dream big, get tiny

The home you live in should empower the life you want to live.

Create the life you want.

Find the thing that makes your heart happy, and DO IT. Right now!

A little over a month ago, on an overcast Labor Day celebrated with copious rest and red wine, my girlfriends and I snuggled up in my living room to watch a documentary called TINY. Have you ever done something seemingly pedestrian that ended up changing the direction of your life? That afternoon on the couch lit something new inside of me. A fire. A longing. All of a sudden, I saw the path I’d been searching for in the dark. For the last month, I have immersed myself in tiny house research, contacted tiny home builders and bloggers, and spent hours collecting ideas on Pinterest for a tiny house of my very own, because all of a sudden I see my path.

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There is a movement made of baby boomers and college kids, hippies and lawyers, wealthy and formerly homeless, environmentalists, minimalists, DIYers, and curious gypsies who have decided that the traditional model of “get career, make money, buy home, fill it with stuff” is not for them. Tiny housers are people who want to free up their income to travel and save, who want to leave a smaller footprint on the earth, who feel trapped and suffocated by the sheer volume of stuff in their lives and want to get back to the basics. They’re sick and tired of working their butts off to make enough money to buy stuff they don’t need, and pay for a house big  enough to hold it all even if they only live in 2 rooms of that house. They’re sick of paying for storage units. They’re interested in taking better care of the earth and her resources. They’re prioritizing quality of life over quantity of items acquired. And I’m going to join them.

I closed on my house on October 1, 2010. It was my 5 year plan. I wasn’t sure if I would want to rent it out after 5 years, sell it, or stay put for a while longer. I was pretty confident, however, that I was looking at around 5 years in my first home. It’s been exactly four years, and I love my home. I have loved everything about living here, and I’m not in a rush to get out. My priorities, however, look nothing like they did four years ago. Four years ago, I was in a relationship that I thought was headed towards a marriage. I wanted to know that, as a 22 year old single woman, I could stand on my own feet. I wanted to know that I could take care of myself before I got hitched to someone and we started taking care of each other. I had this ridiculously well timed opportunity to get into this place as they were breaking ground, which meant I could hand pick everything that went into my home. It has been a dream, living here. And now it’s time for the next thing. Now, at 26 years old, I know I can do the homeowner thing, but I want to try it in a different way. I’m planning to sell this home that I love and build a tiny home.

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Tiny homes are usually built on wheels, although you could absolutely put one on a foundation if it met building codes. My plans are for a home build on an 8′ x 24′ trailer, with a loft for sleeping. Yes, that means my home will be 192 sqft, plus the size of the loft. Currently, I’m in 1600 sqft. Why the trailer with wheels? Most cities and counties require homes to meet a minimum square footage in order to be classified as a primary residence, and the codes for these structures are not friendly to tiny homes. Building the homes on wheels allow tiny houses to be technically classified as RVs or accessory dwellings, which have much more flexibility as far as codes are concerned. The trickiest thing is finding a place to park your tiny home, as many cities also require an accessory dwelling to be on a property with a primary, full sized residence. (Anyone in the Nashville area interested in leasing part of your backyard to me, let’s grab coffee and talk.) The long term benefits of tiny house living, for me, make any logistical trickery completely worth the temporary hassle.

The most attractive part of this whole thing, for me, is that I’ll be able to pay off my car and build my tiny house with cash from the equity in my current home. The idea of owning my home outright, paying off every penny of my debt, and freeing up my income for travel, savings, trainings, and giving makes too much sense to do anything else. Why, why would I keep giving my money to the banks, the creditors, and the freaking HOA when I have an opportunity to get out from under all that and live the life I want? The idea of downsizing my life to fit exactly what I need into just enough space for my pup and I to be comfortable, and owe zero pennies to anyone is the most liberating thought. I want that life. I want a life where I can buy groceries for the person behind me at Kroger without having to stress about if I can afford it or not. I want to know that I can fly across the country to visit a friend whenever I need to, because my money isn’t tied up in a mortgage, car payment, and all the accompanying bills every month. I want to sponsor and mentor a yoga teacher in Kenya without worrying if I have enough extra to pay the expenses. I want to return to Africa each summer without the use of a credit card. I want to know that the money I work for is working for me, not paying off the banks that own me. I want freedom.
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Tiny homes demand far less in the way of maintenance, obviously, and they can be incredibly self sustaining. Some TH people are completely off grid. I hope to have a solar panel to power my TH, and tap into city water. Less stuff equals less waste. Less space equals less energy required to heat, cool, and power. Everything has a place in a TH. I’ll document this process, because the decluttering, purging, and simplifying will be an adventure in itself. I want to share the TH planning, building, and living process with you guys, too. There is a large, well connected, incredibly supportive community of TH bloggers out there. I’ll be one voice in the mix 🙂

So, I’m getting tiny. I’m getting rid of a lot of stuff. I’m garage selling, Goodwill donating, inviting friends and family to get what they want, and getting ready to put my first house on the market. Dad and I are going to build this tiny house with our own hands, because I think that’s sacred. We could use a builder, but I want the experience of using my hands to build my home. I want to learn how to put in my own electric and plumbing. I want to know the bones of my house. I want to invest my time and tears as well as my money into this project. I’m not sure how long it will take, and I know I’ll have moments where I feel completely crazy, but that first night that Lucy and I spend curled up in our little home will make it all worth it.

Some people get it. Some people love it! Some people look at me like a second nose grew out of my forehead when I tell them my plan. I didn’t expect that, although I probably should have. I expected skepticism, but the resistance has been surprising. This kind of life, I recognize, is the opposite of what marketers and tech companies and big box stores preach at us every day about the amount of stuff we need to accumulate, and the myriad clever ways we can organize and display all of it. I get that. But freedom makes so much more sense to me, now. It’s helpful that I’m stubborn as hell and give exactly zero damns that some people will think I’ve lost my mind. What I’ve lost is the desire to keep working to pay for stuff and a place to put it all. What I’ll gain is independence, freedom, flexibility, discipline, and a space for simple living.
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This path makes so much sense to me. I can’t wait to see where it leads!

And also… Why not?

For more information on tiny house living, check out Mini Motives, Tiny House Swoon, Huff Post Tiny Homes.

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One Comment on “dream big, get tiny

  1. Have you heard of earthships? There is a guy in Gallatin who is building one. (Hmm he had a website but it isn’t functioning anymore). I really want to build an earthship or convert my current home into a much more sustainable one.
    I love tiny houses as well though! 🙂

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