I don’t think I’m ready to leave. It doesn’t feel real. I didn’t think it would be this hard.
That’s all I can really say about the experience of emptying out our tiny house and moving our (minimal) belongings into our new home. The connection to SHED tiny house is much stronger than I ever knew. We have always spoken bluntly about our tiny house; aware that it was just a physical object, or tool, that has enabled the lifestyle we wanted to live, which was the part of actual importance. But preparing to walk away has proven harder than anticipated and new realizations about the importance of the physical object in our lives are emerging. The reality is this ‘object’ embodies over a years worth of our energy in which we grew as designers, builders and partners. That ‘object’ was built with our own hands and gives shape to a space that has transformed our lives.
We make daily trips to grab stuff and feed the chickens which we will continue to co-raise and help with when our friend (the land owner) is out of town (we don’t live very far away). It is a foreign feeling to be leaving the tiny house in the rear view to go sleep somewhere else up the road and when Aubrin points longingly at the house that she has known her entire life it is almost heart breaking. We have a history of pouring everything into every decision we make which means that there is always emotion involved with the endings and goodbyes.
And in theatrically cruel timing, I was finishing this blog post, and mother nature combined with the ‘joys’ of home owner ship (times two) to bestow their ‘gifts’ upon us all at once. On a particularly cold Friday evening after 10.5” of snow fell Samantha was getting ready to settle into a bath in the new house. We had moved much of our stuff over and had even begun sleeping in it so the ability to take a bath in our own house was a welcome luxury after over three years without a bathtub, despite this being a rather dated pink tub at the moment.
I heard her say that the water coming out of the faucet wasn’t hot so I went down into the small basement space to check on the water heater and found what every homeowner dreads; a floor covered in water and the sound of more gushing out from the dark nether regions of the water heater.
I scrambled to turn off the main water line to the house before taking a more calm approach to the investigation as I slopped around in an inch of water in my socks. It appeared as though the existing water heater had ruptured spilling its contents and then some onto our basement floor; had we not caught it so quickly there likely could have been exponentially more water, depending on when we finally ventured down into the basement to the crappy discovery.
“How do we get rid of the water?”
“Was this a home owners insurance claim?”
“How long would it be before we could have it replaced considering it was 7:00 pm on a Friday and all the media platforms were repeating themselves about an incoming blizzard poised to double our recent snowfall accumulations with extreme winds?”
‘Stay inside and hunker down’ was their repetitive advice but Samantha had to work the next day leaving me alone with Aubrin while I tried to remedy this situation. I filed a home owner’s insurance claim and was told the local agent handling my claim would get back to me the following week during business hours. The next morning I called a local contractor known for specializing in emergency insurance claims and learned that insurance companies generally cover the water damage but not the actual equipment that failed. Considering our unique circumstance in which the equipment was a total loss and the actual damage was relatively minimal it did not seem logical to pay the $1000.00 deductible in this instance and as so many times prior we decided to take matters into our own hands.
The next 24 hours saw multiple snowy trips to Home Depot to buy a wet/dry shop vac and water heater and some in-a-pinch help from our neighborhood friend David got the old water heater out and the new one in place in the basement, all before Samantha got home from work a mere 22 hours after discovering the rupture. That night, Samantha got her bath, the dishes and laundry were washed and all seemed well as the fire flickered in the living room and the snow blew around outside…
Until we paid our daily visit back to the tiny house and turned on the faucet, to silence. For the first time ever the water supply line froze somewhere. We have a heated RV house and heat tape on the above ground portion of the spigot but there is a tiny area on each end of the hose, where it connects to the house and to the spigot that are not heated but have been fine because of the natural circulation of the warmed water from elsewhere in the hose. A quick check showed that no hose connection points had burst from a freeze and all of our plumbing is inside the insulated envelope of our home so it wouldn’t be that. I had a hunch that it was at the spigot and decided to wait and come back later that day after the sun warmed everything up a bit and it was more comfortable to continue investigating.
Once returning that afternoon however the water worked fine, and the thin frozen plug must have melted out.
We told the landowner to turn on an interior faucet on drip over night when it was cold, which caused more problems than it fixed. After returning two days later to make sure the supply lines were working by turning on the faucet the sink began to fill with water; now it was our drain line that had frozen somewhere for the first time ever. It wasn’t in the shower p-trap on the far end of the house because that is wrapped in heat tape so it appeared as though our horizontal drain line leading out to the French drain soak away pit had frozen, and there was no way to quickly inspect it to find out where exactly and how much of it had frozen. Our solution to one issue had created another and all of a sudden we were experiencing the dark depths of living on wheels in winter, and we weren’t even living there any more! This also wasn’t a simple fix and we decided to give it a few days with hopes that it would get a touch warmer and work itself out which it did four days later when the house began draining again!
It appears as though over the last three winters we were hovering on potential freezing issues but our daily use was enough to keep everything unfrozen. For those wondering why we didn’t winterize it after we stopped sleeping in it is because we have an exciting announcement! We have friends moving into SHED, and if you have been following the tiny house movement for a while you may even know them!
You may remember Steve and Kassie from their time as ‘Tiny Life For Two’ as well as a few mentions on our blog back when we first met them. They too built their own 28’ tiny house based off of the hOMe design and then drove it from Nebraska to our home town of Yakima, WA where Kassie attended medical school. They had heard of us through the tiny house movement and reached out when they realized we would be living in the same city and we became great friends. I still remember the day they first walked into the barn where we were building SHED and we were up on the roof finishing up some flashing work. They were so damn kind and charismatic and to this day we are thankful the tiny house community connected us.
They faded away from frequent sharing of their tiny house as life became busier but their tiny house story has been one of the more interesting ones and relatable to those who may move every couple of years for something like medical school, rotations and residency. After finishing up their time in Yakima, Kassie was assigned a year rotation in Fairbanks, Alaska and made the badass decision to tow their tiny house on wheels up the Alcan high way to Fairbanks and then brave winter in a place where a large percent of residents live without running water in ‘dry cabins.’ They endured the far north winter darkness in which the sky and ground danced above and below (the northern lights and very active frost heaving, respectively) before returning home with the tiny house and a tiny baby and a memorable experience from the final frontier.
Having served its purpose amazingly their tiny house is now FOR SALE HERE as they get ready to settle down for a five year residency and tackle this first time parenting thing. Their kindness and can-do attitude is infectious and we couldn’t be more happy to welcome them back to Yakima for a local rotation and one more tiny house experience.
While preparing the tiny house for their arrival we learned two things. We really love the process of hosting and curating an experience for guests, but are also terrified of trying to perfect that experience of total strangers who visit our tiny house; especially in a d.i.y. home on wheels which inevitably has plenty of little quirks. Prepping and putting our tiny house on airBNB should be an interesting process and we will be sure to share the journey but for now we are thankful to share the space with couple friends more than familiar with full time small space living. SHED is in good hands.
I want to end this post by reiterating a sentence we first wrote when we announced that we had bought a house.
Maybe paradoxically we hope this story of ‘moving-on’ helps support our claim that building and living in a tiny house really was one of the best decisions we have ever made.
We substantially reduced our cost of living which allowed us to re-finance six figure student loan debt to an aggressive five year (now 3) eradication plan. In the time we lived in SHED it literally paid for itself, meaning the money that we saved over 32 months of tiny living totaled the amount we spent on building our tiny house ($30,000.00). We were able to reduce how much we work and I (Robert) was able to transition into a stay/work-at-home father while we built a significant financial safety net, a portion of which became large down payment on our next home. At the end of the journey the most important benefit is clear, the tiny house allowed us to spend more time together, as a family doing the things we love the most; traveling the country and spending time on outdoor adventures. THIS POST titled ‘The Stigma Of Moving On” does a good job of articulating how the tiny house has been an important tool in our lives.
Contrary to what I wrote at the beginning of this post, we are not walking away from this tiny house; and in a way we aren’t even moving on from it. Our decision to not sell the tiny house was made before we ever finished it. Beyond being literally designed around our ergonomics and lifestyle, it became an extension of us, one of a kind and instantly recognizable. It was the perfect amalgamation of our exploration into small scale portable architectural and a challenge to a status quo which is leaving more and more people grasping for solutions to what is becoming a housing ‘crisis’ in some areas of the country.
We started this experience (simultaneously with many others) with just a few established examples to consult in a time when there was no one to ask permission from, no legal recognition of the lifestyle we envisioned. But there was an undeniable energy and a lot of people willing to endure this ‘under the radar phase’ required to build momentum before a few really dedicated and talented individuals felt that there was enough critical mass to take a stab at legally defining the subset of alternative housing that is ‘tiny houses’ by writing, submitting and lobbying for our very own code and acceptance thereof on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis.
Most of the people in the movement we feel closest too, we have never even met, or chatted with much for that matter but where there is a shared goal and the hardships associated with it, there is a sort of silent kinship.
We entered this tiny house as a couple of kids proud of our handy work and are leaving it significantly transformed having experienced PREGNANCY, PARENTHOOD, and the roller coaster that is FIRST TIME HOME BUYERS, all while going on some of the biggest adventures of our lives.
In the last 5 years we’ve experienced a lifetime worth of milestones that have all revolved around and been enabled by this small little structure we designed and built together. That is the mental connection to this little object that makes this moment so.damn.hard.
I am not sure how long this blog will continue on but I think its safe to say it’ll be around for another year or two. The truth is, I have a long and growing list of topics related to tiny houses, alternative living and outdoor parenting that I have wanted to write about in the last 24 months and just haven’t had the time to properly articulate them. In addition to that we’ve always wanted this to be a sort of journal that we can look back on and perhaps others can continue to stumble upon and be inspired.
For now I want to list a few of our favorite posts since the blog started over 4 years ago:
- SHIFTING DYNAMICS: A heart felt post written the day that Samantha returned to work and I became a stay/work-from-(tiny)home father. I wrote it while crying and cried while re-reading it today.
- A TINY HOUSE BUILD: in motion: Perhaps our single most favorite creation is shared in this post; an 8 minute film that presents 14 months of hard work and filming into a concise and entertaining time-lapse presentation of our tiny house build from start to finish.
- BUILT WITH OUR HANDS: This is our 211 page e-book that has been updated and added to after introducing a baby into our tiny house. “A comprehensive and candid look at one couples journey through the design and construction of their 24’ modern tiny house. Having minimal construction experience, a desire to learn and a passion for adventure, the nurse and architect team of Samantha and Robert share the successes and failures experienced during their 18 month do-it-yourself endeavor aptly referred to as, SHED.
- FREE FLOOR PLANS: The title says it all, and there is no catch. This is the link to download a high res version of our tiny house floor plans.
- THE AMAZING MEANDER: That one time we anonymously organized a multi day, multi state, 300 miles scavenger hunt for our friends that ended at a fire lookout tower camp out.
- VIDEO TOUR: You have seen many photos of our home but have you watched our 8 minute video tour?
- BLENDING PARENTHOOD AND ADVENTURE: A post that begins to discuss something that is deeply important to us; finding and then pushing our comfort zone as first time parents looking to raise the next generation outdoors.
These are just a few that came to mind but if you find inspiration in our tiny house or our lifestyle we invite you to read through what has become a library of 97 posts, each written with sincerity and transparency as we’ve shared the process of designing, building and living in a tiny house.