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Challenges & Benefits of Tiny House Living – Couple Shares Experience

Probably about five years ago We became just interested in tiny houses. There wasn’t that much of a movement so much back then or a trend. We just always lived simply so we were looking for how we might live simply in Our next iteration of doing that. And about three years ago We got to the point where we felt like I was working too much I was working about 60 to 80 hours a week, and that wasn’t what… We weren’t living our priorities or our values as much as we want it to be so we wanted to put our relationships And the family and friends in the natural world come back into the center and one way of doing that was to have Really low overhead expenses every month so that I could work part-time. And we can open up that space and so between been to California. We rented one [for] a while Just to make sure it was going to work for us. We started to look more seriously at building a tiny house [and] Eventually [we] ended up deciding to do it. We didn’t build it we designed it with our builder and then our builder actually built it for us. He’s really… He’s an artist. Really, we feel like we live within a big piece of artwork. seeing the tumbleweed homes and the beauty of them combined with the practicality Was one of the things that really started us thinking Well, we might be able to do this. And we’d lived tiny a lot before we lived in tents and we lived in Twelve by Twelve and small Cabins and We wanted that same Kind of experience, but instead of being totally off the grid [we] wanted to be able to have really good light in a house and we didn’t want to carry our water we wanted to be able to turn on the faucet and We seemed to move around a lot and the other thing about Tiny houses on wheels is that it gives you that option We’ve lived off grid quite a lot in our lives and when we were thinking about how to design tiny we were really trying to think about who we are now and rather than who we were five or ten or fifteen years ago, and what are our what are our current needs and What’s realistic in terms of us staying in tiny Long-term. And so, you know, right now we actually are set up so that we’re connected to septic and a well And that’s… That’s what works for us right now there there was a time in our lives where [we] would have wanted to have every single Sustainable technology possible and there’s and there’s still a large parts of a part of us that would like to incorporate more sustainable technologies But at this point in time and also felt like moving in 275 Square feet was probably a pretty big sustainability move in and of itself. Our tiny house is 25 feet long By eight and a half feet wide – which is the maximum width you can have and pull yourself – by thirteen and a half feet high which is the maximum height that you can pull in a road and we are on a three axle trailer. Each axle can hold six thousand pounds, and it turns out that Tiny actually weighs 14,000 pounds So we’ve got we had plenty of weight to play with. Probably the most unique part of our design is our doggie elevator That has to do with our Soon-To-be ten-Year-Old corgy. (His birthday is on Monday) He has always slept on our bed and originally we thought “he’s only nine and a half we can retrain him to sleep downstairs” and We sat with that for about two weeks, and we thought “no no no it’s not about him. It’s about us!”
Yeah! [gigles] We really want him to be with us and we did design stairs up to our main loft Because I tend to use the washroom at night and I didn’t want to be climbing down a ladder But they are a little bit steep for him, and he has a little bit of a bad back, so Matt our builder is fantastic and he stared into open space for a long long time and then he eventually came up with this idea for a doggie elevator. It’s on a winch that pulls up an anchor, essentially. And so Shanty steps into it get down in the bed to us Wanting to think about living in a tiny home, and it’s a totally different one to actually experience it so we wanted to experience it and the one that we were in didn’t have very much storage and Even though we knew that we are going to give away a lot of what we owned We still were going to need some storage so we have lots of little nooky places And where we have storage both into our stairs Underneath the fireplace underneath the couch We have tow-kick drawers in the kitchen really anywhere where there is any potential extra space we built in storage I think we also we didn’t want to lose the richness of our lives we wanted to bring with us the kinds of things that are important to us, so We have a place for some of my family’s dishes from like the 1800s Which I thought I was going to have to give up But as we did the design it turned out that there were little places for that and we have art supplies because we like to do things like visual journaling and we knit so we have a place for our yarn Yeah, we did a lot of repurposing so we had a dresser drawer That was a little bit broken and it turned into our bathroom cabinet and shelving We did as much local as we could so most of the wood Not all of it, most of it is local the beauty I think was important to us We we didn’t want to feel like we’re living in a cabin Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we want to feel like we’re living in a real home for [people] who are thinking about tiny homes? I think though living in it for a while like we were talking about earlier and Really thinking about who you are and what you value and not in a superficial way But in a really deep way. Ya really designing it for your own needs so the kitchen was really important to us we have a full-size fridge which many tiny homes don’t have Some people don’t have ovens we wanted an oven. Why do we want an oven? French fries. Because we make french fries! French fries are our junk food So we had to have an oven. Also, I have chemical sensitivities, so we were really careful with making sure that air was going to circulate well We do have an HRV. Which is a bit of an expense. It’s like a human nose in fact. We call it tiny’s nose and essentially it expels Used-up air while while holding on to about 80 to 85% of the heat from that air And then it brings in cool air from the outside preheats it and brings it in so there’s always circulation We were also really careful about material so a lot. I slept with a lot of materials for a couple weeks to make sure that nothing was going to off gas and Which of course brought up the expense that plywood for example any plywood on the inside of the house is formaldehyde free and wears on the outside It’s fine, but that plywood cost four times as much here as it does the regular plywood So you know there’s there are compromises in that that we made along the way too, but never in relationship to our health we have 17 Windows so loss of natural light and Which also means that we need to work a little bit with it not getting too hot here in the summertime and also having not too much heat escape via the windows in the wintertime and that’s That’s something that we’re still really experimenting with and figuring out for ourselves Mostly we came up against minimum size limits. Part of the challenge in Cape Breton anyways Is that a tiny house isn’t a designation in any kind of codes or anything and so after a lot of conversation with with the City planner we came to an understanding that we are designated as a Travel trailer which meant that we could live anywhere that is, we can live rurally, we couldn’t live in in the city But we didn’t want to anyways and and we could live in places that were not designated as a rural residential subdivision Other than in those places, we could live and as long as we were connected to septic So even if we have had a composting toilet it wouldn’t have mattered for the greywater We would need to be connected to septic. We found this piece of land which was for sale at the time, and we couldn’t afford it and But we contacted the owners, and we said well, how about we pay you a little bit of rent per month and that’ll pay your taxes until it sells, and then you know we’ll figure it out from there, and so we went to the Planning folk and they said that’s fine. You’re only there temporarily because you’re renting and there used to be a mobile home here So there was already a well and a septic in place So we really just we you know put a little bit more gravel down on the Pad But essentially we drove in and connected to systems. It was really important to me that we were That we were set up in a legal way we had read a number of logs about Tiny houses who were you know sort of hidden off into the bush and and good for them Totally support that too and we read this one blog about somebody who had been living in Iowa city or something and pretty much illegally for six years and Nobody had ever asked him to leave but it just got more and more stressful for him knowing that somebody could ask him and he found that he was hiding himself and eventually he chose to leave on his own so we want it to be legal because we feel like Part of our living tiny is to help people understand that you can live a different lifestyle, and we don’t have any Expectation that people would live in 175 square feet, but maybe by our living in that size someone who’s living in 2,000 square feet might be able to see oh I could live in a thousand or 800 or 600 so so we’re hoping to inspire people to live smaller though, not necessarily tiny. I also think that that being legal was important to you because we want to educate. Exactly. And what happens when you are stuck away, and nobody knows you’re there is that nothing changes. Right. And While we’re not out working in education actively as teachers we want our lifestyle to be teaching Yeah, I don’t think this is a caution so much as just something that we’re encountering and still trying to figure out how to work Best with and that’s high humidity levels. So we are Well practiced that whenever we’re in the bathroom the fan is on and whenever we’re doing anything in the kitchen even if it’s just boiling water our Hood fan is on so and we have an HRV that we don’t use in the summertime, but in the wintertime the air is circulating and yet our humidity levels are incredibly high and it’s really all because of two people and a dog breathing and In the summertime and in the spring it doesn’t seem to be that much of an issue, whereas in the wintertime we found a little bit of mold in a couple of places where the floor meets the wall In areas where there’s extra metal on the trailer, so the wheel wells for example And so it was just a little bit colder there and the humidity was condensing in that area which then started to create a little bit of mold so we we posted on a tiny house Facebook page and just asked if anybody else had this issue. What are you doing? We got over 150 responses And apparently people have been experiencing which is not talking about it much for some reason and off of it somebody another Tiny house builder wrote a really nice article actually bringing together He had he showed a picture which looked what had happened in his house and it looked exactly like our wall Really so and brought together some nice potential things to try and all which we have tried, and it hasn’t reduced our humidity But part of it is that we we live in a very humid area and so in terms of living in Eastern Canada its Probably just something that you need to deal with as best as you can I’m not sure it’s something that we’re going to resolve so to speak But it’s still part of our adventure Well the other thing that was interesting was as we started to look at how do you deal with? Moisture and mold issues. We thought it was a tiny house issue and we discovered that It’s an issue for people in big houses, too and In areas that are high humidity. And one of the responses to us, when we posted on the Facebook tiny house page, what do you do with high humidity levels was somebody from I think was maybe living in Ontario, but was from Germany, I don’t remember but her solution was called “lüften” and it was basically a process that you do in Germany where depending on the month And how cold it is relative to the humidity you open all your windows for a certain amount of time Several times a day and you just exchange the air now we have an HRV So the air is exchanging anyways But in the wintertime we ended up doing we ended up opening our windows for three to five minutes Two or three times a day and it did help bring down the humidity So we weren’t able to find insurance for the actual moving of tiny so it might be out there We just weren’t able to find it Which is why we decided since it wasn’t a very long move we actually hired a tow company And they’re insuring whatever they’re towing so tiny was insured in that sense and then in terms of actually insuring tiny as a home and again, tiny houses don’t Exist on insurance people’s screens, and so we’re actually insured as a mini home and To be a mini home We had to skirt tiny so you can’t actually see her wheels right now but they’re there and we had to tie her down which means that she has a pieces of rebar that are going down into the ground so we’re not just going to go up and and Drive away in the middle of night we’re hoping that Tiny house become a little bit more common, so that house insurance Becomes a little bit cheaper because again they’ve never heard of a tiny house But there was actually only one company of all the companies that our friend explored. He’s an insurance broker. That would even Attempt to insure us, so we were incredibly grateful that somebody would I think a lot of people got themselves in pretty deep with home ownership Big homes take a lot of money to keep up and a lot of life energy and I think that people have started to rethink the big house and big expensive life and somebody was pretty smart and Began to publicize tiny houses and I also think because And Tumbleweed was one of the first People to do that because what they were presenting felt like a house people who maybe wouldn’t have considered Whatever you want to call that and cabin living said, Oh I could live in that, that’s beautiful And it has everything that I need. I think that’s one of the reasons that it’s been attractive it’s like almost like a pendulum where people lived in sort of Normal size houses smaller houses a thousand square feet and then they went to these massive McMansions McMansions And I think the Pendulum is is still swinging. We just read a really interesting thing that said that it might be that the most efficient Size in terms of how much it costs to build and to live in is around five hundred square feet which I thought was interesting Data that wasn’t even around Before the tiny house movement. I think tiny houses right now are mostly attractive to a two segments of the population I’d say and we actually Kind of aren’t in either, but so a slightly younger Segment of the population where real estate prices are just way too high and their salaries aren’t You can’t do it and Also very much to the retirement population. I’ve met a number of people that are afraid to leave their work They’re afraid to return because they don’t think they’ll be able to afford their lifestyles, and they probably many of them won’t be able to but they could afford and be in a tiny house and and still live in a beautiful space and do what they want to be doing with their lives. You know in terms of the future. I don’t think it’s a Be-all and End-all solution to the housing crisis At all it’s a solution for some people. I think tiny houses are being used in some good ways and in the u.s. in particular in terms of Homelessness There’s some really interesting projects happening down there how it will evolve you know I think a lot of a Lot of that will depend on how zoning and regulations evolve

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