Tag Archives: becoming a minimalist

Go Small, Think Big & Be Happy: An Interview with Tammy Strobel

Editor’s Note: Go Small, Think Big & Be Happy: An Interview with Tammy Strobel of RowdyKittens.com.

Go small, think big & be happyTammy Strobel is founder of RowdyKittens.com. She is also the Author of “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)” and My “Morning View.” Along with her husband, Logan, in 2005 they began to simplify their lives, downsizing from a 1,200 square feet apartment into a tiny 128 square feet house on wheels a few years later! Their story has been featured on many major TV network. Tammy’s blog and “Writing in the Digital Age” e-course has inspired me to start my blog. I trust you’ll find this Go Small, Think Big & Be Happy: An Interview with Tammy Strobel to be inspiring and challenging.

Kelvin: Tell us your story. What was your life like and why did you start your simplicity journey?
Tammy:  About seven 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 back home with politics at work and feelings of inadequacy in my culture.

When I got back, I knew I had to make some serious life changes, but I didn’t know where to start. 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 would be an iconic way for us to pursue a simpler life.

So we started taking steps to transform our lives, like paying down our debt, selling our two 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 lives could be like. It was empowering to realize I could live life on my own terms.

Kelvin: How has your life changed since going to a more minimalist lifestyle?
Tammy:  Living in a small home has given me so many gifts. For example, I notice so much more now, like the birds chirping in the morning, the sound of rain on our little metal roof, and where the sun rises and sets. I love having more time to focus on doing things I love, like writing, talking long walks, and hanging out with friends. I don’t have to clean as much now, so I have more time to do fun things!

Kelvin: 128 square feet! That sounds impossible. What’s it like living in a tiny house and what advice would you give those thinking about downsizing?

Tammy: Living in a small house is fun and it’s given me many unique opportunities. For example, we are living in a rural part of California, now. We would not be living in this area, if we didn’t have a small house on wheels.

There are many small steps you can take today to start living more simply. First, clear off one surface in your home. For example, a reader recently sent me a photo of her uncluttered desk. She spent the evening organizing stacks of papers, mail, and other random belongings that were cluttering the surface of her work space. Now that it’s organized she’s able to sit down to pay her bills and she feels happier. Taking that one small step made her life feel a whole lot simpler.

Second, ditch the television (or watch a whole lot less). Television is a huge time suck and by watching less, you’ll have more time to do the stuff you love, like taking a long walk in the evening or reading a good book.

And last but not least, let go of excess stuff. Start by giving away ten belongings each week to friends or to a charity of your choice.

Kelvin: Tell us a little about your other interests such as teaching and photography?
Tammy: Teaching and photography are part of my daily life and business. I love teaching because I feel like I’m making a difference in my student’s lives. I also love photography. I lose myself in the landscape, my pets or the tiny details I’m trying to capture with my lens. When my dad was sick, and soon after his death, this came in handy. On the days when I couldn’t seem to escape my sadness, I would go for a walk with my camera. Inevitability, I felt better about myself — and happier — because I was getting a little bit of exercise and taking photos of subjects I loved. Collecting images has changed my perception of the world. I pay more attention to tiny beautiful moments; and that makes me feel happy and grateful.

Kelvin: RowdyKittens is an interesting business name. What’s the story behind the name? Give us some advice for those wanting to start their own microbusiness.

Tammy: Well, it’s a long story. You’ll have to read “You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap),” for the full story. In short, my blog name is the result of a fun brainstorming session about blogging and business.

I started my micro-business in January of 2010 and I’ve learned a lot since then. If you want to start your own small business, try:

1. Starting a website. This website should be your home base on the Internet. It’s a place where people can learn about you and the services you offer. Plus, developing a website is a wonderful exercise to define your business goals, objectives, and the services you want to offer clients.

2. Pay attention to the details. What kind of entity is your little business? A sole proprietorship or a corporation? Do you have a business account for expenditures? Pay attention to the details so they can help inform your big decisions and help you focus on daily tasks. Paying attention to the little things will help you treat your business like a business and keep expenses in harmony with income.

3. Develop a product or service to sell. Selling a product or service is the core foundation of any business. Without this component, you’ll have trouble paying the bills. It’s essential to show how a particular product or service will benefit the buyer.

Kelvin: Recently you released your latest book, My Morning View. It’s a combination of both images and words which makes a little unique. What was the inspiration behind this project and what can readers expect?
Tammy: After my step-dad Mahlon, died in June 2012, I was depressed and sad. To try and make myself feel better, I went on long walks with my camera. Right before the new year, in 2013, I came up with a fun idea. I decided to start an iPhone photography project about gratitude, grief, and good coffee. I called the project  “My Morning View.”

Each day I get out of bed, make a cup of coffee, and then I go outside and took a photo of my morning view. My coffee cup makes an appearance in the frame too. Then, I share my photograph on Instagram and Facebook.

I began this project because I wanted to start my day with a positive, creative activity. Mahlon loved coffee and the great outdoors. I thought the photography series would be a wonderful way to honor his memory.

I never expected that I would turn this series into a book. I love photo sharing sites, like Instagram, but books have a different feel. Also, for the last year blog readers have asked me to create a photography book. So, I finally took the plunge and did it!

In “My Morning View,” I share my story, photography tips, a selection of my best photos, and a brief how-to guide. I try to remind readers that even when everything seems to be falling apart, we can find beauty and practice gratitude every day.

Tammy, thank you for your time and for sharing with the readers of Going Uncomplicated.

Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer and teacher. Read more at RowdyKittens.com. You can also follow her on Twitter.

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Becoming Minimalists

by Kelvin Belfon

BECOMING-MINIMALISTS-Minimalism

It was the 2nd of January when Camilla and I arrived in Denver. The kids couldn’t wait to see their new bedroom. We were all excited to move into our new home! But after completing the initial walk-through and seeing the actual dimensions, I had one horrifying thought, “How am I going to fit all the stuff sitting in the moving truck into this townhouse?”

Renting a storage unit was an option; but it was also an added cost. The landlord, perceiving our plight, began showing us alternate storage in the basement. We had no fallback. This had to work.

While unloading the truck, one of the plastic bags tore and the contents, my CDs, scattered everywhere. One of the younger moving guys looked at me and said, “Dude, have you guys ever thought about going digital and not carry all these CDs around?”

It was embarrassing. I felt old. I’m glad it wasn’t my cassette collection that I disposed of the month prior to our move! Although I had burnt the albums unto my laptop; I still kept the discs…some, for over THIRTEEN YEARS! This incident led me to ask myself, “Why am I keeping around things I’m no longer using?”

So to make everything fit, the basement became the “dumping” ground. My mother, who flew in to help us unpack a week later, started organizing the clutter. Thinking I could do better, I re-organized it when she left. It took days. But when we needed something, usually stuck in the back, the mess returned.

This ended up becoming a weekly chore for me. It felt like I was always stuck in the basement. Keeping everything in order was taking my time away from Camilla and the kids. Then I had an epiphany. “Why not minimize instead of the constantly cleaning and reorganizing?”

I began researching online for ideas and stumbled upon Zenhabits and Becoming Minimalists. These bloggers totally inspired me so much that I couldn’t stop reading.

All of these events combined had a major impact on my thinking. My wife was also experiencing the same feelings. So, becoming minimalists was the lifestyle we embraced.

It’s been 11 months now and eliminating the excess has turned our home into a more spacious and attractive place. I can’t wait to see what more we’ll do as our thinking continues to shift.

What factors have motivated you to simplify?

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The Journey Begins

by Kelvin Belfon

The Journey Begins

I was born in the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada. There life was simple. I didn’t have much or know how bad things were until I was older and more aware of the world around me. I had the necessities: food, clothing and shelter. For the most part, I was content.

After graduating from community college, I taught elementary school and loved the experience. Helping and empowering others brings me joy and a sense of fulfillment.

I immigrated to the US in 1997. Moving from an island of 110,000 people to a city of over 2 million in the greater Miami, Florida vicinity was no small thing. There were far more choices than I could reasonably process. Tasks like ordering from a restaurant menu, walking through a mall, or driving on a 6 lane highway were overwhelming. I felt lost at times; but for the most part things remained relatively simple.

Then things started to change.

I married a beautiful Jamaican girl, decided to work on another degree, bought my first home, and had two loving children. I’m very grateful for these life-changing events. However, there were also credit cards, mortgages, student loans, car notes, utility bills, and bad relationships.

Sometimes we lose focus. The chaos and complexity of life invades our space. Life is difficult but at times we make it harder on ourselves. And before we know it we find ourselves empty and unfulfilled.

I believe we can make life easier.

This is my quest: to simplify, de-clutter, and minimize in order to enjoy what matters most in life. I’m going uncomplicated! This new journey began earlier this year when my family and I relocated to Denver, Colorado. Unlike other moves, this one forced me to search deep within and reexamine my priorities.

My goals for this blog are to:

  • Focus on the things that matters most
  • Learn the art of simple living
  • Share my journey in hopes that it will help others
  • Connect with other like-minded individuals

The journey begins!

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image by: Gillian Claudia Johnson-Baptiste

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