Lessons from 5 years Ago

On this day, in 2011, Atlanta saw the first flakes of snow that would become an epic Icepocalypse. It wasn't the first blizzard Atlanta had ever seen, and it wasn't even the last one. There will be more. But it was my last, and worst, snow experience while living in Atlanta from 2003 to 2012.

And it was also my first taste of freedom. 

The Icepocalypse flipped a switch in me that was impossible to disconnect after the fact. See - we had already started the process of building a tiny home. We started building our home in the spring of 2009. We had already been working on it for two years - and about a year and a half longer than we had originally imagined. It is really easy to underestimate the time of a build, especially when you're doing things for the first time in your life.

In January of 2011, Matt and I were already living in an apartment on the north side of Atlanta. The year before we had sold our 2700 square foot house to begin the simplifying process. Our 16th floor high rise apartment was only 800 square feet but even in our first days I knew I could go smaller. I was so ready to make this change.

When the blizzard hit on that Sunday, everyone in the city knew that the next day would be a free day. Mondays are perfect for snow days. Schools were closed by 5pm that night. Bosses, like my own, called their employees in that evening and with the joy of a child waiting for Christmas announced that things would be closed on Monday. That night, I watched the snow fall from above the city, and it was magical.

And the next day, everyone in Atlanta felt that magic. Matt and I used this opportunity to walk to a local bar. The bars are always open, even when the rest of the city is completely closed.

On Tuesday, the snow was still there. In fact, it had begun to melt but froze again over night leaving behind sheets of ice rather than soft, glistening snow. Atlanta was closed on Tuesday, too. And Wednesday.

By then, local businesses began to panic. I worked in temporary staffing so no work for our employees meant no pay and while one snow day was fun, three were a problem. Our clients had business to conduct and our employees couldn't wait another day for 8 more hours of pay.

And yet, in this time off from work I relished in my freedom. I had been restless in my job for some time. In fact, it was one of the reasons I had for starting our tiny house project in the first place. It gave me a place to spend my energy and a goal to look forward to. When it was done, I would quit my job and BE a writer.

When the city finally went back to normal by the following Monday, all I could feel was a sense of dread. My tiny house was not yet complete and my dream would need to be deferred a little longer. I needed to act like nothing was wrong and do my job, but that week made it harder than ever. For the first time, I got a real taste of the freedom I was craving. I was in charge of my own time and I could be creative or go for a walk in the middle of the day. I wasn't chained to a desk until 5:30 at night regardless of whether I was finished with my work for the day.

Don't get me wrong. I didn't resent the company or the people I worked for. What I resented was that I had put myself in that position to begin with. That I had followed this path of least resistance that came with all the trappings. That we had bought a too-large house with a mortgage that we had to work long hours to pay off. That I had allowed myself to believe that having health insurance was more important than fulfillment. That I had given myself permission to get comfortable, and in turn made my own life unbearable.

Even though we had already started the process of building our tiny home, it was on this day in 2011 that I knew that I needed to do anything I could to make this new future happen for me. That I couldn't go back to this way of life that everyone seemed to think was not only normal but essential. That I needed this feeling of freedom every day, not just when nature bestowed it upon me.

I am thankful to the Icepocalypse. Looking back on it now, 5 years later, I can see it gave me the push I needed to keep working toward my goal. I am grateful that even a snowstorm can teach us lessons that will last a lifetime.


  1. It's amazing what snow can do ;-)
    Love your story,
    Have Fun, work less, Play More

  2. thank you for sharing your story, i love it! you're an inspiration to me. :)

  3. Inspiring! Thank you. I have land and having been reading about it for much too long. What is your water source?

    1. Thanks for reading - I appreciate it.

      We were lucky. After we bought the land, which we were told had no water, we discovered a natural spring. It has been flowing steadily since we found it in 2010. Right now, we use that. We fill jugs of water and use the Berkey water filter in our kitchen to clean it before use.

      However, it had been our goal to build a rain catchment system. But once we found the water, we got lazy about it and haven't started that project yet.

  4. I know this is an old post but I just found it; I understand exactly what you are talking about. In 2011 during the summer, I started to think about my life and how I wanted to spend it. I always wanted to have my own business but since I came from a struggling working class family, I put it out of my mind and did what everyone else did find a job and just try to get by.

    I was tired of trying to get by, I was tired of working at jobs I didn't like for little pay, I didn't like dedicating my time and life to an employer. So I started doing research about starting a business, I also started looking for ways to live a simple life. It wasn't until January of 2012 when I discovered the tiny house living movement and I have been fascinated with it every since.

    The summer of 2012 I was laid off, my aunt suddenly became very ill and passed away, and other things started happening which discouraged me but at the same time it was also a sign that I had the right idea. If I didn't ask those questions and have that epiphany in 2011, I would be like everyone else; I would have fully given up and lower my standards. Although I was discouraged, I am still determined to have that simple, carefree, free life.

    As you know now there are alot of reality shows about the tiny house movement which didn't exist back in 2012. So I watch it with family and friends many of them don't understand why anyone would want to do that. I explain the concept and meaning behind the movement, I show them my tiny house catalog that got from Jay Schafer's company so they can see the different houses. Many find it interesting (similar to watching an interesting movie), some admit they can never downsize that much and others are still so baffled and believe the whole concept is crazy. I say the latter are stuck/trapped/blinded by society's concepts. They lowered their standards and lost the will to think for themselves; these same people also have high debt, cry about mortgage payments and live in constant fear of losing their job because the company is always downsizing.

    We all read and know Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken", many people say that there is a lot of truth in the poem and that they want to take the road that's not taken. But, something happens to make them forget that poem, I never forgot the poem, which is why I am open to living a simple life and that everyone should live life on their own terms. I'm not saying that the road least travel is easy because it's not, but just thinking differently than the masses is so freeing and no, you can't go back to being or thinking like the masses.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. It makes me so happy that I am able to share my story with others. Live deliberately, and you'll not regret it.


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