Colorado Couple Living an Alternative Lifestyle: Tiny House Tiny Footprint
March 26, 2016
After a few months living small, I started talking to others who were living an alternative lifestyle and was inspired by their stories.
Recently I have written some alternative lifestyle stories involving permaculture, nomadic living and going zero waste, but really these “alternative” lifestyles are the gateway to freedom, a higher quality of living and healing for ourselves and our planet. So are they really alternatives? As we have entered into Spring, this is a time to RENEW by detoxing your life and home. I hope through these stories you are able to find happiness in a simpler more conscious lifestyle.
When I came across Tiny House Tiny Footprint, I was immediately enthralled and my mind was full of questions for Kathleen and Greg. Their journey is inspiring and I too have some plans for some Tiny Home living in a RV, so it was time to get some tough questions answered about their transition from city living to Tiny House Tiny Footprint.
Who are you – Greg
I am a Colorado native who loves being outdoors and admiring nature. I’m interested in sustainable architecture and sustainable urban planning because I want to preserve our nature capital and shape better qualities of life. Permaculture is a philosophy that resonates with me and influences how I interact with the world. It’s both a tool for sustainable agriculture and guide for navigating through life.
Who are you – Kathleen
I am an adventurer, explorer, photographer, writer and environmental advocate. I not only want to talk about making reducing one’s environmental footprint; I want to act on it. I bring a camera almost everywhere I go and write notes in a journal or my phone. I want to tell the story behind the images I see and I try to get to know the people I interview deeper than their answers. I grew up a city girl, but am feeling more and more pulled away and more toward the freedom of simple living.
What is your inspiration behind your blog Tiny House Tiny Footprint?
Greg and I started Tiny House, Tiny Footprint as a way to tell the story of our journey from a 1,000 square-foot city apartment to a 140-square-foot camper trailer. After a few months living small, I started talking to others who were living an alternative lifestyle and was inspired by their stories. I wanted to share their perspectives because I knew there were people who wanted the freedom that comes with living small but didn’t know where to start. I also wanted to create a place where tiny dwellers could connect with each other.
Did you always live this consciously?
I wish I could say I did. I grew up in a suburb outside of Chicago and wasn’t interested in spending my time in the wilderness. I wanted to spend time with my friends and doing the things they were interested in. I wasn’t quite sure what I was interested in at a young age. It wasn’t until I moved to Colorado that I realized how much I was taking Earth’s resources for granted. One of the reasons I wanted to live small was to experiment with reducing my environmental footprint. I knew people were living more simple lives and some even off the grid. I wanted to see if this was possible and still work a full-time job in a city at the same time.
What struggles did you face making the transition from city life to an off-grid tiny home?
The first month was really difficult for me. I tried to fight the alternative lifestyle because I wanted to find a reason why people don’t live this kind of lifestyle. This lifestyle is considered outside the norm by the people close to us in our lives, mostly because they are living in the city.
Living in a mobile home full time in someone’s backyard is considered illegal, so I also lived in fear that someone would discover us and kick us out of the backyard we were living in. After my internal struggles and that anxiety subsided, I had to adjust to showering at the gym, refilling water jugs at the local grocery store and going outside to use a refrigerator. We had limited electricity, so we really had to think about what we wanted to use it for at any given time. After a few months, I adjusted and experienced happiness and freedom from our simpler lifestyle.
What is the one piece of advice you would give someone looking to reduce their footprint?
Start small! Looking back, I think the way we did it was quite drastic. There are tiny steps you can do regardless of the type of home you are living in. I wrote about a few things you can do in a recent Hipcamp article. Some easy things are limiting your water use and reducing the amount of packaging you use by buying in bulk instead.
You live in a camper, but don’t live on the road. What do you feel is the difference between these lifestyles?
I really struggle with living small in one location. The idea of van life is dreamy—camping in a new location each night and waking up in a new place every morning. Sometimes I wonder if traveling makes the lifestyle easier.
It’s difficult to wake up in the same place and go to a gym to shower and get ready in the mornings. It’s hard to want to go to an office job when you know that you can live in any tiny space and work on the road. But I think there’s something special about having a home base with a garden. We enjoy the comfort of our family and friends nearby. We like that we can escape on mini adventures on the weekends.
We do dream of someday merging these two lifestyles so that we can travel and work remotely, but also return to our little camper and our own land.
You more recently were able to settle on your own land. How do you currently and how do you intend to implement permaculture on your land and in your daily alternative lifestyle?
We have already started the process of building soil by composting food scraps and mulching plant debris in place. We’ve planted chicken forage seed mix, which includes legumes and other nitrogen fixers. We’re looking forward to planting food forests and paddocks for chickens, ducks, quail and other animals. Since our garden has a sloped terrain, we’re going to build hugelkultur (hill farming) beds in terraces.
One principle we try to live by is to learn from nature and let it be our guide, especially when it comes to growing food, but also in our daily lives.
Tiny Homes need to feel beautiful and organized. How have you designed your space to maximize storage and make it personal?
We reupholstered our camper cushions, put in a new bed, hung artwork and memorabilia on the walls and use tapestries as both decorations and curtains. Everything has its place, whether it’s in our cupboards or hanging in our closet. We use the top bunk of our bed as a storage loft. Smaller photographs look better in our tiny space, so we hang several to add comfort to our lives.
You spoke about water being important to you. How are you conscious of your water use and how can others make an effort towards reducing their consumption?
When we are living in our camper, we only use water from gallon jugs. Because we only have about 10 jugs at the camper at a time and only refill them sparingly, we try not to use that many of them in any given day. We also have a composting toilet that eliminates the amount of water we waste when we flush a regular toilet.
You can start reducing your water use by going longer between laundry days, taking fewer or shorter showers and turning off the water when you’re brushing your teeth.
When we are living in a house, we try to limit our water when we shower and wash dishes. We also practice selective flushing when we use the bathroom.
Re-use and Upcycling are important to me in my designs. How do you guys try to implement re-use in your daily lives?
We upcycled our camper into a tiny house and we saved our van from going to a junkyard by giving it a new life as an adventure mobile.
We compost what we don’t eat or use, and visit the ReSource Yard to find salvaged building materials.
We use mason jars for just about everything. They hold our spices, act as glassware, leftover containers for soups and stews, and pose as watering cans. Wood scraps are great resources for homemade shelves. A string of LED lights can easily become a primary light source. Scarves are beautiful curtains for tiny windows. We use parachute cord to hang our plants and as collars and leashes for our dogs.
Where can we find more about your journey and other stories like yours?
We share stories of our journey and others living alternative lifestyles on our blog and our social media sites. We’d love to hear from you and offer advice if we can. Feel free to connect with us and shoot us a message. We hope to inspire others to try tiny living, whether it’s in a permanent location or on the road.
If you are looking for some easy tips and steps for detoxing your life and home for Spring to begin your journey into living a happy healthy simple alternative lifestyle, join me for my FREE WEBINAR: Saturday April 2nd at noon pst. You can also work with me one-on-one to access your goals and implement a course of action.