Dee Williams: Dream big, live small

In 2004 Dee Williams designed and built a house that was roughly the size of an area rug.


Dee downsized from a 1,500 square foot house to an 84 square foot house.

1500 -> 84 square feetDeeWilliamsHouse

(a downsizing of 1,416 square feet)

Why downsize?

Dee’s motivations for downsizing include a trip to Guatemala, losing a close friend to cancer, and her own diagnosis of congestive heart failure at age 40. These events made Dee begin to question the time, energy, and money that her home required. She started dreaming. She dreamed of a bigger life in a smaller house.

While 84 square feet might seem ridicuously small on paper, her house feels much larger-like maybe 120 square feet. This magical expansion of what Dee calls her 6 X 7 “great room” is made possible by an 11 foot ceiling, a skylight, and some space saving ingenuity.

Here you can see Dee’s inspiring story and TED talk:

Twelve years after building her tiny house Dee still lives in it. Wow! Tiny house living is not a fad? At least not for Dee Williams. Downsizing, or maybe I should say rightsizing, gave Dee something that many Americans crave: more time, less busyness. A smaller home allowed Dee to exit the rat race.

(insert small sound of envy here)

Today, Dee works part time for the Department of Ecology, volunteers in her community, and spends time noticing the world around her (while I inhale a Starbucks muffin on my way to work).

Last year Dee wrote about her house building adventure in The Big Tiny, A Built-It-Myself Memoir. In this memoir, Dee describes her building project from the moment of inception til its completion. She also shares her thoughts on the benefits of slowing down, letting go of stuff, and connecting with nature and her community.


My favorite quote from Dee’s book:

“I discovered a new way of looking at the sky, the winter rain, the neighbors, and myself; and a different way of spending my time. Most important, I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being comfortable (or having money and property), but instead is linked to a deeper sense of satisfaction—to a sense of humility and gratitude, and a better understanding of who I am in my heart.”

In her TED talk, Dee asks us to think about the end of our lives and what it means to be human.

‘Gratitude, humility, grace’

Yes, the world needs more of this.

(and perhaps more tiny houses)

What do you think? Have you thought about downsizing/rightsizing? 



Practicing poverty, so that you have nothing to fear

Around 63 AD, a Roman stoic philosopher named Lucius Annaeus Seneca wrote 124 letters to a knight named Lucilius. These letters explain and extol the virtues of a philosophy known as Stoicism.

For example, Letter 18 (On festivals and fasting) suggests that you:

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”

Seneca suggests that practicing a fear, helps diminish the fear. So if you fear poverty or losing your job, practicing being content with less (the scantiest, cheapest fare) can help reduce your fear.

Seneca goes on to say…

…my dear Lucilius, you will leap for joy when filled with a pennyworth of food, and you will understand that a man’s peace of mind does not depend upon Fortune; for, even when angry she grants enough for our needs.

Seneca argues that if you rehearse poverty on a regular basis, say a few days each month, you’ll better appreciate your current situation and understand that happiness is not dependent on wealth.

…let us become intimate with poverty, so that Fortune may not catch us off our guard. We shall be rich with all the more comfort, if we once learn how far poverty is from being a burden.

Here are some things I’ve done in the past that I found rewarding:

  • Food: Ate oatmeal for breakfast, hard-boiled eggs for lunch, vegetables and lentils for dinner (cost of about $3 a day).
  • Transportation: Rode my bike or walked whenever possible.
  • Electricity/Heating: Cut back on electricity and heating/cooling; read by candlelight, went to bed early and got up with the sun.
  • Spending money: Counted how many days I could go without spending money.

And here are some new things I’m contemplating after reading Seneca’s letter:

  • Sleep: Sleep on the kitchen floor instead of my comfy bed.
  • Food: Fast for a portion of the day or drink Soylent once a day (liquid nutrition that tastes like chalk).
  • Clothing: Wear the same clothes for several days, washing them by hand.

What do you think? Is practicing poverty worthwhile or just annoying?

To read more letters, check out Moral letters to Lucilius or at your library checkout Letters from a Stoic by Seneca.

Dream Save Do – Amass the cash to live your dream

I just finished reading ‘Dream Save Do’ by Betsy and Warren Talbot. Betsy and Warren spend their days meeting people, traveling the world, and trying new things. Sounds pretty fun huh?

How did Betsy and Warren become world travelers? Betsy and Warren were your basic corporate drones, who on the cusp of turning 40 stopped buying things and started saving for their dream. Traveling the world.

In two years’ time they saved $75,000, more than enough to fund their travel budget of $100 a day (read Dream Save Do for all their money saving details). Last fall Warren and Betsy packed their backpacks and traveled to South America, then Antarctica, Europe, and now Thailand. They’re living their dream and inspiring others to do the same. Very cool!

Are Betsy and Warren the real deal? Yep! A couple of years ago I met Betsy when she was stockpiling cash and selling her possessions. I thought Betsy was fun and full of interesting stories (and this is before she started traveling!).

I love reading about people following their passion because they inspire me to do the same. Reading ‘Dream Save Do’ got me thinking about my dream.

What does my ideal day look like? If I could live anywhere, where would I live? What would I do? And what can I do today to make my dream reality?

Good stuff.

You can read all about Warren and Betsy’s adventures at

Life is short. Live your dream.

Giving thanks

A grateful heart is a happy heart. I’m counting my blessings today…

  • Clean drinking water
  • Warm and dry home
  • Amply stocked kitchen
  • Cup of coffee in hand
  • Plenty of books to read
  • 4 days off from work
  • Hot breakfast prepared by my daughter

There’s so much to be thankful for!

I need nothing.

Black Friday deals have no luster, when you take into account what you already have.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Quatchi having Thanksgiving breakfast
Quatchi likes pancakes

Walking your city

Picture of running shoeI recently found an app that got me thinking. ‘City Walk‘ divides your city into sectors, with your goal being to walk all the sectors in your city. There are fancy leaderboards and your progress is magically tracked by your phone and gremlins in the sky.

I think City Walk is a fun idea. I’ve lived in a Seattle suburb for 20+ years and City Walk got me thinking about walking my city. All of it. I can get a city map and walk different areas each week or month, marking off the completed areas.

Walking is a great way to learn an area. You might drive a route every day, but you see different things when you walk. You notice things that are overlooked when you’re speeding through life.

Walking has so many benefits…

Want to escape your busy life? Walk. Want to lose weight? Walk. Want to decrease stress? Walk. Want to solve problems? Walk. Want to reconnect with nature and your community? Walk.

It’s simple, free, and available to all. Walk your way to better health and well-being.

One street at a time.

How about you? Have you walked your city?

My photo blog post for today:

Picture of trees at dusk

Blog your way to change

One of the coolest things about having a blog is how it reframes your life. I started a blog about frugality and suddenly I saw a zillion ways to spend less, save more, and minimize my footprint (yeah, I’m talkin’ carbon). Tree silhouette

Lately (as in for years now), I’ve wanted to take more pictures. My mind would say ‘you should really take more pictures,’ but my body did nothing. So to motivate myself into action, I started a photo blog. Surprise! Lego

Kate’s 365 Photo Blog –  a picture a day!

Some days might be a little challenging. Seattle’s rain is persistent and work is, well ah, time consuming. However, so far I haven’t missed a beat. I find myself framing pictures in my head, whether I have a camera in my hand or not. So cool.

I highly recommend blogging.

Is there something you want to do? 

Get in shape?

Cook more?

Blog about it and see how your life is reframed.

Already got a blog or two? Drop the URL in a comment. I’d love to see what you’re up to. Now, blog on!

Experiences vs stuff

It’s the holiday season again; an excellent time to slow down and spend time with family and friends.

My family celebrates Chanukah and I’ve given my kids a few presents, but years from now I doubt they’ll remember these presents (I know I won’t). Instead of presents, I think my kids will remember the Chanukah parties that we have every year: latkes, candles, and spinning dreidels. Every party is a fun and unique experience.

I think most people would agree that experiences make people happier than things. The novelty of things wears off, but memories last a lifetime. That said, I hope you’ll spend lots of time with family and friends this holiday season.

Experiences are more memorable than presents.

Here’s to life experiences! Give the gift of your time – a very precious commodity in our busy world.

Related post:  No Christmas gifts this year dot com