These days when you ask someone how they are feeling a likely response is “stressed out”. In a world where personal debt is high, jobs have been difficult to come by and chronic illness on the rise we find that stress levels are at an all time high.
How do we escape?
You may have noticed the “Tiny House Movement” has experienced a huge upswing. Magazines, such as Dwell, are highlighting tiny house owners with their efficient homes and HGTV has started showing Tiny House Hunters. Several people have shared that downsizing, de-cluttering their lives and moving into a tiny home has helped them not only relieve stress but also achieve financial goals and live a life they dreamed of. Consider this, sixty-eight percent of tiny house owners have no mortgage. Just considering having no mortgage makes my stress level almost disappear!
Nevertheless there is always the other side of the coin: Sharing smaller living spaces, how to deal with illness and issues concerning privacy.
Then there is that complicated question of: Where do I store my stuff?
Recently I had a chat with Macy Miller, a tiny house dweller in Boise, Idaho. Macy graduated in 2007 with a Masters in Architecture. After living in the real world and facing some hefty stressful challenges of her own she was searching for a fresh start and a better housing option. In 2011 she designed and began the building process of her own tiny home. Macy has been living in her tiny house since June of 2013 and currently resides there with her partner James, her adorable daughter Hazel, who recently celebrated her first birthday, their faithful great dane, Denver and an exciting addition, in the form of a new sibling for Hazel, will be making his/her arrival in the fall of 2015.
What inspired you to take the “Tiny House” route?
I was studying for my architect licensure exams and needed a “real project” to solidify my thoughts and move into a hands-on learning environment. However, a close second was the fact that I hate being a renter. Feeling like I have no control over decisions for my home was frustrating, I always had to ask if I could paint a wall or hang a picture. Another problem was that I was not in the position to buy a ‘standard house’ nor did I even want to. Yet, I knew that I wanted a place to call my own. But I wanted to have that ownership faster than a 15-30 year mortgage would allow on my income. Building smaller just made sense, I did not realize that ‘tiny houses’ had become a ‘thing’ until well into my build, for me it just made sense and gave me enough education and training to justify the expense, if nothing else. As a bonus, I was also hoping to cut my living expenses, for at least a little while.
How did you come up with the plan for your house?
I designed the house based off of my life and how I live it, focusing on my top ten priorities: a good sized kitchen, with an oven for casseroles, an over-sized shower, room for a great dane, endless hot water (for time spent in my over-sized shower), a flexible floor plan (I get bored of the same layout and I like to rearrange furniture), room for my king sized bed, room for at least two adults, light and airy and as many passive design strategies as possible (with these I could continue the learning process and test out theories first hand). Once I defined my priorities I put them to paper and made it work. I wasn’t as strict with budget planning, it was more “off the cuff”.
How was the construction process?
It took about three times longer than I had planned with my “conservative guessing system”. Each step took longer because I had to first learn how to do what I wanted to do (not having a construction background) then do it, there is hardly enough work to learn to perfect each trade but it’s definitely a good intro, but each step takes WAY longer than it would take a professional.
Does “tiny house living” re-introduce new stress? (ie: closer quarters, illness…does it spread quicker, etc.)
Not in the least! It reduces stress for us, if anything, but in reality the actual ‘living’ part is no different. We just save a lot of money which allows me more quality time to spend with my family. It won’t work for everyone, you have to really like the person/people you live with and have very strong communication skills. When conflicts come up they have to be resolved, you can’t just storm off into another part of the house. It is fairly easy still to coordinate separate time so we can work on our individual projects. Ironically we were all just sick, I don’t think the house had any greater or lesser influence on the spreading of it though, it’s been a nasty bug that spreads easily, still it took me 5 days before I passed it on.
Any upcoming plans to make changes?
We are adding a 36 s.f. addition that will bring our house from 196 s.f. to 232 s.f. This is so that we have two separate areas for naps since we will soon have two kids who will likely be on different nap schedules. The new room will be the nursery and will have a crib, a toddler bed and clothing storage for both kiddos.
Describe your favorite benefits of living in a tiny house.
I save well over $2000 a month. I now have the luxury of staying home to raise my family instead of sending them to daycare. I have everything I need with no debts (debt free does amazing things for your stress levels). I am able to work on the projects, that I carefully select, instead of working on other peoples’ projects just to constantly to pay the bills. I can take part in my own life and participate in things I WANT to participate in, including volunteer activities, events with my kid, and I have the freedom to just NOT participate in anything if I don’t want to.