Why We Moved from the Tiny House to a Small Traditional House for the Winter


The Small Cottage – Photo by Tammy Strobel


Around the time that my partner, Tammy, and I were celebrating our three year anniversary of tiny house living we started our seasonal discussion on wants and needs. Every three months or so Tammy and I plan a discussion to reconcile where we have been, where we want to go, and our satisfaction with where we are presently in our lives. It is easy to get sucked into a routine and forget how tumultuous and changing life can be. Further, even if everything appears to be normal from the outside, subconscious feelings of discontent can lead to, as Thoreau put it, “lives of quiet desperation.” Following the death of Tammy’s father and the near death of my father, we see the constant flux that is just below the surface of the world we take for granted. We have experienced how fast life can change. Just by discussing opportunities to change and reflecting on the course of our lives, we tend to keep our creativity and happiness fresh and maintain the intentionality that we value. In this manner, as we felt the autumn chill in the air and began our seasonal reckoning, we realized that we both wanted to try a new adventure.

Tiny house living in the country may sound romantic and glamorous, but it is wise to weigh the costs against the benefits. After three years of tiny house living in several different locations, we are experienced and capable of handling the challenges of tiny house living. However, there was something about the dynamics in our present life that made Tammy and I consider a change to a traditional, small, and urban living situation. To help with our consideration, we made a pro/con list to understand a larger decision spectrum regarding a move to town.

Pro/Con List on Moving to a Small Winter Cottage in Town





-Better commute -Ranch family distance -More time weekdays -$ spending activities
-Winter comfort -May work longer -More activities to do -Potential cat danger
-Closer to family -Transition time & cost -More people to meet -Acquiring more stuff
-Less driving costs -More noise in town -New adventures -Risk of money disputes with spouse
-Tammy’s back health -Much greater expense -New tiny holiday house
-Indoor shower -Faster internets speeds
-Blogging material -Ability to host family and friends for meals and lodging

Living in the country allowed us to be close to family, save money, and be surrounded by natural beauty. However, since I worked 15 miles away in town, my commute by bike and bus was approximately two hours each day. Further, the nature of tiny house living is being intimate with the outdoor environment. This intimacy is a blessing in warmer seasons, however, after experiencing three winters in the tiny house we have learned that this intimacy can be confining in the winter due to the greater amount of time spent indoors.

The Decision

Once Tammy and I had talked about our needs and wants and reviewed our pro/con list above, we decided we were open to at least looking at “cute small cottages” as Tammy put it. Within just a few days of us being open to a new opportunity we found a wonderful small (~700 sq. ft.) traditional house in Yreka. This still wasn’t an easy decision. We love our tiny house and we were concerned regarding the dramatic increase in noise and expenses. Additionally, even if you espouse the merits of frequent changes it’s not easy to change your routine. In summary, this decision felt like it was the best one for us at present and we plan to treat this new experience as a short-term experiment. We will re-evaluate our needs when spring arrives. In the mean-time, we will likely return to the tiny house often to visit family and take holidays from our new urban life. I look forward to adapting our simple living principles and our alternative living experience to a more traditional way of living.


The Small Cottage Interior – Photo by Tammy Strobel

Learning Grit: Why Experts Take Notes.

Experts take notes - Photo by Tammy Strobel of Rowdykittens

Experts take notes – Photo by Tammy Strobel of Rowdykittens

Recent psychological research on successful learning outcomes has revealed a fascinating result that shatters many common beliefs. The only consistent indicator of success isn’t intelligence, its grit. Grit is a personality trait which consistently focuses motivation over a long period of time. Grit is the ability to keep chipping away at big, long-term goals until they are completed. For example, if you have a strong do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos and want to build your own tiny house, you are going to need a lot of grit to turn your design ideas into a finished shelter.

Admittedly, I am easily over-whelmed by large projects and I don’t feel like I have a lot of natural grit. Further, I have experienced grit, but it always seems tricky to maintain. In the past when I had a gritty focus on future goal-oriented outcomes, I tended to ignore the present and felt depressed. Recently, I think I have found a balance in happily focusing on the present while applying a “gritty” determination to life. To continue my Tiny House Magazine series on DIY ethos, I wanted to share with you a few gritty methods I have discovered to manage knowledge, and put my anxious, forgetful mind at ease.

Taking notes: When I was an academic scientist at least 30% of my time was dedicated to taking notes. In science, if you didn’t record it, it didn’t happen. Recording is important because it makes ideas resilient to memory loss and gives ideas a foundation to be shared with others for feedback. Do you remember taking notes and doing homework in school? Educational institutions encourage this because it’s a good way to learn and evaluate. To relearn this note-taking practice, it’s easiest to start with old-fashion journaling. However, thanks to new smartphone technologies, there is more than one medium you can use. Writing down my ideas sometimes inhibits my work flow or feels too time consuming. On these occasions, I try using my smartphone to record my voice, take a photo, or combine the two by making a short video.

Simplifying: The biggest super-power in having a DIY ethos is learning how to simplify complex tasks. Designing and building a tiny house, for example, is very complex but focusing on one small decision at a time makes the work much easier. Our brains are powerful tools for creative thinking and problem solving; however our short-term/working memory can only focus on about 7 variables. Breaking large concepts into lots of small concepts and using visual imaging tools such as “concept mapping” will dramatically improve understanding and bolster grit.

Organizing: As stated above, successful and effective people are not necessarily the smartest, they are simply the people with the grit to get things done. Organizing is the simplest way I have found to aggregate small related tasks into big tasks over time. I tend to not be a linear thinker. However, to share and build upon knowledge, it is much easier for me to organize ideas in a linear step by step fashion.  Here are a few tools I use to stay organized:

  • Tagging: Categorizing information through tagging is an easy way to get started organizing. I often assign tags to ideas and a date for timeline reference so I can find it later.
  • Evernote, Onenote, Things and The Brain: These are wonderful software tools that help you manage information. Evernote is a digital capture tool whereas Onenote provides linear structure to organize progressive tasks under a big project. Things is a task management tool that helps plan and keep track of project progress. The Brain is a non-linear organization tool that fosters creativity by connecting objects/people/tasks to a web-like network of relationships.
  • Knowledge management: To learn about more tools and methods for productivity, I suggest checking out David Allen of “getting things done” and Ethan Waldman of Cloud Coach. One of the greatest advantages I find with these tools is freeing up my mind from memorization to allow a focus on creative thinking.
  • Reflecting: Self-awareness is a critical feedback exercise for improving grit. I’ve found one of the best ways to change my behavior is to observe my actions from another perspective. For example, one tool I have used to improve my teaching was video recording my lectures and watching myself from the third person. This reflection allowed me to see my teaching behavior objectively (how others saw me) and gave me ideas on how to improve.

In practicing a DIY ethos I have found taking notes, simplifying, organizing and reflecting have helped me learn grit and complete my projects. The tools above make my large projects easier to manage over time, improve my productivity, and foster focus on the present moment. To put my anxious and forgetful mind at ease, I remind myself: it is more important to focus on a practice rather than a goal-oriented outcome. I can’t control future outcomes, I can only control my efforts. If I only focus on outcomes beyond my control, I am bound to be disappointed regardless of my grit and determination. By practicing my values I can be satisfied by my consistent contributions and remain resilient when the world inevitably changes around me.

Learning how to learn

Several years ago I asked my brother, a professional technology consultant, “How do you troubleshoot tech issues?”

He replied, “Oh that’s easy, I just Google it.”

The simplicity of his answer shocked me. However, I realized there was more to his simple approach than he was letting on. “Information is not knowledge” as Albert Einstein famously stated. The internet is a powerful resource that contains a virtual sea of information, however, a poorly phrased search query can easily lead to billions of results and information overload. My brother’s admission was that he asked Google if someone else had already solved the problem and altruistically provided the answer instead of figuring out each problem without help. In other words, his skill was diagnosing the problem and searching the internet for knowledge, not information.

Knowledge, in this context, is the practical application of information from real human experience. To accomplish this he had to:

  • Acknowledge his ignorance (which is more difficult than it sounds)
  • Use what little he did know about the problem to precisely compose a question
  • And evaluate the merits of the answers (search results) to find a likely solution.

Since then I’ve learned a great deal about how to research subjects. I’ve also learned a great deal from the DIY ethos of my tiny house community. The tiny house community is an enthusiastic group that is not afraid to fail, take on complex tasks, and ask for help. To continue my Tiny House Magazine series on DIY ethos I’ve decided to zoom out, go meta, and take on a subject I call “learning how to learn.” As many tiny home-owners and builders will tell you, there is a great benefit in self-regulated learning. This new magazine series is not intended to teach you specific subjects such as tiny house construction. Instead this series will attempt to teach you how to convert information into knowledge, whatever the subject, and without pestering every tiny-house blogger you know with questions. I know you are eager to get started so below I have included a few of my favorite tips and tricks I often use to boost my know-how:

  • Learn how to search better using search operators,
  • Access knowledge from the past
    • Internet Wayback machine – Archive of webpages at different time points
    • Google books – Search the contents of many published books and periodicals
    • Open library – Read free digital versions of older and open source books
    • WorldCat – Find the nearest location of any library media
  • Learn from the future as it happens – Google alerts
  • Learn by association – Google Knowledge Graph
  • Learn by demonstration – YouTube
  • Crowd source information from your social network
    • Jelly – Picture based questions to friends and extended network
    • Quora – Written questions from friend network interests
    • Facebook Graph search – Shared-experience aggregator of friend network

I have also recorded a screen-cast video in this article to explain the resource tools above. The following is my do-it-yourself (DIY) caveat: As with all DIY projects, it’s important to imagine the risks of a mistake when performing a new task. If I damage my iPhone during repair, I can correct it with minimal consequence and cost. However, if I repair the brakes on my car and the repair fails, it may harm you and others. You can certainly learn how to perform complex tasks with greater risk, but I would advise getting an experienced teacher to help check your work and lower your risk of unintended harm.



Deciding how to decide: How to deal with overwhelming decisions in tiny house design.

Photo of tiny house interior bench area

How many design decisions can you spot in this photo? – Photo by Tammy Strobel

Recently at a restaurant, my partner Tammy had a difficult time deciding what she wanted to order from the menu. Her difficulty in making a choice reminded me of all of the choices that went into building and designing the tiny house. As renters, Tammy and I had always chosen the part of town we wanted to live in and let our feelings help us decide which apartment felt right. Once in the rented apartment we accepted the building as it was. We added creature comforts to fit our aesthetics and our preferences but we never had to consider detail of the infrastructure.

When designing the tiny house we were overwhelmed with choices that we had never considered before. What we focused on seemed to expand, and soon we had to ask:

Tammy quickly abandoned me. It was hard enough for her to decide what she wanted to eat in a restaurant much less deciding what furnishings would be permanently installed in our tiny home; and so it became my job to narrow down the options.

I enjoyed the challenge of design, but with the thousands of decisions that lay before me, I knew I needed help to strategize. I needed to decide how I would decide. “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz was a great intro to this topic and helped me understand Tammy’s decision paralysis. Jonah Lehrer’s book “How we decide” gave some me some fantastic insight and tools to use in making my decisions on tiny house furnishings. Both books cite research that finds:

  • The logical portion of our brain can quickly become overwhelmed once the variables (choices) exceed about seven.
  • We should encourage reliance on instinctual emotions for decision making (this mechanism can handle millions of variables)
  • It’s important to understand decision weaknesses. These emotional blind spots include things like loss aversion and normative social influence.

To simplify my choices I tried to listen to my instincts and look for examples while keeping in mind my logical needs and budget. Each area of the house had different needs so I tried to consider each area as a separate project instead of, for example, trying to find a lighting type that would be a compromise fit for everything. Also, I tried to relax a bit since perfect is the enemy of good. As humans, we adapt quickly to our surroundings and soon rarely notice the details of our routine environment. Further, nothing is permanent. If I really hated something or wanted to improve it, I could save some money and replace it the future.

I no longer take home furnishing details for granted. Next time you are in your home, a public building, or staring at tiny house examples, try to notice a few details. For instance, maybe consider which door handles were chosen and why. After going through the process of choosing tools and materials for the tiny house I can now appreciate the small details I find in other homes. I now pay attention to how things work and try to imagine the designer’s rationale. It’s a fun challenge, but Tammy still thinks I’m crazy. ;)

Microsoft Surface Pro, A User Review

Last spring my 7 year old Macbook Pro was increasingly showing signs of age. The hard drive was failing, the processor was struggling to manage new software updates, and things kept breaking. I’d done my best to keep my favorite tool running. I overhauled the computer when it needed repairs using the wonderful sites Powerbookmedic.com and Ifixt.com for tools, parts, and instructional guides. I upgraded the RAM and the hard drive but this only delayed the inevitable. It was time to let this faithful companion go. I adopted my partner’s 6 year old Macbook (after she upgraded) and I kept this hardware alive with a similar strategy. Unfortunately this computer was also near its end and this Fall I decided it was time to upgrade. I don’t take upgrading lightly, but I had run out of options and I needed a new computing tool.

A lot had changed since my last upgrade. Last time, I replaced my Dell desktop PC with a smaller and lighter Apple laptop for portability. This time, even smaller and lighter touch screen “tablets” are being to dominate the market. Hardware specifications are great to reference but with so many choices it really came down to what I needed. My computer had taken on a new roles as a work tool, a communication tool, and an entertainment device. As such I needed multiple ways to interact with the device. Of course I could have purchased several devices to fill these needs, but as a simple living advocate, I value multipurpose tools that can do many things well. I really loved the simplicity of the touch screen interface but most of these tablet-computers were designed for entertainment and lacked the computing power and file management required for professional work. Based on this desire to have both of these features I decided to purchase a Microsoft Surface Pro.

Switching from a Mac back to a PC, much to the ire of friends. ;)

Switching from a Mac back to a PC, much to the ire of friends. ;)

The Surface Pro is a bit of a new medium being a hybrid between a tablet and an ultrabook laptop. For reference, the hardware specifications on the Surface Pro are nearly identical to Apple’s MacBook Air. I won’t list “specs” here, instead I find it more interesting to hear how someone feels while using it. A lot of the Surface Pro reviews have been lackluster mainly because, as a reviewer at the Guardian artfully put it, “…powerful, but too forward thinking.”  As folks have been using this new medium, and as the young software infrastructure improves, there seems to be a change in sentiment. Below is one of my favorite reviews describing this shift in perspective:

The windows 8.1 interface is a new one and it takes a bit of getting used to…but like this fellow, I find myself loving it more and more as I learn to use it. I really dig touch gestures and all of the ways I can interact with the device. I can touch, type, mouse-click, and use a stylus.

I wanted a tablet experience for my new computer after having so much fun with iPads and my iPhone. I loved the intuitive interaction of using my fingers and reading digital magazines on a tablet. However, I realized I still needed a computer because the iPad doesn’t have a mouse. Not having a mouse doesn’t seem like a big deal until you need to accomplish fine/precise tasks like editing text documents, and correcting errors on website forms. Keyboard arrows can only go so far in this area. Also the iPad is a bit limited when it comes to organizing files and computer processing power (editing videos or running apps/programs simultaneously). The Surface Pro handles both of these concerns very well and I love the split screen feature where I can view two or three programs at once.

The Microsoft doesn’t have a huge app store yet, however it is growing as a young platform, and it makes up for it with access to legacy windows programs. Anything that can run on a full windows desktop can also be run on this device. Also, since I already have an iPhone, I have access to many of the fun and creative apps that I would normally feel iPad jealousy over.

The new version of this computer (the Surface Pro 2) has addressed the main concerns of limited battery life, limited storage, and kickstand angle. It is indeed a bit heavy to hold in one hand at 2 lbs but I compensate for this by using a workstation stand I built and by cradling it with my legs and knees up when sitting. I find it amazing that just a 1/2 pound difference between the iPad and Surface Pro can make this big of a difference in hand fatigue. It is important to note however that in that 1/2 pound difference, this computer has the power of a full laptop and so it is a bit unfair to compare it to an iPad except to reference a relative “tablet feel.”

Although I love the genius idea of the magnetic keyboard “type-cover” I have held off mainly because of the price. Also, I’d love it if this keyboard had Bluetooth so that it could be detached and used wirelessly with my workstation stand. Microsoft does have a fun minimalist accessory for this problem right now. But, like I said before, it is pricey, especially when I purchased a Logitech wireless keyboard with touch pad mouse for only $29 or about 15% of the price of the Microsoft accessories above combined to accomplish the same task. I tend to not use laptops on my lap because of the bad ergonomics so a disconnected keyboard wasn’t a sacrifice for me.

The biggest perk that makes this tablet/computer stand out to me is number of ways I can interact with it. I find myself seamlessly alternating between touch-gestures, typing, and using the mouse without consciously realizing the transition. If you are curious to see these interactions I recorded a 5 minute screen-cast demonstration of the Surface Pro that you can view.

It seems funny as I write this but the stylus is another natural feature that I didn’t know I was missing until I had it. The stylus makes it easy to hand write notes in meetings, edit documents, and my biggest favorite: signing documents. One hassle I had in the past was trying to sign documents from an emailed file. In the past I would have to print out the form, sign it with an ink pen, scan it, transfer the scanned file back to my computer, and finally email it back to the sender. I tried signing with my mouse on a PC or using my finger with an iPad but it always came out looking like I was a kindergarten student first learning how to write. Now I can simply open the document, precisely sign it with my “pressure sensitive” stylus, and send it back instantly. Yes, Macs have a similar feature in the Preview app of scanning an image of a signature but it’s buried under several menus. The stylus makes it easy and it has opened up my imagination as to what else I could use my computer for like drawing.

I’ve been using my Surface Pro for about 4 months now and I love it. I highly recommend this computer to anyone looking to invest in a new computer. This new tool fit wells with the constraints of the tiny house and I find it replacing even more tasks than I had intended. Let me know if you have questions and I’d be happy to answer them.

Learning to Invent: Building a Custom, Modular, Workstation for a Tiny House

Workstation Collage

As a relatively tall human (6’1’’) I’ve struggled with using tools designed for others of average height. One primary example was the ergonomics of my computer workstation. Computers have gotten smaller and more portable over time which has been wonderful for adapting the computers to tiny living spaces, but hunching over a laptop all day was a pain in the neck. I tried all sorts of marketed solutions, yet, these solutions were designed for smaller humans and never quite fit me. I loved the laptop size and portability for our tiny house but the problem was always that the keyboard and the monitor screen were connected so that either my hands or my neck were uncomfortable. My hands needed to be low and my screen needed to be high to meet my gaze.

Recently, I retired my seven year-old MacBook Pro computer. As such, I decided I had a new opportunity to address my old keyboard/screen problem. I purchased a new Microsoft Surface Pro computer which is a tablet, touch-screen, laptop hybrid where the keyboard is removable. I loved the concept of this new multipurpose computer but I hated the idea of hunching over an even smaller device at my desk or in my lap. Even if I had a separate wireless keyboard at my hands I needed a way to put my screen up high.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Richard Franck

To solve this surprisingly complex problem of a pain-free, tiny house workstation, I had to distil my most basic needs and wants. This computer workstation had to be:

  • Adjustable
  • Stable, durable, and inexpensive
  • Modular, storable, and easy to use

Most of the ergonomic products on the market were expensive, business oriented, and had to be permanently mounted for stability. My partner, Tammy, solved this problem elegantly by using the bookcase in the tiny house as a standing workstation. Unfortunately, the bookshelves are not at the correct height for me. Even if we had made our book shelves adjustable for my height, I like to alternate between a sitting and standing workstation. Also, I use my computer for more than work. If I wanted to read a recipe from my computer while I was cooking in the kitchen, or watching a movie in bed, I wanted to be able to do so hands free. I realized I needed a mobile stand with a mount for the tablet computer.

Since part of the tiny house DIY ethos is to simplify, it didn’t make sense for me to engineer this tool from scratch. I decided to search for a motley hodgepodge of items that I could assemble together. The result of my inventing process was:

For approximately $75, I now I have a stable, pain-free, workstation that can move around the tiny house. This little workstation adjusts to my height (standing, sitting, or laying down), and can easily be disassembled for storage. Living deliberately with a DIY ethos has helped me assemble my life to meet my physical and emotional needs. I believe all humans are capable of clever ideas. It’s the implementation of those ideas and inventing them into reality that is the challenging part. With a little practice using the Tiny House DIY ethos you too can tailor your life and reduce the discomfort of having to use tools made for the status quo.

Rear view of workstation

Tiny house DIY ethos

In an age of experts and specialization most of us surrender to the complexity of a new problem and pay to have a professional repair the issue for us. However, there is something about living small and striving for simplicity that has changed my perspective and given me a sense of empowerment. Experts call this improved “self-efficacy”, which means, you have greater confidence in your ability to understand problems. When I run into a problem now I try simplify it and make it easier to understand the parts that make up the whole. Recently I have noticed that many tiny house dwellers share a similar do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos. Some people go so far as to build their own homes without any construction experience. In this article I want to share a recent DIY success I had and describe the limits I see to the DIY ethos.

I will be the first to admit that I use complex technology that I don’t fully understand daily. I do prefer tools that I understand for obvious reasons, if it breaks I can fix it. Recently, I had a tragedy occur to one of my favorite tools. I broke the glass touch-screen of my iPhone. After getting over my feelings of clumsy ineptitude I realized I could learn how to repair my phone. After all, the glass is only one part and parts can be replaced so how difficult could it be?

Even only twenty years ago it would have been difficult to accomplish a similar task because of the lack of information. What tools are needed for repair? Where do you order these tools and parts for the repair? How do you perform the repair? Experts were experts because they had more information than others on a topic. With the advent of the internet information age, combined with the altruistic nature of other people documenting their knowledge in blog posts and YouTube videos, anyone can address their ignorance. With the help of DIY websites called ifixit.com and powerbookmedic.com I was able to order used parts and tools and learn how to fix my own device. Further, I used my new skill and tools to repair my teenage cousin’s phone and teach her what I learned.

The success of my DIY project was fun to share with my cousin, however, it begs one big caveat: What are the limits to DIY projects? When learning a new skill I try to imagine the risks of a mistake. If I damage my iPhone during the repair, I can correct it with minimal consequence. However, if I repair the brakes on my car and the repair fails, it may be fatal. You can certainly learn how to perform complex tasks with greater risk, but I would advise getting an experienced teacher to help check your work and lower your risk of harm.

My simple and smaller living philosophy doesn’t mean I have to grow every bit of food or repair every tool that breaks. It means I enjoy living deliberately. By becoming smarter about my ignorance I can help others and obtain more meaning from my contributions to my community. In this way I can worry less about my personal value being tied to my financial spending power. I believe my greatest contribution to society is not the money that I spend but how I spend my time.

iphone fix

Small is Beautiful – Tiny House Film Documentary Fundraiser and New ebook available

I wanted to give everyone an update regarding two fun tiny house projects I’ve seen recently.

Small is Beautiful is a tiny house film documentary that is conducting a fundraising campaign. Check out the trailer below and be sure to visit the YouTube Channel for more film vignettes of tiny housers.

Small is Beautiful – A Tiny House Film – Pozible from Jeremy Beasley on Vimeo.

HowToDecorate_300x2501Also, our friend Andrew Odom at Tiny Revolution is launching another ebook called “How to decorate your tiny house.” I’ve read through this book and there are some fun ideas of how to incorporate style and functionality into tiny spaces. Just reading the ebook is enough to inspire all sorts of creative multipurpose solutions. You can find out more about the ebook by clicking the image to the left.

The refrigerator experiment

Tiny House Refrigerator - photo by Tammy Strobel @rowdykittens

The joy of living in a tiny house has given me the freedom to experiment with voluntary simplicity. Ironically, voluntary simplicity isn’t as simple as it sounds. The challenge of reducing possessions and becoming more aware of how your everyday choices align with your values is fun, but it’s also a lot of work.

My partner and I first discovered the idea of voluntary simplicity by watching a YouTube video featuring Dee Williams and her tiny house, in January 2008. We instantly fell in love with Dee as a person and it was more than her cute house and tiny square footage that inspired us. Dee’s philosophy on life seemed to challenge common traditions and technology in a way that made us more aware of our consumption and what we took for granted.

One great example of this was Dee’s choice to live without a refrigerator. This idea seemed mad yet engaging at the same time. How could anyone live without an appliance that was more common than a television?  However, when we looked in our refrigerator we found only alcohol, condiments of uncertain freshness, and milk for coffee. Did we really require a refrigerator for these things?

In addition, we always seemed to be frustrated with our refrigerator. These refrigeration frustrations included:

  • Too much noise for quiet loving writers
  • Too much cost for holding forgotten food ($10/month in electricity)
  • Too much mess with accumulated weird odors and mystery stains shortly after cleaning

Before designing our tiny house we wanted to be sure we could live safely without a refrigerator, like Dee, so we unplugged our giant appliance and practiced in our apartment in Portland, Oregon. Since we lived in a city, we could outsource our refrigeration to grocers and pick up fresh food several times per week. During this period we realized that most of our diet did not require refrigeration. Living without a refrigerator also reminded us to not waste food.

After we moved to California, however, the new climate extremes made living without a refrigerator difficult. In Portland, Oregon the temperatures were rarely extreme. We used an ice box during warm summer days and the rest of the year we stored our perishable foods in the cooler outdoor temperatures. During our time in Northern California the winter temps were commonly freezing and the summer temps were greater than 90 degrees F. Further, living in a rural area in California, with trips to the grocer less frequent, we had greater need of refrigeration. We resisted adapting to our new climate for a while but recently realized that our life quality would be greatly improved with a refrigerator.

I did some research and purchased a small Danby refrigerator that would fit into our cupboard. The Danby has been wonderful. It is quiet, energy efficient, and it seems to be just the right size for holding cold beer, some milk, a few leftovers, and perishable summer vegetables. The joy of this experiment has been that I take fewer luxuries for granted and I have greater gratitude for simple pleasures. Now when I drink a cold beer on a hot summer day, I savor the experience and feel happier for what I have in my life.


How cycling has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life

Human sized tools - photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

Human sized tools – photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

I started bike commuting in graduate school because parking was complicated, stressful, and expensive. This was about the same time that my partner, Tammy, and I began to seriously consider simplifying our lives. We hadn’t discovered tiny houses yet but the simplicity of cycling appealed to us. By riding my bike I saved money, I grew more relaxed, and I felt healthier. Tammy was envious of my relaxed commute by bike. Her work commute was a stressful two hours by car. Looking back, I think cycling was our “gateway drug” to simpler living. Eventually, to pay off our debt and to pursue happiness, Tammy found a job she could walk to, we adapted to a smaller (400 sq ft) apartment, and we sold our remaining car.
Recently, I realized the reasoning behind our choice to use bicycles as transportation was similar to our choice to live in a tiny house for shelter. After getting into cycling and saving money we read the pivotal book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book prompted us to ask ourselves “how much is enough?”. After answering this question, we started to understand that we didn’t need the all of the space in a big house just as we didn’t need the mechanical-power of an automobile for our lifestyle.  We simply wanted to have enough time and money left over to contribute to our family, friends, and community. Working to pay a large mortgage and a car loan made us feel like we didn’t have enough left over for our relationships. With the money we saved by cycling we were able to pay off our debt and save up to buy a tiny house. Our tiny house and our bikes have similarly contributed to our goal of “having enough”. Below I’ve listed a few similarities that I’ve drawn between tiny houses and cycling:
  • Inexpensive, fun to use, and environmentally friendly
  • Human sized designs that are relatively small and simple to understand
  • Opens you up to being more vulnerable and reliant on your community
  • Requires spending more time outside and noticing the seasons
  • Stimulates mindful awareness
  • Requires outsourcing occasional big tasks
Biking in Shasta Valley - Photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

Biking in Shasta Valley – Photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

Cycling and tiny houses aren’t for everyone, nor are they a cure-all for affordable transportation and housing problems. Like climbing a ladder into a tiny house loft, one must be physically able to accomplish cycling. However, I believe bicycles are a part of the solution for “smart-sizing”.  Most of my transportation needs require less than 10 miles of travel from my home. When I need to go farther to visit family, I rent a car or hop on the train. Cycling and tiny houses have been a wonderful choice for my partner and I. In reflection, adapting to life on a bicycle has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life.