Summertime and the Living is Easy


Sunday was the official start of summer and typically living in Portland means a sense of desperation by the time June roles around.  The rain and clouds sometimes make their way into what should be the summer and it makes a person ready for some much needed sunshine. This was one of our dilemmas when considering life in a very small space. We moved in at the end of July last year and wondered if the first few months were so enjoyable simply because we spent so much time outside. Picturing the weather changing and the use of outdoor space declining made me wonder how it would change our feelings for the house. We will be coming up on a full year soon and I am happy to report the weather never gave us cabin fever.  There is nothing like a cozy space with lots of windows that has everything you need or want.  We have actually had an unusually nice year in Portland and it has felt like summer has been brewing since February. But…I won’t say I am not excited for the gloriousness, the magic, the pure bliss of summer in Portland, OR.

FullSizeRender (8)IMG_4330I have a passion for summer, I put summer on a pedestal.  Summer represents all things fun, amazing, and carefree.  I get a thrill from seeing rhubarb in the store because to me nothing says summer is coming like rhubarb for sale.  Before the start of summer I like to make a list of things I want to do while the weather is nice, things like berry picking, backpacking trip, Brew-cycle, sunset picnics, paddle boarding, and the list goes on.  Often it is too much to accomplish in one summer but it inspires us to take advantage of any free time we do have.

Our plan has been to live in the tiny house for at least a year before purchasing a house, then use the tiny house in our future backyard to rent on Airbnb.  Adam will be done with Academy in July and we have decided that a couple months of good old-fashioned summer fun are much needed.  Last summer Adam built this house while working full time and with our current plans of buying a house to re-model, it would be nice for him to have some time between Academy and home renovations.  Plus, we love it here and can’t think of a better place to spend the summer.  We live next to a 90 acre park so it feels like we are surrounded by nature, on the other side of us we have a lively neighborhood with restaurants and bars that we love walking to on summer evenings.  

This year has gone by so fast, but it feels like we really lived it to the fullest.  Looking back at pictures from this year I realized how many new things we did or became interested in.  Adam is really into fly fishing, and I mean REALLY.  I climbed my first mountain with my dad.  I think the tiny house has a lot to do with it.  Its amazing how fast a year can go by, and when you reflect on it nothing out of the ordinary happened, it just got filled with the day-to-day busyness that all seems to blur together.  That still happens occasionally and in no way am I suggesting I have unlocked the secret to living life.  I just think we have had the opportunity to be less in our own world and more out in the world.  Without being surrounded by a larger house filled with our belongings that remind us “I really need to finish that project” or “why did I buy that” we can focus more on the moment and how we ultimately want to be spending our time.

I hope you all have a memorable summer!

Adam & Chelsea

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The garden beds Adam built
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This was in the Spring, BLOOMS out every window!
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Our resident fireman
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Our resident porch sitter
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I Married a Cabinet Maker


You know when you are really busy in life and you still find time to build cabinets all by hand? Me either…but I live with a mythical creature who did just that. _IGP4794 There were a few things that didn’t get finished in the house before Adam started Academy, the biggest was the kitchen cabinets.  Until now we just had open shelves beneath the countertop, which worked fine, just didn’t look as nice as finished cabinets.  I didn’t think Adam would have the time to try his hand at custom cabinetry, but a couple of months ago he decided to start working on them.  He likes having projects to work on and it seemed to be a nice break from studying and thinking about work.  Though he has never built cabinets he did an amazing job!  He added some great features that we couldn’t have had when purchasing pre-made cabinets.

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IMG_0883 I would give the cabinet-maker 6 stars out of 5 on yelp
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They are the same color as the exterior of the house
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Countertop is birch butcher block from ikea
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The bottom drawer is designed for dog bowls, they will be recessed in and out-of-the-way when needed.
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Leaving the drawer half-open for access to the water dish will be much better than having it on the floor and constantly kicking it over!

Another update we did recently was to paint the exposed plywood walls. Originally we had white washed the plywood and really liked the look of seeing the wood grain, but after a few months it seemed like the walls looked more yellow than white. We realized that we probably should have put a stain-blocker on first to seal the wood and prevent any oils in the wood from bleeding through. We ended up putting on a coat of stain-blocker and then painting all the walls the same color (Designer White). I really liked the wood walls but this made a big difference visually, it looks more finished and brighter overall.

http://www.stikwood.com

I recently discovered Stikwood and think this will be the next addition to the back wall in the house.  If you haven’t seen this stuff check it out, I recently discovered it and wish I had known all along! It is real wood but cut super thin, it has adhesive backing so you can create accent walls, headboards, anything really!  http://www.stikwood.com

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This pullout is great for stool seating
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I think its safe to say Jesse has fully adjusted and is enjoying her small domain

What it does to you

Would you like to know what happens to somebody after living in a tiny house for  over seven months?  Somewhere in the back of my mind I thought spending over half a year in under 200 sq. ft had to either send your body into adaptation mode and you would shrink a little bit, or it would shift your perspective so much that you would see the world differently.

Adam and I have talked about some of the things we have noticed throughout our seven months here, often it comes up when we ask each other “why do we like it here so much?” Although part of that question remains to be answered we have come to a few conclusions and revelations about life in the tiny house.  Yeah things are going to get deep…

1. We like each other

We knew we liked each other and didn’t expect that to change but living here has made it clearer than ever.  If we didn’t like each other this definitely wouldn’t be going so smoothly!

2. When you follow your heart and take risks good things happen

This blog got its name because in the end the good that can come from taking a chance to achieve a goal will ALWAYS outweigh the potential risk of it failing.

3. Maybe we are laid back

We like to think of ourselves this way but who really knows?  Living here for the last 7 months has been surprisingly easy.  Yes there are inconveniences, frustrations, and all of that but we have embraced the good with the not so convenient.  I often have people tell me about how they would handle living in a tiny house “it’s not for me” “that’s cool, but I could never do that” “I like my space too much” “I would kill my spouse.”  After hearing these dramatic declarations I find myself wondering if I’m missing something, or if my breaking point is yet to come.  I have since realized maybe we have a quality that allows us to easily and happily live in a place that many couldn’t.  Both of us have always adapted to new environments easily and living in a tiny house has been no different.

4. The root of happiness 

This isn’t a new revelation of course.  My family never placed importance on having nice cars or a huge house.  While studying abroad in Ghana I learned this valuable lesson . Ghanaians are some of the most joyful people I have ever met and many of them had few material possessions.  What they did have was a close family and the basics needed to live.

The mechanic shop near our house, maybe they would accept hugs as payment?
The mechanic shop near our house, maybe they would accept hugs as payment?

5. Though stuff is nice, you feel pretty free when you aren’t surrounded by it

I will be the first to admit I am not a minimalist but I have enjoyed the feeling of having everything you need and not much else.   Adam isn’t exactly high maintenance,  the only thing I can remember him saying he wanted in the house was a cool bottle opener.  Luckily we have space elsewhere to keep our camping and outdoor gear otherwise it may be different but he is a man of few necessities.

6. Its BETTER than we imagined

The fact that Adam and I are very optimistic people combined with the fact that we dive into things quite quickly should have guaranteed this tiny house thing to either not work out or be far less enjoyable than we thought.  We are delighted that this has been one of those cases where the reality of the situation is actually better than what we had pictured.  We had decided that if we hated living in the tiny house then we would just move out, but we don’t so we’ll stay.

7. Perfect 

Now, don’t get the idea that life in the Redmond Estate is always rainbows and butterflies.  We love it here but that doesn’t mean things are always perfect.  It is harder to entertain, hard to use a foam roller inside, impossible to get a running start and slide across the floor in socks, harder to bake and cook elaborate meals, hard to slam a door for dramatic effect if Adam and I are having a fight (but not impossible).  Though there are small sacrifices we have had to make they have all been easy to do without or work around.  We may not see the world totally differently and haven’t had any shrinking happen, but we have found a better understanding of what is important to us and what we need to be happy.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

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Typically getting in the Holiday spirit for me involves a few key things:

1. The Christmas tree hunt– This is by far the most important tradition, and was practically law in our family growing up.  We have never set foot on a Christmas tree lot or tree farm in all of my existence, well there was the year my mom came home with a tree from a lot, we were stunned and confused.  Anyway… we like to forget about that year.  The weekend after Thanksgiving we get a $5 permit and head to the forest to find an inevitably  homely looking tree with tons of natural charm.  This year was no different except the tree was about 1/4 the size.  Adam even felt the need to yell “timber” as he sawed down the little Doug Fir using a plastic butter knife or something with similar strength.

2. Collecting insane amounts of evergreens, sticks, pinecones, red berries and other natural flora to make wreaths out of, or simply drape on any open surface that can use a little Christmas cheer.  This had to be toned down quite a bit  this year due to size restrictions and lack of surface area but was still possible.

3.Making and decorating sugar cookies –This one was not achievable in the tiny house, in-fact sometimes it barely feels possible in a regular sized kitchen; the rolling, cutting, baking, frosting assembly line moved to my sister’s house this year.

4.Giving>Getting – This may sound cliché but nothing makes the sentiment “it is better to give than to receive” more true than living in a tiny house!  Each year we like to do something for people we don’t know.  Usually we take cards and Christmas cookies to homeless people.  This year we tried something new.  We “adopted” a family through a local charity and based on the information given about their situation and needs we bought items for the family.  The idea was to focus less on buying and receiving gifts among our families and instead help out a family who really needed it.

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Charlie Brown could see the beauty

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I want to prepare you for what you are about to see…if like me, you imagined living in a tiny house as an opportunity for a simple, minimal lifestyle where everything has its place, then you are right, but that Feng Shui can be thrown out of whack REAL FAST.  Let me reveal a glimpse into the reality of living in a tiny house, or at least my occasional reality.  You see, everything may have its place but what happens when you have 15 Holiday packages to create for instance?

This does…

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BEFORE and…… AFTER

I usually just laugh and send a picture of the chaos to my co-workers.  Doing any kind of project is tricky, and for my job I often have them.  When I have tasks for work like organizing 30 pairs of demo running shoes I do it at a friend’s house.  This hasn’t been a problem necessarily, just a change, a slight inconvenience.  The silver lining is spending more time with friends!

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Christmas morning sunrise

Christmas was different this year, not just because we had a smaller tree or less presents for each other, but because we woke up Christmas morning on the North Shore of Oahu and the day before Adam had no clue we were headed there!  We had to cancel a two-week vacation we had booked to Peru when Adam took the job with Portland, we paid a change fee to the airline and had to use the vouchers before February.  He had 4 days off at Christmas and we decided to use them for a mini-vacation.  Two weeks before I saw that flights to Hawaii had dropped in price and I asked Adam if he was ok with me surprising him with a location, he is always up for these kind of shenanigans!  I packed our bags and kept it quiet.  He didn’t find out until I met him in the car wearing a snorkel as we headed to the airport on Christmas Eve.  Though it didn’t feel like a typical Christmas, eating at a food truck for Christmas dinner and basking in the sun turned out to be a special way to celebrate without the distraction of presents and production of a big dinner.  We missed our family but it was just what we needed.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!  2015 is full of possibility and we hope good things come to you whatever they may be!!!!

If you build it

While making this slideshow I realized we purchased the 8×22′ trailer that our house sits on February 25, 2014.   July 16, 2014 was the day we pulled it from Eugene to Portland where we now live.  It is amazing what you can accomplish when you have no other option. We decided the best way to make this dream happen was to allow ourselves no other option.  It was Tiny House or the streets.

Let me back-up a bit…Portland has been our home for the last 7 years, but in 2013 Adam was hired by the Fire Department in Eugene, OR, it was an exciting opportunity coming from a smaller Department outside of Portland and he took the job.  During the first 6 months I stayed in Portland but eventually moved down too.   Though we didn’t plan it this way, the house we rented was an ideal situation for building the tiny house.  We started building it with the goal of finishing the following winter.

Adam was building on his days off and I would help when I was able.  In June he got offered a fairly unexpected position with Portland, a month before he would need to start.  It was not an easy decision, he loved the people he worked with and it meant another dreaded fire academy along with canceling our big trip to Peru we had booked in September. Portland felt like home to us and this had been his dream job for years so he couldn’t pass it up.  This meant we had 30 days to either finish this house or find a place to live.  We decided this would be the perfect year to live full time in the house, he would be busy with academy and we would save money, plus where the heck would we put a half finished house.  At first we looked at places as backup and quickly decided we were not going to consider anything else because it was distracting and didn’t get us any closer to the end goal.

I am good under pressure, I do my best work in -fact, but this was a whole new level of pressure.  Not only was the house just a wooden shell with no insulation or electricity but we had no idea where we would put it in a month when we moved it to Portland.  We would joke about the Wal-Mart parking lot or parking it down by the river but even those were looking like real options two weeks before the move. Adam was working from the second he got up until late at night, on days when I was home I would do the same, friends would help out some days.  We were making progress.  My family came down for the weekend and my uncle ended up staying the entire last week working as an unpaid saint sent down to help us not be homeless, don’t think we would have been here without him!

One week until our move date, I was in Utah for work, Adam doesn’t panic and he was panicking.  I told him “if you build it they will come” He may not have been amused by the Field of Dreams reference at the time but I truly believed I would find us the perfect spot in less than a week.  It was the least I could do while he was  working around the clock to finish while I was away for work.  Calling him with the news that I found a place was exciting, but the fact that it was  basically in our old neighborhood and on a half acre right against a 90 acre park was a proud moment.

The grounds on which the mansion sits (we could have just moved into that little playhouse I suppose)
The grounds on which the mansion sits (we could have just moved into that little playhouse I suppose)

I know many people living in tiny houses spend months downsizing, unfortunately  with the unexpected move and desperate need to finish the house we had not gotten to this step, or even began packing our 1,400 square foot house at all until the DAY BEFORE.  Moving is already a pain but this move will make all stressful moves feel like a sunny picnic in the park.  It was one of those times you look back on and don’t know how you did it.  There is the sheer terror of taking your 10,000 lb home down the freeway for the first time without knowing if it would fall apart.  There was also the fact that after two solid days of no sleep Adam would be starting his new job.   It wasn’t pretty but we did it and for that we are grateful.

It has been five months already and living here has been the easy part.  It has never felt too small, even when we bump into each other in the kitchen or hit our heads in the loft. Despite all of its flaws and extreme tiny-ness this house feels like home to us.  It surprises me everyday how much I love living here.

Lots to Love

When we first set our minds on building this house we didn’t want to lose excitement or give up on the idea so we became very focused…for me this came in the form of finding small things and exclaiming “This would be PERFECT for the tiny house” like the small utensils pictured below.  Adam’s method was simply saying “Tiny House” at random points throughout the day to keep us on the right track and avoid any fading enthusiasm. It seemed to have worked!

useful equipment: only smaller
Very first purchase for the house: mini tongs and spatula

A Few of the Things We Love:

  • Tiny House Jokes– Adam and I don’t take ourselves too seriously, and if we did we would have to stop immediately because living in a tiny house is hilarious, not only is everything in general more humorous when done in a tiny house but there are naturally situations that occur that are pretty darn ridiculous and we love to entertain our friends and ourselves whenever possible. http://vimeo.com/dawnjones/small-house
  • Delighting curious strangers with a tour– Our house faces the park which attracts lots of pedestrians, I’ll never forget the first morning waking up in the house… realizing that two cars and a small gathering of people had formed on the edge of the lawn. It was odd feeling on display at first but we learned to embrace it, or at-least laugh at it. We get questions like: “That’s a garden shed right?” or “Is that one of those IKEA houses?” Once in a while we meet strangers that we are especially fond of and we invite them in to see the house (which never takes too long).  
  • Company: One of the biggest challenges of living here is not having the freedom to have as many people over as we would like.  We reach our capacity pretty quick around here but having people over has been one of the highlights in the house so far.  It’s always our closest friends, the ones up for an adventure.  I love being a gracious host as much as the next person but some luxuries just aren’t possible when you are working within these dimensions.  Our conversion rate is solid with 2 of the 4 visitors on their way to building their own tiny houses.
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Garret, Carlee and Cooper
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My sister Katie and her boyfriend Alex
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Playing Games Taking Names
  • Laying with our heads out of the window in the loft- We haven’t installed the skylight yet so this is the next best stargazing option and it’s awesome!
  • Watching sunsets from the deck– Nothing makes an Excel report seem more enjoyable than this view.

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  • Watching our dog find the most plush places in the house to plant herself:
If there is a cozy blanket or soft surface this dog can find it and work her way under it!
If there is a cozy blanket or soft surface this dog can find it and work her way under it!
  • Turkish Bath Towels– These things were made for tiny houses.  I’ve actually always wanted these, tiny house or not, they look awesome and the colors are far superior to any normal towel I have seen.  They are very light and don’t take up as much space.  They are made from a curly cotton that is extra absorbent and quick drying.  I don’t think I’ll ever go back to regular towels even if I had a bathroom the size of two tiny houses.  http://www.indigotraders.comTurkish TowelsTurkish Towels

The Interior

Welcome to our house….Get comfortable, this tour may take awhile, I plan to cover all 176 square feet! I didn’t go into depth on each photo so feel free to ask us questions.  I didn’t show the loft in this set but will do that in the near future…

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Though we started to joke that we may end up in a Wal-Mart parking lot, that is definitely not the case! Our house sits on a 1/2 acre lot that looks out onto a huge park in SW Portland, we are very fortunate to have such an ideal location in the neighborhood we love.
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We Just installed our little fireplace, the Dickinson P9000 propane marine stove
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This is a salvaged RV stove/oven that we found on craigslist. So far it has worked great!
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The pop-out we built over the trailer tongue allowed us to have a washer/dryer and some extra counter space in the bathroom. The Splendide 2100XC: a vented washer/dryer miracle machine.
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Another Craigslist find was our ‘apartment size’ refrigerator. So glad we went with something this size rather than a mini-fridge, it always feels like we have plenty of space.
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Our original shower was a galvanized stock tank for the basin, full of rustic charm but an epic failure. We realized the base was leaking and decided not to risk it. This new basin definitely makes the shower bigger which is great.
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You don’t always know if your decisions make sense until you live in a space and realize what works and what doesn’t. I am so happy we went with a good sized single basin sink in the kitchen. The faucet, is from a recycled building supply store, sink is from ikea.
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_IGP3483_IGP3514 It took awhile to find the right couch, one that converts into a bed, is comfortable, small, and looks good. This one has the option to have the arms at 3 different levels so it becomes more compact when needed.

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About Us

Adam and Chelsea:

Some may wonder what sort of people live in tiny houses and we wonder the same thing.  Apart from ourselves we have never met anyone who does.  Naturally it creates a bit of curiosity –  if you are curious, here is a little about us: We met in a class at the University of Oregon.  I was an art major, Adam was studyingphoto (67) Human Physiology.  I wasn’t too sure about him at first but he wasn’t worried about that little detail.  We have been married for four years and live in Portland, OR.  Our third partner in crime is our Coonhound, Jesse.  We adopted her six years ago,  as I’m sure you’ll discover, she has a pretty plush life – despite the fact that she seems  a bit less excited about the tiny house concept than we are.

 

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Jesse on the 22ft. trailer that is now our house

Adam is probably the most positive person I have ever met.  He is also extremely capable.  I am spontaneous and always full of new ideas and visions.  I have realized throughout our marriage how lucky I am to be part of this equation.  Though many of my ideas don’t stick the ones that do are sure to happen if Adam is involved.  We make a good team. Adam is a Firefighter/Paramedic and I work for the best Running brand out there.  We are fortunate to have jobs we love.  We are also fortunate that this season in our lives is conducive to living in such a small space without going crazy.  We love spending time together but any couple in-touch with reality knows that living in a house this size with another person could potentially have its challenges.  I travel often for my job and Adam has long days.  We love it when we are both in the house together but the majority of the time that is not the case.  We have never been homebodies and much of what we enjoy doing is outside of the house anyway. The most exciting thing about our decision to build and live in a tiny house is that it was our choice.  I think some people feel sorry for us when they hear we live in a tiny house, maybe they think we had no other option and can’t seem to wrap their head around why we would voluntarily live in a place that is “the size of their closet.” This reaction happens fairly often, but far more often we are met with enthusiasm and admiration.  It is becoming rare to meet someone who has not heard about tiny houses.  This makes the whole thing easier to explain, and for that I am grateful! Though I love a good challenge and often make it my mission to generate so much excitement about our house that even the Debbiest of Downers has to get on board I am also learning to become ok with those occasional negative reactions.  This choice is allowing us to focus on the things that really matter to us in life and revealing how simple and beautiful life can be when you live without extra space, extra stuff or excess bills.

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The BIG Idea

This year will be one to remember, one we will want to re-live often, a year where the mundane daily tasks in the tiny house will seem so novel to the ‘future us’ .  I’m sure we will reminisce often about that crazy time we built a tiny house and lived there.  The ‘current us’ – my husband Adam and I – have just moved into our tiny house and so the adventure is just beginning.

Before last Christmas, I had never heard of a tiny house, I was in Powell’s the big daddy of bookstores in Portland, OR.  I was searching for a book on building a tear-drop camping trailer.  We had talked about doing this, and for Christmas I wanted to get Adam a book on it.  No luck; – however I did find a book called Tiny Homes: Simple Shelters, and that was that.  I wrapped it up and requested we open one present early because I couldn’t wait to show Adam how much more sense it made to build a tiny house instead of a tear-drop trailer.

About two months into my new obsession with this tiny house concept, during one of our many brainstorming sessions Adam said “Why not?…We can either look back and talk about that idea we had to build a tiny house, or we can look back and remember that tiny house we built.”

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Fast forward to August 2014 and we have been living in the “Redmond Estate” for about two months.  As you can see, this blog was not created to be a record of our process or of each step in building.  The method behind this madness shall remain somewhat of a mystery, mostly because we were far too focused on just finishing the house throughout the building phase.  Plus, that’s not as much fun to write about.


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Adam can make just about anything from wood but had never built a house.  The closest thing was the chicken coop he built when we tried our hand at urban chicken farming a couple years ago.  I had no building experience either but it seemed manageable; it’s hard to be intimidated by such a tiny little structure, but as with most things it was harder than it looked.  Adam did the majority of the building, getting advice over the phone from his dad who was a contractor. He helped us come up with necessary dimensions and plans for each step. I found a house on Pinterest that I liked the layout of and designed it based off of that. We read books, watched You Tube and learned from frequent mistakes.

I highly recommend creating a to-scale model
I highly recommend creating a to-scale model
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I also highly recommend becoming weirdly obsessed with the accurate details in the model, twisting wire into miniature hangers is a valuable use of anyone’s time.

Why, you ask, would we want to live in a tiny house?  Good question…  Adam and I have always lived our lives by following our hearts, dreaming big and not over-thinking things.  I can’t put my finger on why I felt so strongly about the tiny house.  It was a very quick revelation, like many of mine tend to be.  We care about the environment and it’s a huge bonus that living this way really decreases our impact on the environment; however this was not a driving factor in the decision, nor was the idea of minimalism.  We just envisioned ourselves living in one and thought it sounded pretty great.  It also seemed practical in many ways, and that helped us come to terms with any thoughts that we were doing something completely crazy.  We don’t plan to live here long term, though I am almost surprised at how easy and smooth the last two months have been. Our goal is to experience a year living in the tiny house.  We don’t think we could ever sell this house after all we put into designing and building it, and after living in it a year I know we will be even more attached. The versatility of the house will allow us to use it as an additional space eventually, or as a little cabin somewhere, or a number of other options.img_42244.jpg We have loved the simplicity so far and have enjoyed living here more than we even imagined.  It has been an exciting journey so far and we are looking forward to more adventures to come.