My Interview with Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens

by Tess

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.

Favorite minimalists?

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.

I also have a guest post today on Zen Habits and another on Change Your Thoughts!

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Adren July 19, 2011 at 8:47 pm

This sounds just what I’ve been looking for, new intrest


Sandra / Always Well Within July 19, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I love Tammy’s writing and approach. I am so glad you connected with her, Tess. Thanks for this excellent interview.

Tammy, I love what you say here. It’s so inspiring to hear how you felt stuck but were still able to transform you life and find so much more satisfaction, peace and happiness. I really appreciate your reminders that we don’t live on this planet alone:

“As Americans I think we’re going to have to give a lot of things up to share our resources and help other people.”

I agree with you completely. It’s refreshing to hear your perspective and kind heart!
Sandra / Always Well Within´s last post…The Dalai Lama on Finding Contentment in a Troubled World


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Thanks for passing by. You and Tammy are kindred spirits. Don’t know why I didn’t see that before!


Simon Hay July 20, 2011 at 4:23 am

Tammy, I love what you’ve shared here. We have too much, it makes us lazy, and apathy prevents us from changing. Intentional choices – I like that.
Simon Hay´s last post…Connect With Spirit & Psychic Development Night


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I agree sad but true. I get lazy myself sometimes. And I love that word as well. It’s a great take away from this interview, one powerful word…intentional.


susan July 20, 2011 at 6:24 am

Hi Tess and Tammy! Love it, love it, love it! I see simplicity and minimalism not just with your surroundings (which is HUGE of course) but also with our food choices! It really doesn’t take huge supermarkets to nurture our bodies with good food – it is really quite minimal what we actually need to eat healthy and thrive. To me it is all connected.

Thanks for a super blog!


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Yes you are correct simple intentional food choices. I’m all for it.


Tonya July 20, 2011 at 8:19 am

A great reminder to start going through my “stuff” again and see what I can get rid of. It really does feel good in the end!
Tonya´s last post…Awareness


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Yes getting rid of needless stuff brings freedom, time and energy!


pea July 20, 2011 at 8:19 am

You and Tammy Strobel – a very good connection.


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm

I agree…gotta love Tammy!


Melody | Deliberate Receiving July 20, 2011 at 11:02 am

HI Tess,
I really enjoyed this interview. I’ve never heard of tiny houses before, but will check it out. It’s so true that Americans have an incredible standard of living. Traveling can really open your eyes. I’m pretty much a minimalist, but I have to say, it’s probably more because I’ve moved around so much more than anything. I just can’t allow myself to accumulate stuff. But you know what? I don’t suffer because of it.
Thank you for this post. It really gave me a new appreciation for my lifestyle. :)

Melody | Deliberate Receiving´s last post…Overcoming Laziness With the Law of Attraction – VLOG


Galen Pearl July 20, 2011 at 12:49 pm

How wonderful to find out about someone so interesting right in my own back yard (here in Portland)! Thanks for this great interview. I love the title of the new book!
Galen Pearl´s last post…Mary was a Real Mother


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I hadn’t heard of tiny houses either. It’s the coolest thing. Just can’t talk hubs into it. No way he things I’m a little nuts for giving up my car.


Tess July 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

I’m with you all the way and she has such integrity and is doing it for all the right reasons!.


Cathy | Treatment Talk July 20, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Wonderful interview, Tess It was interesting to learn more about Tammy. I believe there is a changing tide with many people who have realized that having lots of stuff doesn’t buy them happiness. So many of the kids that live in San Francisco don’t have cars for a variety of reasons, but it’s just one more way of letting of unnecessary burdens in your life.
Cathy | Treatment Talk´s last post…How Drug Class is Helping to Prevent Addiction in Canada


Tess July 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm

I think a lot of people are realizing it and changing. It will be more painful for those who resist and feel like they are forced to change. I think we’re all at different stages and just need to know it’s all good and when we know better we do better.


Cathy | Treatment Talk July 20, 2011 at 4:04 pm

Wonderful interview, Tess It was interesting to learn more about Tammy. I believe there is a changing tide with many people who have realized that having lots of stuff doesn’t buy them happiness. So many people that live in San Francisco and other big cities don’t have cars for a variety of reasons, but it’s just one more way of letting go of unnecessary burdens in your life.


Megan Bord July 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Awesome interview; Tammy I like your style! (PS – I loved your honesty and laughed when I read, “I write shitty first drafts…” That’s why I love my editor. I’m also glad to know that my creativity/brilliance flows at different levels depending on the day of the month. Sometimes I don’t even recognize a sentence after I’ve typed it – that’s how bad it can get.)

So much to say in response to your interview, but I’ll minimize (!!): reuse, reduce, recycle. It’s not just for consumers anymore! That tagline could be applied across many areas of life and it inspires me to hear how you’re living.

Thank you for being here, and being BOLD with us!

Best to you & I’ll look forward to reading your published book.


Tess July 21, 2011 at 4:26 am

Yes Tammy has a way of saying it like it is. So I wrote it like it was! LOL I don’t think I’ll ever be as simple as Tammy yet I have a lot to still do and continue to do. I’m excited about it.


Peggy Nolan July 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm

Hi Tess!

LOVE the interview and the word, “intentional.” I seem to be making a lot of intentional choices lately. Tammy’s right – when you start to simplify, it’s hard. I’m learning to say no to a lot more things these days…and I’m looking forward to living a much smaller life without a mortgage.

Thanks for this great interview!
Peggy Nolan´s last post…The English Garden


Tess July 21, 2011 at 4:27 am

Good for you and all of us. That’s why I wanted to interview Tammy because her message is so clear and important. woot woot no mortgage. Isn’t life grand.


Janet Rowley July 21, 2011 at 4:04 am

I am intrigued. I am going to follow Tammy’s blog. I am ready to simplify. Thank you for this interview.


Tess July 21, 2011 at 4:28 am

Great idea. Leo from Zen Habits says he never misses an article of Tammy’s. That says something.


Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition July 21, 2011 at 7:13 am

Tess & Tammy,
I enjoyed the interview. I don’t know that I could live in 250 square feet but, I can, and I plant to, live in less than the big 3 bedroom colonial I sold in November. I’m now looking for a condo that’s 1000 – 1200 square feet. I do think we all have to make our choices and for me this feels right. Going car free sounds so tempting too. Maybe someday if I were to move to an urban area and leave the suburbs I’d be able to do that too.
Angela Artemis/Poweredbyintuition´s last post…Intuition and Logic: Handling Conflicting ‘Intuitive’ Responses


Vitaly Tennant July 21, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Interesting interview. I’ll have to Google these tiny houses.
Thanks for sharing this Tess.
Vitaly Tennant´s last post…Top 15 Time Quotes


Justin | Mazzastick July 21, 2011 at 8:24 pm

I have been into minimalism for about 6 years. I almost became compulsive about getting rid of unwanted things and keeping my life basic an simple. I like the idea of the mini-houses. Less is more in my opinion.

I have friends that have a huge house with tons of land and fences. I see how much it costs them a month to maintain it and it turned me off.
Justin | Mazzastick´s last post…The Watchers Are Watching You


jonathanfigaro July 21, 2011 at 11:40 pm

It’s wonderful how being a minimalist has helped you become happier. Who knew that the less YOU had the more you’ll appreciate what GOD has given YOU!


John Sherry July 22, 2011 at 9:53 am

Tammy proves, as does Leo and Courtney, that be minimalistic is definitely a realistic lifestyle choice in a want more world of increasing gadget gathering and asset grabbing. It’s to live with enough because you are enough. Great feature Tess, good on you!!!
John Sherry´s last post…What Do You Deny About Yourself?


Tammy July 22, 2011 at 9:06 pm

I love Tammy and Rowdy Kittens. I especially love the tiny houses piece and that she’s really walking the talk. And what a great name.
Tammy´s last post…Paletas


Amanda @36broadway July 24, 2011 at 7:58 pm

Tess – thanks for sharing! I love Rowdy Kittens and am inspired by Tammy’s intentional living. She surely lives the bold life!
I agree with her on minimalism going mainstream, I think we’ll see more people simplifying their lives as a way to break free from the confines of stress, debt, and way too much work.
Since I’ve dug myself completely out of debt for those reasons, I’d like to think I’m on a similar path!


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