Today marks the 4th year that The Tiny Life has been in existence and I am floored at where we’ve been and how far we have come. The moment it clicked for me was when I first stood in a tiny house, it was a random park in Philadelphia that we had converged upon to get to stand in this very tiny space. While it was a small space, I remember standing inside that tiny house with 8 other people for hours talking about tiny houses. It was something that most people had never heard of and I just came upon, but there I was.
I left the tiny house later that day feeling so energized about the potential life that I could live in a tiny house. Life had thrown me for a loop at that point and it gave me moments to reflect on where I wanted to go from there. I realized that tiny houses circumvented a lot of the pitfalls I’d faced, relived a lot of the worries I had and would allow me to focus on things I felt were important. So I thought I’d start a blog to catalog my design ideas for my own tiny house, the rest was history. We’ve had millions come to The Tiny Life and I am overwhelmed at how the movement has grown and all the amazing people that are in it.
This year has been marked with me getting to meet a lot of other people in the movement, particularly other bloggers. It has been a blast and really inspiring to see what others are doing and how many of them are doing things in the movement. The number of tiny houses I have seen recently has exploded and so has the number of people that follow the movement.
This past year also was when I started building my own tiny house which has been a ton of fun and literally a dream of mine come true. I should be done in a few months and I can’t wait to move into my tiny house!
So thanks for reading, we here at The Tiny Life hope you have enjoyed it as much as we have!
Last post I was pretty much freaking out about having to go and talk to town officials about parking our house on our friend’s farm but I’m sure glad I did! It ended up being a fairly straightforward process, however (there always seems to be a however with tiny houses) we only have a permit for a year. As long as it’s on wheels it’s considered a temporary structure and can only be lived in for 365 days. After that, I’m not sure what we do.
They didn’t say it was renewable so do we keep it on wheels or try and set it on a foundation? I feel like taking it off the trailer will be quite a hassle with zoning and code but trying to explain to people that you LIVE in this, that’s it’s NOT a camper and is your home is pretty much beyond people’s expectation. Some children I care for down the street actually passed by and asked if it was a new playhouse for the children of our friend! This is totally fine with us. We figure the less serious people take our living situation the better off we are.
It’s pretty amazing to me though the amount of attention such a small square footage receives. We have had strangers stop their cars, get out and ask to take pictures. Folks are asking if we build them and how much they cost. There is definitely an opportunity here to gain community support. Who knows? Perhaps even change the zoning laws! I’m definitely debating how I begin to advocate on the town administrative level so that tiny housing can be considered a legally viable living alternative to the statue quo.
We plan to live in this area for at least the next ten years, who knows-maybe the rest of our lives, so I feel like it’s well worth the effort to begin changing the laws. It’ll probably take me ten years to accomplish so I might as well get stared!
The fact that we landed on a farm whose owner is open and supportive of our lifestyle was huge. For changes to happen I feel we need support from property owners like her who have a solid place in their community and can say, “We had a tiny house on our land and it was a positive experience!” Not to mention that the situation often benefits the land owner who either receives work trade, rent or some other barter situation from tiny housers.
In my mind it’s a way to create a more locally minded economy rather than paying a bank for a mortgage we can’t afford. Cedric and I were looking at properties a couple months ago but in Vermont either you find raw land, which isn’t cheap and needs a lot of money put in to make it livable, you find a camp, which is usually only livable in Spring, Summer and Fall or you get huge houses with a price tag far beyond what we can consider.
It’s not an easy situation for the tiny house dweller but right now I’m extremely grateful to have a place to rest our weary wheels for the next year. Winter in a tiny house is a whole new issue for us and we realize we need to start getting ready now for those cold, blustery months. With all the challenges we’ve faced, I still look forward everyday to climbing into our snug little home and enjoying the knowing that it is ours, and ours alone.
- Any advice on how to get started advocating change in zoning laws?
- Have you received community support in your city/town living in a tiny house?
- What are most folks reactions to your tiny house?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned living the tiny life is flexibility. Being as flexible as possible is incredibly important. If you are not one to adapt to new situations readily then seriously consider living this life (as pictured left). Our lives since living tiny is a perfect example.
About a month ago Cedric and I found out that our neighbors were planning to rent their house, and subsequently the land we were on, to move out west. They offered to let us stay and work things out with the new tenants but we decided that we’d rather not deal with a rental situation with folks we didn’t know and the owners living 3000 miles away. Thus, once again, we found ourselves moving the tiny house. This is the third time we’ve moved the house in just over a year. It is truly the constant dilemma of living the tiny life…land. We rent because we don’t have the resources to buy in the area we live in. A friend of ours in Charleston recently asked me about the realities of living downtown in a tiny house and I warned him that he wouldn’t get away with it for more than a year and that was if he lives in a seedier part of town. Anywhere else and the town officials would be swarming in no time. His best bet-buy a property that he can rent out and live in a tiny house in the backyard. More and more I see that option as the least stressful way to live the tiny life.
We are currently facing the issue of zoning in a small, rural town in Vermont. I have to go and speak to the zoning administrator this week because the owner of the farm where we have moved wants to make sure we do things by the books. Talk about eye twitching stress! We totally understand this, considering she has a working organic farm, a solid place in her community and 4 children to feed and doesn’t want to sneak around behind the town’s back but it certainly won’t make things easier for us. Everyone, and I mean everyone, is connected in this town. There is no where to hide even if we wanted to. When we lived in the city, anonymity was key to our being able to live in our home but out here in the country, it’s probably not the best policy. Stepping on toes is not advised. It’s the kind of place where nobody’s business is kept secret for long. Thus, by tomorrow morning I won’t be surprised if they town clerk is called and made aware of our presence. And I’m terrified. Cedric and I have read through the zoning lingo on the town’s website and our home just doesn’t fit in. There is no provision for a tiny house on wheels. It’s part of the beauty, but also the seemingly constant stress, of living in these houses. We can’t even unpack our things until we find out if we’ll be allowed to stay on this land and it’s making life that much harder.
Never have we wanted to stay someplace so badly. It’s a gorgeous property with orchards, sheep, chickens, a private swimming hole, gardens everywhere and an amazing view of the mountains. That hardest part is trying not to get attached because come Tuesday, when the zoning admin is in office, we may have to pick up and move again. To keep running around and hiding isn’t realistic but it certainly seems our only option. Until tiny houses are excepted in the the laws that govern building and development, I fear we’ll just keep packing up or finally cave in and enter in a real estate market that we can’t afford.
- What do you think is the best option: being open with town officials or keeping a low-profile?
Recently I was on Huffington Post Live with several other awesome tiny house people. Dan Louche, Gregory Johnson, Logan Smith and myself were interviewed by Jacob about tiny houses in an online segment. The interview was a lot of fun and we got the word out about tiny houses, but what I think was the best part was the conversations we had before and after the segment that happened off the camera.
Collectively the group had a few decades of experience with tiny houses and all of us have tiny houses. So the conversation was really interesting. We talked about the movement, workshops, etc. Check out the video below.
A little over a week ago I finished up a 2-week intensive training in Permaculture Design. It was an awesome learning experience and got me thinking about tiny house design in new ways.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Permaculture, it is a term coined in the 1970’s by Bill Mollison that follows a core ethic: to care for the planet, the people who live on it, and provide equal distribution of surplus. Permaculture design encourages folks to look to biological processes as a means of solving environmental problems and creating regenerative sources of energy, building materials and edible as well as medicinal plants for all peoples.
To be able to discuss solutions we had to go over the issues. Many of our lectures over the course of those two weeks had a lot to do with toxicity and public safety & health. It gave me pause to think about the quality of life provided by living in a small space. I find my quality of life to be equal and/or greater than living in a larger home. One thing we definitely considered when building La Casita was material off-gassing. That’s one reason we really looked to reclaimed material but also a reason we tried not to use chemically produced paints, inks, varnishes or lacquers. We definitely used Great Stuff and the adhesive on the sheeting off-gassed. We attempted to balance that with the use of milk-paint and no-VOC paints indoors as well as tung oil on the Cyprus siding. Check out Ryan’s list of best low-VOC paints and non-toxic paints!
There’s a lot of toxicity to battle in daily life I had no idea about such as trichloroethylene (TCE) which is considered a potent liver carcinogen by the National Cancer Institute. This chemical is in lacquers varnishes, paints, printing inks and adhesives. Benzene, a chemical in gasoline, plastics, oils, paints and rubber is known to cause skin irritation as well as many other health issues such as leukemia and bone marrow diseases. Formaldehyde is a third common chemical in products including particle board, facial tissues, grocery bags, natural gas and nail polish to name a very few. Exposure has been linked to asthma and cancer.
The good news is that these chemicals can be absorbed by house plants! NASA conducted a study that explored the abilities of plants to provide better air quality. That research consistently showed that certain plants remove toxic chemicals from our indoor environments. In a tiny house carbon monoxide is an added concern. We have fans and often crack the windows but there have cold nights and we’ve noticed we aren’t getting enough air in our loft and wake up groggy and disconcerted. The top five plants that they found to clear the air of the three chemicals above and reduce carbon monoxide levels indoors are bamboo palm, chinese evergreen, english ivy, gerbera daisy and Janet Craig. To learn more, find the full report here.
There is a lot to consider when building and living in a small space but for me indoor air quality ranks as one of the most important changes I can make to my overall well-being living the tiny life. Living in La Casita I’ve definitely learned that it’s the smallest of changes that make the biggest difference.
- What concerns about living the tiny life do you consider most important?
- How do you limit toxicity in your daily life?