Making the Tiny Leap

I’m sitting at my desk with a sprawl of paper threatening to eat my organic, goat cheese pizza.  I just crunched numbers over my late night feast.  I can do it.  My bank statement is sitting on top of my Tumbleweed plans.  Across the table, my research list scribbles every trip to the hardware store and every name of my construction recruits.  I know what I need to build my tiny house.  I know what it’ll cost.  With my new bank statement, I know I have the money.  Here’s the tripper; I also have the land.

What’s the Problem?

It’s this last point that’s caused the late night pizza binge.  My free home site lies in the corner of my parent’s yard.  My tiny home will sit on a permanent foundation and forever keep me living with Mom and Dad, while I chase the ghosts of my childhood.

Even though my relationship with my family doesn’t require a tunicate, there’s something deep seated in me that calls for autonomy and needs physical separation from my family.  I’ve grown up in a country that expects independence, and lays out this freedom along a linear flow of events:  Education, career, house, spouse, kids, retirement.  Although a degree of variation is acceptable, cross too far off the path and you become a social eyebrow raiser.  “Live in Mom’s backyard,” lies in the realm of eyebrow raising.

Questioning Freedom

I know I can easily point to the downfalls of this freedom lineup.  It’s impossible to ignore the high cost of education, the sick-laden workaholic and the mortgage meltdown.  These are the questions I ask as I chase simplicity: Is this freedom?  What happened to my independence in this pile of bills?

Balancing “We” and “I”

For me to accept land from my family, and dig my foundation in their space, I feel like I’m crossing a boarder that values, “we,” over, “I.”  It would be a sharing of resources, with an acceptance of work and care in return.  No, my parents would not breath their expectations through my windows.  But I would need to be around to care for their animals when they go out of town, tend to the garden, and resolve myself to share my comings are goings.  Then there’s the larger question of care as they grow old.  It would only make sense to become their caretaker when it’s time.  I would be their closest neighbor.

Working this family dynamic is a process for every person.  But it becomes more alive and tangible when you live in close quarters and rely on their grace to build your tiny dream.

Asking the Question

Without question, planting my tiny home next to my parents would afford financial freedom.  Sharing resources would lessen our impact on the environment as a family.  So the question remains.  Can I hack it?  Can I leave the social norm.  Sure, I see tiny homes on the path to culture coolness.  Living in Mom’s backyard isn’t quite there.  When I except that cool is not my destiny, can I hold on for the lifetime ride of these new family ties?

Figuring Thing Out.  Slowly

This is why, fellow tiny house-ers, I resorted to my organic pizza binge.  From here, I’ll continue to mill over my questions.  I’ll practice clear speaking and deep listening with my family.  I’ll give myself the room to make a decision, knowing there is not only one way to live freely and walk lightly on this earth.  Of course, I’ll leave the oven on, pizza ready.

Author Bio

Amber is a writer and outdoor educator.  She lives small in Los Angeles with her mutt, Kona.

Tiny House Cooking

Posted July 13th, 2009 by Michael Janzen and filed in Issue 9: Food and Cooking

One of the areas of tiny house living not frequently covered online is how one cooks and eats in small spaces. We’ve all seen the tiny kitchens in photos and videos online with the mini-refrigerators, hot plates, toaster ovens, and limited counter space; but we’ve rarely seen how people cook or what they eat. I’m hoping that this issue of Small Living Journal will help begin to shed some light on this topic so that all of us can begin to learn how to eat more simply no matter how big or small our homes are.

I’ve been slowly working toward cooking and eating more simply and wanted to share some thoughts and a recipe website I’m launching that I hope will help more people begin to experiment with simple cooking.

Key Ingredients to Tiny House Cooking

Smart Shopping – Buy only the foods you plan to eat because storage in a tiny house is limited. You’ll also reduce potential waste and spoiled food. This is easier for people that live close to where they shop.

Buy Fewer Refrigerated Foods – Many of us take our refrigerators and freezers for granted but in a tiny house the refrigerator, if you have one, is most likely a mini-fridge. If you are able to shop regularly you may actually be able to virtually eliminate the need to have a refrigerator. At the end of the day the amount of refrigerator space you need really depends on what you choose to eat. Less refrigerated foods means less space and energy needs to be dedicated to keeping food fresh.

Avoid Packaging – The less packaging you buy the less trash you generate. As you can imagine a tiny house can’t have a big trash can and if you peek in your own trash can and recycle bin right now you’ll notice that food packaging tends to be the biggest contributor to our waste stream.

Buy Healthy Ingredients – By all means buy and eat food that is good for you. I’ve begun to think of it like this, if it’s not organic it probably means it was produced with pesticides. Unnatural stuff used to produce like pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, and steroids, are there to produce food more profitably. These foods are often less expensive but does it make any sense to eat them?

Simple Preparation – Cooking simple meals means you’ll need to store, use, and clean fewer pots and dishes. It should also take less time and energy to prepare meals. The most obvious benefit is that simple meals require little space for preparation which means less time working, more time eating and enjoying each other.

Solar Cooking – This is a great way to cook without spending a dime on electricity or combustible fuels. You can buy solar ovens and kits online but you can also learn to build one yourself. My favorite place to look for information on solar ovens is the Solar Cooking Yahoo Group.

Simple Clean-Up -Simple cooking means less time spent cleaning up too. It also means that the need for a dishwasher, a large sink, or even many dishes, is reduced significantly.

My continuing exploration into tiny house cooking has helped me re-think how I shop for food, prepare, eat, and clean up my kitchen. It’s been helping me eat better and save time cooking and cleaning… but I still have a long way to go.

So I’ve launched a website called Tiny House Cooking which will become a free website filled with simple recipes. Right now there are only a few recipes and I’m looking for people to share their recipes. If you have a good recipe and want to share it write it up and I’ll post it on Tiny House Cooking.

Cooking Food in Tiny Spaces…

Posted July 13th, 2009 by Tammy "RowdyKittens" and filed in Issue 9: Food and Cooking

indefensefood_cover_medFood. Ohhh how I love food. Especially plants!

I recently finished reading In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto; an educational and entertaining book.

Pollan’s main message is: Eat whole foods, chow down on lots plants and make eating a social experience. If you want to learn more about the intersections between your health, the food industry, public policy, and “nutritionism,” read Pollan’s book.

So how does this relate to tiny spaces?

Pollan helped me downsize the kitchen by changing my eating habits. By incorporating 15 of Pollan’s eating guidelines into my diet, I’ve been able to decrease waste, save space in the kitchen and focus on cooking simple and easy recipes.

For example, I’ve decreased waste by eating fresh foods that can be composted and visit the local farmer’s market once a week. By eating local and fresh foods, I don’t have to refrigerate much food. Cooking is simple, easy and fast because my meals consist of fresh fruits, vegetables and bread. I’ve found the following food guidelines really helpful for cooking in my small kitchen…

My Food Guidelines for Tiny Spaces

1. Eat mostly plants.

Market Lettuce2

2. Avoid food products that are predominantly processed, unpronounceable, have more than 5 ingredients or include high fructose corn syrup.

3. Avoid products that make health claims.

4. Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle.

5. Get out of the supermarket and shop at the farmer’s market.

Sacramento Farmer's Market 7

6. You are what you eat (This includes what other animals eat and what is in the soil too).

7. If you have space buy a freezer.

8. Eat like an omnivore. Diversity in diet is a good thing.


Photo by Em

9. Eat well grown food from healthy soil.

10. Get off the Western diet. But don’t look for the “magic bullet in the traditional diet.”

11. Have a glass of wine with dinner.

Bogle Winery18

12. Buy higher quality foods and eat less of them.

13. Choose quality over quantity and good experience over calories.

14. Eat meals and less snacks.

15. Cook and if you can plant a garden.

(Note: rules adopted from Michael Pollan’s book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto)


The rules above have helped me create a minimalist kitchen and healthy diet. What cooking strategies have you used in tiny spaces?