Why We Won’t Be Living in Our Tiny House.

It’s been a strange few weeks, to say the least.

I’ve had to remind myself more than once that I owe nothing of myself or the details of my life to anyone on the Internet – nice people or mean people. You all leave comments, and then go about your business not thinking much of my own life. And nor should you! I don’t spend a lot of time thinking of other people’s decisions in my own day-to-day business. I have my own life to lead.

I still feel compelled to write down and publish the long list of reasons we won’t be living in our tiny house. For posterity, for my own sake, and really for anyone who has a genuine, sincere interest in our continued story. And maybe some of these points might help some of you in your own tiny house journey.

Many people think we’re selling our tiny house because it was stolen from us, and that we’re letting fear dictate our lives. (Anyone who knows us in real life finds the idea that Casey and I let fear controls our lives endlessly humorous). In reality, the theft was more of a tipping point than some singular catastrophic event that upturned everything.

1) We just can’t do this anymore. People who haven’t been through the process of building anything, even a so-called “tiny house”, simply do not understand the realities of construction. I only half-joke that the thing that makes tiny building so difficult is that there is just enough space to finally get a partial handle on whatever step of the process you are undertaking – and then that step is over. You never build up any momentum to carry the task out faster and better. Because the space is so small, it’s time to start from square one on the next step of the process before you even reap the benefits of having mastered the previous step. It’s not very satisfying to work this way. People say: “Oh, you’ve come so far! You’re so close to finishing!” No, we really, really aren’t. We’ve been “so close” to finishing nearly every month for the last two and a half years.

2) Where would we put the house now? There are many indications that the area in which we live had to do with the theft. I won’t go into details, but despite some VERY lovely neighbors, we also have some not-so-lovely neighbors, and to put the house back where it was parked seems to only invite the theft or damage once again. Some idiot asked me on Facebook if my apartment was broken into, would I just break my lease and move somewhere else? And the answer is: absolutely I would, if I thought the location of my apartment had something to do with the theft itself. This is so bleeding obvious I can’t believe he asked it. Welcome to the Internet.

We spent a long time looking for land that would allow a tiny house to be parked on it, and I have no desire to go back through that process again. Also, now that we have an apartment very close to all the places we need to be, it’s made me realize how nice it is not to face a 50 minute commute each way just to get to civilization. The unfortunate part of tiny houses is that the one place you can be relatively assured* no one will call the local zoning boards on you is the countryside. And living in the countryside means you have to enjoy driving unless you plan to spend all your time at home.

*I say “relatively assured” because Jonathan had issues even in the countryside. He ended up not living in tiny house, either. A lot of people (people who stand to make money off the tiny house movement itself) say things like “If you build it, the parking space will come.” This was the cavalier attitude I took at the start of the process. Once we started the build, we began to look for a place to park it. We looked at RV parks and were turned away (no homemade trailers allowed), we looked at unrestricted land that was way too big and too expensive, then we finally found a small rural neighborhood that seemed fine just to have it turn out that our house was stolen…all this to say that if you are thinking of building a tiny house on wheels, weigh the risks. If you can afford to build a tiny house and like being adventurous with the idea that you’ll find a place to put it “later,” by all means, do so. Otherwise, sincerely do your research before jumping in feet first to an expensive, time-consuming build.

3) The potential for theft. This is a small reason, but a reason nonetheless. I just can’t live wondering if my tiny house and its contents is going to be there when I get home from work or from play. Despite the new anti-theft measures we’ve put in (boots on the trailer, and a mega hitch lock), I just can’t. Once I had a stomach bug and happened to eat chili and noodles right before the symptoms started. Cue vomiting up chili and noodles all night. Despite the fact that technically the chili and noodles did not cause my illness, it put me off chili and noodles for life. All this to say: I’m not blaming the tiny house. But I still associate it with theft. For anyone reading this deciding on their own build, I’d say the only location I’d feel comfortable parking my house is in the suburbs somewhere: in someone’s backyard, behind a fence, with many, many neighbors around, and preferably some large trees that grow back over the tow-path. But then I’d have to live in the suburbs, and that’s just not for me. Also, finding a suburb like that is easier said than done. Dee Williams, in her super-progressive, liberal, Washington state town STILL had to get a special variance that allowed her and only her to be parked there, in that very particular space. If you have the stomach to go through a process like that, more power to you.

4) Our lifestyle has changed. The build was initially going to be 4-6 months in length. It’s taken 2.5 years, for various reasons that aren’t anyone’s business, but really came down to time and money. Since it’s taken so long, our lives have changed. We simply need more space – not for living, but for our businesses and creative endeavors. Our property had a little cabin on it that we were going to use as a studio. We can’t live on that land any longer for safety reasons, so the thought of having to come up with a solution to another accessory building in a new location is just too much. It’s ludicrous, when we could just have a larger apartment (650 s.f.) that’s already constructed (!!!!!) with plenty of space for our needs.

5) Our priorities have changed. Our main goal has always been to live in a place where we can be car-lite or car-free. Coincidentally, the week before the tiny house was stolen, we came up with a solid plan of where we want to live (next, anyway) without a car. The plan was three to four years more living in the tiny house, then moving elsewhere to a city where we can be active without a car. The house was stolen, and suddenly it looked like our plan could be moved up on the timeline.

6) I’ve spent the last 18 months trying to decide if I’m a country person or a city person. The answer appears so obvious to me now, I feel a little silly even asking the question. I hate driving and I love museums, libraries, public transit, good food, biking trails, parks, and concerts. Period. That makes me a city person at this point in my life. I realize now that I was actually spending the last 18 months trying to convince myself that I was okay living out in the middle of nowhere. I’m not okay with it at this point in my life.

7) I don’t want to compress my expectations any longer. Some people live in a tiny house because it truly makes their lives more simple, yet it gives them space to do the things they want to do. I realize now that the tiny house had reached a point that it was restricting our lives and our expectations. Again: it took us further away from city living and honestly, it put me in a mindset of not just extreme frugality (which is great!) but of extremely low income-making. Maybe I’ll expound on this another day, but essentially I convinced myself that making an exceedingly small amount of money was good enough for me, and it isn’t. I was trying to shrink my life and my goals. I was feeling a little suffocated. I’m not saying having a tiny house does this to everyone – it was just doing it for me.

8) A tiny house is not the only answer. Some people seem to think that not living in a stick-built, tiny house on wheels means “giving up the tiny lifestyle.” I realize now how silly I was to think a tiny house was the only way to live simply. It’s not. I don’t even know what living simply means, to be honest with you. Building a tiny house and trying to live in one in 2015 means you are a pioneer. There aren’t enough of them yet to have changed public perception, zoning laws, or local codes. There is huge risk in living in mostly uncharted territory. And we need people trying to do it! I just can’t be one of them. My energy needs to be spent elsewhere. Fighting the tide is not simple. It is easier to have a mortgage and a 9-5 job than it is to live in a tiny house and be self-employed. Depending on how you look at it, the former is the real “simple life” in 2015. A case can be made for both sides.

To “not fight the tide” doesn’t mean we are off to live in a 6,000 s.f. house in the suburbs (though there is NOTHING WRONG with that if you do; it simply doesn’t fit for us). It means we are channeling our energy elsewhere, toward goals that mean more to us.

We are not giving up. We are not fickle people. I think giving up would look like staying with our build even though we know it can’t work for us any longer. For us to say: “Okay, we came this far, even though every fiber of our being is telling us this is no longer the direction we want to go, we need to see it through no matter the cost” would be giving up in my book.

We are constantly re-examining where we are going and what we are doing, and I think that’s what makes us awesome. So many people continue to commit to things that are no longer working for them, and end up on their deathbed wishing they’d taken more risks. Even though this process has been almost nothing but stress and pain, I’d rather be sitting where I am now, having tried to build a tiny house and deciding it wasn’t for me after all, than to have never tried at all and be sitting around the rest of my life doodling floor plans in the margins and wondering if I was ever going to take the leap.

ADDENDUM: I just went back to read Jonathan’s post (mentioned above) from years ago, and the similarities in our situations are eerie in many ways. This sums it all up for me, almost to the letter:

“Even if I win, I will still be next to a neighbor who hates me. Even if I win, I will be 10 miles away from the nearest grocery store. Even if I win, I will be both physically and socially isolated, far enough away from everyone nearby to where visiting me is inconvenient, but not far enough away to where I’ll be compelled to seek out new things. I’ll be in an area in which the population is politically and ideologically at odds with my own morals and values. I will, in essence, become a hermit here.”

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18 Responses to Why We Won’t Be Living in Our Tiny House.

  1. Casey Friday says:

    I will absolutely be re-blogging this on my site :)

  2. Diane says:

    Life is change. Circumstances change… what people need and want changes. You had an amazing experience and learned a lot, and are now perhaps in a more informed state, where you can really zero in on what you want and need right now. Best of luck in your city apartment! And thanks for sharing all the tiny build experiences with us. : )

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  4. I still can’t believe someone FUCKING STOLE your house. I’m kind of glad they did if it freed you from something that really wasn’t right for you, but jeez, talk about the universe throwing an ox skull through your sitting room window.

    I think you’re awesome too. Cutting your losses is seriously under-valued.

    • iamchesapeake says:

      I KNOW. It’s just so fucking bizarre. We had moments throughout the two weeks it was gone (and in the days after recovery) where we would be mid-sentence on a totally different topic and look at each other and say that exact thing. ***I can’t believe someone stole our fucking house.***

      It definitely is working out for the best. In the past I would have thought “oh, it was meant to be.” But now I just think life hands you crap and the people who are paying attention take advantage of the crap and turn it into something good.

      It’s really refreshing to hear about you quitting photography. It’s a thing I’ve always told myself I wanted to do (weddings), but could never pull the trigger. I used to think I was scared but I think I find a lot of other things infinitely more interesting (portraits, writing, weaving, etc).

  5. Mary says:

    I certainly agree on so many points. As a slightly older person, have spent time reading about social isolation and aging. Because of all of the things you have written about, I have been very careful about any changes. I had radically downsized 15 years ago. Nonetheless, I find the tiny houses to be a wonderful option, and I believe that we are in the midst of continued change and I see the progression of tiny house movement. I cannot see anything other than improvements and options for this lifestyle. You have been nothing o ther than violated and spent a long time on building something that did not come to fruition. I have had similar experiences in life and completely empathize with your situation. Your choice is correct for you. And what you have written is what everyone should take into consideration with this lifestyle. I will be attending the Tiny House Conference. I will be careful before ever leaving my cabin with amenities in interior AK. The tiny house movement is still a wonderful option. I plan to experience firsthand what it is like to actually be in one of the tiny homes at the conference.

    • Thank you so much for posting this. Like-minded people, unite!

      Enjoy the conference! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how big tiny houses feel. At least ours feels that way inside.

  6. mary says:

    btw, my ex is ee and highly successful with it, but really is a musician and was DoD, so not kidding, lots of similarities! I’m geo/nat Sci, but much older.

  7. Pegjayne says:

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been weighing this very idea of building a tiny home vs renting (not buying) a small home or apartment. I keep coming back to “Where would I park it that would be in the city or close to it?” I’m a country gal at heart but want that car free experience and convenience of other transportation if I that was the case. I have lived in the country for 30+ years and loved it but have a driving desire to live in the small city of Portland, ME. So, thanks again for sharing your thoughts. They reflected many of my own.

    • Thank you for letting me know! I’ve been lifted up by other people stepping forward and saying “Me too!”

      I’m eager to try city living. I’m never happier than when I’m on a bicycle. I can’t stop smiling.

  8. Laura N. says:

    First of all, WHAT! Your house was stolen!? That IS really, really bizarre. I heard recently about someone’s tiny house being stolen, I think it might have been yours. And actually, that’s one of my fears right now — that our RV will be stolen (it’s currently parked on a farm next to the land we thought we were going to have, and too snowy to move it). Praying every day that it’s still there when we go pick it up. (But if it isn’t, that’s OK, we have insurance.)

    Secondly, I feel you. Oh so much. Our situation is not exactly the same, but the fact that our dream has changed and stopped so suddenly because of someone else is a bit hard to accept at time. I know that no other people can make us do anything, but some times we have to make choices based on other people’s choices. I am glad to see you are keeping positive about this situation — and you’ve come to realize you absolutely love the city. We came from the suburbs of Chicago to rural Kentucky and quite enjoyed being in the middle of nowhere; but now we’re in town and I’m kind of in love with that too. What’s next? Who knows. Such is the beauty of life and going down a bold path that not many dare to venture down. Kudos to you, sister. Stay strong!! <3

    • “I know that no other people can make us do anything, but some times we have to make choices based on other people’s choices.”

      This is so well put. I think this is one of the biggest things I had to overcome. The messages in America are so strongly “YOU make your own luck! Bootstraps! Pull yourself up on them!” that they are ingrained into my head. I’m kind of glad this happened because it’s made me more compassionate for people who really are trying but keep getting knocked down. WE had to PAY like $500 to get our OWN HOUSE out of impound. We could afford it (sort of), but I think about people in low-income, high-crime neighborhoods. How do THEY pay when someone ELSE steals their stuff???? $500 is a ton of money! I have so much empathy for people whose lives have been filled with one thing after another and they do not have the privilege that I have (supportive, financially stable parents, a great spouse, I’m white!, etc).

      WE LOVE CHICAGO. It’s on our “move-to” list to see if we like being there. It just feels right every time we go, in ways that no other cities have felt.

      Please keep posting and good luck to you on your own adventures!

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