The Start of a Brand New Life

“You Don’t Need More Space. You Need Less Stuff”

Ryan Mitchell

Hello. We are John and Barb Pabst and we are baby boomers who have made the BIG decision to GO TINY. You wouldn’t think going tiny would be such a huge undertaking, but it is. We are selling our house and most of our stuff and building a tiny house. It may look like we are giving up a lot, but we are gaining even more-FREEDOM. We are excited and scared at the same time. This is the very beginning of this crazy journey. We will use this blog to share our adventure with you.

Live Simply,

John and Barb

Own It, Girl

 What makes You You? Do you “Own It”? If not, why not? For me, I compare myself to others who I think are doing it better than me. I see my flaws, imperfections and shortcomings, so I don’t step in to who I truly am. So many times, I explain away or downplay my gifts and talents. I don’t play to my strengths. When this happens, I do not live my calling. I don’t help the people who may need what I have to give

I am a Minimalist. I have really had a hard time acknowledging that about myself. I worry that other minimalists will think of me. I see where I could be doing better. After all, I still use too many disposable products. My kitchen has too many pots and pans in it. There is not a place for everything in my tiny house. There is still too much clutter and I am not very organized. I buy too many convenience foods. I am not eating as clean as I know I should. 

So, what makes me a Minimalist? I live in a 350 square foot tiny house on wheels. I have gone through a major life transformation. I donated, sold and discarded an enormous amount of possessions, clothing and mementos. My mindset is drastically different from what I was accustomed to.  I am living a minimalist lifestyle the best I can. I practice minimalism more and more each day. Am I perfect? No. Can I do better? Yes. One thing for sure is I make progress each and every day. I was sharing my hesitation to call myself a minimalist with some women in a networking group and one of the women reminded me of all the changes I had made. She said, “You Own It Girl.” I felt so validated and so empowered. So, I can confidently call myself a Minimalist.

Not only am I a Minimalist, I am the Midwest Minimalist. My husband and I are successfully living tiny in Minnesota (The Bold North) during the Polar Vortex. We have had the coldest temperatures in 23 years (-23 degrees with -50 wind chills). Has it been easy? That would be a BIG NO! Have we questioned whether we made the  right decision in going tiny? YOU BETCHA.  There was a day last week, where so many things went wrong, that we both had a big meltdown. A friend reminded us of all that we had accomplished over the last year. We stepped out of our comfort zone in a big way. We did things way beyond our area of expertise. When we downsized, we could have chosen to move to a townhouse, but we chose to move to a tiny house. We knew there would be challenges, we just didn’t know what they would be. This is the life we chose so we embrace all that comes with it. After all the difficulties we faced, we would still make the same decision. 

Living tiny is not the only thing that makes me a Minimalist. My definition of Minimalism is to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary can shine through. Moving to a tiny house is one of the ways we chose to do so. The Why is what helps me step into my role and purpose. My life is more about living intentionally, according to my priorities and values. I am the Midwest Minimalist. 

What are you being called to step into? Whatever it is You Own It Girl. Be true to you. The world needs you. 



Baking Cookies in a Tiny House

This past week, we have been baking cookies and making candies in our tiny house. These recipes have been in John’s family for years, way before he was even born. They hold a lot of special memories for John from his childhood. When we married, I was able to experience them and fell in love with them. They are so pretty and are so fabulous. This year, we have made three types of cookies, two types of candy, and a beautiful pastry bread. One of the candies are super creamy peanut butter balls dipped in chocolate and are to die for. They are named after and look like buckeye nuts. You see, John is from Ohio where the state tree is the Buckeye tree. He also went to The Ohio State University, home of the Buckeyes. We have to make these for that reason. The special pastry bread is a nut roll. When John was a little boy, he called it “time tunnel” bread, because it looked like a time tunnel when you cut into it. The flavor and texture is unbelievably fantastic.

These goodies are very time consuming and require a lot of space. Quite an undertaking in a tiny house with only 6 feet of counter space. Our oven is only 24 inches, so it takes a while to bake all of them. Did I mention that we do not have a kitchen table? We decided to keep this tradition, because of the special memories and significance to us. The trick is how. This didn’t happen by accident.

We spent a great deal of time designing our tiny house to be able to do the things we enjoy. Baking was one thing we for sure wanted to do a lot of. It is therapeutic and makes us happy. It is also good for our relationship as we do this together. Now, we do not eat all of these buttery sweets, although we would like to. They make wonderful gifts.

So, how do we pull this off in our small kitchen, which is also our living room? We did a lot of brainstorming and research since this was a huge priority. We spent hours and hours on Pinterest. What presented even more of a challenge is that our tiny house is rambler style. Our bedroom is on the main level rather than in a loft. How could we get around these restrictions?

Our builder suggested a murphy bed, which enabled us to open up our bedroom to use as an extended kitchen. We are able to put a 6′ x 3′ foot table in the bedroom which gives more than adequate work space. The table is a drop down from Ikea and comes in very handy. It takes up little space, but extends when we need it.

It makes us so happy to be able to continue our favorite traditions in our tiny house. It took a lot of planning, research and patience as we searched for just the right solutions. When something is important to you, you find a way to make it work.

Some people hesitate to go tiny, or live in less space because they fear they will lose so much and be restricted. I want to encourage you that you can make it work if you really take the time to do your homework and customize your space according to your values and priorities. You can live large in a tiny house. It is about what is important to you and what you value. Living tiny is really creating space and freedom in your life. Minimalism is very unique and individual. There is truly no wrong or right way to do it. It’s about what means the most to you.

The Empty Nest

We chose to name our tiny house The Empty Nest. We love being empty nesters. Don’t get me wrong. I loved being a mom and having my kids at home. I especially loved the elementary age years. The teenage years were a little rocky for our family. The adult children years have been full of ups and downs.

The first time we became empty nesters was when our youngest moved out of our house at age 19. It was hard. The house was so so quiet. To top it off, our sweet dog passed on. I felt so lonely and empty. I missed those fun years with our kids when they thought we hung the moon. 

Although we were empty nesters, it didn’t feel very freeing. Our oldest child needed and desired a lot of my time and attention. It fulfilled my need to be needed, to be the nurturer that I was. We would joke that we were empty nesters, but our kids were still somewhat on the gravy train. We enjoyed having the house to ourselves and spending time together.

Our empty nest became half full again when our youngest child moved back home. We experienced the “boomerang child”. It is not easy to have them move back after a long break. We longed for the day when we would once again be empty nesters for good. This led to our decision to take the tiny house journey. Although we love our children, it was time for us to follow our dreams for our life. There is no way our kids can move into our tiny with us. 

This has been such an exciting time for us. We see it as a time to fully embrace this stage of our lives. We want to live, to experience, to create. Some may see this as a very lonely and lost time of life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You may need to be intentional about focusing on your relationship and enjoying your marriage. We chose to make a drastic life change by moving from the suburbs to a hobby farm in a more remote area. What is it for you? Are you stuck in a rut? Do you want more out of life? You don’t have to move to downsize and move to a tiny house like us. There are so many ways to live out the desires of your heart. We personally would love to see more empty nest couples take the plunge with us and start a tiny house community together. Go for you dreams. 

The Pabst Empty Nest


Why a Red Sink?

Many of you have marvelled at pictures of our beautiful red sink in our adorable retro tiny bathroom. It is complete awesomeness. Some of you have wondered how we chose a red sink. When we created the design, we had no idea about the interior design as far as colors and materials. We were confident of the overall layout, but picking colors and decorating a home is not our strength. 

We had always loved retro styles, especially the black and white checkered floor. As we talked with our builder we decided to go for it. We wanted a splash of color, so we added red moulding. We were happy with that and didn’t give it another thought.

Our builder discovered an amazing woman who worked in custom cabinetry, who also happened to be gifted as an interior designer. She was great at choosing materials and colors. She had mentioned that although she was experienced in cabinetry, she could not just stop at cabinets and that she saw the whole house. We were thrilled to have her expertise. 

She sent us some 3D blueprints for our home which made things come to life. We had chosen to put our washer and dryer in our bathroom to give us more room in the living room and kitchen area. Her blueprints suggested a red washer and dryer. We loved it, and proceeded to search for the red stackable washer/dryer set. Although stores had advertised them in red, we soon discovered they had been discontinued. By that time we had our hearts set on red. Now we had to go back to plain white or stainless. We were so disappointed. 

What else could we do to add some more red without being overpowering? As we were choosing our sink, I saw many red one’s, but they were very expensive and we wanted to stay in our budget. Our interior designer called us with the great news that she had found our red sink. It was on Craig’s List for a very reasonable price. It was 40 years old and in pretty bad shape. It was definitely a conversation piece. Should we go with it in the shape it was in or would it be better to have it reglazed? Since we had all new fixtures in our bathroom, we chose to have it reglazed. This meant we would not have if when we moved in. We were okay with that since we were so close to our kitchen sink. 

We couldn’t wait for it to come. We were not disappointed as it looks so awesome. Just what we needed to pull the whole bathroom together. It definitely is a conversation piece. 

Do you have something a little bold that you want to try out in your house. Are you scared to do it in case it lowers the resale value? We held off doing things in our previous house, because we were scared about what others would think. Would we be able to sell it? Sometimes, we put off enjoying things in life by looking too far in the future. My opinion is to live a little, choose what you love now. What is your red sink? 

Enjoy life,

The Pabst Empty Nest


One Month In…

We have been living in our tiny for a month now. I imagine you are all curious to hear how it is going. We absolutely love it. No, we don’t regret this decision at all. It feels so good to finally be here after a very long wait. Now that we are here, it was worth the wait. Every room has it’s own unique charm. Living on a farm north of the Twin Cities is so peaceful. It gets really dark here at night and the moon and stars are so beautiful. We could not have found a more perfect spot to park it. The morning sunrises are breathtaking. 

Even though we love living tiny, there definitely have been some challenges. We went without running water for over a week. You don’t realize how much you rely on modern conveniences we take for granted. We had water in before we had water out, so we still had to use our water sparingly. When we ran water to do the dishes, shower or do laundry, it ran straight out the bottom of the house onto the ground. You wouldn’t think that would be a big problem, but the water puddled by one of the wheels of our foundation trailer which caused the ground to erode, which would affect the levelling of the house. We were so happy when we were finally able to have water out. Although we had water, it wasn’t hot. It got slightly warm and then turned ice-cold in the middle of a shower. No fun. Fortunately we discovered that we simply needed to turn on the propane tank for our water heater. 

Our most pressing projects are preparing our tiny for the frigid Minnesota winters. This has proven to be quite an undertaking. These projects are completely out of zone of knowledge and ability. We have learned so much during this time. Of most importance, was building an insulated house for our well pump to continue having water during the winter. Several mornings we have had to wait until the day warmed up to have water. Now that we have our little well house, we have not had any problems. Hopefully, this holds true in January. Next big project is skirting the bottom of the house to keep house warm in the winter. This one is very intimidating to us. More learning and going beyond our comfort level.

Many of you have wondered what it is like living in such small quarters with your spouse. So far, we are doing fine. We purposely designed our house to provide an open feeling. We do not feel cramped or in each other’s way. Most of our disagreements have come as a result of external stress from selling our house, living in an Air BnB for three months, and the very physically challenging jobs necessary to survive the winter. 

You are probably wondering if we have room for all of our belongings. Yes and No. We purposely designed our house to have lots of storage, but we have not found the right place for everything yet. As we have lived here for a while, we are able to decide the best places for our items. An observation about downsizing – if you think you have downsized enough – you most likely have not. We are still getting rid of our stuff. We are still in the messy phase, but it is getting better. 

All in all, living in a tiny house has been far easier than we thought, but it is not easy. All of the challenges we have faced are all part of the tiny journey. It is what makes it so exciting. We have no idea what lies ahead, but we are so thankful to have each other to do this tiny life together. 

Stay tuned for more of our tiny adventures. 

The Pabst Empty Nest


Extended Stay in an Airbnb

John and I love Airbnb. It is the only way we travel. We prefer this to a “cookie cutter” hotel or a very expensive Bed and Breakfast. We have stayed in some amazing places with wonderful hosts. When we needed to a place to stay while we waited for our tiny to be ready, Airbnb was a no-brainer for us. The bonus was that we were able to bring our cat which is not usually an option. We also chose to rent a room rather than an entire house since we would only be there a short time. It is less expensive and you get to know the host. There were four rooms available to rent, so there were people coming and going. 

We initially thought we would be there for two weeks, so we planned accordingly. We brought two weeks worth of essentials for us and the cat. It was the amount of things you would need for a vacation, minus the cat. We could do that for a short time. Due to a variety of reasons, we found out that our tiny house would take much longer to complete than we originally thought. Two weeks turned into nearly three months. Although we stayed in a wonderful place, three months was a bit much. Not to mention, the delays happened in two week increments. We would anticipate our move, only to be disappointed by each setback. We were blessed to find a place that enabled us to stay with an indefinite checkout date. 

Some wonderful things we experienced was a hot shower and the ability to do laundry. We had cinnamon rolls, fresh fruit and coffee daily to start out our day. We had the peace of mind of not having to worry about when we had to leave. We met some amazing people from all over the world. We had a refrigerator to put our food and beverages. We had all the privacy we wanted by just going to our room. 

Some of the difficult things were living out of suitcases for three months. Things we hoped to have access to were in the storage unit that was an hour away. We chose that location because it was closer to where our tiny house would be. Being cooped up in a room with a cat was not always fun. If we left him, he  would meow his head off making sounds like he was being tortured. It stressed us out that he would annoy the host and the other guests.

A big downside is that it is just not your house. You are a guest, so you do not have the same freedoms you do at home. Although we had access to a kitchen, we felt somewhat tentative about cooking there daily. Our first attempt at baking a pizza was a disaster because we burned it to a crisp. The kitchen was filled with smoke and the pizza was practically inedible. We didn’t realize the timer on the stove was set in hours instead of minutes. A few weeks later, the smoke alarm began beeping loudly and the house was filled with smoke. One of the other guests attempted to bake a pizza and the same thing happened to them. At least it wasn’t just us.

One of the most difficult things was the waiting. We would get so excited as the anticipated deadline approached, only to have our hopes dashed once again. It was so up and down. We felt like it would never happen and we would live in our little room forever. We learned to develop patience, trust and surrender. You need all of these when you are making a big life change. It is all part of the tiny journey. 

To those of you considering going tiny or any big life transition, be prepared for the unexpected. Some of you may have family members to stay with as you are building. Of course, that comes with it’s own set of challenges. If that isn’t the case, I do highly recommend Airbnb. Even with all of the hassles, it was still the best option for us. 

Embrace the Journey,






Tiny House Update

Last weekend, we took a trip to St. Cloud to visit our builder and see our tiny house. It looks fantastic. More than we could have ever hoped for. Our retro bathroom is so cool with the black and white checkered floor and the very old red sink found on Craig’s list. The Murphy bed is coming together. We are so close to being able to move in. Just a few things here and there. Ryan Ott from Midwest Tiny Living has been working tirelessly so we can move in soon.

The TV shows have romanticized the tiny house movement somewhat. There are aspects of tiny living that is not talked about on TV. One thing in particular is infrastructure. When you move into a new house, you have running water, electricity and a sewer system. That isn’t always the case with a tiny house. It depends on where you put it. In our case, we have had to put a grey water system in place, dig a trench for the electric and dig a sandpoint well. Lot’s of hard work and expense. You know, projects usually take twice as long and cost three times as much money. These are things we did not have much experience with, so there has been a huge learning curve. We are all set to go now. All we need is our tiny house. Hopefully, by the end of the month. At least it will be move in ready. 

Another thing the TV shows do not tell you is that it can be difficult to get a loan to finance your tiny house. Since it does not fall into a nice little category, banks are leery about giving a loan. It takes a little creativity to make it happen. Fortunately, it finally worked out for us.

Contrary to what some people think, you cannot build a tiny house for $2,000. You may be able to cut costs by building it yourself, but there are still going to be expenses. If you go the DIY route,it might take you twice as long. You  need to really know what you are doing and be ready to do the work. If the house is on wheels, you need to factor in the cost of the trailer. We chose to have our house built professionally, so it ended up costing more. However, we would never be able afford a house for the amount our tiny costs. 

Choosing the tiny life is not for the faint of heart. There will be delays, obstacles and setbacks. Things will not go as planned. It is not a cushy life. You have to make compromises. People choose this route for lots of reasons. They want to reduce their carbon footprint, live more sustainably, cut expenses or live more simply. For us, it was a combination of all those things and more. 

Most people who live tiny live under the radar. I believe we are part of the tiny house movement to advocate for this lifestyle and to help legalize tiny living. There have been many strides, but we have a long way to go. Our decision to go tiny is about so much more than us. I can’t wait to see what happens over this next year.



Divine Timing

We worked really long and hard to get our house ready to go on the market. The work seemed so overwhelming and we decided to sell it as is. We had an offer, but it fell through. That meant we would need to do a lot more work and spend a lot more money to get it ready. We got it on the market far later than we anticipated. We were emotionally and physically exhausted. All of our hard work paid off. Our house sold the first day to the first people who  looked at it for significantly more that we asked. What a miracle. We were able to pay off our first and second mortgage, our tiny house build, and quite a bit of debt and still have a good chunk of change left over. We were so glad, we didn’t settle for less. Divine Timing. 

Our tiny was not ready by closing, so we chose to stay in an airbnb. It would be like a mini vacation and give us a chance to decompress from the last few months. They even let us bring our cat. Two weeks living out of suitcases would be no problem. We soon were informed by the builder that we would need to extend the deadline by two more weeks. Our owner extended our stay by two more weeks. What seemed like an inconvenience, turned out to give us the much needed time to put important things into place, like water systems and electricity. Divine Timing. 

As the new deadline approached, we were informed that the deadline would need to be pushed back at least two more weeks. It knocked the wind out of our sails. We were tired of living out of suitcases. We were eager to live in our own house. Once again, the owner booked us past the new deadline. What a relief. At the same time, my mom passed away. We were able  to go to Chicago for the funeral and spend quality time with my sister and her boyfriend. I have also been able to slow down and process my grief without the added pressure of setting up a new house. Divine Timing. 

God has been with us every step of the way. He knows the deep yearning in our hearts to finally realize our tiny house dream. We are not guaranteed that our house will be ready by the new deadline. Any number of factors can cause another delay. Construction often takes more time than we want it to. We know our builder is working diligently to finish according to schedule. We trust him, but mostly we trust God’s Divine Timing. He knows what we need so much better than we do.

This process has helped me to grow in ways I never imagined. I have been reminded of  the brevity of life and the preciousness of relationships. I have learned that happiness and joy are two very different things. Happiness is dependent on circumstances. Joy is based on something deeper and much more constant. I am learning to have an abiding joy in the Lord. This would not be the case without Divine Timing.

When things are crazy and unpredictable look for the Divine.




Life Transitions

According to vocabulary.com A transition is a change from one thing to the next, either in action or state of being-as in a job transition or as in the much more dramatic example of a caterpillar making a transition into a butterfly. Transitions are a part of life. They are often very difficult and painful, but they produce such strength and beauty.  The last year has been a huge time of transition in my life.

In the middle of all of my topsy turvy life, I would face significant loss. My younger sister passed away in March. It was so sudden and unexpected. I was filled with shock and disbelief. I had barely begun the process of grieving the loss of my sister and four months later, my mom passed away in her sleep. Two of the most significant relationships were gone. I am once again in the process of working through new levels of grief.

Last week, we were able to honor my mom and the impact of her life on those around her. Although it was a sad and somber time filled with tears, it was a very beautiful tribute to this amazing woman. I invite you to take this time to get acquainted with her. My mom was an amazing storyteller. She was both fun and funny. She loved to play practical jokes and had a great sense of humor. She wore her emotions on her sleeve. She loved holidays and time spent with family. One of my cousins mentioned that she made everyone around her feel special and another cousin reminded me that she “got a promotion.” She passed on to me a fear of snakes and a love for country music.

The pastor shared that mom had experienced her share of challenges and transitions. Tenacity was the word he used to describe her. He reminded us of the many transitions in her life.  Mom was born in Eastern Kentucky. This was home to her and she loved it. When our family moved to Chicago, I was too young to realize what  culture shock she for her. She felt the loss of a big move, being an empty nester, retiring, losing loved ones, moving in with my older sister, dad passing, going to long term care. I did not see that the losses and transitions I am experiencing paralleled hers. My goal is the handle mine with tenacity and strength. 

The funeral director gave my sister and I a special gift of a framed picture of my mom. He hand painted an angel for my sister and a butterfly for me.  How did he know that butterflies have held a special significance for me. The butterfly struggles through transition, but comes out beautiful. 

In memory of Alice Davis Lewis, February 5, 1931 – July 30, 2018




Cat’s Have Feelings Too!

My name is Tiki. I am the Pabst family pet. My humans (aka Mom and Dad) are amazing. I do have Mom wrapped around my paw, but Dad not so much. Lately, some strange things have been happening. My parents have been talking about selling our house. They didn’t ask my opinion. How dare they.

Things have been crazy around here and I don’t like it one bit. So many humans have been coming and going. They are big, loud and scary. The thing that really bothers me is that things keep disappearing from the house. My favorite chair is gone and I have no place to hide. Don’t they know cats do not like change.

The worst thing is that I have to be in my kennel a lot. That usually means a trip to the vet. They leave me and more people come in the house. My head is spinning.

My parents go outside and spend the whole day outside and they don’t invite me. I sit in the window and voice my displeasure, but they pretend they don’t hear me. What is going on I thought I was the king of the castle and everything revolved around me. When they come inside, I ignore them. I’ll show them.

Now they’ve really gone and done it. They put me in the kennel and drove a really long way. I meowed my head off, but it didn’t matter. They brought me to a place called Air BNB. I am in a teeny tiny room. No place to roam, but great places to hide. I stayed under the bed for a whole day just to make my parents feel bad. My parents have the nerve to leave me in that teeny tiny room while they are free to roam wherever they please. So not fair! I hear them talking and smell food that they do not share with me. I meow repeatedly and try to push the door open. That gets their attention and they come back to hang out with me. I have escaped a few times, but it is short-lived. Mom told me we will be here awhile, so I’d better be on my best behavior.

One day Mom put this thing called a harness on me, so I could go outside the room and not run away. She took me outside in nature. I got scared and refused to cooperate with her, so I could go back to my safe place. Can’t they see how stressful this is for me. Cat’s have feelings too you know.

They talk a lot about something called a “tiny house” whatever that means. We are going to live there in a few weeks. They say it is going to be great. They seem so excited about it. I will let you know how it goes.