Two Years to Tiny

Our journey from city life to living tiny, and all that's in between!


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Back in the Groove

After one of the busiest months we have ever had, we finally met one of our downsize-goals…YARD SALE!

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I am not going to lie….graduate school is hard, and old habits die hard.  Buying dinner here, snagging lunch there.  And the exhaustion!  It has not been easy to keep our eyes on the goal.  But, I do want to celebrate the successes.

This week, we finally got together all of our stuff and sold a ton of it. Holli even managed to sell some of the bigger items…lke the couches and a bed frame. In fact, we made $160 bucks!  Not bad for a last minute yard sale!

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We actually found it very easy to sell our stuff.  I held less attachment to all the crap; I honestly just wanted it gone. It felt REALLY good!

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Battle Tips: “The Need to Spend”  

After three weeks of significantly reduced spending and a much tighter budget, it feels great to say we made it this far. However, we are by no means “cured” of spending excessively.

We are still inundated with commercials, ads, thoughts, and “wants” every day. For instance, I wanted a new belly dance belt this week. I didn’t need it, but my mind was racing with all kinds of justifications: But it is second-hand! It is only 15 dollars! I will wear it when I perform!

This habitual spending has been going on so long now, that when I sense it playing out, I am often overwhelmed and I feel depressed. I am supposed to be better than this! I know better than this!

So I am here today to cut myself some slack, and share what I do when I want to spend. B.B. King once said “The beautiful thing about learning is that nobody can take it away from you.” And he was right; struggling with spending is the learning curve of reducing stuff and saving money.

So here are the steps I have been using to combat the “need to spend”:

  1. Is this a want or a need?  This is an important step. Do you need a new belt? Probably not.
  2. Why are you questioning the purchase?   Because you want something different for yourself. Will buying that belt get you closer to your goal, or keep you where you are?
  3. Take a deep breath!  You haven’t failed because you want something. Let that go.
  4. Celebrate: you are now aware of bad habits.  Guess what? You are already doing something others aren’t, and that is huge!
  5. Smile at the changes you are making.   What are you grateful for in your journey? What have you accomplished so far that means more to you than a purchase? Doesn’t that feel better than buying something that you don’t need?

Try it the next time you want to buy something…how does it feel?  Do you have your own countdown to battle spending?


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The Illusion of Choice and Debt

One of the biggest questions I have had as I begin to reevaluate my way of life, and the impact it had on my well-being and environment, is “how did I get here?” It seems proverbial, but it was a very valid question when I started to look around at all I had accumulated. I kept trying to pinpoint the exact moment when I began to think that debt and “the grind” were the only way to get to where you wanted to be. That led to another question: had I ever been asked where I wanted to be?

So much of what we are brought up to think is a risidule way of thinking: our parents did it, and their parents before, so it makes sense that we would do what the people we trusted told us we would “want.” In fact, it is so conditional, that I actually started remembering moments when a family member would say “you will want your own house some day” or “you will want your own family.”

Now there is nothing wrong with these assertions. My family talked to me about this because they love me and had a vision of me being happy. But when I really spent some time thinking about how these questions were asked, the answers were “student loans, mortgages, career, babies, debt.” This was just how you did it, and if you wanted to have all these things, you had to play by the rules.

As it turned out, I was very good at this game. I graduated college with a little student debt, I got a job out of college, but needed office-appropriate attire, so I got a credit card. Then I realized I could buy a lot of things on credit. So when my car kicked the bucket, I bought one on a loan. As I moved up the ladder in my jobs, I decided that renting was silly, so my wife and I bought a house. I got a mortgage and escrow. The whole time I was congratulated, like I was achieving something incredible that no one else could. But looking back, I had not really worked for the items I owned, I only worked to get the credit to go into debt for them. And everyone around me could do this too.

This is certainly not the demean those who choose to live this way. What was, and is, startling to me is that I never chose it. It was this “illusion of choice” for me. I had to find my own definition of happiness, and that meant finding my own set of choices! It is very liberating to realize that I am finally writing my own story, alongside my wife. I get complete ownership over it.

Living “tiny” is the manifestation of that choice for us. And each day, as we make more frugal decisions and eliminate clutter from our lives, I feel this overwhelming sense of peace coming over me. Holli and I are laughing more. We are worrying less. We are spending more time together. My relationships feel more valuable. My choices feel more meaningful.

Our life together is no longer an expectation, but our own wonderful choice. And that feels pretty darn amazing.


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Before and After: De-cluttering the Guest Room

For the last three years, this room has been a tidy guest room with one exception, two packed closets and dresser full of clothing we haven’t worn in years. 

In the past month, it had unintentionally turned into a catch-all for the house and as you can see from this rough-panoramic, it was an overwelming example of our need to make a drastic downsize. 

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We finished the cleanout today, with 12 bags for donation, a box of items for the August yard sale, and about 50 pounds of trash (paper, dingy sheets, un-usable items).  It was refresing and terrifying all at the same time: letting go of sentimental items and realizing that letting them go meant freedom in more ways than one.  

For me (Sara) it was very therapeutic to let go of some childhood memories that I had held on for about 13 years.  This included pictures of people whose names or faces I could not recall.  I found relics of past relationships and friendships.  I realized my memories, especially the good ones, had been well preserved without the physical presence of these items.  Afterall, I had no idea that they sat gathering dust in a box under the guest bed. 

The room now has a minimalist energy, and it feels so good to walk through it and see the first successful purge. 

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The room represents our dedication to making major changes, and letting go of the stuff that serves no other purpose but to clutter our life!  Boy does this feel great! 

 


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Brainstorm to Blueprint

One of the first steps that we realized would have to be taken to create a tiny lifestyle was adopting a minimalist perspective.  This would mean changing how we interact with purchasing.   Coming up with a blueprint for how this will work has been a challenge, so we came up with the first steps to get us going!

One of the most significant hurtles most people have when it comes to money is sticking to a budget.  We know the most important thing we can do to go tiny is to FINALLY adhere to our strict budget.

Stick to a Budget

This means not spending more than our modest $20 allowance a week, or overspending on elaborate meals or eating out.  We recognized a long time ago that one of our weaknesses was deciding to eat at a restaurant instead of cooking at home. Frankly, we were being lazy.  We also justify frivolous purchases, like clothing, nights at the bar, and knick-knacks for the house with the rationale that “we work hard, we deserve it”.  Often, we charge these purchases.  Sticking to our budget, saving an emergency fund, and paying down frivolous debt is priority number one.

Taking on the CLUTTER

Our current home is only 1200 square feet, but we have managed to fill it with stuff.  We are going to commit to sorting through each room and making initial decisions about what we can do without.  We realize we will have to do this again (many times), but the first steps will teach us a lot about letting go.   We also plan to sell a lot of our possessions in yard sales and donate the rest. 

Re-Training our Brains

We are trained from a young age to consume and spend.  We know that a large part of readying ourselves for tiny living is working with what you already have.  That may be baking your own bread, going to the library for books, riding your bike in the park, or gardening and tending to a crop.  We don’t have to spend money to pass the time.

Rediscovering What We LOVE to Do

We all probably have a dusty bike in the garage, an old yoga DVD sitting on the shelf, the dance class you always wanted to try, or the journal you wanted to keep.  Did you pay for 4 semesters of Italian or Spanish and not ever actually speak it? (Fingers are pointed right back at us on that one!)  Part of slowing down means discovering what you LOVE to do.  We both let consumption take priority over our interests and hobbies. We are ready to change that.

Learning the Skills to Build and Live Tiny

This also means being sustainable…so we need to integrate that into our lives now.  This means getting our vegetable garden up to par, learning everything we can about construction, reaching out to the tiny community for resources, and making improvements on our current home without a contractor. 

Blogging and Holding Ourselves Accountable

We wanted to share this entire journey from start to finish for two reasons: (1) To share our process from the very beginning so that others out there can interact, and hopefully relate to our experience and (2) to hold ourselves accountable to the community who supports us. 

We know this is just the beginning, but we both feel pretty confident that these are all very achievable goals.  You have to start somewhere!


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Two Years to Tiny: Our Journey to Freedom

Starting these kind of blogs often reminds me of a first date.  You find a way to introduce yourself, you share some details of your life, and you hope that the other end is interested enough to keep coming back for more!  

So, to share who we are, I am Sara Cohen-Glaze, a 26-year-old Communications Coordinator for a film commission, attending graduate school for Nonprofit Management.  My wife Holli, who will also be an author on the blog, is a 27-year-old Project Manager for a nonprofit who assists individuals with developmental disabilities. We have been obsessed with moving to the country for about 2 years now, but have owned a house in the city of Greensboro, NC for about 3.  As you can probably guess, our ideas about what we want out of life have begun to change pretty drastically.  I am finding that the script that was laid before us on “how to live your life and be a success” doesn’t fit us too well.  In fact, the more stuff we accumulate, the less we feel successful.  I almost feel like I am buying a ticket to a movie I am not interested in seeing.  There are a lot of reasons I think this happened to us, but for now, let’s just say we need a change. 

My wife and I had a serious conversation after watching the Ted Talk “Sell your crap, pay your debt, do what you love” and reading several blogs and articles.  What did we really want out of our lives together? We realized we wanted less stuff, more freedom to do the things we loved, and to live modestly.

 That led us to the tiny house movement.  Holli has been studying the construction of the houses and reaching out to tiny house owners and bloggers for support.  We are finding a vast community of information, and now, want to become a part of it by sharing the entire process in a public forum. 

We are asking you to share this journey with us.  The goal of “Two Years to Tiny”, our blog and journaling of this process, is to expose the every learning experience, emotional threshold, and trial/error of the process of letting go of things, paying off debt, selling a house and cars, and building our own home.  We both recognize that this journey will not be one that happens without struggles and drastic changes.  These changes will take time, but we are ready for them.  

Some of the first things you will see is our current home, and the CLUTTER we are sifting through.  Just last night, we started the process of going through our office.  We realized we have a lot more stuff than we imagined.  Wait until you see what we are learning to let go of!

We also have a lot of questions, many of which I would love to pose to the community.  So I hope you come aboard and offer your voice to this growing conversation of dreaming big and living small! 

Cheers, 

Sara