Tiny House Family on Anderson Cooper

Posted by on Apr 8, 2012 in Recent Posts, Remember | 34 comments

Tiny House Family on Anderson Cooper

Tiny House Family got all made-up last week for the Anderson Cooper daytime talk show. (Show airs Monday, April 9th–check andersoncooper.com for channel and time.) The whole experience was a lot of fun. I especially like how the video of our tiny house turned out, and how I am on camera with no makeup (okay, a bit of powder foundation) for the video;

then on stage at the show after two hours of hair and makeup, I look like a different person. TV is made up of real people with amazing hair and make-up artists. I enjoyed the OUTRAGEOUS differences in lifestyle between NYC and our little mountain homestead. The folks at Anderson were wonderful. Thanks for a great time and experience!



In talking with the producers at the Anderson show and preparing to share our tiny house and story with a much larger audience, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what we are now doing and what led us here. The topic of the show is “Outrageous Ways People Save Money.” The word outrageous makes me laugh. We are not outrageous people. Before the show, we brainstormed lists of ways we save money and nothing seemed outrageous. What qualifies as outrageous? When the producer asked me for the second time to name the top three ways we save money, I couldn’t do it on the spot. How could I put my ever-evolving lifestyle into 3 made-for-TV bullet points? I don’t even have a TV! All of it felt surreal and ironic. Could I go on TV and say the top way I save money is by not watching TV, by not having it available for my kids to watch? Thereby keeping our minds relatively free from the wants mass media so skillfully implants. The way we save money is not summed up in three outrageous bullet points.

Unless these qualify:

  1. Total awareness of wants/needs
  2. Inherited resourcefulness
  3. The desire to live life free from the weight of debt

We’ve known huge debt and truthfully that debt will always be there somewhere in my mind.

Crushing debt has driven some people to take their own lives. The out-of-control feeling is paralyzing. Looking at the mountain of debt we accumulated trying to keep our restaurant alive made me gasp for air. It made me sick to my stomach: the thought of our children growing up with parents struggling to pay a mortgage with no choices. But the truth is, there are choices. There always are. Losing everything and starting over may be the pivotal moment one needs to live a more fulfilled life. The mantra I carried with me for a long time was, “I am not my credit score.” I felt like my honor and dignity were somehow tied to my ability to repay my debts. I had to work to affirm that my worth as a person had nothing to do with my debt. We accumulated this debt working our butts off to create a lively community restaurant. The failure of this dream didn’t mean we were a failure, and I refuse to believe we have no more possibility. We are now dreaming a new dream and finding the courage to tell about our dark times.

What has come from this is a new paradigm–a way of living very simply and beautifully. Living in our tiny house has given us the freedom from a mortgage (BTW, mortgage [French] translates to death pledge), and a whole lot of room to breathe.

This helps me cope with the feeling of indebtedness:

When I talked with my aunt about my desire to someday repay her (and all friends/family who came in to help when we were fighting with everything we had to keep our business alive).  She said,

“Don’t worry about that. Pay it forward. Someday, you will do something like that for someone else.”–These words soothe my soul.

  • Our first commitment on our rebound was to never use credit again. It’s been four years and it feels great!
  • We are now paying it forward by talking about our struggles (and rebound) in hopes that we can shine some light on dark times for others.
  • We are committed to telling more of our story and documenting the process of slowly building a mortgage-free home.

After helping over 250 people get started on the path to mortgage-freedom, we've learned a lot more about what it takes, the pitfalls, the tricks and triumphs of living a zero-debt life of intention. We're taking what we've learned and creating a whole new series of courses to help even more of you reach your dreams. Sign up for our newsletter to get first dibs on the limited seats in our new course.


  1. I can’t wait to see it, Mama. I like the β€œI am not my credit score” quote.

    Like Fight Club:
    …you’re not how much money you’ve got in the bank. You’re not your job.

    • Yes!

      • I am truly inspired by your family, your home and your spunk! My family has a two year plan to leave the state of Florida and start again – smaller, wiser and healthier (hopefully both mentally and financially). We are saving money and finishing up our educational and career goals and plan to head out. Here’s my question: did you have a destination already set (when you moved) or did you research and visit places? We have started our search but are feeling a little overwhelmed. Any suggestions?

        • Hi Lynn,

          Thanks for your message! I am glad you are inspired. In order to figure out where we wanted to move, we started by making a list of everything we wanted in a home town. I think the first things to narrow down are the climate and terrain you are after. Narrow down a basic area of the country. From there, we followed the advice in Mortgage Free by Rob Roy:

          There are strategies for finding the most inexpensive land and for saving to build without a mortgage. We learned a lot and were inspired by reading this book.

          I hope these ideas get you started! Best of luck!

  2. **love**

    • ox

  3. Nice job! And thanks for being you…

    • Thanks for always supporting me being me. I love you, Pappy!

  4. I LOVE how transparent and fulfilled you are now that you have been through the worst and coming to the best. We all LOVED your restaurant. There was no failure, there, just mistiming. Being debt free is the greatest gift you can give your children. As Dave Ramsey says, “You have changed your family tree!” Can’t wait to see the show!


    • Hi Karen,

      So nice to have your perspective as a New Day Cafe patron. We did an awesome job, and I am proud of our creation. Thanks for reminding me about that.

      Being transparent is scary sometimes, but it’s very healing. Thanks for being my friend.

      Much love,

  5. I’m with you on the no TV. We don’t have it either, only netflix for kids and it DOES save money. No commercials makes for a happy kid with what she’s got. Well… that’s a stretch, but I love life without TV. No news, no commercials, no reality shows. We actually have conversations! πŸ˜‰ Somehow, however, I will see this broadcast! I may have to go to my mom’s house! πŸ™‚

    • πŸ™‚

  6. WOW… You are truly a inspiration to others! It’s the little choices along the way that can either ruin us or make us better. I guess.. you are a testimony to the fact that all of the choices in our lives have some sort of consequence and to be aware that we should contemplate and examine more of the things “we want” and evaluate if we “really need”.

    • Thank you, Tena!

  7. I’m hoping the show will post the video on the website so I can watch it! Congrats, Mama.

  8. Just saw your story on Anderson Cooper. I wish they had gone a little more in depth as your story is remarkable in that you happily live with children in a tiny home. Best of luck to your family and hope that you will reach your goal of a larger home, but not more than 500 sq. feet.! The freedom from living small is the biggest reward of all.

    • Yes, it is, Donna! Thanks so much for your comment. It’s so nice to get feedback.

  9. You guys are inspirational. I love your tiny house!

    • Thanks, Beth!

  10. Mama. What state are you in now? I lived in Florida and they have some of the most restrictive laws on everything (except Cali)! My friend in Sweden runs a large forum on sustainability www dot barkforum dot com that teaches PPL to be self sufficient and live sustainability. I am a resident of Indiana but looking to move to an area with few building suggestions. Any ideas?

  11. Someone posted the clip of your house and family on my facebook and I was really impressed with your story and house. Very cute and well-designed little space!! My husband and I share our tiny house with 2 pit bulls and it’s too much chaos sometimes, so I applaud you for having 2 kids in yours! Definitely will add your blog to my feed reader.

    • Hi April,

      Thanks for your comment! I really appreciate you reading. Cheers to tiny life!

  12. I was so inspired by your story on “Anderson” that I mentioned your tiny house on my blog today and linked over here so my readers can learn more about it. Love what you said about how we always have choices. So true. Thanks! πŸ™‚

    • Hi Julia,
      We do always have choices, it’s just not always to see them at first glance :).

      I appreciate you sharing our blog with your readers.

  13. We are seriously considering downsizing to something of this size or a bit larger. My curiosity is around several difference questions: How were you able to find land? How did you manage to get water, power and sewer/septic hookup?

    I live on Vancouver Island in Canada and our climate is wet and cool. Any info you are willing to share around my questions would be well received.

    Congratulations on getting off the treadmill!

    • Hi Michele!
      I am glad to hear that you are considering downsizing. It is a great adventure and very rewarding! I am working on a blog post that will answer your questions.
      Hari (Mama)

  14. WOW! This was wonderful! Thank you for being our unintentional small house spokespersons! You did a great job of showing how we can live with grace and dignity. Well done, you have a beautiful family πŸ™‚

    • Thank you, Debra! We had a great time doing this!

  15. Hello,
    Since your appearance on the show you guys have become somewhat of an internet sensation (at least in tiny house circles). I’m glad to see it! If your three “bullet points” don’t sum up the tiny house state of mind nothing does.

    You also disprove one of the biggest arguments people make about living small, and that is, “I have a family so a tiny house isn’t for me.”


    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for reading! I’m glad my bullet points sum up the tiny house state of mind! πŸ™‚

      Living small is certainly possible with a family, as long as everyone is “in”. It takes a lot of communication, simplicity, tidiness and a love for the great outdoors!

      Wishing you much success!

  16. So happy for you and family. Your focus really shows true value of living and setting future goals that will allow growth the way that suits your family best. Blessings.

    • Thank you, Sheila! πŸ™‚

  17. i was so glad to see your story on AOL this morning. I often watch the HGTV channel and marvel that all young couples these dasy seem to want granite counter tops !
    A few years ago, I sold my two story house. I am 54, single and when my daughter left home, I knew it was time to downsize. But to what? After spending months looking at my options for apartments, condos .. I happened upon a mobile home park in my area. They happened to have one for rent, and on the end of a lane near woods.
    “I’ll take it,” I said
    In short, I love it!
    The first night I just put my mattress on the floor with a few tables and lamps until I got everything sorted. In the end I probably got rid of nearly 80% of everything I owned: I held yard sales, sold on Craigs List, donated to Good Will, gave away to friends and relatives, . . . and just threw stuff away! You can’t believe how many things you accumulate over the years! Now I have my own “aluminum tube” decorated with bare bones furnishings, and minimal accessories.
    Although I have a good job, and could afford a larger place, I am very happy to have a home that is very affordable, and does not need a lot of maintenance.
    I am encouraged most of all that you have a value system that will survive any economic crisis, and will serve you well into the future.
    I wish you and your family great happiness in the future ..

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts, Monique! Good for you for finding the freedom in simplicity. I love it!


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