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The Highly Sensitive Minimalist and Her Mint Tiny House

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There are so many reasons to go tiny: To reduce costs, to live “greener,” to travel more — and for Talia, to have a clean and simple living area that helps her live well as a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). We got to interview Talia and she tells us more about what it means to be an HSP, her tiny life, and her work helping others live more simply.

Her home was built for her by Mint Tiny Homes in British Columbia, and Talia said she had a great experience with the builder. Inside she has a loft bedroom, comfortable living area, kitchen complete with a farmhouse sink, and a spacious bathroom with a subway tile shower.

Enjoy the photo tour and our Q&A with Talia!

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How Tiny Living Helps this Highly Sensitive Person!

Here’s the *comfy* couch in the living room.

She has a secondary storage loft.

Storage stairs to the loft.

Love the farmhouse sink and the forest railing.

Here’s the stove top. Adorable succulent pictures.

She also has an oven.

Here’s her minimalist loft bedroom.

She files books backward. Clean!

Bathroom window, with a few plants.

Spacious shower with subway tile.

Here’s her closet in the bathroom.

Love her clear bottles.

I didn’t know I needed this mirror until now.

Here’s where she stores her art supplies.

She has space here for dining.

Interview with Talia

Tell us a little about your journey. You mentioned on Instagram that you’re a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). How does tiny living help you cope?

I think a big reason why I was so drawn to tiny living is due to the fact that I am a neurodivergent, (meaning, my brain is wired differently) introverted, highly sensitive person (HSP). Due to my sensory sensitivities, I am particularly affected by the subtleties in my environment and so a simple, calming, clutter-free space is truly mandatory for me in order for me to function well. I get overwhelmed and exhausted by sensory overload in cluttered, noisy, or chaotic environments so a streamlined and easily-managed home environment makes a huge difference in my life.

As an HSP, I am also highly empathic and concerned with issues of justice, equality, and ethics and am therefore a passionate believer in Gandhi’s words: “live simply so that others may simply live.” For me, this concept has informed many of my life choices including being a vegan for 20+ years, choosing not to have children, and also choosing to be a minimalist, now in a tiny home.

In my tiny home, everything I own has its place which makes it easy to manage and keep organized and clean and also forces me to be mindful of what I am purchasing. My tiny home is a sanctuary for me, it grounds me by providing me with a soothing, simplified, self-contained space to retreat to and be comfortable in when I need to decompress and recharge from the external world. I believe that tiny/simple living is a wonderful antidote to overwhelm for everyone and especially for folks who may struggle with sensory sensitivities or executive functioning challenges such as highly sensitive people, autistic people, people with ADHD and sensory processing disorder, etc.

How many people (and animals) are living in your tiny house?

It’s just me and my newly-adopted rescue dog, a 9 year-old terrier mix named Billy:).

Where do you live? How long have you lived tiny?

Last year, I moved from the San Francisco Bay area where I was living for 17 years back to Southern California (north of Los Angeles) which is where I grew up. I’d lived in a beautiful, rent-controlled apartment in Oakland for over a decade and gave it up in 2017 to move in with a long-time partner. The relationship didn’t end up working out and by 2018, I was priced out of the Bay Area’s skyrocketing rental market, so I decided to rent a room for a year and figure out my next steps. It was then that my sister suggested that I invest in a tiny home (having known about my many-year obsession with them) and offered her land as a place to park it when needed and so that is where I am currently parked. I am incredibly fortunate and privileged to have a supportive family with available land to park on.

What do you do for work? Or do you travel full-time?

I currently work part-time from home and I just graduated from my second coaching program and am about to launch new service offerings through The Sensitive Minimalist (@thesensitiveminimalist on Instagram). These will include virtual coaching sessions for folks (who may or may not identify as highly sensitive) who are interested in downsizing and simplifying their life and are looking for assistance with accountability, tips/techniques, and emotional support since it is not always an easy process. I am also looking into creating some online course offerings for folks who still want guidance but may not need hands-on coaching. So, helping others with simple living is turning into my work (yet again) which is super exciting for me:)

How did you first learn about the tiny house life?

I have been eagerly following the tiny house and simple living movements online for over a decade. In fact, back in 2006, I wrote a research paper for my graduate school program on the voluntary simplicity movement, minimalism as a spiritual practice, and Gandhi’s concept of living simply so others may simply live. In 2014, I took an online class called Tiny Transitions & Downsizing by Comet Camper on how to minimize my belongings to fit in a tiny home. I didn’t think I would ever actually live in a tiny home at that point but I wanted to go through the process and practice of downsizing in this way in order to simplify my stuff and life. Soon after that, I left the nonprofit sector which I had been working in for 11 years in order to start a business as a professional organizer and simple living coach for folks who were interested in minimizing and streamlining as well. I worked as an organizer for a couple of years while also running a pet care business. I am currently in the process of creating new offerings to assist others in minimizing and simplifying their lives.

How long did it take to finish your tiny house?

The house was built by Mint Tiny Homes in British Columbia. I think it only takes them 25 business days to build the house once the decisions have been made but the whole process from beginning to end took about five months.

Are you comfortable sharing how much your tiny home cost? What are bills/utilities like compared to before?

The home cost about $68,000 altogether which I mostly financed with a loan. My monthly loan payments are lower than any local apartment rental. In addition to minimal water and electric bills, I pay about $25 per month to fill up a propane tank for my tankless propane water heater and propane stove. My monthly expenses are comparable to what it would cost to rent a small room in a local home and share in utilities but instead, I have my own movable home and space to myself which is so important to me at this point in my life with my introversion and sensory sensitivities.

Before going tiny, what was life like? (See other answers)

I was living in the Bay Area and I owned and operated a pet care business full-time. My long-term relationship had ended, I was priced out of the Bay Area rental market, and so I was in a transition year, renting a room and trying to figure out my next move.

Is there anything from your old life that you miss?

Aside from missing the beautiful Bay Area at times, I am thrilled to be in this amazing, calming tiny house with everything I need and currently, to be closer to my family.

What benefits are you experiencing after going tiny?

My tiny home is a calming, soothing, organized home sanctuary for me in which everything has its place and is easily manageable for me and my sensitivities. Not much time is needed to spend on maintenance and cleaning since it’s a small space. I am in a space that allows me to have a dog which is something I’ve wanted for a long time but my apartment leases never allowed for this. My expenses are reduced and I also don’t need to be caught up in buying more and more things for my house – I have everything I need already.

What about some challenges?

Some challenges I didn’t anticipate:

Weather-related: I didn’t think to put a retractable awning over my front door and the rural land where I’m parked can get muddy with rain so managing the rain and muddy boots and coming directly into a small space in the winter was a challenge. I put a boot tray near the inside of the front door and managed the best I could without the awning but I plan to get an awning this next year.

Rural living related: Also, since I am parked in a rural place, I have had to manage a fair amount of insects in and around the house – pincher bugs, ants, spiders, an infestation outside of an unknown insect – which was a new challenge for me to navigate – I am learning.

Storage related: I am an artist and have a good amount of art supplies which I can’t really minimize more than I already have. At first, I stored them inside some baskets that double as my coffee table but it was a pain to access them easily. I also felt like the space under the stairs that was designated as my closet was a little too small and low for accessing my clothes. I had planned to put a stackable washer and dryer in the bathroom but hadn’t purchased these yet so I had a large empty space in the bathroom. So a few months into tiny life, I decided to switch the storage situation and chose to forego a washer and dryer in the house altogether and instead, put up a closet rod and drape and converted that space in the bathroom into a clothes closet, and moved my art supplies under the stairs. I am thrilled with how this all panned out. I love the closet in the bathroom and easy access to my art supplies and I have been happy to get over to a laundromat and have also hand-washed clothes here as well.

What makes your tiny house special?

My tiny house is very bright and light and airy so it doesn’t feel small or cramped in any way when inside. I really fell in love with the aesthetics of Mint Tiny Home’s design which is part of why I chose them as a builder – it merged with my own design aesthetic and existing furniture, belongings, and art really well. I highly recommend Mint Tiny Homes as builders, they did a wonderful job, thought of all of the useful details for building the house, and were very communicative and great throughout the whole building process.

What is your favorite part of your tiny house?

I really love every aspect of my tiny house! Even though I’m not that into cooking, I really love the kitchen and the big farmhouse sink which I clean out and actually bathe my dog in:) I also love the white subway tiles in the shower, the click-laminate wood flooring, the great cupboard space, soft-close drawers, the bookshelves in the loft facing the bed, and all the lighting! Pretty much every detail that Mint Tiny Homes thought of is wonderful.

What helpful advice would you give to others interested in going tiny?

I think one of the biggest considerations is finding land to park if you don’t plan to be on the road most of the time but more and more options are opening up for this. A friend of mine who went tiny before I did currently rents a space on ranch land in the Bay Area along with about ten other tiny homes which he simply found posted on Craigslist. I believe that there will be more options for long-term parking as time goes by and that tiny homes and tiny home communities are really the housing solution of the future!

Make sure to plan for a variety of weather conditions, especially if you plan to be on the road or in more severe climates – adequate insulation, heating, and cooling is a big deal and I’m thankful that Mint Tiny Homes had plenty of options for this – they have all come in handy quite a bit so far.

And this may seem small but once you’ve gone tiny, I highly recommend having a dustbuster! In a tiny home with wood floors, in nature and/or with pets, a dustbuster is a must-have in my opinion. I use my dustbuster every single day to keep all the corners of this small space clean.

Also, if you’re having a hard time making decisions about how best to minimize your stuff, seek support! There is so much out there nowadays.

Please follow my journey on Instagram @thesensitiveminimalist. A website is in the works!

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Natalie C. McKee

Natalie C. McKee is a contributor for Tiny House Talk and the Tiny House Newsletter. She's a wife, and mama of three little kids. She and her family are homesteaders with sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and quail on their happy little acre.

Latest posts by Natalie C. McKee (see all)

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Sonya. Aragon.
    June 19, 2020, 1:25 am

    Im very intereted in a tiny home i live in colorado. Dont have a clue where i would be able to park it. Interested in some land as well

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 19, 2020, 1:12 pm

      I recommend checking out this site for parking spots >>> https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/help/tiny-house-parking-guide

    • jbsilver
      June 22, 2020, 9:36 pm

      Before you buy land best check on what the county requires as far as building and finding a place to park your tiny house. In Costilla they want you to build a house that has no less than 600 square feet of heated living space. You also have to install a septic tank and verify how you plan on getting water. Even if you only plan on being out there for a few months. And you have to pay to be out on your own land for a few weeks. Southern Colorado is not tiny house friendly. There are very few places to park an RV let alone a tiny house. I think they lose a lot of revenue due to all the restrictions that don’t seem to have anything to do with the environment. Be careful where you buy and study the county rules. Expect to get a run around from county workers when it comes to getting information and finding out who to talk to. Get a note pad you’ll need it. Sonya

  • Theresa Perdue
    June 19, 2020, 12:47 pm

    Beautiful home and it does seem to have a calmness about it. I would definitely be interested in the HSP part as I have never heard of it before but I want to know more. But as for the home I will be remembering that builder.

    • Natalie C. McKee
      June 19, 2020, 1:08 pm

      Definitely Google it — I first heard of HSPs from my mother. After reading up about it I discovered I have many HSP traits myself and it was quite eye-opening.

  • Diana
    June 19, 2020, 3:40 pm

    I am an HSP also. Love your house. You did a TERRIFIC job on its design..LOVE IT!♥️

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