Guest Post by Derek Diedricksen
She doesn’t like being labeled, but I still can’t help but dub her a “Maven of Minimalism”, (and hopefully she won’t get mad at me for it!), and for good reason, as Tammy Strobel has moved from what most would already consider a small living arrangement (a 400 square foot apartment), into a new, even smaller, 128 square foot home! Her story, I feel, is not only gutsy, but fun, and enlightening at the same time….oh yeah, I should mention that she also lives in this very same house with another person- Logan Smith- so at 64 square feet a piece, I felt they might have quite a bit of light to shine on the world of living with little.
Interview by Derek “Deek” Diedricksen of relaxshacks.com. The “Tammy” sketch below is from his tiny house design book “Humble Homes, Simple Shacks“- in a brand new “Tricks Of The Trade” chapter with input from Lloyd Kahn, Gregory Paul Johnson, Dee Williams, Jay Shafer, Alex Pino, Duo Dickinson, Mimi Zeiger, Colin Beavan, Alex Johnson, Cathy Johnson, and some guy named “Kent Griswold”!?
Deek: What was the turning point in your life where you decided that the run of the mill, status quo lifestyle, and one usually surrounded by “stuff’”, wasn’t for you?
Tammy: About six years ago I took a life changing trip to Mexico. At the time I was volunteering with the Mexico Solidarity Network and was unhappy with my career and huge mound of debt. After visiting Mexico and seeing so much poverty, I realized how trivial my problems were. When I got back, I knew I had to make some serious life changes. And a few months later, Logan and I happened to watch a You Tube video featuring Dee Williams and her tiny house.
Once we saw Dee’s video, we knew tiny house living was a good fit for us. So we started taking steps to transform our lives, like paying down our debt, selling the cars, and giving away a lot of stuff. Seeing the video of Dee and her little house was a big turning point for us. It gave us a whole new perspective on what our life could be like; that I didn’t have to drive two hours to and from work everyday or live in a big house either. It was empowering to realize I could live life on my own terms. Continue Reading »
My friend and fellow blogger Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and her husband Logan just fulfilled a dream of theirs and moved into a tiny house.
The home was designed and built by Dee Williams and Katy Anderson of Portland Alternative Dwellings based in Portland, Oregon. I asked Tammy to give us a video walk through of her home and asked her a few questions also. Included in this post is her video and a photo gallery of their new home. You can view more photos of the construction of their home here.
Kent: As a couple living in such a small space where do you go to find your own private space?
Tammy: Logan and I both have solitary jobs. I’m a writer and he’s a scientist. During the course of the work day we both spend a lot of time alone. During the mornings, evenings and on the weekends, we enjoy spending time together. Even if our jobs weren’t solitary that would still be the case. Logan is my best friend and I love spending time with him. If I need alone time, I go out for a walk, practice yoga, or meditate. I don’t need a big house to find my own private space.
Kent: Will you do most of your cooking in your house or do you eat out regularly?
Tammy: I’ll do both. Logan and I have a tiny stove that runs off denatured alcohol. Logan baked cornbread for an office party and we made an amazing vegetable stir-fry for dinner last week. In the past our routine has been to cook mostly at home, however, we also love eating out and Portland has a great food scene. For example, the food carts offer a wide range of choices and it’s relatively inexpensive.
Kent: What type of plumbing, etc. is used in your home to take care of gray water and black water?
Tammy: I have a simple plumbing set-up in the little house; one pipe goes into the house and one goes out. A garden hose attaches to a valve on the exterior of the house and it runs to a kitchen faucet that is used to do dishes. For drinking water, we filter water from the faucet using a simple Berkey Light water system that sits on the counter.
I have a small wet-bath to clean-up, but right now I don’t use it because I shower after my yoga class and Logan showers at his office.
Gray water from the kitchen sink and wet-bath drains flow together into a single pipe out to under the house and is currently caught in a five gallon container under the house. We use the grey water to irrigate ornamental trees and shrubbery and so far we have been producing about 1.5 gallons of grey water per day (or less). Black water isn’t an issue because I have a composting toilet. The composting toilet is based off the model in the Humanure Handbook. Composting is a huge topic, so if you want to learn more, read the book.
Kent: How did you find a place to park your mobile tiny home?
Tammy: When I started looking for a parking spot, I emailed all of my friends and posted a flyer on the blog too. There is uncertainty when it comes to parking a little house, especially if you don’t have land of your own and I was scared we wouldn’t find a parking spot within the city limits. Moving to an RV park on Sauvie Island was an option. But the commute is a little too far for us, especially since we don’t have a car.
Eventually, acquaintances heard we needed a place to park and offered their backyard to us in exchange for rent. It’s in a beautiful neighborhood and I’m incredibly grateful to be in such a wonderful spot.
Kent: Is it legal to park your home where it is?
Tammy: The planning department has not integrated little dwellings into the city code yet. So technically, the little house isn’t illegal or legal. However, the City of Portland has been receptive to these types of homes. The history of small, mobile food carts is a great example and a wonderful precedent to Portland’s tolerance regarding alternative buildings within the city limits.
The primary purpose of city code is to make sure homes are safe. Our house is built to the International Building Code and was inspected by a certified electrician, plumber, and contractor. In addition to being beautiful, our french doors serve as an easy entry for emergency personal, in case of a fire or illness. Taken together, these features help planning department officials make a better appraisal of the structure.
If you’re thinking of building a little house, check in with your city planning department. In addition, be sure you get inspections by certified electricians, plumbers, and contractors to verify the dwellings safety.
For more information regarding tiny home construction details, read Go House Go.
Kent: What would you suggest to someone wanting to change their lifestyle like you have.
Tammy: First, give yourself time. It took us 4 years to pay off our debt and downsize to a tiny house. Some of my friends have been able to downsize really quickly and that’s great. For me, that wasn’t a reality. Part of simplifying required a huge shift in my mindset and that took time. I had to stop looking for happiness at the mall. I learned to focus on cultivating my relationships instead of worrying about stuff.
Second, focus your life situation. Living in a 150 square-feet isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. Ask yourself: How much do I need? What makes me happy? What amount of space will fit my family’s needs?
Finally, you need to practice with what you have. When we first started downsizing we cleaned out one bedroom of our two bedroom apartment and treated our big home as a smaller home. For instance, Gregory Johnson of the small house society started by renting out his house and downsized to only one of his bedrooms.
Kent: Do you have such amenities as power, internet, etc? If so how do you go about getting it for a separate unit from the main house?
Tammy: Yes I have the Internet and power. However, I am still tied to the grid through the main house. We’re sharing a wireless internet connection with the land owners and we’ve plugged into their house to get electricity with an outdoor extension cord. The little house runs off a 15 amp power source.
More questions? Please visit the FAQ page at RowdyKittens.com. Thanks!
Following is a guest post by Tammy Stobel.
My Grandparents actively practiced frugality. They both grew up in very large families and lived through the Great Depression. Saving for a rainy day and avoiding rampant consumerism was integral to their life philosophy. Rather than seeking fulfillment through material items they chose to spent quality time together, with family, and in nature.
A little background…
My Grandparents built and lived in a small 600 square foot, 20′ x 30′, cottage for most of their adult lives. Countless family members encouraged my Grandparents to expand their home. But they didn’t want a bigger place. They loved their little home and were content with what they had. For instance, they gardened, repaired their own clothes, and drove the same car for over 15 years. I still remember riding around in their old, green Mercury beast and sleeping in their super tiny guest room. Continue Reading »
Yesterday, I had the privilege to meet a fellow tiny house blogger and enthusiast Tammy who publishes rowdykittens and writes about social change through simple living. Tammy is also one of our fellow writers on the Small Living Journal.
Tammy and Logan and a cousin invited me to join them at KC’s Downtown Grill in Windsor to meet in person and to discuss our passion of tiny houses and blogging. Tammy is one of my favorite photographers and I enjoy following her excursions via flickr. They are on a two week vacation and are exploring much of Northern California.
Tammy and Logan are planning to downsize into a tiny house sometime in the next year and have followed the Tiny House Blog from its very early days. Tammy and Logan recently attended a workshop in Portland with Dee Williams and learned more about building their own tiny home.
We spent an enjoyable two and a half hours visiting and getting know each other. It is so much fun to talk to someone who has the same interests and passions. We had fun discussing the different builders and designers, our fellow bloggers and how each is approaching the same subject, yet from different perspectives.
Thank you Tammy and Logan for a great visit and I look forward to more get togethers. Next on my list to meet in person are Christina, my part time writer, and Steph from Coming Unmoored.
Photo Credit: Logan and Tammy rowdykittens
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