Spotlight On: The Tiny Life

by | Dec 11, 2016 | Spotlight On, Living Small | 2 comments

The Tiny LifeSporty 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.

Time sure does fly. Just the other day I was thinking how it would be cool to feature other folks living downsized lives and now look, we’re already on our 10th Spotlight On interview.

And you know what that means right? It’s time to whip up that eBook we promised you. I’ll get cracking on writing an intro for it and leave Sporty to the somewhat dubious task of tracking down our lazy designer. She buggered off on holiday recently without asking, seriously.

Some previous interviewees include Bill Powers, award-winning author of Twelve by Twelve and New Slow City, Claudia and Garett from Two Cup House, Anthony from Break the Twitch and Al and Shelly from Sll All Your Stuff. (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.

Spotlight On: The Tiny Life

This week we shine a spotlight on Ryan from The Tiny Life. I ‘met’ Ryan when he emailed me recently to let me know he’d enjoyed a post I’d written on the purpose of stuff so much that he decided to expand on it. I like mine (obviously, ha ha), but his version, let’s call it The Purpose of Stuff 2.0, delves deeper.

Ryan was living a regular life (house, job, car, etc.) when the bottom fell out and he was fired. From one day to the next he found himself without a regular income and no immediate prospects to save him from his dire situation.

But, as is so often the case in life, what at first glance appeared to be the worst thing possible, turned out to be the best thing ever. Because it opened him up to a tiny world with enormous potential and possibilities. Ryan has since built his own tiny house, started three different businesses and written a couple of books: Tiny House Living and How to Build a Tiny House. Follow him on Twitter, find him on Facebook and while you’re at it, check Ryan out on YouTube as well.

Ryan Mitchell - The Tiny Life

What Was Your Tipping Point?

What prompted you to say, “Screw it, let’s just sell everything!”?

It all started by getting fired, yup, that’s right, fired.  About a year ago I found myself facing layoffs at my job; I was a recruiter.  That is when the economy took a turn for the worst.

I found myself with no job, no car, had to move home, newly single, was uninsured and didn’t qualify for unemployment.  It happened so fast that I could barely believe it; that is when I found Tiny Houses.

After spending a few hours looking for jobs that day, I was surfing around the web and came upon a photo of a Tiny House.  I thought they were kind of neat, I had always had this affinity for alternative housing, but there was something different about Tiny Houses.  That’s when I had my a-ha! moment.

Here I was realizing that the system I was taught to go by, had essentially failed me, I had done everything “right”.  I went to High School, was awarded Boy Scout’s highest rank of Eagle, I had a impressive list of extracurricular activities, which got me into college.  Four years later, I graduated with my bachelors and was awarded the Research Scholar’s award.  I was quickly accepted into a Masters program, which I did well in.  I landed contract after contract, making way more than I should have right out the gate.  But what did it really amount to?

I was looking at Tiny Houses not just as a downsized living space, but as a lifestyle which circumvented the pitfalls of the typical framework.  I began to realize that it was not about material things.  It was what mattered: Relationships, Time, Freedom, & Self Sufficiency.  You must love the life you live.  You must love those you live it with.  You must have time to be in the moment.  Finally, in the end, it’s up to you to look out for you and those you hold dear.  I realized my initial approach was flawed, it did not support what truly mattered.

So that’s how it started.

How Do You Earn a Living Now?

Is it different than to your pre-minimalist days?

Today it is very different from my previous life.  I have struck out on my own, built three different businesses:  My tiny house website, the conference, and launched a co-working space.  I designed all three to meet a few very specific criteria:

  1. Have the ability to not tie me to a location the vast majority of the time
  2. Provides flexibility in my schedule
  3. Requires no inventory and limits exposure/risk
  4. Has a scaleable element to allow for higher income
  5. Should be independent but complementary; each business is a force multiplier of the others

This allows me to have large chunks of time where I can travel for extended periods, then come back for highly focused projects in person. 

How Much Stuff Do You Own?

How much of it do you travel with?

I don’t know exactly how much I have, but it’s not a lot.  The point isn’t to NOT have things, it’s to dissect my reasons for wanting things.   Why do I want this?  If we are honest, it is us trying to convince ourselves that it will make us happy, when in fact, it will not.  Being a minimalist is a label that was the outcome, not the goal.  

Tiny House Kitchen

Is There Anything You Regret Getting Rid Of?

Not really, if I truly want something, I’ll buy it.  Minimalism doesn’t condemn consuming, it’s just doing it with purpose.

What Are You Happiest About No Longer Owning?

Business attire, I essentially had to have two wardrobes: one for work, one for the rest of life. I now have what equates to a uniform. I own 20 identical t-shirts, identical underwear and socks, 3 pairs of shorts, two pairs of pants, one dress shirt, one dress slacks, and two sets of workout clothes.  

How Do You Handle Gift-Giving?

For each other (if you have an other), friends, family, etc.

I just tell everyone to take me to dinner or cook me a meal instead.  It’s a non tangible and I get to spend time with them, which is all I want. 

What’s Your Debt Story?

Do you have? Did you ever have? How did you deal with it?

I have always been good with money, I was taught from a young age.  I mainly use my debit card though.  I have credit cards, but have never paid late and never carry a balance; I run all my business expenses through them so I always have free hotel rooms when I need one.  I had student loans, but I paid them off 3 years early.  Right now I just have a car payment, but am working to pay that off 2 years early to pay cash for the next car.  My cost of living is very low in a tiny house, so I can pay more than the normal payment each month and when I get my book royalty checks, I use that money to pay down debts faster.   

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’ve tried vegetarian diet before, it’s fine.  I used to be involved with local agriculture and saw how meat could be raised in a way I was personally okay with. I have raised and processed chickens myself, it was a sobering experience, but I processed it and ultimately was comfortable with the realities.  I am an omnivore.  

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.

My home is 100% off the grid, I get all my power from my solar panels which go to heat and cool my tiny house.  Everything in my house is super efficient, I designed my house from the ground up to be very eco-friendly.  My use of resources is so dramatically less than most people that it’s almost not a fair comparison.  

A Tiny House

Do You Like Peanut Butter?

Of course!  Dipping apple slices in PB is the best 🙂

Ang: Yeehaa, that’s 10 for 10 with our Spotlight On interviewees. Peanut butter lovers unite! Also, I had this exact snack yesterday morning and then again in the afternoon. Yeah, I’m wild like that.



  1. Susan

    Thanks. What an interesting bunch of people you have found! I look forward to the e-book. I’m glad Ryan has made such a happy, purposeful and rewarding life for himself. His firm should definitely regret having “let him go”. Very short sighted on their part!

    • Ang

      Hi Susan. We have featured some interesting people, right?! I think the ebook will be great, looking forward to putting it together and sharing it! 🙂


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