This tiny house is a real charmer! Built by Driftwood Homes USA, this home was featured at the 2016 Tiny House Conference. It was later donated to a family that lost their house during the South Carolina floods in Fall 2015.
It’s crazy how fast time has flown by. To think I’ve been in my Tiny House for just shy of two years! I thought it would be a good time to give an update from the home front. I’ve now been through two summers and two winters off the grid with my solar panels.
I think the biggest change to report is that I’ve really stopped thinking about my tiny house as tiny…it’s now just my house. When I first moved in I had worries that it might be too small, not because it felt small, but because I worried that I might grow to feel that way one day. Two years in, and there are times it almost feels big.
With the move to the tiny house I made some pretty big lifestyle shifts. First off I went fully off grid for my power, which has been relatively smooth. My system is large enough that I really don’t think about it most days. Sometimes I almost forget that I’m on solar, particularly in the spring and summer.
Winters are the only time I really have to think about things, particularly when it’s very overcast for days. For this I have my generator that I can run for two hours and the batteries are fully recharged. The combination of less solar exposure in the winter with the higher power usage of heat can be tricky, but last winter I used a total of 20 gallons of gas in my generator, costing me about $45 for heat over an entire winter.
The real challenge is that I don’t use my generator enough. I use it just often enough that it doesn’t make sense to drain the fluids, but sometimes things start to gum up a bit. I know my Honda EU2000i is showing signs of infrequent use and the carburetor needs to be overhauled, but I’m nervous to pull it apart because it’s a fancy two stage (not sure if that’s the correct term) and has a lot more pieces to it; as if I really know enough to do a basic carburetor.
In the kitchen I’ve also made some big shifts since moving to my tiny house. I decided not to put in a microwave, freezer, dishwasher or oven. For some, this would be no big deal, while others couldn’t imagine not having these things. For me it came down to a few things: generally, convenience foods are less healthy for you and primarily come frozen and/or rely on microwave cooking. I like to cook, but I don’t really like baking, so no oven. Finally, I didn’t want to give up the space for a dishwasher and I couldn’t care less about having one.
I think the only things I really miss are easy baked potatoes in the microwave and being able to freeze meats. Freezing meats wouldn’t be an issue if I wasn’t a single person household, but most things at the store are packaged for families. Single person portions options at the grocery store are woefully lacking and I wish there were better options.
Laundry facilities have been tricky, since I don’t have a washer and dryer in my tiny house. In reality, it’s the drying that’s the hard part, because I don’t mind hand washing my clothes. I don’t have time or space to air dry things. In our humid summers, clothes won’t dry very quickly. In the winter it rains too much. I’ve decided to actually double my wardrobe from about 8ish days of clothes to 16 days. Locally there are now two companies that will come to me, take my clothes and then wash/dry/fold them for very affordable rates. Two weeks of clothing means I can have one weeks’ worth at home and another out being washed.
The last and final trouble spot I’m having is I really want a woodshop. It would be great to have a space where I can set up my tools and just leave them set up. Right now when I want to work on a project, I have to drag my tools out of my cargo trailer and then put them all back in. I really want to get into some woodworking projects that take some time, things that I may only work on a few hours here and there, but take a few weeks to complete. I want a big work table to spread out on, to do more complex glue-ups, and have a place for things to dry. I don’t really know what I’m going to do for this. I’d like to avoid paying rent somewhere and I don’t own the land, so building a shop isn’t in the cards.
Another lifestyle change is that I decided against installing Internet at my tiny house. I now own a coworking space, so I have a great office space to do my thing, but I really have to be careful that I allow myself to unplug. I love work. The fact that I get to do what I do for a living is incredible. And therein lies the problem – when you love to work, you have to make sure that you also make time to live life. Not having Internet at my house means I really have time to detach from work, and have time to reflect, be quiet, and enjoy my solitude.
I also don’t have cable TV, but download the shows I want to watch and then only watch what I really enjoy; no more idle channel surfing. I feel like this is the perfect balance for me.
Have you been listening to Tiny House Chat? In this week’s episode, Ryan and Amy discuss the ins and outs of water storage for tiny houses. Listen in as we talk about on- and off-grid options for water systems, the benefits of each, and also reminisce about childhood video games.
Hummingbird Tiny Housing brought not one, but two houses to the 2016 Tiny House Conference! Their houses are cleverly designed with a cozy feeling that will appeal to everyone. And you can’t tell from the video, but the raw wood used throughout the house smelled amazing!
Watch a video tour of one of their houses below.
Back in March when I was interviewing potential volunteers for the 2016 Tiny House Conference, I asked a married couple why they were interested in downsizing into a tiny house, and why they wanted to help run our event.
“We used to be so concerned with keeping up with the Joneses, until we realized one day that our lifestyle had gotten out of hand,” they said. “Turns out there aren’t any Joneses.”
We hear the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” so much in society that it’s completely lost its meaning. I find that I pick up on it more often now that I’m involved in the tiny house movement, and it’s almost jarring to hear how flippantly people use it in conversation. Even more often, I hear something and I can tell that this insidious, invisible “Jones” character is behind it:
“We bought a house in a nice neighborhood in the suburbs, because that’s what adults are supposed to do.”
“Real men drive pickup trucks.”
“Oof, you still only have an iPhone 4? You should upgrade. Like, yesterday.”
“Buy one of our luxury Swiss timepieces for only $199 per month!”
The idea of constantly upgrading our clothing, our houses, our cars, our adornments, and our job titles reminds me of a race. There’s an urgency to spend every shred of time and money to strive for the next shiny toy, the next symbol of adulthood, the next proof to the world that you’re buying the things you should because you have your life together. You’re racing against everyone else who is trying to do the same thing. No one seems to ask why you’re doing it.
Then, when you approach the finish line, after leaving the losers in the dust behind you, the anonymous Mr. Jones will finally appear in his impeccably tailored suit, give a slow clap and say, “Well done. You’ve beaten me. Have some cake.”
But that’s not what’s actually beyond the finish line.
There is no finish line. There are no Joneses.
(The cake is a lie.)
Your time is your most precious and limited resource. Are you using it to spend time with loved ones? Help improve people’s lives? Create new things? Discover new places? Learn new skills?
Or are you endlessly consuming stuff you don’t need to impress people whose opinions don’t matter?
It’s perfectly fine to want and enjoy material items. We’re human – we use things in order to carry out our work and our daily routines comfortably. Sometimes we even get nice things for ourselves or from people we care about. No one is saying you should shed all material possessions to become a nudist and live in the woods (although if that’s your thing, that’s cool too).
But if you look up and realize you’re in the middle of the race, it’s not your fault. Businesses and marketers have spent billions of dollars to convince you and everyone around you that you’re right where you should be. If you’ve started noticing that you’re doing something ridiculous just because everyone else is too, it’s time to drop out of the race and start living your life. Don’t wait until you get to the end to realize that things could have been different.