Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and teacher. A few years ago, she and her husband exchanged their "normal middle-class lifestyle" for life in a 128-square-foot tiny house, now located in Little Shasta, California. She created her blog, RowdyKittens.com, to share her story of embracing simplicity. Since then, Tammy's story has been featured by the New York Times, CNN, The Today Show, USA Today, and a variety of other media outlets. Her latest book is You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap).
What does “the good life” mean to you? And how did you come to this vision?
In my early twenties, I thought the good life could be bought at the mall or by impressing my peers. Now, I believe a good, happy life can be found in everyday experiences, through strong relationships and in small pleasures too.
What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your lifestyle?
Feeling such a strong connection to nature has affected my life in positive ways. I notice so much more now, like the birds chirping in the morning, the sound of rain on our little metal roof, and where the sun rises and sets. I love having more time to focus on doing things I love, like writing, taking long walks, and hanging out with friends. I don’t have to clean as much now, so I have more time to do fun things!
Is there anything at all about your life these days that you really wish you could change or improve?
I’m constantly looking for ways to grow as a writer, photographer, and teacher. Overall, I’m happy and grateful for my life.
Tell us a little about the work that you do.
As a writer, photographer, and teacher, I create e-courses that help students capture everyday magic with their cameras and empower them to write more often. In addition to teaching, I’m working on a new book and constantly taking photos. I love my work!
Describe some ways that you are involved in your community.
I recently moved to a small town, so I’m looking for formal volunteer opportunities in my new community. In the meantime, I spend a lot of time helping family with projects.
For many, your lifestyle is considered “outside the mainstream.” Does this present any challenges, and, if so, how do you deal with them?
When I began to simplify my life, I was fearful that my choices would not be tolerated by friends and family. Simplifying my life hasn’t erased my fears, but it's helped me understand my emotions. For instance, we recently moved, and not being accepted by our new community is something that scares me. And I think that's normal. As humans, we want to be accepted by friends, family, and our larger community because we're social creatures. When I feel scared or anxious, I talk with my husband, I write, and take photos. All of those activities help me understand my feelings.
Please describe any new skills or hobbies that you’re really excited about.
My dad passed away in June 2012, and since then I've been taking lots of photos. Photography helps me manage the ups and downs of grief. In addition, it helps me notice the magic in everyday life and to practice gratitude.
At the beginning of 2013, I missed my dad terribly and felt depressed. So I started an iPhone photography project called “My Morning View.” Every morning, I post a photo of my view and my coffee mug makes an appearance in the image too. Then I share the photo on Instagram and Facebook. The project has been fun and it's something I want to continue indefinitely!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
My friend (and fellow tiny house enthusiast) Dee Williams once said: "Take a moment and think about what thing you want to hold in your arms as you die. What favorite room in your house or space could accommodate that last breath?"
If we asked these questions more often, I think many of us would stay out of the mall. Remember that stuff is replaceable, people aren't. Shift your attention toward the people you love and the experiences that make you happy.
New Dream's "Living the Dream" series profiles folks from around the world who are living lives focused on “more of what matters.” If you or someone you know is living the New Dream, please contact us—we're looking for inspiring stories to share!