Stigmas and Steve Harvey.

Stigmas get spread far too easily, I think it’s important to step back and try to find some empathy for folks who cast stones and make an effort to understand.  Then speak up for what you believe in a respectful and meaningful way.  If you just go off spouting back you are no better than those casting the stones, and it’s a waste of energy.   Speak up with actions or words, respectfully.

Steve Harvey recently had a segment that was brought to my attention that I feel I have to use as an example (I have to admit I didn’t know Steve Harvey had a show, I only know him as the Family Feud guy…).   It’s here if you care to see, watch to the end if you will.

Being in the tiny house realm for a while it has been interesting to see… First they were a joke, but not a central one, hardly anyone knew of a tiny house and it was rare to find someone who didn’t openly make fun of the idea, even if they didn’t know they were.  Then things got really trendy, shows were made, lots of people got on board with the idea… because for lots of people it makes sense!  I’ve noticed recently that the pendulum is swinging back the other way.  There is a whole slew of articles coming out that shame tiny houses and tiny housers!

(Side story)

I was personally been interviewed by a large website just before the New Year.  They contacted me, straight out told me they are looking for the ‘dirty side’ of tiny house living, they are ‘tired of the rainbows and sunshine stories being told’ but [the best part] that they ‘are having a hard time finding someone who lives tiny to ‘tell them the truth’!!! I found this to be extremely sad yet funny that right off the batt, they say that they have contacted MANY people and can’t get the story that they want so they are continuing to try to find someone who fits their idea… me.

Fortunately I am versed enough in these interviews to see this as a warning sign that I need to be firm.  I spent just shy of an hour chatting with her.  The interviewer continually tried to get me to say certain things, when I wouldn’t she started making her own sentences up saying ‘would you agree?’ after.  She was desperately searching for a quote that fit her agenda so she could place my name next to it but ALL of it was so wildly far from the truth.  We both ended the ‘interview’ frustrated, neither of us got the other to see their side, I felt like I wasted my own valuable time, she didn’t get what she wanted.  The story just came out a week or two ago and it was riddled with far fetched examples and straight up misleading and misquoted ‘information’, but it fit her agenda… I felt bad for the subjects in the article because I have unfortunately been in their shoes, the subject of a less than flattering story…  it happens all the time! (I won’t link the story because I would hate to perpetuate that sort of thing by helping to up the traffic that sees it with a link)

This person called themselves a journalist yet called me looking to wrap me around her story rather than calling me and finding out the story.  ‘Her editor’ (the person she blamed it all on) had an agenda and they just needed a person to pin it on.  I am glad I was not that person this time.

Back to the point of this… I am all for tiny house coverage.  Facts, opinions, for AND against the idea/movement, whatever you call it.  It’s a big decision, it’s best looked at from all angles!  Unfortunately, we are flooded with opinions stated as facts and now I am noticing public figures openly bashing things which are very clearly not researched at all.  The part that bothers me is that opinions are being stated as facts.  I think unless you have been on the other side it’s hard to know just how far these things have gone off course, so many people have yet to learn that and so they trust certain sources (in my experience, the bigger the outlet the more likely it’s skewed…).  Please be careful what you read and honestly, take ALL of it with a grain of salt.

Steve Harvey flat out made me mad.  He’s not a news guy, I know.  I get that he is a comedian, it’s his job to make people laugh.  He may have had a bad experience with homelessness, that is TOTALLY a different topic.  It’s my feeling that a public figure has an ethical obligation to at least consider things from more than one angle before influencing the direction of his audience.   Honestly, I didn’t agree with any of his ‘points’, they sounded like someone who heard of this idea an hour before cameras went on [may be true], but none of it was anything I hadn’t already heard… until the end.  ‘My dreams are too small’.  ‘I’m stupid’.

Completely uncalled for.  I do not know of a single group of people whom it is ok to say that to and/or about.  That is not funny and if you have to resort to insulting people you should re-evaluate your comic ‘skills’, and that is setting aside all his ‘Christian values’ constantly preached.  His piece on tiny houses was ignorant, dismissive and rude. There are people who want tiny houses, who find hope in the idea, who struggle, he just made them feel bad about themselves…  I face no hardships and he made me feel a little bad about myself, it takes me a second to realize that it only reflects on him, not me and not us.

I want people to know, nearly everything he stated to justify his opinion was completely counter to reality (you don’t work your whole life away for a tiny house, you have a tiny house so you don’t have to work your whole life away, as an example). People are allowed to have different dreams and to make different choices, they shouldn’t be allowed or encouraged (with ratings) to judge others’ decisions and call names.

Unfortunately many people may dismiss what is otherwise a good idea because that his opinion is what they think of when they think ‘tiny house’. The social stigmas are a hard obstacle to overcome and the fact is that there are enough other obstacles to overcome when going down this path without throwing in uneducated opinions…

I just wanted to bring light to the fact that this stuff happens, Mr. Harvey, the ‘journalist’, those things reflect on those individuals, their integrity and their character and the character or the network/outlets they work for.  It’s good to have critics (they make you fight for what you believe) but it’s much better to find your helpers.  When you have your support system it’s easier to shrug off these types of characters… It’s very important though, no matter how insulted you feel that you don’t stoop to the same level, that is unproductive for everyone.  Keep your integrity, hold your head high, do what is best for you because it is YOUR life, there is a great big tribe of folks that will back you on the decision to go tiny.  Pick your tribe carefully (and in this century our tribe can and may include these public figures), you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with… it might be time to turn the channel.  Bigger is definitely not always better!  Tiny dreams are plenty big enough!  I know that from experience!

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Family Update February 2015

Just a quick update since it’s been a bit!

Mr. Miles is getting quite the personality!  He is all smiles and giggles all the time, I am not used to that since his sister is so darn serious all the time!  He seems to be an easy, happy go lucky dude, he barely complains or cries and is getting pretty aware of his body and the world.  He’s been figuring out his tongue and lips, he’s found his hands and always grabs his feet in that cute little baby roll thing some babies do!  (I need a picture of that!).  He had his four month shots and appointment, he’s abut the 60% of weight and height, and has a big noggen!  He couldn’t be any happier and he adores Hazel, even when shes a bit rougher than I’d like.  He’s getting a few teeth which has made him a bit of a chewer but we have lots of teething objects so hes mostly content.

His new sound!

Ms. Hazel is very adventurous ,she is trying every single word we throw at her, shes extremely vocal.  Her first real sentence, if you want to call it that is ‘baby teeth ouchie, me sorry’  I was pretty darn impressed, my girl has empathy, a BIG deal in my book!  She also says ‘Anbesol’ :).  We are working on potty training, she is way more ready for that than I am, I really need to make it a priority!  I am partially scared for that change to occur but I need to buck up, I feel like I just got in the routine of diapers, now I have to get really careful about getting to the potty in public which seems daunting with a baby baby… but I will bite the bullet.  She’s such a laugh, we just love watching her grow.  She is far more social than we ever anticipated, we’ve noticed she ‘targets’ people at parties and get togethers to be her friends.  She doesn’t know how to go about it just yet so usually she will just snuggle up next to them and give them an awkward hug or kiss.  Cracks us up… but she comes by it honestly, I’m and awkward hugger!

This was only 5 months ago and I cannot believe how fast her hair has been growing, it’s still thin by kid standards but she is finally getting hair! :)

James and I are chugging along.  I am working on my 5th tiny house ecourse that is all about the financials.  I have been having such a great experience interacting with all the tiny house interested people in the discussion boards there!  I get so inspired with all of the interest, and I admit my ego gets a bit too inflated with each review :).  It’s been fulfilling my desire to teach very well! I am starting to feel pretty impulsive, like something is going to change soon, the same way I felt about a week before buying my tiny house trailer.  James has been in the same spot.  I think it’s just in a spot to be ‘receptive to change’, it’s just a matter of the right opportunity coming along so that we can seize it.  This picture is one I saw a couple years ago but it just crossed my path again…

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I just love this picture, it looks SO cozy.  Both James and I work from home, we are kind of thinking it would be awesome to have a sweet cozy, in the middle of no where, place to get away to like this.  We went to look at a property yesterday and have another one on our radar.  I have set ridiculous parameters for this build as well (about 15k, including land) so it’s a trick to find a cheap place that fits our needs but we have options!   The plan would be to build a simple teardrop trailer with a kitchen a bed and a generator, then have the living area to go to.  I want to be able to back in the trailer and have all the amenities of home, away from home, I have some schematics going, we will see if it all lines up!  James and I are both pretty excited about prospects but honestly I have no idea how this period of change will end up!

Denver dog is awesome as usual, we just attended the annual Miller superbowl party and he got to play with 50 of his closest friends.  He is such a sweet boy, he can easily reach tables but leaves them alone, even with a pile of steaks on them, many a people were very impressed with his restraint!  We’ve been getting back to the dog park and getting back into the swing of our regular dog things that took a back seat when Miles was born, he’s a big fan of getting his social life back!  He has still been going to hang with James at work since Hazel is so darn bossy with him!  Poor guy still can’t do anything right in her eyes!  Funny, but not fair to him!  She’s getting better though now that we have a sticker system in place, she gets a sticker at night if she was nice to Denver all day.  Toddler logic is simple once you get used to it! 😀

I hope you all have been as healthy and happy as us!

On Relationships

How do relationships fair in a tiny house?  I suppose it has a lot to do with if both parties are on board with the tiny house idea.  It doesn’t have to be for the same reason but all parties need to be vested or else things will get out of balance real fast.  When you ‘get’ to live in a tiny space you view everything a WHOLE LOT different than if you ‘have’ to live in a tiny space.  If you have to, you’re going to get a grudge.

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Either way relationships are work.  If one party is not on board with tiny I have no advise to bring them over (other than visiting a real life tiny house to get a real feel for the space first hand).  If not all parties are on board I will say don’t push for tiny, find a compromise… unless you’re looking for a reason to split ;-).  Houses, tiny or not, are just things.  Things are not as important as relationships.

If single and dating… I can say, before meeting James I had a few ‘first dates’ that I knew instantly were going nowhere.  If you bring up this idea of a tiny house and get a confused or disgusted stare back then that’s actually a GOOD thing, you don’t have to spend any more time going down that path with that person.  While awkward in the moment it streamlines dating!

As a couple this is our experience (James approved this):

James and I are two wildly independent people, who are stubborn as hell. Our relationship was in the beginning stages when I was halfway done with the house, after that honeymoon phase we bickered a lot. Then, unexpectedly (right at the one year mark) we found ourselves about to be parents (talk about a HUGE stress on a relationship). We nearly didn’t make it but because we were in such close proximity we had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment, sat down and had a very blunt and open discussion if it was worth it or not to go forward together. Both of us had an ‘absolutely’ attitude. So we figured out how to make it happen.

We decided to see a counselor, we both have a list that worked out to ‘if he/she could just not be an ass then it would be fine’. It took someone else telling us that ‘he/she is not being an ass, this is how they work through ‘x’, it’s not offensive, it’s a different personality type’ Once that got through to both of us we are able to stand back and appreciate the differences in one and other and not take them as personal attacks… always.

Relationships are HARD. tiny houses will help to either make or break them. It comes down to if you want it or not and if you are willing to put in the work that they absolutely DO take. No one can decide that for you but you BUT a tiny house will exasperate things and push hard on your nerves with one and other causing you to ‘get over’ it, one way or another. You can decide to get over the rough stuff and find a way to understand/deal with it or get over dealing with the rough stuff and walk away. One of those things WILL happen though.

In our case I am SO grateful that the tiny house made things come to a head like that, without it we would have likely spent MANY years ‘dealing’ with those issues by pushing space between us, we wouldn’t be able to show our kids (because we have two now) what a healthy relationship can look like and we certainly would not have gained the appreciation we now have for each other. We do still get on each others nerves from time to time because we are both stubborn children at times (hey, it happens with newborns and the wonderful nights of ‘sleep’ that come with them) but we are learning how to work through that together, because we decided to.  The house definitely spurred that on.

 

It’s Not About the [Tiny] House

This is the first thing I have ever been paid to write, published in the Salvation Army’s quarterly magazine, Caring.

Tiny houses are making lots of headlines these days, you see them everywhere it seems. After designing, building and occupying my own 196 s.f. home it’s funny how often I find myself explaining that it’s really not about the house, the house is just a possession. It’s all about the lifestyle it enables. Everyone has their own reasons to minimize and downsize, mine had to do with creating a lifestyle free of debt, full of learning and creating the flexibility to do what I want with my days, everyday.

There are a lot of uncertainties when you are considering a tiny home, legal issues, location issues, technical construction concerns, explaining to loved ones how you, a single person, let alone a couple or family, can exist in an area roughly equal to the size of the average American’s master bathroom.  It certainly won’t work for everyone and shouldn’t. But if it is right for you, it’s so worth the journey! To create your own home, with your own hands… there is nothing quite so challenging and so empowering.  

Creating your own tiny house is hard, it’s an act of deep introspection, it’s physically demanding, it’s emotionally taxing figuring out what YOU need and want from life. My home is a completely reactive tool specifically for myself and my family, there is no one size fits all when it comes to tiny homes.  Every tiny house is unique because every individual is unique. But living tiny is not about compromising anything. It is about examining what you want from life and making THAT happen for yourself. It’s doing without all of the excess so that the important parts of life can become central.

Tiny House Movement, Trend or Tradition?

There are a lot of people interested in tiny homes for all kinds of reasons, it’s pretty amazing how many demographics the idea transcends, empty nesters, college students, singles, couples, families, etc.  It just makes sense in some cases.  It is not a new concept though, historically houses were much smaller than today. While 200 s.f. may have been a bit on the extreme side of small it was not uncommon, even as a family home.  As an architectural designer, the reason I became involved in the built environment is that I don’t like the ‘bigger is better’ trend, I believe there are ways things can be done better and more sustainably, particularly on the residential level.  We as Americans cannot keep up this pace of using more, less effectively.  I have a personal desire to do more with less and teach that to my family and as many others who are interested.  

As technology has advanced, we are able to condition our buildings via a/c and furnaces, we can streamline the building process by grouping homes in subdivisions (assembly line style) and we have been able to provide more houses, cheap. Designs are done to the lowest common denominator, meaning what will MOST people want.  The shortcomings in reactive design are made up for by adding ‘bonus rooms’ and extra space that can be whatever the homeowner wants without actually considering what the homeowner wants. It’s great that this has made housing more accessible over time but all of that comes with upkeep costs which have also increased over time, heating, cooling, HOA fees, etc.  At this point there is a group of people reacting to this trend who want to do things differently.  They want to get back to reactive houses that cover human needs without being such a drain on time and finances.  They want to redefine what is important in life and be able to focus on that more intentionally.  Unfortunately codes don’t always allow for that.

Most areas require a minimum square footage of a house be maintained which is why most tiny houses you see are placed on wheels, this takes them out of the building department’s regulations and allows a loophole for smaller dwellings.  Even though the houses are on wheels it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to be moved often, most don’t move much at all.  The legal path of a tiny house classifies it as an RV but unlike RV’s they are built efficiently and for longevity.  They can be lived in in all four seasons which is tough in a standard RV.

An interesting thing about tiny homes is that they are not designed for ‘resale value’ like standard housing, but for living value, right now.  They are often designed specifically for the occupants and therefore less universally valuable.  They pay for themselves in savings very quickly and so can be a short term solution to fix financial issues but those who live tiny generally do for longer than anticipated.

When I started my own tiny house journey I took it as a challenge, I was committed to taking one years worth of rent payments, building a house so I could learn actual construction skills and the specifics about various ‘green technologies’ first hand, then live in it for two years so that it could pay for itself. I thought it would be a tough transition from my previous 2,400 s.f. home. I was so wrong. It streamlined my life, clarified my path, my important goals (like being debt free) very quickly became realities and excess complications drifted away. Though the path was extremely challenging, today (well past my two year goal) my priorities have shifted, my worries are few, my wants are minimal and every day I am able to enjoy the gifts given to me in life.  

What it’s like to live tiny, really?

My family and I have been living tiny for two and a half years at this point, our home was 196 s.f. until July 2015 when we added on a small child’s room, bringing our home to 232 s.f.  Currently our family consists of myself and my partner, James, our daughter, Hazel, our son, Miles and our dog, Denver.  When I designed the home it was designed for two adults and a dog with room for growth.  Once we had our daughter we didn’t feel the need to expand but with another one coming we felt the time was right to add a room so that we had separate nap areas for the kids.  The house is designed specifically for us and for that reason it functions very efficiently, with the new addition we foresee the home meeting all of our needs for at least another 3-4 years but it could be longer.  

When people ask me what it’s really like I am always at a loss for how to explain it.  For us it is just like living in a non-tiny house but with more free time and less upkeep.  We have everything we need and want, we just don’t have all the extra space that usually comes with traditional housing.  Living tiny is certainly not for everyone but James and I have always been pretty minimalistic.  We enjoy traveling, spending time outdoors and working on our hobbies.  What is different than a standard house is that our monthly expenses went from upwards of $4,000 a month to around $400, that provided us the opportunity to become debt free very quickly, both paying off student loans, car loans and credit debt.  Furthermore it has provided the ability to be selective about how we earn our income since we don’t need to earn as much.  We are able to work on only projects we love and spend more time being present with our family. I couldn’t dream of a better situation for our lives!

Sure there are moments or even days that it’s not all rainbows but living this lifestyle has allowed us to live with less stress and have the ability to slow down, view challenges as something we ‘get’ to do rather than something we ‘have’ to do.  That small change in perspective means a world of difference between a crowded kitchen being a frustration verses it becoming a fun dance. We relish in our families closeness, both literally and figuratively and wish the same happiness and simplicity for everyone.  

I Updated My eBook!

I updated my eBook!  If you already purchased it you’ve received an email to get the updated version, if you haven’t then you can purchase it HERE.

10 top new year resolutions

That was my goal by the end of the year… I am off by a couple days, better late than never though!   Well, that and getting my eCourses online (big ole check on that one!)

Looking forward…

I am pretty sure there is not a single parent of little irrational people who would describe their lives as organized and tidy… I describe mine as complete chaos SO… resolutions… I don’t think those are a good idea this year, my goal is to get all of my family members to 2017 in one piece preferably and I am going to let that be enough for me :).

I do have some rough goals though, and some that I would love feedback on eventually (they will probably make some other appearances on this site soon).  So, I am just going to put them out in space so there is a little sense of accountability.

  1. I plan to get my 5th and final eCourse online, as of now I have one about codes, construction, systems and design but I completely overlooked the entire financial side of the tiny house so I am putting together an eCourse on financials, how to save money for your build, ON your build, reclaiming, financing, insuring, things like that.  I am planning to hopefully get this done this month but it may go to mid February, we shall see, a lot depends on James’s schedule, and balancing kiddos.
  2. Second, I will be working on the design of our shipping container house.  10557333_760411284025928_6747355267989250031_nI am giving myself until April or so to get that worked out enough to hand off to James.  James is the details guy, I am the general ideas guy, makes us a good team. The base plan is to use 2 40′ long, high-boy shipping containers and arrange them to an ~640 s.f. home where each of our kiddos has their own space, we have ours and since we both work from home, our own office space.  There are a few other features to be included (like temporary expansion space so we can host some family events, with our BIG families), more on that in future posts though.
  3. We have tentative plans to head to Chicago for a bit in March to hang with family. We have two trips to Colorado this summer, one for the SketchUp BaseCamp in June and one for 12066026_1666044140305285_6393677784537308217_nThe Tiny House Jamboree in August (tickets JUST went on sale for that, it’s cheap, come join us!).
  4. I am putting deeper considerations into my kiddos education, it’s early still but I am a planner.  I never thought I would be a ‘home school’ type of person but right now we’re really exploring all of our options, home schooling, road schooling, unschooling, charter schools, international school, public school, they are all on the table (this is one I would really love to hear your first hand experience on, I will have other posts on this soon I am sure).
  5. The fall is when we should start talking to the city and trying to get our container house okayed, we have a few challenges facing us with that but I am hopeful we will be able to find a solution!

Lately James and I have both been noticing the tiny house feeling smaller.  I attribute it to Denver and Hazel, Hazel is at a phase where she doesn’t want to share anything with Denver except the foods she doesn’t want (which he is great with) but it means that she is constantly running around telling him ‘no’ and it’s driving him (and me) mad, he just wants to please her but she’s a small irrational person (who will not be pleased)!  Lately he has been hanging out with James at work and enjoying the break from her demands but I miss him at home! Hopefully this phase is over soon!

Other than that, we did pull Hazel out of daycare/’school’, we were catching way too many bugs and it was starting to effect Miles too, we figured we will at least wait until he is old enough to fight things off.  Honestly though, I missed having her around, it was great to get some one on one time with Miles, we made it mostly to three months with a lot of one on one but now mom has to be shared by both (mwahahaha!!).  It’s exhausting but fun also, now that the holidays are over I am excited to get back into some sort of routine!

Thanks for letting me hold myself accountable with this post! 😉  I hope you are doing very well and enjoying what is bound to be the best year yet!

Tiny House People Recap

Many of you know already about my Facebook group, Tiny House People, if you don’t get over there and join!   This month I started a newsletter for the group because it got so big and is so active sometimes people need to shut off notifications and miss good stuff.  I am sending one email a month (no more, I promise) with the highlight posts, builder call-outs and miscellaneous other stuff like helpful files and special deals for group members.

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If you’d like to sign up for the monthly newsletter do it HERE (I won’t be posting them all here :).

Because this is the first one though, here is was this month’s recap looked like:

Decembers Tiny House People – Top Posts

Picked by me because of the conversations they generated, I consider them the ‘highlights’.

Builder call-outs

We have so many great builders in group, sometimes we all need a little extra words of encouragement.  For me those comments on my blog made all the difference in the world in those rough patches of the build!  My hope with this section is that when you have a moment to spare you can check out these builders and leave a comment on their blogs or send some thoughts of encouragement!  This month I want to draw your attention to:Builder Callouts!

Just starting:

In the middle:

  • I’ll admit, Robert and Samantha (website) are behind one of my very favorite builds currently going, SHEDsistance (facebook).  They are both total sweeties, Robert is an architect, Samantha a pediatric nurse, they are one big adventure story, wrapped in a love story, fitting in a tiny house with sleek design and fancy details.  I always love their updates and time-laps videos (that is just one of many), their build is WELL worth checking out!  Robert is a talented designer very willing to share his nitty gritty details, so there is lots to learn (check out their wall assembly for something completely different!) and lots of encouraging things to say!

Full Time Living:

  • Korie and Alex (website) and their Tiny House in the Big Yard (Facebook) strike my fancy because they are living tiny with their adorable munchkin, Abel, who is just a tad younger than my Miles. I love looking to them to see their own baby solutions for tiny living (LOVE the adorable pictures!).  I also love that they cut out a lot of the building stuff and bought their tiny home, pre-made, it’s a cool perspective to follow along with fixing issues on a house you didn’t make yourself.

I also gave away a seat in all of my eCourses to a group member, if you’d like to join I have a special for a couple more days.  When you use the code ‘Happy2016’ you can join for $9.00.

Codes and Foundations – http://bit.ly/1kqOA6g

Construction – http://bit.ly/1kqOBap

Systems and utilities – http://bit.ly/1Jeh1jM

Custom Design – http://bit.ly/1MFxDvq

Again, if you are interested in this monthly group recap sign up HERE.

Happy Holidays!

xmasmmHappy Holidays!  I just wanted to post a very quick note of appreciation to all of you who follow this blog, I am inspired by you every day even if I have been less active than normal (new babes will keep your hands full!).  I have had a great year due in large part to you, thank you for your support!  I hope you have the merriest of holiday seasons and a great 2016!

 

PS – Starting now, for 5 days only, you can get a great deal on a big bundle package of every Tiny House Magazine published, 36 in total. Each issues is about 60-110 pages of tiny house goodness, if you haven’t seen it before I STRONGLY suggest you pick up an issue or 36! :)  To buy them all would be about $170 bucks normally but for five days you can get them for $49, HERE.  So, if in need of a gift for the tiny house lover or yourself, this is a great one that takes up 0 square feet!

THM

Our Tiny House Story

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