My Creative Life: Tammy Strobel


It’s been a while since I’ve shared a Creative Life interview here so we’re back with a bang with Ms Tammy Strobel. I was lucky enough to spend some time with Tammy while I was in Portland in July and she really is such a sweetheart! You might have heard of Tammy thanks to the amazing tiny house she lives in with her husband, Logan. They’ve downsized their life to the absolute essentials and now live in a purpose-built house that’s just 128 square feet. Her first book, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap), launches this week and it’s a pleasure to be able to introduce her to you all…

SC: How did this path begin for you?

TS: About seven years ago I took a life changing trip to Mexico. At the time I was volunteering with the Mexico Solidarity Network and I was unhappy with my career and huge mound of debt. After visiting Mexico and seeing so much poverty, I realized how trivial my problems were back home with drama at work and feelings of inadequacy in my culture. When I got back, I knew I had to make some serious life changes, but I didn’t know where to start.

Logan was the one who suggested that we downsize our lives by moving into a smaller apartment. He thought it would be a great way to save money and simplify our lives. Initially, when Logan suggested the idea of scaling back I didn’t want anything to do with it! After many bargaining conversations, I finally agreed to downsize to a smaller apartment. Once I jumped on the simplicity bandwagon I had more time, less stress in my life, and I became hooked on this lifestyle.


You and your husband live in your amazing tiny house — what convinced you that this was where and how you wanted to live?

I remember the moment very precisely because it left such an impression on me. It was December 31st, 2006, New Years eve, and it was a cold, windy evening in Davis, California. Logan and I were snuggled up and warm, wrapped up in the covers of our bed; he was surfing the Internet and I was reading a vampire novel (I’m a huge fan of young adult fiction).

Logan was reading about a naturalist named Dick Proenneke and his cabin in the woods when he stumbled across a related You Tube video featuring Dee Williams and her little house.  Dee and her little house seemed to symbolize an ideal that was simple, free, and happy. As soon as I watched the video, I knew that I wanted to buy a little house because they were so cute and affordable!

“Living with less is a life philosophy; it’s not about the number of things you own.” I love this! For someone reading this interview who’d like to downsize their possessions but might be feeling daunted, where would you advise them to start?

Choose a small section of your home to tackle first. For example, when I began culling through my stuff I started with my closet. Each day, I took an hour to pull out clothes that I no longer wore and by the end of the week I had five, 30 gallon, black garbage bags filled with clothing that I donated to Goodwill!

Alternatively, you could give away ten to twenty belongings a week. This strategy isn’t as overwhelming and by slowly culling through your stuff, your clutter will disappear. Remember that this isn’t a race or a competition. If you keep clearing the clutter, you’ll end up with a beautiful home; a sanctuary that’s restful and relaxing, rather than overflowing with stuff.


Could you describe a typical day for you in (and out!) of the tiny house?

My husband, Logan, and I typically get up at 6.30 or 7a.m., make coffee and play with our kittens. Then we’ll make a small breakfast and Logan will pedal off to work. I usually stay home in the morning and write and spend my afternoons in a cafe drinking drinking coffee and writing in my journal. Other days, I spend my afternoons walking around taking photos. I try to keep my days open because I enjoy spontaneous get-togethers with friends and I need large blocks of time for writing. If I don’t have the time and space to write and think, nothing gets done. In between writing and taking photos, I check my email and make time for reading too.

Typically, Logan gets home from the lab around 6.30 and we’ll make a yummy dinner together. I’ve been off sugar for a few months and it’s renewed my interest in cooking real food. Lately, we’ve been going to bed early and reading. I love snuggling in our little loft. It makes me happy.

As I write these words, we’re still living in Portland, Oregon. We’re moving back to Northern, California soon. So I’m sure our daily routine will change. I’m looking forward to the new adventure and change.

“Money can buy happiness, but it depends on how you spend it” — I’d love you to elaborate a bit more on this, Tammy.

After your basic needs are meet, money can buy happiness. Researchers have shown that spending money on experiences, like vacations, a lovely dinner with your partner, or a coffee date will make you happier than buying a new shirt, a brand new car or even a big new house. In short, humans adapt very quickly to new things in their lives, so happiness from buying new stuff wears off quickly.

However, spending money on experiences typically produces more — and longer lasting — satisfaction because joyful memories continue to nourish our feelings of well-being. Instead of buying new stuff, happiness research shows that you can be happier by helping others, donating to charities, and buying a few small pleasures that make for a memorable experience.


Your first book is about to be born into the world — could you share with us your experience of writing a book?

Writing my book was an incredibly rewarding and challenging experience. There were times when my words seemed to flow out of my pen and into my journal and other times when I wanted to delete my entire manuscript.

The book writing process taught me that I’m a non-linear writer. I write content in small segments in my journal and then transcribe my words onto the computer screen. I discovered that writing in my journal first is the way to go, otherwise I edit myself too much, forget my subject, and I end up totally frustrated.

Finally, writing this book reminded me that we all have stories to tell. During the writing process, I constantly questioned my value a writer and there were times when my inner critic made me cry. But, I kept reminding myself that we all have stories to tell. Sharing my experiences — and writing from the my heart — is one way that I’ve helped readers and myself too.

What and who inspires you – could you share some links with us?

Last week, I rediscovered a fun app for my iPhone called FlipBoard. I’m loving all the photography articles that it’s led me to. It’s so much fun and it’s been feeding my Friday link round-up with all kinds of goodies.

I’m also an avid reader. Lately, I’ve been into young adult fiction and memoirs. Right now I’m reading Torch, a novel by Cheryl Strayed. Her writing on love and loss is inspiring, authentic, and thought provoking. You can check out my book list here.

Finally, I adore Instagram. I love photography and I’m fascinated by how people see the world through their camera lens.


What are you working on next?

I’m working on a couple of projects. My fall writing course starts on October 1st and I’m super excited about teaching it again. I’m also developing a photography ecourse and working with my business partner Courtney on Your Lovely Life. We’re planning on releasing another ecourse in November!

I’ve been working on a new book idea too. But the concept isn’t flushed out yet. My dad recently passed away and I think the book will be about grief. But the more I write about the topic, it’s turning into something a book that’s focused on love, loss, and hope. If all goes well, I’ll send my book proposal off to my agent by the end of the year.

You’re having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?

1. Logan, my husband, because a party wouldn’t be the same without him. And he needs to be present so that I don’t make an ass of myself.

2. Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild and Torch. Her thoughts on love and loss are powerful. I’d love to talk with her one on one.

3. Maya Angelou’s writing has touched me so deeply and I love her voice. It’s so soothing.

4. Angela Davis’s book, Women, Race, and Class, was assigned reading in a college course. I devoured the book and was blown away by her words and perspective on life.

5. I had the opportunity to see Anne Lamott speak in Portland last year and I loved her talk. She is hilarious and her book Bird by Bird is something that I re-read at least once a year.

6. Dee Williams is an obvious choice on this list for me. Dee is a constant source of inspiration, she’s a talented writer, and good friend. Dee would ease the awkwardness of strangers at a dinner party and I think she and Anne would spend the whole evening making jokes.

Tammy Strobel is a writer, photographer, and tiny house enthusiast. She created her blog, RowdyKittens.com, 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. Tammy’s new book is called, You Can Buy Happiness (and it’s Cheap).

Connect with Tammy on her blog | on Twitter | on Instagram

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Thank you so much, Tammy! Are you guys feeling inspired to downsize? I know I am :)

We have THREE copies of Tammy’s book to giveaway! To be in with a chance to win one, simply leave a comment on this post sharing something that brings you happiness. The giveaway closes on Friday 21st and I’ll announce the winners in my SFTW post

Lots more Creative Life interviews over here

Posted on 18-09-2012
59 responses
  1. Kate Burton

    Love this; so inspiring. And she’s right too! After years rushing about in London, one of the things that makes me happy now is an evening walk with my husband in the hills and mountains behind our home. Taking in the scenery, thinking of all the people rushing around the world and realising…

    …that we no longer have to.

  2. Michele

    Ah…I needed this! My husband and I are coming to a silmilar place in our lives and it is so freeing!
    Making me happy right now is my neice and nephew – the way they see the world, their belief in life to go just right and their energy. It’s pretty cool!

  3. Fiona

    Lovely to be introduced to this interesting lady. These days, happiness is coming from the cool mornings, a welcome burst of sewing motivation, Anne of Green Gables and the sense of possibility that September brings (along with dozens of evening course leaflets!).

  4. Rhiannon

    Loved “meeting” Tammy – such an amazing tiny house ! What makes me happy is going to the market in Holland and taking my time to choose a bunch of flowers…a huge swathe of colour for a snip.

  5. Andrea

    I’ve been following Tammy’s blog and adventures since before she moved into the tiny house. I’m so happy to see that you featured her. I’m really looking forward to her new book.

    We’ve finally been having a bit of rainy weather and that makes me very very happy.

  6. Meg Roper

    Such a timely post. I am in a midst of decluttering so we can downshift. Happiness definitely come from experiences. At the moment my favourites are heading into the garden and sinking my hands in the soil, knitting with gorgeous yarns and making fresh pasta, preferably with herbs straight out of the garden.

  7. Foxglove Lane

    Thank you for bringing yet another slice of an amazing world to me this morning. Bravo Tammy! What makes me happy today is celebrating the fading golden beauty of autumn which echoes my own!

  8. Veronica

    I love reading about peoples unconventional paths to happiness. This interview made me smile. As I already have both of Susanah’s books, I’m going to start with Tammy’s list and Wild is calling to me. Thanks for the inspiration to remember that it’s in the “little things”, literally!

  9. emma

    Love the interview what a cool way to live and otlook on.life is positive. My children make me happy making them laugh warmsmy heart the sound and seeing them enjoy each other.
    Thanks emma

  10. swisssirja

    There are oh so many things that bring me happiness! Mostly tiny things and moments scattered all through the day. This morning I was grinning from ear to ear while jogging…the air was nice and fresh, the sun was shining and I loved the music that kept my rhythm going :-)

  11. Sabine

    Thanks for this inspiring interview Susannah and Tammy.
    One thing, that makes me really happy, is to ride on my bicycle new ways and find a beautiful place in the sun, where I can relax and just enjoy this wonderful moment without anything bothering me. One of those happy places is a little cafe near a river, where you can sit right next to it in the grass, with a cup of hot coffee in you hand and listen to the sounds of nature.

  12. Andrea Ellison Photography

    what a fabulous post….and how brave to make the leap to a happier you….I made the leap too..turning my photography into my livelihood and being in control of my own work/life balance is so empowering …I love that if the mood takes me..I can grab my coat and the dog and just head off outside. But more importantly I get to be the one to do the school run and be the first face they see at home time…I can fit my life round my kids instead of the other way round…I know I am blessed everyday x

  13. Anne

    How timely! I walked into the play/exercise room last night and was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of brightly coloured stuff we have! So I’m enlisting the kids and bit by bit, we will get a handle on it…I hope!!

  14. melissa

    thank you for this generous offering. what brings me happiness…simple pleasures like warm cuddles with my children, rich stories/books, vibrant conversations, personal movement practices, female orgasm.

  15. Traci

    Thanks for this! I’ll be visiting RowdyKittens often; the entire philosophy is whispering to me, and I can hear it all the way into my bones. THIS makes me happy. (But also, hiking, my dogs, and my guy…all three at once is pure bliss.)

  16. Carrie

    Something that brings me happiness is the way my three year old twin nephews nephews tell my name in unexpected excitement when they see me and then run up & hug me BIG. I can picture this easily in my mind, & the happiness just radiates from my heart to my smile every time.

  17. Danielle

    My husband brings me so much happiness because he’s so thoughtful & loving & supportive. Other things that bring mr happiness are hot tea, good books, snuggling with my pups & crafting. Thx!

  18. katherine

    Fascinating…thanks for introducing us to Tammy! Spending time in nature with my dogs brings me happines…they make me smile every.single.day!

  19. Heather

    The constant stream of inspiration in this world brings me happiness!
    Love how she suggests starting with a small area, it’s a great reminder. Though I don’t see myself downsizing the way that she did, I do feel the pull to make some things a bit simpiler!

  20. Veronica

    Cliche but my family brings me the ultimate happiness. Awesome giveaway

  21. Nanette Gordon-Cramton

    Such an inspiring interview! Makes me want to “clean out!” I am inspired by the ocean with its always changing but still staying the same landscape and rhythms..

  22. Debbie

    Today, what made me happy was some rare one on one time with my baby brother, over a hot chocolate and some cake :)

  23. Tracie

    Tammy’s story and home are wonderful!! I have been culling as well but instead of chucking everything or sending it to the Goodwill, I have been repurposing like mad this year. Old linens are now crocheted rugs, clothes outgrown by my daughters are becoming quilts to keep us warm in the winter and tapestries for my walls. Eliminating clutter in this way makes me happy and it also makes for some quality time with my girls cutting fabrics for our projects.

  24. Raychel

    Happiness is enjoying my morning cappuccino, sitting on the couch with my dogs. I’m always impressed how animals are so present, living in the moment. They nuzzle up, hoping for a lick of foam (they’re Italian). I listen to them breathe, sip my sweet nectar and savor the stillness.

  25. Debbie

    Loved learning about Tammy! I, too, think a small little home would make me happy. It seems these days that the less I have, the happier I am (except when it comes to books).

  26. Andrea

    Oh, that house is so cute! I think I’ll buy one and park it in the front yard. My husband and kids can visit (by appointment)! Looking forward to checking out the book, too.

  27. Lisa King

    Thank you for this beacon of hope.

    Where do I find happiness? Stepping into the moonlight that falls on the landing.

  28. Margarita

    Thanks for an awesome interview! What makes me happy: being and laughing with my loved ones, writing something I’m proud of, taking pictures, kicking butt in a gym class, riding my bike and eating ice cream. :)

  29. Gennifer

    Thanks for sharing this! I found Tammy on Instagram and have been loving all the shots of her tiny house (and her kittens!). Looking forward to digging into your other Creative Life interviews. :)

  30. babu

    Susannah, I’m so happy to read again a “creative Life Interview”. I am sure you met dozens of creative people on your Book Tour, so we would be thrilled to read more interviews :-)
    And, of course, wonderful posts like “the Universe doesn’t mess around”!

  31. Esther

    I loved reading this and will definitely check out her blog. One thing that brings me happiness is a cup of tea in the afternoon, preferably in good company.

  32. Esmé

    I love the pictures of the tiny house.

    My dog, Daphne, makes me unbelievably happy. She is a small little mutt of joy.

  33. alane

    Great interivew. Seeing Baby August (a kitten I’ve adopted) coming running to me when I call his name– that’s what makes me happy at the present moment.

  34. Julie

    Happiness is a work-date with a friend. I am a writer, which can be lonely at times. I need time alone to in order to get any serious writing done, but from time to time I love meeting up with a like-minded friend as a work buddy.

  35. Amberlea

    I’ve been wanting to live in a tiny home every since I stumbled upon Tumbleweed Houses, and read The Story of Stuff — living simply seems to be the way to go to bring us greater happiness and allow us to spend more time with loved ones, which is what makes ME happy! (And snuggling with my kitties and watching a movie.) :)

  36. Francesca

    Something that brings me happiness is a nice long chat with a good friend. Also, my puppy, asleep on my lap — as he is right now! Thank you for this great interview! :)

  37. Elaine

    What makes me happy is my kids there is a huge age gap which scared me at first but now it makes me happy to see them altogether. My job makes me happy which is a lot as most people hate their jobs , mine is farming and horses and horses really touch my heart . At the minute your unravelling course is making me a little bit happier within myself , thank you :).

  38. Cheryl

    Love this story (and her list of dinner party guests). Simple and inspiring! I’d love a copy of her book too…

  39. Jen

    I am a big fan of Tammy’s blog and look forward to reading her book. Something that makes me happy: cool crisp fall days!

  40. La plume et la page

    A smile brings me happiness and classical music too!

  41. Nan

    Giving to others makes me happy and I have more time and resources to give since I’ve simplified!

  42. Melissa Jaine

    I am super inspired to embrace teenage fiction, write my own ‘stuff’ and keep going with ideas for my new blog – what I should have been doing all along!! Thank you both for this interview xxx
    (I’d still like to live in a big(ish) house though ;)
    mel.x

  43. Jen

    What a refreshing tale! I’d never heard of Tammy and Logan’s adventure before and it’s quite unique. I have a sudden urge to trawl through my wardrobe and start making a pile of stuff to donate.

    Sharing what makes me happy… tales of people living in a unique, ‘path less travelled’ kind of way.

  44. Sylvia Gil-Stearns

    Happiness….watching the rain on the river, coffee on a Sunday morning, a warm shower, the cries of crows at dusk

  45. Sherralee

    Reading your blog makes me happy, Susannah. That’s the truth.

  46. Karen C

    I love the little house! One of the things I discovered through the August Break, was exactly how much taking photographs makes me happy.

  47. Judith

    Reading in bed makes me happy!

  48. Daniëla

    Wonderful interview Susannah. I like Tammy’s advise on starting to declutter. This huge double rainbow in dark but bright autumn sky I just saw makes me happy. Amazing!

  49. L.McG.-E.

    Such a pretty little house and so refreshingly clear of life’s clutter. Coming home to my daughter’s smile after a hard day and knowing I am loved in return, that brings me happiness.

  50. Sherri

    Spending time with my niece and two nephews makes me happy. They cuddle and climb all over you, make you laugh and feel like a kid again. Wonderful memories and connection that I would not trade for anything!

  51. teryll sacks

    Lovely interview! Looking forward to reading her book. Something that brings me happiness is cooking for friends and family!

  52. KP

    My girlfriend and I have been poring over pictures of tiny houses! We love them. We’d like to have kids someday, so while I’m not sure we could fit a family in a tiny house, we do try to live as pared-down a life as possible, focusing on investing in what makes us really happy.

  53. Michele

    Love this little house! And love the fact it makes so many people so happy! What makes me happy, today especially, is the love and support of my family. It’s special and I know I don’t realise that enough :-)

  54. DebC

    Wonderful interview….I’ll be following the links…
    Thanks.

  55. bonitarose

    her book is on my wishlist.. we are in the midst of downsizing to a smaller home to live our dreams by the sea in FL. I would love to win, can’t wait to read this book!
    bonitarose

  56. Raye

    What touched me deeply about Tammy’s comments was the wisdom, integrity and commitment she and her husband demonstrate by living a purposed-filled life.

    For me, happiness and joy come through my coaching practice where I am able to share the deep work of Debbie Ford and to listen and ask questions thoughtfully and compassionately in support of the client’s learning to give up self- sabotaging behaviors and trust their inner Divine wisdom.

  57. Lori Moon

    Love this!!! I am so inspired. I live in 300 square feet and have way too much stuff. 10 things each week for the rest of the year have to go. Thanks for the chance to win the book.

  58. Maria

    Great interview and quite apt, as we have just started decluttering…. and there is a lot to declutter!
    What makes me happy is picking raspberries from our new bush and having them with granola for breakfast. Or, my daughter putting a ‘pile’ of kisses on my face and telling me to be careful with them and not wipe them off. Or, the morning sun, the evening sun, a walk near the sea…. so many things bring me pleasure now. Hardship makes you appreciate things so much more :)

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