The Things They Don't Tell You When You Want to Build a Tiny House
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
Today marks two years and two days since the beginning of my tiny house DIY build. Two years ago today, my trailer was delivered after a 14-hour drive from Canada (that’s a whole different story). Two years and 2 months before this day, I put the biggest payment down on anything I’d ever paid for in my life… right on the custom tiny house trailer. I was taking the biggest risk of my life on what would soon be the foundation of my tiny dream house. Two years ago my dream was starting to become a reality. That doesn’t even cover the number of years I spent saving money, researching, all the computer models I created, researching, floor plans I tapped out on the ground, more research, or the countless sketches I drew out of my ideas. Together all of these things combined from inside my head, in SketchUp, and the drawings on the back of receipt paper would come together to create my future home.
While I have tried to keep an active Instagram account (read: @thenotsotinyhouseproject) updating my day to day progress on the house, I’ve done far less writing and videos than I had hoped to do along the way. Because, well, all of that stuff takes time and time is something I’ve been limited with during this process. So to mark the two year anniversary of the build of The Not So Tiny House Project, I thought it was time to tell you about The Things They Don’t Tell You When You Want to Build a Tiny House. For those of you who might be reading this who don’t know me personally, please know that I have absolutely no experience in the construction field so please keep that in mind as you continuing reading. Of course, this is only my experience and only my experience so far.
The view of the front door as of 6.15.19
For the past 2+ years, when I tell folks I’m building a tiny house, I receive one of two responses: 1. Something like, “Oh, man! Really? Like the ones I’ve seen on that TV show? That’s awesome!” or 2. Something like, “I could never live in a house like that.” Which of course comes with its own subtext I’m sure you can read loud and clear. The first thing they don’t tell you when you want to build a tiny house is that everyone you talk to about your project will judge you (good or bad). Everyone and their loved ones will partake in the judging. While most of the reactions I received in person have been kind, encouraging and inquisitive, I’ve had my fair share of naysayers, bullies and trolls. This is expected with any project to be honest but what I was not prepared for was the argumentative and condescending conversations I’ve had to have. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to defend the choices I’ve made or argue with acquaintances, I would have paid for a new refrigerator. I realize some people don’t do it intentionally, but I’ve found myself growing so numb to this as of late that I just learned to huff and walk away. I don’t believe tiny house living is for everyone but, there are very specific reasons I’ve decided to take this path.
Money, money, money and more money. Thing number two that they don’t tell you when you want to build a tiny house is that building a house paycheck to paycheck is overwhelming and mentally exhausting. If I spend more time working one of my several jobs, I’m not working on the tiny house. If I’m working on the tiny house, I’m not bringing in money to pay for materials that I need for the house. It’s a catch 22. Yes, paying people to do some of the tasks would be a lot easier but one of the reasons why I wanted to do a DIY build was to save money. The biggest piece of advice I could have for anyone thinking of going down this road is to save/have access to more than half of your total project budget available before you even start. This will save you a ton of headaches and heartaches.
The view inside of the kitchen/bedroom loft/bathroom 6.15.19
Number three on the list of things they don’t tell you when you want to build a tiny house is that you will lose motivation, you will negotiate with your dream, and you will lose sleep. After two years, I find it a little harder to work 12 hours on a Saturday hanging siding after working a 55-hour workweek. After two years, I’ve let my quality of work go down in certain aspects because now I’m more worried about just getting the project done or I don’t have money to do things the right way. So, for now, we do our best. I’ve had countless sleepless nights worrying about my neighbors reporting me, trying to figure out a particularly difficult part of the build, or trying to move things around in my budget to make one more run to the hardware store that month. The stress and weight of these things have aged me these last two years. I’ve really taken to heart the phrase, “mind over matter” as of late.
If you ask for help, people will help you. What they don’t tell you when you want to build a tiny house is that not only will people help you, but they will throw confetti in the air and shower you with motivation to keep doing what you are doing and to keep fighting for your dreams. I hate asking for help (as many of us do, I’m sure) but I’ve had to learn to ask for extra muscle to help me with things like putting my walls up, extra hands to help me paint, extra viewpoints to tackle challenges, and especially extra support to keep me motivated. To the family who watch the progress of the build from all around the state and country, friends who listen to me talk tiny houses for hours on end, the kindness of stranger’s words when they find out what I’m doing, and the overall eagerness of the network that surrounds me to catch me when I’m ready to fall or support me when I need it most, cheers to you. You have no idea how grateful I am for your support. <3
The view inside of the living room/office loft/lots of cabinet boxes 6.15.19
What they don’t tell you when you want to build a tiny house is that people are willing to take a risk on you if you believe in it. Everyone from our landlord who is allowing us to build on their property while we are renting, to the wonderful associate at Ikea who spent hours helping me plan my dream kitchen (around wheel wells and all), to the people who have offered me a place to park it when it’s all said and done took a risk. My contractor who was willing to spend days with me troubleshooting my ideas and countless hours talking about the how’s, why’s and what ifs. To the good chunk of time I spent with the project manager and the installer from the plumbing company as we discussed the pipe layouts/inlets/waste management etc. even after two other companies wouldn’t give me the time of day. To the electrical company’s project manager who met with me on more than one occasion to discuss all the parts and pieces that were needed to fit all of the normal house essentials into a tiny package. These people can feel how important this project is to me and they have been willing to take this leap of faith.
While I did know before beginning this project that there would ample opportunity for blood, sweat, and tears, little did I know that most would be of my own doing. What they don’t tell you when you want to build a tiny house is that you are your own worst enemy. At least I know I have been. Working longer hours than I should and making stupid mistakes to jeopardize my own safety (almost drilling through my hand to the point of requiring stitches comes to mind or more recently the time my entire leg went through the platform of the scaffold) is the first thing. While I’ve worked on the house in everything from snow pants/a face mask/gloves to short/a tank top/bandanna to keep the sweat out of my eyes, I’ve poured sweat and soul into every single piece of this home. Lastly, there have been more tears than I’d like to admit, but I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) to let the little things go. No, not everything will be perfect the first time around. No, I have no idea what I’m doing and sometimes YouTube videos don’t show you everything you need to know. With a little meditation and self-reflection, I’m able to see truly how far I’ve come.
Throw back to the view from the bedroom loft and a moment of reflection 4.6.19
What they don’t tell you about wanting to build a tiny house is that you’re not just building a home, you are also building yourself. Building your strength (both physical and mental because who would have thought that the mental part would be the hardest). Building your motivation (to finish this dream you’ve had in the making for years). Building your new skill sets and let’s not forget about the progress you’ve made going up on ladders or even on the roof of the house (though the extension ladder can still screw off haha). To build on the ability to ask for help. To build you while yourself while you build your dream.