Another Year of Little Living

The end of the year presents us with a great opportunity to look back and reflect upon what we've accomplished and what we've learned. I cataloged A Year of Little Living back in 2012. In 2013 I wrote 87 posts about my Little Life experience and you can read the best of the best here. I'm grateful for the opportunities that were presented to me in 2013 and I'm already Looking Forward to 2014.

Here are some highlights from 2013:

This Is The Little Life

I started blogging two and a half years ago, but I was shy about it, so I didn't tell anyone at first. For all intents and purposes, this month marks my two year anniversary as a blogger. It's been an incredible experience to share my vignettes about my Little Life with all of you. I've enjoyed engaging in fascinating conversations with followers from around the world. It's especially been a pleasure to meet many of you over the past couple of years at gatherings or during visits. Word Press conveniently showed me yesterday that in 2013 This Is The Little Life was viewed approximately 140,000 times by people in 155 countries. Thank you for your support, encouragement, ideas, insights, and for following along!


Niche Consulting LLC

In January 2013, I started up my own sustainable design consulting company, Niche Consulting LLC. I created Niche so that I could work with clients from across the country and around the world who want to create a little home of their own. I've enjoyed doing individual consultations, teaching small group workshops, and assisting clients with small home design work. It's a real thrill to see a design that I helped a client develop be constructed in real life! I've also been able to partner with fabulous sustainable development companies like Portland Alternative DwellingsCaravan - The Tiny House HotelYestermorrow Design-Build SchoolShelter Wise, and Intrinsic Ventures.



I kicked off 2013 by teaching a tiny house workshop for my cousin's fifth grade classroom and discovered Ten Year Olds Design Awesome Tiny Houses! In February, April, July, and November I co-taught Tiny House Basics Workshops with Dee Williams and Joan Grimm of Portland Alternative Dwellings. In April, I worked with Shelter Wise, PAD, and six amazing students to build a tiny house in two days for the Casa Pequena workshop at Casa Verde in McMinnville, OR. In a July PAD Tiny House Build Workshop we constructed the floor of Dee Williams' vardo and built three walls for Naj Haus. In October, I co-taught a two-week-long Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow and in December I taught Unstuff Your Holidays: A 1-Day Decluttering Workshop.


My 200 Things Challenge

Before Downsizing from a Tiny House to a Tinier House, I decided to embark upon My 200 Things Challenge. This time last year I was half way through the challenge. I did a New Year's Re-Inventory and spent some time Taking Stock Without Stocking Up. I also made a New Year's resolution to go paper-free, so I was Strategizing Digitizing and Getting All My Docs in a Row. I recapped What My 200 Things Challenge Taught Me in October.

Masters Degree & Urban Design Certificate

From January through June I worked with Five to Nine Consulting to develop a framework for reintroducing housing into downtown Oregon City. This was our workshop project for our Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree. In June I graduated from Portland State University's College of Urban and Public Affairs with a MURP and I wrapped up my Urban Design Certificate the next month.


Tiny House Fair

Unfortunately, I missed graduation because I was at Yestermorrow in Vermont, presenting at the Tiny House Fair. Fortunately, it was one of the best weekends of my life. I joked that I was taking commencement really seriously and getting on with my career. It was a treat to be back on the Yestermorrow campus and to meet so many great tiny house enthusiasts, builders, designers, and dwellers. My posts about the Tiny House Fair were republished in Tiny House Magazine.


Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

In June, Kimber and I coordinated the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours. I'd coordinated the tours in 2012 while working with Orange Splot. In 2013 we put both tours on one epic day, which you can read about in the Pedalpalooza Recap. It was great fun to meet so many small home enthusiasts and show off great spaces. We wrapped up at Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel, where we showed off Caravan's Tiny Houses, including Tandem, the tiny house on wheels I finished out in the summer of 2012 as part of My Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building with Orange Splot.

Moving from Home, Sweet Yurt to Home, Sweet Pea

In August, I moved from my Home, Sweet Yurt into Sweet Pea, a tiny house on wheels located in POD49. It's a great little place with really great neighbors in a wonderful location. (And the Sweet Pea Plan Set is available for sale through PAD.) I've thoroughly enjoyed this little home. I've had a Snow Day in the Tiny House and I've even tried Sharing Sweet Pea with my Sweetie.

Site Managing at Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel

In July, my friends Kol Peterson and Deb Delman opened Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel. Their soft opening was serving as the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours, but the Caravan Grand Opening in July was a truly wonderful party. I loved visiting with the people who stopped in to take a look at Tandem, the tiny house on wheels owned by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot that I finished out as my Practicum Project for my Yestermorrow Sustainable Design-Build Certificate. Speaking of parties, I celebrated my 30th birthday with a Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel. In September I served as site manager of Caravan for two weeks while Kol and Deb were getting married then on their honeymoon. I got to know all the little houses a whole lot better as I developed my Tiny House Cleaning Checklist and I joked Everything I Need to Know About Designing Tiny Houses I Learned From Cleaning Them.


Tiny House Mixers

In 2012 I helped coordinate several Tiny House Potlucks. They were a lot of fun, especially when we had them in parks during the summer months, but it was hard to find a place big enough for us to meet in the winter since we all live in small houses. Fortunately, in 2013 PAD began hosting Tiny House Mixers, which have been wildly popular. The November Tiny House Mixer drew nearly 50 people and the December Tiny House Mixer drew more than 30. I'm already looking forward to the January Tiny House Mixer and February Tiny House Mixer.

In October, I began building out, a new website which I've co-founded with web developer Kenny Bavoso. is a website for tiny homes and the people who love them. Kenny and I are both huge fans of small spaces and we look forward to making an in-depth, engaging, and informative website for people interested in tiny homes. You can learn more about what we're up to and how you can contribute in Looking Forward to 2014.

Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project

In December I began Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project on a contract with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. I'll be compiling a series of case studies of permitted accessory dwellings throughout the state of Oregon over the next couple months. Read about the ADU Case Studies Project to learn how you can contribute or follow along.

The Things We Don't Carry

This post was originally written as a journal entry this time last year when I was on a study abroad trip to Havana, Cuba. I was looking back over the entry today and decided it would be a good one to post here. Enjoy!

One of the things that has struck me while I've been here in Cuba is that people carry things here. It's made me more aware of how infrequently we Americans actually carry something. If we have anything we need to transport we do it by car, even if we're not going very far and even if it’s something we could easily carry. It's almost as though we are ashamed to have anyone see us porting an object from one place to another!


Okay, maybe we do our hauling by bike if we live in a place like Portland where transporting things by bike is cool, but Portland is a special place.

It certainly isn't the first time I'd traveled to other countries and seen people carrying objects by foot or bike. Walking and biking are primary modes of travel in many place where the cost of motorized transportation is prohibitive. However, I've also traveled places in Europe where people transported things by bike or foot even if they could afford to use cars because a car simply wasn't necessary. (An image that lingers was the man who bought a recliner chair at a Dutch flea market and threw it over his shoulder as he climbed on his bicycle and pedaled off down the cobblestone streets!)

As I've embraced the Little Life over the past couple of years I've often had these flashes of insight in which I realize that the American lifestyle is the exception rather than the norm. And in America we don’t often just walk around carrying things.

In Cuba I've seen people walking with all sorts of things: a plastic bag full of eggs, a lawnmower motor, a table, a mattress, a fifty pound bag of beans.

Oh, and the cakes. So many cakes. One of my favorite images that I didn’t manage to capture on candid camera was two men on a motorcycle, speeding down a little cobblestone street in an old part of Havana. The man on the back of the motorcycle was holding a little round pink cake. I loved seeing people with their pink cakes! Come to think of it, I’m not sure why so many of them were pink, but they were lovely! I couldn’t help but grin at them, happy for this little clue that they were off to celebrate something. This is probably the same phenomenon that makes me grin at people carrying flowers. How can I help it?! It’s so sweet knowing they are on a mission to cheer someone up. I love seeing people carry things because it gives me a little glimpse into their lives.

When we put things in our cars other people don’t get to see what we’re up to. So much of the joy of life that’s visible when we carry things in our own two hands is hidden when our cars do the schlepping. Seeing people carry things throughout Cuba has made me wish that more Americans carried things about if they are able. Not only would it be better exercise for us and more environmentally friendly, it would also provide more conversation starters.

The next time I bake a cake I think I’ll just carry it to the party myself and enjoy the conversations I start along the way! How's that for reinventing the Cake Walk?!

Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project

Kol's ADU Exterior

While I was working with Orange Splot LLC, a Portland-based development company that specializes in innovative sustainable infill housing projects, I Showcased Accessory Dwellings in Portland on the website. You can read these posts here:

Now we have updated the website so that we can feature more ADU profiles. Our goal is to compile a collection of case studies of permitted accessory dwellings from across Oregon. I’m delighted to be coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project. I look forward to helping people share their ADU stories so that we can continue advocating for ADUs as a flexible, affordable housing option. You can read our first new case study, Kol Peterson's ADU: A Backyard Home.

If you or someone you know has a permitted accessory dwelling in Oregon and you would like to participate in the project, please email me at


Lina Menard


ADU Case Studies Project

(541) 854-0875

Sharing Sweet Pea with my Sweetie

Lina & Matthew with Umbrella Man If you’re looking for a good way to test out a new romantic relationship, let me suggest spending a week together in a tiny house on wheels. I moved into my Home, Sweet Pea at POD49 back in August. I’m in a walkable neighborhood, I have great neighbors, and the house really is sweet as can be.

So I’ve loved living here… all by myself, anyhow!

I’ll admit I was nervous about the prospect of my new significant other sharing my tiny house with me for a week. Matthew’s housemate’s mom was in town so we decided that Matthew should stay with me so that she could stay in his room. Since I was rather honeymooney and didn’t want to be away from him, it sounded like a good idea to me. I figured it would be a good make-or-break experience.

One of my favorite things about Matthew is one of his favorite things about me: we both live our politics. Matthew has been impressed by my fascination (okay, okay obsession) with space-efficient design. He thinks it’s cool that I live in a tiny house on wheels. He is impressed that I’m compiling a series of ADU Case Studies. So I was really looking forward to sharing the Little Life with him.

Matthew & Raffi

The day before Matthew was going to temporarily move in with me it occurred to me that if I was going to move in with someone else for a week, I’d really like to have a place for my Stuff - especially in a tiny home where there’s a place for everything so everything can be in its place. I also realized that if I was going to live in a teeny, tiny house with someone else for the long-run it would be best to go into the adventure together, rather than trying to shoehorn someone else into my tiny space. The couples I know who have moved into a tiny house together (like Tammy & Logan) tend to do pretty well, but the ones who have one person move in with the other seem to struggle a bit more. (If you’re doing either, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section!)

Now the thing is, even though Sweet Pea is spacious, I’d already done a pretty good job of filling up the closet, drawers, and storage space under the window seat. (And this is after spending nearly a year being very conscientious about my possessions during My 200 Things Challenge!) On the Packing Lightly vs. Packing Densely continuum, I tend towards density. So I had a hard time figuring out a place for Matthew to put his Stuff. I ended up clearing out a bit of the closet so that he could put his clothes in there and tucking away a pair of my shoes so that he would have a place for his. I figured we were pretty well set for everything else since I have a well-stocked kitchen and his extra toothbrush had already migrated to my place.

I was ready for my sweetie to move in.


But the next morning I discovered that my hose had frozen. Now this had happened to me twice when I was living in Bayside Bunglow, but this time we were in for a longer cold snap. I called Matthew and warned him that we’d be living without running water for a few days. “Oooh! An adventure!” he exclaimed and instantly won himself brownie points.

Matthew showed up with a bag of clothes, his coffee maker, his favorite frying pan, and a pair of slippers. Now that, I thought, is my kind of man! He found places for his things and did his best to make himself at home in my wee abode. Two days later, we had a Snow Day in the Tiny House.

We settled into a bit of a routine. We both had days we were out of the house all day long and we managed to alternate them enough that we both had time home alone. My cat was delighted to have such constant companionship. We also made a point to get out of the house together so we wouldn't feel cooped up because of the cold. We took turns cooking warm tasty dinners and doing dishes afterwards. We watched TV shows on my laptop sometimes and read to each other evenings. Sometimes one or both of us would be out for the evening. One night we even hosted a dinner party for five friends. Matthew borrowed my neighbor’s oven to cook a pork roast with apples and potatoes and my friends brought salad, cobbler, wine, and ice cream. It was quite the feast!

Dinner Party for 6

With two of us here the house wasn’t as cold as it would have been if I’d been here alone. But not having running water was more inconvenient when there were two of us. It gave me a chance to reflect on Simple vs. Intentional Living. (It was also nice at the December Tiny House Mixer to find out other tiny housers were in the same predicament.) We hauled water from the BIG House every day. I showered at my neighbors’ place and Matthew showered at school. My neighbors were gracious about loaning us their space heater and letting us doing dishes at the BIG House. I even used the dishwasher after the dinner party. That was really exciting since I hadn’t lived with a dishwasher since I was in college!

Matthew was a good sport about living in a tiny box with no running water for a week. All in all, we got along just fine. He still likes that I live my politics. I’m more smitten with him than ever before. But whenever someone finds out Matthew lived with me in a tiny house for a week and asks how that was, Matthew laughs and says, “Well… it was during the cold snap so we didn’t have any running water” and inevitably the other person winces.

So here’s my advice:

If you’re trying to convince someone that tiny house living is simple, don’t pick the coldest week of the year to show them how it’s done!

December Tiny House Mixer at ADX

On Thursday night more than thirty people filled the loading dock at ADX for the December Tiny House Mixer. There was a great November Tiny House Mixer which I cross-posted about on

This Mixer was the debut of what I can only imagine will be an incredible partnership between ADX and Portland Alternative Dwellings. PAD is committed to educating, inspiring, and empowering people to create tiny homes of their own. ADX is a collective workspace for builders, makers, and tinkers. I think PAD and ADX go together like butter cookies and apple cider. Yummy!

It's awesome that PAD's upcoming Tiny House Basics Workshops, Tiny Chair Workshops, and Tiny House Mixers will be hosted at ADX. There is already one PAD Grad, the intrepid Ben Campbell, who has claimed a tiny house building spot at ADX and he’s well on his way to a wee home of his own. You can follow along (or better yet, help him build) by checking out Ben Builds a Tiny House.

At the Mixer, Joan Grimm welcomed the crowd and shared information about PAD’s newest products and services, including a holiday sale on plan sets, a series of winter and spring workshops (including Tiny House Basics in February and March and a Tiny Chair Workshop in January and February), and PAD’s new Consulting Partners program. Then Dee Williams gave a teaser for her soon-to-be-released book The Big Tiny and reminded everyone to explore our world with curiosity and wonder.

Then I invited up a series of guest speakers who had 2 minutes to share their 2 cents. Nathan Miller of All-Ways Electric and Ian Bruner of Bruner Plumbing offered information about their tiny house services. Then Karin Parramore described building her wee home, Serenity. Ben Campbell talked about his experience building his vardo at ADX and Whitney Johnson talked about her project to facilitate insurance options for tiny home owners. (If you’re a tiny homeowner, please take her survey!) Four of my students from the 2013 Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow attended the December Mixer from as far away as Boston. We think that's quorum - or at least a reunion!

After the mini-speeches Ben offered a tour of his tiny house in the ADX parking lot. Then there was much mixing and mingling next to the snack spread. There was talk about tiny parking spots available and discussion about which on-demand propane heaters are the best. Many tiny housers also swapped tales of frozen hose woe (Portland had an unusual cold snap this year which left most tiny house folks hauling water for a whole week!) It was, as always, fabulous to see so many connections being made and I'm already looking forward to the January Tiny House Mixer at ADX. Please register so you can join the fun!

Snow Day in the Tiny House

I love that I get my Weather Report while laying in bed. Last night, as I fell asleep in my sleeping loft at Sweet Pea gazing out the skylight, I noticed that the sky had that pregnant golden-gray glow of city lights trapped by cloud cover. This morning I woke before dawn to the sound of the bamboo brushing against the metal roof, long rat-a-tat strokes like the brush on a snare drum. "Blustery out there," I thought to myself and I lay there for a few moments in the dark, grateful for such a cozy place to sleep. Then climbed down the ladder and snuggled up on my window seat to write for a bit while I waited for the rest of the world to wake up. As the sky brightened, I opened the shades and gasped in delight to see a dusting of snow! I crawled back into the loft to see the snow from there since snow on the skylight is awesome, particularly when a flake, distinct and unique, splays flat on the pane as though it's begging to come in from the cold.

It rarely snows here in Portland and when it does, it tends to be Lazy Snow, sloppy non-committal flakes that nevertheless manage to shut down a city that isn't well-acquainted with them. So snow days are exciting around here and I was surprised that there hadn't been a buzz about snow yesterday. I ran next door to squeal with my neighbors in the Big House, the fine folks of POD 49.

They asked how I'm faring in my tiny house and it made me realize there are three big differences in tiny house living when the temperature drops below freezing.

  1. First, my Envi Heater keeps up pretty well as long as the temperatures aren't below freezing, but once it gets this cold I need to bring in supplemental heat. (This was true in Bayside Bungalow, too, though I'm hoping that since the vardo I want to build for myself will be smaller I might not need additional heat. You can read more about Installing My Envi Heater.)
  2. Two, the food in My Chiller with a high water content freezes. This isn't a problem for most of what's in there - in fact, the tofu I cooked up last night with rice noodles was improved by freezing - but I'm glad I remembered to bring the eggs inside!
  3. Three, my water system freezes. This happened to me twice when I was living in Bayside Bungalow and both times it warmed up enough the next day that I was able to get on with life uninterrupted. This time, however, the weather is expected to stay cold for several days. I forgot to unhook the hose before Tuesday night so on Wednesday I had to wait till it warmed up enough to unhook it. Looks like I'll be living without running water until the temps inch back up again, so I filled up water jugs at the Big House. This part reminds me of cooking in the yurt with My Kitchen Cupboard.

These inconveniences are just that: inconvenient. They're not crises or disasters. They're just not quite as pleasant as when the weather is above freezing. They're a reminder to me about the difference between Simple Living vs. Intentional Living. I'll probably experience another week or two of below freezing temps at some point this winter, but overall, this is a pretty pleasant climate for tiny house living. Today there's an extra layer of adventure to a snow day.

Later today I plan to visit my friend Karin and her tiny house Serenity, so I'll get to venture out into the flurry and see how the city is coping. But for right now, its awfully nice to be snuggled up on my window seat with a cup of cocoa and some oatmeal, watching the flakes flutter down.

My Chiller: A Natural Refrigerator

I've just created My Chiller - an electricity-free, propane-free, noise-free natural refrigeration system. And the best part is it only cost $7, so it was almost free-free!

Years ago I worked with a colleague who grew up in Astoria, OR. She explained to me that in addition to an icebox, her childhood home had a chiller. The chiller was a cabinet in the kitchen that had a screen on the exterior wall so it was open to the sea breezes. The walls and the door of the chiller were insulated, so this box was outside the building envelope. I’ve been fascinated by the concept of natural refrigeration ever since.

Other tiny house dwellers I know have lived without a refrigerator. Dee Wiliams uses a cooler and ice packs to keep her beer and half-and-half cool. Tammy and Logan decided they would live in their little house Smalltopia without a fridge, too, and they have explored How to Eat Yummy Without a Fridge. The first time I visited Tammy and Logan they showed me that they kept veggies in a hanging basket on the porch and their half-and-half in the gap between the kitchen window and the screen. Six months out of the year the outdoor air temperature in Portland, OR presents the same conditions as a refrigerator. Seeing Tammy and Logan’s set up convinced me that it’s rather silly in this part of the world to use electricity or propane to run a refrigerator when the outdoors present the ideal chilling conditions!

So last weekend I made a chiller of my own. My mini fridge was nearly empty when I returned from Family Time. I figured it was the perfect opportunity to defrost the freezer before plugging it back in and filling it back up. I packed my handful of chill items into my dishpan and set the dishpan on the porch while I was waiting for the ice to melt from the mini fridge. That night I hauled the fridge back in since it started to rain, but I realized the food was perfectly fine out there, so I covered my dishpan with my laundry basket to keep the critters from digging in. It seemed to work just fine so I decided it was time for a trip to the ReBuilding Center.

I found a drawer that was the size I wanted and a cabinet door that would fit with it (hinges and all!) The components put me back a whopping $7. At home I chiseled out a spot for the hinges, attached the cabinet door to the drawer, repositioned the handle, and drilled holes in the sides. I ran out of daylight at that point and I've been busy with other projects. But as soon as I can I'll sand it, paint it, and attach a pest screen that was repurposed from an old shelving unit.

I’ve been using my chiller for a week now and I’m perfectly happy with it. Yes, it’s slightly less convenient to step onto the porch to get food items out of the chiller than it was to grab them from the mini fridge in the kitchen. But considering that we’re talking about just a few feet of distance, no complaints here! I figure I should be able to use my chiller until about April when the temperature here starts to warm up again. So I have another 4 months of free refrigeration, thanks to living in a mild climate!

The added bonus is that since I’m not running my electric mini-fridge I was able to relocate my Envi Heater to the end of the kitchen cabinet. I Installed my Envi Heater on this wall back in October, but since the wall is shared with the fridge both were working too hard. So I relocated my heater to an exterior wall in early November. Once I shifted my food to the chiller a couple weeks ago I was able to put my heater back in end-of-kitchen-counter location, which means it’s on an interior wall and right at the edge of my loft. It's already cozier in my little house.

Luckily, the same time of year that I need to run the heater it's cool enough to chill my food outside. Now that's what I call elegant simplicity! Yet another reason I'm Giving Thanks for Tiny Living!

Unstuff Your Holidays

With Black Friday less than a week away, even a minimalist like me cannot help noticing that the pressure to buy Stuff has already ratcheted up to a frenetic level. (For more on Stuff, check out one of my favorite little spoofs by George Carlin.)

So what do you give to the person on your list who has everything? (And what do you do if that's you!?) How about reversing the trend? How about organizing and purging to make room so you can find the things you actually like and spend more time with the people you care about?

I’m excited to be teaching Unstuff Your Holidays: A 1-Day Decluttering Workshop on December 8th and Organize Your New Year: A 2-Part Decluttering Workshop in January. I look forward to sharing the tips and tricks I’ve learned as I’ve lived in a tiny house on wheels, taken on My 200 Things Challenge, and explored the difference between Simple Living & Intentional Living. If you'd like to give a spot in the class to a loved-one (or yourself) this holiday season, you can claim one of the five spots left in the December workshop and six spots in the January workshop by registering for Unstuff Your Holidays or Organize Your New Year on the Niche website.

Meanwhile, as I make plans to visit with family for the Thanksgiving Holiday, I know I'll encounter the throngs of Black Friday shoppers. So I'm fortifying myself and building up my resolve. I admit that one of my best minimalism strategies this time of year is just plain avoidance. I don’t expose myself to much advertising. I don’t have a TV so watch movies on my laptop and I’m not bombarded with television commercials. My New Year’s resolution was to go paper-free by Strategizing Digitizing so I don’t subscribe to the newspaper, which means I don’t have to deal with all those glossy print ads I can’t shred and compost. My sisters and I have decided to produce a holiday card in PDF format to send out to our loved ones. I intend to avoid the mall completely. Anything I do acquire during the holiday season will probably be the result of comparing my wishlist against the deals at the after Christmas sales at REI. Like everyone else, I do have things on my list. I, too, wear through my rain gear, accidentally shrink my favorite wool sweater, and occasionally need to buy replacement parts for my favorite gadgets.

But my consumption feels sensible these days. I own beautiful and practical things. I don’t feel deprived in the least. But I’m so glad that I rarely get that feeling greedy feeling anymore that I used to always get this time of year. Of course, sometimes I do. For instance, my rate of impulse-buying hot cocoa soars this time of year! But I recognize now, more than ever before, that money can't buy happiness. (Actually, tiny houser Tammy Strobel's book You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap) is the counterpoint to that, but only sort-of!)

The stuff is Just Stuff. It won't bring me as much joy as the stuff that money can't buy: the pine scent of the wreath on the door, the twinkle of the lights in the trees, the squeals of glee from kids on the carousel, the flicker of candles in the menorah in the window, the coziness of cocoa and fires and scarves and walking mitten-in-mitten with someone I love.

Unstuffing my holidays helps me focus on what really matters: Giving Thanks for Tiny Living!

The Flexibility for Family Time

I'm a little backlogged on blog posts, so those of you who subscribe to This Is The Little Life will get to catch up with me! Cheers!

As I became acquainted with other tiny house dwellers in the Pacific Northwest, I discovered that for several of them the ability to be present with family members is a key motivation for adopting The Little Life. Dee Williams explains that the passing of a dear friend was a big part of her decision to downsize and simplify her life. Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens noted that by right-sizing her life she was able to be present during a family member's illness. This week I, too, became grateful that my decision to embrace Intentional Living has freed up my time so that I can be present for my family during a hard time.

One of my cousins had to go in for surgery last week so I was recruited for childcare. When I first received the request to travel to the Seattle area to take care of my 8 and 11 year old cousins I went through my old thoughts of “Oh, no, I can’t do that. I have too much on my calendar. There are too many people counting on me here in Portland.” I told my family I’d see what I could do and I’d get back to them.

But as I looked at my calendar I realized that many of the things on it could be shuffled around to accommodate me being out of town. Most of the tasks and appointments that couldn’t be postponed could be done

remotely. When I contacted one of my design clients to ask about rescheduling she was gracious about it and she said it would actually be better for her to rebook because she’s was busy this week because she’s moving. When I talked to Joan of Portland Alternative Dwellings, she reminded me that one of PAD’s key roles is helping people to create the freedom to focus on family – in good times and bad. So I arranged a room for Raffi at Meowhaus, booked a Bolt Bus ticket, and told my auntie I was all set to come to Seattle for the week.

I was, of course, distressed that my cousin needed surgery, but I was grateful that there was something I could do to help. My aunt and another cousin were able to care for my cousin before and after surgery while I spent most of my week playing parent. Turns out I’m really good at cutting the crusts off PB&J sandwiches, I’m better at reminding kids to grab their homework packets than I am at remembering to grab the car keys, and when I make Annie’s mac and cheese it’s ALMOST as delicious as their babysitter Hannah’s. I also got to reminisce about middles school dances when I took my 11 year old cousin to her very first one! It was an honor to help her get ready for that rite of passage.

The younger kiddo was home sick most of the week, so I didn’t end up getting much work done remotely, but I got more quality time with her than I’d ever had before. She introduced me to Totoro and Animal Jam. She also taught me just what order all her blankets need to be arranged in when she’s tucked into bed. And when she woke me up in the middle of the night to tell me she was too hot, I suggested she take off one of her blankets. She headed padded back to her room. The next morning I asked how that had worked out for her and she confessed “Not very well. I couldn’t figure out which blanket to take off. I didn’t want any of them to get cold.” Fairness is very important to this child! How amazing to see how her mind and heart work!

These are the moments that make me remember that THIS is what it’s all about! Yes, I recognize that The Little Life isn't possible or even desirable for everyone. And yes, I know that it's harder to be a full-time parent than to stand in as one once in a while. But nevertheless, I'm glad that The Little Life I've created for myself allows me a flexibility that I've never had before.

Niche Design & Decluttering Workshops

Two years ago I downsized from a 2-bedroom bungalow to a tiny house on wheels. A year ago I downsized again to a 12-ft diameter yurt and embarked upon My 200 Things Challenge. These days I live in a 130 square foot tiny house on wheels and I've made space-efficient housing both my livelihood and my lifestyle. I've quit counting my possessions, but I'm mindful everyday of What My 200 Things Challenge Taught Me. Now I'm excited to offer a 1-day Tiny House Design Workshop to help people new to design capture their tiny homes and a Decluttering Workshop series to share the tips and tricks that have helped me in my right-sizing journey. Please join me for one of these workshops if you're interested in the Little Life!

Tiny House Design Workshop

If you want to design your own tiny house but you've never designed anything before this workshop is for you! In this 1-day workshop we'll cover programming, bubble diagramming, basic drafting techniques, floor plans, elevations, and design considerations for tiny spaces. You'll leave with a design concept for your tiny house and the techniques you need to capture the desired look and feel. Appropriate for design newbies whether they plan to do their own design or hire a designer. Register for the Tiny House Design Workshop through Niche Consulting LLC.

Unstuff Your Holidays: A Decluttering Workshop

Are you dreading the accumulation that always happens during the Holiday Season? Do you already feel like you have too much stuff? If you want to focus on your family and friends instead of your stuff this holiday season, this workshop is for you. We'll address our relationship with stuff, discuss needs and wants to figure out what really matters, set priorities, and evaluate our possessions. We'll identify old habits and clutter magnets and tackle problem areas in our homes. Then we'll develop organizational systems and new habits to reduce clutter. In this 1-day workshop, we'll cover everything from keeping track of our keys to developing a wardrobe full of clothes we love. Register for Unstuff Your Holidays through Niche Consulting LLC.