Here we reflect on the path that led us here. Life is a ride!
Making the Nikon #IamGenerationImage video is a highlight of our tiny house adventure. We absolutely loved meeting these fascinating new friends and creating something together. I wrote a bit more about the project in this post. Watch the video here! We love how it turned out; it really sums up our story. (Be sure to let it load before viewing.) I’m thrilled with the image gallery, too. I took over 1000 images for this project, and these are the best of them. If you click on an image, you’ll find a quote from me about the picture and then expert insight in “Behind the Shot.” Truthfully, I had no idea I was doing these expert things, so I’m learning here, too.It sure is fun to see my pictures on the Nikon website! Enjoy! Simply, Hari P.S. Enrollment for the Summer 2015 session of our eCourse, Creating Your Path to Mortgage-freedom is now open. Open enrollment closes on July 15, 2015. Read about the course here! Sign up for our newsletter to be informed of open enrollment for future sessions and receive our seasonal newsletter. Share...Read More
Last month, we opened our home to the public as part of the SustainFloyd Tiny House Tour. We were happy to share our home and help an organization we believe in all at the same time. What an amazingly full day it was. The tour sold out, and 260 people toured the five homes. Some folks drove a whole day to get here! This is a testament to the growing interest in simplifying life and paring down to what really matters. Hooray for that! We met so many kind and enthusiastic people who loved our home and were grateful to us for opening it. We even got a thank you letter via snail mail. Thanks, Nancy, for taking the time to honor us with a real letter. There were people all over our hillside. My dear friends sat on our parking pad, asking for names and email addresses and directing folks to walk into the woods to see the Grandmother White Oak we are blessed with. At one point, I sat down on the deck, and looked around at all the people wandering our property. Whoa. This is not quiet and private. I’m a quiet and private person, so spending a full day exposing all the nooks and crannies of our home took it’s toll on me. I wasn’t uncomfortable sharing–I mean we all have underwear drawers, but the amount of interaction took me down. After six hours of tours, we went to dinner and then viewed the awesome and inspiring film, TINY: A Story About Living Small at the Floyd Country Store. Then we sat on a panel with our fellow tiny house dwellers. Hari and Karl as part of the SustainFloyd Tiny House Tour panel discussion, May, 2014. View from the big house upstairs window. Archer entertains. Karl answers questions outside while I give the tour inside. Deck full! The tour guests take the hike up our driveway. Meeting familiar faces. Shoes off in the tiny house! The panel discussion was a highlight for me. How cool to sit on the stage with our dear friends and talk about living our lives. Even though the introvert in me had to hide out in a clam shell for a week to recover, this experience was delightful. I never imagined we’d have a home that people would want to tour, let alone one we built with our own hands. At the end of the day the traffic slowed down, and some guests asked me a deeper question. It got me all philosophical. I think it was something about why would you want to build a bigger house when you are living so well in this one. I thought about it out loud, “Well, we make this work, but it’s not easy, and there are things we love that we can’t fully explore while living in this house. We want friends to visit and have a place to stay. We want our kids to be able to retreat to their creative spaces to paint, dance, play music, etc. We want to have space for sleepovers and potlucks, we want to host music jams in the dead of winter. It’s funny, our world was pretty big when we owned the restaurant–we hosted and entertained people everyday. After the restaurant, our world became quite contained in this little house. It’s been a great learning experience–helping us examine what matters most. As the big house grows closer to completion, I feel our world changing again. Moving into the big house will immediately give us a tiny house to share. We look forward to hosting bed and breakfast guests, to using the tiny house as a teaching tool, and to having more family and friends visit.” The tiny house has exposed me in ways that I never would have been exposed otherwise, and I’m so grateful for this time of growth. And now I’m ready to grow into something new. I have this image of me unzipping myself from the tiny house. I step out and stand on top of the tiny house with my...Read More
I’ve sifted through thousands of words I wrote since moving into our tiny house in preparation for my upcoming ecourse–a step-by-step guide to dreaming, planning, and designing a mortgage-free lifestyle. I came across this essay I wrote last winter. Winter is a real challenge in a tiny house, and I am grateful for it. In the darkest time of year we can most clearly see our own light. These years in this tiny space are healing us. I’m happy to say, the pain I wrote about in this essay isn’t as intense as it was then. Being honest with myself and others about the pain is an important part of healing. Opening the restaurant wasn’t stupid, it was a leap, and we gave it our all. I’m proud of us for that. With the distance of time, I can accept that things don’t always go as planned and see that the adventure continues. I share these words because I want to keep it real, and maybe someone out there is feeling something like this. You are not alone, and you will heal. February 17, 2013 I was falling asleep last night and thinking of my week. Karl reached for my hand. “Maybe I’m depressed, Karl.” I have had a hard weekend. The temperature dropped and the sun went away and the kids are bickering like dogs. I want quiet and calm, but finding that means I have to raise my voice ’til it hurts. That’s not what I want to do. I feel tired of sharing so deeply. My kids see it too. “Mommy, you have to get up so early and you’re grumpy. Do you like doing it?” “Yes.” But I don’t know. Maybe I don’t. I want to share from a deep and honest place and sometimes I have no wisdom about it. The rooster is crowing. It’s 17 degrees outside. Up the hill stand giant power lines. They crackle with static and electromagnetic force. The crackle is loudest when it’s humid. Sometimes it sounds like a waterfall. Last night, the kids and I were trying to decide what to do. Ella really wanted her best friend to come for a sleepover, but I couldn’t handle that, my friend posted a picture of a giant pile of pine debris on Facebook. “Let’s burn this. If you can see this, you’re invited.” I love standing next to fire, but leaving the house with temperatures in the teens to stand outside in a field where winds howl was enough to make us turn up the heat and stay put. Ella grabbed a note pad to brainstorm. Okay, we have these options: board game or yoga. We decided on yoga and the kids scurried up to their loft to grab yoga mats and dove into their cabinets to find the perfect workout attire. Archer had this zip-up v-neck shirt and he kept pulling it down to expose his chest and making a serious-guy workout face. Ella looked like a messy yogini leaping around like a ballerina. It felt so good to laugh. “Someone’s yoga mat has to be in the kitchen and someone has to be on the couch. I’ll be in the living room.” They didn’t listen and arranged all three of our yoga mats in the living room. “They fit, Mommy.” “But what about when we need to stretch our arms or kick our legs?” “Oh, we can make it work.” So we did modified yoga: one arm stretched and one reaching up the wall. We kicked each other in the head and dropped our legs sideways onto each other’s bellies. “I told you we needed to spread out.” But they just kept going like there’s nothing wrong with doing yoga in a pile. Kids are so good at being present. I love that. They know how live in the moment and enjoy it for what it is. Me, I work hard to stay in the moment. I’ve lost the natural ability. When did it leave? I held Karl’s hand and told him how sad I feel and he said, “Life...Read More
Something about this time of year brings on the reflecting. I was looking at the blog and reading December posts from the last two years. Here are the links: Ella’s 2011 Winter Solstice Haikus Hari’s 2011 Winter Solstice Haikus Our first tiny house Christmas A three-part series I wrote for Tiny House Talk: One Two Three Our second tiny house Christmas My worst tiny house fear happened at Christmastime last year. This tiny house living has taught me a lot. I’ve learned to live here and be happy. That’s one warm-fuzzy good feeling. Read my book, Coming Home: Letters from a Tiny House, for an honest look at how living tiny has shaped me. I am so grateful for my readers. This writing is a lifeline, and readers, well you are a total bonus. Thank you for buying my book! A couple sweet reviews about my book from Amazon.com: “Hari helps the reader question life choices in way that is humble and offers a bold personal challenge on big life decisions.” -Christy “Hari Berzins invites readers not just into her tiny house, but into her soul. She lays it all out there and speaks honestly from her heart. Her family has chosen a lifestyle that cuts out all the frill that the rest of us think we need. This book provides a glimpse into the journey the family has taken in losing everything and beginning again.” -Sherry We are doing great, especially for this time of year. So for those of you just setting out on your tiny house journey, winter gets easier as you develop your own strategies for surviving. (okay, I know, winter hasn’t even started yet, but I’m feeling optimistic) Here are some of our strategies: Communicate clearly. Keep it tidy! Purge, purge, purge. Get outside. Get up early. Share your story. Reflect on your growth. The sale on tickets to the Tiny House Conference ends December 31st. Get $50 off with this coupon code: THF2013. We hope to see you there. We are decorating the house this week. Stay tuned for pictures! Simply, Hari P.S. Enrollment for the Summer 2015 session of our eCourse, Creating Your Path to Mortgage-freedom is now open. Open enrollment closes on July 15, 2015. Read about the course here! Sign up for our newsletter to be informed of open enrollment for future sessions and receive our seasonal newsletter. Share...Read More
What an amazing journey 2012 has been—from the darkness and depression I experienced in January to flying to New York City to share our tiny house with a national TV audience in April, to a summer full of planting, harvesting, and canning to a glorious fall and a leap of faith. Even though so much has changed in 2012, one thing has been consistent: every Sunday, I sat down to reflect on my week, synthesized my experience into some sort of lesson, and sent an email to my letter subscribers. I have been working on my first e-book–a compilation of these weekly letters and photographs. It is exciting and scary to think about sending these words out into the world, and I’m forever grateful to you folks who subscribe to my letters and read my blog posts. It’s incredibly encouraging to read your emails and comments. Thanks to all of you for following our journey. I hope that through our journey, you’ve found some courage and inspiration to live your intentions. We send you warm Christmas wishes and lots of love and courage! Until next year. . . Hari Simply, Hari P.S. Enrollment for the Summer 2015 session of our eCourse, Creating Your Path to Mortgage-freedom is now open. Open enrollment closes on July 15, 2015. Read about the course here! Sign up for our newsletter to be informed of open enrollment for future sessions and receive our seasonal newsletter. Share...Read More
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: Total awareness of wants/needs Inherited resourcefulness 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...Read More
Almost four years ago, after the untimely demise of our start-up business, we came to a place of rebirth. Previously, we had moved closer to Mama’s family in Florida in order to get married and start our family. After purchasing and old wood framed two-bedroom home in a blue-collar town, we embarked on an odyssey of home renovation and family building. Through our efforts at reconstructing the house, we attained fantastic equity in the burgeoning real estate market. Costs were kept down by my scavenging the construction sites I worked on and my willingness to do all the work myself. Before the real estate bubble burst, we transferred the equity in our home into the creation of our dream; a restaurant, where our years of experience in the industry could be put on display and we would become financially independent, at least that was the plan. We worked hard for 1 1/2 years to achieve success in the eyes of the community and critics alike, but financial success never came. Unbeknownst to us, we were riding the economic collapse of 2008. Friends and family came in to help with cash and volunteer hours (a million thanks). We threw in my inheritance from my Latvian grandmother. We gave it our all. The short story is: we lost the home and business in the black hole of economic reality. We took what jobs we could find and started saving as much as possible. Thoughts of moving to a more rural setting filled our heads and we started to make plans. Through purchasing Mortgage Free!: Innovative Strategies for Debt-Free Home Ownership, we came across the basic idea of finding the best land we could afford to buy with cash, and then live in a temporary shelter while we built our larger home. Temporary or not, we knew that we wanted a decent quality of life from the structure. We were challenged. How could we do this quickly and with cash? When I found tinyhouseblog.com, I was inspired by the ideas and immediately started designing our mobile mansion. Share...Read More