That Time I Hated My Tiny House

There have been some times over our years of living tiny that Xaver and I have faced some really crazy schnitzel together.  Dominant culture tells us that having a lot of stuff equals wealth.  And yet, there I was looking around at my tiny house and realizing that I had a fraction of the stuff I used to have.  So… does that mean I’m poor?  People that knew our living situation sometimes treated us as if we were poor, but were they right to do so?

Culture tells us that a guy with a nice house, a nice yard, and a couple of nice cars is a pretty good guy.  A woman with an expansive collection of shoes and handbags, and a business empire is really something special.  And Billionaires are gods.  They must be smarter, wiser, or maybe they know some secrets the rest of us don’t know or they wouldn’t be wealthy, right?  And yet we’re seeing day-by-day proof in our political arena that wealth does not equal wisdom and human value can’t be measured by the mathematical equation of net worth.  I knew that a wealthy person wasn’t worth more than me in my head, but somehow my heart wasn’t getting the message.

There we were in our tiny house, living out some sort of intentional homelessness.  Sometimes it felt like we were doing something revolutionary.  Screw the system!  Sometimes it felt like we were being naughty because when people don’t understand your steps outside of conformity, they sometimes pull out the disapproval.  But I don’t have to live by their standard.  I have to live by mine.  When we stayed grateful (which wasn’t always) then it was an amazing and liberating experience.  And when I focused on what I didn’t have, it was awful.

Xaver and I have been through some battles that brought us back together at the end of the day feeling like the world had chewed us up and spit us out.  In fact, we had a client with a three million dollar project decide that they didn’t want to pay their bill for the work we’d done for them.  We actually had to take them to court.  It was one of those David and Goliath moments, and believe me, it wasn’t fun.  What made it worse was that “Goliath” was a congregation with the meanest pastor I’ve ever met.  I’m also a person of faith.  Church folk aren’t supposed to act like that!  What made it worse yet was that we had earmarked that money to pay a bill… and since that money didn’t come – our other bill got bigger and bigger.  The legal battle took forever!  We were demoralized, hurt, and angry.  There were times when I looked around at my tiny house, and I looked at our clients with their expansive 3 million dollar church renovation project… I felt very small and very poor.  There were moments in that season where I hated my tiny house.  It was a reminder of what we didn’t have.  And dealing with lawyers and the legal system only accentuated the sense that “justice” was beyond our grasp.

I was stressed out.  We both were.  In that season we created some new habits for ourselves that really helped.  These little habits helped us move from the poverty mindset into purposeful simplicity to make our home a haven.

Turning off the Screens

And we’d turn on the news and it would be some crazy “sky-is-falling” stuff and on top of what we were going through.  It felt like too much!  Twitter or Facebook would be flipping out over this or that new scandalous event.  We turned off the screens. We’d make a great meal, and open a bottle of wine left over from the restaurant.  We’d light a beeswax candle and put on some nice music.  Then we’d pull out the cards and play games for a while.  Without really meaning to, we were changing our focus away from the big bad world beyond the walls of our tiny home and placing our focus on the wealth of love that we shared.  It was amazing how much it helped to enjoy a lovely meal and unwind together.

Rituals

We also have some little rituals that have helped us.  When we’re really feeling low, we go outside and brush the negativity off of each other as if it were dandruff or dog hair.  Sometimes we go inside after a long day and wash our hands to wash away the cares of the day.  We pause to say a prayer before our meal and thank God for getting us through another day.  These were small rituals, but they have helped us make our home a haven.

Connection

In cases where we’re really struggling, but for whatever reason the problems we are facing need to remain closely held, that isolation can become a real challenge.  In fact, tiny houses are a great help it keeping isolation at bay!  I didn’t realize how great tiny houses were at keeping us connected until much later.

In January one year, the host of our favorite AirBNB invited us to stay at his place for a week.  He and his home hold a very special place in our home so of course we were delighted to visit.  I spent some time in the kitchen baking apple pies.  There was a glorious huge TV in the kitchen, so while I baked my pies, I listened to a documentary on minimalism. Do I know how to party or what?! LOL!

Xaver was in the next room, reading a book. Later I mentioned to him something I’d noticed in the documentary, and he didn’t even know I had the television on! In a tiny house, if the TV is on, everyone hears it! In fact, as that week progressed in that huge house, I began to feel more and more isolated. I was surprised how the vast empty spaces of a beautiful home could make me feel so alone. I was so happy to get back home to our tiny cozy space. That reality of being connected and close is one of the things I love about our tiny home. We’re together. We’re connected. We can hear each other without raising our voices. That isolation just can’t hang out with us. We’re close. Literally. The fact that the space is small and cozy really does focus our connection in a way a big house just cant do. This is to our advantage. We stay connected and bring friends and family into that space through hospitality, and isolation doesn’t stand a chance.

The Dove Family

doves

Years ago I heard a guy talking about a family of doves that lived in his porch.  When the family fought, the doves would leave.  When the family lived in peace, the doves would return.  I suppose that’s true no matter what size your home is.

Through a very difficult season of our lives when our tiny house accentuated our sense of poverty, we learned a few things that helped us remember that our choice to go tiny was about purposeful simplicity.  We learned to turn off the screens and enjoy a lovely meal together.  We learned small rituals that had meaning to us.  And we learned to stay close to each other.  In this way our tiny house became our haven-home.  It really is possible to use the tender walls of a tiny home to create space that is sacred, restful, and healing.  

Peace be with you,

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Kitchen Simplicity

IMG_3744My cute little book is ready for the world today, and I’m so pleased to make it available far and wide. This has been a long time coming! Find your copy on Amazon. I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

4 ways to share this book - BIG

The Shareables are here!

And thanks so much to each of you! This sweet little book has been a labor of love for me, and to hear you all responding with such interesting and thoughtful reviews and comments on social media has just been incredibly gratifying! Over and over again I have been moved by the way people respond to this little book and I appreciate all of you so very much!!! ❤

All my best,

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The Tiny House NC Street Festival

Street FestXaver and I had a great time at the Tiny House NC Street Festival in Pink Hill, North Carolina last weekend!  The hospitality of the host, Andrew Odom, and the community was spectacular.  They really did show southern hospitality and it was a joy to be there!

I spoke on Saturday and again on Sunday at “center stage” which was this lovely shaded spot with some bleachers and a sound system.  I spoke on Pain, Pie, Poverty, and Purpose.  We met the most interesting people – plus – touring those tiny homes and skoolies is always energizing to me!

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The best Shrimp & Grits I’ve ever had – from Chef & the Farmer

I tried to get a reservation at the Chef and the Farmer, but they were full.  That was fine, but then Andrew Odom pulled some strings and got us in, and boy are we grateful to him!!  Xaver and I even enjoyed a delectable meal of steak tartare, beet salad, catch of the day, shrimp & grits, and dessert!  That was the best meal I’ve ever had and it challenged me to up my game!  lol!

I’ve been getting really great feedback on the book and that is so gratifying.  After the many solitary months I have invested in getting those words on the page, it really rocks to share this message with the world and see it resonate with other people.  I wrote it to help people navigate the transition to living tiny – and it would appear that it is doing exactly that.  I’m soaking it all up and glowing because of this happy outcome!Screenshot (6)

Tiny houses and festivals are exciting and fun, but the downsizing process may not be.  I created a Super-Simple Kitchen Gear List to help you move gently through the process.  Sign up here to get the FREE PDF.  This is not dogma – just a resource to help you create the simple collection that is right for you.

PLUS, as an added bonusvideo series – here is my Right-Sizing Your Kitchen Video Series.  You will find this practical and helpful as you work through your kitchen at your own pace.  If you find that you need to replace or upgrade a few items, then check out my handy Buying Guide for help in selecting just the right items for you.  I have found that the quality-over-quantity approach really suits me.

I’m passionate about tiny house minimalism because it helped us hit the reset button on our lives and I know there are a lot of folks who would also benefit from a reset.  Plus, TINY house minimalism makes room for BIG dreams!  So I’ll happily travel to meet the people who are interested in tiny house living and I’ll have one message: I’m here to help you navigate through the transition of going tiny – especially in the kitchen.  You can do this, I know you can!

Deek Screenshot

Derek Diedricksen with my book.  His new book is coming out in November, so make sure to pre-order your copy now.

If you’re in the neighborhood, I’ll see you in Fredricksburg, Virginia on May 12th and 13th.  The festival details are here.  Look me up!  I’ll have the FESTIVAL COPY of my book available – and this is the edition that won’t be available anywhere else but a tiny house festival!  Soon enough (June?) it’ll be on Amazon and a lot of other interesting places.  At the moment – visiting a tiny house festival is the only way to get one.  That means I get to meet folks like you and we will talk together about our challenges and triumphs.  It’ll be great fun!

All my best,

TinyHouseFoodie.com
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Vinnie Vlog #4 – Floor ~ Power ~ Mess

IMG_3403We’ve made some progress on the Skoolie this week.  The floor is down, and the wiring is underway!  We’re making progress!  We’ve got a little more work to do so stick around!!

What’s your favorite part of a Skoolie conversion?  The power? The furnishings?  The Kitchen or Bath?  Stick around.  We’re taking it all on – step by step!29c45-1a2bcarmen

Vinnie Vlog #3 – Choosing the Floor for the Skoolie

Welcome back everyone, today I’m talking about the choice we made for the floor of the Skoolie. We ended up with Kronotex USA American made laminate flooring, the color name is “Wilson Pine” that we purchased from The Habitat Store in Charlottesville, Virginia. Plus, Xaver takes over the camera while I give the tour of the space as I’ve imagined it – even a sneak peek at the kitchen! One of his favorite cars even makes an appearance. lol!  We’re having great February weather here in Virginia, so we’ve been able to work outside very comfortably to get the seats taken out and the flooring down.  It looks great so far!

Next, I’ll rattle-can the “baseboard” that came on the bus and the wheel covers, then those can go back in.  I’ll also give the antique a fresh new look to prepare it for it’s next life as the kitchen cabinet in our Skoolie.  I’ll take the camera with me each step of the way so stick around for more stories from our world.  I’m Carmen Shenk reminding you that we can live tiny, embrace simplicity, and still eat really well.

Where are you in your tiny journey?  Looking, building, living?  Have you chosen a floor?  If so, let me know what you chose.  Thanks for following along, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Right-Sizing Flatware – Day 8

9 flatwareGood morning, it’s time to take a look at your flatware and choose your favorites, then add the rest to the donation box, and clean out the drawer or containers.  Again, don’t allow marketing to lock you into ideas of formal and casual, or make you feel that you have to keep sets or pieces you don’t use just for the sake of some notion about “value”.  If you have grandmother’s silver, take that out and access the situation.  Choose the pieces you appreciate and enjoy, choose the pieces that feel somehow special and allow the rest to go to the donation box or give to family or friends.  You’ll end up setting a table where each element has meaning and function, and that will be a delight for the senses.

I choose miss-matched silver pieces, some from my family, and some I happened upon at a lovely antique mall where Xaver and I had a great time exploring all the different patterns and choosing the individual items we liked the best.  Using these beautiful knives, forks, and spoons is so special because they are each beautiful, and because of the memories we have of picking them out and enjoying them together in our tiny house.  These beautiful details remind us that living in a tiny house is a purposeful choice, and not a sacrifice.  We are very blessed.

How are you doing on these challenges so far?  Leave me a comment and let me know your favorite parts of the series so far.  And as always, thanks for watching, I really appreciate it! 29c45-1a2bcarmen

Is the Food Processor really a Time Saving Device?

Good morning Tiny House people, thanks for joining me today.  I want to share with you my epic battle with the Food Processor.  I was curious – is a Food Processor really a time saving device?  The process of finding that answer was pretty interesting, and I drew some conclusions from the experience (that are at the end of this video).  Let me know what you think.  I was surprised to find that many of my friends were already on team #knifeandcuttingboard.  Maybe fewer folks use these space-hogging machines than I realized.  Are you going tiny?  Will you take your food processor with you to your tiny home?  Why or why not?  Let me know in the comments.

IMG_2487What did I do with all those chopped carrots, celery, and onion?  I bought a great big organic chicken and made chicken soup with all of it.  Yum!

Adapting Shrimp & Grits for a Tiny House

How do you adapt a complex recipe that requires lots of space and dishes to one that can be made simply in a tiny house?  This video shows how I take a complex dish and make it a very simple one.  To adapt a recipe for use in a tiny house, plan out how you can use less dishes, use less power, and avoid putting a lot of moisture into the air that could create a mold problem in your home.  You can create great food in a tiny house kitchen, and these strategies will help!29c45-1a2bcarmen