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

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.

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.