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:
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!
“Honey, I Shrunk the House – by 1,377 Percent”
A local Seattle-area family has just built a new home that’s only 159 square feet. They’re part of a national movement toward smaller, more sustainable housing that is taking root in the Pacific Northwest.
Seattle, WA, February 16, 2012 — This week, thousands will converge in Century Link Field for the Seattle Home Show (February 18-26, 2012) to browse the latest trends in building the American dream. However, they’ll likely miss one of the fastest-growing trends: living in tiny homes that are sustainable, flexible, and often mobile.
To learn more about tiny homes, you need to venture a few blocks north to a gathering of fewer than 100 people: the Tumbleweed Tiny House Workshop held the same time (February 25-26, 2012) at the Pioneer Square Courtyard Marriott.
One Seattle-area resident planning to be there is Sharon Read, with a tiny home in tow. She’s just built a new home that is only 159 square feet – 1,377% less than her family’s current dwelling. With classic Craftsman styling, beautiful cedar siding, and lots of windows to let in light, the tiny home has a kitchen, a “great” room, an office, a bathroom with a tub/shower, and even a washer and dryer. The home also features two sleeping lofts that have room for two queen size beds and storage.
The home’s foundation? A sturdy 22-foot steel trailer, meaning the home is portable and can be positioned anywhere.
While Read and her family hope to live in the tiny house as much as possible, the home is also the show model for Seattle Tiny Homes, a company Read founded to build high-quality, custom tiny homes – both portable and stationary – that can be used as primary residences, vacation homes, guest cottages, auxiliary housing for elderly relatives or college students, or an office or studio.
Read and Seattle Tiny Homes are part of a growing movement of tiny home advocates that is spreading across North America – and taking root in the Pacific Northwest. Spearheaded by Jay Shafer, called the guru of the tiny homes and author of The Small House Book (learn more at www.tumbleweedhouses.com), the movement touts the freedom and flexibility that tiny homes offer – plus the “green” advantage of a greatly reduced environmental impact.
The public is welcome at the Tumbleweed Tiny House Seminar. To register, visit www.tumbleweedhouses.com/workshops/seattle/. Classes will be taught by Dee Williams, a tiny house pioneer and co-owner of Portland Alternative Dwellings (learn more at www.portlandalternativedwellings.com).
Read’s new tiny home – all 159 square feet – will be on display and open for viewing during the seminar. For exact times and location, contact Sharon Read of Seattle Tiny Homes at: