For me, living the tiny life means living a do-it-yourself kinda life. It goes beyond the building of a house on wheels and becomes a style of living that is conscious of so much more. Occupying 98 square feet makes me carefully consider everything I use in the house, from the all-purpose cleaner to the face wash I make! For me, it means an awareness and attempt at less toxicity in my everyday environment. My friend just sent me some great links to recipes concerning this exact subject that I thought would be fun to share.
While there are lots of green house cleaning products out there I love making my own. Check out Ryan’s post about the effectiveness of homemade cleaners! It’s so easy to do and is 100% toxin-free. Plus, it’s so cheap to make and you probably have all the ingredients in your cupboard right now! This recipe takes all of five minutes to whip together and will keep on the shelf for up to a month.
You will need:
a spray bottle
one cup water
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
10 drops tea tree oil
10 drops lavender oil
Now it’s as easy as adding all your liquids together in the spray bottle, shaking it up and your good to go! Pretty easy, right? You can also experiment with different essential oils. I’ve used peppermint, orange and eucalyptus to great effect although lavender and tea tree is my favorite combination. I’ve also made excellent cleaner by soaking lemon rinds in vinegar for a couple days and then draining the liquid in to a spray bottle as an all-purpose sanitizing agent. The rinds are great scrubbers for the sink as well, leaving a lovely lemony smell to my kitchen!Here you can find my review of an excellent book on sustainable, affordable cleaning products for your home! I highly recommend checking out these alternatives.
Besides cleaning agents, I love to make homemade beauty products. I so enjoy the natural, chemical-free body care items made in my kitchen. I am super anti-parabens and chemicals I can’t pronounce so this recently acquired recipe via the Free People blog for coconut milk shampoo was right up my alley! Give it a try and see how it makes you feel!
1/2 cup coconut milk
2/3 cup castile soap
1 tsp vitamin E oil
1 tsp coconut oil
Warm the coconut oil til melted and then mix with other ingredients in a jar. Shake well. Use 1 to 2 teaspoons with each wash. Will keep for up to a month. I normally use Bronner’s castile soap for much of my cleaning needs but it does tend to dry out my skin and hair so the coconut milk and oil is perfect for adding the moisture I need in a cold, Vermont climate!
- Got any go to recipes to share for living a less toxic tiny life? Please share! I love to learn new tricks and ideas for healthy living!
When Cedric and I started looking for design inspiration for La Casita there were a lot of ideas out in the internet. Thanks to great blogs like this one we were able to implement ideas from other tiny houses on wheels but we also looked to alternative dwellings to complete a design we were happy with. We were especially influenced by the sailing community and we definitely looked to the RV community for ideas on how to implement certain systems. The folks who travel and live year-round in RV’s and sailboats understand the challenge of mobile living and have great solutions to common problems and challenges faced by living the tiny life!
Cedric comes from a boat building background and I always tell people that if it ever flooded where we live, La Casita would probably float. He incorporated a lot of different styles and techniques inherent in a sailboat. When people enter our home they often mention the fact that it feels like being on a boat, without all the rocking. Our built in furniture was influenced by the seating Cedric had on his live aboard sailboat and our counter top has a lip to it, a common element on boats to keep items from rolling off. Our electric system is marine-grade tinned copper wire and our electric box is made for life on the water. We have DC outlets from West Marine and pretty much everything about our house is built with sailing in mind sans a keel and actual sails! We love the cozy aspect of boat design, especially in the sleeping cabins so we built our loft with that coziness in mind and angled the roof to give it that cabin-like feel and appeal.
Sailboat weren’t our only inspiration. I checked out RV blogs and forums as well! I found a lot of insightful and helpful information about keeping hoses from freezing, general moving tips and even wood stove recommendations. This community has been around for awhile and the veterans of recreational vehicle living are full of excellent advice.
Another source of inspiration came from folks living in yurts and teepees. Blogs were really a great source of information from folks living this type of mobile lifestyle. We entertained the idea of buying a yurt for some time but ultimately a tiny house was a better option for our lifestyle. We didn’t feel like a yurt would be as comfortable in the hot climate of the South and friends up North had said that they were difficult to keep warm in the winter. Plus, after putting one up for some friends, we realized they aren’t as easy to construct as we thought. They also aren’t built for modern amenities and we (read me) weren’t quite ready to give up a fridge and electricity.
It was infinitely helpful to read about other people’s experiences and get a better understanding of just what these different aspects of tiny living offer. Comparing the challenges faced by different communities living a lifestyle with a smaller square footage was essential if designed what was best for our needs. I recommend reaching out to these different communities via blogs, forums, conferences or just go up to a sailor or RV’er and ask what’s up! Most people enjoy sharing their many experiences and animatedly discuss just about everything from waste management to the challenges of wintering in a mobile structure-trust me I’ve asked!
- Have any blogs, forums or other recommendations for design inspiration?
Most people living in the average American household have no reason to contemplate the transfer, collection and disposal of the water that enters and leaves their homes. I certainly had never considered such things until Cedric and I went volunteering on organic farms. In the south of Spain, we spent time at Tierra Roja, a small olive farm where water is scarce for much of the year and any rain that falls is caught, stored and carefully used. They were watering their flower garden with the water from their sinks and showers so not a drop was wasted. It was the first time I’d ever seen a greywater system in action. As aquifers run dry and water becomes a scarcer resource, I see the proper recycling of it essential to transitioning our treatment of water to a more sustainable system and tiny house dwellers are on the front lines of this transition.
Living in a tiny house we have had to face the challenge of disposing our water safely since we weren’t hooked up to the city’s system. Our initial introduction at that farm inspired us to try a simple, DIY system that would use our greywater to irrigate a small garden. We took 1 1/2″ pvc pipe, attached it to the plumbing of the house and buried it in the garden. Since we didn’t put in a filter we did not put any solids of any kind down the drain. We also carefully chose our bath soaps, used homemade shampoos and biodegradable dish soap so as not to damage the soil, plants or watershed. I wish we had taken pictures of the process but all I have is the evidence in this picture of extremely happy banana trees!
The majority of folks don’t think twice about these things and it’s wonderfully convenient to not have to. However, I’ve learned a lot about sustainable water practices by living with this system and I prefer it to sending this precious resource to a facility with black water where it becomes much more polluted and takes a lot of energy to introduce safely back in to the water cycle. It’s also a major plus for dry environments that see little rainfall and who at times must rely on their aquifers for water, as we experienced in Spain.
To sustain and maintain these deep fonts of water we need to replenish them. Allowing greywater to be filtered by plants back in to the ground recharges the aquifers and keeps them from drying out. The beauty of greywater systems is they can be incredible simple to construct, use and maintain. The collaborative group Greywater Action For A Sustainable Water Culture is an incredible resource not only for learning to construct and maint these systems, they also have a wealth of information on composting toilets, rainwater catchment and pedal-powered washing machines!
As we prepare to move La Casita once again, we plan to build a more elaborate system that can withstand the Vermont winters. The Greywater Action website also has great reviews of projects and useful tips for winterizing these systems. In the South it was much easier to manage it and although it will be more of a challenge it is another opportunity to learn and create a regenerative system. I’ll be posting details of our next greywater project so check-in with the tiny life over the next few weeks to see the details of construction!
- Have any tips on water disposal in a tiny house?
- How do you feel about the current disposal and treatment of water?
- Do you think greywater systems are viable project towards changing how we think about water disposal?
<This is my favorite, no fuss project in terms of interior design! It takes about 20 minutes to do and can be completed with simple tools on a small budget. Until recently most of our books had still been in storage due to limited wall space in our tiny house. We put in so many windows it left little space to put up book shelves. We have installed a few over our windows which work nicely but too many of them create a crowded feeling in such a small space. I’d seen floating bookshelves on a few different design sites and decided to make a couple for the house so we could unpack some of our books. They’re great because they don’t take up much space and it’s a fun way to keep our favorite reads handy.
First I headed to my local library and checked out their sale section and bought two hardcover books for a dollar. These are the books that will act as the shelf so best not to spend much money on them. I then went to the hardware store and bought L brackets and a few screws. Some folks use metal bookends instead of L brackets but I didn’t have either and I thought the brackets would be stronger and better able to hold more weight. Next I marked where the wholes would be and started the rather mundane work of getting the screws through all the pages. This could be done in 20 seconds with a drill but when I pulled out our trusty Hitachi the battery was dead. I was feeling impatient, so I pulled out a phillips and it took a few minutes longer but was fairly quick and easy.
I tried hiding the bracket in the inside cover of the book but it didn’t look quite right. It doesn’t make much of a difference whether you put the bracket, or bookend, on the inside or outside cover. The way I assembled it I thought you’d be able to see the bracket easily, which would defeat the ‘floating’ purpose, but it didn’t make much of a difference. You can also use two brackets on either end of the book and create a more stable base which I might do for my next set of shelves. I’ve noticed they’re slightly wobbly with only one but it’s held up no problem (so far).
Once you get all the screws in it gets even easier. Just pick a spot on the wall, mark the holes and screw it in to the wall. Voila! Stack you favorite books on top and you’ve got yourself a stylish and functional storage solution.
Note on Assembly: Don’t drop your screwdriver where playful puppies might try and “help”.
- What are you favorite interior DIY projects for small spaces?
During the building of my house, I have been doing the best I can to utilize every piece of wood, even with my best effort there will be quite a few scraps left over and it got me thinking about how I could use those pieces of wood. Today I stumbled upon an interesting idea that one could use those scraps for. It’s a floor made of left overs of 2×4 and other random lumber. I think the concept show here can be improved upon by adding some sort of resin or filler for the cracks and then sand the bejesus out of it all.