I am building a tiny house.
I am building a tiny house.
I am building a tiny house!!
I’ve been repeating this to myself with wonder for the past two weeks. After close to 10 years in the ‘dreaming’ stage, I’ve moved into the detailed planning and soon to be in the shopping phase. Yay!
But first: what is a tiny house?
Often when I say tiny house, people take it literally. A house that is tiny. But I mean, specifically, a house built onto a trailer. Like an RV. But like a house. Here’s an example:
Tiny houses on trailers aren’t subject to building codes in the same way regular houses are, although obviously there are safe building practices to follow (you don’t want your house to fall over on the freeway or your stove to catch fire). In order to be road legal, tiny houses can’t be wider than 8’6” and 13’4”/6” (depending on where you are, from my understanding) tall. But we’ll talk more about the specifics of building a tiny house later.
My journey to a tiny house began somewhere in the murky years of my late teens and early twenties when I became interested in ‘counter-culture’ movements both past and present, and along with that, alternative building. I don’t remember who I talked to or what I read that prompted this idea, but by the time I was 21 I wanted to have a commune in the country somewhere. I built up a library of books on straw bale and cob houses, permaculture and gardening techniques and small livestock care and homesteading skills. I made yogurt cheese and crocheted my own socks. I discovered Helen and Scott Nearing, Living on the Earth by Alicia Bay Laurel, read Daniel Quinn’s ‘Ishmael’ and Rob Roy’s ‘Mortgage Free!’.
I wonder sometimes where all of this came from and why. I didn’t leap into living differently with confidence and joy. I fought it. I fought it hard. I spent most of my twenties struggling to reconcile my rebellious tendencies with being a ‘responsible adult’. I actually have a list somewhere that I wrote when I was probably 22, of my life goals. It basically said, get bachelor’s and master’s degree, have baby, and buy land all before I was 30, so that I could get all that business out of the way quickly and start living my real life, which looked something like writing and traveling and loving people and trying to help make the world less horrible. All of the things that make up my personality, that I now cherish and live with joy and gratitude, came to me early and from somewhere deep and dark and unexplained. The love of writing and dancing and music, a tendency towards unconventional often non-monogamous relationships, a connection with spirit that is most easily practiced and expressed through modern witchcraft, a disinterest for the most part in material possessions, an inability to stay in once place for very long. I found all of these things slightly embarrassing, childish or immature, something to be got over or at least, molded into a respectable version of the life I imagined everyone else was leading.
It didn’t work, although the struggle to make it work nearly killed me, and I thank all of the gods that I got over it. But, I digress. The point was that I don’t know why I was drawn to alternative building but I was and so here we are. Tiny houses specifically caught my attention in 2006 when I saw an article in Permaculture Magazine about a couple that had gutted and rebuilt an old Airstream trailer with a composting toilet, wood stove, solar panels, etc. I distinctly remember sitting in the office of the cab company in Portland where I worked at the time, waiting for my cab to arrive, and reading this article and thinking, YES. THIS. I was engaged at the time to someone that shared my vision of the world. We found an old RV at a storage lot that had been abandoned, full of trash, with no title, and bought it for $250. We cleaned it out (I found an entire tarot deck scattered on the floor which I’ve used ever since), removed the crappy old cabinets and plumbing. Found a woodstove on Craigslist. Moved to Washington to live on some family land and finish our trailer. I started building a compost bin for our toilet and raised beds for a garden. We were going to have a small farm and make biodiesel and live my dream. But life got in the way and the relationship ended. The trailer was given away to someone else, the woodstove went to the dump. A moment of silence please for our failed dream.
That was a long time ago and I never lost sight of that dream. To be honest it wouldn’t have worked out back then for many reasons. I was too young and my ideas weren’t quite rooted in reality. I believe they are now. I’ll talk more next time about why I want to build tiny (rather than buy land and build on a foundation) and how I’m going to do it.