Tammy Strobel: “Start Focusing On How You Can Help Others”

Web designer, freelance writer and simplicity blogger Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens is one minimalist rowdy kitten herself! From not owning any cars (her husband, Logan Smith, a doctor in physiology, and Tammy bike everywhere they need to go in their home Portland, Oregon) to treading lightly in the world, Tammy is a beautiful woman living a beautiful and simple life. Why make more so you can amass more things when you can earn just enough to live on less but do so much more with it?

In an exclusive interview with the author of and , I’m sitting down with Tammy and discussing what it means to live simply, how digital sabbaticals are the way to go in our Internet-heavy age, her tiny home quest, her goals for 2011, and much more.

An Interview With the Rowdy Kitten Herself, Tammy Strobel

Nina: Tammy, welcome to Castles in the Air! I’m so glad to have you here. Now, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. You’ve been featured on the New York Times, the TODAY Show, CNN, MSNBC and dozens of other media outlets. The fascination with simple living and minimalists seem to never end in our consumerist society.

Why do you think this is the case and will minimalism ever become the majority rather than the minority?

Tammy: The upside of the economic downturn is that it’s forced people to rethink their priorities. Rather than spending a lot of extra money on consumer goods, people are reevaluating what really makes them happy. Simplicity offers an alternative to the work-spend cycle and that’s why it’s so popular in the mainstream media.

I don’t know if minimalism will ever become the norm in our culture. I do know that we’ve got to start having policy discussions about how we measure growth and well-being. For example, why not start shifting away from Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and start using Gross National Happiness to measure our well-being?

Nina: Amazing how our world can be transformed if we started using GNH (Gross National Happiness) instead! Great point, indeed.

So, Tammy, you practice Yoga in order to slow down and become more comfortable in your own skin. Do you have additional insights as to how others can slow down in our hectic and frantic days? And how has it helped you in your life to stay grounded and focused?

Tammy: Make time for exercise! Getting enough exercise is so important for your physical and mental health. Plus it will help you stay focused and grounded. Yoga, walking, and biking are part of my everyday routine and all of these activities have helped me reduce my stress levels.

Nina: And who wouldn’t want to reduce their stress levels! Tell me about your digital sabbaticals, the one you take every single weekend. I notice you’re never on Twitter over the weekend (hence, the sabbatical in full effect!) and it doesn’t cause any harm or mishaps all the while. Can you share with everyone how this has personally helped you in your life?

Tammy: Taking time away from the Internet every week has helped me generate ideas, blog posts, my book, and I’ve been able to spend more time with my husband. I love technology. But if I spend too much time in front of my computer, I don’t feel very creative. Especially when it comes to writing. If I’m not out in the world meeting people and exploring, my writing suffers because I don’t have anything to share! :)

Nina: So true! Speaking of writing, this new book proposal you’re working on in 2011, can you share with us what the book is about and any further details? How exciting!!

Tammy: I’m super excited about the proposal. The book is going to focus on my downsizing story, along with some of the latest happiness research.

My proposal is close to being done. I’m working on the final component; my sample chapter. My agent is in the process of reviewing it and I’m hoping he likes it. If all goes well, I’m hoping we can pitch the proposal to publishers this month or next.

The proposal has taken me a lot longer than I expected. But that’s okay, because I think it’s made the book concept a whole lot better. And my agent is amazing!

Nina: Can’t wait to see the final product! Of course, it’s the process itself that has really shaped and transformed your wonderful writing, as evident in your blog Rowdy Kittens.

Tammy, you set short-term and long-term goals for yourself. There’s been a debate as to whether or not goals are really all that relevant and effective for one’s simple life. What do you have to say regarding this?

Tammy: Setting goals is important because they help me stay focused and on track. However, it’s essential to be flexible when it comes to setting and following through with goals. Life is constantly changing and so will the nature of particular goals. Goals aren’t a map set in stone; they are only guide posts to help you along they way.

Nina: I like the way you put it: “Goals aren’t a map set in stone; they are only guide posts to help you along they way.” And if it works for you, do it.

I hear you’re building a tiny home in the summer of 2011 with the help of Portland Alternative Dwellings. You and Logan must be ecstatic! Tell me, when did your tiny home fascination begin and how has it evolved, all the way to its conceptualization in the summer of 2011?

Tammy: Our fascination with little homes began a few years ago. It was New Year’s Eve and Logan and I were hanging out at home, surfing the Internet. Logan found a video of Dee Williams and her little house. After we watched the video, I looked at Logan and said: “I have to have one of those homes!”

From there we started doing a lot of research and discovered the Small House Society, the Tiny House Blog and Tiny House Design. We started to connect with folks involved in the small house movement and they encouraged us to start downsizing even more. It’s hard to believe that was three years ago!

We’re really excited about our little house. Right now everything is still in the planning stages. We’re hoping to meet with Katy at Portland Alternative Dwellings this month to talk about costs and all the details. There’s so much to do! :)

Nina: And I bet a lot of your fans are excited to see your tiny home dream come to full fruition! We’ll keep an eye out for it.

Tammy, you believe in giving and donating and have upped your giving from 5% in 2010 to 10% of your total annual income in 2011. What specific charities do you fully support and how can we help too?

Tammy: In 2010, I donated money to Living Yoga and plan to do the same in 2011. I started volunteering at Living Yoga when I moved to Portland and love the organization. They do amazing work in the community.

Living Yoga is a non-profit outreach program that teaches “yoga as a tool for personal change in prisons, drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, transitional facilities, and to populations who would otherwise not have access to it.”

Through the practices of yoga and meditation, Living Yoga teaches skills like mindfulness, impulse control, emotional regulation, and more. The programs aim to “motivate and encourage students to utilize these skills in their lives outside of the classroom…to bring more awareness to their actions and the consequences of their actions, to make decisions based on short and long term outcomes, and to, daily, create an internal emotional state of ease, acceptance and accountability.”

Consider sending a small donation to Living Yoga or start a similar program in your community.

Nina: Excellent, thank you so much.

As a minimalist, what do you believe we have to offer the world by living our lives as the example and legacy?

Tammy: Our time.

Downsizing has given me the opportunity to do a lot with my time. I could choose to spend all my time on Twitter or Facebook or creating more products to sell. But I don’t think that is conducive to living a meaningful life. So I use my extra time to volunteer and help friends with projects (like planning conferences, starting blogs, etc).

Start focusing on how you can help others.

Nina: Any last words you’d like to share with our readers, Tammy?

Tammy: Life doesn’t have to be so complex. Humans spend so much time thinking about the past and the future. Don’t get me wrong, reflection is valuable. But remember enjoying the present moment is really important too!

Bonus Question: Seriously, why are your cats (as featured on your blog) so freakin’ adorable?! And do they really lay everywhere? I see them on your notebook, your computer, your desk, your shoulder, everywhere besides inside your coffee mug! :)

Tammy: They sleep a lot! And that’s why they are so adorable. Well, that’s my theory. :)

But seriously, we can learn a valuable lesson from cats; that it’s important to get enough shut eye. Americans are a sleep deprived bunch, which leads to a lot of health problems. For more on this topic read: U.S. Racking Up Huge “Sleep Debt”

Nina: You are simply fantastic, Tammy! Thank you so much for your time!!

If you’ve not been over to Tammy’s blog Rowdy Kittens, do yourself a favor and get on over there! Her writing style, best known for its practicality, simplicity and honest-to-goodness evaluation of what it really means to live a simple, healthy and happy life is nothing short of profound. Keep an eye out for Tammy! She is doing marvelous things this year. :)