Portlander Tammy Strobel wears many hats, including that of a designer, a photographer, an author, and a blogger. Her blog, RowdyKittens, explores social change through simple living. If you’re curious about downscaling, tiny homes, decluttering, and carfree living, RowdyKittens is a great place to start your exploration. I’m a long time carfree advocate, and huge fan of Tiny Houses (I will live in one some day!). Recently I had the opportunity to get her take on these subjects, and more.
You recently moved to Portland. Was there something about Portland that met your minimalist aspirations better than elsewhere?
We’ve always loved the Northwest and knew we wanted to move here eventually. The people are incredibly friendly, the biking infrastructure is amazing and I absolutely love the parks. Also, the temperate climate is incredible. The Sacramento valley is incredibly hot in the summer. So I’m looking forward to cool summers. 🙂
Portland is the perfect city to live a minimalist lifestyle. Minimalism is about being satisfied with enough. We all have enough stuff and don’t need to go shopping to find happiness. Minimalism affords people the opportunity to find satisfaction, live their dreams and has tremendous environmental benefits.
Portland makes this lifestyle choice very effortless. For instance, we moved into a neighborhood that is close to grocery stores, the library, fantastic small businesses and beautiful parks. These things meet our needs without having to own something outright. Plus, the cost of living is fairly low and the infrastructure for biking and public transit make it really easy to get around.
Tell me about your interest in tiny houses. (I’m fascinated by them myself. I live a few blocks from these babies, and have to stop myself from climbing the steps and peeking in the windows!)
I had no idea that the Small House Movement existed until I stumbled across a Youtube video featuring Dee Williams’ tiny house. It was New Year’s Eve of 2008 and hearing Dee’s story inspired us to go small and downscale.
I have no desire to have a 30-year mortgage or all the headaches associated with maintaining a large home. By the time most Americans have purchased a $300,000 home, buy new furniture, remodel the home and pay interest on the mortgage, the home ends up costing a consumer 2-3 times the purchase price. Rather than devoting large sums of life energy toward a big home, we have been living in small apartments.
Eventually we’re going to build our own tiny home. I’m hoping to build a little home in the next few years (with the help of Dee and Katy [of Portland Alternative Dwellings]).
[Read more of Tammy’s reasoning at her blog: 10 Reasons to Go Small]
To most people (who already have and depend upon cars), going car free can seem impossible. Can you share with us any tips you’ve learned from being car free in Portland?
I would encourage folks to push past their fears and give two wheels a try. Start off by doing a test run. For example, you might consider doing all your grocery shopping by bike or NOT driving within a 5 mile radius of your home.
I feel incredibly lucky to live in Portland. The biking infrastructure is incredible, plus there is good public transit. 🙂 It’s so easy to get around by bike. And a lot of fun! 🙂
You’re an advocate for simple living, downscaling, tiny homes, decluttering, and carfree living. What is your first advice to someone contemplating pursuing one or all of these goals?
It’s amazing to think we started the downscaling process only 3 years ago. At that time, we lived in a huge 2 bedroom apartment, with 2 cars, overflowing closets and a kitchen stuffed with 3 sets of dishes and silverware. It was absolutely ridiculous. Learning to live with less didn’t happen over night. It’s been a long process.
I think it’s important to start small, say no to recreational shopping, and unplug your TV. For example, if you want to start de-cluttering give away 10 things a week. Or you could try the 100 Things Challenge. If you’re thinking about going car-free, start taking bike rides, walking or using public transportation for all your errands less than 3-5 miles. By focusing on one thing a day, you can make drastic changes in your lifestyle over the long-term.
What is the most challenging?
The most challenging part of downsizing was dealing with minimalist/simple living naysayers. We’ve all dealt with naysayers in our lives. Naysayers might be friends or family members. People who give you odd looks when you tell them about your minimalist lifestyle or alternative career choices.
Most of the time, the naysayers in my life have good intentions. They want me to be happy but don’t understand my choices. It’s easy to get frustrated by their negative comments:
~ Selling your car is crazy, you’ll never survive in the world without one.
~ Are you crazy? Living in such a small apartment!?! You two will kill each other.
~ Small living is a joke. You won’t last for long living this lifestyle.
~ You don’t own a TV? That’s silly.
When I find myself frustrated and annoyed, I take a step back and ask myself why and how I can explain my viewpoint. Communication and finding a commonality is key. I usually sit down with the naysayers in my life and tell them my story. The conversations can be difficult and awkward but the results are often positive. Talking with naysayers about my simple living philosophy has helped me to analyze why I live the way I do. These many conversations have helped distill my beliefs and reaffirmed my resolve for living with less.
[For more see: Less Really is More]
I wrote Simply Car Free to help people achieve their goals of saving money, improving their health, and living a simpler lifestyle. Cars are not a necessity for most of us and by reducing our dependence on cars it can clarify our priorities and show us that anything is possible. By selling both of our cars we were able to pay off our debt quickly and actually save money! As a result I was able to leave my day job and start my own small business.
After the release of Simply Car-free I received an incredible number of emails from folks asking questions like:
~How can I improve my health?
~What are the best ways to lose weight?
~Where can I find real food?
To answer these questions, I decided to write my first free e-book: Minimalist Health. The book is 20 pages and covers a variety of topics including: emotional and physical health, addictions, rethinking work and more.
You may have explained this somewhere, but after a pretty thorough search of your site, I can’t find it: RowdyKittens: what inspired this blog name? 😉
I started this blog about two years ago and wanted to go with a blog name that was memorable, represented my personality, and would make my readers smile. There is so much bad news in the world and I wanted a fun blog name to combat all the negativity.
With this in mind I was talking with a few co-workers about how I wanted to start a blog but I didn’t know what to name it. One of my co-workers shouted “Rowdy” and then another said “Kittens.” Thus, RowdyKittens was born.
My main goal with RowdyKittens is to help people live simpler, calmer lives, kind of like kittens. 🙂