Ready? Set? Go Tiny!

by MJ Boyle

The first step in living your tiny house dream is the dream itself…visualizing what you will need, and what you will want, and imaging all the benefits that a simpler lifestyle will bring.

The second step along your journey will involve planning and asking yourself a lot of questions. Where will you park or build it? What will it look like? How will you fit all your stuff into it?

Eventually, however, you’ll have to DO something and I think this is where a lot of tiny house enthusiasts get discouraged. Perhaps they/you think that if you don’t have all the answers for every question you have…you cannot begin building? Maybe it’s lack of money that is getting in your way. Maybe you don’t have the tools, or the expertise to build your own home.

Even if all of the above apply, in order to fulfill your tiny house dream, there will come a time to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and blaze that wonderful trail towards financial independence. And just think…someday you will fondly remember the day you finally decided to embrace your inner child, and be wildly optimistic, and move forward despite your trepidations.

OK…Ready? All Set?

trailer

My Trailer…ready and waiting for the build to start!

I started my Tiny House journey just a few months ago and I would have never imagined how far my vision would take me in such a short time. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t hit a few bumps along the way, but my 24 foot trailer is paid for and in my driveway, the lumber is being delivered in a couple of weeks, I have all my appliances and most of the interior materials stacked around the house and garage, and my tiny house (aka “My Empty Nest”) should be dried in before the infamous Oregon Rains arrive.

Like many of you, I live paycheck to paycheck and I have debt. I don’t have any savings, and I don’t own a home. I don’t have a retirement account, and things like new tires, or car repairs, require careful planning. So, to put it mildly, the financial concept of me building a tiny house is just plain crazy. But, when I stumbled onto the concept of gaining sponsors for my build, it all clicked, and it was just the kick start I needed to get into gear.

So, even though I didn’t start with any money, I was able to move forward…,
…slowly…but forward nonetheless.

Also, like many of you, I didn’t know a lot about how to build a tiny house. I am familiar with the concepts and practices behind “normal” residential construction, but a tiny house is very different. So, I reached out via facebook, and have done hundreds of hours of internet research, and I attend monthly tiny house networking events. Now, I know the difference between a deck-over and a drop-axle trailer. I know the advantages and disadvantages of tiny houses with lofts, and those without. I have met a few movers and shakers in the tiny house world, and have a network of supportive and knowledgeable people.

I certainly don’t know it all, but I now know a lot more than I did when I started!

upholstery

Selecting upholstery fabric for my tiny, custom, living room furniture. So many choices!!

The most fun part of all of this, however, has been “putting pencil to graph paper” and sketching my design. I didn’t start with a clear vision but today I have one. I have stacks and stacks of paper in my tiny holder folder where I keep all the copies of the designs I drew, and re-drew. I listed, beside each design idea, the things I liked best; as well as those attributes that the floor plan was lacking. (no wall space, not enough windows, too many hallways) And speaking of windows, I have a list of the windows I have collected so far with their dimensions. I then numbered them, and incorporated them into my designs, cross referencing their numbers so I know which ones I have left over. (Extra windows? Who’d thunk?) I also have another list with the appliance, loft, décor, and furniture dimensions. I then check, and re-check, and then triple check; to make sure they will all fit where I want them to. (and just discovered that I have to move my kitchen window up, as well as my loft, to accommodate my vintage drainboard-style kitchen sink…sigh…)

I didn’t have money, but I had time, which I invested in researching sponsors.

I didn’t know how to build my tiny house, but my ideas really started gaining momentum when I reached out to others.

I didn’t have a clear design vision, but I started with a pencil and a piece of paper and now it’s gettin’ REAL!

tile

Ta Da! My color scheme is finally finished!

If you feel like you’re stuck in the planning stages, if you’re not able to easily answer all of the questions you have for yourself, and if you’re discouraged by seeing others move forward while you’re still visualizing…..it’s time to shake off the dust and take an active step (even if only a small one) in the right direction.

Ready?
Set?
Now GO!

“Michelle is an outgoing single mom, published author, speaker, patented inventor, blogger, craigslist stalker, enthusiastic Glamper, and Northwest native. Her interest in all-things-tiny-and-old started when she was only 12 years old when she became fascinated with a tiny abandoned farm house near her parent’s home; and she’s been sketching floor plans ever since. With pencil and graph paper in hand she’s more than ready for the next phase of her life. Her Tiny House, aptly named “My Empty Nest”, is the culmination of a life spent dreaming of a tiny reclaimed space, all her own.”

Facebook Page Link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/My-Empty-Nest/494081560700467
Blog link: mytinyemptynest.com 

Tiny House in the Aspens

by Juana Gomez

Gently placed in a mature aspen grove among the columbines, a little mountain getaway provides year-round comfort for two families.

cabin columbines

Who knew when this little cabin was built, that Tiny House would become a Thing!

cabin porch

A couple of years later, a wrap-around deck of reclaimed wood doubled the living space.

lantern

the loft

A loft sleeps up to seven people

A Life Lived Under The Earth

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Nearly five years ago (in 2009) a reader named Dave sent Tiny House Blog information regarding the Shorpy Historic Archive. One of those images is shown above and is a dugout house built by homesteaders Faro and Doris Caudill with Mount Allegro in the background in Pie Town, New Mexico. (titled: The Caudills at dinner. 35mm Kodachrome transparency by Russell Lee.)

At the time it was classified as a Tiny House In A Landscape. But as the history of tiny houses continues to be written it seems that these underground homes share a number of qualities with modern tiny houses.

Pithouse illustration

Imagine this. You have moved out to a destination unchartered. There are no cities or roads in your view. The closest Wal-Mart is anyone’s guess. You subsequently have no bricks for foundation, no lumber for framing, and no vinyl for siding. What do you do? Without being able to take refuge in a cave you may turn to the very ground you are standing on. And why not? People have been doing it for centuries. And while many in the tiny house community may not be using the earth for their homes they are using the materials most readily available to them; pallet wood, reclaimed lumber, reglazed windows, and the like. 

The dugout or pit house, with sod roof, log walls and earthen floor, is among the most ancient of human dwellings dating back at least 5,000 years. 

The process is rather simple (if by definition and not actual labor). Dig a square hole in the ground between four and five feet deep. Construct a slanted roof above it using poles, brush, and even dirt. This collection of materials would not only keep you cool and out of direct sun in the summer but also relatively warm in the winter.  The secret was that our ancestors took advantage of the earths temperature which we now call earth sheltering. It is a practice of building walls for external thermal mass; to reduce heat loss, and to easily maintain a steady indoor air temperature.

A cut-in of an early pithouse courtesy of ilovehistory.utah.gov.

A cut-in of an early pithouse courtesy of ilovehistory.utah.gov.

As time progressed dugouts or pit houses looked less like ground burrows and more like shelter entrances to unimaginable, earthen comfort.

James Barton came to Republic County, Kansas, in 1871, from Marshall County, Iowa, as a young child. His parents homesteaded near modern-day Cuba, Kansas. Looking back on the family’s trip by covered wagon, Mr. Barton remembered that it “was a mighty long and hard walk from Iowa to Kansas for a seven year old, barefoot boy!”

The following paragraphs are excerpted from an account of homestead days that Mr. Barton wrote in 1936.

In the spring [of 1872] father built our dug-out. Now you young folks, who think your pretty homes are not comfortable enough, you should have seen our first Kansas home — one underground room, dirt floor, dirt roof, and fleas and snakes for company. You never saw so many fleas– we always blamed the buffalo and buffalo grass for these fleas, for all sod-house and dug-out families had them.

Our first crop was cut by father and a Mr. Zavodsky with a “cradle” scythe, — a hard beginning for our parents, but how we children enjoyed the pretty country– miles and miles of “Blue-Stem” in places three and four feet high, and just a lot of fun to play and hide in! There were no roads — no towns — no churches — no schools — no doctors — and no railroads… When father went for provisions, it took him about a week to drive it with oxen, where you young folks now could motor it in an hour and a half…1

Or perhaps not so comfortable!

An Oklahoma dugout photographed c. 1909. The family is probably sitting in the only available shade.  Source:http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004665280/ From a picture postcard series by J. V. Dedrick

An Oklahoma dugout photographed c. 1909.
The family is probably sitting in the only available shade.
Source:http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004665280/
From a picture postcard series by J. V. Dedrick

prairiebluestem.blogspot.com/2013/02/memories-of-homesteaders-dugout.html

To continue down yet another tiny house history rabbit trail consider starting here!

To view a video tour of the dugout home made famous by Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie click here.

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]