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Five Ways to Start Living the Life of Your Dreams Today

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Hari Berzins. Hari writes about growing a mortgage-free homestead at Tiny House Family.

Photo by Hari

No matter what you dream of, the key to living your dream is to start today. It might be a long, slow walk, but you have to start walking and keep walking. Small steps will get you there.

In August of 2008 my husband, Karl, and I lost our restaurant and then our home. As we shaped a new life out of the dust, we dreamed of debt-free home ownership and a simple homesteading life in the mountains. The odds were against us. We lived in a rental in Florida. We had $300. The whole idea of building without a mortgage seemed revolutionary since no one I knew had ever owned a home without a mortgage. In spite of the odds and the difficulty, we set out on our path. It has been a slow walk (sometimes through mud,) but we keep walking. Along the way, we’ve learned some valuable strategies to make things happen. I wanted to share some of them with you.

1) Practice gratitude. Lots of folks are talking gratitude these days and for good reason. Taking the time to practice gratitude helps train your brain to look for the positive. I’m sure you’ve noticed that what you focus on expands, so focusing on gratitude makes sense. Start with gratitude for this journey. Getting where you are going is a process, and having the choice to consciously create your own pathway is a right not all humans know. I keep a section of my journal reserved for my gratitude lists. I aim to write at least 5 things in my dated list each day. It’s a fun section of my journal because I can look back on the moments of my life in the context of my gratitude. It’s amazing to find that some of the hardest moments hold the deepest blessings.

2) Maintain a regular practice. But what is a practice? Natalie Goldberg, one of my favorite writing teachers says, “[A practice] is something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it … you have an opportunity to meet your own mind, to examine what it does, its plays and shenanigans.” Your practice might be walking, writing, yoga, meditation, stretching, biking, jogging, whatever works for you. Commit to practicing on a regular basis; it is this bedrock of self-care from which you will grow your dream.

3) Explore your relationship with money. The task is simple to start: track your spending – every single penny. Really looking at your spending habits is empowering. If it terrifies you, chances are you will learn a ton about yourself through this exercise. You can use a simple notepad to jot down everything you spend or choose an app like my favorite, YNAB. Once you have your data, notice how it adds up. Is your spending aligned with your goals?

4) Start clearing the excess. Expose the truth of who you are by letting go of clutter. You can start today. Think of it as weeding. Pull the weeds so the intentional and unexpected can grow. Start small—you don’t have to clear your clutter overnight. Give yourself permission to go slow, but do work on it every day. How many minutes can you give the task? Start with a shelf, a drawer, a counter, and then do the next shelf. You will feel excited, renewed and younger. Keep going.

5) Clarify your dream. You need to create your road map, but you need to know where you’re going. One of the most powerful ways to bring focus to the elusive images in my mind is to collage. Grab a stack of 10 magazines from your recycling center and rip out words and images that speak to you, even if you can’t explain why. Then glue these words and images onto a poster. Hang your poster where you will see it, and notice how the images start to make sense. Use these insights to write a detailed description of your dream. Now go back to gratitude. When pieces of your dream come into focus and then into your life, notice.

Photo by Hari

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from the experience of rebuilding an intentional life out of the dust of a failed business and lost home, is that the journey is the dream. Sure, we dreamed of living on a sweet little homestead and growing our own food, but now that we have reached this milestone, I know there will be the next one. My ultimate dream is to look back on my life and know I’ve enjoyed my journey. I hope you are enjoying yours.


Hari Berzins lives in a tiny house with her husband, Karl, and their kids, Ella (11) and Archer (9). The Berzins family grows vegetables and flowers and raises chickens and pigs on a 3-acre homestead in Southwestern Virginia. They are completing phase three (the big house) of their plan to build a mortgage-free micro-homestead in the mountains. Hari and Karl lead others down the path to mortgage-freedom in their eCourse, Creating Mortgage-freedom. You can read about the course and register here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Katie September 9, 2014, 8:35 am

    Hey Hari, I’ve been dipping into your blog for a couple of years now, since I discovered it on one of Tammy’s courses I do believe – but my eyes are going to be glued to it from now on, as this is exactly the path that my boyfriend and I are on, and having a debt-free homestead with a little cabin and lots of veggies is our dream that we are working out how to move towards. Thank you for sharing your tips and giving us a glimpse into your reality. Absolutely love it! XXX

    • Hari September 9, 2014, 4:02 pm

      Hi Katie!
      I’m glad to know you and your boyfriend are working on your plan for a debt-free homestead. It’s absolutely worth it. Keep us posted on your progress! And thanks for reading.

  • Natalie Coe September 9, 2014, 9:10 am

    Hi Hari! I follow your posts religiously and just love everything about your little house and all that you and your family are accomplishing 🙂 I just read your post and would just like to know how it is possible to only have $300.00 and be able to find the property and build your tiny home with that. Those are the things that a lot of people leave out when explaining how they transition to tiny living. Were you able to talk with a bank/lender to get the funds to do this? Sorry to ask such personal questions, but I am a single mom in between jobs with no savings to speak of, but would like to get to where you are. I plan on taking your E- course in the near future when I have the extra money, but until then, any suggestions would be extremely helpful 🙂 Thank you so much, Natalie Coe

    • Hari September 9, 2014, 4:25 pm

      Hi Natalie!
      Nice to see you here 😉 Thanks for your question. This is definitely something we share with intimate detail in our course, but the here’s the quick story:

      We had $300 to our name on the day we decided to start our journey to a debt-free homestead. From that point, it took almost three years of working two jobs each, tracking every penny, sticking to a very lean budget, and selling most of our stuff to save enough to buy the property and build the tiny house. We also build with salvaged materials as often as possible and source items from Craigslist and Restore. Our list of goals and milestones help us continue to move forward.

      It does take quite a bit more than $300 to buy land and build a little house, but with slow steps and a clear action plan, it’s possible to do it for a lot less than you might realize. Our three acres was $25,000 and we built our tiny house for $12,000. There are other costs in settling raw land such as a well and septic, but take it one step at a time. You don’t have to have the entire amount saved to get started. We saved for the land, bought it, and then our savings went back to zero. Then we built up enough savings to get the tiny house dried in. We have continued to live a very simple life, growing our own food and entertaining ourselves with working the land, campfires and gathering with friends, so our lifestyle doesn’t cost a lot to maintain. This way, we can continue building for cash.

      I wish you lots of luck and picture many unexpected blessings showing up for you.
      Go for it!

      • natalie coe September 10, 2014, 9:14 am

        You are awesome!!! Thank you so very much. If it were ever possible to make the drive to your neck of the woods, could I stop by to see your little house? I would just like to see in person how tiny these homes really are. In my area of the US, people haven’t really caught on to the movement yet 🙁

  • Timothy Walker September 9, 2014, 10:10 am

    Great ideas here, I teach many in the Philippines to come to a foreign land and live in peace with little or not money. I own the “A Poor Man’s Guide to Living in the Philippines” site on Facebook among other informational sites etc. throughout the internet.

    I actually lived in the U.S. on the road for 9 years in a 28 foot travel trailer on the road and lived in small houses etc. throughout my life., here in the Philippines too. It’s an interesting cycle of life and one that takes many years to perfect. thanks again for a great post and keep on keeping on.

    if you ever are in need of a guest writer, please let me know, i’d be interested….. “T”

    • Hari September 9, 2014, 4:27 pm

      Thanks for reading, Timothy! I’ll check out your site. It sounds interesting.

  • Eric West | Rethinking the Dream September 9, 2014, 12:45 pm

    This is a great list. I have done each of these steps at some point, and two that really stand out are the relationship with money and clarify your dreams.

    I found that I had some money related fears that I needed to let go of. I was good at budgeting and whatnot, but I always had this fear of not having enough. I found that as I let go of that fear I started moving in a better direction.

    Clarifying my dreams is a continual process. I move through phases where I have no clarity at all, and I take some time to consider my options, and with some thinking and meditating, my direction becomes more clear. After I achieve the goals created in that clarity, the next step is not always clear, and then I go through some more contemplation and reflection to regain the clarity.

    • Hari September 9, 2014, 4:33 pm

      That pesky fear of not having enough. I know that one, Eric. It’s liberating to let go of that fear. Good for you.
      Gratitude helps me when I get sucked back into thinking I don’t have enough. I always have enough, really, and sometimes I’m rich with potatoes or beans or butternut squash, just depends on the season. 😉

      I like the way you describe your process of clarifying your dreams. Sounds quite similar to my process.

  • Jo Borras September 9, 2014, 12:52 pm

    I love this! I’ll be posting/linking back to it shortly. Great job!

    • Hari September 9, 2014, 4:33 pm

      Thanks, Jo!

  • Chris O'Byrne September 9, 2014, 2:50 pm

    Your place looks more beautiful every time I see it! We definitely have to come visit when you have summer bounty. 🙂

    Mara and I have gone even tinier—we bought a conversion van, and we hit the road in two weeks!

    • Hari September 9, 2014, 4:35 pm

      Hey there Chris!
      Nice to hear from you. I was just thinking about you today because it’s time to dream up a new project. I hope all’s well in your world. It sure sounds like it. Hitting the road sounds like a fun adventure. Karl and I talk about doing that once the kiddos are grown.
      Swing by! We have a nice level camping spot.
      Happy trails …

  • Kelly September 9, 2014, 4:00 pm

    ooooo!! I just want to look inside that house hehe. Beautiful post – confirming everything I have been thinking over the past couple of days. Thank you 🙂

  • becky garcia September 9, 2014, 6:28 pm

    Hari, I too want to say hurray for this list! it is so perfect! I have done all 5 of the steps you’ve mentioned here as part of the process of downsizing our home and moving into life on the move in a 24 ft rv. it’s a process but each of the steps you’ve outlined are so important along the way. thank you for sharing with all of us here. also, I am still re-reading your great book of letters Coming Home!

    • Hari September 10, 2014, 4:56 pm

      Hi Becky,
      Congrats on your downsize and life on the move. And thanks for reading my book!

  • becky garcia September 9, 2014, 6:30 pm

    and Tammy, thank YOU for sharing Hari’s post with all of us via your wonderful blog. I learn so much here so often. I feel so grateful, thank you.

  • Jen September 10, 2014, 1:57 am

    Hari you are a total inspiration! I read your book in one sitting and can’t wait to read it again. I love the way you weaved your personal story in with all the advice. You have inspired me to build my own tiny house and change my life. I am struggling as a teacher at the moment and reading about your experience and how you changed your life has helped me to feel as though I can take control of my happiness too. Thanks for sharing your story and wisdom – please write another book!

    • Hari September 10, 2014, 5:02 pm

      It’s so nice to realize that the words I wrote huddled in the corner of my tiny house helped someone. It’s really everything, isn’t it? Thank you for reading and sharing your experience with my book, Jen.

      I know the classroom can be a challenging place, and I hope you find the support and balance you need to find your happy place. I’m back in the classroom now–at Blue Mountain School (the one I left for the public school)–and I love it. I decided to go for the job that made me happy, and not the one that paid more–a major benefit of debt-free living. Good luck to you, Jen.

      • Hari September 10, 2014, 5:03 pm

        Oh! Thanks for encouraging me to write another book.

  • [email protected] September 10, 2014, 3:40 am

    Hari – I clicked through because I saw your photo on RK FB. So glad I did.Your home looks like one out of a storybook. So beautiful.
    I agree so much with what you have written. Firstly there’s a quote from Karen Lamb that sprang to mind as I started reading: “A year from now you will wish you had started today”. Secondly reading you had lost everything reminded me how very often we do not do things through fear of losing what we already have. But I know that many entrepreneurs (for example) have received their biggest successes after returning from hitting rock bottom. When there’s nothing to lose you have everything to gain. And gain you did! So beautiful!
    We’ve led our lives (my family) in a way that we are debt-free (mortgage-free also) but we do live in a rural type of suburbia. It isn’t quite ‘living the dream’ – but I’m immensely grateful for what we have. Our health, and free from worry. This has been done by indeed ‘consciously spending’ (a bit of shameless promo here – I was even featured on a BBC website (I’m a Brit) for my guide to spending in this way).

    I’ll be heading on over to your blog. I am very pleased to have found you.

    ps – I have a box (rather than a board) currently that I pop all my dreams in. It will move to a board soon. The Kids will be doing theirs also.

    • Hari September 10, 2014, 5:11 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, Jo. A storybook home we built with our own hands! 🙂 The thought of our home being in a storybook makes me happy. The flowers in bloom right now sure help the photographs! I love this time of year.

  • Diane Batton September 10, 2014, 2:45 pm

    Great posts from everyone, I look forward to many more ideas.

  • Micheline @theMiniatureMoose.com September 10, 2014, 3:44 pm

    What a great article! I’m hoping to have a mortgage-free lifestyle too someday.

    • Hari September 10, 2014, 5:03 pm

      Go for it, Micheline!

  • Stephanie - A Luxury of Time September 11, 2014, 10:15 am

    Wonderful article! I am just beginning my journey to simple living and creating my own pathway. And it was all sparked by a good hard look at my relationship with money and our financial situation. It’s amazing how so much of your life stems from that. I appreciate your input and insight as we take small steps forward to simplification, thanks for a great post!

    • Hari September 12, 2014, 12:00 pm

      Hi Stephanie,
      Thanks for reading, and good luck on your journey to simple living. It’s such a worthwhile journey!

  • Angie Brooke September 12, 2014, 7:57 am

    I cannot explain to you how wonderful it was too read this. I’ve been toying with the idea of living a more simpler life, and trying to find my little place in the sun. Most articles I read are from people that started off with a lot of money or just decided to quit they’re big time office jobs to live this way. I am just a dog walker in the city, I don’t make much but I’m ready to make my move and start working towards my goal. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Hari September 19, 2014, 9:05 am

      🙂 Glad to know these words inspired you, Angie!

  • Becky September 20, 2014, 7:32 am

    Once again, you’ve written a timely post that feels as if you have directed it just to me! I’ve actually been working points 1 through 4, but am floundering with 5. I’ll have to try your suggestion. (Will be in touch soon. Life is good–much gratitude for what is.)

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