Dee Williams: Dream big, live small

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

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.

BigTiny

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? 

 

Advertisements

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.

Office shopping temptations

I started a new job with an office, coworkers, and a commute. Previously, I worked from home in my pajamas, blissfully ignorant of the many shopping temptations that accompany an office job.

Working outside the home I found…

  • Lots of opportunities to buy food and drinks.
  • More consumer products, fashion, and gadgets. Hmm, that Kindle is smaller than mine and looks cooler. Should I buy new work clothes like those?
  • More opportunities to shop. I can easily shop on my way home or walk to a store during lunch.
  • Thoughts of grabbing dinner on my way home.

And finally, I felt compelled to buy something on my way home Friday. You know, as a reward for a job well done at the office.

In the end, I didn’t change my spending habits this week. But I can see that it’s easy to spend when you’re exposed to so many products and stores.

What do you think? Do you feel more compelled to buy things when you work outside the home?

Go old school. Use a basket

My daughter grabbed a basket at the supermarket.

“Let’s get a cart in case we want to get something big,” I said.

“But this basket holds less. I’m trying to save you money,” she insisted.

And so we shopped with a basket.

We found a few things that weren’t on our list (pretty typical when shopping with a child). However, since we had less space and had to carry everything, many purchases were averted.

The basket forced us to carefully consider our purchases. We stuck to our shopping list like glue.

Which got me thinking… when were shopping carts invented? Shopping carts first rolled into stores in 1937. The concept was delightfully simple: make shopping easy for customers so that they’ll visit often and buy more.

Ah, but of course!

If you want to put the brakes on your spending (and improve your upper body strength), go old school. Use a basket.

What tactics do you use to buy less?

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 MarriedwithLuggage.com.

Life is short. Live your dream.

Memberships: Use them, or lose them

I’ve been paying monthly gym fees for years. And years. I probably could have bought my own pool by now. OK, maybe not – but it feels like it sometimes.

Some months I swim a lot. And then there are months where I… um, don’t go at all. The bummer about memberships is that you pay whether you use the service or not. So this month I gave myself an ultimatum – use my gym membership, or lose it.

I decided that 10 visits a month is a reasonable goal.

Swimmer with tally marks

Sounds simple, but 10 visits is much more than I’ve been doing in the past. To meet this lofty goal, I’m doing a couple things:

  • I have a white card on my fridge to track my visits (goals that I don’t track are forgotten).
  • I set up a regular time to swim (2 pm) and blocked it out on my calendar.

I’m happy to report that the regular calendar appointment and the card on my fridge are helping me reach my goal. I feel much better about my gym membership now that I’m using it.

What memberships or subscriptions do you have? Are you getting your money’s worth?

Any time is a good time to reevaluate memberships and pull the plug on the ones you’re not using.

My 365 photo blog post for today:

iris