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Life in 700 square-feet

Yreka Cottage

Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter I know the meaning of the words ‘ever-after.
— Unknown

The night we drove away from the tiny house, with the cats in the backseat meowing about the injustice of being in our Ford Fiesta, our move into town felt real. Earlier in the evening, we had been joking with my in-laws that our move into town would only take a few seconds, and there was truth to that statement—it only took 30 minutes to pack up the belongings we needed. We fit most of our stuff in the backseat of our car, which included a few pieces of art by Rebecca Green, kitchen gear, our clothes, and some food. We moved the bikes on a different trip.

We moved into the cottage in late October. It was one of the least stressful moves of my life because we didn’t have many belongings to pack, and we didn’t have to worry about towing our tiny house down the highway and finding a spot to park it. Also, the circumstances surrounding our move into town were serendipitous and easy.

Even our fur babies, Christie and Elaina, navigated the move with ease. They adjusted to the new house quickly, and they seem keen on sleeping through the winter. I’m not surprised, though. The cats have plenty of moving experience and truly need their own kitty passports to demarcate their moving adventures. They have lived in various Northern California cities including Davis, Sacramento, Red Bluff, Chico, Yreka, Little Shasta Valley, and in Portland, OR. For cats, they are surprisingly adaptable. As they’ve adapted to the cottage, the cats have commandeered some of our newish belongings for their daily naps.

Prior to moving into our new space, we bought two new beds from a local furniture store. We’ve acquired other stuff, too. Here’s my stuff confessional list:

  • Logan found two, used, Ikea POÄNG chairs on Craigslist for $40 and my in-laws gave us a coffee table that sits between the chairs. The cats are in love with the new chairs.
  • We were using our outdoor patio table for a dining room table at the cottage. My mother-in-law gave us the table a few years ago, and while it’s been a great table for outdoor dining in the spring and summer, it wasn’t ideal for inside use. Now, we are using a small, custom-made bamboo table that we originally had made for the tiny house and stored in a closet at my in-laws’ house. Thankfully, we remembered we had the table because we almost bought a new one! The backstory behind this table merits a full blog post about why the long-term storage of stuff, even for a small table, isn’t a good idea.
  • We were looking for extra chairs to host dinners, and my mom gave us a set of folding chairs that she had in her garage. We dusted them off, and they are perfect for our needs.
  • Since we are hosting brunches and dinners, I bought some extra plates, bowls, and mugs at Goodwill. I even found a beautiful 5-piece set at The Hospice Shop and Heartisan Boutique for $6!
  • Logan’s grandma Pat gave us 6 everyday glasses. Logan was happy with the gift because he has fond memories associated with the glasses, and they match our plates. As kids, Logan and his brother Tyler called them the “Flintstone glasses” because of their bright colors and hefty nature. Pat slowly acquired these glasses throughout 1970. At the time, she couldn’t afford to buy a full set, so she had to slowly build her collection.
  • I purchased a scratching post for cats from Scott Valley Feed & Nursery because I don’t want the cats scratching inappropriate surfaces in the cottage. The cats have used the post for their scratching needs—with the exception of one incident. I don’t know which cat made the offending chew marks, but we will be purchasing a new set of blinds for the cottage.
  • And last but not least, my mom gave us a set of sheets and a bedspread for our guest room.

It’s amazing how my perspective has changed over the years. In my early 20s, I would have been eager to fill this space with new stuff from a trendy store (that I couldn’t afford). Now, I only buy items that I truly love and prefer purchasing belongings at secondhand stores. Acquiring extra belongings feels a little strange, especially after downsizing so dramatically. However, the items above—other than our new beds—didn’t cost a lot of money, and they add value to our lives.

Recently, one of my students asked if we were outgrowing the tiny house. I wasn’t sure how to respond to the question. In some ways yes, and in other ways no. I don’t want more stuff, but having extra room in the cottage has been so lovely. I adore hosting my mom on the weekends and having friends and family over for dinner.

We have entertained in the tiny house, however, it’s much easier to host dinners at the tiny house in the fall or spring when the weather isn’t too hot or too cold because we can take advantage of the outdoor space. Plus, there were other unexpected challenges when we hosted guests, like having awkward conversations about how to use our compositing potty.

Also, tiny house living in a rural area is challenging. When we lived in Portland, OR, it was easier to use third spaces like coffee shops or the library. Living in the country requires extra driving to and from town. I prefer biking and walking as primary modes of transit, and living in town gives us the option to walk and bike frequently. Plus, Logan doesn’t have a long commute. When we lived in the tiny house, he biked 5 miles to Montague, then caught the local bus for a 7-mile bus ride into work. Now, his bike ride to the office is less than 2 miles and takes 15 minutes.

There are many benefits to living in a super small dwelling on wheels, however, I love our new small cottage rental. Yreka is walkable, bikeable, and I love hiking in Greenhorn Park. Our neighbors are quiet, although, the neighborhood is loud compared to the ranch. We are close to the freeway, and I haven’t adapted to hearing freeway noise—at least not yet.

In the spring, we will reevaluate our housing needs. And honestly, I don’t know if we will return to full-time tiny house living. We lived in the little house for three years, and the experience has changed my life for the better. However, after my dad’s illness and death in 2012, I realized living small and simply isn’t about the size of my house or whether I can tow it down the highway. It’s about making mindful choices that give me freedom, flexibility, and the opportunity to spend time with loved ones.

Be well,
Tammy

P. S. You can read about why we moved into town for the winter here.

Take a photo tour of the cottage:

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dorthe December 9, 2014, 10:40 am

    Hi Tammy,
    I love your last two sentences about how tiny living isn’t about actual space but a mindset. You are as always so inspiring. Your rental cottage looks like the perfect place to spend the Winter, perhaps longer. Keep writing more posts!

    be well,
    Dorthe

    • Yogi with a Day Job December 9, 2014, 3:59 pm

      Ditto to that comment!

    • Christina December 20, 2014, 7:49 am

      I agree with your last comment too. Something I wrestle with all the time as I consider our current home much larger than we really need. But, it is inexpensive to live in and we have made a conscious effort to keep our stuff to a minimum. It works. Good luck with your move! What a lovely cottage.

  • Peter Bryenton December 9, 2014, 10:41 am

    Wishing you & L joy and health in your little, clutter-free rental. I learned recently that cats have scent glands on their paws which are active during the scratching process.

  • Carol December 9, 2014, 10:50 am

    I love hearing about & seeing the photos of your new living space – such a charming little cottage!

    It is good to see the many faces of minimalism and how it changes to suit the different seasons of our lives.

    I see your cats go outside – do you let them out whenever they want? With or without supervision? Just wondering how that part of your move has gone.

    I am a cat-lover and have indoor/outdoor kitties, which always makes moving a little tougher, IMHO!

    • Tammy Strobel December 9, 2014, 12:09 pm

      Carol,

      Now that we live in the city, the cats only go in and out when I’m home. I leave the bedroom window open for them to go into the backyard. When I leave, they come inside and I close & lock the window. Honestly, they spend most of the day inside sleeping. They haven’t ventured far from our home. Also, they don’t go out at night. 🙂

      Thanks for reading!

      Cheers,
      Tammy

  • Jack December 9, 2014, 11:21 am

    SEnding you lots of good wishes for happy times in your new home!

  • Jonas Stenling December 9, 2014, 11:34 am

    Hi Tammy,
    Looks like a perfect little house for two! Curious question: Is it common in the US to have the kitchen workbench covered with tile? I’ve seen it in several pictures recently. Here in Sweden it’s very rare to see that in a kitchen.

    All the best,
    Jonas

    • Tammy Strobel December 9, 2014, 12:07 pm

      Thanks for reading, Jonas. To answer your question, yes. It is fairly common in the U.S.; at least in homes I’ve visited. 🙂

      • Steph R. December 9, 2014, 2:57 pm

        It’s a feature common to houses built in the 1920s. After that it was icky, icky formica.

  • Sandra Pawula December 9, 2014, 11:34 am

    So sweet! I’m glad you’re happy in your new space, Tammy. When we downsized (not to a tiny space though!), I missed some of the benefits of a big space, especially because I’m sensitive to noise. I love where we live now in about 900 sq. ft. and keep adapting because the benefits are so big.

  • Kat Denton December 9, 2014, 11:46 am

    love this!!!

  • Guylaine December 9, 2014, 11:53 am

    Well i always say a house without a cat is not a home, you’ve got two ! Beautiful creatures ! And the tiny cottage is really nice. I don’t know you personnally but i imagine you and your dear Logan and the cats sharing a true nest where love and life find a sanctuary. Or do you say Haven? ( i speak french so sorry for my writing). I read every post of your blog. It became an important part of my life. Thank you fou sharing your experiences.

  • Michelle December 9, 2014, 12:17 pm

    Thank you for giving us a peek into your new home, Tammy! It looks so wonderful and cozy! And the kitties look nicely settled in as well. 😉

  • Becs :: Think Big Live Simply December 9, 2014, 1:13 pm

    It looks comfy and cosy and perfectly full/empty (you know what I mean!?) – after 9 months in our own ‘tiny house’ on a farm, I can relate entirely to your reflections on it in this post. I love not having alot of stuff (and just took another 3 bags of things to the charity shop!), but in some ways I feel like the small space is starting to restrain me in other areas of my life too…an interesting flow on effect I wasn’t anticipating.

  • Sophia December 9, 2014, 1:22 pm

    Looks like the cottage is kitty tested an approved!

  • Christy King December 9, 2014, 2:20 pm

    I appreciate that you share both the good and bad about a tiny house – helps people make decisions that are right for them.

    We’re downsizing by about 50% to something that’s still bigger than your cottage – 1250 square feet and I can’t wait.

    Unfortunately it looks like we have to move twice since our house sold much faster than expected (Day 1 of the listing) and the townhouse won’t be ready yet. Luckily we got rid of a ton of stuff so it shouldn’t be too bad (I hope).

    • Tracey Martin December 10, 2014, 10:42 am

      Christie,
      I’ve done that as well and it’s worth the extra move! You’ll love it, good luck!
      Tracey

  • Steph R. December 9, 2014, 2:55 pm

    I see you have tile counters with a slight lip. Those things are the BOMB for making bread! The cool surface is perfect for kneading and you don’t have to worry about flour or bits of dough falling to the floor because the raised lip keeps it all on the counter. Then you just hose it all down when you’re done. I miss mine; we have granite counters but they couldn’t have a raised edge the way I like.

  • Amanda December 9, 2014, 5:16 pm

    I have 4 cats & they all use the scratching posts regularly. But they have an obsession with any type of blinds. The strings, ‘clack’ noise, & they move when you hit them with your paws… For some reason it’s the only thing they insist upon chewing on. In our rental house, we took down the blinds (stored them in a closet) & put up curtains. 🙂

  • Val December 9, 2014, 5:55 pm

    Hi Tammy! I have spent many hours over the last few weeks reading all your archives, and I must tell you how much I have enjoyed doing so. I came to your blog via Courtney Carver’s blog and I am so glad I did! Thank you for all your wonderful posts and pictures. I have subscribed to your blog via RSS and look forward to all the posts to come. And now I will have to go back and check out some of the great links you have shared! I have recently come to believe that our life (2 adults, 2 teens and 3 under 10) would be so much better without so much stuff and so much to do. And you, Courtney and several others have inspired my start in this direction. Keep up the amazing job!

  • A December 9, 2014, 6:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing the photos and your experience with the tiny and not so tiny houses!

    While I’d love to live in a tiny house, two things make that a challenge: a spouse who needs studio space in our home, and our desire to have space for visiting friends and family. As a result, we have a 1200 square foot home, but maintain a tiny house mindset: only the useful and beautiful essentials, living lightly on the earth.

    Best of luck to you and Logan and the kitties in your new home!

  • Elizabeth December 9, 2014, 7:33 pm

    It’s lovely, and I can see who are the real bosses around there.

  • Natalie December 9, 2014, 8:09 pm

    Hi Tammy,

    I’m a forever-follower of yours (your book changed my life…just ask my husband) and I so appreciate all of the thoughtful posts here on your blog.

    Recently we’ve toyed with the idea of purchasing a home. We really want a tiny home but our obstacle is finding land that is cheap enough to build on, while staying near my job that I love and that provides for our family.

    I’ve struggled with this inner voice that tells me I’m selfish and materialistic for wanting a traditional home and a mortgage. I feel like a hypocrite. Just speaking for myself. It feels so weird to want a traditional home because I’ve made such dramatic changes in my spending habits.

    I really like what you said in the TINY movie about making small changes and taking baby steps toward simplicity. I’m working that into my life in the sense that I’m trying to live more intentionally and with a better understanding of what drives me to consume.

  • Claire/Justalittleless December 9, 2014, 10:00 pm

    Hi Tammy, the light coming into your home and the simple furnishings look lovely. Enjoy for now!

  • Jessica December 10, 2014, 6:21 am

    Thank you for this. We recently put our large home up for sale and moved into a much smaller rental. Unfortunately, it has not sold, and if it doesn’t in the next few months we will be moving back in. I’ve really struggled with moving back to the larger space, so I really needed to hear this today.

  • Margot December 10, 2014, 6:29 am

    I love your cottage and your little house. You inspired me to live more intentionally and I really try to be more mindful of purchases. “Do I really need it?” “Do I have something else that will serve this purpose?” I haven’t done a huge purge and at the moment don’t intend to downsize my house. But I have gotten off the consumer-mindset. Oh your, quote at the top of your post is part of a John Denver song. (I don’t know if it was one written by him.) Poka-dots and Moonbeams..

    Be well.

    • Tammy Strobel December 10, 2014, 9:23 am

      Super cool Margot! Thanks for sharing where the quote came from. It’s great to hear you are being more mindful about your purchases, too. 🙂

  • Rebecca December 10, 2014, 8:32 am

    Glad that the cottage is fitting your needs for now. I love the pictures especially your cat above the cabinets so cute.
    You are correct being happy is not about what you own, the car you drive or the house you live in. You just have to find what works for you and do your best to be happy.

  • Laura December 10, 2014, 9:16 am

    Thank you for sharing these pictures Tammy. The inside of the house is just as darling as the outside.
    I completely understand about you feeling like your needs are changing in that you aren’t sure if you’ll move back to the tiny house in the spring.
    Everything changes…and that’s a good thing. 🙂

    Btw..I have a POANG chair from IKEA and love it. They are awesome chairs!

  • Aubrey December 10, 2014, 9:47 am

    Thank you so much Tammy, for sharing your experience of transitioning. We’re going through a similar one. After living in our house on wheels and exploring the country full-time for a year, we’re exhausted and seeking a bit more space and stability. Like you, I don’t plan to go back to acquiring stuff – just to fill space. I love my simple minimal life and if I did acquire, it would be like you said and be something that adds value. We are looking forward to a bit more space and a home of our own. As always, it’s been a pleasure following along your journey.

    Cheers and Sincerely,
    Aubrey

  • Denise Stewart December 10, 2014, 10:46 am

    I hope you feel as content as the kitties look.

  • Oscar Torres December 10, 2014, 11:14 am

    Wondrefull Picture…

  • barbara techel December 10, 2014, 12:58 pm

    I adore your tiny cottage, Tammy! I also appreciate how you stated that it is about a mindset in living simply.
    I’m so glad I came across your book a few years ago, and even though I didn’t think I could live in a 120 sq. ft. home, I understood the value in living with this mindset. Of which now, I’m so happy to report that my husband is on board also.
    We live in 1,000 square feet, but want to downsize in a few years to about 700-800 square feet. We began that process of getting rid of things we don’t need after I read your book. And we continue to be mindful of that everyday.
    So thank you so much for continuing to share your journey with us. I’m so grateful! And gosh, I’d sure love to come have a cup of tea at your sweet cottage if I lived close by!
    All my best,
    Barbara

  • Keeley December 10, 2014, 1:37 pm

    Your home is just so dang cute! And the tile in the kitchen…ohhh baby! I do like that. =) Beautiful photos, as always.

  • Anne-Marie December 11, 2014, 11:56 pm

    How fun to see pictures from the cottage. There are some really cute houses in Yreka. More so than in Weed I would say.
    I have about the same amount of furniture as you and Logan do. 🙂 Very few. You really don’t need much.
    It’s not every day you see someone else commenting who is Swedish! And yes, it is pretty common with tile for kitchen counters. Don’t think I have seen that in Sweden actually.
    Maybe I could even come by and say “hi” if I’m in Yreka sometime? Don’t go there very often though.

    • Tammy Strobel December 12, 2014, 8:28 am

      Thanks Anne-Marie! We should get together and have coffee. 🙂 It would be fun!

  • Sherry December 12, 2014, 5:23 am

    I love the cottage. It looks like the kitties are happy , and the cottage is so cozy. Merry Christmas ! Enjoy your new home and the journey called life.

  • Meg Scofield December 12, 2014, 8:51 am

    Hi Tammy:
    I’m enjoying reading about your transitions. Especially like your idea of making your new small space comfortable with previously used furniture. That’s what we’re doing in our city apartment. Better for the environment and the budget!

  • Kane December 13, 2014, 2:27 pm

    Hi Tammy.

    The cottage looks great and I love the way the cats seem to be exploring and making the place their own.

    And rather than upsized, with the cottage is it possible you have ‘right sized’?

  • Sara December 14, 2014, 7:32 am

    I loved all of your kitty pictures in this post! I lost my Sherman last year when he became ill and your pictures made me miss him, but also remember his antics and laugh. I have a similar shot of him glaring at me from behind the laptop as I rushed to meet a photo book deadline. They are the best! Glad you are all adjusting to the new space. It looks wonderful!

  • Gary December 15, 2014, 11:00 am

    Great article as always. I was wondering, was it too cold to move by bike?

    • Tammy Strobel December 15, 2014, 4:56 pm

      Yes, it’s too cold. Also, the bike ride into town is 15 miles. That’s a little too long for me. 🙂

  • Carla DeLauder December 17, 2014, 7:43 pm

    I adore your new rental home. It’s so adorable and cozy. We bought our first home a year ago just outside Redding. We’re on almost four acres, which I love, but the house is too big for me. It’s 1200 square feet. I’d prefer no more than 450 and may end up building my own some day. It’s a cabin style home with old oak floors and a nice deck. I just feel kind of lost and unfocused in this space.

    :o)

  • Susan December 20, 2014, 6:47 am

    Thank you, for your inspiring and honest discussion of the evolution of your experience of Simplicity/ Minimalism. Your new home is lovely! It radiates the warmth and essence of Tammy and Logan ( kitties, too).

    Congratulations!

  • Lizzy L December 20, 2014, 8:31 am

    Hi Tammy. In July, my dog and I moved from my 940 sq. ft. 3 bedroom house to its garage, which I have turned into a 500 sq. ft. studio. I disposed of over half my belonging. The front house is rented. I am snug and happy. Best to you in your new home!

  • QueenMary December 20, 2014, 10:03 am

    Tammy, I don’t know how I missed your October post about moving, I apologize for that. Your Lao Tzu post is spot on, and I am happy you are growing up a bit, not in a condescending sense of the term as it is so often used — but as in accepting the change that is motion of the wind and the sea. It is good to keep our minds as open as possible to what is around us and to live simply so others may simply live. Our kids loved to make fun of us for being “hippies” who recycled, but when they went away to the private colleges our simple living allowed us to send them to, they were both shocked and appalled at the waste all around them. Their simple acts of being made a difference to those around them and continue to do so, like us, they own nothing that is more valuable than helping a person (so they back up doctoral dissertations religiously), being robbed is not a problem, feeding and clothing the poor is more important. Mindful decisions matter. Beware of the woman in the 3500 sq ft house, you know not who she is housing this week! 🙂

  • MelD December 20, 2014, 10:50 am

    What a perfect little cottage – it seems to combine the best of everything!
    All the best for your little family in this home 🙂

  • Paula December 20, 2014, 12:38 pm

    Hi Tammy,
    I love your new home. lovely and cozy.
    Thanks for sharing the pictures!

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