People, I've seen the future, and it's really small.
I adore Tammy Strobel. Years ago, my path to find a simpler life took me to the New York Times Online, where I read this article about how Tammy and her husband had moved from conspicuous consumption to calculated consumption - meaning they had complete awareness over everything they purchased. At that point they had moved into a studio apartment. But things would get even smaller for Tammy and Logan. They eventually designed and moved into a 128 square foot mini home (take a look at the next parking space you see. Their home fits into it comfortably). It's absolutely adorable, extremely well-built and was created with their specific needs in mind.
But back to Tammy. When I found her, I was on my own journey. I knew I had to find simpler, clearer ways of living and thinking. I also knew I had the potential to both clarify my own goals and align my daily activities with the natural frugality that Italy had brought me in the first place. I was still, however, a jumble of confusion. Meeting Tammy online opened a shiny new door for me to a path from which I've never looked back.
And after reading a million and one blogs and articles about how to simplify my life and clarify my own goals, no one's words have ever spoken to me as clearly as Tammy's. I think it's because she's a natural communicator, a non-judgmental person, and is truly and honestly committed to the life she has chosen for herself. Reading what she and Logan did by giving up their possessions is but one part of her incredible story.
The how of it.... that's what has always fascinated me. And now, she's written a book - a wonderful, crystal clear synopsis of her process and about what I call the psychology of stuff, how it effect us, how it controls us, called You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap!) The best part of this book, in my opinion? It doesn't tell you what you have to do, but rather gives you the freedom to determine your own goals and work toward them. You may not be ready to live in a tiny house, but you might be more that ready to clean out all the excess clutter from your house, your office. You might be ready to get rid of cable, or be open to the idea of cutting back consumer spending AND the hours you work. These are the kinds of thought processes that Tammy talks about in this book.
I absolutely love this book and recommend it to everyone interested in clearing through clutter and simplifying without being preached to. It's wonderful, uplifting, and smartly written.
I recently had the chance to ask Tammy a few questions. Enjoy the interview. And BUY THE BOOK!!! You'll love it!
Tammy, I have to tell you a story. When I told my husband about your tiny house, his eyes rolled so high that all I could see were the whites. A short list of one liners ensued (“So what happens when you go in the front door? Don't tell me. You step into the back yard, right?” “It's great 'till she tries to open her lap top and the living room disappears.” You get the picture). Then I showed him the photo gallery of your gorgeous tiny house on Rowdy Kittens. Copious amounts of very impressed back peddling ensued. He couldn't believe how cool it was. How do you find people reacting now that you guys have been in the new digs for awhile?
Typically, we get a couple of reactions. Some folks react, like your husband did, by making fun of us in a good-natured way. But when they see the house, their tune usually changes. The house’s rustic cabin aesthetic and well-designed proportions tend to engage people.
Then there are the folks who visit our home and want to build a little house of their own. I think tiny houses appeal to people because they are cute and inexpensive. I also believe that people associate freedom with little homes. For example, living small has given me the freedom to change careers and move easily. Plus, it’s paid off so I don’t have to worry about paying a big mortgage every month. Being debt-free gives me the freedom to focus on doing work I love and spending time with people I care about.
Your amazing journey towards simple living is years in the making now. How would you characterize the easiest transitions you've made? What's been tough for you?
The easiest transition? Once I jumped on the simplicity bandwagon, I was ready to let go of belongings I no longer needed. I donated a lot of stuff to charity and gave away things to friends in need. The process of sorting through my stuff wasn’t easy, but giving it away made me feel good. I was able to help others and my home wasn’t as cluttered! It felt great.
The toughest transition? I’m a people pleaser at heart and I have a tendency to say yes to everything. However, I’ve learned to say no to writing projects, party invites, and other commitments that I know I won’t enjoy. It’s been a tough process to step away from the expectations of others, but it’s helped me find more happiness in my day-to-day life.
Your new book, You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap) is hitting the market on September 18, 2012). Tell us a little about the book, what brought you to write it, and what do you hope to tell the world with it.
“You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap)” is all about happiness and living simply. In the book, I combine the newest research on well-being with real world stories to offer readers practical inspiration to simplify their lives and find new wealth in the form of relationships.
A very fortunate event brought me to write the book. A few years ago, our downsizing story was featured in a New York Times article called “But will it make you happy?”. The article went viral and as a result, over a dozen literary agents and a few publishers contacted me about writing a book. I ended up signing with David Fugate — my literary agent — and with his help I crafted a book proposal which we sold it to New World Library (my publisher).
I hope the book will inspire people to rethink many aspects of their lives, from their careers to personal relationships. In short, I want readers to pay attention to what makes them feel happy and fulfilled.
Here at DBDC our tag line is “Mastering Change for a Beautiful Life”. I'm fascinated when people put their resources, hearts, souls and brains toward a lifestyle and type of work that is authentic to them. Tell us what wisdom you've learned from embracing the change of moving toward the life that works for you.
I spent years chasing after impressive stuff, a high paying job, and a big house. I learned that status doesn’t matter. Instead, I’ve discovered that strong relationships have brought joy and happiness into my life. Decluttering my life helped a great deal too. I cleared away all of the things I no longer valued and that made me happier.
How does your professional life work? Do you have a set schedule that you try to keep? How much time do you spend working versus playing versus doing things that are important to you but not income producing?
Every morning I get up, around 6 a.m., and make coffee with Logan. I sip my coffee, talk with Logan, and play with the kittens. Sometimes we’ll listen to NPR in the morning or I’ll do free-writing in my journal. Normally, Logan pedals off to work at 8:00 a.m. and I start writing or editing. At some point during the day I venture out into the world for some exercise. To give you a better idea of what my “typical day” looks like, here’s a snapshot of my Thursday last week:
7:30 − 8:00 a.m. > Responded to email & posted a quotes to social networking sites.
8:00 − 10:30 a.m > Lots of editing, interspersed with yoga stretches.
10:30 − Noon > Rode my bike into downtown Portland and sat in the sauna at LA Fitness.
Noon − 1.00 p.m. > Lunch time
1:00 − 3:00 p.m. > Wrote in my journal, responded to more emails and typed my journal notes.
3:00 − 6:00 p.m. > Took a photo walk, jotted down article ideas in my journal, and read.
6:00 p.m. - Onward > Made dinner with Logan and read.
11:00 p.m. > Bedtime!
My typical day isn’t very sexy, but it’s consistent. I’ve created specific rituals in my daily schedule because it’s the only way I can get my work done. I need time and space to write, edit, and think. If my days are packed with coffee dates and meetings, that doesn’t happen. Interestingly, studies show that routines and rituals are good for people’s well-being because they make life seem predictable, meaningful, and they provide cohesiveness to family life, too.
I see my work as a form of play. I don’t clock my hours, so some of my activities don’t produce income. My photo walk on Thursday wasn’t income producing. But I had a lot of great ideas for articles during the walk. So in a lot of ways playing enhances my productivity and ability to make money to pay my bills.
What’s next for Tammy?
I’ll be running another session of my writing course, in the fall. It starts on October 1 and people can register on September 17th. Also, I’m developing a photography ecourse. In addition, I’m working on a new book idea. Tentatively, the book is going to be about grief and self-care. The idea is still a work in progress. I’m hoping to finish up my proposal by the end of the year.
(full disclosure: Tammy's book is on my amazon affiliate list! If you have a blog, put her book on yours and let your readers know about this fantastic life guide!)