Interview with Rowdy Kittens

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It’s time to get back on the interview wagon.  After a three month hiatus (due in large part to a wedding and a move), I’m proud to present Tammy from the blog Rowdy Kittens.  Tammy writes about living small, with the idea that treading lightly on our planet benefits everyone.

As a reminder, I try to feature other eco-friendly and simple-loving bloggers on Simple Savvy every so often.  I think we all learn from and build off each other, and this is a great way to start some dialogue.  Read on to see what Tammy has to say!

1.  What is your definition of simple living?

Without context the definition of simple living sounds like a cliche. Lets start with a story to put our definition into perspective. A few years ago my partner and I felt overwhelmed and depressed by all the stuff in our lives. This seems odd because at a certain level we equate more possessions with more happiness.

But we felt completely out of balance and began simplifying our lives. At this point many of our friends and family would ask me “why are you downsizing and pursuing simple living?” They were concerned by our behavior of donating and selling many of our possessions. Some even thought we were in need of money and offered to help us out. We assured them we were just “decluttering” and trying to simplify by reducing our quantity of stuff. We explained that “it all just felt like too much.” It seemed like every room we had was crowded and distracting us from what we wanted in life. When asked, we could not quite articulate what we wanted specifically and what our end goal would be, we just knew we wanted less.

It wasn’t until last year that we stumbled across Dee Williams’s tiny house, the Small House Movement, and the concept of simple living. After doing a lot of research and making many to-do lists, we decided to move from Davis to mid-town Sacramento. We scaled down even further, to a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment within walking distance to my work. Dee inspired me to go small and start thinking big. Applying “going small and thinking big” required setting specific goals and organizing our decluttering process. We decided living in a tiny house (<200 sq ft) would be our goal and slowly we began focusing on limiting the quantity and maximizing the quality of our belongings to meet our needs.

Ironically, simple living can be a very complex transition. Downsizing can be stressful, but the benefits are tremendous. Moving to a smaller apartment in the city opened up amazing possibilities. Once we sold our one remaining car and TV, life became even better because we paid off our debt, saved money, worked less and began to regain an intentional balance in our lives.

My definition of simple living is the elimination of distractions and unnecessary possessions. I want to prioritize my life energy (time, money and effort) on my health, happiness, and life goals.

2.  Your blog slogan is “social change through simple living.”  Can you talk a little about the social change you’d like to affect?

I’m glad you asked this question. I’ve been trying to work on my blog message for the last few months and this helped me narrow things down. Your question also prompted me to change my about page too. So thank you! 🙂

The reason behind RowdyKittens: To create social change through simple living. A social movement of people who are living simple, authentic and uncluttered lives. The purpose of RowdyKittens is to help individuals learn to live simpler, happier, calmer lives – kind of like kittens.

Somewhere along the way we start thinking we need more and more stuff to be happy. But is that really true? Do we need a bigger house to be happy, a better car or a larger salary? Imagine what the world would look like if we lived by our values and pursued our dreams rather than more stuff. When is enough really enough?

By living a life without so much stuff, I think people can create an enormous amount of change. Change in their personal lives and in their larger environment. For instance, if you sell your car you will save about $8,000 a year and you can lower your carbon footprint too.

3.  What is the most important thing we can do to affect change?

This is such a hard question. But I think everyone can affect change in their daily lives through simple living. For instance, you can stop shopping, watching television or even sell your car. By taking small steps and exiting the consumer lifestyle you can devote more resources to your health, happiness, and life goals.

On a broader scale, I think it’s important to be aware of how your consumption affects the planet and the people on it. All the stuff people purchase usually goes to the landfill, which causes many environmental problems. (Watch The Story of Stuff for a good summary of this problem). Often, individuals become overwhelmed by the broader scale problems and feel they can’t change the world. So they give up.

The philosophers Descartes and Gandhi demonstrate an idea to manage this emotional barrier. They illustrate that you can not change the world, you can only change yourself. You must be the change you wish to see in the world.

To manifest this change I believe all of us have a responsibility to advocate for equitable public policy that promotes public safety and education. I know from experience working in the political system that doing things like voting, writing your elected official or other types of advocacy has a huge impact on how public policy is shaped.

4. Tell us about the house that you plan to buy (and how you’re going to fit you, Logan, and your cats!).

I had no idea that the Small House Movement existed, until I stumbled across a video featuring Dee Williams’s tiny house. It was New Year’s Eve of 2008 and hearing Dee’s story inspired us to go small and downscale.

Why so small? Rather than devoting large sums of life energy and money toward a big home, we are going to purchase a tiny house. We don’t want a 30-year mortgage or all the headaches associated with maintaining a large home. By the time most Americans have purchased a $300,000 home, buy new furniture, remodel the home and pay interest on the mortgage, the home ends up costing a consumer 2-3 times the purchase price.

We are going to take a pass on the traditional American dream and create our own. We would rather save for an early retirement, spend time with family/friends, enjoy the outdoors, each other, and our tiny abode. Less is more — frugality is in!

Ohhh and I’m sure the kittens will love the tiny house. We have something called Katwallks that give the cats free range beyond just the flat surfaces. Although, I think we will have to install a cat door so they turn into indoor/outdoor kittens. 🙂

5. What challenges have you come up against in your quest to downsize/downscale?

Ohhh so so many!

I think the biggest challenge for us was selling our car. We had to overcome our fear. The “what if fear.” We always thought, ohhh “what if the cats get sick,” “what if we need the car for an emergency,” etc.

When we divorced our car a year and a half ago, I didn’t think biking everywhere and renting cars when we traveled would be so much fun! But we’re having a blast. I’m so thankful that we overcame our fears and took the plunge.

6. What books and/or blogs would you recommend for Simple Savvy readers?

Ohhhh I love to read! Some of my favorite books are located at the RowdyKitten Bookstore [Editor’s note: this is an affiliate link].

My top favorites from 2008 are: How to Live Well Without Owning a Car, Little House on a Small Planet, In Defense of Food and of course Your Money or Your Life.

I’m a big fan of blogs and reading a wide variety of articles. I do a Simple Living News Update every Monday on RowdyKittens and that update contains links to some of my best reads of the week. I find a lot of these articles on twitter or via feedly. 🙂

You can also check out my blogroll.

Thank you for such insightful answers, Tammy!  You can check out more of Tammy’s work at Rowdy Kittens.

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©2009 at Simple Savvy, the simple living blog where I read and loved How to Live Well Without Owning a Car too!

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4 responses

  1. I’m glad you interviewed Tammy @Rowdy Kittens. She has been such a good influence and encouragement as I have downsized, organized, become more dependent on my bicycle, and generally supported us as we work toward getting out of debt.

    I have also restarted a business I love. I find vintage pieces to sell and try to visually “describe” a simpler life style to my customers based on used rather than new.

    I was encouraged one evening as a young man showed me an old notebook which he uses to journal. He also had cut pictures from magazines which describe what he is moving toward in decorating his home. It is a vintage industrial look which I also love. We can live a good life without purchasing every new thing. This young man has it pegged. A simple home, a few useful furnishings, a happy life debt free. – free to pursue his interests in life.

    Of course one of my greatest interests is home decor, but I have found the greatest pleasure in pursuing decor that testifies to a simple life.

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