You Can Buy Happiness: An interview with Tammy Strobel

Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in Recent Posts | 4 comments

You Can Buy Happiness: An interview with Tammy Strobel

Tammy’s “book baby” You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too hit the shelves this week! This is a wonderful read–I couldn’t put it down! If you desire a simpler, more fulfilled life, you’ve got to get a copy of this book. Tammy’s honest narrative style is engaging, and her micro actions offer clear steps to simplifying and living a happier life. I found myself nodding my head in agreement and found lots of actions that will help me continue to simplify, follow my intuition and lead a truly happy life.

* * *

Hari: You have come a long way since sitting in a cubicle at Franklin Templeton, commuting for hours, shopping for stress relief, and feeling depressed. Knowing what you know now, what two sentences would you say to the old Tammy?

Tammy: First, listen to your intuition. Second, don’t worry about what the “cool kids” are doing because you are already cool.

Hari: You offer clear, simple and do-able steps that, if put into practice, will definitely help folks simplify, clarify and live a happier life. How were you able to isolate such specific micro-actions from your journey?

Tammy: I started slowly simplifying my life seven years ago. Isolating specific micro-actions was a result of paying attention to my own needs and recording my experiences in a journal. By paying attention to what I needed in my life, I was able to change my behavior slowly over time. For example, rather than trying to give away all of my stuff at once, I focused on micro-tasks like de-cluttering one small area of the house.

Hari: It is so important that spouses and family members are totally on board with a downsize of any sort, especially one from 1200 sq. ft. to 128 sq. ft! Your process as a couple is inspiring. It seems that you take turns encouraging each other to stay the course. What advice can you offer couples just starting the process of downsizing?

Tammy: Talk to each other. If you don’t communicate you’ll make big assumptions about what your partner may or may not want. I’ve found that assumptions lead to arguments. So if you want to make big life changes, talk to your partner and figure out what small steps you can start taking today.

If one partner is feeling resistant to a new challenge, ask questions to find out why they are opposed to the idea. For example, sometimes I feel anxious and I don’t know why. Talking about why I’m feeling anxious helps me identify the stressor and what I can do to address the issue.

Hari: So much has changed in your lives. What has stayed the same?

Tammy: Actually, nothing has stayed the same. Everything in our lives has changed. For instance, we’ve given away most of our belongings, live in a very small home, and recently moved back to California. I believe all of these changes are good for me because embracing change is a wonderful way to grow myself. In addition, my relationship with Logan — my husband — has gotten stronger because of these changes.

Hari: How ‘bout some fill in the blank?…

Tammy: Sure!

By letting go of my need to control everything, I saw the most positive change in my life.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without Logan, my family, friends, and blog readers. Strong relationship are the key ingredient to a happy and healthy life. I’m grateful that I have so many kind and caring people in my world.


Now for an excerpt from Chapter 1:


Buying Things Will Not Make You Happy

People say we’re searching for the meaning of life.
I don’t think that’s it at all. I think that what we’re seeking
is an experience of being alive.

— Joseph Campbell

. . .

Jenna’s Story: Less Is More

In contrast to my mom’s story, Jenna is an only child, and when she was young, her family didn’t have a lot of money. However, as Jenna pointed out, they “weren’t poor either.”

Jenna grew up in the suburbs outside Portland, Oregon, and her mom loved to shop. In fact, she shopped so much that she frequently overcharged her credit cards and bounced checks. Jenna never understood why her mom shopped so much, because she already had a lot of stuff. Most of her closets were packed with clothing, shoes, and luggage, and the bathroom cabinets were bursting with cosmetics.

Growing up, Jenna said, “I always felt like our house was dirty because stuff ended up being strewn about the house in big piles. The piles were endless — nothing was taken care of, and I had a hard time locating things that I used every day. For example, we never had pencils in the house. I know that sounds a little weird, but I needed pencils for homework and art projects. Everything seemed to get lost in my mom’s stuff, and it was frustrating. It’s not like my mom was a hoarder — she just wasn’t organized and had too much stuff.”

Jenna explained that she had a “good childhood,” but it was really hard listening to her parents constantly argue about money. She noted, “My parents tried to keep financial matters to themselves, but it was obvious there were problems. A lot of the problems stemmed from my mom’s shopping addiction. It seemed like we were always going through periods of boom or bust. We either had a little money or we were broke.”

As Jenna talked about her mom and dad’s financial problems, I thought about 2003, the year I got married. It was a good year, but I lived paycheck to paycheck, with so much student loan debt that I couldn’t catch up. Rather than saving money to pay it off, I would go to the mall for “shopping breaks.” I could relate to Jenna’s experience.

Toward the end of our conversation, Jenna expressed, “It was hard watching my parents struggle because of my mom’s shopping addiction. Despite their struggles, both of my parents were there for me. They gave me their time, love, and attention. I felt secure and loved — that’s all I really needed.”

I interviewed Jenna in July 2011, and I keep thinking about her comment because I believe most people want time, love, and attention from their friends and family. I know that’s what I want. Interestingly, by simplifying my life, I’ve gotten better at giving those things to others, and in turn I’ve gotten them back, which has made me a whole lot happier.

I’ve also discovered that there is no “one size fits all” approach to living simply. Concepts like minimalism, downsizing, voluntary simplicity, and even personal happiness mean different things to different people. And that’s okay.

Over the past seven years, I’ve developed my own definition of simple living and happiness. For me that means living without a car, getting rid of debt, living in a very small house, and keeping minimal personal belongings. My aim in this book is to help you develop your own definition of simple living and happiness.

In addition, I’ve deliberately avoided the wider social and political aspects of these choices. For some, living simply is an active political and environmental choice; it’s pursued as part of a larger belief in the need for societal change. While I agree with many of these social goals, I’m not a political pundit, and I have no interest in becoming one. My goal is to offer stories based on my experience and to provide new options for you to ponder. Does the idea of living more simply appeal to you? Does it inspire you to rethink your perspective and choices? If so, then how can you use your own unique skills and abilities to make a difference in your personal life and in your broader community? These are big questions that we each have to answer for ourselves. For myself, I put my political energy into my local volunteer work. I believe I help my community through my individual actions, as well as by being mindful of my behavior and striving to live authentically in ways that support my life purpose. In all ways, I am continually trying to simplify.


Small, actionable tasks made the process of giving away my stuff, paying off my debt, and even changing careers a whole lot smoother. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I felt empowered. At the end of each chapter, I provide a list of micro-actions to help you put these ideas into practice, so throughout the book be ready to write, talk, think, and do.

As you start, one of the first steps is to define your own version of happiness and simplicity. What does this vision look like for you? When I started to simplify my life, I asked myself two big questions: What makes me happy? And how can I simplify my life to enhance my happiness? These are great ways to begin rethinking your relationship with stuff and how you define happiness.

• Write down your definition of happiness. In a journal or just on a piece of paper, write about your own version of happiness. As you do, reflect on some of your favorite, happiest memories. Jot down where you were and who you were with, as well as sights, sounds, and smells. Capture the whole experience, and identify why these moments made you happy. For me, happiness is interwoven with strong relationships and memories that last a lifetime. What makes you happy?

• How can you simplify your life? Right now, write down all the ways you can think of to simplify your life. As you write, consider: What changes can you make to your daily routine that will give you more freedom and time? How will those changes make you happier?

Today Tammy Strobel is a writer, simple living advocate, coffee addict, and tiny house enthusiast. She created her blog,, to share her story of embracing simplicity. Since then, her story has been featured in the New York Times, The Today Show, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and in a variety of other media outlets. She lives with her husband in a tiny house. Her blog is

From the book You Can Buy Happiness (And It’s Cheap).  Copyright © 2012 by Tammy Strobel. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. or 800-972-6657.

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  1. I just down loaded Tammy’s book on my kindle and started reading it. I am really looking forward to working through it. As she says in the book -“get a pen and paper” (or something along those lines) to answer some questions about what “simplifying means to you” and other questions. I am looking forward to the journey and what I will discover about myself.

    • I am so glad, Liesl. I’m sure you will enjoy it! Please share your thoughts and ideas about the book if you’d like. I love reading your comments. Thanks so much for being part of our community. Happy Friday!!

  2. I do believe that simplifying is one of the answers to our economic situation. The government wants to stimulate the economy by encouraging us to spend more. How about stimulating life and living instead?

    I love that there is an expanding community of folks who get that a tiny house = a bigger life! -joanne

    • JoAnne, YES!!! Best to you!! 🙂


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