Sporty and I thought it would be really interesting to shine a spotlight on other minimalists (people who’ve downsized, are living with less, etc.) to see what their lives look like.
We came up with a set of 10 questions (the last of which we believe to be the most important) and we’re asking everyone we feature to answer them.
Same questions, different answers. It can only make for interesting reading.
Some previous interviewees include Bill Powers, award-winning author of Twelve by Twelve and New Slow City, Ryan from The Tiny Life, Mr 1500 from 1500 Days to Freedom, and fellow Capetonian, Bryan Teare from The Quarterlife Comeback. (You can see the rest here.)
We all arrived at the idea of living a simpler life in different ways, but I think it’s safe to say that all of us are enjoying the many benefits of downsizing.
Tami and husband, Kevin,hanging out with the locals in the Galápagos Islands
Spotlight On: Tami Weiss
This week we shine a spotlight on Tami Weiss, I ‘e-met’ Tami towards the end of last year when she edited a guest post I’d submitted to a website she freelances for. For the record, she’s a phenomenal wordsmith and quickly turned my missive into something extraordinary.
Over the course of our correspondence we got chatting about living a minimalist lifestyle and it turns out she and her husband, Kevin, are in the beginning stages of building their first tiny house. You can check their progress on their blog: Tiny Homes, Big Adventures.
It turns out Tami is one busy lady, because in addition to her extensive travels (as evidenced in the photos she’s shared with us), she’s also started a side project called Our Fellow Americans, which is all about seeing and hearing what life is like for people in every pocket of the USA (particularly in the wake of what will undoubtably go down in the annals of history as the most bizarre election ever).
Tami being all touristy in Bosnia (man this woman gets around)
What Was Your Tipping Point?
What prompted you to say, “Screw it, let’s just sell everything!”?
Downsizing has been a long time coming. Personally, I’ve always had an aversion to stuff. I totally agree with the The Fight Club quote “the things you own end up owning you” and never want to be in that situation. My husband on the other hand has been intrigued by the idea and gone through periods where he’s lived with less, but always had stuff in storage or at his parents house.
Luckily, the fascination with less converged for both of us around the idea of building our own tiny home. I love the simplicity and freedom of tiny homes and my husband appreciates the smaller eco-footprint. We’ve been talking about tiny homes since we first started dating years ago. But it was always just talk.
Then life gave us a little push. My husband is a black belt, and while practicing jujitsu he was hit in the head and got a concussion. This meant that he couldn’t work for awhile. We tried to maintain our lifestyle for a few months, but on my nonprofit salary alone, rent on our 2 bedroom oceanview home soon became a burden. When we got the prediction that it would take him at least a year to fully recover we knew it was time for a change.
So we looked critically at our current lifestyle and realized it wasn’t going to get us to the lifestyle we envisioned in our heads. We weren’t any closer to living in our tiny home than when we started talking about it years ago. We were done delaying.
Luckily a long-term house-sitting situation came up. We jumped on that opportunity so we could stabilize financially while he recovered. The new housing situation has plenty of space to build our tiny home and has kickstarted our downsize. We donated bags and bags of stuff, sold some furniture and prepared for tiny home living.
Tami in Hawaii
How Do You Earn a Living Now?
Is it different than to your pre-minimalist days?
I earn a living through writing, editing and helping women launch their businesses. That’s definitely different for me. Most of my life I’ve had a 9-5 job, but they’ve just never felt right. I would last for a couple years but eventually ended up feeling stifled. The only jobs that have felt fulfilling and creative were the ones with flexible hours and lots of independence. Turns out this is what you get when you’re self-employed! Having lower overheads has made it possible to launch my own business and build up a client base without the financial pressure.
My husband is a life coach and yoga instructor. What he does hasn’t changed, but how much he works has! He now works way less than he used to and is way less stressed because of it.
Tami making plans in Jamaica (as one does)
How Much Stuff Do You Own?
How much of it do you travel with?
We’re still working on downsizing. We’re living in a normal American house while we’re building our tiny home, so we still have two couches, two chairs, too much kitchen stuff, books, exercise equipment, etc. It’s a work in progress!
As far as travel, I’m a fan of traveling light. I’ll take a backpack for clothes, cosmetics and meds and then a daypack to stash all my camera gear. That’s one of my favorite things about traveling and how I knew I could live a more minimal life at home.
Is There Anything You Regret Getting Rid Of?
What Are You Happiest About No Longer Owning?
Surprisingly, I’m happiest about the category that was hardest for me to get rid of: books. I’m an avid reader and was having a hard time parting with my beloved books. But after our most recent move when I was unloading the umpteenth heavy box of books, I finally had enough. I looked at all the beautiful books that I had enjoyed and then I took Marie Kondo’s advice, picked up each book, appreciated it and let it go. I kept some books, but I feel indescribability lighter having let go of the majority of them. Plus, I’ve rediscovered my local library!
Less stuff means more opportunities to visit amazing places, like Stonehenge
How Do You Handle Gift-Giving?
For each other (if you have an other), friends, family, etc.
We’ve moved towards gifting experiences to each other and our families – a fancy dinner out, Cirque du Soleil tickets, or a day of hiking. Even for our wedding last year we registered for just a couple very specific “things” on Amazon and only because people wanted to buy us something. Beyond the things, we registered for experiences and encouraged people to donate to charities on our behalf instead.
Riding an elephant in Thailand (a perfect example of experience trumping stuff)
What’s Your Debt Story?
Do you have? Did you ever have? How did you deal with it?
I have student loan debt from grad school that I’m slowly paying off, but other than that we’re both fortunate to have never had any major debt.
Building a tiny home is one way we’re choosing not to go into debt. The average tiny home costs $23,000 to build. The average house in the San Francisco Bay Area, where we live, is $712,000; and that’s for an older, small house in an outlining county, not in San Francisco. Plus that doesn’t even include maintenance and repairs over the lifetime of the house. For us the choice was simple: we choose not to go into debt. Tiny living means more financial freedom.
Fly-fishing in California
Ang: I immediately thought of A River Runs Through It when I saw this pic. Anyone else remember the movie or am I the only one with such a good memory (i.e. old enough to remember that far back)?
Sporty and I Eat a Plant-Based (Vegan) Diet.
Is this something you could see yourself doing? Tell us about the kind of food you enjoy.
I love food! I’ll try anything once, especially when I’m traveling! I tried going vegetarian for awhile, but I literally couldn’t eat enough. I would wake up in the middle of the night and eat half a jar of peanut butter. Now that I’ve been diagnosed with some food allergies, it’s too challenging to restrict my diet any further. As an environmentalist I know that eating meat is a huge carbon footprint, but we do what we can to support local farmers and ranchers, buy organic, eat less red meat and buy grass-fed beef when we do buy it.
How are you being ‘mostly mindful’ in your life?
E.g. recycling, composting, living with less, filtering your own water, etc. In short, tell us what small things you’re doing to make a difference.
Yes to all of those things – we recycle, compost, buy less, choose products with less packaging, filter water instead of buying bottled and take public transportation when possible. We’ve implemented easy gray water systems. We swapped out all the old school light bulbs for LED bulbs. We choose sustainable, socially-conscious brands, when we do buy things.
Do You Like Peanut Butter?
Yes! Both crunchy and creamy, depending on the situation. Plus let’s not forget the other nut butters… almond, macadamia, cashew, sunflower… mmmm. Time for a snack!
Ang: Ha! You and Bryan are clearly on the same wavelength when it comes to nut butter, Tami. 😉