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??

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.

Tiny Kitchen

I can’t even begin to tell you how many houses that I have lived in. But one of the most important things about every one of them was the kitchen. It’s the gathering place. It’s where you spend so much time. It’s important for it to be functional and livable. There is nothing worse than dealing with a bad layout or one that is missing something.

I’m probably a little bit easier to please than most people though. It wasn’t too long ago that I was living entirely out of a bedroom and bathroom, with no kitchen (or no kitchen that I wanted to use. Roommates… Ugh!). So I know all about toaster ovens and washing dishes in the bathroom sink – which I wouldn’t recommend, but it’s better than nothing.

The kitchen that I have now isn’t much bigger. I do have a regular stove/oven and fridge. There is a small, but deep sink and about one cabinet of counter space. There are upper cabinets as well. I have added 2 small wall shelves and a cubical shelf that I got on sale at Lowe’s.

I keep my dishes to a minimum, mostly because it forces me to wash them. If I had 10 plates, I would wash the dishes every 10 days, but since I only have 2 plates, I wash them every other day. It works for me.

The key to a small kitchen is having everything that you need and all of it having a place – organization. I’m not very good at that. To combat that, though, I have decided to do drawers where I can instead of cabinets. It’s SO much easier to throw bowls and cups and spoons into a drawer than to try and organize them in a cupboard. Plus you end up with lots of waisted space above them.

One solution for that is these nifty drawers:

Drawers

Photo from: http://familyhandyman.com

I guess we should start with a list of must haves. That makes more sense here…

Kitchen Must Haves:

Toaster Oven

Mini Fridge

Kitchenaid Mixer

Blender

Induction Stove Top (or 2)

Jars for Storage (of things like flour and sugar)

Things to consider…

I have a couple of large bowls, a mixing bowl from IKEA and some large Tupperware storage bowls. They need a decent size space. I also have a double boiler pan that I’m not willing to part with.

I plan on using the storage jars as a decorative thing as well as functional. I love the look of open shelves with jars and plates displayed. This idea may not work too well if you are planning on moving your house a lot. I’m not. Mine should be pretty permanent.

My list of must have’s seems pretty small to me. I think it should all fit pretty well. I plan on putting the fridge under the counter next to the sink and putting a washer/dryer combo next to it, but facing out toward the living room, kinds like this…

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My house will have an island like the picture above as well, but the house will be wider. And there will be a bar extension over the side facing the living room with stools for an eating area. It may make the washer/dryer access a little awkward, but I’m willing to deal with that.

My kitchen will be shaped like a U, with the opposite wall covered in cabinets. There should be room for the toaster oven to have it’s own cabinet, like a built in microwave, in the upper cabinets. That’s where I plan on hiding the Kitchenaid mixer as well. I saw this cool idea on Pinterest for hiding them…

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Photo from: http://www.kitchen-design-ideas.org/

It worries me a little bit though. Have you ever lifted a Kitchenaid mixer?? They are HEAVY. That much be a really heavy duty shelf. I’m a bit concerned about the whole thing falling down or randomly falling on my feet. I don’t mind it on the counter, cause I think it looks awesome, but I think I might want the counter space more. I’d like to keep the counter space pretty clean. I think that will make the whole house look/feel bigger.

As for the design of the kitchen, I want it to be elegant, but simple. I LOVE white cabinets and white countertops. Would love to have marble, but I think it may be too expensive, even for only 20 sq ft, and possibly too heavy as well. Quartz is a possibility, although price and weight are a factor. Another option is Corian. It costs about the same, from what I can tell, but it may be a bit lighter.

The floor will be the same throughout the whole house. It is going to be dark wood, either bamboo or recycled pallets. The kitchen will be awesome, though, with white cabinets and dark floors. The walls will be either painted white or white washed.

On the wall that is shared with the bathroom there will be a bunch of upper cabinets similar to this:

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Photo from: homebunch.com

I love the drawers! This is where most of my dishes will be and probably most of my food in jars too.

The only other thing I have to consider is the sink. I had thoughts about doing a really cool copper sink, but I think it will clash with everything else. I am leaning towards a deep under mount or possibly an apron sink.

I LOVE these fixtures from Restoration Hardware:

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Oh! And the backsplash… Either this:

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or this:

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Photos from: hominter.com

I may have to look at both of them in the space when I get that far.

That’s the plan for the Kitchen! I’m excited about seeing come together!

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.”