years to come.

I'd love it if you stick around to see what's in store next. 

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.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Big Clown Tiny Home

Whenever I speak about building and living in a tiny house I always stress that the experience isn’t just about the size of the house but about the philosophy of “tiny” living. There are so many reasons to go tiny but one of the biggest one I’ve seen among people in our community is the desire for freedom. Freedom from debt, freedom from demanding schedules, and freedom from feeling trapped. 

The one common trait most tiny house people seem to have is the interest and ability to take risks and make these big changes in their lives even when they know it won’t always be perfect. Each time I meet a new tiny house person who exemplifies this I get excited all over again just the way I was when we broke ground on our own home. 

The past April, while Matt and I were in Portland, Oregon for the Tiny House Conference, we had the pleasure of meeting Michael O’Neill, a real-life clown building his own real-life tiny home. Building a tiny house for me was a catalyst to force myself to follow my dream. For Michael, it is a continuation and a tool to enhance it. I immediately sensed a kindred spirit and I am excited to share some of his story with you here today.

Michael's big project, besides building a tiny home, is to create a series of silent films. I absolutely adore the first installment. 

Tell me about your project? 

My "Big Clown Tiny Home" project is two projects in one. First is the building of the home itself. A 136 square foot home on wheels designed by architect Leandra Eich in Boston and being built by myself and several friends while being over seen by license contractor Stefan Jecusco. The build will be taking place on Sisyphus farms in Gresham OR owned by to very good friends Charlie & Zefer Brown. The build begins on August 3rd and we hope to be done by the end of September (8 weeks). The second part of the project is a series of silent film episodes where the Big Clown/BC shows up at the build and things unfold in a way you might expect.

What got you interested in tiny houses?

Back in the early to mid 90's I worked for the Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and lived in a 4X8 room for two years. I believe this was the first indication that I could live in tiny spaces. I then went onto living in small spaces in shared community housing. I felt that a small space of my own would be nice. Approximately 4 years ago I heard about the tiny house movement and was very intrigue by the thought, I lived in Seattle at the time in a small apartment with a loft. When I moved back to Portland in 2013 I again was living in a shared home with my cousin. In the spring of 2014 I started to think, “Why couldn't I have a Tiny Home.” Later that Fall I started to make a plan. Meeting you and your husband made the plan more of a reality and now I'm only weeks away from getting my trailer delivered.

What are your plans with your tiny house? 

My hope is to have three or four locations around the Portland area to live in it while I spend time in and out of Portland. My plan for the next 5 years is to tour the US with several different shows, and also tour internationally with Clowns Without Borders, and I would like to have a simple home to come back to when I return. Honestly I haven't thought much about the plan after it's built. My plan is to have it off grid with the option of plugging it in.

How did you get into performing? 

This is a long story, I started to perform in High School in 1989. I was terrified and had no intention of making it my life's work. After graduation I attended a Community College with the goal of becoming a high school math teacher. After the third semester at school I began to realize that I was spending all my time in the theater. I rethought my plan, transferred to a 4 year program, and started studying theatre day and night. In 1993 I auditioned for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, I was accepted and attended the following fall. In October of 1994 I was offered a contract with the Greatest Show on Earth and I spent the next three years traveling and performing. In 1998 I took a year off to reevaluate what I should do next, that fall I attended Dell Arte International school of Physical Theatre. Following my 9 month intensive I moved to Portland and my stuff has been here ever since. There is a lot to this story so feel free to contact me.

What are you looking forward to the most living in a tiny home? 

The thought of living alone excites me. Not for the reasons you might think. It's hard to feel like you can move freely in a home owned and run by other people. There is one thing to live with several people and rent a place, there is equal ownership when you all rent. Please don't get me wrong everyone I have lived with in the past has been welcoming and I love them for the space they have let me occupy. I would just like to have my own space. The simpleness of living in small spaces I have always enjoyed and look forward to being in that place again.

Welcome to the Tiny House Community, Michael!  

If you want to know more about Michael’s project visit his Indie Gogo page, Big Clown Tiny Home, and spread the word! 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Why I Hate Bucket Lists

I  celebrated my 40th birthday in March of this year so I have been thinking about the future a little bit lately.  I've told this story before but I am going to tell it again.

When I worked in staffing I had a client who had worked as a Human Resources Director for many, many years. She had finally decided to retire, along with her husband. They bought an RV and made plans to travel the country to visit family and finally enjoy their life together.

She left her company, had a big retirement party, and never had to worry about work again.

Just a few short weeks later her husband passed away unexpectedly.

I can only imagine how this affected her. She was a client, not a friend, so I never got to have a heart to heart conversation with her about her feelings. I know that it affected me a great deal and I didn't even know her husband.

During that time, Matt and I were already building our tiny house. I was getting closer and closer to quitting my job. This story just cemented in my mind that I needed to do something now, not later.

Waiting for "retirement" to live may not be a viable answer for everybody. It may not be a viable answer for anybody. There is simply no way of knowing what lies ahead for any of us. I couldn't put off my desire to live more deliberately. I couldn't continue doing what I was doing even though I was comfortable, paid well, and pretty good at it. I wanted to experience life, not just survive it.

And this is why I hate "Bucket Lists."

I'm not entirely sure when the idea of a bucket list became poplar. One day there was a movie and the next thing I knew everyone was talking about their bucket list. I'm guessing we always had these notions as a culture but no shared name for it. They were just the things we wanted to do before we died.

The problem isn't in having the desire to do these things but the idea that we can put them off until some later date. That we have to reach a certain milestone before we can start living our lives.

There have been a lot of things that I wanted to make sure I did in my lifetime. Some small, some big. As soon a I thought up a new one I would consider how much of my life it would cost me to do it. Not money, life.

If I traded a certain number of hours of my life in exchange for money I could afford to do this thing. Could I afford to lose those hours?

The very idea of a Bucket List gives us an excuse to write our hopes and dreams down on a piece of paper and hold on to it tightly until we determine we are at an age or a level of success where we can actually do them.

What if, instead, we lived every day deliberately and did all the things we want to do when we want to do them?

Sure, I understand that some things cost money. I did trade 15 years of my life in a job with the goal of saving enough money to do the things I wanted to do. Eventually I needed to figure out an alternate way to make these thing happen or I was going to continue slowly withering away inside. I know not everyone hates their 9-5 job and I I'm happy for people when they do, but I talk to enough people who eventually admit to me that their job leaves them feel empty and unfulfilled. It feels like an epidemic that most people aren't willing to acknowledge.

My client put off her life in exchange for security. When she finally felt secure enough to leave her career, it was literally too late. This is not the future I want for myself.

What things do you want to accomplish? How do you want to live? 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Tiny Home Office Redux: The World is My Office

Three years ago I wrote this blog post about my tiny office.

Small home office set up in Savannah
Not too much has changed when it comes to how I work in a tiny space. Matt and I both still work from home.

Over the last few years I have spent a lot of time focusing on location independence. The tiny house gave us security to be able to travel more and because of that we spend a lot of time away from home traveling. Since we moved into the tiny house we have:
  • Camped for 1 week every summer. 
  • Spent 2 months in Michigan with family for the holidays in 2012. (And shorter visits in 2013 and 2014)
  • Visited friends in New Mexico and Arizona.
  • Spent 10 days in London.
  • Traveled for a month this winter going to St. Augustine, Savannah, Charleston, and Wilmington NC. 
  • Spent 10 days in Portland for the Tiny House Conference.
There has been more, too. For us, living in the tiny house was about more than spending our lives in a small space. It was about expanding our space to encompass the world. Because we will always have the tiny house, which is paid for, we have a place to return no matter where our travels take us.

For this reason, my tiny home office is still a backpack-style laptop case. In it I have my computer, headset for important calls, and my wireless internet hotspot. Since moving into the tiny house I have also upgraded to an iPhone which makes some work on the go even easier. I do also keep a notebook, portfolio, business cards, and stationary with me.

Location independent work and the people who do it, who are often referred to as Technomads, is a highly rewarding experience. Before quitting my job I didn't think it would be possible either, but now three years later my own business is going strong and I am grateful to be able to work from anywhere.

Do you want to work from anywhere? What do you want to to know about my tiny, portable home office and how to be location independent.