Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Tiny House Building Codes

It’s been a while since I did a post about how tiny houses deal with building codes, so today I wanted to share the top 5 myths about building codes, zoning and tiny houses.

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Myth 1:  I don’t need a permit if it’s under ___ sq/ft.

This is true, typically if you are building something under a certain square footage than you don’t need a permit.  The catch is there is an exception to this is and it’s when you want to dwell/live in it.  The second you place any personal property in that house, it is classified as “dwelwing” and it doesn’t matter if its 10,000 square feet or 10 square feet, you need a permit.

Myth 2: It’s an RV, Mobile Home, Camper.

Again this true… If your home is being built by a certified RV or Mobile Home manufacturer; also important to note, to become a manufacturer it will cost you several thousand dollars, an LLC and an inspection process to ensure you meet all 500+ requirements.  So you can’t just build an tiny and and say “look!  it’s a RV or Mobile Home.”  To top it off once you do become classified as such, you often can only reside in certain zoning areas, which are fast disappearing.   There is an exception to this: if your state has a “home built RV” class, but these are few and far between and more and more campgrounds and trailer parks refuse entry on them.

Myth 3: I can just say I’m “camping”

Somewhat true.  Typically municipalities have limits of how long you can camp.  This is is often 2 days to 30 days in one spot or on one parcel of land.  In the city I live in, you are legally not allowed to camp at all unless FEMA has declared a state of emergency.   In some cases you can “camp” if you move every few days, but the city could also say “you’re not camping, you’re dwelling” and then its curtains.

Myth 4: They can’t stop me!  I’ll do what I want.

In some places you’re right.  It’s often the case that its not that they can’t stop you, but they won’t unless it becomes a big public issue.  In most places they can stop you.  They will come in and condemn you tiny house, which means if you enter it, they’ll arrest you for being in your own home!  They can also fine you, run a bulldozer through your house to destroy it, or deny you utilities like they did to me (read about it here).  All of which they legally can do, have done and you have no recourse for.

Myth 5: It’s on wheels codes/zoning don’t apply.

This is a big myth perpetrated by those who want to make a quick buck of tiny house people.  It is true that having a tiny house on wheels will help things generally because it confuses the bureaucrats, you can move it so easily, etc.  But the truth is that the second you dwell in it, all bets are off and the city can do what they want.

So what can I do?!?

There are two approaches to this:  1) you can beat them at their own game and know how to leverage the codes 2) you can fly under the radar.  Each of these have their pros and cons.  To get a better understanding of these things I have an ebook of how you can work within the system to gain legal status with your tiny house.  I show you the key barriers for tiny house folks, offer possible solutions and give you strategies to beat the system.  I also show you how to fly under the radar, how to live in your tiny house without getting caught.  Both are covered in Cracking The Code: A guide to building codes and zoning for tiny houses.

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Keepin’ It Tiny

I just can’t hide from tiny houses. They seem to just fall in to my life in random ways. For example, I came home from work the other night and found this lovely house sitting by the entrance to the drive-way. It belongs to a local artist who lived with my friends up the road from my current location.

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A few weeks ago this awesome house rolled in to the parking lot of a contra dance I attended in Southern Vermont. Just another amazing tiny house from North Carolina!

The best tiny house coincidence occurred when I was looking for a placeto live this past spring. I was led to my current tiny life experience through friends and while my ideal was to once again find a tiny space to habitat I wasn’t banking on it. Lo and behold this adorable space was offered to me by lovely people who I am now privileged to call friends as well as neighbors.

photo 5Thus, I now live in a revamped chicken coop! The Coop, as it is adorably referred to, is a 6′ x 8′ space on one of the most beautiful properties I have ever lived on. My friend and neighbor who runs Carpenter Brook Artisans replaced the siding, ripped out the old carpet and re-painted the plaster walls. It is a beautiful space. I have the joy of a shared garden space, I get to enjoy the clucking of their adorable chickens and just a short walk away is an amazing private beach on a gorgeous river. Could it get any better? Believe it or not the answer is yes.

When I lived the tiny life previously in La Casita it was hard to find photo 2community to live in. Just when I thought it was within reach, one thing or another would keep that dream from coming true. Now, without having planned for it, I live by people who enjoy a similar lifestyle and wish to create community in the ways that matter most, such as growing food together, sharing meals, splitting chores and hosting communal gatherings. I am so grateful to have found this tiny home in Vermont and feel so lucky to be living with people who are caring and supportive. It’s an incredible opportunity and for it to have fallen in to my lap the way it did is pretty remarkable. I suppose it just goes to show that I am destined to live a tiny life.

 

Your Turn!

  • How has the tiny life style found you?

Enough With Excuses

I just got reading an inspiring post fromScreen_Shot_2013-05-23_at_4.33.02_PM Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet (you should read it to get an idea about this post).  I thought I’d respond to it in a way and maybe expand upon it from my viewpoint.  It basically sums up so much of what I believe when it comes to tiny houses, a career and life.  It is easy to make excuses for not doing something, to follow the path of least resistance, to settle into complacency, but to our own detriment.  Even today I do this, but I am now more cognizant of it and call myself out on it.

The point is when it comes to making drastic changes, whether building a tiny house, making a career change or some other life altering decision, IT IS HARD.  More acculturate, it is REALLY FREAKING HARD and by hard I mean lots of sleepless nights, tons of work, years of making your way to the goal; The saying  “blood, sweat, and tears” only begins to cover a rough approximation of it.

Right before I started building my tiny house I realized that the only thing that was stopping me from building my tiny house was myself.  I had no idea where I’d live in it, I had no idea how to build, I didn’t know how it would all go down, but I went for it.  When I started, I didn’t know about how the building codes and zoning would work, how I’d get utilities, where I was going to park it, but I decided that I needed to move to action now, because otherwise me saying “someday” would turn into never.

recite-3412-388918378-1iym69What I realized about the changes in my life, career and my housing options was that no matter how scary it would be to change these things, the price of doing nothing was too high.  Living in house loaded with debt, working in a job I hate and in a life left uninspired was not worth it.  To make the changes I have made – and am still making – was the only rational option.

The truth is when I started this journey I was unemployed, loaded with debt, didn’t have any money in the bank or any assets.  Since doubling down on me and my life, I own my tiny house, I should be able to clear all my debt in the next year, I have a job I love done on my terms and I have money in the bank.  What I did was nothing special, the concepts and ideas are already out there for free, you just have to stop making excuses and say “I am the priority and worthy of an epic life”.

So today resolve to make you and your life the priority, to make your life epic.  Realize it is a ton of work, it’s scary, it will take years and after laying all the excuses to rest, you will have a life others only dream of.

Your Turn!

  • What did you do today to achieve your dreams?
  • What excuse have you left behind?

Ways You Can Live The Tiny Life Now

Many of you have been following me in my journey to The Tiny Life for a while now.  While I tend to focus on the building and design of tiny houses, what I have come to realize is that even though its fun to talk about the houses and how to build them, it really isn’t about the houses, it’s about the life you lead in them.  In an odd way, its not the house that is so great, its the life that is amazing.

Recently I was thinking about this fact as I was re-reading my book that just released (find it here) and I realized that in many ways you can still live tiny, without a tiny house at all.  So here are some ways you can live The Tiny Life right now.

Learn To Say No

ba7688b4e4a544d65380ef9bc19087a9In this world saying no is almost unheard of.  We often either get pulled into things we really don’t want to do or we say non-committal things like “Let me get back to you” when you hope they never follow up.  One thing I’ve learned is important is when there is something that I am not interested in participating in or doing, I just clearly decline and make no apologies for it.  Be willing to say no, you don’t have to be rude, but be clear, “Honestly, I’m just not interested in it” or “I don’t have the time to do a good job with this, so I’ll have to pass, thanks.”

Proactively Remove Negative Influences And Sources Of Stress

I have had two people that really shaped this rule for me in my life:  I once worked with a person who always had some sort of drama in their life, no matter how good things were, there was always some catastrophe happening.  The second one was when I found myself in a situation where I had to regularly interact with someone who frankly was just a really terrible human being; they were manipulative, easily moved to violence, and had a lot of self destructive behaviors that they inflicted on others.

It taught me a valuable lesson, there are people or situations that you must actively work to remove yourself from.  If they cause stress, unhappiness, or cause drama in your life, you need to get them out of your life.  This goes for friends too.  I will only put in effort into relationships that I feel the other person equally values me.  There have been times where I have had friends who were flaky, always late, or didn’t ever develop into a deeper platonic relationship that I just let go and let them peter out.

Thin Your Email In Box

inbox_zeroOne thing I have learned with running this website is how to handle a lot of email effectively.  I have developed a few rules that I abide by to make it easier.  I realized that I don’t want to be efficient with email, but instead I have worked hard to reduce the email volume, which I must be efficient in handling.  Spending an hour to help setup a system where people can find their answer on their own, has come back 100 fold.  Think of how you could do the same in your life or situation, just adapt it.

  1. Realize your email inbox is a convenient way for other people to organize their agenda.
  2. Always think about how you can reduce the volume of emails you get.
  3. Always to clearly define the next needed action, otherwise close the loop on that email.
  4. If they don’t ask a question, it isn’t actionable or are not clear in message, don’t respond.
  5. Set up email filters for things that you get often or as a way to segment different areas of your life.
  6. If its a newsletter that I find myself not reading regularly, I unsubscribe right away. I can always add myself back.
  7. If they ask for something I often follow up with a request to do a small task (want to talk? I ask for an agenda) this weeds out people

Define You Career By The Life You Want To Lead, Not The Other Way Around

Your job/career should support and accommodate the life you want to lead, not the other way around.  To do this you must first know what life you want.  It is easy to fall in the trap of letting your career dictate the life you lead (work schedules, vacations, soul crushing activities),

I’ve been there myself and there are times where you just need a job to pay the bills.  So if you are in a tight spot, get a income source, but once you have gained that stabilizing income, you must then quickly move to a more proactive place where you either morph your job to be what you need or start looking for / building your perfect job that accommodates your life.

I once took a job that I knew I would hate, but I realized that it would buy me just enough time (3-6 months) of income to allow me to find the job that I really wanted.  It meant that I could walk away from offers that weren’t great and hold out for a better one, at that point I really didn’t have anything to lose.

The Pareto Principle

This is more commonly known as the 80/20 rule which states that 80% of the outcome or effect comes from 20% of the cause.  For example, 80% of the happiness comes from 20% of the people in your life, because they are the most important people to you.  On the flip side, 20% of your time spent at work actually yields 80% of your income.

The trick with this rule is to identify that 20% that causes the 80% and if its good, focus on it; if it is bad, eliminate it.   So in the instance of something good, say relationships, spend 80% of your time on the top 20% of your relationships.  Conversely, if 80% of customers complaints at work come from 20% of your customers, break it off with them.

Learn To Slow Down, But Be Intentional

excuseI’ve learned over the past two years that I can be far more productive if I am intentional.  I have had so many people in my professional life say to me that I always seem laid back, but get a ton done.  The truth is I do a lot less work then them, but when I do work, it is calculated.  I actively work to minimize what is on my plate instead of working longer hours to get an overloaded to do list done.  I think about what I can do that is most effective and then how I can achieve it most efficiently.  Finally anything I do more than a few times, I look for ways to automate.

So when it comes time for me to do something, I have the time to do it correctly, I have worked out the best way to do it, and then in many cases I have automated it so I don’t have to worry about it at all.

 

So these are just some of the ways you can start living The Tiny Life now, even if you don’t live in a tiny house just yet.

 

Your Turn!

  • What things have you done or do to live The Tiny Life?

 

5 Misconceptions About Tiny House People

Having been working with Tiny Houses for years now, I have run into many instances where people have some perceptions of tiny house folks that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Sometimes I feel like informing them of how it really is to live tiny, but other days, I just don’t have it in me to say anything.  So today I thought I’d lay to rest some of the common misconceptions about tiny houses and the people who live in them.

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1. We hate stuff

While it is true we don’t like the gratuitous, debt accumulating, clutter creating consumption of stuff for consumption sake, we aren’t against things.  In fact the things we own and take up space in our tiny houses, we really really like.  We have decided to only have those things that make our lives richer, happier and in some cases easier.

2. We don’t have a lot of money or a job

I remember one conversation I had with a woman that came walking off the street to see my tiny house.  After talking a while, I mentioned it had taken a while to build because I could only work on it when I wasn’t working.  She looked at me with astonishment and said “oh you have a job” she then alluded that my job must not be well paying and I informed her I had a good job white collar job that paid very well.  Her face was filled with a look of confusion.

The ironic thing is that most tiny house folks actually make more than the average American, are gainfully employed at good jobs.  What is more, we keep most of what we make, meaning we often don’t have any debt and we have more saved up.  Recently a report release by PEW showed that someone with no debt and $100 in the bank account has a higher net worth than most people in America.

3. We say no to big houses

For a long time I thought I was saying “no” to big houses, fancy cars, nice clothes, etc. but I realized one day that I wasn’t saying “no”, but in fact saying “yes”.  I am saying “yes” to a life where I have no debt, where I have exactly what I need, to a job where I only have to work a few hours a week, and “yes” to travel, pursuit of passions, hobbies and interests.

So its not so much I’m rejecting bigger houses, but embracing the benefits of smaller living.

4. You can’t have a relationship or a family in a tiny house

Time and time again I get asked about families and relationships in a tiny house.  There are plenty of examples of people who are couples and also plenty of examples of families who live in a tiny house.  The truth is it’s possible, but its not for everyone.  Don’t get caught up in “I have to be ____ number of square feet because that is what a tiny house is”  Forget that notion, do what makes sense for you and those you live with.  If I were to want to cohabitate with someone else, would I live in a tiny house with them?  HELL NO!  Would I get a bigger house than a tiny house, but small compared to most houses, most definitely.  For some though, a tiny house as a couple is great.  For some families, they might live in 800 square feet or maybe more; that’s okay too.

5. A tiny house isn’t a real house

Every time someone learns that I live in a tiny house that don’t know what they are I get all the same questions.  Does it have a bathroom, a sink, a kitchen, a shower, a toilet, a bed, electricity, water, internet?  The answer is yes, yes, and yes.  My house has every creature comfort you could want and so do most tiny houses.  Tiny houses have all the same systems that a traditional house has, it is built the same way (mostly) and uses most of the same materials.  There are some things that I have chosen  not to have like a dish washer and microwave, but that’s because I didn’t want them.

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