I mentioned in the last post that I’ve long had a dream of buying land and having some kind of community. So why build a tiny house? The tiny house is a first step. I don’t have the money for land at the moment for one thing. I don’t know where I want to buy said land either, where I want to ‘settle’. I’m torn between Alaska which is big and wild and has my heart, the Pacific Northwest where I have lived most of my life and contains half my family, and the Deep South where the other half of the family lives, the weather is more clement and the costs are lower. This is too wide a spread to make a choice now. So, tiny house it is. Here are some of the reasons.
1. I like to live alone: I’ve lived alone twice, once accidentally and briefly after a break-up, and for a year in 2012 intentionally. That year was one of the best times of my life. All through my twenties I lived in crowded apartments and houses with too many people. Often it was comforting; lots of friends around, someone to watch TV or have a drink with or cook dinner for. More often it was loud, annoying, dirty, and frustrating. Granted, those were the drinking years… I’ve lived in smaller apartments since I got sober-ish with just one or two other people, and it was more orderly and clean, but the crazy punk house years gave me a serious distaste for cohabiting. I can deal but would rather not if there is any way to give myself 4 walls of privacy. I like to keep strange hours and dance in the kitchen in the middle of the night, watch movies on the living room floor, talk to my dog, keep the fridge full of only the food I am going to eat that week, stick notes and magical talismans on the windows and kitchen cupboards and meditate on the coffee table, and I’d rather not have any of this witnessed. Most importantly, I seem to function better as a thinker/writer when I don’t have other people’s energy around. I treasure my thinking/writing time above all else. I’ve been looking into getting my own apartment again, somewhere, but…
2. Rising rent costs: When I first moved to Portland in 2002 I lived in a succession of one bedroom apartments with friends or boyfriends, never for more than $500 a month. In 2006 we had a three bedroom house just off Alberta for $900. In 2009 my ex-husband and I moved into a 3 bedroom townhouse near NE 28th and Burnside for $1100. Then suddenly you couldn’t find a one bedroom apartment for less than maybe $800 a month and it seemed to be going up every time I looked. This seems to be true just about anywhere I’d want to live. Even where I am now, in the boonies between Seattle and Bellingham, a studio apartment can’t be found for less than $600. And I don’t want to live here. I considered going to Alabama near family where you can get cute little cottages for around $600 a month, but I don’t really want to live there (Columbus, GA) either. So as far as renting, it has come down to live above my means or live somewhere I don’t want to be. Also, giving $4-500 a month to a landlord seemed wasteful enough but was worth it for the mobility factor when I was younger. Giving $800-1000 a month to a landlord is another matter entirely. Which leads to
3. I want to have the security of owning the place that I live: I am tired of the instability of never knowing if your rent will be raised, if the landlord will sell and you’ll have to move in 30 days, if your neighbors will be crazy late night drunk party assholes, if the lady next door will catch her apartment on fire or have a roach infestation that moves over to your kitchen. So, what about buying a house?
4. I can’t afford and don’t want to buy a traditional house: Mortgage means “death pledge” in French. I read this in a book (Mortgage Free!) a long time ago and it stuck with me. I vowed then not to ever buy any land or a house that I wasn’t able to pay in cash or with some kind of agreement between myself and the seller. This vow was almost a decade before the housing bubble mortgage crisis economic meltdown shenanigans and I feel even more distrust for the whole financial industry now and I want no part of it. Also, a traditional house has a few issues for me personally…
5. A tiny house is mobile: As mentioned, I’m not quite ready to settle somewhere yet. I’m working to pay for the house in one town and will build the house in another and then take the house with me to finish college in Olympia and then who knows what. A tiny house isn’t mobile like an RV (although there are people that take their houses on tours and stay in RV parks) but it is mobile enough to move every so often. And going back to the buying land dream, instead of buying land and having to build a livable structure on it quickly, I could just park the tiny house on it and get down to building whatever I want to build with a nice cozy house to stay in while I do it. (assuming I buy land somewhere accessible by road. that is something to think about later.)
6. The tiny house I build will have very simple utility systems: One of the reasons I have always been loathe to buy a house and tolerant of paying rent to a landlord was that if something broke down inside the house or apartment, I had someone to call to fix it. The idea of owning something that contains a bunch of systems I don’t understand is intolerable. A tiny house won’t have this issue, because…
7. Design and build it myself: The tiny house is going to be designed and built to my needs and desires, to my specifications, by me (and the people that will help). I won’t have to worry about big complicated plumbing, sewage, and electrical systems because I’m not including them. The house will have simple electrical wiring (and my dear brother is an electrician to explain and assist me in this), one combo tub/sink plumbed to drain directly out the bottom of the house, a composting toilet, and probably some kind of small RV hot water heater. Cooking is going to be an electric two burner stovetop and eventually this awesome (but expensive) little alcohol fueled oven/stovetop. I suppose I’ll use a small energy efficient mini-fridge. Heat will be a woodstove. I hope to be plugged into the electrical grid at first (more on this later) but am designing the house to eventually be off-grid.
8. Ability to build ‘green’: The trailer, woodstove, much of the lumber and probably the metal roof are going to be bought new but otherwise (and even for these things if I can help it) I am going to buy used or reclaimed materials for the house. The craigslist materials listings and stores like Habitat for Humanity, ReStore, and the Rebuilding Center have almost all the materials you could need for a house. This eases the impact on my wallet and saves all of that stuff from going to the landfill. This makes me happy.
9. Living within the means of myself and the planet: I’ve read so much about living simply and living small and practiced it to some extent for so long that I am loathe to even talk about it because, duh. But I’m sure it is worth talking about again. I’ll devote an entire post to this later.
10. Pay as I go: I am planning another post on the specifics of how I am going to manage this project, but because it is small and because I have assistance of various kinds, I’m not going to have to take out any loans and will almost literally be buying 2×4’s and nails as I go, with tips from my job(s) and paycheck to paycheck. No loan = freedom.
I’m probably forgetting things. More later!