The First Step(s)!
No matter how many times the question is answered via blog post, forum thread, Q&A, book entry, or magazine article, many in the tiny house community are used to being asked
“What would the first steps be if I’m considering buying/building a small home for my future?”
It’s a fine question. There is no doubt to that. But the fact remains that tiny house building (as with many things) there is no right or wrong, black or white, left or right. For every tiny house there is a different thought, process, or methodology. So a few of us had an ongoing conversation in an attempt to combine our personal responses into something more broad and more representative of a greater juncture.
The conversation began innocently enough with Gabe Craft of Small Home Ideas asking, “What steps did you make toward building/buying your small home? Sounds simple enough, right? We found out it was not. Responses came in from around the globe with some folks simply answering, “draw a sketch,” “buy a Jay Shafer book,” and even “find a good builder and buy something from them.” But the conversation got deeper and more people began sharing personal anecdotes and experiences that led to deeper answers and truths that have not yet been written about. For instance Ella Jenkins of Little Yellow Door admitted to backing herself in a bit of a corner.
“Once I had gotten so far as to know that I wanted a tiny house, (there was definitely research and videos and blogs) I just started telling everyone. Like, EVERYONE. The discouragement and doubt were surprising but encouraging to me, and then I’d told so many folks I couldn’t back out!”
This was a sentiment echoed by several others. Victoria Whitcher of Tiny Homestead Freedom added, “My husband and I started telling people too. All the negativity made us want to do it more.” And that is something that comes up regularly; negativity. Whether it be from friends or family or outside influences there seems to be no shortage of strange looks, comments like “it might be good for you but….”, and more! But the tone of the conversation changed rather quickly. We all know the negativity exists but few let it concern them. Most tiny housers ultimately look within to take that first step. Says Dan Louche of Tiny Home Builders, “Start simplifying today. It’s easy, It feels good, and many of the benefits associated with tiny houses can be achieved by simplifying.” Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet quickly added (and even wrote a blog post in response), “Deliberate living is very much a lifestyle that requires active participation. I came to this conclusion after years of following the path of least resistance and wondering why cool things just never happened to me.” The idea of simplifying, searching within, and making deliberate choices in life became the theme it seems.
In her blog post 12 Monthly Resolutions to the Tiny House Lifestyle Macy Miller remarked, “I have heard from a few people recently that are wondering how they can get a little closer to the tiny house mentality/lifestyle. It inspired me to put together a list of monthly resolutions let’s say. These are things that I did, not necessarily over the course of a whole year but they were necessary in order to downsize and make the steps forward from my 2,500 s.f. lifestyle to my 196 s.f. house to see if it was going to work for me.” In the post she outlines steps such as making a list of priorities that are essential to your happiness in a house, asking friends for support, and reconfiguring and downsizing each room of your house. Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life concurred with both an announcement and a though. “The book I will have coming out in June has about 80 pages on how to start, finding your passions, setting goals, and making your way to tiny houses and tiny living.” Derek Diedricksen of Relaxshacks.com and Andrew Odom of Tiny r(E)volutionchimed in with almost identical answers that were a bit less internal and a bit more nose-to-the-grindstone practical.
Says Deek, “Start planning way ahead and read every blog, book, magazine, and view every potentially inspirational video you can get your little mitts on. Then start sketching ideas, and re-sketching ideas, asking questions of those who have already taken the path, all the while stockpiling whatever funky, free, found, and bargain materials you can get. Take the time to plan though- and contemplate all your options before you take action. If not pre-thought out, there’s nothing worse than a “coulda, woulda, shoulda” mentality after the fact.” Andrew added, “First step? RECONSIDER! Seriously. Reconsider. Have dialogue back-and-forth with yourself and whoever you will be living with asking “is it right for us? should we really?” This is not a light decision and should involve mental, emotional, and physical sureness as well as research and preparedness. Don’t get caught wishing you had put a window here or a drawer there!” Kristie Wolfe of A Tiny House on the Prairie spoke up saying “I do have construction know-how but I must say that I just dove in [to building a tiny house]. I had a general floor plan but it greatly changed with the materials I found on Craigslist or at auctions.” Even a general floor plan is enough to make you sure of your process. Sometimes the dreaming about a tiny house can become overly romanticized allowing you to lose sight of the actual processes and effort that will really be needed.
Someone who is familiar with the dreaming as she herself is the subject of many tiny house dreams with her Sol Haus tiny house, Vina Lustado paraphrased quite nicely. “1. Research, research, research; 2. Buy a small house book; 3. Try out a tiny house for a weekend; 4. Assess financial feasibility and if need be, get rid of debt; 5. Make a decision if it’s right for you; 6. Jump in & buy the trailer (or a set of plans)!” What could be more spot on than that nugget of information? Nothing according to Stacey Whitcomb who did almost just that. When planning and building her Just A Smidgeon tiny house she, “[I] started asking for help. Tried to get a feeler for who in my social circle had “know how”. [I] drew up my own floor plan and knew what [I] wanted it to look like. [I] collected tiny housers on FB and watched every youtube video available.” Not typically the verbose one the humble and sagacious Hari Berzins of Tiny House Family agreed with the idea of planning before building and then with great aplomb revealed that she and her husband Karl are going to be launching a much-requested eCourse in a few weeks that will touch on aligning your spending with your values and goals, land selection, downsizing, and even dealing with permits and inspectors!
The conversation was an incredible one with so many tiny housers weighing in with their personal thoughts and responding with signs of support and agreement for each other. Of course the conversation would not be complete without the likes of Joe Everson ofTennessee Tiny Homes just quipping with, “Have a company build it for you for what most people pay to do it themselves!” And perhaps that is the answer in retrospect. Dream it. Contract it out. Pay for it!