Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tiny Home Living...Why?

To many people, living in a house that measures 188 sq. ft. (sleeping loft included) built on an 8'x20' utility trailer sounds absolutely crazy. In a world where success is measured by big fancy cars and large houses filled with lots and lots of stuff, it's hard to imagine why someone would want to move in the opposite direction.

There was a time when I, too, was crunching the numbers to see just how much house I could afford. Asking the question, "What is the MAXIMUM amount of house I can afford to buy?" I love to entertain my friends and family. When I entertain, I love to cook. I wanted a big house with a large open kitchen and lots of bedrooms so my friends can stay over. I also like to decorate and I really liked the idea of a huge empty canvas to work with. My Pinterest boards are FULL of design/DIY ideas for a nice spacious house. I wanted that. But that would soon change.

Here's where it all began for me...

A few years ago, I was listening to my favorite AM news radio program, The Bill Handel Show , on KFI am 640 out of Los Angeles. I happened to catch an interview Bill Handel conducted with an author and activist by the name of William Powers. He had written a book entitled, "Twelve by Twelve: A One-Room Cabin Off the Grid and Beyond the American Dream." This title immediately interested me as one of my favorite books is "Outliers: The Story of Success" in which the author, Malcolm Gladwell, takes a good hard look at the American ideal that anyone that works hard can succeed and turns it on it's head.

Book cover

Immediately after listening to that interview, I went online and ordered his book. I absolutely love it and have since read it several times.

In this book, he chronicles his experience meeting a woman named Dr. Jackie Benton, a successful physician that, for tax purposes, limits her income to $10,000 per year and happily lives on a permaculture farm in a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot cabin in rural North Carolina without running water or electricity.  Her neighbors include organic farmers, biofuel brewers, and eco-developers. After their initial meeting, Jackie invites the author to stay in her cabin while she travels abroad for three months. Powers writes about his time spent there alone and his experiences reconnecting to nature while reassessing society's (and his own) dependence on modern technology. He also reflects on his experiences traveling as an international aid worker.

Keep in mind that I grew up a city boy in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Since moving to the country in Texas, I have felt the need to roll up my sleeves and become more self-sufficient: a desire to live closer to the Earth and utilize more fully the things that God created for us. This book spoke very deeply to that desire. I started to feel like I, too, could live in a 12x12 cabin and grow all my own food.

This feeling continued to grow within me...until I got to the part of the book about Jackie crapping in a bucket out on her back porch. it would for most people raised in the suburbs, part of the dream died right then and there. Like the majority of Americans, I expect the things that leave my body to be whisked off somewhere, never to be seen or heard from again. Am I right?

I would later learn that, in reality, Jackie was using a simple, home-made composting toilet. In the past 6 months, I have gone back and forth on this topic. I went from "ew, GROSS" to "you know, that makes a lot of sense" to "unfortunately, that's not for me", but I'll cover that in a future article. Hold your breath for more toilet talk to come.

Plumbing conflicts aside, I continued to search for ways to strike a healthy balance between the fast paced, technology ladened, and chemically enhanced world we live in and the simpler, more natural one I wanted to be a part of. I researched and successfully started a pastured-poultry operation so that I could provide healthy, humanely treated poultry for myself as well as my friends and family. I really enjoy that process and the meat is oh so fresh and delicious.

Day old chickies

3 weeks old

6 weeks old

Moveable pen for daily access to grass and bugs...YUM!

Processing crew for the day and our setup

It was about this time that I stumbled upon the tiny house movement. I came across the documentary "Tiny: A Story About Living Small" on Netflix and my interest was piqued. If you haven't seen it, check it out. It's a great story. The more I looked into it, the more I loved this concept of tiny living! 

Here's a few reasons why:

First, it just made sense to me. Before moving to Texas, I spent a year living with my parents (sleeping in my dad's small office) to save up for the move. Then I spent the last 3 years as a college student essentially living in a bedroom at my aunt's house. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that 188 sq. ft. would feel like a freakin' MANSION compared to how I've been living!

Second, being able to save up and pay cash for it means no rent/mortgage payments...EVER. Imagine living someplace completely paid for. Not in 30 years or 15 years. Now. That means I can work less and live more. I can spend my time doing things I love to do with the people I love.

Third, a smaller house FORCES you to simplify. Less space means less things means less time/energy cleaning and less money spent on acquiring things and maintaining those things. I've already started purging my belongings (you're welcome Kai) and I've adapted my habits to the "one in, one out" philosophy. When I'm thinking about buying something, I think about what item I'm willing to give up to make room for this new purchase. If I can't think of something to get rid of, it means I don't really need the new item.

Fourth, it's a real house, just mobile. People have asked me why I don't just go RV but an RV isn't a real house. Among other things, it's not insulated for long term habitation. A tiny house is fully insulated and should last just as long as a normal sized house if built to the correct specifications and quality materials are used. Another cool thing is although I plan to stay in east Texas, if ever I need to relocate for whatever reason, I can take my house with me. That's sweet!

Additionally, I get to design my own house: choose my own layout. How cool is that?? Kitchen, living room and bathroom placement and relative size are completely up to me. I can set up the house to flow naturally with my movements and habits. A nice sized kitchen is important to me so I will make sure that happens. I can fully decide what materials I want to build with too. I still get my blank canvas to work with, just a smalller one.

Lastly, I'm intrigued by the challenge of it all. Building a house myself will be a great adventure but I'm up for it. And spending quality time with my circle of friends and family who are willing to roll up their sleeves and help will be a rewarding experience too.

I am still in the design process but I have narrowed it down to the plans I will be using. I'm hoping to start building in March 2015. Check back soon for more about my plans/designs.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or inspiration for your tiny house below. Thanks for stoppin' by!

-Big Jerm

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