Collecting the tools of a sustainable, self-directed life


05- Live Tiny Faster


I discovered living with less in February of 2013 when I came across the LifeEdited apartment online. Although the dream of that lifestyle got me through years at an unfulfilling job, I didn’t move to my tiny address until October of 2017. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.  

Looking back at my journey, here are my top three tips for downsizing faster than i did:

1. Save (more). 

Let’s start with the thing I did right, money. As a general rule of thumb, I save a baseline of 20% of my income. In the past, that was 10% pre-tax automatically deposited into a company-sponsored retirement account and another 10% post-tax automatically deposited in my savings account. Because I didn’t usually spend everything that was left, my total savings could easily swing to 30%. (Now everything is pre-tax saving, nothing is automatic and I keep my expenses very low.)

-If you’re not saving 20% already, start.

-If you are already saving 20%, can you kick it up to 30-40% of your income? You won’t regret the extra cash; it'll make the transition easier. 

-If you feel like you can’t save even 20% today, keep reading for tips on how to save money.

2. Get clear. 

-Know your why. Why do you want to live tiny? How will living tiny fulfill your needs, improve your quality of life? What are the top three attributes of your dream tiny life? What are your specific reasons (not those on TV or in magazines)? Write this information down.

-Know your financial status? This includes your cash, debts and assets, your fixed and variable monthly expenses, your net worth, etc. If you don’t know this information, online personal finance tools can help. While each site has its own set of benefits, my favorite securely connects with all my accounts, provides up-to-the-minute panoramic financial snapshots and helps with budgets, expense tracking, goal setting, savings plans and much more. 

-Know the rules. Where do your state, county and municipality stand on tiny living? If your prospective place isn’t on this list of tiny-friendly places, google your location and “tiny house” or take a look at this tiny house map. Contact the person closest to you and ask them about their experience. You’d be surprised what you can learn.

3. Stair step. 

One step at a time.  

At least that’s what we say. But in reality we try to dash through the steps as quickly as we say the words. 

From May 2013 to May 2015, I did everything for my tiny life with the intention that the next step would  catapult me into my dream. I made little progress.

In November 2016 I began to limit my focus to only one task that would get me physically closer to my goal. Keeping my eye on that very next step—right foot only, then left foot only, like going up steep alternating tread stairs—kept me steadily moving toward the prize. And, as you can see below, I’ve done more toward my tiny life in 17 last months than I did in the previous 30.

May 2013- defined dream

Oct 2013- began bi-monthly day trips upstate to shop for land with real estate agents

Feb 2015- quit job

Mar 2015- lowered living expenses

Nov 2016-decided to relocate to Hudson Valley

Dec 2016- shopped cars

Jan 2017- bought, packed and drove car to New York

Jan 2017- Airbnb’d room near target area

Feb 2017-  shopped properties twice weekly with real estate agents

Apr 2017- bought land from auction and waited for deed transfer

Jul 2017- deed transferred, shopped campers remotely

Sep 2017- Airbnb’d room nearby and shopped campers locally

Oct 2017- bought and moved into camper

Nov 2017- got electricity at property

Nov-Dec- acclimated to camper life

Mar 2018- developed camper lifestyle

If I realized earlier that I didn't have to perfect my plan before starting, my transition to living tiny could have been much easier, faster and enjoyable.

While I know speed is not an indication of quality of work or happiness, progress and momentum can be. If you’ve made the switch to tiny, how long did it take? What recommendations do you have for transitioning faster? Leave your answers in the comments below.