My friend and fellow blogger Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and her husband Logan just fulfilled a dream of theirs and moved into a tiny house.
The home was designed and built by Dee Williams and Katy Anderson of Portland Alternative Dwellings based in Portland, Oregon. I asked Tammy to give us a video walk through of her home and asked her a few questions also. Included in this post is her video and a photo gallery of their new home. You can view more photos of the construction of their home here.
Kent: As a couple living in such a small space where do you go to find your own private space?
Tammy: Logan and I both have solitary jobs. I’m a writer and he’s a scientist. During the course of the work day we both spend a lot of time alone. During the mornings, evenings and on the weekends, we enjoy spending time together. Even if our jobs weren’t solitary that would still be the case. Logan is my best friend and I love spending time with him. If I need alone time, I go out for a walk, practice yoga, or meditate. I don’t need a big house to find my own private space.
Kent: Will you do most of your cooking in your house or do you eat out regularly?
Tammy: I’ll do both. Logan and I have a tiny stove that runs off denatured alcohol. Logan baked cornbread for an office party and we made an amazing vegetable stir-fry for dinner last week. In the past our routine has been to cook mostly at home, however, we also love eating out and Portland has a great food scene. For example, the food carts offer a wide range of choices and it’s relatively inexpensive.
Kent: What type of plumbing, etc. is used in your home to take care of gray water and black water?
Tammy: I have a simple plumbing set-up in the little house; one pipe goes into the house and one goes out. A garden hose attaches to a valve on the exterior of the house and it runs to a kitchen faucet that is used to do dishes. For drinking water, we filter water from the faucet using a simple Berkey Light water system that sits on the counter.
I have a small wet-bath to clean-up, but right now I don’t use it because I shower after my yoga class and Logan showers at his office.
Gray water from the kitchen sink and wet-bath drains flow together into a single pipe out to under the house and is currently caught in a five gallon container under the house. We use the grey water to irrigate ornamental trees and shrubbery and so far we have been producing about 1.5 gallons of grey water per day (or less). Black water isn’t an issue because I have a composting toilet. The composting toilet is based off the model in the Humanure Handbook. Composting is a huge topic, so if you want to learn more, read the book.
Kent: How did you find a place to park your mobile tiny home?
Tammy: When I started looking for a parking spot, I emailed all of my friends and posted a flyer on the blog too. There is uncertainty when it comes to parking a little house, especially if you don’t have land of your own and I was scared we wouldn’t find a parking spot within the city limits. Moving to an RV park on Sauvie Island was an option. But the commute is a little too far for us, especially since we don’t have a car.
Eventually, acquaintances heard we needed a place to park and offered their backyard to us in exchange for rent. It’s in a beautiful neighborhood and I’m incredibly grateful to be in such a wonderful spot.
Kent: Is it legal to park your home where it is?
Tammy: The planning department has not integrated little dwellings into the city code yet. So technically, the little house isn’t illegal or legal. However, the City of Portland has been receptive to these types of homes. The history of small, mobile food carts is a great example and a wonderful precedent to Portland’s tolerance regarding alternative buildings within the city limits.
The primary purpose of city code is to make sure homes are safe. Our house is built to the International Building Code and was inspected by a certified electrician, plumber, and contractor. In addition to being beautiful, our french doors serve as an easy entry for emergency personal, in case of a fire or illness. Taken together, these features help planning department officials make a better appraisal of the structure.
If you’re thinking of building a little house, check in with your city planning department. In addition, be sure you get inspections by certified electricians, plumbers, and contractors to verify the dwellings safety.
For more information regarding tiny home construction details, read Go House Go.
Kent: What would you suggest to someone wanting to change their lifestyle like you have.
Tammy: First, give yourself time. It took us 4 years to pay off our debt and downsize to a tiny house. Some of my friends have been able to downsize really quickly and that’s great. For me, that wasn’t a reality. Part of simplifying required a huge shift in my mindset and that took time. I had to stop looking for happiness at the mall. I learned to focus on cultivating my relationships instead of worrying about stuff.
Second, focus your life situation. Living in a 150 square-feet isn’t for everyone and that’s okay. Ask yourself: How much do I need? What makes me happy? What amount of space will fit my family’s needs?
Finally, you need to practice with what you have. When we first started downsizing we cleaned out one bedroom of our two bedroom apartment and treated our big home as a smaller home. For instance, Gregory Johnson of the small house society started by renting out his house and downsized to only one of his bedrooms.
Kent: Do you have such amenities as power, internet, etc? If so how do you go about getting it for a separate unit from the main house?
Tammy: Yes I have the Internet and power. However, I am still tied to the grid through the main house. We’re sharing a wireless internet connection with the land owners and we’ve plugged into their house to get electricity with an outdoor extension cord. The little house runs off a 15 amp power source.
More questions? Please visit the FAQ page at RowdyKittens.com. Thanks!