Things I’ve learned from living tiny (or very small)

Alright! It’s been a long time since we moved to Nelson, BC and updated the blog but it struck me that I’ve learned some important facts about myself, my wife and my Tiny journey that may be worth documenting.

As I sit on my small couch (exactly 69″ in length) with my Jotul 602 crackling away and some heavy snow coming down I felt I should share some lessons I’ve learned about starting to live Tiny…for me it’s been a journey of years in the practice…and I’m still planning one more downsize that would bring me into a moveable, owned by me “Tiny Home on Wheels”, right now I am living in a sub-400sqft place renting on the side of a mountain.

So the wife and I sat down and made a quick list of things we’ve found easy, things we’ve found difficult…and things we would change/incorporate into our own custom THOW.

  1. Lighting is important, the more natural light or UV lights you can cram into your place the better. Our place has a couple of  huge 5x5ft windows and without them I think the place would feel much more claustrophobic. Sunroofs would be an absolute must though.
  2. Bathtub is important, I’ll admit this is more for Janelle than myself but after a couple of years with no bathtub…I do miss them on occasion…even if it was just a small tub to soak in once a week that would be great. This might be one of those things we could not incorporate if we had a shared communal space.
  3. Closet’s and storage are important, our place has ample bookshelves but lacks in a simple closet…I still work an office job and honestly a closet would just be so great to maximize storage or hide appliances, etc.
  4. Underskirt and Insulation are important, Without an underskirt to the house there is a noticeable temperature difference, I always remember when I was young people in my town piling up strawbales or bags of leaves, I’m not sure why that fell out of fashion…also…even though sprayfoam is more costly…I think I’d have to splurge on it..
  5. Composting Toilets are totally fine, this was a bit of a scare…what would people think? Is it going to smell? Do we need to spend thousands on some kind of futuristic combustible toilet? Nope…it’s been pretty easy…straightforward…tmi…but I generally pee out in the woods which I really thinks us help with the sheer amount of sawdust and the amount of times we have to haul this stuff out. We’re lucky enough to live in a wooded area with lots of space but I would probably create a THOW with plans for all kinds of options.. We just have greywater in our current place that drains outside
  6. No deep frying, is this something I learned? I dunno…but yeah…absolutely zero deep frying is allowed in the house or it just reeks, the few times I have deep fried something I ran an extension cord from the inside of the house to outside to fry something up.
  7. Plan for a small offsite storage, when you are living in a small place it’s important to have a feeling of openness and cleanliness. While we have some storage under the bed it can be tough to get to and if I just stuff things under the house we have to worry about mold and animals. A small 8ft trailer or even offsite storage facility might be able to offer you
  8. 30AMP is perfectly fine, we have no sewage and only a natural water cistern but we do have some electricity and have found our 30 amp service is totally fine.I still want to really experiment with solar capacity though.
  9. Loft ladders suck, and I think we probably have the best ladder I’ve ever seen…but honestly…you can use stairs for storage space…so much better….
  10. Wood stove heat is required, I think in a small space like this you really need to worry about hygge and I can’t find any better source than wood heat. I always just like the self sufficiency of wood heat…
  11. Appliance Size, we definitely love our large sink, I would never suggest going with a bar sink. Adapting to the small fridge was really no issue at all, more than enough space, we would still go with a fullsize fridge in our THOW, something with about half freezer space would be idea. Our small toaster oven…totally fine…and our two induction plates…also good…not sure if I would go with a built in oven or stick with having everything moveable.

That’s it! Not the most polished of articles and I might be missing stuff but wanted to share and make sure I remember what’s I’ve learned here.


Just get rid of it!

My wife and I are relocating and planning to drive across provinces to a new city taking only things we can fit in our van. In order to do this we’ve had to purge quite a bit of material (even though we both identify as minimalists to begin with ). On more than one occasion during this purge I felt that tang of regret thinking one of the following

  • But I might need this in the future!!
  • But I spent $300 on that!
  • But there are so many memories!
  • Why don’t I hang onto it until I find the perfect person to give it to?

One of the things I always try to stress to people during our minimalist meetings is that they need to focus on their goal, is it to recoup costs or is it to get rid of stuff so they can refocus their life? I understand totally the desire to make sure the perfect person gets your old used cross country ski’s…or that you just last year dropped $500 on something. In my case we are moving into a 300sq feet home so we have a really good motivation to remove as many things as possible.

I also somewhat believe in karma…I have given away quite a bit of stuff over the last week, many things I hand built or spent some good money on…but I also got gifted a pretty wicked bicycle that definitely makes up for everything gifted away. Sometimes giving things away pays back way more than the $40 you could have gotten from a stranger on kijiji.


My mother in law drove in today to pick up a piece of furniture that she wanted to “keep in the family”, a 1940’s dresser that her parents had owned and had always been in their household. This dresser has been bouncing around the family for decades and spent the last several years living here. I hope this isn’t that the following comment doesn’t come across as rude but I feel I should also point out that this dresser is UGLY.

Once my mum-in law came out and saw the dresser she became really truthful with herself and realized that this large ugly dresser was really just an embodiment of misplaced sentiment. She wasn’t going to use this dresser…it was going to sit in a corner of her basement and collect dust and then, in all likelihood, be tossed out by one of her kids when she eventually moved on to the next great adventure.

Remember…it’s not things that hold memories…at best they are just triggers to those memories…so…in closing…if anyone wants an ugly 1940’s dresser drop me a note…free…to a good home or I will drop it off at Earth General’s Free Store sometime this week.


*ps: it looks better in the picture…


As of today I am 100% debt free (legally)

Becoming debt free has been a goal I’ve been focused on a very long time. When I flip through my old journals I actually see it becoming a recurring theme…even when it’s a (relatively) cute amount such as $500 back in the good ol days when I was 20. Having just become debt free though I didn’t feel all that big of a change, I figure there are likely two reasons for this.

  1. While I am legally debt free I am not morally debt free, Janelle assumed a bit of my debt when we got together and now we both have to work together to pay that off as quickly as possible.

2. It’s really just a number that changed in a database and I’ve learned not to be so stressed about it.

I also feel a little bit numb as I am in Alberta which is going through another huge bust right now, headlines like this seem to be becoming the norm:

Suicide rate in Alberta climbs 30% in wake of mass oilpatch layoffs

I truly think the minimalism path I am on is such a great tool that could be applied to so many people, with proper budgeting and priority you can take huge strides to make yourself recession proof which I think is the ultimate goal we should all strive to reach. I’m going to quote Marge Simpson here….

Homer, when a man’s biggest dreams include seconds on dessert, occasional snuggling and sleeping in til noon on weekends, no one man can destroy them.

That’s one smart lady…..Now I might expand on that just a wee bit…to perhaps include a warm bed…and a nice safe roof over your head…maybe a garden or a view of a sunset…but it’s really semantics…..Marge really nailed the correct sentiment here. If we can all teach ourselves to be truly happy with enough then we are all that much better off.

To be seriously considering killing yourself when over something like money when you have a full belly and a warm bed should be unheard of. That being said I realize that your finances can be hugely stressful and that many people define themselves by their job + materials…… LET’S FIX THAT! 🙂

One question that constantly irks me is “what do you do for a living?” in most circumstances the questioner really just wants to ask “What is your soci-economic level in comparison to moi?”. I’ve been trying to coach people to change the format of the question to “What really interests you?” or even “What are your passions in life?”…I suggest everyone try that sometime in the next month…it can be truly inspiring the answers you get.

I think there are two main ways us as a society could help prevent this kind of extreme stress (suicide being the ultimate express of stress but let’s not forget that we can all benefit from less stress in life)

  1. You are more than your job, you are a strong wonderful person who is capable of doing so much more than paying bills.
  2. Have less stuff and obligation, there will be up’s and down’s but if you can always live at a basic enjoyable level then you are in a much better position to ride out the inevitable storms (many of which are beyond your control)

Objectively Janelle and I are making quite a bit less than we did a few years ago when we had to strong incomes but I’ll guarantee you we are in a better place and headspace now.. We’ve moved to a smaller cozier place walking distance from Janelle’s new job in a field she’s actually interested in. While I’m still working in CubeTown, Alberta I’ve really developed a huge amount of passions outside my work that get me excited to see progress.

I wanted to post some links (in no particular order) to a handful of blog/books/sites/whatever that have really helped me put my financial desires and future into perspective, I think any and all of them should be required reading at any stage of your life;

Mr. Money Mustache — Early Retirement through Badassity

The Wealthy Barber – a good read just for it’s bit on insurance

Smoke and Mirrors: Financial Myths That Will Ruin Your Retirement Dreams

Ernie Zelinski, just about anything by this fellow Edmontonian

How to Retire the Cheapskate Way: The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Guide to a Better, Earlier, Happier Retirement

How to be Idle, a Loafers Manifesto

Also…during this Holiday season I realize a lot of people open up their wallets and help out those far less fortunate, I had the pleasure of dropping off $500 cash I had raised recently to the Edmonton foodbank. Let’s not all forget that hunger and real poverty doesn’t disappear when the Christmas lights come down…people need help all year round.


I may not mention this enough but I host monthly minimalist meetings here in Edmonton…feel free to stop on by and say hello sometime…



Why Amazon is better than the local bookstore.

I recently wanted to buy 10 copies of a book that was very important to me and distribute them out as gifts this holiday season.

As I am a huge ‘buy local” enthusiast my first thought was to head down to my (last) local bookstore and ask them for a price on 10 copies. They came back with an estimate of $160 and “they would call me in a few weeks when it was in”. I then went over to Amazon and realized I could have those same books…delivered to my door within 2 days for about $60 less.

That’s a pretty big difference and it really got me thinking about buying local vs amazon when it comes to books. So I wanted to create a list that summarized all of the major points that were important to me and see which one would win.


Winner: Amazon

This one isn’t too much of a surprise that Amazon wins based purely on the book cover price…we all know they are cheaper. But I’m also a big fan of looking at the “hidden costs” of an item and I have many many times paid a premium for a local service so why not this time? Well…the book isn’t printed here locally…the author probably isn’t local either…also…the dollars I “save” here by using Amazon will almost assuredly be spent locally. At best a couple of dollars might be put into the local community…into arguably a pretty inefficient business.


Customer service:

Winner: Tie

You probably thought that I would have given this to the local store….they are great and there is something about wandering around a store sipping a coffee and getting a personal recommendation. The problem with a personal recommendation by a single book dweeb is that it’s really more his opinion than understanding of your own tastes…Amazon has complex formula’s from hundreds (or thousands) of reviews and buying history.There is no way the local book dweeb can compete with that and in my own experience Amazon is way more accurate at suggesting something I would enjoy.

Now I do love the fact that my local bookstore has an area for authors to come in and talk to the public..I’ve used that space many a time in fact…this is something that Amazon simply can’t compete with. Naysayers will say if we don’t support the local bookstore this type of facility would disappear…I would argue that the cost even for this single purchase could rent me an appropriate space for an evening.


Winner: Amazon

We all “know” that a local bookstore is a pivotal part of a neighborhood and community and encourages people to read more books…or does it? Nope actually people that use Amazon/Kindle read more books. It’s just so easy…maybe it’s a sign of myself getting older but after a bottle of wine now instead of going out to the club I might hop onto my kindle and buy 2-3 books. Checking my kindle the next morning to find out what I bought is way better than the fear of what text messages I might have sent!

Amazon can of course draw on a huge amount of physical space that would dwarf any real bookstore.

Final Thoughts:

The Minimalist in me also loves the appeal of e-books…but the anti-mega corporation part of me is concerned that once Amazon has ran everyone out of business they will no longer have the same level of customer service/amenities and cost savings they once did. So those concerns cancel themselves out. For now I still plan to use both…books that I


I also want to give an Honorable mention to Albrahama books here in Edmonton, they are a fantastic local bookstore but have really carved out a niche that sets them apart in dealing with older hard to find books…most of the above does not apply to them. In fact I think bookstores are going to have to really work hard (but that it’s totally doable) to diversify their business. Get more authors in…get prices down…setup coffee shops instore…offer things amazon can’t.


In case anyone is wondering the book I was Great Idea’s “Where I lived and what I lived for” by Thoreau. I know it’s almost cliche but have to say that this book is one of the most important I have ever read. I actually carry a copy on me almost always.


How to organize clothes

I had planned to do a great post on folding clothes ala “The Art of Tidying” via KonMari but found a new favorite blogger so instead decided to post a link to her really nice article;

Besides 4 big hairy swears I love to swear using this method I got down to a single drawer….which I’m pretty impressed by..though I am still finding my dress shirts get pretty wrinkly so not sure what to do…go back to hanging or maybe I should just get used to ironing in the morning?

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