I heard Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens speak at a webinar for Habit Course and instantly knew that I wanted to meet her in person. Everyone once in a while you encounter someone who sparks something inside of you. Tammy did that for me. I did what any bold person would do, I asked her if she would meet me for an interview. She said yes!
We met a few weeks ago in Portland, Oregon and I found Tammy to be amazing and authentic. It was fun to talk, laugh, and get to know all about her lifestyle, tiny house, and car free life.
Can you briefly tell our readers about your blog and your mission?
I write about shedding your stuff, getting debt under control, becoming debt free, and how it all ties into happiness. I began five years ago to simplify my life. I discovered you don’t need as much as you think to live. I share my personal stories on my blog.
I started a blog to document simplifying my life. I didn't write expansive essays early on because I didn't consider myself a writer.
Part of my job at the organization I was at, was using social media. I only had a general idea about Facebook and Twitter but didn't know how to use it. I also wanted to learn about how to build websites. I taught myself the techie stuff and tell others if I can do it they can too.
My blog has certainly evolved and now as a writer, I wish I had more essays from when I first started blogging. But I have lots of memories.
What is your definition of minimalism?
You need to figure out what’s right for you. What is enough for you, in every facet of your life? For me I have Logan and my two cats. It’s different for everyone. Some people say, "I have kids, I can't do that." Look at Leo Babauta, he has six kids. He has more time to spend with his family. It's a beautiful thing. His needs are different than mine. You can't say minimalism is living out of a backpack. That's BS because not everyone wants to live out of a backpack.
What are the benefits of minimalism?
I’m happier. Eight years ago I was a very different person, materialistic, stressed out, over weight. I was stuck on a treadmill, I didn’t think I could get off. Now I make intentional choices on how I spend my time. I still work a lot but I’m intentional about how I spend my day. I don’t hop on my computer, Facebook and Twitter.
I’m mindful about my time. Research shows Americans are stressed out and overworked. I wonder if people are really making intentional choices on how they spend their day. Simplicity has helped me be more mindful of how I am in the world.
You’re strong believer in being involved in your community. Can you tell us about your involvement?
When I moved to Portland, I began doing volunteer work with Living Yoga, and I started working in their office. I still do volunteer work. I also help my friends when they need it. I planned and worked with Chris on the World Domination Summit in Portland. I appreciate the work he does. I also answer questions from my blog readers. I do formal and informal volunteer work.
We also give 10% of our income to Living Yoga. Our goal for this year is 20%. I just feel like, particularly Americans are so privileged and wealthy. Even the super poor have resources. A lot of people don't have that. Especially for me, I’m very privileged, I have a home, a bed to sleep in, food, my basic needs are met. I believe it’s important to recognize what we have, life is about sharing resources, helping others. There is a link between volunteering, happiness, and having a social circle. It all plays into happiness.
What are some obstacles that prevent the majority of people from living simpler lives?
I felt I could not do it, it wasn't possible to get off the treadmill. To change it’s necessary to remove that block from your vision and make intentional choices. Intential choices about doing what you love and spending time with your family.
Eight years ago I thought I couldn’t do a lot of things. I chose not to. The upper and middle classes have a lot of choices. If you have internet access and read blogs, you’re lucky. Ask yourself, “How are you going to use your resources to help the world?” I don't know what blocks are for other people but for me it was not making intentional choices.
It's one thing to get rid of stuff, what about people with shopping addictions?
There's a book, Stuff, the author talks about compulsive hoarding and it affects six percent of the population. If you’re addicted to shopping go to counseling. I'm a big proponent of therapy, if you have issues take care of them.
Do you see minimalism ever becoming mainstream?
I think as gas prices continue to rise, we'll see more people simplify out of necessity. They'll rethink how they are spending their money. For it to be mainstream, we need to rethink what’s good. We need a new economic model. It will be interesting over the next decade to see what policies and choices people make.
There is a book, ‘The Mesh,’ by Lisa Gansky . She writes about younger generations are choosing to live more simply and they're going car free. They see how expensive it is. With services like Zip Car we'll see business models going toward a sharing model, it's good for the planet and good for business.
Do you think with your nontraditional job, being car free and having a tiny house, do you see yourself on the cutting edge of this movement?
It makes me uncomfortable to think I'm on the cutting edge because there are a lot of people who are like me, who don't blog or voice their opinion because they're afraid too. I think we need to live our life the way we want to see the world.
Logan and I try to do this, we don't have a car because we want to see less people driving. We live tiny because it makes us happy. I don't know if we are on the cutting edge. It's a choice and a lot of people don't have these choices especially people living in third world countries. There's a lot to be said about sharing. As Americans I think we're going to have to give a lot of things up to share our resources and help other people.
Tell us about your writing routine.
I do a lot of my writing in the morning. I write everyday, it's my job. I have to sit down and do the work. It's not always fun and glamorous. I write real shitty first drafts, a lot of writing is rewriting. Now that I'm a writing for a living I have a lot of appreciation and respect for authors.
Now when I pick up books I see the time and writing that go into a book. I appreciate the author. It's really pretty stunning. I write 4-5 hours a day. Then I write a little more in the evenings. I write in 45-90 minute bursts. I set the timer and just go. I take breaks and make coffee or pet the cats.
What is the name of your new book? Why do we need to purchase it?
I'm working on a print book and the working title is, "You Can Buy Happiness and It's Cheap." I've never done the traditional publisher route before. I'm excited to see how it works. Publishers have the final say about the title, cover, design, editing, what stays, and what goes. The title might change, I just don't know. It'll be a collaborative effort.
If you're interested in a happier, healthier, simpler life you'll want to get the book.
How is the traditional route different than writing an e-book?
For me it's a lot more in depth. My two other e-books are in guide format with short chapters. They're more how-to, like an expansive workbook, here are the tools, go do it. My print book is more narrative and story based and academic research based. It's a challenge, it's the biggest writing project I've ever worked on.
Can you tell us about your tiny house.
Three or four years ago I saw this video about tiny houses and Dee Williams on YouTube. She has an 89 square feet, tiny house on wheels. It's like a tiny cabin. We're building something similar.
We're starting construction in July and we're super excited. We thought immediately, we've got to have one of those houses. Ours is going to be 250 square feet. Our quote for it is $32,000 and we'll pay for it with cash. We'll have no debt. If I need to take care of my parents I can move our tiny house in their back yard.
Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits, has totally transformed his life. People say I've got kids I can't do that. Leo has 6 kids. Courtney Carver, a great writer, has a real fascinating story. Dee my friend because of the internet and she designed our tiny house.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from your cats?
It’s very important to rest and take naps. That's a good thing!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years.
Go to my blog and go to the letters tab. I talk about my husband's family. They have a cattle ranch.I was talking to Logan about my family in Northern California and it's hard to be away from them. We've talked about moving. I don't think we'll be in Portland long term.