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.

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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.

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??

Why Tiny?

“Not everyone will get it. Move on.”

Every time I tell someone that I am building a tiny house they ask one question: “Why?” Ok, actually, first I have to explain what it is, then they ask why. I spent half an hour on the phone with my dad last week listening to him try to convince me that an RV is cheaper and a better option. I listened, as every good daughter does, and then I politely disagreed. He didn’t want to hear my reasons, so I thought that I would share them with you here:

It’s a house. It may be tiny, but it’s a house.

The pride of  building something on your own. This is a huge reason for me. I know NOTHING about construction. But I love the challenge of not knowing and doing it anyway. I like the figuring it out part.

The pride of designing the whole thing is also big. I’m falling in love with making a thousand little choices.

It’s not temporary. It’s built to last. Because you are building it, or you know who is building it, you can control the quality. It shouldn’t be flimsy and cheap like a lot of RVs.

It is built for living in year round. That means more insulation and, in turn, lower utility costs.

It’s more expensive than an RV, but it’s also more valuable when you are done. It will appreciate, like a house, not depreciate, like a car.

It requires less money up front than an RV or a traditional house. I’m confident that I can get it to a livable point for much less than $10k and then finish the rest as I go.

It’s safer. RVs are built with all kinds of plastic and toxins. My tiny house will be built with much safer materials.

It can be built to be off the grid. This isn’t my first consideration, but the more I think about it, the higher it gets on the list. You can take it anywhere… like that cheap, but beautiful piece of land that no one wants because it’s too expensive to get utilities to. With solar panels and a rain water collection system, your utility bill would be next to nothing.

Mostly – It’s because I want to build a tiny house. I don’t want to live in an RV. I want to live in a tiny house.

So I leave you where we started… “Not everyone will get it. Move on.”

Tiny Storage

The most common reaction when people see a tiny house is “Wow! It’s so small! Where do you put everything?!?!” This is very true. It is a really small space, less than 200 sq ft.

I think we need to start with a question though: How much do you really need?

How many things do you have lying around your house or garage or attic that you don’t use every day? Or haven’t seen in years? If you have having trouble considering this, think about moving… as in multiple times. I moved about 15 times over the space of about 5 years. I started with A LOT of stuff. It turns out, I’m very sentimental. I actually still have sand in a jar on my bathroom counter from the first time I went to the beach in SC. I grew up in the Midwest. I wasn’t sure I would remember what sand looked like when the vacation was over.

I have lots of things like that though. I have a box of memorabilia from every year for the past 5 years. Then there are 5 sizes of clothes that I haven’t worn in almost 10 years (OMG could it really be that long!!!) and that birthday present that I got from my mom 8 years ago that I will never use, but can’t part with because, well, it’s from my mom. And even though she lives 1,000 miles away and has been to my house once in 3 years, she may just pop in one day for brunch and ask to make cookies with the santa clause cookie pan that she bought me 8 years ago… maybe.

The question is… do I really NEED a santa clause cookie pan? I really don’t even like santa clause. And, to be fair, my tiny house will have a toaster oven, so it probably won’t even be useful anymore. Perfect excuse to get rid of it!!!

But what about all of the stuff that I have that I want to keep? I have a bunch of scrapbooks and all of the fun stuff that goes with making them. I also have a killer scarf collection and a ton of running, cycling and swimming stuff, including a very expensive bike. I don’t plan on keeping my bike inside permanently. I think I will need a shed eventually. But, still a lot of stuff that needs a home.

Lofts

The first solution is always a loft. My house will have two: one above the built in bed and one above the bathroom.

Bed

There will also be drawers under the bed. Or possibly shelves. These will be for things like shoes and handbags, things that I use everyday. They will be around a foot deep. But that leaves a lot of space under the bed that is still useable, but not easily accessible. That space will have a box that is for stuff that you don’t need very often. Kinda like this… sort of.

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Photo from: http://www.decorreport.com/

There will be shelves on both sides of the bed too, at the headboard and footboard. Some will face the inside of the bed and some will face the living area.

There should be space for one more small book shelf to the right of the door when you walk in.

Closet

Right now my closet is a standard small size. But I have two of them. I also have a dresser and two baskets for laundry. Plus ample floor space for anything that gets leftover or rejected in the morning…

In my house I plan on using an IKEA wardrobe (or something similar) that is only about 47 inches wide. This has to fit everything. I have a feeling that the floor space in the tiny house will be at a premium and it will be important to keep it clean.

Kitchen

My kitchen, at the moment, is VERY small. It consists of two cabinets for food and under the sink and under the oven for dishes. I have added two wall shelves and an IKEA box type shelf for additional storage.

In the tiny house I plan to have cabinet space and lots of organization. The mini refrigerator and washer/dryer combo will fit under the cabinets. There will be a space for the toaster oven and my Kitchenaid mixer as well. That thing is huge and heavy! I will also leave a space for a trash can under the sink. All of this will take up a lot of the under counter cabinets. That leaves all of the wall mounted cabinets for dishes and food.

I have a system of keeping things clean. I only have two of everything, two plates, two forks, etc. That way I am forced to wash the dishes and not let them pile up. I also keep the number of food storage containers low so that I don’t have too much in the fridge at one time. It works for me! 🙂

Bathroom

I’m still going back and forth about a sink in the bathroom. If I do end up with one it will be really small. There may just be floor to ceiling shelves. There never seems to be enough counter space in front of the bathroom mirror in the morning. That mirror will have to be somewhere in the shelves.

Plus, I found this cool idea on Pinterest for above the door storage…

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Photo from: http://www.familyhandyman.com/

I don’t know if I will have room for this, or some semblance of it, but I hope so. There will also be a towel rack along with the shower curtain rack. These will double as clothes dryers for all of those things that you can’t put in the normal dryer.

Outside

There will be a small storage area outside as well, on the bathroom end of the house. I would think that this is where the tankless water heater goes and possibly some other plumbing, but I’m not sure.

So there you have it! With all of that storage I should have plenty of room for everything that I absolutely NEED and not enough room to keep anything that I don’t. And a really good reason to clean out my current house.

As a side note, there will soon be a really AWESOME santa cookie pan at the Habitat for Humanity store in Cornelius if you are looking for one.

Designing a Tiny House

From the first day I saw a tiny house I wanted one. I looked through all of the designs again and again. But I couldn’t find one that fit me. Through the years there have been more and more people building them and therefore, more designs. I think I have finally settled on what I want.

The Outside

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Photo from: http://www.shelterwise.com/our-models/

This is the look I want for the outside. This particular house is made by a company called Shelter Wise. It’s there Cider Box model. I love the dark window frames, the french doors and the wood siding. Plus, I like the design as well. I am not planning on having a loft for sleeping, I may have a storage loft or two though. The added features will make it harder to build, which is something to keep in mind. I think that the ceiling hight and added light from the additional windows will make it worth while though.

The Inside

For the inside, I made my own design. Below is a rough drawing that I did.

House interior

So, basically, you walk in through french doors (the large blue rectangle on the lower right) and the bed is at your right. It will look like this:

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Photo Credit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/

I love the idea of a bed/nook that doubles as a couch. It will have drawers underneath, shelves in the sides, and a wall mounted TV that will swivel out to the living room.

The living room consists of a nice, comfy chair, 2 bar stools at the counter, and either a heater or a fire place (still undecided). I like the idea of a fireplace, but I don’t know if I can make it work.

The kitchen is a U shape. It will have white cabinets with fancy glass knobs and pulls. I plan on having a convection/toaster oven and a couple of countertop induction cooktops. The back wall of cabinets should look something like this:

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Photo Credit: http://www.homebunch.com/

The square that is to your left when you walk in the front door is a closet, possibly from IKEA, or possibly one that I am making. I am toying with the idea of it being open (with no doors) but I don’t know if I am clean enough for that!

The Bathroom

The bathroom has a pocket door, a full size regular toilet and a shower. I would LOVE a bath tub. I take a bath almost every day, but I just don’t think that there is room. This is something that I have considered a lot. It just doesn’t make sense.

Their will probably be a small (like IKEA small) sink in the bathroom along with storage.

I will have dark hardwood floors through out the house. If I buy them new, they will be bamboo. But I have so many ideas for buying salvaged, reclaimed or getting construction scraps, I may have to just settle for what I can find. I do want the walls white though, or possibly a light gray. I want an elegant feel on the inside. The feeling that you get from crown moulding and expensive upgrades. I plan on spending some extra money on the finishes, the light fixtures and cabinet pulls and sink faucets and things like that.

For Example:

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http://www.restorationhardware.com/

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http://www.potterybarn.com/

Even for a tiny house, there are so many choices to make and so many things to think about. I’m really excited to be able to start the process!