Tiny Tricia

My journey to a tinier me.

Filtering by Category: Tiny Life

7 Things I Enjoy About Living in a Small Space

For a year and a half now, I've lived in a 350SF apartment. I've lived in small spaces in the past as well—here's why I actually prefer them to larger spaces!

  • Wireless headphones work. My bluetooth headphones work anywhere in my home while my phone stays in one spot to charge.
  • Cleaning is minimal. I basically vacuum a 5'x7' rug once a month and dust a few surfaces with a Swiffer wipe. Boom.
  • Galley kitchens rule. I love cooking and have found galley kitchens to be way more efficient than kitchens with a lot of square footage. Just turn around and keep working.
  • Decluttering is manageable. When all your stuff is... stuffed... into a small space, you have extra incentive to declutter ASAP. And you also feel the benefit of it right away!
  • Decorating is simple. I have one room to pull together. Since I don't particularly excel at interior decorating, I like that I don't have to figure out more furniture and window treatments.
  • Feeling alone (in a good way). This is ridiculous but big empty houses make me run replays of daytime murder investigation features. So I like being able to see that there aren't any strangers hiding in my hallway. Cuz I don't have one.
  • Finding stuff is easy. There are only so many places I can leave my phone in my small home. But if I somehow lose it, I will hear it anywhere, even on vibrate.

Ultimately a lot of what I like about living in a smaller space has to do with being relentless about only keeping things I really like. It's a way of living that requires more thoughtfulness, and owning less has honestly brought a lot more contentment into my life.

My Commitment to Financial Sanity

One of my major motivators to live tiny is money.

It started with the realization that buying a home in the Bay Area is likely out of my reach, at least on my own. Fixer-uppers can start at a million dollars, which means I'd need $200,000 just for the down payment. Yikes.

Recently, I've been spending more time understanding my financial life. I'm finally at a point where things are stable—I haven't moved or changed jobs in over a year, I haven't traveled too much, and no emergencies have happened. Here's what I've been committed to:

  • I use one credit card and I pay that balance every month. I have a backup card and they both have limits I hope to never ever reach. There have been months I haven't been able to pay the entire balance from my checking account (like when I went on a cruise with my Mom), which meant taking away from my savings—but in most cases, that was planned.
  • I have a budget and I actually abide by it. Most months I'm not under-budget—but I am close to being on-budget. Some months I overspend in certain areas, like when I replaced all my bras at once and destroyed my clothing budget. But I use Mint and the rollover feature for budgeting keeps me honest—I haven't spent money on any clothes as I wait for my budget to catch up with what I spent.
  • I plan for big purchases. I put away the money I needed for my laptop when my 2009 machine started limping, and I've saved up the chunk of change I'll need to visit my Mom for Christmas. That makes those purchases much easier to handle when they come around.
  • I save 20% of my take-home pay automatically. If I don't see the money, I can't miss it. I'm finally building a comfortable emergency fund this way, and it's really exciting and comforting to have.
  • I'm contributing 5% to my 401(k). I don't have company matching and the market is shit so this is just about starting to build the retirement savings habit.

It's a privilege to live this way. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a financially stable home (that part with my Dad losing his job excepted), and I was able to graduate from college without any student loans because I worked my ass off for scholarships. I'm now fortunate enough to have a job that pays me well enough to have a reasonable budget and save at the same time. I've worked hard to be where I am, but I also acknowledge the advantages I have.

It can be hard living in one of the most expensive cities in the country, where a big portion of my age demographic is paid ridiculous amounts of money. I see friends post breathtaking photos from vacations around the world, not knowing if it's something they had to save 5 years to afford or if this is maxing out all their credit cards.

It's none of my business, really, but that impulse to "keep up with the Joneses" is real—I don't care about owning a high-end sound system or wardrobe, but I can't deny that I'd like to have a 3-week European adventure, too. 

Comparison is, of course, the killer of joy. So instead, I'm finding satisfaction knowing that I can comfortably pay all my bills each month. I can take a nice vacation every once in a while and not worry about how it will affect my credit. I think about taking on good debt instead of worrying about bad debt. I'm starting to understand what kind of investing makes sense for me (tl;dr: 70% low-cost index funds, 30% bonds), and I'm excited that I'll have taken some baby steps in this area before I'm 30.

At the end of the day, my financial sanity is about balancing security and comfort with enjoyment. I refuse to sacrifice either entirely. My tiny life is about figuring out what gives me the most happiness and doubling down on those things rather than continuing to add, and I think it's working out well.

 

Practicing Tiny: Oven

My kitchen is arguably the most important room in my home, but it's also one of the most expensive (both in money and space) when it comes to a tiny house. I want to be able to do full-fledged cooking in a tiny space.

ZOMG teeny tiny donut miracles cooked by a tea-light!

In my current studio apartment, the oven is quite small by modern standards—the internal dimensions are about 20" deep x 16" wide x 14" high. Despite the size, I use my oven about every day, partly because I use it to heat up food a lot since I don't own a microwave. Besides heating, I also bake somewhat regularly and do plenty of roasting and whatnot.

But so far, the only problem I've encountered is my pizza stone won't fit inside (and I haven't seen the need to buy a smaller one). The objection I hear most often concerns a turkey, but let's get real: unless I have kiddos (not happening any time soon), I'm not going to be the one hosting my family's Thanksgiving gatherings. So we're good!

When my current baking sheet had just become uncleanable, I decided to replace it with a $9 quarter-sheet that's just 13" x 9.5". My theory is I'll use this for all my cooking needs—and if everything fits, I don't need actually oven space bigger than what would fit that tray.

If that's the case, I might decide to get a badass toaster oven like this one instead of a full-sized oven (saving myself hundreds of dollars in the process). Never thought I'd say that, but if it meets my needs, why not?

I've had the small baking sheet over a month now and so far so good! I'll report back with an update if anything changes, but this has been a great test so far. Maybe the next step is getting the toaster oven and locking up my normal oven for a while?


Practicing Tiny is my series of experiments with tiny living—it's my "try before you buy" way of testing out what my needs are before committing to a build. It's fun.

Practicing Tiny: Laundry

I've been living without an in-unit washer and dryer for a year now and it hasn't been a big deal—I just haul my laundry 3-floors down to the basement and pay about $2 a load to wash and dry. It's annoying, but by no means a lifestyle deal-breaker.

As a result, I don't see the need to include a washer/dryer in my tiny house—it's just too much space, energy, water, and expense wasted to justify the convenience. 

I plan to take my clothes to a laundromat—or, because I live in the Bay Area where anything can be delivered, use a service like Washio. Since the first of these options is inconvenient and the second is expensive (and possibly one of the many businesses that won't survive the impending bubble burst), I wanted to see if I had other options.

Enter the Breathing Mobile Washer.

It's a really simple concept—manual agitation of small loads of laundry. There are other models out there for this kind of old school laundry (barrels you turn by hand or washboards for the really homested-y types), but they took up more storage space than I'm willing to give.

So I bought this simple plunger-like device and a rod that doubles as a great way to stretch my shoulder muscles. Did it work? Here's what happened:

Pros

  • Fast: The whole washing process took less than 15 minutes.
  • Cheap: I don't pay for water in my building and I didn't have to pay the coin-operated washing machine. The item itself only cost me $16.51 plus the rod and the bucket (maybe $10 together?).
  • Reliable: This works without regard to power—no drain on my energy source!
  • Private: I can do this in the privacy of my own home—no traveling, no waiting for a machine, no one watching me literally deal with my dirty laundry in public.

Cons

  • Physical: This isn't a task I'd want to do if I was sick or getting on in years.
  • Drying: This doesn't solve my need to dry things, and since there's no spin cycle, you need to wring things out by hand and let drip dry (or have an alternative). It's the next day and my dresses are still drying.
  • Small loads: I put in 3 dresses and it doesn't seem like I'd want to put in much more than that.
  • Water use: Although I only used about 6 gallons of water to wash and rinse my clothes, that's still water I'd have to have on site (as opposed to using the laundromat's). How I source my water for a tiny house may or may not make this a big deal. But hey, that's still way less than the 14-27 gallons of water the front-loading, high-efficiency washing machine uses!

And last but not least—are the clothes clean? I mean, I think so? I didn't have anything with serious stains and the water wasn't clear when I poured it out (not sure if that was due to dirt, color leakage or both). My clothes smell clean, and that's what I care about.

I think I'll keep using this tool for small items like underwear, socks, bras, and things that require hand-washing, but I won't be switching to it for all my laundry needs any time soon. It's an easy alternative to have around when you really need it, but I can't see it being my first choice in laundering. 


Practicing Tiny is my series of experiments with tiny living—it's my "try before you buy" way of testing out what my needs are before committing to a build. It's fun.

8 Women Who Inspired Me to Go Tiny

I know some really amazing people, and a bunch of them have been part of my journey to the tiny life, whether they knew it or not.

Vivian

The first person to trust me with working on her home! Vivian has never been shy about customizing her home to fit her needs and style, and she enlisted me as a curious high schooler to help with all kinds of things—from painting cabinets to texturing walls to sanding and polyurethaning wood floors.

I still wear that painting shirt. I love that it has marks from all my projects.

Coming from a home where painting walls was considered a major project, it was really cool to realize I could get more creative, and didn't necessarily have to pay someone else to do the work. I could learn.

Vivian was also a model for me because she purchased her first home on her own—something you don't always hear about. I decided then that if I wanted to be a homeowner, I'd never feel like I needed to wait for a partner to make it happen.

Eliana

After a hatha flow yoga class one Friday night, a group of women went out to eat Thai food together. Eliana was the teacher of that class, and happened to be sitting across from me.

She mentioned that she was building a tiny house with her boyfriend and was so gracious in answering tons of questions from me, thereby rekindling my interest in tiny houses and my hope of home ownership in the Bay Area. In less than a week, I'd decided this was the path I wanted to go down.

Victoria

I've known Victoria since junior high when we were in choir together, and we ended up living together in college. Besides my Mom, she was the first real model of minimalist living I'd seen, although neither of us called it that at the time.

For Victoria, making tea isn't something you do in a rush on your way out the door every morning. She was meticulous about it—boiling fresh water, timing the steep, and enjoying the cup at the table. I, on the other hand, was lucky to throw a bag of Earl Grey into a mug before I ran late to class.

The way she cleaned her bathroom was also fascinating for me to watch. She did it every week, first of all, and she emptied the entire contents of the room each time. Needless to say, her bathroom was always cleaner than mine.

Victoria was (and still is) a model of the pleasure of simple routines well done, and since living with her I've strived to achieve the same kind of order at home. 

Roxanna

Roxanna is another long-time friend from my choir days, and we've remained close as we each went to different colleges and pursued our careers. Not too long ago, Roxanna decided to take a job that would allow her to move back home with her parents and brother.

Not "force her"—allow her.

For Roxanna, spending lots of quality time with her family is really important, and what I admired is that she doesn't just say "family is important to me"—she made significant changes in her life that show how important family is to her.

On top of that, Roxanna is one of my more financially-attuned friends, and she knew that living at home would also allow her to save substantially more than she could otherwise on a fine arts salary.

These are the kinds of choices I admire in people—big changes to align your actual life with the values you express as important.

Paula

Built-in bookshelf filled with cookbooks.

I first spent quality time with my godmother Paula when I was in college and visited her to look at NYU for graduate school.

I absolutely fell in love with her home and how she lived her life.

Paula had been single for a long time and didn't have children—a life I could see myself having as well. Her home was filled with things she genuinely loved: art, books, vintage cookware, family heirlooms.

It was a conscious curation.

Since then, I've tried to make the same kind of choices about what I own and how my home feels, and a tiny house feels like the epitome of that (and how perfect—she was also the first to tell me about the existence of tiny houses!).

Lisa

I've known Lisa less than a year and I've been privileged to help her build her 21' tiny home here in the Bay Area.

Lisa in her storage loft before we put the roof on.

Lisa has children around my age who've been helping her with her project, but she's been a one-woman show in a lot of regards, working on the house full-time off her own hand-drawn designs.

While Lisa had more building experience than I currently do when we started, she was new to a lot of things. She taught me to use drills, tack on Tyvek, install windows, and run electrical wiring. 

Liz Rose

I'm not going to lie: Liz Rose has pretty much been inspiring me on all kinds of things since college. From living all over the world to starting her own design-for-good business in her early 20s, this girl shines.

When I visited her incredible 3-level, former school attic loft in Pennsylvania, I was impressed by how such a small and open area could be so cool. (Somehow I wasn't able to find a similar small space in the neighborhood and ended up in a 3-bedroom townhouse. Oops.)

She still keeps up the cool in her Washington D.C. studio, not to mention her under 100-squarefeet WeWork office space.

I can honestly say I don't think I'd have considered living in a studio apartment if it wasn't for her showing me it can be really lovely.

Teresa

When I met Teresa, she had the cutest small house I'd seen (it probably didn't hurt that she's a designer and has great taste).

I remember being really impressed with the kitchen renovation she and her husband had done through the power of IKEA and time.

When they got pregnant with twins, they renovated their attic to be a master bedroom—adding creative storage and a bathroom to boot.

 

I'm grateful for the influence these women have had on my life, and I hope they're all able to come visit me when my tiny house is done!