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I’m Tammy Strobel. Welcome to my digital home!

I’m an author, photographer, and cat lover.

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4 Lessons Learned While Building Smalltopia


Logan slowly drove around the curve in the road and I listened to the gravel make crunching noises under the car tires. I could barely see the little house through the trees of a small apple orchard and when we made it around the corner I squealed and flailed my arms, upward and downward. I probably looked like a bird, but Logan said I sounded like a little girl who had just gotten a new toy for Christmas.

I couldn't believe my eyes. The house looked incredibly cute in front of Katy's big red barn. When I stepped on to the tiny porch and walked through the front door, tears formed in my eyes. I looked at Katy and said, "I'm going to start crying. The house looks so incredible. Thank you!"

The interior of our little house is lined with pine paneling and smells woodsy, like a small forest. Our tiny range is snugly mounted into the counter and we'll have plenty of storage space below. We spent about 4 hours hanging out with Katy on Saturday afternoon and finalizing the last design details. We talked about lights, whether or not we wanted a bathroom door and the design of our tiny folding table.

Logan and I have learned a lot during this process. And it's not over yet. The lessons below focus on what we've learned during the building process, but I believe they can be integrated into any segment of your life.

1. Follow your instinct. My instinct always points me in the right direction; it's just a matter of listening to it. For example, after we attended Dee and Katy's tiny house construction workshop a few years ago my gut told me that I wouldn't enjoy building a house. I admire the do-it-yourself crowd and the romantic aspects of constructing your own shelter, but I also know where my skill sets lie and I have strong feelings about how I want to spend my time. Constructing a small house isn’t something I would enjoy. Even though people said, we should do it ourselves we opted to hire professionals and follow our instinct.

2. Don’t buy stuff on impulse. Buying so much stuff for the little house makes me feel like we've been sucked into consumer culture again. Door knobs, glue for the cork flooring, lights for the interior of the home, an electric heater, a porch light, and wall sconces are a few of things we've been shopping for recently. Even when the stuff is reused, high-quality, and environmentally friendly its still stuff.

When we rented apartments, all those door-handles and light fixtures were the landlords stuff, not ours. Its emotionally difficult to take ownership of all of these things at once. Since the space is so small we can afford materials that would be out of budget in a big house and it’s given us the feeling that almost any gadget, fixture, counter, and so on is within reach. So we are doing our best to buy nothing on impulse and to acquire new tools according to our our values.

3. Don’t let little details overwhelm you. And if they do, ask for help. Logan has taken over researching and purchasing the little things we need for the house because I've been overwhelmed by the vast array of choices. It's hard enough to pick out the type of ice cream I want, much less wall sconces and door handles. I can't imagine building a big house and all the decisions that go with a larger abode. I’m grateful for Logan’s help. I can’t imagine doing all of this by myself.

4. Be patient. Like all good things in life, it's essential to be patient. Rather than taking out a bank loan or putting the house on a credit card, we waited, paid off our debt, and saved for four years to make this project a reality.

Last Words . . . 

The weekend was a whirlwind of tiny house awesomeness. Seeing our little house was thrilling and then we spent Saturday night with Dee and talked about all kinds of topics over Thai food. We closed off the weekend by celebrating the one year anniversary of my friend Michelle's little house. The best thing about living small is that it has propelled me outward into the world. I'm not at home sitting in front of the TV. Instead, I'm spending time with friends and engaging in new and unexpected experiences.


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