By Alyse Nelson
How much house does it really take to be happy? Some people are taking a hard look at the question, and discovering that the answer is: not much.
These “tiny housers” are bucking the idea that “bigger is better.” Their homes, ranging from 800 square feet to less than 100 square feet—a far cry from the 1000 square feet per person that has become the North American norm—take many shapes and sizes. And the people who live in them are as diverse as the homes themselves. Some hope to save money on housing; others hope to “live green” by choosing a smaller space; some are trading living space for a neighborhood they love; and others want to live closer to family or friends.
Photo by Flickr user irooshka
Dee Williams’s story starts with her questioning her lifestyle choices. After helping build a school in Guatemala and watching a close friend fight cancer, Williams reevaluated her priorities. “He was getting sicker and sicker, and I didn’t have the time or the money to really throw myself into helping him. I was spending a lot of time and money on my house. So the house was the easiest thing to try to get rid of,” Williams told Yes! Magazine.
“I started really wondering if the cost of owning a house, of maintaining a house, of remodeling my house, was really kind of socially what I wanted to be about. So I decided to bite the bullet and go for it!” Williams said in this video. So she sold her 1,500 square foot Portland home and built an 84-square foot tiny home for $10,000.
Her 8-foot by 15-foot home is parked in a friend’s backyard in Olympia, Washington. She helps out with household chores in exchange for the space and drinking water. She lives with just a few outfits and shoes, but also is mortgage-free. This has allowed Williams to work less and spend more time and money investing in giving back to her community.
Williams’s story has spread far; because she’s been featured in national news more than 20 million people have viewed (in person or via video) her tiny home. She received the 2008 Governor’s Award for Sustainable Practices in Washington State. Now she co-owns PAD—Portland Alternative Dwellings—a tiny house company that holds workshops to help future tiny housers get their start.
Photo by Flickr user irooshka
But the help tiny housers need most isn’t advice about building or living in a small space; it’s navigating the maze of regulations they’ll confront as they downsize.. Some cities set minimum size requirements for dwellings. Others say a recreational vehicle can’t count as an ADU, which is typically how a tiny house is categorized. This means “you can camp in your little house, but not live in it,” writes Williams. Williams helps other tiny housers navigate the regulatory barriers that come with tiny house living.
Through her activism—and her lifestyle—Williams is helping create a wave of interest in tiny homes that local governments cannot ignore for long. Williams proves that even if your house has a tiny footprint, you can still live large.
Bio: Alyse Nelson is an urban planner for a small town in Kitsap County, Washington. She is a Writing Fellow for Sightline Institute. This post is adapted from a full article published here:
By Alyse Nelson
While attending graduate school in Portland, Oregon, Lina Menard didn’t rent an apartment or live in a dorm. Instead, she lived in a tiny house. During her tiny home tenure, Lina has learned to live and love tiny spaces. Lina became a tiny-house advocate, organizing tours of small homes, learning about the regulatory barriers of tiny home acceptance, and interning at PAD and Orange Splot, where she helped build tiny houses.
Lina Menard with her possessions, sitting outside a tiny home she lived in for 10 months. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.
After spending almost a year in a 120-square-foot tiny home, Lina has a good idea of how to live well in a small space. “I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I’m much happier when I live with just the things I like best. My relationship to stuff has shifted dramatically over the past year and a half. I’m much less materialistic than I used to be. But I really appreciate the little touches, too. It’s not about deprivation, but about intension,” Lina told me.
Lina’s tiny home includes a sleeping loft that she shares with her cat, Raffi. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.
When you’re measuring square inches rather than feet, every detail counts. Lina’s tiny home features a dining room table that expands to fit guests, a window seat that doubles as extra seating for big meals, and lots of windows to let in natural light. Every single possession Lina has in the home has to serve a purpose, but she doesn’t mind: “It’s liberating to not feel tied to stuff,” she told OR Magazine.
Embed video with Lina’s tiny house:
She recognizes that tiny-home living isn’t for everyone, but thinks there’s a way to broaden its appeal: the “cohousing” model, where tiny homes would be coupled with shared kitchens, laundry facilities, guest rooms, and even amenities like barbeques, workshops, and gardens. “Tiny cohousing would just push the envelope,” Lina writes in her blog. “People who lived in a tiny house community would have access to all these things, but they wouldn’t have to own all these things themselves,” she explains. Continue Reading »
I received a note from my friend Dee Williams about an upcoming workshop and wanted to share it with you as the time is fast approaching. I wish I could make this one personally as it would be a lot of fun and is near where my daughter lives. Here is what Dee has to say.
I wanted to drop a note to ask a favor. I know you’re swamped and in the middle of your normal awesome life, but I wanted to let you know about some up coming workshops being hosted through Portland Alternative Dwellings (www.padtinyhouses.com). It seems there’s a rush of activity right now with great workshops on the horizon, hosted by Jay Shafer’s new company Four Lights Houses, Yestermorrow Design Build School, Tumbleweed, Deek Deitrickson’s Relaxashacks, and others.
PAD is excited to be a part of such a dynamic community of tiny house enthusiasts. VIVA LA TEENY TINY!!
PAD is hosting a two day Tiny House Design Workshop on February 23 and 24th in Portland Oregon. This same workshop will be repeated in April. We’re focusing on the nuts and bolts of tiny house construction, codes, moisture control and energy efficiency and systems (meaning poop, showering, turning on the lights and cooking up a meal… not necessarily in that order). Our classroom discussions will be anchored by a half-day tour and discussion at POD 49, a pocket community that includes a tiny house and two big houses. Folks can sign up for one day (Saturday or Sunday), or both.
In June, we’ll be hosting a hands-on Tiny House Building Workshop complete with tools, sunscreen and a big o’ can of LET’s DO THIS!
Would you please consider helping to get the word out about the workshops… blog it, blab about it, bang a drum or otherwise broadcast our work, and send folks to our website (www.padtinyhouses.com) for more information? Also, if you’re interested in attending, we’d love to have you there… just let us know ASAP so we can reserve a spot for you and immediately begin to ice down the beers (or other appropriate celebratory libation).
Again, we appreciate being a part of the tiny house world that was in part created by YOU!
Portland Alternative Dwellings
Following is a letter from my friend Dee Williams.
Hope you are well and enjoying this October! It is beautiful out! I’m forwarding this to you with the hopes that you might consider posting a notice about it on your blog, or with your tiny house network.
In the past couple of months, my company Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) has been working on a new look and focus. We recently reorganized, and now will offer more workshops and consulting services.
Our first ‘Build it Tiny’ workshop is coming up this November 10th. We’ll 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, wastewater and (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.
In the spring, folks can join us for another workshop: a hands-on, tool wielding weekend workshop focused on building a little house!
Our new website: www.padtinyhouses.com offers more information about PAD and the up-coming workshops.
Hope you are well and enjoying the last bit of summer!
I have had the opportunity to look at the plans first hand and am impressed with the quality of information and drawings included with the plans. The plans include very important information like how to secure the floor, walls and roof to the trailer so you will not worry about it coming off as you are moving it down the road.
Included in the plans are building basics, general engineering, the house-to-trailer connection and framing for the Vardo.
A great description of the lamination process required for making the hand-set rafters in the Vardo are also included so that you can replicate Katy’s fine work. The plans include 22-pages of information, illustrations and drawings. Katy, Dee and Tammy have done an excellent job with these plans and I think just about anyone will be able to take these plans and build their own Don Vardo.
Click here to view more details and click on the “Plans” page to purchase.
I am excited to announce the Grand Opening of Katy and Dee’s Portland Alternative Dwellings website and business. I introduced you to Katy and Dee’s Don Vardo construction in a couple previous posts. One showing some of the workshop and one of the construction of the Don Vardo and one offering the Vardo for sale.