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.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Look: I've Addressed All Your Questions!

All you really needed to do was ask. And not in the form of a passive aggressive blog post disguised as "witty." The tiny house community is, in general, a friendly and open lot who are more than happy to address your questions and curiosities. 

In fact, let me help. 

“you can’t tell me that you don’t lie awake at night, your face four inches from the ceiling because the only place your bed fits is above the kitchen sink which also acts as your shower, and think, I’ve made a terrible mistake.
Yes, as a matter of fact, I can tell you that. Personally, I find sleeping in my loft to be cozy but your mileage may vary. If you don’t like sleeping in a loft I might suggest not building a tiny house or keeping your bed on the ground floor. A loft isn’t mandatory.

But 250 square feet? What the hell happens when your tiny house partner farts Mexican food farts, huh? Where do you escape to? Nowhere.”
As it turns out, my house is only 120 square feet and there are two of us. You know what – people in big houses fart too. We aren’t all precious snowflakes. My partner and I have been together 20 years and the occasional passing of gas is really no big deal. Open a window and blame it on the cat.

“where do you put your [expletive deleted]? You still have some clothing and shoes and towels and all that jazz, right? Or do you just wear overalls now? Overalls and Birkenstocks and one towel that you share with your entire family. Where do you wash that towel, hmm?”
I’m glad you asked. I do have clothing and shoes and towels. I put them in the closet and the bathroom where they belong, just like everyone else. And, we live in luxury with two whole towels so we don’t have to split one. We wash it at the laundromat. We use to go to a place that was also a bar so that was cool. 

“And I know your house isn’t that clean all of the time.”
Sure isn’t, but why in the world would I post photos of my dirty house on the internet? It gets messy. We have to sweep. But you know what? It takes a fraction of the time to straighten up and clean. I’ll take that trade any day.

“What if you’re having a [expletive deleted] day and you just want to be alone? You can’t be alone, right? […]Don’t you feel like a rat trapped in a cage?”
Did you know when you live in a house you’re not confined to it 24/7. If I want to get out, I get out. If he wants to get out, he gets out. Often, we get out together. We are not wearing house arrest anklets.

Honey, if you can’t figure out how to have sexy time in *any* space, you're probably not doing it right. However, I can’t address your questions about kids because I don’t have any; on purpose.

Do you have friends and family? ANSWER ME! Are people now afraid of you?”
You’ve asked for answers so I am giving them to you. You know, friends and family also don’t have to be confined to your tiny house. There are these things called hotels. Or, in our case, tents. Friends actually ask to come camp on our land because they are not afraid of us.

“Guys, you know when the zombie apocalypse comes you’re going to be the first to go, right?”
As it turns out our tiny house is in a defensible position on a mountain…and on a foundation. Our friends and family have made plans to join us on our mountain to survive the coming hoards. You are not invited.

“You want to be some eccentric full of whimsy who doesn’t need modern tools or resources to live a fulfilling life. Well, good for you and your small abode. I hope you’re happy and that all my questions and concerns are just the ramblings of a jealous woman who wants a tiny house of her own.”
If you want a tiny house of your own you have an awfully strange way to go about your research into the lifestyle. There is a fine line between tongue-and-cheek and just plain mean. You may be straddling the line a little. Just thought I would let you know for future planning purposes.