In the beginning of September, Tammy Strobel and Logan Smith moved from Portland, Oregon, to a ranch in northern California. But unlike many homeowners who move, the couple did not have to put their current home on the market or pack up their belongings into moving trucks. Instead, they simply attached their 128-square-foot home (which is on wheels) to the back of a Ford F350, and drove 400 miles to its new location.
This freedom and flexibility is just one of the many benefits Strobel notes about living a simpler, debt-free life in a tiny home. Without financial stress holding them back like it had previously, they are more prepared for drastic life changes. “Jobs move, people lose jobs, people die. So how can you structure your life so that you’re more flexible and embrace the good stuff even when loss makes it really really difficult?” she asks. For her and Smith, the answer was a tiny home.
It took about five years for the couple to downsize, first moving to smaller and smaller apartments. Each time they moved into a smaller place, they got rid of more, Strobel says. And it took a lot of reminding themselves of what items they actually needed and used. “Keeping that in mind as a big picture as we moved along was super helpful,” she says. “Also, I’m always reminding myself that my relationships are more important to me than stuff.” Strobel and Smith even went as far as to sell both of their cars, which allowed them to pay off their debt faster.
It was New Year’s Eve of 2007 that they discovered a video online of Dee Williams of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and her tiny home, and Strobel knew right away that it was perfect for them considering their financial circumstances. “Our intent was to be happier, to be more engaged in our personal relationships, and to get a handle on our debt,” she says. And now, living in the tiny home, they have accomplished those goals and more.
The act of downsizing itself had enormous benefits for Strobel. “Research shows if you give money or stuff away to charity, friends or family it actually makes you happier. I was surprised, the more I gave stuff away the happier I felt,” she says. Finally freeing themselves of their financial burdens also allowed Strobel to quit her job in the social services field and pursue her writing career, something she had always wanted to do but could never afford. Now, she has been able to focus on freelance work, create e-courses, and publish her first book, “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too.”
Strobel’s simple, debt-free lifestyle also allowed her to help her family in their time of need this past year. She was able to travel to and from Portland throughout her father’s sickness and passing.” I had the freedom and flexibility to do that,” she says. “So I think not being constrained by stuff can be a really liberating and it can allow you or others to focus on their loved ones.”
So why don’t we all follow suit? Strobel knows that living in a tiny house isn’t for everyone. But she thinks that the biggest thing holding people back from living a simpler life is the fear of what other people will think of them. “I think there’s still cultural expectations that bigger is better and if you decrease your living space or change your buying habits that you’re not as successful,” she says. But really, people should look at it as a re-prioritization of what really matters. Keep in mind what you want to do with your life, she says. “Think about who you want to spend time with, the work you want to be engaged in,” she adds. Because those things will probably be more important to you than the material goods you own.
“When you’re 80 years old, are you really going to be saying to yourself ‘Gosh i really wish i had bought that $4,000 purse or Macbook Air?’ Probably not,” Strobel challenges. “You’re going to wonder why you spent so much time working and not enough time with your family.”
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