We’ve Moved!

Hello friends, family, and blog followers…

You can now find all of the most current updates and information about “Our ‘tiny’ Home” at http://www.ourtinyhome.us

We’ll see you there!

Mitchell and Nicholette

 

 

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“tiny” Synchronicities

Spring came early this year, sweeping us off our feet with a gift in the form of a warm, blue, Spring.  Nicholette and I have been thankful for our new ability to spend more time out in our community, gardening, and dreaming about what the next few months hold for us.

On one such beautiful Spring day last week I made an early morning call about a listing I had found on Craiglist the previous evening.  “Green Anchors Seeks Green Tenants”, read the title.  They advertised several different projects that they currently had going on including art projects, aquaculture, and even a Tiny Home building project (with space for more!).  We treated ourselves that morning with a cup of coffee at our favorite local coffee shop, the James John Cafe and dreamed of what opportunities awaited us at Green Anchors.  We tried to envision the space, and discussed some of the potential benefits of building at a community space rather than our driveway.  We also spent some time manifesting what we would need from the space: a safe place to build, knowledgeable community, flexible landlords, and most importantly something within our “tiny” budget.

Around 1:30 we wound our way down towards the water next to the bridge.  Did we find it?  There was no grand sign to let us know we had found our destination.  We parked our car and walked across the street to our destination, our destiny!  As soon as we passed through the gate, we knew we had found something outside of the industrial norm for this part of the Willamette river.  A converted shipping container with large solar panels on top, an enormous plastic dome, a converted school bus, and a tiny house being built under a tarp stretched between two shipping containers.

“Are you Matt?” we asked to a man who was standing outside of the converted shipping container.  “No, I’m Miles” he replied.  As it turns out, Miles operates his own solar panel business called “LIGHTHarvest SOLAR”.  We talked with him briefly about the tiny project we will be starting this Summer, and he assured us that he would be able to help us when it comes time to talk about setting up a tiny power source.  We walked a little further and found two guys working on restoring an old tug-boat.  “Are you Matt?” we asked “No, I’m Mark, but this is Matt” he replied.  Matt and Mark cousins who purchased the stretch of river (a former brownfield) that is now home to Green Anchors.

Matt and Mark led us on a formal tour of their space identifying the enormous dome as an art piece that had been made for a trade show and later donated by the artist who “just wanted it out of his yard”.  They showed us the current tiny house project  and told us that they had spoke with another couple who is interested in taking on a similar project this summer.  They pointed off to a corner of the lot and told us that it was where they planned on clearing space for tiny projects like ours.  The “tiny corral” I immediately thought.  We envisioned ourselves working next to another couple while we build a sustainable house to propel us towards our “tiny” lifestyle.  While it seems that all tiny housers have different reasons for going tiny, all are making a decision that is firmly based in their values.  I spoke with Mark briefly about my schooling, our move to Oregon, and what “going tiny” represents for us.  He told me that he had walked a similar but different path.  Having made the decision to give up real-estate after the market changed, a decision that had afforded him a great majority his time back.  While Mark now lives a much smaller existence, he is excited to spend his days outside working on projects he is passionate about.

Mark asked me what we were expecting to spend on a 25’ X 25’ space to build our home.  I told him that we were planning on spending 3-5 months getting our house framed, and ready to compete against the wet Oregon fall/winter, and that we had decided that we had $600-800 to spend on the space.  Mark frankly stated that while it looks like they’ve got “a lot going on here”, they (like most start-ups) have spent their first year struggling to keep their heads above water.  For Matt and Mark, as well as for us, their life largely about striking a balance of supporting the ideas and projects they find important and valuable while still remaining financially stable.  We all agreed that $150 a month would be a sustainable number for all of us.  We left Green Anchors with our spirits high and our minds reeling with all of the things we would need to accomplish prior to starting our tiny home building project.

After returning home we set out on a bike ride to capture the last few hours of sun for that day.  We rounded a corner and nearly ran in to a tiny home built on the back of a pickup truck.  As we went for a closer look, a man and a border collie poked their heads out from the “front door”.  The man, Chris, informed us that he and his wife, Sarah, were traveling the country giving out free “pie to the people”.  Being relatively well connected with the online tiny house community movement we were familiar with these two pie-o-neers and their story.  However, we had no idea that they were traveling this way and staying less than a mile away from us in North Portland.  We were given a sticker, and told that we should meet them at Pioneer Square at 6pm for a free slice of pie.  On a day where everything seemed to be synchronistically lining up for us, we felt in some way as though this was a “slice of our destiny”.  We made our way home, and down to Pioneer Courthouse Square to meet this couple, pick their brains, and eat some pie!

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Sarah and Chris told us that they were traveling around the country for the next 6 months to spread the word that people really still do nice things for each other.  We sat with them and their border collie Shalosh.  Their message is that even though we may complete something wonderful (such as baking a pie) that it in fact took many people to make that single act possible.  And, considering that, why would we not want to share said pie with the people…  and if we all shared a bit of what we are able to create, how might such a simple act inspire and influence the rest of our community.

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An aside: “tiny” worries, self-doubt, and learning to be happy

 

“I want to make a social commitment to following this thing thru”

I said to Nikki as I registered for my ‘wordpress’ account.  If nothing else, my experience in Behavior Science has taught me a few things about managing my own behavior.  One of the strategies we discussed as part of a “individual behavior change project” was the impact of social commitments.  It has been proven that by verbally committing to alter a certain behavior or set of behaviors, we are more aware of our own behavior.  The key to social commitments is that there are socially mediated consequences.  For most of us this basically means that we have been socialized from a very early age to seek the approval of our social groups and wish to avoid be perceived a “failure”.

In all honesty, I considered deeply for a moment whether I wanted to publicly commit to our plan of completing our own “tiny home on wheels”, and launching our new-and-improved sustainable-dream-lifestyle.  For as long as I can remember I feel like my identity has been plagues by being the guy who considered every possible reason why a plan or idea might not work out.  Maybe we didn’t have the skills, maybe we didn’t have the resources, maybe we didn’t have the community.  Why would I begin to write publicly about this project, when we didn’t even know where we were going to build it?  This type of worry and doubt is deeply part of me.  In my youth I was labeled a “negative” child, and I am a self professed “worrier”.  I am slowly learning to embrace this as part of my Taurus birth sign.  On the positive side of this zodiac gift is that I am practical, stable, determined, reliable, and patient.  As I progress through this life, I can’t help feeling like it’s part of my task to use my strengths to address some of the things I identify as my weaknesses.

The answer to my feelings of self-doubt was that this is an exercise in learning to believe that anything is possible.  In trusting in myself, my partner, my community, and the universe that if I am committed, all of the right factors will align and make this dream possible.  And this blog has served as a way to bend my own arm in to staying connected to that vision.

I would be lying to say that I don’t have those types of doubts on a daily basis.  I’ve encountered social reminders such as people asking questions about the progress.  My initial reaction is to feel like I haven’t made enough progress.  Luckily, I do feel like we’re making lot’s of intangible progress.  For me, this type of progress comes with learning how to simplify our lifestyle, working with tools around the house, learning how to cultivate and process food for our family, working on our personal relationships, forging new relationships, and the list continues…

The bottom line is that we have lot’s to be thankful for.  There are many gifts in each day, and I want to make my life about looking for the things to be happy about.  There is a song from my childhood called “Don’t worry be happy”.  I remember singing and dancing around when the song came on down in our basement.  Maybe it was because of the catchy simple chorus “don’t worry, be happy” or maybe because even at that young age it was a simple reminder to be happy.  When I came across the song this evening I felt like it was a reminder from my past, present and future, to remember to be happy wherever we are in the process.  Needless to say that I look forward to making it part of our regular playlist.

I also look forward to getting in to some more “nuts and bolts” of the tiny house project over the next few weeks.  As always, please feel free to share any ideas or insights you have along the way.

Don’t Worry Be Happy- Bobby McFerrin

-Mitchell

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For me, “tiny” is synonymous with…

I recently discovered a woman named Rebecca Lerner, and her blog (http://firstways.com).  While stumbling around her digital offerings, I came across a short film she created titled “Waste Not, Want Not”.  The film is well done, and covers subjects from dumpster diving and community gardens, to wild foraging, highlighting some of the philosophy behind each.  I eagerly watched the video while my imagination took me to 100 different places.  Seeing ourselves living out on the countryside, taking afternoon walks to forage for our dinner, briefly tending to our expansive gardens, and creating a nourishing meal with our friends and family.  I realized that this is one of the many reasons why “tiny” works for me.

This caused me to think, what are my reasons for living tiny?   “How small will it be?”A co-worker recently asked me.  She gasped as I told her that our house will measuring roughly 130 ft/sq.  “But there will be a sleeping loft!” I added.  She stretched her arms and legs out to the side and said “I would not be able to live somewhere I can touch both walls”.  She continued, adding that she has spent much of her life desiring to get in a substantial space to call her own.  It is very true that “tiny living” is not for everyone.  I have decided to expound on some of my reasons (many are covered briefly in the “tiny manifesto” page).

For me, “tiny” is synonymous with “creative”.  I have realized that one of the major reasons why “tiny” living is so enchanting to me is that it pushes me to make everything (even the smallest details) in to a creative exercise.  Whether it’s conceiving an idea for a composting toilet, or figuring out how to re-use materials for our house, it pushes my brain to work in a way that is very different from the way I was pushed in school.  Yes, school has equipped me with many tools that further my free-thought and creativity, but at it’s core it was about deadlines, proficiency in a knowledge-set, and rule following.  In living tiny, it seems as though the only “rules” are those we self impose (and I am actively resisting setting up such boundaries for myself).

For me, “tiny” is synonymous with “beautifully sustainable”.  A concept that continues to reveal itself as we work on simplifying our lives.  I bask in the profundity of the idea that if we pair down our lifestyles, our possessions, and our excesses, that we emerge in a beautiful balance of simplicity and sustainability.  It’s entirely gratifying to have gained back my time, and to invest it back into pursuits that help me continue to live a life rooted in my values.  It’s exciting to me that by consuming less, and giving back with what I have, I can help to insure that the abundance will continue.

For me, “tiny” is synonymous  with “my own”.  Not something bank owned, to be taken away, or indebted to a credit agency.  Not something that was quickly thrown together by someone who holds their profit margin as their first interest.  Let me also clarify that “my own” means something that was co-created by a community that has a shared vision. Something that is owned by a collective consciousness that dates back several thousand years (before McMansions were the fad).  In that way, I see “tiny living” as a way to become more in touch with myself, and to draw on the wisdom of indigenous people, who are so much better equipped to live “in harmony” with this earth.  I will no doubt continue to ruminate on this idea as we design, create, and construct our tiny house.

We have much to learn, and we are open and ready for the task at hand.

Thanks for reading,

Mitchell

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“tiny” building science

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.” -Gloria Steinem

Our “tiny” home building project will no doubt begin with an immense amount of skill building.  Over the past few weeks I have been continually humbled as I delve deeper in to the mental exercise of contemplating and problem solving the individual stages and task required to build our own home.  Much of it seems very intuitive, and I am very confident in our ability to “learn as we go”.  The differences, for me, appear to be in the detailed nuances of each task.  This can make the difference between spending several comfortable years reveling in our tiny work of art or cursing the day we didn’t take the extra time to consider a better way.  In an effort to organize my thoughts, I’ve began to consider the different tasks in the order they’ll need to be completed.  First up, the ‘envelope’.

“Envelope (n) 1. A flat paper container with a sealable flap, used to enclose a letter or document.    2. A covering or containing structure or layer.”  (Oxford American Dictionary, 2012)

In house building, the term ‘envelope’ refers to the outer shell of a building (the floor, walls, and roof).  I was pointed in the direction of a series of blogs posted on the subject of building science and tiny homes (http://2cycle2gether.com).  The author describes how in a zen like way building science seeks “to protect our home from the elements and shield it from the negative results of human habitation”.  The majority of what I read concerning the envelope was aimed at limiting the effects of water and air exchange.  We should embrace the idea that at some point in time water inevitably will make it’s way past the water barriers we have established, and our design must give it a proper place to escape.  This can be achieved through a delicate balance of trapping and releasing air and water.  This will no doubt result in a tiny home that is more efficient, comfortable, and sustainable.

I also learned about an insulation called “dense pack cellulose”.  It is a “blown type” of insulation that is more efficient than fiberglass, doesn’t allow air to pass through it, and does not lose thermal efficiency during cold weather.  There are many other subtle techniques discussed, many of which I will have to read again and again.

Although it’s felt like a few slow weeks of learning, dreaming, and planning I know that each inspiration takes us one step closer to making our tiny dream a reality.  For the moment we will continue to look for a suitable space to build our home, continuing to dream and plan, and laugh, and learn along the way.

-Mitchell

Much of the material and I’ve mentioned and directly quoted was taken from (http://2cycle2gether.com/2011/02/tiny-house-building-science).  Please visit their blog for a first hand account of putting the principles of building science in to action.

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Inspirations

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“Love is our main inspiration”

Our living room floor is officially covered in books.  Currently the subjects of said books include (but are not limited to) small house design and furnishing, basic carpentry, finish carpentry, green building, table saw basics, food preservation, permaculture design, and good old general home building.  It is also important to note that Nikki and I spend our evenings together (with the dogs) watching “Bob Vila-esq” videos regarding specific aspects of home building (window installation, plumbing a sink, composting toilets, etc.) and tiny house design.  As we watch, Nikki sits with a book in her lap telling me about different building basics to consider (R-Value, plywood types, siding options, etc.).  It is a somewhat of a home building stimulation overload, and I love it!  We’ve been having so much fun connecting with other people’s blogs and watching their progress as they surmount many of the hurdles we will soon face.  We gather a few notes from our videos (specific brands, subtleties, what to avoid, etc.), and then we each sit at our respective computers and search craigslist for materials.  “I found a few rolls of window flashing for $24” Nikki says from the next room.  “But we’ll want to make sure to get all our products from the same manufacturer”.  She is such a seriously cool woman, and I am continually impressed with the tenacity the she brings to any and all projects we take on.  We look for windows, doors, flatbed trailers, and then cruise for just about anything useful in the “free” section.

That is what a big portion of this project is about for us.  How can we not only make a great place for our family to live, but how can we do it with as many reused and repurposed materials as possible?  How can we turn our culture’s excess and waste in to something beautiful and sustainable?

Short answer: We’re figuring it out, trust us.

There hasn’t been a whole lot of physical progress toward our goal thus far.  However, I feel like we are making strides whenever we sit down to learn, designing, and dreaming of what we want to see for our tiny home.

We have decided to add a few wish items that correspond with each blog post. I may make a running wish list and project time frame once I figure out how to do so.  Please let us know if you, or anyone you know has access to any of the items listed.  We would love to talk with you more about how we can purchase/barter for them.

Wish List:

  • Flatbed Trailer (8’X16′ or 8’X20′)
  • Windows (double hung, vinyl/wood, various sizes)
  • Exterior Door (no larger than 36″ wide, wood, etc.)
  • Inspirations/Ideas (please let us know if you have any thoughts or ideas!)
  • Building plans (we are calling on any contractor within ear/eye shot to help us with our design.  Home-cooked meals and/or produce shares, and/or dog sitting, and/or yard maintenance included)
  • A place to build (we will need a spacious, safe, and preferably covered area to complete our project)

I would also like to take a moment to personally thank anyone who has taken any time to read anything that I have written in these pages.  It has been a wonderful personal exercise for me, helping me to organize my thoughts, and make social commitments to completing the project.  It has also been inspiring to know that people are interested and excited about what we are doing.  Please keep the comments coming.  We are also looking to grow our “online community” so please feel free to share this link with anyone you think may be interested.  It’s gonna take a village to raise this tiny home.

Thank you for your inspiration!

Sincerely,

Mitchell

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Tiny home, BIG dreams!

“Life is a do-it-yourself project. Feel free to dream big!”

While there is no doubt that I have accomplished a lot thus far in my time on earth, none of these projects seems quite as big as designing and building our first “tiny home”.  I had my first “tiny house nightmare” the other night.  In the dream, we were in the kitchen, fitting in appliances and cabinetry, and, surprise-surprise, something wasn’t fitting correctly.  I was patient at first, but my anxiety continued to build and build.  Somewhere right around the time I was wanting to give it all up and walk away from the whole project, I woke up.  Pfew!  Although my momentary stress was induced by a dream state, I couldn’t help but to feel like it is representative of my fears about this project as a whole.  Let it be known to the world that I am not a carpenter.

My father was a carpenter.  However, he made the decision early in my life not to be involved with me or the rest of my family.  So I was raised by women, and as you might imagine, much of my early life was spent learning more about fashion and style than building and electrical.  This is certainly not to say that all women’s interests align that way, but it was the case in my family.  I also must pause and thank them for raising me to be conscientious and thoughtful individual I am today.  However, I was unable to learn about certain things that behoove a young man in our culture.  For example, it was not until I was well in to my early adult life that I learned camping required that you actually spend time sleeping outside (instead of in a hotel, room service provided).  Since then, I have continued to progress, learning about all things garden related (I even helped shovel 10,000 lbs of chicken manure!).  I have also made attempts to use some wood, saws, and fasteners to complete small projects around our home/garden.  My experience and success with building projects has been mixed.  In general, a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment abounds until the last piece of the whole project doesn’t fit (or the whole thing looks crooked).  As anyone who has worked around their home can attest, terms such as “square” or “plumb” can be elusive standards to achieve.

In reality, this project is bigger than me and my fears.  It is clear to me that this project is not simply about the end result…  It is about the journey!  For me, this journey is about learning to tap in to the exceptional skills and resources of the community we surround ourselves with.  Whether it is through lending a hand, sharing skills, or donations of excess materials that can be repurposed on the tiny home, we will most certainly be challenged to make friends with those around us.

With that said… Enter the “dream board”, a place to temporarily house our dreams while they make their way into manifestation.  Nikki brought it to my attention that she thought it would be helpful to have a place where we could place photos, ideas, and inspirations for the tiny home.  We decided that a great place to go for inspiration and ideas was the ReBuilding Center on N. Mississippi.  While on an outing this summer we met a writer and student who was well on her way to realizing her dream of living a “tiny” lifestyle (her journey is blogged at aatinyhouse.wordpress.com).  April told us that one great way to get started is to find windows, and then design the rest around the windows.  We looked for doors and windows at the ReBuilding Center and although we found a few things we were interested in, they didn’t move or inspire us in one way or another.  I was feeling a little low, as I just assumed that we would find our inspiration waiting for us when we got there, and on the way out we found it… Our dream board!  At roughly 3′ X 3 1/2′ she is more than capable of handling most of our tiny dreams.  I also picked up a re-used “square” tool.  The guy who checked us out was excited that we found a cork board and seemed a bit surprised that it still had cork in it.  We informed him that it was no ordinary cork board, it was our magical “dream board”.  I forget exactly how the interactions went, but he told us to “dream big” and then he looked at my square tool and said “square/plumb is a good place to start”.  We agreed that both figuratively and literally this was true.  We left with our dream board and square tool, heads full of ideas and plenty of space to display them.  I also felt that some of my anxieties about the actual building process were eased.  We will find the tools and people we need to make this project a success.  We will find “square/plumb”.

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