Monthly archive for October 2012

What do we really need?

Before we even start to think about floor plans or how you will store all your stuff in a Tiny House, we first need to get down to the basics.  What do you really need in this life?  It is often a lot less than you think, but I feel it’s also important to point out this isn’t about living without, we aren’t trying to sacrifice things here, we are trying to find the happy medium.  When we understand our needs, we then can determine the form and function of our house.

I have talked before about symbols of happiness, the idea that we purchase things which remind us of happy things, of our hopes and wants, of our dreams, but they do not themselves bring us happiness.  In fact, internally, I think this actually creates inner turmoil because our desires go unmet.  A perfect example is having a desktop or screen saver of a white sands beach, it constantly reminds us of us not being there, and it doesn’t seem healthy.

So what if we were to adopt a lens to view our world through to determine what bring us joy and contentment.  With this new lens we need to do a shift in thinking as well.  We need to know what things to strive for, to know what things we must pursue, but they should be achievable with hard work.  At the same time, we need to be okay with not having things that we will never have and shift focus to the things we do.

I am reminded of a story about a man who sought the wisdom of Buddha.

It is said that the happiest people don’t have everything; they just make the best of everything.  While cute quotes such as this one may be fun, we are beginning to see there is a solid foundation in truth to them.

There have been quite a few studies that show that too much clutter has a very negative impact on our well-being.  Angus Deaton, Ph.D., a renowned economist, and Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel prize-winning psychologist conducted a study where they were able to determine that people who made $75,000 a year were the most happy of any salary range.  They were able to show that above that figure had no bearing on happiness and in fact, it could decrease because additional stress that comes with that job.

Now $75k seems a lot to many, but I would expect that Tiny House people could achieve this same peak happiness at a much lower salary because your money goes further. It isn’t the amount of money here that matters; it is what it affords you that is key.  At $75,000 you can afford all of you life’s basics, you can have good health insurance, a good house, some money to take trips and still save some for a rainy day.  With a Tiny House you remove the housing from the equation, which is equivalent to many people’s 30%-40% of income; in this case $23,000-$30,000.  So if we adjust that $75k we are looking at $45,000 annual salary which is much more achievable.

One way I help people determine what is important to them is propose a scenario.  Imagine you wake up one night from a deep sleep and flames are curling up the walls, your house is on fire.  You look out the window to see your family and pets screaming for you to escape with your life.  What do you grab on your way out of the house, know that all else will be lost?

There are few things in this world that cannot be replaced: those close to you and things that remind you of times with those people are irreplaceable.

Finally the differentiation between wants and needs is a tricky lesson to learn.  We are exposed to a consumer culture that makes it hard for us to even separate these things.   So this part is a gradual process that many of us still find ourselves grappling with.  It has been taught to us from a young age that accumulation of things is better.  The more stuff we have, the better we are.  The psychology of these things cannot be understated; we need to dig deep into ourselves to examine our motivations.

So hopefully this has let you understand a little bit of what truly makes you happy, what to steer clear of in terms of things that we THINK make us happy and help change our thinking to determine our needs and wants.  Once we do this we are prepared to fully determine our true needs and how to arrange our life to live in a Tiny House.

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Tiny House Checklist

Today I have added a new menu item to the main bar, it is called “Ryan’s Tiny House”.  I am going to be covering my Tiny House build in two places:  here on the blog as regular old posts, then also will be cataloging it in the mentioned tab.   This tab will outline the details of the house build in a step by step manner and will be designed for those who wish to build their own Tiny House.

The other thing I have added to this menu is (if you hover over the link, a drop down appears) is my Tiny House Checklist.  This is my master plan – if you will- to allow me to keep everything straight in my head and in the building process. After checking it out, let me know if I have missed anything or should change anything.

Your Turn! – Join The Conversation In The Comments
  • What am I missing on this checklist?
  • Is there anything I should change?


Build It Tiny Workshop – Portland

My good friend over at Portland Alternative Dwellings will be teaching a Tiny House workshop that will  focus on practical solutions for some of the more challenging little house conundrums:

  • Where to place/park your tiny house
  • Code enforcement
  • Insurance
  • Electrical hook-ups
  • Waste water
  • Drum roll please… toilets!

The workshop will provide detailed information from local experts, and a great opportunity to meet others in the tiny house community. It will be an awesome opportunity to further flesh out the details for your little house, and to sort through some of the hard-knuckle decisions associated with a tiny house.  Find out more at her website here

For those of you who don’t know Dee yet, she was one of Jay’s first customers and has started building Tiny Houses for people a while ago.  She is also the great author of Go House Go, one of my favorite Tiny House Plan Books, click the image to find out more!

Sneak a Peek: The Inside of La Casita

After last week’s post, Ryan asked me to provide a peek of the inside of our tiny house and I was delighted to do so! As of today, Cedric and I consider La Casita at 85% completion for the interior. It has taken us much longer to complete the finishing work, which seems is the case with any building project! When we began construction we promised ourselves from day 1 we wouldn’t move in until the house was completely finished, however, fate wasn’t going to let us keep our promise.

It was right around Thanksgiving when we came home to the rental property we shared with a couple of friends to find an eviction notice on our door! We had 30 days to leave the premises and Cedric and I had a tough choice to make. La Casita was roughly 90% complete on the outside. It was water proof, we had a mattress and our electricity worked although there was no running water and out bathroom was incomplete. In the end we made the choice to move in starting in January rather than try to find another lease.

After months of designing we finally installed bench seating in our living/dining room and it has had a huge impact on our space! Now not only do we have custom seating but we acquired an incredible amount of storage space! Our biggest challenge throughout the house is definitely storage and in retrospect we should have considered building more in for upstairs as well as downstairs. As we continue to tackle that challenge throughout the house we learn more about how to design small spaces for maximum comfort and convenience.


Our bathroom is another challenging aspect of the house. It was originally a foot longer than it’s current size but we realized it would eat up too much of the downstairs floor space so we downsized. I also wanted a bathtub and researched Japanese Omnitubs but between the weight and the size we couldn’t compromise our trailer or our living space. We ended up with a stainless steel floor pan and re-purposed corrugated tin for the walls making it a bona fide wet room!  As for our toilet we have a composting bucket system although we are considering switching to an Ecovita design for a more comfortable and classic look. Our favorite part about our bathroom is the window over the shower with a view of the garden!

Upstairs we are always on the look out for storage ideas! Between clothes, books, bed sheets and bags we have had a lot of reducing to do in terms of material goods. I try to keep things organized with plastic storage bins, dresser drawers and lots of up-cycled ideas! It’s a challenge in the loft due to the pitch of the roof. We wanted La Casita to look like a house, not a mobile home, but with the pitch of the roof, along with 7 foot ceilings downstairs to accommodate Cedric’s height, we lost space in the loft. It can make it difficult to find storage solutions for all our stuff. I think between under the bed storage containers and assorted drawers and baskets we’ve finally found a way to make it work.
No matter the challenges we continue to enjoy working on La Casita and improving upon it every day. The great thing about a tiny house is that a tiny adjustment can make all the difference in the use and comfort of the space and that’s how you begin to make a house a home.

Tiny House Cohort

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, I am building a Tiny House!  One thing I have been doing as part of my planning is a lot of research.  Part of that was to talk to a lot of people about their experiences and I found it very helpful.  So I thought I’d see if I could find other people that are building their own Tiny House that are either within a month of starting to build or just started themselves.

The idea would that as we work on our own houses, I think it would be great to do a google hang out with a group of these people every now and then to kick around ideas, share challenges, offer solutions and Etc. We could help each other out with helpful advice and how we decided to do things.

So I figure I’d put a call, do you all know any Tiny House bloggers just starting out?  Are you just starting out?  Let me know!

Your Turn!

Are you about to build or just started to build your own Tiny House?

Do you know other people that are just starting the process?

Are there other Tiny House blogger you know that just started?


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