I’m Doing This Wrong

I had an epiphany yesterday. I saw a story on Facebook about a couple who built a tiny house and lived in it while they finished the interior. And I though, “I’m doing this wrong.”

See, all this time I have been dreaming about a tiny house that has EVERYTHING that I want. But for a single broke gal, I don’t think that’s the best way to go. Going that way, I’m no closer to my goal than I was a year ago. I have no money and no ability to save money. Plus I have horrible credit, so a loan isn’t an option either. I’m stuck. I have a big dream of a very little house, but no idea how to get there.

However, Christmas is coming up and for the past 2 years at my job I have gotten a bonus. It’s not much, but it may be enough to buy a small trailer, emphasis on SMALL.

Let’s think about this another way… what do you really, really NEED? If I can pair everything down and get this thing built, I could actually save some money for the house that I want.

So, what do I really need? I lived in a shared apartment, so basically in my bedroom and bathroom, for a whole year and a half. I know first hand that I can live without a kitchen. I did have a small refrigerator then, but I have some ideas on how I could live without that as well. I’m thinking this thing my not even have electricity.

I really do need a bathroom. I have been back and forth about living off grid. I LOVE the idea, but the thought of a composting toilet scares me TO DEATH! I don’t know much about them though. Maybe that’s the problem. If I did go with that, that would save a lot of money.

I would also need a shower in my bathroom, which, again, doesn’t have to be anything fancy. We are talking survival here, not ascetics. I’ve been back and forth between whether or not it needs to actually have hot water. I’m sure when I actually have to use it I will have a different opinion, but, at the moment, its easier (and CHEAPER) if it’s just cold. And cold water doesn’t need electricity.

I was thinking for water to do a rain water system. With the amount of rain we have gotten in the last couple of weeks here in the QC I’m bummed I don’t have it set up yet. I’d be set for a freaking year! (It’s never going to stop raining!!!)

There are a couple of options for heat, a propane heater or a wood burning stove. Both of those are doable. It’s the AC that I really don’t want to live without. I’m thinking there my be a generator with a window AC or something. How many hours are we really at home? We can make this work.

I think the only other thing I can’t live without is a bed. In fact I have lived with a blowup mattress already for like 5 years.

The electricity thing is kinda scary, but here’s what I’m thinking: there are several things I can’t live without that use electricity like my phone and computer. They both have long battery lives though and I can charge them at work and my phone can charge in my car. My internet now comes from my phone so that works out. I watch Netflix more than I watch actual TV, so, in theory, I COULD live without cable. (We also have a TV at work so if worst came to worst I could bum TV there).

I am going to have to hunt down some way to blow dry and curl my hair though… oh! and charge my toothbrush. :-/

So, without all of the complicated things, this might not be so far off. All I really need to get moved in is a trailer, shell, toilet and shower. Maybe $2k – $3k?? That’s so much more doable than more than $30k.

Tiny Plans

I’ve been away for a while. Away from thinking and planning about my tiny house. But it’s never far from my mind. But I’m back again and more determined than ever.

I had an opportunity to visit a tiny house last week. I got to meet Alexis and Christian from Tiny House Expedition at the Habitat for Humanity Restore in Concord, NC. They were there for a project that they are working on with Habitat for Humanity.

Their house is 130 square feet. They built it by themselves with support from Thomas E Elsner Custom Carpentry in Winston-Salem, NC. I’m not going to lie, 130 sq ft is small. I was in the living room area with Alexis and 4 other people at one point. It was tight, but there was enough space for everyone.

Alexis was telling us that they had a party in there the night before and had 6 people comfortably to entertain. It seemed a little small for that, but I suppose it could work. I’m not big on entertaining, so this really won’t be an issue for me.

Everything in the house is multipurpose. The couch has storage under it, the stairs double as seating and a closet, the shelf turns into a table. Alexis said that was very important and that it takes a lot of planning. I can only imagine. I have this fear that I won’t be able to think of all of these types of things until my house is done. It will be too late!

The walls inside were painted white, which I LOVE. The inside of my house is going to be mainly white. I don’t think that I have seen one like that yet.

She also said that they used a lot of wood from an old barn and old house. I love that idea, though I don’t know that it will work for my house. I think that I want a more clean, elegant look.

It was so awesome to see a tiny house in person! It’s only the second one that I have seen. It makes the dream seem a whole lot more like reality.

Also, it was so, so nice to meet people who get it. I’ve had to explain this concept and idea to everyone that I know. It’s getting easier with the shows now of HGTV and FYI, but most people still think that it is a joke. It’s amazing to connect with people who are excited about it and who are already living it! If you haven’t done this yet, I would encourage you to. I think it has been one of the most important things for my in the planning process.

Construction Experience and a Place for My Tiny House

So you want to build a Tiny House… Great! Wonderful! Awesome!!! Until you get to the actually building part… I don’t know how to do that. Do you? I mean, I get the idea, but when it comes to reading building plans and using a nail gun and a table saw… um no. Not in my experience. Then, how do you get experience or even some level of comfort?

The first idea I had was classes. This is probably a great option, but they cost money, which I don’t have a lot of these days. There are some that are free, like the ones that they offer at Lowe’s. Most of them are about finishing touches like tile and flooring. What about the actual structure? There are several tiny house companies that offer workshops, but again, they cost money. Like $400 for 2 days. I’m sure that they are provide a lot of good information and that they are worth it, but I just can’t afford that at this point.

The next idea I had was working in construction. But that would require me to give up my current day job, which I love. I can’t trade race cars for… well.. anything. So that’s not an option either.

Today I found an awesome website with all kinds of information on it: http://www.tinyhousecommunity.com/

There was a listing on there looking for volunteers. I don’t know why this wasn’t my first thought. I swear I have gotten more jobs by volunteering than any other way. So, I reached out to them and set up a time to help them out. Of course, their first question was “Do you have experience?” But thankfully they followed with “It ok if you don’t. No worries!” So I am going to get some experience. I haven’t really met anyone who owns a tiny house, so I’m pretty excited about that as well.

The other cool thing about the website is that they have listings for land and for people who want to rent their land to people with tiny houses! This was one of my MAJOR concerns. I have no place to build and/or park my house. I had no idea where to even start looking. This is a huge resource. I have reached out to a few of the listings and am waiting to hear back.

Downsizing, Part 2

I have a long way to go in my downsizing process. Right now I’m working on things that can be sold. I spent yesterday evening listing my vintage hand bag collection on Ebay. I’m trying not to be sentimental about it. I was surprised to find out that one of them is a name brand that could be worth quite a bit of money. We’ll see!

I found some other things that I listed as well, some cake pop and doughnut makers that I haven’t used in more than a year, some sunglasses that I was given from one of our driver’s sponsors (they are guys and I don’t know any guys to give them to), and my old tap shoes. I took tap dance lessons… wow, like 15 – 20 years ago. Damn, those shoes are vintage!!! I almost feel bad for my mom who spent like $100 on them and I only wore them a few times. I think I had 2 or 3 pairs actually. The first thing that sold out of the bunch was the shoes! They were the most expensive thing that I listed.

I went through my closet as well and found some name brand clothes that I don’t wear. I listed them on Ebay as well.  A hundred $10 will add up pretty fast.

I have also made a stack of items to take to the Goodwill. It keeps growing, which is good. Less stuff to find a place for in my tiny house.

I think the next thing that will have to be downsized is my picture frame collection. I have tons of pictures on several walls. There just won’t be that much wall space in my tiny house. So, I’m going to take some of them to my new office at work.

I was thinking about giving some of them away as presents. I gave my family pictures of each of us together as part of my Christmas presents this year and they all loved them. I think that will encourage me to take pictures with people too, which I’m so bad at because I hate pictures of me.

The things that we really going to kill me are the 5 boxes of things that go in my cedar chest and my box of racing memorabilia and autographs. We have already established that one diecast car and a real racing tire are on the “cannot, will not part with” list. I am trying to figure out where they will live in the house. The tire my just have to take up some valuable floor space in the living room. Yes, I love it that much. I was actually thinking of purchasing some sheet metal that would hang on the ceiling… still thinking about that.

The other autographs, though, they are very sentimental. They were collected from years of racing with my dad. Each one of them has a story and memory behind it. I don’t know how you can get rid of stuff like that? But they aren’t things that I want displayed.. there are too many of them and there just wouldn’t be enough space to make them look right.

So between autographs and old baby blankets and doilies that my grandma made for me… it’s a lot to find a place for in my tiny house. This may end up in part of the storage under my bed, the back part that is closest to the window and harder to access.

I think the only thing that would make it ok to give some of these things ok would be if they went to people who would cherish them as much as I do. I’ll have to work on that too.

The next thing will be my TiVo box. It’s a few years old, but still works good. I don’t use it at the moment because I have Direct TV. But I can’t get rid of it either because it has a whole season of my favorite show on it and I can’t get it off. Plus there are some other things on there that I can’t part with. If anyone knows how to get them off, please let me know!

So, that’s my downsizing adventure for this weekend. Hopefully I can take some of this stuff to the Goodwill this week!

You’re Never Going to Be Fully Ready

I read this great article today by a lady named 

It’s about waiting for things to be perfect to get started on something. Basically, she was teaching someone how to paddle board and the girl said, I can’t paddle until I feel stable standing up. But the thing is, you have to paddle in order to feel stable.

Of course I wouldn’t know this because I don’t paddle board. But it makes sense to me. In racing (where I work and live and love) we have a saying, if you’re not going forward you’re going backwards.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:

“Because it’s the paddling that keeps you on the board. It’s the forward motion that gives you the stability you need. Sometimes we just have to pick a direction and start pulling that paddle through the water, and along the way we’ll get the stability and confidence we’re looking for. But you’ll never find it at the beginning, standing there, waiting for the waves to stop shaking the board. The waves never stop shaking the board.”

“You’ll never feel totally ready. The plan will never be perfectly formed. You’ll never have the money you think you need or the support you wish you had. You’ll never feel as strong and prepared as everyone else seems. (Psst: they’re not that strong and prepared, either. No one is.)”

“No one has every last thing they need. But the people who change their lives, the people who make beautiful things, the people who make a difference in our world—they are the people who paddle, who are willing to do it badly, who give up perfect in favor of good.”

I’m always worried about making a mistake, about doing something badly. I think that if something is worth doing, it should be done well. But you don’t know how to do it until you do it! It may have to be badly for a while before it is right. You won’t learn if you don’t try.

In this process, especially where I am with no money or land or help or experience, you have to just keep moving forward. And when it seems like too much and too overwhelming, which it will, it’s life, you just have to take a step back and figure out what to do next.

For me, this step is finishing my presentation to send to the trailer companies. I am going to find a few companies to ask about a sponsorship and/or discount. I have found one trailer that is about $4k that I think will work. If, perhaps, it could be more like $2k that would be way better. I’m still $2k short, but working on a plan for that as well.

With my job, I work A LOT. I travel practically every weekend too. So having a second job is an option, but it may be rough. I would probably only have to work for about 4 to 6 months to be there. That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things. The more difficult thing will be saving that money for that particular purpose. I am not known for having that much self control when it comes to money.

I think, at the end of the day, there is only one question: how bad do you want it? My dad used to ask me this question when I was struggling to get a job I wanted. It’s great motivation for me and it helps me keep things in perspective.

So, those of you out there who are dying to built and/or buy a tiny house, like me, or who have started and haven’t finished yet, let’s keep paddling, keep digging (as we say in racing), keep moving forward. Do the next thing. That’s all we can do.

How bad do you want it??

Trailers

When you are ready to start actually planning building a tiny house the first thing to consider is where you are building it. Because of the building codes and minimum square footage rules, most people build them on trailers, which is what I plan on doing.

So, we are going to build on a trailer. Perfect!

What kind of trailer… um… there are different kinds??

Hours and hours of research later I think I have a plan, emphasis on think.

So, most people use this kind of trailer: Tumbleweed Trailers. One of the companies that makes tiny houses is even nice enough to make their own trailers with all of the proper attachments and things. You can buy them directly from them so you don’t have to modify anything. How nice of them!

The thing with those trailers, though, is the wheel wells. They are RIGHT in the way. The trailer actually 8.5 ft wide, but the “build” width is just under 7 ft. When you are talking about a tiny house, those a foot and a half is A LOT to give up.

So, my plan is to use a “deck over” trailer. That means that the wheels are under the trailer, rather than through it. That will give me the full 8.5 ft if width for my house.

The drawback to this kind of trailer is that it sits higher than the other kind.

The idea is to keep the house at or under 8.5 ft wide and about 13 ft tall. That way you can move it without a permit. This isn’t a make or break thing for me, but I’d like to keep it as small as possible, but still comfortable.

With the trailer being higher, about a foot higher, it limits the interior space. This would be a huge issue if you are planning to build a sleeping loft. I’m not, so it’s really not an issue for me. The only thing it will affect is getting into the house. I’ll need a staircase. I was planning on building a deck, eventually, so that won’t be a problem.

Another thing to consider about trailers is weight. A typical tiny house weights around 10,000 lbs. So, when you are looking for a trailer, you need to make sure that it is capable of handling that much weight. You also need to consider how much everything weighs when you are building the house. Granite countertops may be fun and trendy, but they might just be too heavy to include.

Something else… How are you going to move this thing?? This was one of the first questions that my parents asked me. The truth is… I have no idea! I am planning on consulting the experts when the time comes, as in people who have moved something like this before. In fact, I will probably hire someone to move it for me.

I have been watching the new shows on HGTV and FYI about tiny houses. On a couple of the episodes of Tiny House Nation they have had problems with the house moving or almost falling off of a jack or something. I can’t imagine handling that by myself. Nor can I imagine my house and all of my hard work and money falling over. That’s too much to risk for my DIY project.

So, where is the trailer coming from??

This is something that I have been back and forth about a lot. It’s the foundation of the house, so it needs to be a good one. It’s going to weight around 10,000 lbs, so it needs to have the right tires and wheels and brakes to handle that. It’s also the most expensive part of the build, and the part that has been the hardest for me so far. The best thing to do is to buy one brand new. For one that I need, 8.5 x 20 ft, it’s around $5,000. That’s over 7 months rent for me.

The other option is to buy a used one. Several problems here: finding one that fits what I want, that is close to where I live, and that doesn’t need a lot of work. The last one is huge, mainly because I don’t know enough about trailers to be able to see if it needs a lot of work, unless it’s like blatantly obvious. All of the listings that I have seen don’t seem to have a huge price difference between new and used. So, for me, the only thing that makes sense is to buy a new one.

The next step for me in my tiny house journey is to find $5k for the trailer. I’m certain that I can find a place to put the trailer and build the house when I get the trailer. That’s another post…

The plan is to put together a presentation about sponsorship – asking people to “sponsor” my build for advertising and mentions in return. I don’t know if I can get a whole trailer this way, but I think I may be able to get a discount on one at least. I’m going to try anyway.

Downsizing… Part One

I don’t have a lot of stuff… er, well, I didn’t used to. When I moved to NC about 5 years ago everything that I owned fit into my little Toyota Corolla. I guess it has expanded a bit in the last couple of years. The last time I moved, last year, it took a little bit more than my car.

I currently live in an apartment that is about 500 sq ft. To me, it feels pretty empty. I don’t have a lot of furniture. My cedar chest should be the only thing that I’m keeping, though I don’t currently have a plan for where it is going in my tiny house. I don have a LOT of little stuff though.

Downsizing is a big deal for me. I tend to be sentimental about EVERYTHING. I love pictures and scrapbooks and keeping things that mean something. I have a box for every year for the last 4 years. That’s where I keep things that won’t fit in one of the 50 scrapbooks that I have.

Plus, I have a bunch of racing memorabilia, including a race car tire that I CANNOT part with.

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It needs a home, but it’s kinda big for my little house. I’m not opposed to it having a shelf, maybe in the living room. I love it there as a conversation piece. It may have to go on the shelf above my bed, which is fine too.

The only other big thing is my bike…

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It currently lives in the living room, but I don’t think that’s an option in my tiny house. Since I plan on keeping my house pretty permanent, I think I will have to have a shed to keep it and all of it’s paraphernalia in.

So, those are the big must haves. Everything else can go!

I started that process a few weeks ago. I ended up with a pretty big pile of things in the living room, about 4 boxes full. That was the easy stuff. Then I started picking stuff up thinking, “this can go. I don’t need it, have NEVER used it. Oh! But I think Mom gave it to me for Christmas… last year? Two years ago? No, I can’t get rid of it.” Yeah I’m sentimental.

The problem is, you don’t have room for a race car tire, a cedar chest, 50 scrapbooks, all of the necessities like clothes and dishes AND sentimental in a tiny house. So, I decided that if I hadn’t used it or even taken the price tag off of it in 2 or 3 years, I probably didn’t need it. Sorry Mom!

This philosophy helped with a few things that I have never used. But then I got to the things that I used to use, but don’t now and haven’t in some time. I used to spend hours making handmade cards with rubber stamps with my mom and our friends. We would throw parties and “stamp” for hours. So, I have this large collection of stamps and stamp pads and ribbons and glitter and all kinds of trinkets that go along with making cards. Every time I have tried to sort through this stuff in the past… I feel like a hoarder. I would pick one thing up, think about when I bought it (I always remember), how much it cost (most of it is really expensive), what I gave up to buy it (so many things), when I used it last.. this is where it got hard. I miss those parities and that time with friends and family.

I realized yesterday that what I really missed was the time with friends and family. I don’t miss making cards. I don’t use the stamps and things anymore. In fact, most of what I have is 10 to 15 years old. It’s WAY different than what I use for my scrapbooks. So I organized it to sell it. Hopefully this makes it “vintage” and therefore worth a lot of money!

I sorted through one of my boxes of keepsakes as well. It was full of books and notes from my engineering classes. They were pretty hard to throw away. I managed to part with everything, but the tests. That narrowed the stack by about 9/10.

My clothes are going to be my next hurdle. I have probably 3 to 4 times more than what I think will fit in the new place. I never thought that I had a lot of clothes before… Ugh! I have more kinds of clothes now though. I started running about a year and a half ago, and cycling. So, along with work and casual clothes, I have running and cycling clothes too. And, you wouldn’t think so, but I’m sentimental about clothes too. It’s hard to get rid of them.

I have 5 different sizes in my closet. The girls reading this will probably understand. For some reason, I think that if I get rid of the smaller ones, I’ll never wear that size again. But I keep the bigger ones, well, just in case. I’ve never been one to have a lot of money. I guess part of it comes from that. I can’t just go out and buy clothes if I gained or lost weight. But I suppose if you haven’t worn it in… ten years… (UGH!!!) you should probably get rid of it. It isn’t stylish anyway.

Ok, I’m WAY too young to have clothes in my closet that I haven’t worn in ten years. I think thats enough for today. I’m certain there will be a part 2!