Welcome to Tiny House. While it’s not an actual tiny home in the sense that it’s on wheels with a tiny sleeping loft, it is quite tiny at about 275 sq. ft. Tiny House (as we like to call it) is a two-story attached in-law unit with a separate entrance and no doors to the main house. Downstairs is the kitchen/dining room/living room/office and upstairs is our bedroom (with it’s own door and everything, major bonus for a space smaller than some studios) and the bathroom.
To be perfectly clear, this picture makes the house look smaller than it is. He’s standing slightly in front of the house, which is about 10 ft. long on this side.
Two People, Too Much Stuff
When my boyfriend and I first talked about moving in together, there was no question that we would move into his small place. The location is great, and this little home all to ourselves was the perfect fit.
Until we had to contend with all of our stuff. Neither one of us had much – my boyfriend traveled around the world for months before we met with a single backpack. He’s even less attached to stuff than I am. And since we’ve started dating I have completely infected him with my love of going through things and getting rid of them. We did the Mins Game together, and I had been doing my best to reduce to the essentials before moving.
We were starting with a pretty minimal collection of things, but even so it was not looking incredibly feasible. My previous bedroom was bigger than our downstairs, and I had a closet with enough room for two or three times the things I had in it.
After many sleepless nights worrying about where I was going to put each and every one of my things and dreaming about cleaning out long-gone closets, the move was much easier than I had anticipated.
I slowly moved in a box at a time until I only had about a quarter of my stuff left, which I did all at once. I started with the essentials and slowly found homes for (most of) the rest. For weeks it felt like we were drowning in stuff. I must have said “I just don’t know how we’re going to fit all of this” at least twice a day while we stepped over boxes of stuff. But it all miraculously fit.
While we still have more stuff than we need, we are slowly cutting down on the amount of stuff in our little place. Once we get things a little more settled, I plan on doing a little tour of the space so you can see what two people and all of their stuff in 275 sq. ft. really looks like. I’ll also be sharing some of the tips and small space tricks we’ve learned along the way.
We are obsessed with showering and extreme cleanliness in the U.S. We put medical grade antibacterials into our body wash and encourage women to douse the inside of their bodies with unnecessary chemicals. Showering daily has become a cultural norm – one that is difficult to break.
But the more I read about our bodies’ microbioms and the amazing, helpful bacteria on our skin, the more I realize we are living under false assumptions. You don’t need to use harsh soaps, you don’t need to shower every day, and you don’t need to treat your body like a battle ground.
No Poo or Less Shampoo
For years I have wanted to wash my hair less often, but I was hesitant to go to work with greasy hair while I transited. I washed my hair every other day for years, despite the dry scalp and frizzy hair it gave me.
When I started working from home in February, I seized the opportunity to experiment with my shampoo schedule (and spend entire days in the comfort of my pajamas). At first I stretched it from two days to three. Then after a couple of weeks I went for a crazy stab at five days.
These days I wash my hair every three to four days. I typically wash my hair after my sweatiest workout of the week or after I swim. I could likely keep stretching the time between washes, and it seems like a shame to wash it again after only three days, but it works out well with my workout schedule.
Why You Should Wash Your Hair Less
Since I stopped washing my hair so frequently I have stopped incessantly scratching my head. My hair doesn’t have crazy flyaways, and it feels silky smooth.
I typically wear my hair down the first 1-2 days, and up the other 1-2. By the last day it is a bit greasier than I used to tolerate, but I’ve come to realize that no one notices! And those natural oils are so good for your scalp and hair.
Washing and drying is tough on hair. If you normally style your hair with heat, washing it less means you can go much longer on a single style. Your hair will be less damaged, and you can stop staring at your split ends incessantly.
Ditch the Soap and the Daily Shower
There was no transition for showering less like there was with my hair. I went from showering every other day (or every day during super sweaty summer workouts) to about 3-4 times in the average week.
When I do shower, I (mostly) skip the soap. For the past six months or so I have been washing my body with water. I haven’t turned into a massive stink bomb (and yes I’ve asked people who spend time with me). After a sweaty workout, I wash my arm and leg pits with soap. The rest of me gets a good rinse and I’m done. (Although it should also be pointed out that I shave my legs with a moisturizing handmade soap, so I do effectively wash my legs with soap once a week.)
You don’t need to jump in the shower to get clean. If I have put on sunscreen or I feel like freshening up without turning on the tap, I wipe down with a wash cloth.
The Benefits of Showering Less
On the days that I’m not washing my hair, I can be in and out of the shower in two minutes or less. Although when I shave my legs it can take me closer to 10 minutes. I try to shave on days that I don’t wash my hair to break up marathon showers. I used to spend nearly an hour a week in the shower. These days it’s more like 20-30 minutes.
I could easily run out of hot water in the shower when I was growing up. Fifteen minutes was the norm, if not longer. The amount of water I wasted makes me cringe. My new shower routine likely saves me 95 gallons of water a week. That’s 4,940 gallons a year!
Despite eschewing soap and only washing my hair twice a week, my skin and hair feel better. They are less dry and I don’t get so itchy anymore. My back and chest haven’t exploded with zits (if anything they look better than before). Instead of needing an intense moisturizer after every shower, a light application of sunflower oil is plenty.
“Applying detergents (soaps) to our skin and hair every day disrupts a sort of balance between skin oils and the bacteria that live on our skin. When you shower aggressively, you obliterate the ecosystems. They repopulate quickly, but the species are out of balance and tend to favor the kinds of microbes that produce odor.” I Quit Showering and Life Continued, The Atlantic
Much like the bacteria in our guts, we are only just starting to understand what these bacteria do and how they benefit us.
There is something about moving to a new place that makes me simultaneously think I have too many things and that I need the perfect thing to make life easier. In this case I am massively downsizing to what is effectively a 275 sq.ft. tiny house, which means I do indeed have too much stuff for the space.
In the process of combining two households we’ve gotten rid of redundancies (how did we end up with three whisks between us?) and let some things go in favor of the one we like better. But I still feel like we’re drowning in stuff. My stuff to be exact.
In our new home, I have two dresser drawers and half (okay… maybe three quarters) of a closet smaller than most people’s hall/coat closets. I have a relatively small wardrobe, and yet nearly half of my clothes don’t fit.
My first instinct is to panic. To try to get rid of everything, even if it feels like I’m already down to the things I love.
Instead I’m just letting it all sit. My homeless clothes are sitting in a laundry basket in the closet, which means actual dirty clothes storage is also in a temporary home. We have a box of things in “purgatory” waiting to either be found a home or done without. Our “donate” pile is slowly taking over all of the space, and our “to-sell” pile keeps growing.
There’s too much stuff in this tiny place and not enough room for us.
But until we have things 95 percent sorted, nothing new. No life changing storage solutions. No new set of sheets to replace the dingy pair with holes. We have discovered so many better solutions than the one we had planned to purchase.
Home isn’t built in a day.
My plant friends have found a slightly sunny window sill to call home. We (miraculously) discovered a shoe storage solution appropriate for two athletic people’s numerous pairs.
Things are slowly making their way into their rightful place, and in the meantime I’m trying to just let it all be. Let the boxes fill the living room. Let the donation pile take up more space. Fill the purgatory box and let it stew.
After nine months, I was fully expecting surgery. I went into the MRI hoping that whatever was wrong would be glaringly obvious so we could fix it quickly and I could move on with my life.
For better or for worse, my MRI wasn’t as clear as the doctor had hoped. My trouble spots all showed up with excess fluid and inflammation, but without full tears it’s hard to see what’s really going on.
In order to get a better idea of what’s broken, my doctor started testing my ankle. He went after my biggest source of pain first, my peroneal tendon. He injected anesthesia into my tendon sheath, and the pain immediately went away. I can’t describe the relief.
I was then instructed to do activities that normally increase my pain to see if I could bring the pain back. If I could, the problem wasn’t a tendon tear. If the pain stayed away, s-s-surgery.
I ran a glorious half mile on a treadmill. The stale gym air in my hair, feet moving under me – I hadn’t felt so free since I tried to snap my ankle in two playing basketball. I had forgotten what it felt like to run, to relax into my stride and just let my feet move. I wasn’t worried about the outcome or trying to negotiate with the broken parts of me. We just moved.
Before the treadmill of joy, I hadn’t run more than 200 steps at a time. I knew I had done more than enough to make my ankle hurt, but damn was I feeling invincible. I went into the hallway and busted out single leg heal raises like I do them all day.
After resting for an hour I was convinced. This was it.
A video posted by Mandy Ferreira (@treading_lightly) on
Peroneal Tendon Surgery
The good news: Unless I twist it again, I can’t make this much worse. I got the sign off to (carefully!) hike and ride a bike (short distances) on my vacation at the end of the month.
Also good news? The week we get back, I’m having surgery. A terrifying prospect when I think too hard about the details.
The unfortunate news: After surgery, I’m on a recovery plan that will take me into 2017 before I’m back to full activity like I was before my injury. The timeline depends heavily on what my damage is. Just a small tendon tear: 3 months. Tendon tear and a bone chip: 3+ months. Tendon tear and cartilage damage: 4-5 months.
If things go well, I’ll be walking in a boot to celebrate the one year mark of my injury at the end of October.
The best news: I have a way forward. I finally have a plan to get back to running and olympic lifting. The path isn’t the one I would have chosen at the beginning, but I feel good about it. I’m so ready to be better. To be back. To be free. To not have constant pain.
When my peroneal tendon was numb, I felt like myself again. After nine months of pain I was so used to it that it was shocking to feel normal. It also made me realize just how much pain I was living with every day. When the anesthesia began to wear off and the pain came creeping back in, it was staggering. I couldn’t believe I was walking around like this every day.
I’m scared, but I’m all in. I’m ready to start chipping away at a full recovery.
My shower is a place of peace. It is wonderfully spare and uncluttered. While it could have even less in it, I am happy with what it holds.
I take great care to choose safe, natural beauty products that are gentle on the Earth and on me. I read every ingredient and I look up products on the Environmental Working Group’s fantastic cosmetic database before I buy them. I do my best to choose products with few ingredients and a score of two or below from EWG.
After many disappointing tubes and shampoo bars that left my hair feeling like sticky straw, I settled on Juice Organics Brightening Shampoo. It has a nice amount of lather and it doesn’t dry out my hair. It’s now available at Target (although I’m not sure every one will carry it), but it’s usually the cheapest here. My hair is silky for the full four days until I wash it again (more on that soon).
I like a heavy, hearty conditioner that doesn’t weigh my hair down. The Juice Organics Smoothing Conditioner is the best I’ve found so far. It smells great (it sometimes makes me a little hungry) and its very hydrating.
I break the rule when it comes to conditioner. I slather this on my scalp like I’m frosting a cake. My scalp gets dry and crazy itchy if I don’t. I apply the conditioner much like shampoo and massage it into my scalp. Once my scalp is covered I work the conditioner down to the ends of my hair with my hands and a wide tooth comb. I put my hair in a bun with a big clip and let it sit for at least a minute while I wash my body or shave before fully rinsing it out.
Soap & Shave Cream
My mom discovered this handmade soap years ago, and I haven’t changed it since. Gaia Essentials is made less than 10 miles from my childhood home, and I trust the maker and the ingredients she uses. I love her chocolate soaps because they are incredibly silky and nourishing. The soap doubles as a shave cream that won’t leave you with razor burn or parched skin.
While I love my soap, I highly recommend visiting your local farmer’s market or co-op grocery store to find a local soap maker near you. You can ask about their ingredients, and very often they will have little samples that you can try.
For years I’ve used the same Preserve razor. I’m not the most frequent shaver, so each disposable head lasts me at least a month. While I like that the handle is recycled and the company seems to have good sustainability practices, I am still looking into shaving with a safety razor instead of the disposable heads.
For months my sprained ankle got worse after just about every treatment, except gua sha. My physical therapist first introduced it to me after hand massage started to be less effective, and I had instant results.
What is gua sha?
Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine technique of scraping the skin with a hard porcelain spoon or a jade scraper. Similar to Graston or ART, gua sha can help release tightness and improve recovery. While many people still use the traditional scrapers, newer plastic tools with different angles and edges are now available as well.
A gua sha practitioner will scrape down the skin around an injury until it becomes bright red or until the tissue begins to feel smoother under the tool. My physical therapist follows the tendons/muscles and scrapes up and down as well as across the tissues.
Benefits of Gua Sha
The hard plastic tool is used to break down tissue adhesions and improve scar tissue. It also helps increase circulation and clear out inflammation. Gua sha releases myofascial tension and increases mobility.
Many people use gua sha to improve their mobility and reduce chronic neck/back pain. It’s a great tool for general muscle recovery, and it is (in my opinion) extremely helpful after an injury.
The first time I had gua sha done I gained nearly 10 degrees of ankle flexion. That was HUGE for me. I had been stuck for weeks without improvement in my ankle motion. It also helped release some of the tension in my peroneal tendon and foot. The improved mobility and decrease in tightness also reduced my pain so much that I was willing to learn how to do the scraping myself.
Therapist or DIY?
I highly recommend starting with a licensed massage therapist or physical therapist. You absolutely want someone who knows what they’re doing the first few times. The location of your injury or pain is also going to limit you. It seems highly unlikely you will be able to scrape your own neck or back without causing some other strain or pain in the process.
It took me more than a month of weekly treatments before I felt comfortable enough to take the first steps to learn how to do it myself. There are lots of videos online, and after a few treatments you can get the basics down pretty well by watching/feeling. I was lucky enough to have my physical therapist teach me how to do it so I could continue my progress outside of our sessions.
It took me a while to get comfortable doing it myself. Gua sha scraping creates a horrible noise, and you can feel the bumpy, sticky quality of the tissue below. When I first started it felt like I had gravel under my skin. Just the thought of scraping by major trouble spots was enough to make me nauseous.
While I still have scar tissue and I crape 2-3 times a week, it doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m more immune to the discomfort and the feeling of scraping myself. Although to be fair, I still prefer when someone else does it. It’s like when you accidentally pull your own hair and you get really mad at yourself for causing yourself pain. It’s just easier when it’s not your fault.
Gua Sha Tools
I started out with a plastic Asian spoon, but I eventually bought the $35 tool (GuaSha Orthopedic Soft Tissue Tool – 1 ) my PT uses. The spoon worked great for basic scraping, but once my scar tissue was less extreme, it was difficult for me to scrape my ankle effectively with the thicker spoon. I love the tool – I wish I had bought it sooner.
Things to Know
You might bruise. It takes a lot for me to bruise, so I usually have a little redness for a few minutes that fades. Some people get red marks that turn into bruises like this. I think it depends a lot on the practitioner, your injury, and the part of the body you are getting treatment on.
I highly recommend trying gua sha if you have lingering pain or mobility issues. It’s less scary than cupping, but it has similar, powerful results.
If I could, I would spend all day curled up with a great book. I cannot read enough. Even still, I have to make time to read. Life is busy, there are so many other wonderful things to do – I get it. But you won’t regret squeezing in a little extra time to read.
This year I have read more than ever, and a lot of that is because I have prioritized reading. I’m currently on track to read well over my goal of 52 books this year. (I’m secretly shooting for at least 60 now.)
Make time to read with these tips!
Carry a Book
I take my book(s) with me everywhere. Instead of pulling out my phone and passing the time, I read my book. Each 5-10 minute chunk adds up! I read in waiting rooms, during the in-between moments of work, and anytime I have a few extra minutes throughout the day.
Put Down the Remote
You don’t have to give up TV entirely, but each time you pick up a book instead of the remote you drastically increase the amount of time you have to read. It’s impossible (for me at least) to stop watching once you’ve started. Try just reading for 10 minutes and then watching TV. Or better yet, pick a TV free day and read instead.
Read What You Love
Who cares if it’s a “classic”? If it’s boring, drop it. No one has time for that. Read the books you love! You won’t struggle to make time to read if you can’t put your book down.
I used to force myself to finish books, and half of my to-read list was full of other people’s “must reads”. One uninspiring book would derail my reading habit and leave me stuck for weeks. Once I gave myself permission to admit I didn’t like a book and stop reading it, I flew through the books I really wanted to read.
I love to read, but I can easily get restless with a book. For the past couple of years I’ve read a non-fiction and a fiction at the same time – double the fun! It keeps me from over-dosing on a good story or burning out on knowledge. You don’t have to stick with fiction/non-fiction. Toss in a magazine, grab a book of poems, settle down with essays, whatever you like.
Scheduling doesn’t have to kill the romance. Whether you set aside 15-30 minutes a day or pick a day where you read for an hour, marking your calendar will hold you accountable. It will also remind you to read and help you make reading a habit. I usually make sure I have time on Sunday afternoons to laze about with a book. It’s a relaxing end to the week.
I can’t help but tear through a stack of library books. While I am notorious for checking out too many at once (I swear my library is set up to encourage impulse shopping. I always leave with more books than I intended), try to keep it reasonable so you don’t feel overwhelmed. If you only have a few minutes to read each day, pick 1-2 short books.
Turn Off the Screen
My phone and computer can sing siren songs. I will sit down to read and waste 20 minutes on Instagram. I have “closed tabs” on my computer (a.k.a. reading the entire internet) and blown all of my free time. Swap reading for screen time and you’ll start flying through books.
Things I know about Tennis: Serena and Venus Williams are bosses, it’s played with rackets and green balls, and the scoring makes no sense. In other words, I know nothing, but I loved this book.
I first heard about it on a podcast – It’s one of Tim Ferriss‘ favorites, and he won’t shut up about it. Andre Agassi’s memoir is a fascinating look into what it’s like to be a professional tennis player and devote your life to a single sport. Some of it felt a little too fantastical to be true, but if you give yourself over to the story it’s a great read.
After hearing Rebecca Traister on Call Your Girlfriend, I was excited for this book. I was not prepared for how depressed it would make me. I know it wasn’t the intention, but I came away feeling like if you get married you are screwed and if you never get married you are screwed to. Maybe I just wasn’t prepared for the reality of being a woman in the United States.
But outside of the depressing bits, I really enjoyed the look into America’s past and all of the strong women who have paved the way. More than anything it reminded me that there is no right answer for everyone, especially when it comes to marriage and children, and we all need to chill out and give each other space to make our own decisions.
Ta-Nehisi Coates is incredible. His book is gut wrenching, especially in light of the recent shootings and violence. Too many.
I’m a small white woman, and I will never truly know what it’s like to be anything but. Coates’ experience and his criticism of The Dream hit me hard. I know what it’s like to always be on guard, to always be afraid, but I have always had privilege to shield me from the worst. This book is as good as everyone says it is. Read it.
I had a really hard time connecting with Meghan Daum. Our lives and personalities are just so different, and I really struggled through this one. I’m leaving My Misspent Youthon my list – maybe that one will speak to me.
Have you recently been laid off? Don’t know what you want to do with your life? Feel like you have no passion or direction? Don’t read this book. This one was a little too relatable – minus the excessive drinking and hatred of exercising. (To be fair, I tore through it and it was a good read. It did, however, ignite some serious ennui.)
I believe in treading lightly on the Earth and my feet. I hope to inspire and support you on your journey to live a natural, sustainable life.
All images and copy are original to Treading Lightly unless otherwise credited. Please be respectful when using material from this site and link back. I am not a doctor or a trainer – all of the content on Treading Lightly is my opinion and experience.