Millionaire Over Night

Someone posted the following question on one of the Tiny House Facebook pages I follow:

“What if you became a millionaire over night? Would you still live in a Tiny House?”

It was the kind of question that really made me stop and think. What would I do with that kind of money? Where would I want to live? How would it change how I lived? Would I stay in my Tiny house? Here is what I decided. . .

A million dollars would certainly give me a level of financial security that I don’t currently have. It would allow me to pay off all my debt and let me put a substantial chunk of money into a rainy day fund. The money would also allow me to travel more. I would finally get to see Australia and Scotland. . .which I am convinced would be amazing. I would absolutely start ballroom dancing again! And I would focus on growing my own business. Here is what the million dollars wouldn’t change.

The money wouldn’t change what I enjoy doing in my free time. I would still want to spend time with family and friends as much as possible. I would still want to spend time engaging in my hobbies. Ballroom dancing, triathlons, reading and writing would still be the things that made me smile. A million dollars wouldn’t dramatically change how I use my space on a day-to-day basis, nor would it suddenly make my house feel too small. I am sure I would upgrade a few things like my iPad and my computer (I really want an iMac!), but it wouldn’t change how I feel about my home.

Ultimately I realized a million dollars would give me more security, some more opportunities and a few more coveted personal possessions, but it wouldn’t change me. It wouldn’t change the reasons I chose this lifestyle to start with, and it wouldn’t change the things that are important to me in this stage of life. I was excited to realize that if someone said:

“What if you became a millionaire over night? Would you still live in a Tiny House?”

My answer would be, “yes!”

Would you stay where you are if you won a million dollars? If not, what would you change? What’s stopping you from moving in the direction of your dreams?

Time is a Valuable Commodity

We all have 24 hours in a day, and until someone builds a machine to suspend time or to rewind it, we are all stuck with that reality.

I have always been fascinated by time or maybe I should say preoccupied with it. As a swimmer growing up, I measured my performance by time. A swim that was a few seconds off my best time was devastating. And yet when you stop and count it. . .1. . .2. . .3, it seems so insignificant.

I lived my childhood (and much of my adulthood) waiting for time to pass so I could reach the next big milestone. I remember wanting time to pass so I could be in high school and then in college. Then I just had to wait a few more years to get a good job and get married. I found myself constantly waiting for time to pass so I could get to the life I wanted. Time was an obstacle to be conquered rather than a gift to be enjoyed.

And then time stood still. . .when you lose a loved one, your perspective on time changes in the blink of an eye.

When I lost my dad all I could think about was wanting a few more years, or months, or weeks or days with him. I just wanted one more chance to sit and play cards with him, or to listen to him rant about the news or to hear him say hi when I called to check in.
Time suddenly seemed so much more important and precious and elusive.

I blame my impatience and my inability to enjoy the present on my type A personality. If I am honest, I have spent more of life worrying about the next chapter than living the current one. Unfortunately, I think this is a very common experience.

One of the best things about my transition to Tiny Living is the ability to spend more time doing the things that have meaning to me. I am learning to slow down and enjoy today more. I don’t get it right all of the time, but at least I am moving in the right direction.

Are you using your time wisely? What things do you wish you had more time for?

Are You Organized?

Going Tiny required a certain amount of organization to accomplish. . .okay it required a lot! During my journey, I realized that in some ways I had no idea how to get started on downsizing. . .and I am a professional organizer!

The good news is after I stopped panicking, which I assure you I did, I leveraged my experience as an organizer to make the transition from 1,800 square feet to just over 200 square feet. The good news is the steps I took to downsize can be applied to almost any project. Here’s what worked for me.

Step 1: I looked at the transition as a series of phases.

Phase 1: Identify what I wanted in my Tiny House to make it both functional and comfortable
Phase 2: Figure out what to keep and what to get rid of in terms of my possessions
Phase 3: Downsize my stuff
Phase 4: Move in and get settled!

(I will go into a lot more detail for each of the phases later, so stay tuned!)

Step 2: Once I had broken the project down into phases I identified the steps I needed to take to complete each phase.

Writing down the steps I needed to take to complete each phase made the project much less overwhelming. Even though these lists were long, they made the overall project seem much more achievable because they gave me small parts to focus on and a clear idea of where I needed to go.

Step 3: I was deliberate in scheduling time each day to complete the project.

It is often easy to come up with the “what we need to do” list, but much harder to actually take action. By committing just a little time each day to work on a project (10-15 minutes a day was a good start for me), I made it easier to focus on what needed to get done without getting “paralyzed” by my lists. This daily progress also helped me build momentum that made the whole process more fun.

Step 4: I celebrated my progress!

I celebrated with phone calls to my family to tell them about what I accomplished, I bought my favorite ice cream as a treat and a few times I just took time away from the transition. It’s often easy to get so focused on all the things we have left to do that we forget to enjoy the progress we are making as we go. So take time to celebrate.

These were the 4 most important steps I took to get organized enough to go Tiny. So what’s your next project?

Share your favorite tips for getting organized enough to complete a big project.

Financial Freedom and Tiny House Loans

One of my goals for downsizing was pursuing my goal of financial freedom. I think financial freedom looks a little different to each of us. Some days I wish financial freedom meant I could quit my job and hang out at the beach or up in the mountains all day every day. Alas I am not there yet. Right now it means the ability to choose work I love, work fewer hours to pay for my day-to-day lifestyle and an opportunity to build up a secure retirement fund for the future (which will include time at the beach and time in the mountains!).

A number of people have asked me if it is actually cheaper to live in a Tiny House than in a “normal” house or apartment. For me, I can say yes without hesitation. I have to pay a monthly fee to stay at the RV park where I am parked, but that fee includes all of my utilities and water. I also have a loan that I used to purchase my Tiny Home. Those two payments together are quite a bit cheaper than anything I could rent or buy in the local area.

I bring up my TH loan because at times it is seemingly at odds with my goal of financial freedom. I don’t know about you, but all of the financial books I have read (and I have read a lot!) recommend working to reduce monthly expenditures and pay off all of our debt so we have more financial flexibility. Obviously, taking on an additional loan doesn’t match that plan. So did my Tiny House actually provide me more financial freedom?

For me the answer is still yes. I was able to rent out my previous home for more money than I owe each month. In fact, I make enough off of my rental property to cover the rent associated with living at the RV park. I am also spending less in a Tiny Home for insurance, maintenance and general up-keep than I did in my previous home. As I mentioned in my previous post, I spend less money now that I am in my Tiny House than I did before. I looked at the long-term financial picture rather than the initial expense for my financial freedom calculations. My Tiny House is part of my 10 year financial freedom plan, and right now I am quite content.

I brought this topic up, because I think it is important to decide what financial freedom looks like to you. I also know that TH loans are a point of contention for many TH enthusiasts. For those of you considering a Tiny House, would a loan stop you from buying one? I am interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.

3 Things my Tiny House has Taught me

1. My perspective on needs vs. wants has changed

This week I had the opportunity to tour a model home as part of a work project. And what I realized is that my fundamental perspective of what I “need” to be happy and content has shifted dramatically. If I had walked through the house a year ago, I would of have loved it and I would have been able to articulate why I “needed” this type of space. But this week it just seemed too big.

Transitioning to my Tiny House required me to figure out what I used each day and what things really made my home feel like home. While I mostly agree that things can’t make you happy, I sure do love my books, my coffee maker and my iPad…all of which moved to the Tiny House with me. But I realized a lot of the things I thought I “needed” in my home were a result of creative marketing and social expectations. I have everything I need and want in my Tiny Home. . .well almost everything. . .I would love bonus storage space for my ballroom dresses and triathlon gear.

2. My relationship with money has improved.

Living in a small space has encouraged me to be more deliberate with my shopping habits. Although I was never a huge shopper, I find myself buying fewer things “I need” because I have to figure out where I am going to put them before I buy them. I also buy fewer duplicates because I don’t have tons of extra storage space in my new home.

Tiny Living has even made me more intentional with my grocery shopping. I have a big enough fridge to hold all of my staples and my weekly groceries, but just like the other spaces in my house, each shelf is used deliberately. I plan my meals a week in advance and buy only what I need for the week. I end up buying less and throwing out less. This simple mind shift has allowed me to save a lot of time and money.

3. My Tiny House has also encouraged me to spend more time doing things I really enjoy.

Two of my goals for downsizing were to spend more time with the people that were important in my life and to spend more time doing activities that were meaningful to me. I have noticed a shift in my daily habits in these areas since I moved. And I am loving it!

Now that it takes me a lot less time and energy to keep up with my home, I spend more time “living life”. I have spent most of my weekends traveling to see family and friends or to go run half-marathons. I spend more time outside either walking Rocket (my Aussie-featured below) or just hanging out in nature. I look for the “tourists” things to do near by and I spend more time doing relaxing hobbies, like reading and blogging when I am home. Living Small has encouraged me to change my daily and weekly habits to include more of the activities that I really enjoy and has dramatically reduced the hours I use to spend keeping up with my space. I mean who wouldn’t want to be able to vacuum their entire house in under 3 minutes.

All of these changes were exactly what I was hoping Tiny Living would do for me. If you could slow down and live your dream life, what would you spend your time doing?

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Picture courtesy of www.fullquiverphotography.com

Can I Come In?

Who knew the question I would get the most when I moved into a Tiny House would be, “can I come in?”

In normal circles the only people who would ask you if they could come into your home uninvited would be good friends, close neighbors and the occasional door-to-door salesman. Not so when you live in a Tiny House.

I have had tons of random strangers stop by my house at various times of the day and ask to come in. My favorite quote was from a guy who stopped by during my first week here. He said, “hi, I work across town and heard about this house. I just had to come check it out for myself. Do you mind if I come in? What do you even say to that?

The first few days I found the requests incredibly disconcerting. After all who walks up to a complete stranger (and most requests have been from total strangers) and asks to walk through their home? I often amuse myself by imagining the roles reversed. I drive through a normal neighborhood, pick a house that has good windows, knock on the front door and ask to come in, fully expecting the home owner to say yes. . .this thought always makes me smile, but if put into practice would probably land me in jail.

On some occasions I have been gracious enough to let people tour my home, in fact I am now good friends with a couple who stopped by to ask if they could schedule a tour. They were interested in building their own Tiny Home and I enjoyed the opportunity to share what I have learned with them. At other times (like when the stranger from across town showed up), I have made polite excuses and recommended people just admire my abode from outside.

What I have realized over the last two months is that people are curious about Tiny Houses. Whether it’s because they think people who live in them are crazy, or just because they like the novelty of them, people are willing to break social norms and ask a total stranger to tour their home when it’s Tiny. And in some ways that is really cool.

So, I encourage you to ask questions. And if you are ever in Georgia let me know, and we can set up a tour of my Tiny Home.

5 Steps to Dreaming Big

When I started looking at what I wanted to change in my life, it was challenging. I wasn’t sure how to figure out what I wanted to do. I had vague ideas of what my goals were, but nothing concrete, and I wasn’t sure what things in my life made me happy and what things didn’t. I decided to spend some time creating a vision of what I would do if I could do anything. This dream helped motivate me to make some big changes.

1. Suspend reality

The first step to dreaming big is suspending reality. It is easy to get stuck in a pattern of thinking, “I would really like to do this, but that will never work because…” Trust me, I know this is tough. We are taught to be practical and realistic. When we envision a new path we want to know how we are going to get there, and that can be overwheming. It’s easy to come up with reasons why your dream life won’t work, but for now allow yourself to imagine your life exactly the way you want it.

2. Ask yourself what the perfect day looks like

Don’t worry about where you currently live, the job you have or your current financial situation. Just imagine where you would be and what you would be doing if you could do anything. Where would you live, what kind of work or activities would you do, who would be with you? You can worry about how to get there later, for now just come up with a perfect day vision so you know where you want to go. Think about the things that are important to you and what makes you feel alive. Your perfect life won’t be free from challenges, but it should be full of what makes you content.

3. What you are currently doing that works for you? What isn’t working?

If you look at your perfect day and life, what are you currently doing that fits in with that plan? Rather than get discouraged if you aren’t living your dream, look at ways your current life can help you get there. Make a list of things you enjoy and things you don’t so as you move forward you can make more time for the activities and people you love.

4. What do you want to accomplish in life professionally, personally, financially, etc?

Think about these questions in relationship to your perfect day. If your perfect day was you on a beach reading a good book, what do you have to accomplish professionally and personally to get there? I know I want to be able to “retire” in my mid-forties with no debt and limited expenses so I can choose work I want to do on a limited basis. I wanted to be able to travel and spend time with my family. I made a list of things I had to accomplish to get to that point and it is going to take me 10 years to get to my “ultimate dream life”, but I also looked for things I could do immediately that brought me closer to my dream and that helped me start making changes.

5. Have courage!

Dreaming Big requires courage. We are all wired to like routine, and even taking the time to really think about what your dream life looks like can be scary. It can also be challenging if we realize we aren’t really living a life aligned with our values and goals. Anytime you consider change, it can be overwhelming. However, dreaming big can help you lead a more intentional life that is full of the things that really matter to you.

I would love to hear more about your dream!

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Dreaming Big

Have you ever stopped and just thought about what your dream life looks like? Have you ever taken the time to Dream Big?

I wish I could say that I had always lived my life with my “dream life” in mind, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I lived my life by moving in the general direction I thought I wanted to go. I wasn’t way off track and I certainly didn’t hate my life or where I was, but I found myself ranging between mildly discontent and genuinely unhappy with where my life was a year ago. The good news about getting to that point, was it encouraged me to Dream Big.

My situation with my job made me realize that I wanted to change how I lived day-to-day. But trying to decide what I wanted to do differently was surprisingly challenging. In some ways, I had never really let myself imagine all the possibilities life offered. I had always sort of lived my life like it had been modeled for me, and while in many ways this model is exactly what works for me, in other ways it wasn’t a good fit for where I wanted to go.

On my journey I considered a variety of options. I imagined selling almost everything I owned, moving into a small studio apt and starting a completely new career. I imagined selling everything I owned and traveling the world just to see if I could make it. I imagined staying where I was and trying to ignore the things I didn’t enjoy. And I imagined about a million other options. Each of these dreams had good things and bad things about them, but what they all offered me was a way to create a more meaningful life.

Because I allowed myself the opportunity to design a “dream day,” I had a better understanding of where I wanted my life to go. This dream allowed me to consider a variety of financial options and living arrangements. It included considering a variety of new careers and new hobbies. It also allowed me to figure out what was working in my current life and what wasn’t. Ultimately, Dreaming Big encouraged me to become more intentional about what I wanted in life and allowed me to really clarify what was important to me and why.

Dreaming Big was an incredibly liberating process. (And really fun!) So I encourage you to take some time and Dream Big. Maybe you will figure out you are exactly where you want to be, but maybe you will see little things that will help you live your life more intentionally. While I am guessing not everyone will change jobs, move across country and buy a Tiny House, I am confident that allowing yourself to Dream Big will make you more conscious of the choices you are making and why you are making them.

Living Simply…My Tiny House Decision

As I mentioned in my last post, the decision to move to a Tiny House was a complex choice for me.  And I am sure it is a complex decision for most people.  I personally arrived at the choice through a series of events and a lot of introspection.  About a year ago I was stuck in a job that did nothing to feed my soul and in fact was toxic for me.  For a variety of reasons I won’t share here, it was simply a bad fit for what I wanted in life and how I wanted to spend my days.  But it paid for all of my stuff, so I was stuck with it.  What I realized is that without some radical change, I would have to stay at the job I didn’t like.  I couldn’t imaging staying where I was, so I started imagining where I could go.

Once I changed my outlook a whole new world opened up to me.  This desire to change my circumstances and improve the quality of my life led me to do a lot of soul-searching. . .and a lot of reading.   Along my path to self-discovery I was lucky enough to pick up a great book.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1608680835/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1608680835&linkCode=as2&tag=dreamingbigli-20&linkId=JJMN3DFQPPK6SSTG

In this book, Tammy Strobel explains how she and her husband downsized significantly and began living with less so they could live a more abundant life.  She explained their path to simplicity and why they made the choice to downsize.  This book challenged me to analyze how I spent my time and my money and allowed my to start asking myself tough questions about how I was living my life.   One of my favorite quotes from the book was, “living a simple life isn’t about self-deprivation.  Instead, it’s about giving yourself the time, freedom, and money to pursue your dreams.”  This theme resonated with me on so many levels, but mostly because I realized I was trading my dreams and freedom for the money and security my job provided.

I loved the book so much, I read it three times on a business trip and talked to all of my co-workers about it.  Each time I found myself explaining what it was about and always ended up explaining the concept of a Tiny House.  Each time I followed up the explanation with,  “I mean I could never live in a Tiny House…that’s just too small, but I love the book!”  I spent the next 5 months figuring out what simple living would like for me, and as you know I ended up in a Tiny House…which my co-workers laughed about…but more about that later.

A Fresh Start

It seems that the beginning of a new year always lends itself to the idea of a fresh start. Another chance to start new habits, get rid of old ones and reinvent yourself. As I think about the idea of a fresh start, I am reminded of the question I get most often about my Tiny House. “Why did you decide to go Tiny?” (Okay that might not be the most common, the most common question so far is, “can I tour your tiny home?” But more about that later!)

Obviously the choice to go Tiny was a complex decision and it will take more than one post to explain, but for now I will say in some ways I was looking for a fresh start. And my Tiny Home was a perfect way to change. A new job, a new state and a new place to call home. Tiny Living intrigued me for what it would let me change, but it was right for me because in some ways it didn’t require any change at all.

I changed my physical surroundings, but my routines and habits remained relatively constant. I still prefer reading to watching TV, I still enjoy traveling on the weekends, and I still go to work each day (although the specific job and location are new). The things that were important in my day-to-day life remained the same, which is why going Tiny worked for me and was an easy choice.

So as you begin this new year of fresh starts and new beginnings, remember to be true to who you are and what is important to you. And next time I will share some of the things that made my “fresh start” exciting.