Posts Tagged Tiny House

Making The Leap To Tiny Living – Jody And Bill

Making The Leap To Tiny Living - Jody And Bill

Today we have a post written by Jody Brady, she and her husband had came to the very first Tiny House Conference and through their journey of learning, building their own tiny house and living in it full time ever since, I’ve had them come speak at the Conference.  You can read more about them, their life and their amazing house at: http://simplyenough.weebly.com

This April, we’re happy to return as speakers at The Tiny House Conference in Charlotte, NC.  It will mark four years since we attended the conference as volunteers, trying to figure out if we were really going to build a tiny house. Showing up at that conference was an important part of our “tiny” journey, some six years in the making.

brick house

Our first “aha” moment came almost ten years ago. We were living in a neighborhood we loved, in a big house we’d shared with more family and friends than I can remember now. But they’d all moved on, and there was just the two of us, sitting in our family room trying to remember the last time one of us had been in the basement apartment or the guest room—or the living and dining rooms, for that matter. We lived in a few rooms, but paid the mortgage, taxes, insurance, maintenance and utility bills on the entire 3,000-square-foot house. We realized the house owned us.

Money was only part of what was troubling us. We’d gone to several Solar Decathlons sponsored by the Department of Energy. At these events, college teams compete to make energy efficient homes, but the competition goes beyond energy consumption. Aesthetics, livability, sustainability of materials and cost are all evaluated, as well. Before we’d ever heard of the tiny house movement, it was these beautiful, compact, sustainable homes that inspired us. We saw that it was possible to tread a little lighter on the planet without sacrificing anything.

Add to that, all the time our house demanded of us. Painting the house inside and out took months of our “free time.” Repairing the decks. Landscaping. Cleaning. Not to mention the hours and hours and hours we felt trapped in jobs we didn’t want to be doing just to pay the mortgage.

So, though we loved where we lived, we came to the realization that the house had to go. We put it on the market before we knew what would come next. I was reminded of a phrase from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: “Leap and the net will appear. ” We leapt, and we sold the house just before the real estate crash of 2008. Thanks to that fortunate timing and all the work we’d done on the house, we made a lot of money on it. We also sold most of our furniture. Things I thought I couldn’t part with at first, but quickly came to realize I didn’t miss: a grandfather’s clock we’d bought on impulse, our dining and living room furniture, our dressers and side tables, our second set of dishes, our kayaks. (Well, truth be told, we’ve missed the kayaks more than all the other things combined.)

tiny house entertaining

What made the process easier was focusing on what mattered to us. I love my Grandma Mae’s china—so we kept that and started using it everyday, rather than storing it away for special occasions. I love the antique silver that came from my other grandmother.  That stayed. So did old books and rugs, travel mementos and art. What went: things we could go out and buy again at a store.  Duplicates. Things hidden away in boxes and closets—many of them we’d forgotten we owned. We went digital with our snapshots and music (and made decent money selling off all the CDs.)

We learned along the way how best to get value out of what we were selling. We sold collectibles on eBay, antiques at auction, furniture on CraigsList, household items at yard sales. Every dollar in bought us time to figure out what we wanted to do. When a relative asked us to fix up a condo she wanted to sell, we were ready for this rent-free opportunity to test out living in a smaller space. And with the house and most of our possessions sold, we quit our full-time jobs and didn’t have to look for new ones.

We took our time figuring out the next step. By keeping our expenses at a minimum, we were able to wander through Panama for eight weeks. We drove cross-country twice. We got to babysit our first grandchild.  We could spend time with our parents when they were sick and then be with them when they died. After our wandering phase, we lived in a couple apartments, trying out square footage, and we came to realize that even a one-bedroom apartment was more than we needed.

tiny house event workshop

Which brings us to the 2014 Tiny House Conference. We’d become aware of tiny houses and thought if we could find the right piece of land, we might want to build one ourselves. We had experience fixing up six houses over the years and figured we could learn whatever we didn’t know. Doing our tiny house research, we read about Ryan Mitchell’s conference in Charlotte and realized it would be a perfect opportunity to decide if we were ready for another leap. Around that same time, a friend living in the Blue Ridge Mountains offered us a corner of her land to build a tiny house.  It seemed the universe was sending us a message.

Volunteering at the conference made attending affordable for us, since we still weren’t working. We split up during our free time: I went to talks on design and building techniques; Bill focused on utilities—especially plumbing and solar. We learned more about composting toilets and trailers and, most importantly, we toured our first tiny houses. Seeing a picture or a video on a computer screen is nothing compared to walking through a space, climbing up into a loft, looking at appliances, comparing floor plans, or asking questions of people living the life we were contemplating.

tiny house framing

What did we take away from that conference? Most importantly, we’d made our decision: we would build a tiny house. We committed to that decision by ordering our trailer from someone we met at the conference—Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders. We also bought Dan’s book, Tiny House Design & Construction Guide, which gave us an invaluable step-by-step overview of the building process.

10 foot wide tiny house

Skip ahead to today: We’ve lived in the tiny house we designed and built for more than two years. We love it more than any house or apartment (and there have been many) we’ve ever lived in. The space fits us perfectly. It doesn’t require much maintenance. It requires little more energy than what our solar generator produces. We cook with clean-burning alcohol and do much of our heating with a cleaning-burning wood stove. We compost our waste, and we grow some of our own food. We are truly living our dream: consuming fewer resources and spending our time as we choose.

Which brings us to the 2018 Tiny House Conference in Asheville, NC, where we’ll be speaking about off-grid living and tiny house budget and finance.  I can tell you this from personal experience: If you’re considering the leap to tiny living, attending a conference like this can transform intention to action. Ready for a leap?

Winter is coming: How to winterize your tiny house

The one trick to tiny houses in the winter is keeping your water connection from freezing.  In past years I have been too lazy to actually get my pipes ready for winter, but this year I decided I’d take the time to do it up right.

I should start out by saying that I live in NC, where it doesn’t get crazy cold and we get very little snow.  On average I think we’ll have around fifty nights that drop to 32 degrees or below in a given year.  In many cases it just hits 32 degrees for a few hours in the early morning, which isn’t long enough for my water lines to freeze at all.

This year I decided to do a little more winter prep than normal and insulate my lines.  I haven’t taken the step of putting heat tape along the water line yet because I’m running on solar and a heating element such as that would drain my batteries in a heart beat.  IF I was on the grid, I’d be hooking that heat tape up too.

hook up water to tiny house

My tiny house is connect to city water which I ran to my house.  Since I had to run all the underground lines before the house ever was on the property I opted to use a traditional RV setup.  A frost proof hydrant connects to my tiny house via a drinking safe hose (really important to have a potable water hose!).  The inlet is a RV water inlet that installed on the side of my house.

insulate water lines tiny home

I thought about making something more elaborate, requiring wood working, etc. But when I started to price things out I realized that I was looking at spending $100-$200 which was more than I wanted to spend and honestly it would have taken a good bit of time.  I’ve not done this in the past because I was being lazy, so I knew I needed something that was quick and dirty.

That lead me to this method. I got a single roll of insulation for $13 and already had the trash bags and duct tape. This way I wouldn’t have to pull out any power tools and the entire job took about 20 minutes.

Price: Check.  Lazy factor: Check.

I wrapped the batts like this so that I could get the insulation to snug up against the ground nicely while keeping the backing outward for a bit of durability.  Some duct tape to hold it all together and I was done.

no freeze pipe

Next I wrapped the water hose in rubberized foam which was the highest r-value I could find.  I added some duct tape on the outside to make sure it held together nicely and then bagged the whole thing.

So it isn’t a perfect solution, but the black bag is nice way to keep the water out and the outside looking somewhat presentable.  We’ll see how it goes this winter!

 

Your Turn!

  • What seasonal preparations do you need to consider?

Tiny House Stolen!

It’s a nightmare that you’d never want to have happen, but as tiny houses grow, so will the number of them that are stolen.  Watch this video below:

 

Luckily she was able to find the house, but I thought I’d share a few tips to keep your house safe.  There are a few steps to keeping things safe.  Obscurity, Security and Insurance.

Obscurity

Most of the people who have had their tiny houses stolen have one thing in common, they were in plain sight of a road.  Most criminals are crimes of opportunity. This isn’t some Ocean’s 11 heist; they see the house and they grab it.  It’s important to note that obscurity doesn’t equal security, but if someone isn’t able to see it from the road, if it’s existence isn’t known to many, the likelihood of someone stealing it is much lower.

My recommendation is to always have your house hidden from sight.  This causes less issues with neighbors, less issues with the city and less people poking around in general.  Practically speaking, if you house is visible from the road, you’re going to have people who literally stop their car and peer in your windows, not a great thing when you’re stepping out of the shower!

Don’t forget that while your house might not be seen in the summer months, but when the seasons change, all the leaves will drop.  I often suggest budgeting a few hundred dollars for some evergreen shrubs to plant as screens.

Security

Once you have your house hidden from prying eyes, it’s time to make things difficult for someone to waltz in and take your home.  The very sad truth is that if a thief really wants it, they’re going to get it.  All locks and security measures can be canceled out very quickly.  With the advent of battery grinder wheels, I’ve seen even hardened security locks be rendered useless in about 10 seconds.

Lock The Hitch

If a trailer has a hitch lock, it’s that much more difficult for someone to hook it up and go.  I recommend the hitch vault because it surrounds the entire hitch and the pin is difficult to get at.  I used to use a simple hitch pad lock, but one day I needed to get at the hitch and had lost the key.  I grabbed my bolt cutters and, in literally 2 seconds, had it off.

Get It Off The Wheels

This is one of the most effective options in my mind because it represents a huge obstacle for anyone trying to steal the house.  When you get your house in it’s final spot, you need to get it off the wheels anyway to avoid tire shock and tire rot.

What I do is get the house lifted off the ground until I can remove the tires.  I secure it with solid blocks, then I remove all the wheels.  I hide the lug nuts in another location and put the tires in a shed which is also locked.  What this means is if someone wanted to steal my tiny house, they’d have to jack the house up some, break into a shed, find the wheels, carry them over, put them on and then have the correct number and type of lug nuts to fasten them on.  It’s not that likely and if they could, it would take a fair bit of time, which is time they could be caught.

Have A Mean Sounding Dog

Many criminals often steer clear of dogs because they’re unpredictable.  A good sized dog with a mean bark can go a long way to keeping your house and property safe.

Insurance

This is a controversial topic, but I still think its worth mentioning.  I still maintain the stance that even if you are able to get a policy for your tiny house, if you ever had a claim, they’d never honor it.  I’ve written about how little faith I have in insurance companies for tiny houses here.  For standard things like cars, traditional houses, etc. I feel like it is a good practice for people to carry insurance.

If something goes wrong and your home is damaged, has a fire, flood, etc., insurance is how we mitigate risk.  For tiny houses, I feel it’s better to have a wad of cash in the bank, but each person need to make that decision for themselves.

Your Turn!

  • How are you going to protect your house?
  • What tips do you have to share?

How to have guests in a tiny house

I remember the first time I told my mother about wanting to build a tiny house. After some back and forth about it all, she asked “Where am I going to stay when I visit you!?”

It was a good question and many people have the same question when it comes to living in a small space.  The simplest answer is they don’t stay, you can offer to get them a hotel room and then meet to spend time together.  But some of us want to have folks over.

So here is my guide to how to have guests in a tiny house (or small space):

First thing is I have opted for a cot, which I have measured and at a length of 75 inches, fits perfectly between the end of my counter and the sofa.  I don’t set this up until it’s time for bed because in a tiny house it takes up a lot of room.

You need to consider how you and them are going to get in and out of bed.  For those with a loft, you need to make sure you have room for the ladder and space to climb up and down.  In my tiny house this fit just barley.  Tight tolerances here people!

From there I use a comforter and pillow to dress it up.  I folded it in half so that they could open it like a book and climb in.  If you’ve never slept in a cot, you need some insulation below you because the cool air below will leave you feeling very cold.  A pillow tops the whole thing off.

Next thing you need to deal with is toilet orientation.  People don’t know how to use a composting toilet so you need to give some guidance ahead of time.  Basically you do your thing in the bucket and then cover with wood chips, just enough so you can’t see anything left behind.  For men and women, if you can pee outside (see nearby tree lol) of the toilet that’s the best.  Mixing liquids and solids isn’t the best, but a little won’t hurt.

I have opted for tissues over standard TP because it can sit on the ground anywhere without need of a hanger and I found this perfect box to hold it.  Just make sure you close it up tight after you’re done, we don’t want soggy TP!

I found this Kingston’s Charcoal bin that works really well for wood chips, or whatever we are using at the time.  Other popular options are coconut coir, peat moss, saw dust etc.

Make sure people know where to find a head lamp so they can find the toilet or tree at night and I have hand sanitizer on hand when you are all done.

Meals are often done by going out for dinner or lunch, but if the weather is really nice, we could have a picnic or sit at the picnic table or fire pit.

Showers are fairly standard, but you might find some interesting soap options in the shower because I use all grey water safe products.

There isn’t a sink in the bathroom so you use the sink in the kitchen. There is also a mirror there for your use.

 

That’s about it!  The rest is pretty standard, but I know many people wondered how that all works in a small space.

Your Turn!

  • How are you going to accommodate guests?

Announcing The Tiny Life Book Club

After taking some time to talk with you all in a recent email the idea of a book club emerged from the conversations I had. So we are going to try this first book and see how it goes, if people really like it I’ll setup new books each month. Those who join in will need to get a copy of the book we are reading and the discussion takes place on Facebook.

tiny house book club

 

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