In a fast-paced society where it can seem like the only things that matter are material, the tiny house movement pushes back. So called “tiny houses” pack big living into small spaces. Some have a modern, stream-lined look, while others look kind of like a cabin on wheels. They’re far more affordable than their full-sized counterparts, but the compact homes have a big effect on the way their owners see the world.
"It’s pretty amazing what minimizing can do to your life."
Jenna and Guillaume, the creators of popular tiny home blog Tiny House, Giant Journey, recently left their conventional lives in LA to travel around North America in their new tiny house with their Australian Shepard, Salies. They weren’t struggling or doing badly in LA, but they weren’t quite happy, certainly not as happy as they are with their new way of life. As Guillaume puts it, “Jenna was an Executive Assistant for a movie studio and I was a Process Improvement Engineer for a motorcycle company, so by today’s standards, we had good jobs, they just weren’t our jobs… It’s pretty amazing what minimizing can do to your life.”
One of everyone’s first questions, even mine, is, “What do you miss about your old life?” Jenna and Guillaume don’t like the negative spin on their new adventure, though. Guillaume says, “Our cost of living is completely diminished, but our quality of living is much better. We so much improved our lifestyle that I find it hard to complain about anything.”
They add that this holds true for both their experiences on their journey and for their material goods. Living in a small space, they’re embracing a minimalist approach, “If you’re going to buy something, you’re going to buy a high quality item… If I want to buy a memento, I try to make sure it’s something that can be consumed.”
"I’m also able to pay more off on my student loans than I ever have before."
Jenna continued, “It’s a totally different financial look when you think about it. I had a 401k and I had health benefits, so it’s something I have to think about now. I have to put money into an IRA instead of my 401k and pay for independent health insurance, but I’m also able to pay more off on my student loans than I ever have before. It’s interesting how that’s happened because I’m making less money, but I’ve doubled my loan payments. To me, that’s all positive.”
To downsize, they didn’t just sell their old t-shirts or out-of-style jeans. Very nearly all of their possessions had to go to make this new minimalist lifestyle possible, which Jenna recalled “brought in quite a bit of money. Guillaume had a collection of camera lenses and cameras that he sold for $23,000 and that paid for the truck. You hear that story all the time from tiny housers. You usually find that you have something that’s worth something. I had a bunch of furniture I collected. It wasn’t $23,000 worth, but I was able to put some money into the project. We both had a car, and Guillaume had a motorcycle, so we sold all of that and we ended up with a tiny home and a truck. We did a trade-out, really.”
Selling their worldly goods gave them the up-front capital they needed to build their home, but downsizing also meant that Jenna and Guillaume were able to trade their 9-5’s for more flexible work that they’re passionate about. They’re certainly not on a year-long vacation, in fact, they may be working more than ever. Today, they travel around the country blogging, showing off their home at workshops, and exploring other tiny homes on video for their YouTube channel.
“It didn’t just fall into our laps.”
Their online following didn’t happen by accident. “The idea when we started this project was that we could get some sort of gig that would support our lifestyle on the road or a sponsorship,” Guillaume shared, “Sponsorship didn’t happen, but we worked really hard to create the product and the website that we have and the material that we share. We really worked really hard to build our site and started sending it to Tumbleweed so that they would notice it. They valued what we had and decided to hire us.” He adds, “It didn’t just fall into our laps.”
Their work with Tumbleweed Tiny House Company is one of their primary sources of income while they’re on the road. They’ll present at workshops for Tumbleweed, even bringing their house along when it’s possible so people can go through it. Most of their work, though, they can do from their home while they’re on the go. Guillaume does a few photo shoots for Tumbleweed, when they add a new tiny house plan, for example. Jenna writes for Tumbleweed and Tiny House Listings. Even though they found their gig with Tumbleweed, they’re still very invested in their personal projects.
Guillaume has big plans for their future. Already, he says, “we have Amazon affiliate links and a YouTube channel where we tour tiny houses and tree houses, give tips for living in a tiny house, and we share our adventures that we’re hoping will become more popular.” Even if they don’t become the next viral blog, though, they expect they’ll be able to sustain their streamlined lifestyle, particularly if they slow down their travel and put down roots. For them, they say, this new lifestyle is perfect.
Want to keep up with Jenna and Guillaume as they continue on their trip? Follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, or, of course, their blog where they're quick post their latest adventures.