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Tiny House Living Teaches You Valuable Life Lessons

For the past two weeks we’ve been house-sitting a tiny house (and dog) for a good friend. This experience has taught us a lot about tiny homes in general, but more importantly, taught us a few important life-lessons as well.

Living in a tiny house helps you focus on what matters.
I can see now why tiny living is so attractive to people. Tiny living is a way to simplify your life and focus on the decisions and things that really matter. For example, if you are wondering whether or not you should buy something while living in a tiny home, you just ask yourself a few simple questions, “will it fit inside the house?” “Is it functional?” “Is it necessary?”

These are questions that many people forget or don’t ever think about when making any purchase. This process helps you focus on what you really need.  What i’ve discovered after living in a tiny home is that we probably don’t need as many things (or space) as I thought I would to be happy and comfortable.

Tiny homes make you actually use the stuff you have.
If you decide to live in a tiny house you have make some tough choices because you can’t fit everything and anything you want. You have to be selective and strategic. Hopefully you would bring things that you need, things that you would actually use on daily basis. Tiny homes force you to think this way. Most things – if not everything – in the tiny home has a place and purpose. If it doesn’t, then it’s not worth having. Problem solved.

Tiny homes make you clean/deal with your stuff.
Well, you don’t have to clean up after yourself. However, imagine you need to make lunch but you don’t have any space because you forgot about dishes from breakfast (and there’s no dishwasher to hide or wash dishes later). Plus, if you don’t wash those dishes, you may not have many extra dishes to use in your small cupboards. Living in a tiny house, you do realize the importance of doing things sooner rather than later.

Your stuff has no space to hide and so you either deal with it or deal with the consequences of it. I learned this the hard way.

valuable counter space would not exist unless you clean up after yourself often

valuable counter space does not exist unless you clean up after yourself

Tiny homes make you aware of how much water you use daily.
The tiny house we are staying in gets water from a hose. Waste water from the sink and the shower collect in a plastic bin that needs to be dumped out whenever it gets full. This is an excellent system to measure how much water you use on a daily basis.

Knowing that the plastic bin we are using to collect water is about the size of a file cabinet drawer, I have cut down my shower time to prevent water from overflowing. Even though I already tried to make a change in my showering habits, I overfilled the container the first couple of times. I also overflowed the container the first couple of times I tried washing the dishes. In other words, I didn’t even realize how much water I was using. Now, I’m not using more water than I actually need.

Because we use environmentally safe soap for our showers and dishes, we can dump the container of water into the yard to dispose of it. I estimate that we typically do this 3-5 times a day. Again, this is being conscious of our water usage and without having a flushing toilet. Imagine how much water we’d be using if we were in a regular house.

Speaking of toilets….

Tiny homes make you deal with your sh!t! What?
Unless your tiny home is connected to sewage, there is a good chance that you will have to manage your own human waste. For many of us living in a developed country, we never think about our waste. We literally flush it down some magical pipe and never think about where it goes or what happens to it.

In this tiny home, we use a bucket, plastic bags, and wood chips. Additionally there is a wooden box, toilet seat, and seat cover – but that’s it. No flushing water. No heated toilet seat like we had in Japan. Once the bags are full, we tie it up and throw it out with the rest of the trash.

The rap group Outkast said it best, “I know you like to think your sh!t don’t stink, but lean a little bit closer and see the roses really smell like poo, poo, poo.” Yup. And that’s a good thing to be aware of and to learn how to deal with it. Let’s face it: everyone poops. So why do we get so freaked out about it?

(Note: The pine wood chips and air fresheners really help so that your tiny home does not smell, in case you were wondering.)

Tiny homes force people to become better communicators *Bonus for living with another person in a tiny home*
If you want to grow in being better at relationships, live in a tight space with someone. Hopefully if you live in a tiny home with someone it was by choice and that you wanted to grow and learn with that person. Hopefully you like that person. There’s nowhere to hide in a tiny house. Amazingly, you can achieve somewhat of a separation of space (i.e. be in the loft while someone works at the desk below) and some sense of privacy, but compared to a typical-sized home there’s obviously no comparison.

You are forced to learn how to communicate better. “Can you pass me this?” “Excuse me.” “Hi. I guess we are talking because we see a lot of each other.”

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living and working in closer quarters = relationship building

I think tiny house living is a great option. It’s another perspective. A different way to live life.

You might think that tiny homes are for single people or couples without children but there are families living in tiny homes with young and older children. I was reminded by Michelle’s mom that Michelle’s aunt and uncle raised their two boys in an apartment that was around 500 sq. ft.. And of course, many people in Europe and around the world live in smaller homes.

You might read some of the things above and think, “it sounds challenging.” and it is,  but in a good way. It’s also a lot of fun and satisfying.

Let’s not forget that tiny houses are not just the ones on wheels. The average sq. footage for an average American home is 2600 sq. ft.!! We are currently living in 112 sq. ft. and our dream house is about 900 sq. ft. or less.

I know it’s not the right fit for everyone, but it does make wonder why we don’t challenge how we live. In our troubled world we need to find ways of living that is more sustainable and less wasteful.

Homes don’t have to be so big.

Living in a smaller space has helped us develop an awareness and skills that can help us have a more fulfilled life. It forces you to declutter and let go of things you don’t need and start to focus and hone in on the things that really matter. You live with more intentionality and appreciation, which are two things that conventional living is great at devaluing.  You start to appreciate that life isn’t about what is easy, but about what makes you more alive.

Tiny homes help people relearn what it means to live.

Could you live in a tiny home? Have you thought about downsizing? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.

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Just Because You Can, Does It Mean You Should?

When it comes to intentional living, this phrase, “just because you can, does it mean you should,” is extremely important and helpful.

Our world today wants us to do the opposite. It wants us to not think. It wants to take control of our choices and decisions and it does it under the clever disguise of ease. They want you to believe that life should be easy and that life is easiest when you don’t have to think.

Some might say that the ideal life is one that is the easiest. That if only we had more money, more things, or better looks, or a special talent, etc…life would somehow be better. So when we get to a point that we can do something that we weren’t able to before, we believe we should do it.

Maybe you got a new job or a raise and you can now afford to upgrade your possessions. Maybe you just got out of a relationship and are ready for a new one. Maybe you lost weight after working it off and think, “I can eat whatever I want now”.

Here’s the problem: none of these things are bad or wrong. The problem is not in the action itself, but the thought process that should happen before a decision is made, yet doesn’t happen. Do we think about the impact our decisions have on our lives? Do we see how little choices have huge, long-term effects? Do we take time to reflect on where we currently are in our lives, what we want for our futures, and how our decisions impact both?

Or do we give in to impulse? Do we live in the now like the world wants us to? I have and still struggle with this. It took me awhile to make any lasting changes in my behavior, but I figured out two things that help.

Be aware:
Be aware of your current situation when making a decision. What emotional state are you in? What is your history with these kinds of decisions? Most important is asking yourself why. “Why am I making this decision?”

Make decisions based on what matters to you the most:
Your priorities should be your guide. If your goal is to get or be healthy, then let that help you when making a decision. If your goal is to save money, then make a decision that works towards that goal. One of our favorite quotes is, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse”.

Before I committed to living an intentional lifestyle, I only thought about my natural cravings and tendencies before making a decision. For me, decisions were made solely on what would make me feel good, not necessarily what was good for me. There is a HUGE difference between the two (so I’ve learned).

There are two areas in my life where I have struggled with this. The first is with buying things- one area I have really grown in. The other is with food, and I still struggle with this daily.

One night of sushi. I love sushi.

One night of sushi. I love sushi enough to know I need control and limits.

What has helped me?

I ask myself, “Just because I can, does it mean I should?” Just taking a second to ask myself this has helped me to make better, informed choices. Each time I do this, I teach myself how to resist temptations and urges that I would have been susceptible to in the past (or didn’t even think about). I start building a track record of better choices and with that, my cravings lessen and the decision process become easier. The choice becomes clearer.

I become more in control of my life.

What do you think? Is this something that you struggle with as well? Are there areas in your life you could ask yourself, “Just because I can, does it mean I should?”

Let us know in the comments below.

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An Introduction to Tiny House Living: Pictures

So we’ve been living in a tiny house now for the past week-and-a-half and many of you have been asking,  “what does it look like?” and “how has it been living in a smaller space?” It’s been awesome. (Note: It’s not our tiny house. We are just housesitting and dog-sitting for a couple of weeks while our good friend is off on an adventure.) Months before this housesitting opportunity, Michelle and I watched a bunch of “Tiny House Nation” episodes with my family and was fascinated with all the stories of people transitioning into tiny homes. It’s a fast growing movement (if you haven’t heard) and people of all ages, couples, families, singles, retirees, working professionals, etc… are joining in. We’d thought it would be something we’d might be interested in but like anything you see on TV, actually experiencing it first hand is a lot different then watching someone else do it.

Why Tiny Homes?

This movement is growing and for great reasons:

Simplicity: you downsize your life and stuff. You keep only the things you need and value the most.

Affordability: tiny homes range in prices but typically cost between $15,000 – $30,000 to build compared to a typical sized home that can cost well over $200,000. Also, because of the size, there are lower monthly utility costs for water and electricity. Finally, depending on your state and city, tiny homes have their own unique tax code. Some fall under RVs, accessory dwelling units, etc… which means they aren’t taxed the same as regular homes and properties.

Mobility: many tiny homes are built on trailers and can be transported with a standard 4×4 truck. You can take your home with you.

Intentionality: This is something we personally experienced. More on this in another post.

Challenges?

Every home and living situation has it’s challenges and tiny homes are no exception to that:

Space: Who would have thought, right? You have to change your lifestyle and learn how to adapt. For two people (or a family) living in a Tiny House together, you have to learn how to share the space and hopefully you like each other and can communicate fairly well together.

Convenience: Living in a tiny home you are forced to take care of things sooner rather than later or else things get cluttered and messy real quickly.

Location: Though tiny homes are tiny in comparison to bigger homes, only certain properties can actually accommodate a tiny home.

We’ve got another post coming about what it’s like to actually live in a tiny house but here is a picture tour of this charming tiny home (that we’ve come to love):

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The entry way and mini-porch

Continue reading

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

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a recent selfie from Mai Châu, Vietnam

Every year I write a birthday post reflecting on something I’ve learned in the past year about myself (and thoughts about getting older). It’s a great way to see where I’ve been, who I am today, and hopefully reflects the person I am working towards becoming.  


I’ve always been a self-conscious person.

Some people call it being sensitive. I think it’s a hyper self-awareness of what I think of myself and what I think of what others might think of me (thanks, Sociology 101). I’m probably too sensitive.

As the years have gone by I have noticed no matter how youthful I feel, I am aging. This appears to be a trend that will continue for the rest of my life. Great. Michelle reminds me often that I need to stop saying “I’m old.” She’s probably right. However, one tangible aspect of aging has been the steady loss of hair on the top of my head (for some reason I’m still able to grow some hair on the sides and back of my head…yay for that). Thus the reason for the hats these days. I wasn’t really a hat person, but hiding bald spots and preventing scalp sunburn seems now to be the norm in my life.

If you had talked to me about this maybe 5 years ago, I would have denied it or avoided it. Me? The boy who my haircutting-great-Aunt swore had- and would always have- the “thickest hair in the family.” The one she swore would have hair when he was old. She was wrong. In fact, the first time I was even aware of my hair loss was when a good friend of mine in college (thanks, Anne) pointed out to me in my senior year that my hair was thinning. She was honest with me and I’ve always been thankful to her for that because I wasn’t honest with myself. 

I started to think about it. What would I be like without hair?

I worried about it. It seems silly to write about this today but I think many of us struggle with our appearance one way or another. Which actually brings me to a confession: My two front teeth are fake. Actually, let me be more specific, parts of my two front teeth are fake.

Kristi-YamaguchiThe story involves famous, Olympic-gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi, and a camp that she sponsored for children with disabilities. It also involves a swimming pool. Let’s just say that a 20-year-old version of myself, who was attending as a camp counselor, decided to try and show off his swimming ability. He tried to look and act cool. He tried swimming from one end of the pool to the other side completely underwater. As he went from the deeper end to the shallow end (unable to see and open his eyes because of his contacts) he slammed his mouth into the bottom of the pool due to the sharp rise in the floor. The floor was a rough, concrete bottom, which essentially ground away part of his two front teeth.

Immediately, the 20-year-old version of myself shot to the surface making a huge scene. Staff and, yes, Olympic-gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi came over to see my new look. I was mortified. I knew I had lost my teeth- the permanent ones they tell you that will never grow back. It was all I could think about. Though Kristi and everyone else at camp was incredibly gracious and supportive, I was embarrassed. Again, all I could think about was myself. What would people say? I’d be ridiculed. In that moment, it was a horrible, horrible feeling.

I’ll never forget what happened next. A large, muscular hand pulled me aside from the crowd to speak to me. He was a big man, someone who I had just met earlier that day. I don’t even remember his name. I just remember he was an impressive figure. The kind of guy you thought either played professional football, was a bouncer, or maybe both. Hoping for some consolation, he spoke directly and calmly, “Jedd. We are here at a camp for children with disabilities. Many of them cannot walk. They cannot help themselves. You can get your teeth fixed. Can they fix their situations? Don’t forget why you are here.”

I was ashamed and I was humbled. I needed that moment.

I wonder if you’ve ever felt like me- so focused and worried about things that are fleeting, that you forget about what’s really important. My hair and teeth do not define me. They might be part of my identity for a period of time, but my character, my values, my passions- these are the things I will have with me for a lifetime. As the years go by, I will continue to lose my hair, and my teeth, though fake are still there. I hope I will continue to smile. I will try to be thankful.

I’m still self-conscious, but I’m getting better because I am reminded of what happened. Everyday I look in the mirror and see my teeth. I see the fallen black hairs everywhere. I remember the 20-year-old version of myself, a pool, a very large man, and Kristi Yamaguchi.

And I am thankful.   

Updates from our travels

Miyajima-Japan1Greetings from Japan! For those of you who have been subscribed to our personal blog for a long time, you might have noticed that we have not been posting consistently as we used to.

The reason for that is we have shifted our focus over to our travel blog, in effort to start growing an online business that helps people pursue transformational travel.

We will still be keeping this Simply Intentional blog (a.k.a. jeddandmichelle.com). We’ll be using it to share any thoughts and reflections that don’t fit with the “intentional living” and “transformational travel” theme of our other site, Intentional Travelers. But again, these posts will be fewer and far between.

If you want to stay connected, we suggest signing up for our Intentional Travelers e-communications:

1. Subscribe to our e-newsletter. This has a focus on useful transformational travel resources, but we also include a monthly personal update from the road.

2. Subscribe to our blog digest. We have an option to get a list of our latest travel blog posts in your inbox every week or every month.

Both of these subscriptions can be accessed from our sign-up page, and you can adjust your e-mail preferences at any time.

Click to sign up for our e-newsletter or blog digests

Click to sign up for our e-newsletter or blog digests

Here are some of our most recent posts from Southeast Asia:

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How to Cross the Street in Hanoi

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Budget Travel in Mai Châu, Vietnam

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Staying Fit in Hanoi, Vietnam

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Candid Travel Photography