Do you want to create positive dialogue in your neighborhood about Climate Change? Most people I speak with agree that Climate Change is a big issue, but say that they are completely powerless and our best hope is “science” to save us from our certain doom… and many people seem convinced that the next ice age will be the day after tomorrow… it does seem rather alarming, doesn’t it?
Parking our Micro-House in the front yard of a 1950′s suburban development was one way to get some conversation brewing. In front of this modest house sits the only structure on the whole block (or in the whole city for that matter) that protrudes past the required fifteen foot site setback. We even ended up having a bit of a climate change discussion with the Department of Community Development because of it. Code Enforcement ultimately agreed that our house was not an illegal dwelling unit, but was indeed a travel trailer (but it was against city ordinances to actually live in it.) Turns out that living a more sustainable lifestyle is against the law. It certainly isn’t a good model for increasing suburban density near the traffic corridor; It’s a Menace to Public Health.
Telling people that they will have to cut back and consume less is a tough sell. Ever try telling someone that they are going to have to give up meat and dairy and learn how to sort their trash? When people step inside the Micro-House, though, they really get a vision for how nice a simple life could be. In a neighborhood where a 1000 sqft house goes for 250k, Candace and I get to tell people we own our own home outright, and paid less per square foot to do it. Our house takes Minutes to clean (even if it is totally messy) Requires a fraction of the energy to heat and light ($20/month in propane for cooking/hot water … $15 electricity for heating/lighting/ventilation). I own less stuff and don’t have to deal with clutter because everything has a place. The money we save on rent enables us to do cool things like rent an artists workspace (where all the clutter goes) and work fewer hours so that we can spend more time doing things we like to do (like cluttering the workshop.) So tell me… would you rather live in a tiny house, or a 2500 square foot debtors prison? Would you rather live in a rolling cabin built with loving care from recycled materials? Or would you rather live in town-homes designed for speedy construction, and to maximize the ratio of square footage to material cost?
Many neighbors come by and tour the house. Neighbors meet other Neighbors in our front yard because of the house. About 1 out of 20 express a desire to live in one. Most people share their contact information with us to be informed of “Tiny House Parties” and “Tiny House Concerts.”
Also, I get to practice civil disobedience and Occupy something. The rent we do pay goes directly to a homeowner in need and not some faceless trust or property management corporation. Win-Win-Win.
When people hear the phrase “economic security,” an immediate association is made of vast amounts of cash, or a bank account with 7 digits on the good side of the decimal. A million dollars isn’t what it used to be. When I hear the term “economic security,” I think in terms of food, water, shelter, opportunities, education, public health and safety, and strong social institutions. This is what “economic security” and “the wealth of nations” looks like, not a briefcase full of paper.
Our tiny home is one of a growing number of such dwellings that have been designed for mobility, durability, aesthetics, and customized for the habits, needs, and lifestyle of the occupants. The Modular housing model will indeed be making an economic impact in the near future across a wide demographic range. The next decade promises a growing population who will need end-of-life care, and as we are confronted with the cost of this endeavor, simple dwellings will step into this economic niche in a variety of ways. A spare bedroom can be quickly set up to provide a non-intrusive nurses unit; especially in Alzheimer and Dementia cases where removing a patient from familiar surroundings promotes acceleration of symptoms. Caretakers can live on-site and quickly earn enough money to buy their own tiny home. Many people will choose to provide care to their parents directly, and a tiny house can provide an “instant in-law-unit.”
College Graduates are moving back home at an alarming rate, burdened with vast student debt while entering a competitive job market where labor is exported and undervalued.
Businesses are downsizing their offices, and small business owners need affordable office space; separating business from home-life is important… imagine how easy that could be (and how much gas money you would save) if the driveway is your “business zone.” Artists, writers, artisans, and hobbyists alike already benefit from their tiny backyard sanctuaries.
Community Level Discussions on increasing Urban Density near the transit corridor are dominated by developers, Realtors, and builders. In the meantime, thousands of people are living in overcrowded units. So people are living in illegal dwelling units, some of which are unsafe and many lacking sanitation… but an accessory structure doesn’t attract much attention if it is under 100 sq ft and does not have plumbing or electricity. http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/development/2013/05/san-francisco-likely-has-tens-thousands-people-living-under-stairs Honestly, wouldn’t you rather have people living in your neighbors’ driveway?
We are realizing that a single weather event can displace hundreds of thousands or more individuals within a matter of hours. A well co-ordinated dispatch of housing, complete with supplies can be trucked in within days; providing immediate relief to those displaced, as well as short term accommodations for aid-workers and those concerned with rebuilding. Climate Scientists have been warning of increased frequency of severe weather events. You should get a tax-break for building a tiny house and keeping it in your driveway… so long as you register it with fema and agree to dispatch it in the event of a natural disaster. Hasn’t America been defined in terms of our response to national tragedy over the last couple decades? What could be more American than having an emergency shelter in your driveway?
So .. on a personal level… I am pretty confident I have embarked on a lifestyle that will enable me to pay down my personal debts, as well as pay down my personal ecological debt to any children Candace and I may or may not have one day. Either way, aren’t all the kids our kids? Do we have the right to borrow against their economic and ecological future?
I guess that depends on values. Maybe you believe that our kids will enjoy a higher standard of living than we could ever dream… Personally, I tend to think our children will have to learn to make do with less, and I am not eager to take more than my fair share at their expense. No matter what you do, just stop taking it for granted… admit that every act of meeting the economic needs of 7 billion on this planet is an unsustainable act.
I’m now grateful for every damn ice cream bar I eat, and every piece of fruit that travels thousands of miles to be ripe on my plate. My personal values have shifted from the material, and my life goals have shifted to “living a long time” which means my priorities are a good diet, and a healthy lifestyle… other than the Camel Filters… anyway.
We (we bay area folk) are truly reaping all of the spoils of empire, and I for one won’t allow myself one second of guilt for enjoying so much while so many people have so little. But… when you put what we have now in perspective of what humans have over the course of history, and will have over the course of the uncertain future ahead… All I can feel is gratitude. So I smoke my cigarettes and drink my wine and boy do they taste sweet… I eat a hamburger and I drink my dairy and I enjoy the variety of goods on the marketplace that have come to the shelves in a store near me and it all is a bit sweeter to me than most… because I truly appreciate the long-term cost that is incurred.
I’m getting ranty now, so I’m going to have to drop off and think of a way to explain how simple shelters can be leveraged to tackle huge social problems that we are faced with, such as homelessness, veterans programs, illegal foreclosures, and a criminal justice system that could only be described as a system in crisis.
When I hear the words “housing crisis” the first thing that comes to my mind is how millions of middle class Americans nearly lost their retirement in the near economic meltdown of 2008. With the Dow hovering at record levels … Continue reading →
So, our original plan was to move the house on Monday, April 1st, but we couldn’t quite get the kitchen in and the trailer legal for travel by that day. It seems like a simple enough enterprise…. rent a truck, hitch up, and go… but things are a little more complicated when you plan on hauling a 6000 pound structure made chiefly of wood and glass down the road. Temporary shear bracing is added, windows are removed or boarded up, and modular units are slid over the floor to balance the weight of the load. You spend several hours troubleshooting to discover a ground in your trailer wiring went bad before you make the 2 minute fix. Arguments are had with insurance underwriters as to whether or not a policy should be written for us for the value of the load we plan to transport; routes need to be walked with a stick to make sure that we have our 13’5″ clearance… and then you have to rent a truck … which it turns out… you can’t.
As we learned, renting a Truck to haul a Trailer is a bit of an enterprise. Penske and San Mateo Rentals do not allow towing with their vehicles; neither does Hengehold for that matter, which is where you go to BUY a work truck in the bay area. Home Depot welds a pin in the receiver of their trucks to prevent people from using them to tow. It turns out that U-haul welds 2″ hitch balls on their entire fleet of Box Vans which would otherwise be capable of towing our house… this is done to prevent theft of receivers and hitch balls. If only we could attach the 2 5/16″ ball needed for our trailer, Uhaul would be the perfect choice. If you are shopping for a trailer for your tiny house… a 2″ coupler on your trailer will make renting transport much easier (if you aren’t planning on buying a truck) since the largest rental fleet in America has 2″ balls permanently attached. Also, U-haul sells their box trucks used, and those too are permanently equipped with 2″ hitches. For this reason, I predict that future tiny house companies, as well as agencies who provide short to medium term emergency housing, will design and build their trailers with 2″ hitches. My digression makes a long story longer.
So we pushed the date back to April 8th, Which was the day that we discovered all of these interesting facts about renting a truck. Paul offered us use of his F-350 to do the job, though, but I was really hesitant because the truck is not equipped with an electric brake controller for the trailer… typically I have little respect for the law, which states that my load needed to be equipped with brakes… but in this case… a desire to stop without being pushed into the middle of the intersection or down a hill far outweighed my disdain for the laws of man… prudence and safety take precedent.
So I was under Paul’s truck inspecting the wiring and making a shopping list for what I needed to install a brake controller when I was interrupted by a customer of WHBS needing assistance. I was pretty short with him in explaining that I wasn’t on the clock and was pushed too far to the limit to be able to talk… I feel bad whenever I have to tell someone to “bugger off, I’m busy” … but this time I felt particularly bad because I was less than pleasant about it and the gentleman has spent hours with me over the last year just shooting the breeze about the project and has been a valuable source of information for me. Raymond is a mech-eng and we spent quite a bit of time talking about designing and building collapsible stepladders and a latter for our sleeping loft … also .. he is a rather enthusiastic and sociable person who always seems to be in a good mood. So after I crawled out from under Pauls truck I found him on the warehouse floor and offered an apology … explaining that I was under a lot of pressure, and was unduly rude.
So Raymond asks “Gee… is there anything I can do to help?”
To which I answered “Not unless you got a Super Duty truck and want to tow a tiny house down El Camino this afternoon”
So he says “Yeah… I got a super diesel outside with a dualie.. I’m busy today, but you can borrow the truck and tow it yourself if you want”
(Can you believe it!? Much Gratitude, Raymond – who, ironically, has traveled through North Dakota many times – you totally saved the day!)
Turns out the truck is exactly like our trailer… as large as something can possibly be built without becoming a commercial vehicle.
We had to take a ride back down to A&B in Redwood City to pick up a 7 round to 7 flat adapter for the trailer… but that was way cheaper and faster than buying and installing a brake controller for Paul’s truck… also .. it was really cool to go back down to where it all started. Candace and I reflected on how excited and eager we had been to buy that trailer 14 months ago…
and then we reflected on how haggard, stressed, and exhausted we were on the 8th….
This lifted our spirits as we returned to the warehouse with everything we needed to move.
And then it got windy… really windy. Everyone told us not to go. We listened… reluctantly.. and spent the night in the house in the alley. By 3pm on Tuesday the wind had died down, the trailer was hitched up, the lights were all working, and traffic was light. We left the warehouse. Thanks for the awesome footage, Paul! We laugh along with you every time we watch it!
The Truck purred like a kitten and pulled like an ox. I got the house up to 40 miles an hour in the Dip underneath Hillsdale Blvd and began to feel some pitching so I eased off before yaw or roll joined the party…. I guess I need more positive tounge weight before I try to pull her at 45.
I wasn’t surprised by the waves, honks, stares, and even pointing that occurred… what surprised me was the people who didn’t seem to notice at all. I guess people are too busy driving to notice that they are in traffic with a house… hell, some people are too busy driving to even notice that there is other traffic on the road at all. Just keep looking forward… don’t look over… you might see a guy driving a house smiling and waving at you.
The route was 9th to Delaware to 25th to El Camino to Redwood City.. and then 5th to Bay to Kayanye to Flynn. I would like to end with a list of feelings and emotions I experienced during the hour drive.. this list is in no particular order… I seemed to feel all of these things all at once with incredible intensity during the entire trip.
Finally! Photos of the cork floor. I promised those over a month + ago! I apologize for the delay; it’s been a wild ride!
Without further ado…
Oooohh…. Aahhhh. What do you think? I love it. Aaron is very protective of it. I am happy to report that I was not the first person to drop something sharp or heavy onto it’s surface. I was sad for him, but relieved it wasn’t me. Is that bad??
The past couple months have been pretty full finishing up as much as we could on the house for the party and the upcoming move. So, as you may (or not) have noticed, I haven’t been blogging much, which is sad as I had some great momentum after Tammy’s Writing in the Digital Age class in February. But I’ve received some wonderful feedback from those reading the blog and appreciate your thoughts and encouragement. Over the past few months, I’ve come to really enjoy it… even if I don’t do it as often as I’d like.
What have we been filling the hours of our days with (the 16 hours days, you ask)? Aaron laid the cork flooring, started creating shelves for the kitchen, refinished the redwood door (side door) & installed the antique window in it – it’s beautiful! He installed the water heater, rewired the electrical box, built our individual closets, and the utility closet, which is one of my favorite features in the house. The clothes closet walls are actually made out of closet doors, hinges still attached. Our friend, Jan, built and installed shelving in the utility closet and painted the inside of the side door. I made (well, it was more of an experiment in re-fab) and hung curtains on 1/2″ dowels and got started on the cushion cover to sit on top of the cedar chest. I look forward to tiling the counter top for the stove this weekend. I must get the rest of the curtains up before moving day!
Aaron, with help from Eddie, moved the house onto the street for the House Warming Party, which is where it sat for a week as we recovered from all the excitement and long days of projects. In order to protect our home as it sat on the street, we got our first taste of actually living in it. We’ll just say it was… a fun (& exhausting) week. We were both quite relieved when it was back home in the alley. Where to next?? We’ll be rolling out of town soon… more details to come!
The party was amazing! A huge Thank You to all who came out to celebrate with us on St. Paddy’s Day. We were blown away at the turnout, and despite requesting that nobody bring gifts, we received many gifts that could be eaten, burned, or drunk… which are perfect for us! … Our friends really do know how to shop for tiny house dwellers… we never thought to ask for wine, incense, candles, spices, gift cards and preserved jellies! Too many to thank here for your thoughtfulness!
Special thanks are due to Eddie for shopping, cooking, setting up, and cleaning up… as well as Carolyn who brought the amazing soup, Sue who also helped us shop, Mary who brought the Colcannon and cooked the Field Roast to perfection and Paul for providing a space for us all to eat, drink, and be merry. Our deepest gratitude to our dear friend and minister, Rev. Julia, who officiated the blessing of the house (& us) with rosemary and water from the Water Communion/Ceremony at the UUFRC. It was great to see so many members of our community get behind us as we were inundated with love, positive wishes, song and UUFRC holy water!
We do have a couple of Minor injuries to report. Firstly, Candace was struck twice in the face with projectiles; the first being a Guiness Black bottle cap and the second being a stale miniature marshmallow (don’t ask… she is still a little sensitive about that.) Believe it or not, the marshmallow hurt more. Our friend, Mark got a splinter through his finger that was so large it could be described as a toothpick. Sue jammed her finger early in the day, and by late evening her hand was swollen to the size of a softball.
The list of people to thank is really too long… so many people came over the last year to help out on the house that I can’t even remember them all. So many things wouldn’t have gotten done unless I had help doing them.
A huge thanks to all who took pictures and are still mailing them! We are struggling to get it all arranged for this post… and will probably be adding pictures to this post for over a year as we sort out the email chaos. M.C. and Erika… Paul… and all those who end up sending more
Our friend, Meagan of “Bake Today, Revolution Tomorrow” deserves a thanks for the vegan and gluten free chocolate goodies that were distributed.
And thanks to Bev and Tom, Whole House Building Supply now has a 2013 calendar in the bathroom … the 2011 Outhouse Calendar has been removed.
This was the first time we had the house out on the street and were able to walk around and see the house from all angles. So, for those who have been asking… full length photos of the house are to follow!
Wow! we appeared in the Home and Garden section of the SJ Merc today! My comments were made along-side a pretty solid line-up of “up-cycling” artists and salvage industry professionals interviewed.
A huge thank-you to Kathryn Pritchett for researching and writing the story, I worked here at Whole House today and we made lots of new friends today thanks to your work!!! People were talking about the article and many took a peek at the tiny cabin on the side of the road here.
A couple minor corrections…
The website is mostly Candace.. although I do post from time to time
I am a peninsula resident and not a south bay resident :s
The Canander rolling cabin is a modest 139 sqft and not the palatial 196 listed XD
I picked up 3/8″x3 1/4″ solid spruce waynescoating at 35 cents per lineal foot. The ply paneling was removed from the convent chapel and library at the Church of the Nativity in Menlo Park. When the paneling failed to sell at the demolition sale, I was offered the material for free.
still working on the St Patricks days thankyous and a play-by-play.
In Gratitude to all who reduce, re-use, recycle, and read the printed news. May we all add refurbish, repair, and repurpose to the reportoire.
sorry for poor spelling and grammar… spellcheck malfunction
A year ago today, Aaron brought the trailer home from A&B Trailer Hitch in Redwood City. It’s incredible to think that our house was only a flatbed utility trailer just 12 months ago and today it has plumbing installed! In the same amount of time, the folks next door filled up nearly 3/4 of the block – once the property of the San Mateo Times – with “people barns”, complete with streets, garages and lamp posts. The project may have provided quite a few construction jobs, but it is definitely not an option in affordable housing.
What we’ve found encouraging (and empowering) is the amount of Tiny Houses that have popped up over the past year or so, all over the country – and the world! Check out the Tiny House Map to see who is going small and where they are living (make sure to zoom all the way out.) It’s hard to say if we’re just noticing it more because we’re paying attention or if like-mind people are starting to come forward, in real time, with a viable option for living lighter on the planet. I imagine it’s a little of both. Either way, there are a lot of Tiny Houses being built around the world! How exciting is that!?
Also exciting… Aaron put the cork floor in this past week. It’s so pretty. Photos to come…