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Back in the World of the Big Houses

Tiny houses are hard, but so is everything that is worthwhile.” -Ryan Mitchell

Hello tiny life readers! It has been some time since I last wrote an article and I am so excited to be back writing articles for one of my favorite blogs! Last year I left The Tiny Life while trying to reconfigure my everyday life in what I refer to as the world of the big houses. It has been quite the journey!

reinvent businessI had to start this article with the title of a post Ryan made at the beginning of the year. It’s pretty much my motto at present. At an organized retreat I recently attended in Vermont we started the weekend by stepping in to a ring of river stones and visualizing ourselves leaving behind our daily realities. We called it the rabbit hole, a term borrowed from Alice in Wonderland. It is a psychological exercise, or ritual if you prefer, aimed at letting go. It allows an individual to fully immerse oneself in the present and provides temporary release from ones daily grind. I found this experience to be a symbolic reoccurrence in my existence, the most recent being my experience living the tiny life.

I can certainly compare my time living in a tiny house to jumping down a rabbit hole. Besides being of relatively small dimensions, the rabbit hole and a tiny house share traits that I find incredibly appealing including whimsy, excitement and a general disregard for the limiting options provided by our present day world. Living the tiny life requires an ability to accept a different reality than that currently proposed by society at large and an embracing of the alternatives that come with the lifestyle. These aspects make living in a tiny house wonderful but also extremely difficult.

futureWhen I moved in to my first tiny house I escaped many realities that I did not care to face, primarily a mortgage but that wasn’t all. There is a certain flexibility and unpredictability in mobility that a tiny house provides which I enjoyed. Most of all, living outside the norm was thrilling to me. There was less distraction from the present moment in such a small space! For me, smaller spaces are conducive to my own creative processes in terms of mental focus although physically they are limiting. It’s these contradictions, however, that keeps such a life interesting and allows for expansion in ways you may never have imagined (think biscuits that make you as big as a house or as small as a mouse a la Alice’s experience). Sometimes though, it reveals to you challenges you are not sure you can handle.

I bring this up because for nearly 2 years I lived in a tiny house and then about six months ago I had to leave due tonext-step an unsafe situation in my life. It was devastating to leave behind my home and try to figure out how I fit in to the world of big houses again. It didn’t take long for me to find a house, but a home I have yet to find. I am currently homeless and wandering, wondering and trying to figure out where the tiny life exists for me now. It’s disconcerting but there is excitement in the new and unknown. The tiny life continues to be an alluring alternative to me and even after all the turmoil I hope to again have a tiny house of my own.

Ultimately, the change means recreating my reality all over again. For awhile it was okay living back in the world of big houses. Who am I kidding? It was awesome! Having a regular bathroom and renting a house that held the most amazing tub I have ever had the pleasure of using was fantastic but after a few months the retreat started to get old. I miss my compact life and the feeling of safety small spaces provide me. I miss the independence and pursuit of sustainability within my home space. I miss talking to people about the merits of living such a life and having a beautiful example to invite them in to. I miss my cheap rent! After leaving La Casita, I felt completely disconnected from the movement and it took me a long time to feel as  though I still belonged. Just because I no longer live in a tiny house does not mean I’ve lost dedication to the movement and its ideals. I just had to figure that out for myself and reinstate a commitment to the tiny life. It has been a very vulnerable time for me and it has helped me realize that living the tiny life is still in my plans and I am excited to discover new opportunities within the movement.

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Your Turn!

  • Can you relate to jumping down the rabbit hole of the tiny life?
  • What keeps the tiny life alive and exciting  for you?

 

Tiny House Vacation

After the Tiny House Conference I decided to take a long overdue break for a few days.  It’s been almost a year since my last vacation and I know part of living tiny is me needing to take more time for me.  So I booked a place in the mountains on a whim and loaded up the car.  The place I stayed was a small house or even a tiny house.  It would be perfect for retirement because it was just big enough to be comfy, but not too big, and everything is on a single level.  The house was gorgeous!  Perched high on a small mountain, in the mountains of NC it was close enough to drive to easily, but far away from everything.

For the most part I did a whole lot of nothing, which was the whole point!  I took some short jaunts out around the area to enjoy the awesome weather I had.  Here is a few photos of the place and my trip.

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IMG_1668This awesome fire-pit area was in the middle of the three units.  Each of the little houses were pretty much the same.  At night I hung out by the fire and chatted with the other folks staying there.

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IMG_1637Small efficiency kitchen that was pretty workable.  Maybe add another 2-3 feet of counter space to make it fully functional.

IMG_1644Neat architectural detail.  this form mimicked the outside roof line, nice detail.

IMG_1646Friendly cats came to say hello!

IMG_1648The entrance to Joyce Kilmer Old Growth Forest was named after a poet here is one of his more famous poems:

Trees 

I think that I shall never see A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain; Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

-  Joyce Kilmer

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After Joyce Kilmer, I headed to the NC / TN border where the famous route 129 is, better know as The Tail of the Dragon.  The stretch of road is notorious for its 318 hair pin turns in only 11 miles.  Popular with motoring clubs and motorcycles its a fun road to take a ride on and has some amazing views.

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IMG_1656A waterfall on my way to Tail of The Dragon

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IMG_1659Highest dam this side of the Mississippi.

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The rest of my weekend was made up of taking naps, reading some good books and enjoying the campfire.

 

3 Tips To Finding Land For A Tiny House

The tiny house movement has made huge strides in the past few years by promoting efficient living spaces and minimalist lifestyles in 400 square feet or less. More homeowners are seeing the benefit in downsizing to lessen environmental impact, save money and eliminate home-related stressors.

Building a small home is generally less complicated than planning and constructing a large home. However, it is more difficult to find appropriately-sized and cost-effective land for micro homes than it is for average-sized homes. Most micro home builders aren’t looking to pay full price for open plots, since tiny homes are more economical to build.

Interested in joining the tiny house movement? Consider these three tips to find appropriate land.

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1. Location, Size and Price

Micro homes can be built anywhere as long as construction follows state building codes. Some states even allow homeowners to build micro homes in their backyards. However, a lot of tiny homeowners don’t have pre-owned properties to use for construction. Use Zillow to find land based on location; just search within a designated city under home type: lots/land.

Search for comparable properties online to determine typical ratios of home square footage to land size.  A home that is 100-400 square feet requires far less property than the average 2,500-square-foot home. Regardless of home size, land sizes vary in price based on location. Typical tiny house proponents stray from city centers, as the land is more expensive and prone to complicated code laws. Further, most tiny homeowners are advocates of eco-friendly lifestyles and therefore prefer more rural locales.

2. Consider Zoning Laws

Tiny home builders may be automatically looking for small plots, but states require a certain amount of land for people to live and build on legally. Review state zoning laws to determine the subdivisions and restrictions in a potential area. Tiny homeowners should examine city documents to understand potential long-term neighborhood development plans prior to purchasing land. Most people don’t want to live next to an interstate or strip mall, and knowing about those types of changes helps weed out bad investments.

3. Find an Experienced Agent

Search for a real estate professional who can aid in a tiny land search. There are agents who specialize in niche markets – tiny homes included. Make sure to check up on an agent’s qualifications before hiring them to ensure they are the best fits for tiny house searches. While these steps won’t guarantee the perfect plot for tiny home construction, they certainly help homeowners get started.

This is a guest post by Jennifer Riner of Zillow

 

Cozy Beach Cabin

Here in North Carolina we are starting to get little tastes of spring, last week we had a few inches of snow and then two days later it was 74 degrees outside!  With the warming of the seasons I can’t but help thinking about the beach, so I thought this would be a neat small house to show you all.  This is actually a rental that you can go stay at, located in the UK, Bembridge, Isle of Wright.

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Tiny House Construction Waste

In an effort to tell the whole story about tiny houses I felt it necessary to show the not so pretty side of tiny houses.  Namely, how much waste a tiny house generates in its construction.  The reality of how much waste I have created in building my home really shocked me when I saw all the scraps loaded up onto a single trailer, ready to be hauled away to the dump.

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This was a real reality check that even tiny houses have an impact, which of course I knew, but knowing something  and facing the reality in the face are two different things.

A parallel for me personally – which may seem odd and obviously a much greater moral implication – was the first time I personally participated in “processing” a chicken.  To be standing there, a knife in my hand with a live chicken before me, there was real coming to terms with what I was about to do.  As a meat eater, it was the first time I personally had to grapple with the reality of eating meat.

I had a very similar experience when I stood in front of that trailer and was processing the fact this trailer was going to be taken to a dump and I was the cause of it.  That I was creating a large amount of trash that later generations would have to contend with.  Do I have that right?  Am I okay with that?

So the above shot is pretty much all of the waste that my tiny house created.  In this trash there is all the scraps from the framing, sheathing, roofing, siding, etc.  Also here you’ll see the packaging that comes with some building products, along with some plastic sheeting that I used to cover materials that has since been torn or degraded to a point that I can’t use it any more.  In total it’s about 400 lbs, it looks like a lot more, but it isn’t stacked very efficiently.

I also wanted to provide another side of this story by comparing how much waste I created to that of a traditional home.  The typical home in America is about 2,600 square feet and in its construction generates about 2.5 tons  (5,000 lbs) of garbage.  It’s important to note that this is the onsite trash only, components like trusses and roof farmings are built elsewhere, but not accounted for.   You can read about these statistics in this study.

Now I think its also important to talk about how I could have done better, while I need to come to terms with this amount of waste, hopefully I can help others reduce their waste.

First off it is important to note that it honestly is impossible to not have waste.  We can also use reclaimed materials, which can help us reduce our waste and even offset the waste we create; the ultimate would be to have a net negative impact, but I think that would be tough.  There is also a strong argument for inhabiting houses that are already built or could be rehabbed with less impact.

Our writer here on The Tiny Life, Andrea, told me once that she thought it would be impossible to have a house built of more than 95% reclaimed materials.  Her house was about 80-90% reclaimed, but she had one huge advantage: She built her tiny house in a warehouse that was a building materials reclaiming company!  That’s all they did, was reclaim materials and even with that, she was not able to achieve more than 80%.

Other things that might help you reduce your impact is being more efficient with materials.  I think it would be tough to improve upon how I utilized my materials, but I figure I could have been better at it with enough practice.  I also think that if I had a good storage space, I could better save and organize the scraps so I can keep the quality up and utilize them better.  There were some pieces of wood that got damaged by rain after a tarp blew off in a storm, leaving the wood exposed to the elements and water pooling on it.

Finally, if I had chosen all my materials to be chemical free (no glues, resins, treatments) I could at the very least used the scraps to burn for heating or campfires.  But in some cases I opted for treated lumber (which I still feel like was the right choice), but it meant that I shouldn’t burn it.

Your Turn!

  • How would you go about reducing your waste?
  • What are some tips to reduce waste during construction?

 

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