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Posts Tagged the tiny life

La Casita Moves Again!

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.

Capture1About 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.

zoningNever 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.

Your Turn!

  • What do you think is the best option: being open with town officials or keeping a low-profile?

Via

The Tiny Life on Huffington Post

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.

Ryan on HuffPo

Tiny House Living: Indoor Air Quality

gerber daisyA 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 Toxiclectures 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.

english ivyThe 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 mejanet craig plant 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.

Your Turn!

  • What concerns about living the tiny life do you consider most important?
  •  How do you limit toxicity in your daily life?

The Biggest Tiny Move

First off, I want to give a big shout-out and say thank you to the community of readers here at The Tiny Life for the wonderful advice many of you sent me on moving our home.  When you’ve never done something like this it is so incredibly helpful to gain insight from those who’ve gone before you!

moving

Thanks to suggestions from this blog, as well as the Facebook page and CharlestonTinyHouse.com, we decided to set up a profile page on U-Ship.com and give it a whirl. U-Ship is an online global shipping service connecting individuals and businesses with transportation providers. It works like this:

1. Create a username and password.

2. Fill out a profile.

3. Load a picture and description of what you want shipped.

4. Enter your price range and location.

5. Wait for bids.

After a couple of days we had 3 bids! I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it. I figured most service providers would be out of our price range, but lo and behold we found Roger Howell, or really he found us. With a great price, lots of positive reviews and an excellent, professional profile we thought he was the best bet for the job. He not only moved our home within our budget but without a scratch on it! It was such a relief to be without all the added stress and time of towing it ourselves, especially through a northeastern winter. Plus, it would have cost us as much, if not more, to move it ourselves after renting a truck, paying for gas and taking out insurance. Uship covered us up to $15,000 in damages and as the carrier, Roger also had insurance providing us with a sense of security that was well worth the investment.

The experience was not without hiccups. There were delays on our house due to the severe winter weather we had up ushiphere in early February but Roger was very communicative and sent e-mails and texts as soon as we had questions or something happened en route. We figured it gave us more time to find a place for the house so we weren’t upset at the delay. Nevertheless, it was great to work with a professional who was in the business of towing large shipments, provided quick, clear communication and was first and foremost concerned with getting us our shipment safely.

moving la casitaWe were a bit skeptical of this site at first but in the end we were really happy with the experience. The website is very clear and informative and carriers have profiles and reviews by customers who’ve shipped with them. With very little time to prepare for our move it felt like a huge weight off our shoulders. It wasn’t without work on our part. We had to hook up lights, check our brakes, pack and board up the house and get a license plate for the trailer. It took about 2 weeks to get everything together and ready to go but it was well worth it. We left ahead of the house and were able to arrive in Vermont, place ads and find a home for La Casita in a couple of weeks. If you have a tiny house to move, I’d recommend the services the website provides. Doing it yourself is a rite of passage for some but for us it was going to be more hassle and expense than we wanted to deal with. Hopefully, we won’t have to move the house again. It ain’t cheap moving a tiny house, no matter how you do it. We figured it out to be about a $1/mile so at 1200 miles there was definite expense.

Living the tiny life has its perks but before this adventure I was foolish in thinking it would be a cheap and easy dwelling to move. It’s definitely a more flexible option in life but I’ve learned that more than anything, I want to stay put in La Casita and not have to uproot her too often. Hopefully, this is the last move we’ll be making for a long time and we can settle in to this new chapter of our tiny life.

Your Turn!

  • What alternatives do you know of for shipping a tiny house?
  • Has anyone else used Uship? What was your experience?
  • How has The Tiny Life readership helped you?
  • If you’ve moved a tiny house, what did you find were the most cost effective options?

 

Building Tiny Bathrooms

When folks ask us what was the most challenging aspect of building a tiny house we will chorus in unison: BATHROOM. Several factors made this the most difficult part of construction.

IMG_7842Firstly, this is the room we spend the least amount of time. For Cedric, this meant that finding inspiration to work on the bathroom was not easy. It was more interesting for us to design and build the kitchen where we spend the majority of our time. Secondly, designing a bathroom on wheels is challenging in and of itself. We love tile but the fact that the motion of moving the house would likely cause cracking and/or breakage threw that option out the window. We tried buying a shower pan but nothing fit our tiny space. We looked to RV and boat design but we wanted as little plastic as possible and much of those use plastic to create a waterproof space.  We considered using a hardwood such as teak since it was available through the warehouse where we constructed, but we feared it would be too heavy. Our bathroom is on the tongue side of the trailer and we didn’t want to weight it down. That was another reason for throwing out the tile idea-too heavy.

Finally, we decided on corrugated tin which was light and attractive. Before DSCN2756installing the outer materials the walls and floor were painted with reclaimed, heavy duty marine paint that’s used on ships to prevent water damage. For the flooring we decided to make a stainless steel shower pan. Cedric found the material at a junkyard. It was previously a kitchen counter but Cedric shaped, cut and welded it to fit our  bathroom space. This is where our community came to our aid because we did not have the equipment to reconstruct the stainless steel counter top.  We wouldn’t have been able to accomplish it without the help of our friend Bill who has a machine shop. It was not a cheap option and it took a lot of work to get right but we don’t regret the time or the money spent. Our bathroom will probably outlast the rest of the house!

Once we had installed the tin and pan we noticed we had issues with standing water. We fixed this by banging the shower pan in around the drain allowing for better drainage. We built in a box on one side with a hinged lid where our bucket composting toilet is located. We heat our water with an on-demand hot water heater that’s propane powered. It works like a charm although we did have trouble keeping the flame lit on a very windy night!

IMG_7841The bathroom, or the wet room as we call it, is still not quite finished with one window left to trim but other than that it has turned out to be a great space.  We created a drainage field based on a gray water system we had used while working on an organic farm. It allows us to water our plants while showering which our banana and pineapple plants love! We are careful with the products we put down our drains using biodegradable soaps and shampoos that won’t harm the soil or plants. If comments on our garden are any measure of success than we hit the nail on the head. Of all the gardens I’ve had in Charleston, this one received the most praise from neighbors. I definitely think the extra watering had something to do with that! Ultimately, we’d like to build an outdoor shower for summer months as well as a possible outdoor kitchen but we still have a few months to consider those options!

Your Turn!

  • What challenges have you faced designing WCs for tiny spaces?
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