Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Planning The Tiny House Layout

Now comes the fun part. Designing the tiny house layout. When my future host came to visit the tiny house she commented that it looked like a tiny Zen Buddhist meditation hall. She calculated that it could fit 20 meditating practitioners if the loft was also used. I was inspired by this image and decided to photograph myself inside the house meditating. The result made the interior look quite small.

But when I measured the actual space and laid it out on grid paper I could see that the space would fit everything I needed including my red desk which had been my command center for 20 years so I was quite attached to it. Luckily it was very small, only four feet wide by two feet deep.

It was my professional philosophy as an organizer that if you kept a very small desk, things would fall off it before you were truly able to pile it beyond the point of overwhelm. The point of overwhelm being the tipping point between function and chaos. My red desk was the first tiny house furniture I marked out on my grid paper along with the rocking stool I used with it. (What ADHD clients use to provide a sense of movement in order to stay focused.)

I had not had any qualms about being able to fit inside a tiny house because I had been living tiny all along in my one room in my ex partner's house. This 10 x 12 room contained everything I needed for all my many hobbies. In fact having a loft essentially increased my living space to two rooms because I could sit up in the loft easily and having only a single bed would allow me all kinds of room for storage. My chief worry was having enough book shelf space.

I also needed a workshop space and was able to negotiate with my step mother to use her garage where my father had built himself an impressive wall length work bench filled with drawers and there was even a small closet that was going unused she let me have. In return I took away all my father's old books and papers that were stored in the garage storage room as well as a huge old TV and anything else she wanted to get rid of. I was satisfied that I was keeping up my end of the exchange. Meanwhile I was cutting bottle brush at my future parking space.

At night I would sketch on my grid paper changing things constantly and researching options. My tiny house instructor had talked about the brain fatigue of having to make so many decisions about every little detail. Granted I didn't have to build from the ground up. But because I had done so much of this decision making practice in my mock tiny house project and had done space planning and problem solving for my clients storage spaces I found this planning to be stimulating and exciting. Sometimes a new idea would keep me awake for hours into the night and I had to stop looking at Pinterest right before bedtime if I wanted to get any sleep at all.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Delivery of Tiny House

As the tiny house made its way down the street people came out to greet it. The neighbors called out to it as it came by.

"I love your tiny house," said a neighbor to me as she drove past.

"Bring it in here," said another pointing to her driveway, "I'll make room." I had suddenly gone from homeless pariah to celebrity. I probably had the TV shows to thank for that for I could see that the tiny house phenomenon had already garnered enormous appeal.

I waved to my tiny house moving crew and they pulled to the side of the road. The neighbor whose house sits directly in front of my step mother's property came out to chat with Phil the principal builder who was pulling the tiny house with his truck. John had been following behind in his van. The neighbor was in construction himself and they exchanged business cards.

Then the house was eased down the driveway. Low hanging branches dragged against the roof. Phil and John stopped to set up the 20 foot ladder they had the foresight to bring along and Phil climbed up to the roof and lifted the branches carefully over the house as his wife eased the truck forward. With their little dog in front seat looking out the window this was definitely a family effort.

Then they backed it into place and leveled it as promised.

All that remained was for me to hand over the cash and for John to sign over the pink slip for the trailer. I was elated. And amazed at how quickly my tiny house vision had fallen so neatly into place in only two weeks time.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Seeking Home For Tiny Home

I was so happy to have found my tiny house, but after I put my deposit down I had a sleepless night wondering if I was going to be able to park it at my mother's house as I had envisioned. As all tiny house people know it is not technically legal to live in an RV parked on your property within most city boundaries. No one actually checks, but it is a complaint driven ordinance so any neighbor who objects can become the source of your eviction. I studied the neighborhood on google maps and saw that there was a very large RV parked in the driveway of a nearby property, but my spot was not paved and pavement was likely a requirement. All kinds of hinderances loomed in my mind.

The next morning my mother voiced her concerns too and we agreed that it was not a good place. I was so set on this being where I would put the tiny house that I had jumped headlong into ownership. It is not my style to birth the baby first and then look for a place to house it. But in the tiny house community people do it all the time. Or so I'm told.

Before I gave up my deposit I was determined to give it my best shot and leave no stone unturned in looking for a place to park it. I wrote up my own craigslist ad using the glamour shot of the tiny house that had won my heart and earnestly listed all that I might offer in exchange. I posted the link to the ad on Facebook and Twitter and to Nextdoor and to my professional colleagues Yahoo group. My friends and contacts sent encouraging responses and reposted the link ten times making me feel immensely supported in my quest. Here I include my ad for reference:

"Hello my name is Amanda. It has been my dream to live in a tiny house and now I have found the tiny house of my dreams. I am looking for a place to park it (and live in it) in exchange for a little rent ($300-$600) and/or trade for any of my many skills in organizing, home maintenance, carpentry, gardening, cob building, mud hut building, shoemaking!, sewing and generally being a conscientious, useful person to have around while I write my next book and continue with my organizing business. This could be a win win solution for anyone needing help on an ongoing basis even if just for six months to a year.

I have been a professional organizer for the last 20 years specializing in chronic disorganization, ADHD and hoarding. I have experience as a manager of construction projects. I have also developed vegetable gardens, solar powered projects and rainwater collection systems. I have designed and constructed closet storage systems and outdoor storage. An onsite workshop or work space will facilitate what I can do. I can help you take care of and develop your property, take care of your animals. I am extremely patient and skilled in communicating and synthesizing different points of view. I have experience teaching kids to sew. I work well with elderly people. I love dogs and cats. I also have experience with horses.

The tiny house is on a 7 x 14 trailer in need of a 13ft clearance. (About the size of a boat on a trailer in terms of footprint.) It is the smallest possible tiny home (7x14), but quite tall at 12 feet so is a livable space that will be fully self-contained with own bathroom and cooking facility. It is on wheels so can be moved and does not conflict with building codes as it is considered an RV. I will need a hose nearby and an electrical outlet to draw power for lights and computers, an electric kettle, toaster oven and hot pot."

I did get a handful of responses from people across the bay which would mean a complete change in my usual rounds. I was not quite ready to do that. I spent the weekend at a house party asking everyone present their opinion until finally I weighed my decision based on whether I would more regret walking away from this purchase or buying it and taking the risk of having to struggle to park it or ending up paying money to store it and not being able to live in it. This unknown future might entail moving out of the area or even the state. I decided that I would more regret walking away for I would always wonder what adventures I would have.

That weekend I got an e-mail from an acquaintance I knew from my Buddhist mediation center. We had done some solar oven demonstrations together, but I had not spoken to her in some time. She said she had a spot that might work in her backyard and she could use my help with her vegetable farm and eco projects. This was just the kind of exchange I was looking for. Best of all it was only ten minutes away from my current home. I went to see it as soon as I got home. The space was just big enough, but there was a lot of bottle brush and a kiwi arbor that would need cutting back hard. It could not be made ready in time for delivery.

I had one other option. My dad's house would be perfect especially for finishing the build. There was plenty of room in the driveway which was a cul-de-sac behind a neighbor's house out of view of the street. Only problem was he had been dead 14 years and the house was now owned by my step mother. She and I had not been in each other's lives much at all since his passing. It took me a few days to get my mind around asking her for any favors. I finally decided to keep an open heart for the possibility that she might be waiting for the opportunity to do something for me if I would only ask. I decided to be very specific in my request, explain the situation and ask for a month to park there. And I could certainly help her out with the yard and household chores while I was there.

She was out of town; when I was finally able to reach her she simply wanted to know if the house would block her way to parking her car in the garage. It would not and save for telling the neighbors she had no other concerns. I was relieved. After a tense two weeks I had some breathing room. I had reached out to so many people through so many venues, I realized it truly did take a village to live tiny.

A week later I had other offers from complete strangers who had randomly come across my post on craigslist. Two nearby wanted to support my efforts with generous terms charging no rent at all and just having me watch the house while they were away or they just wanted to see how a tiny house would work on their property. Another wanted to start a goat herd with my help. A third wanted some rent, 10-15 hours of my time per week to watch their two children and teach them the skills I had listed in my ad. In terms of my hourly rate this was the most expensive housing option I'd ever come across and I politely declined. I was already good. The tiny house not only had a place to birth it had forced me to reach out to my community and in doing so repair the past.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

I Meet The Tiny House of My Dreams

The first thing that struck me about the tiny house of my dreams was that it was really tall and I hoped it would work okay in the space I had in mind. The second thing that struck me was that inside the house that very same height was what would save my sanity. Having space overhead made things feel spacious.

In person the texture and variegated color of the reclaimed walls also helped dispel the feeling of being in a box.

When I met the builders John and Phil I realized that they were not tiny house people in the
progressive hippie sense. They were small town people with working class just-do-it sensibilities. John was the business minded entrepreneurial negotiator who worked the flea market at Santa Cruz. Phil was a roofer. Both were dads who had in mind to build a vacation home they could park on a friend's land and take their families to. It took them a year and a half to build it and then the friend sold the land so they decided they had to sell the tiny house. They had not begun work on the inside except to put in electricity and lights. I felt better after hearing that they had built it for a specific purpose and it was perfect that it was essentially just a shell because the only reason a tiny house can work, especially one this tiny is if it is custom fit. 

I was glad I took my carpenter friend Tim to look at the house with me because he asked all the technical questions about how the walls were held together. Phil especially was enormously proud of his work and was eager to explain to Tim how the shingles used for the siding and the trouble he had taken to install them would insure that the siding would last a long, long time. Tim said he wouldn't have let me buy it if he didn't think they'd done a good job though he did think I could have bargained a bit more, but I had already made up my mind that I wanted it and  so I wanted their goodwill in case I needed anything in the future. We arranged for delivery in two weeks and they would make sure it was level and would be okay where it was parked.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Tiny House on Craigslist

It had been my dream to live in a tiny house one day. So perfectly did this concept of self sufficient living embody all the off grid living practices that I had been experimenting with. So when it came time to leave my home of 20 years (following my divorce) I had the money to buy one. The very day I went to look at tiny houses on craigslist I immediately saw this adorable house. It was way more than I could pay so I passed it by. But because it was the right size i.e. small enough for where I wanted to put it, I went back to look again. I saw that the sellers had added their story and after I read it I was moved to write them a fan letter. And ended up telling them that $32,500 was over my budget of $23,000, but this was just the size I was thinking of. How swiftly would I need to move to raise the rest of the money? Did they have any other buyers? About 15 minutes later John called me and said I could have it for $26,000. This was such a generous discount that I agreed to go and look at it that very Saturday. I capture his story from Craigslist here.

"This is our Tiny House let me tell you all about it:
Built over the last 18 months as a very serious side project this trailer has a ton of cool materials used for the build and is a truly unique set up in that it actually fits in a standard size parking space. Since it is a towable trailer built right onto the trailer frame no building permits are needed for it and if parked on private property it is not violating any building codes. If your looking for a spare room / home office / art studio etc to put on your property even if you only have a small amount of extra space this could fit the bill right here. The interior ladder is removable so if it's in your way for your setup it can be removed in about a minute. Very unique loft in here as well because the height clearance is so much better than most out there. With a true 6x8 footprint even a california king mattress would fit up here (pictured with a queen) This could become additional rental income / an in-laws unit / an air b n b / the possibilities are endless. 130 square feet total it's 82sf downstairs with another 48sf upstairs.
A lot of careful consideration went into the materials used on the interior / exterior / frame / trailer to give it the unique look it has now. This is a one of a kind and I haven't seen any others quite like it. No corners were cut in the construction of it and I'm confident it could last for a lifetime. Built in partnership with a licensed general contractor / roofer with over 15 years experience there's a reason it looks so good! Could use it as is or finish it out the way you want it with a bathroom / mini kitchen / wood burning stove / whatever you wanna do.
Originally started building on a Carson 7x14 utility trailer. Laid down 1 1/8 CDX tongue & groove plywood to start the build on. Eventually put ¾ red oak floor on top of that with a semi-gloss finish.
Started the 2x4 frame (bolted straight to the frame) with hurricane straps and ties everywhere and used redwood 2x4 trim at the corners and around the windows. Ended up using 24 inch Royal Cedar shingles in a staggered pattern to wrap all the exterior walls in (quite time consuming!). The eves under the roof were made with 1x8 V Rustic pine and the exterior stairs are pressure treated wood. The interior ladder is made of reclaimed douglas fir barn wood and the interior walls have been covered in reclaimed redwood fence boards. Interior ceiling is 1x4 tongue and groove douglas fir. Insulated with R-19 throughout each window is a UV rated dual pane Jeld wen. The roof material is CertainTeed platinum color and is a lifetime roof (best they make!). Exterior trim paint is all Valspar Duramax & the front door was a custom outswing order foamcore metal door painted in rusty red & implementing a schlage lock and deadbolt.
Has a California permanent plate so registration is 10 dollars every 5 years, sports led running lights, takes a 2 inch ball and a flat four pin connector or round 7 standard with adapter. Sitting on two 3500 pound leaf spring axles the GVWR is 7000 pounds and the trailer weighs in at just around 6000 pounds. Also sitting on brand new 225 75 15 E rated trailer tires rated for 2830 pounds each (overkill).
Electrical is run with a 30 amp fuse box with 2 15 amp breakers and an rv style 30 amp plug. This runs regular 110 house power and can also easily be ran with a small generator like a honda eu2000i. There is one exterior outlet and 6 interior outlets along with 3 wall mounted interior lights, a lamp in the loft, and an exterior LED porch light. Has 4 5000 pound stabilizer jacks as well.
Outside Dimensions:
102 inches wide at the roof / 98 inches at the outer tires / 7' 2" wide box /17' 3" total length / 14 9" long box / Total height at roof peak 12' 10"
Interior Dimensions:
13' 8"long / 6' wide / 10' 8 inches to peak of ceiling / 6' 4" tall under the loft / 3' 11" loft clearance at the peak (6'x8')
Any other questions please ask via email and include a phone number if you could thanks!

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