The Second Hurdle: Dad


Greetings from sunny Florida! While I’m missing the Monroeville Home Show (where they’re featuring a Tiny House!!!), I am very  happy to be in Florida. Yesterday I went to Universal Studios specifically to experience Harry Potter’s universe. It. Was. Awesome. But you don’t care about that. This is a Tiny House blog after all! On Thursday I presented my Tiny House power point to my parents. Cue the drama. I’ve attached my presentation to the bottom of this post so you can take a look. I took out some of the more personal slides, but you’ll get the gist anyway.

Suffice it to say that the discussion did not go well. At all. At any point. Ever.

I eased into the topic that morning while we were outside (outside – in JANUARY!) drinking coffee and chatting amiably. My dad brought up the topic of saving money and he commended me for doing so well over the past year or so. I casually mentioned that money was a large part of the allure of a Tiny House for me – the financial freedom. I mentioned how I’d love to travel more, read more, paint more, and work less. I currently spend about 65-70 hours per week working, and I know that I can’t keep that up long-term. I turn 30 in August. I want to enjoy my life. His response actually wasn’t terrible. He said he was glad I was thinking about my life in terms of my future before going to take a shower. I was optimistic.

After that we spent the day with their friends. We toured John D. Rockefeller’s Ormond Beach home “The Casements” and went to lunch. Then we went to their condo and took in the ocean breeze. Later on, after apple pie a la mode and a glass of wine, I decided to take the plunge…

My dad was immediately on the defensive. I was a little surprised given our discussion just that morning. He urged me to wait until they got home, but that wasn’t an option for me. (My builder wants to finish the shell and have it delivered by March 1st. Given that they come home February 18th and I wouldn’t be able to visit them until at least February 21st, I need to do it now so I know if I can have the shell delivered to their address or not.) So I booted up my power point and began.

I did have a slide in there with “rules” which isn’t included in the draft below. In it I asked my parents to keep an open mind and hold questions until the end. Neither of those requests were met.

And so I went on, answering the peppering of questions as I went. I outlined my financial goals and how much more feasible it was for me own a Tiny House rather than a “traditional” home. I compared building a THOW now to building a THOW later to renting ad infinitum. I remained calm. I was clear. I was patient.

And I got nowhere. Less than nowhere. I was knocked backward by a brick wall of doubt.

The worst nightmare of how this talk could have gone was playing out before me. My dad blamed me for ruining our vacation. He accused me of blackmail; in his mind, if they refused to help I would never speak to them again. (For the record: this is not true. I have also spent the last two days being extremely pleasant so as to show that this assumption is incorrect.) If there was one positive, he did compliment my power point, saying that it looked professionally done; I chalk this up to the fact that he’s probably never seen one before.

I asked what their concerns were and braced myself. My mom’s were as she’d previously said: what land I’d put it on and the fact that Tiny Houses are illegal in some places. My dad’s were all over the map: my lack of building skills, the fact that Tiny Houses are edgy, my inability to save (wasn’t he just complimenting me on money earlier that day?), that he thinks I’m crazy. Perhaps I’ll delve into why the “crazy” comment hurts so much later, but now is not the time.

I addressed their concerns one by one. I told my mom that the land/illegality issue was the reason Channel 4 is interviewing me next week. I told my dad that I would embrace the challenge of building the structure. I reminded him that I have 7 tattoos and 6 piercings in each ear so technically I am already edgy. I again outlined some of my slides from my power point to show him how financially sound this was.

And none of it mattered. They were upset and so was I, but I decided not to show it. I told them that I would be moving forward with this process with or without their approval (seeing as I’m almost 30 and all). I told them that I would love their support but would understand if they couldn’t stand behind me and I’d figure out another place to put the THOW while I finish the interior if they wouldn’t allow me to put it in their yard. The night eventually calmed down and I stayed with them, so as not to come off as a pouty teenager (i.e. running up to my room and slamming the door).

Some of you may be wondering why I presented this on the first day of my trip rather than later on. Fair enough. The answer is simple – I knew I’d be spending all day yesterday in Orlando alone, so it would give them time to discuss and go over my proposition together and without me, if they chose to do so.

The one glimmer of hope I have is that my dad said he would give let me know if I can work on the interior at their house by the time I leave Florida. That gives them until Monday morning to reach a decision. I am trying to hope for the best and expect the worst, but it’s hard for me not to have hope. Maybe that’s what this Tiny House is for me in a nutshell. My tiny little glimmer of hope.

To quote my favorite musical: The light is getting dimmer / I think I see a glimmer!

Tiny House Presentation (MOD)


The First Hurdle: Mom

I left off my last post talking about how excited I was to begin building my THOW (Tiny House On Wheels). Since I hope that this blog will eventually become a sort of guide to help other Tiny builders and dreamers, I want to recount for everyone who hasn’t been near me the last few months what it’s been like to go from thinking about my THOW to actually getting to a building phase. This post is about something every Tiny dreamer must go through: telling their loved ones about their (crazy) Tiny dream.

I admit – the first time I actually saw Tiny Houses was on a show called “Tiny House Nation” on FYI. (Now that I no longer get that channel I’m in withdrawal. But then I found “Tiny House Hunters” and “Tiny House, Big Living” on HGTV so I feel a bit better… but I digress.) I still haven’t actually been inside a tiny house. Many of you (including my parents) will panic: “How can you live in something that small when you haven’t even been inside one yet?!” Admittedly you have a point and I’d love to tour one. But I haven’t found any in my area and I don’t have the money to travel to see one because I’m trying to actually pay for one! BACK OFF! Okay, okay… calm down…

So here I am, loving this movement and trying to save money, when I mention it to my parents. They are, at best, less than enthusiastic. They think I am jumping on a fad just to be trendy or weird or different. (Maybe?) They think I am opting out of normal life. (So?) They probably think I’m going to turn into a gypsy or something. (Alright, you got me.) They refused to even listen to my ideas without rolling their eyes or changing the subject. After a few months of solid research I finally confronted my mother. It went something like this:

Me: Mom, why do you always change the subject when I start talking about Tiny Houses?

Mom: Because it’s stupid and you won’t ever actually do it. You saw it on TV and you want to do what everyone else is doing.

Me: Mom, you’re going to have to accept the fact that this is real. This is happening. Do you know how much my take-home pay is?

Mom: *guesses incorrectly*

Me: *corrects her* For me to buy a house in this area I would have to be married, become a landlord, or have roommates. Since I currently live alone, wouldn’t these all be steps backward? Between mortgage, taxes, and utilities we’re talking about $1,300-1,400 per month. My current rent, including utilities, is $650 and you think that’s too much.

And then it happened: she listened. I carefully explained the financial ramifications of a mortgage as well as how miserable I’d be if I were tied to such a large payment for 30 years. One of her biggest concerns was what I would do if I got married someday. Hear me now: I do not consider myself a raging feminist. However, I think it is ludicrous in this day and age to ask me to put my life on hold until I find a man who can buy me a house. What do I do then? Bake cookies? Knit? Make homemade jam? Tuck our beautiful and oh-so-normal 2.5 children into bed? (For those of you who don’t actually know me, laugh. This is a ridiculous vision of my life.) I want to be financially independent on my own. I know this is probably hard for her to hear at 60-something, but I am finally my own person. And this own person wants a Tiny House.

(Please note: I don’t suggest you talk to your parents/siblings/friends/co-workers/dog/neighbor/spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/parakeet like I had to speak to my mom. I fully expect you to be respectful and well thought-out. I am, however, quite emotional. So this is the route I took. I am following it up with an informative power point presentation, but I can’t take back my first interaction. C’est la vie.)

For those of you who wonder why I haven’t brought up my dad, yes, he’s in the picture. He’s still married to my mom and they just celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary (pretentious bastards). But he’s someone I need to talk to in-depth about this and he’s just not a phone person. But I am spending 5 days with them this week and I’ll answer all his questions. I’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest Tiny House news after my power point presentation. I sure hope this doesn’t ruin vacation…

Tiny House Dreaming

Some of you may be wondering what a tiny house is. Some of you may already know but want more information. Well I hope to show that you’ve come to the right place! I will be uploading lots of useful information regarding the tiny house movement, trailers, shells, comparisons, financial breakdowns, and more. But for now, let me tell you a little about myself…

My name is Rachel. I am 29 years old. I live in Pittsburgh, PA and I always have. I never thought I was much of the traveling type until a few years ago when I got on my first plane. (Yes, it was just a few short years ago that I first stepped foot on a plane. Crazy, I know.) I began seeing how small the world really is and yearned to travel more. However, it’s a little difficult to afford such extravagances when you live alone and pay rent alone. I began downsizing my life and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten my bills down as low as they can possibly go. (More on that in a later post!) Now, on the brink of turning 30, you may say I’m having a third-life crisis. I have two degrees, three cats, two jobs, and I’m going nowhere. I like my job(s) and I love my co-workers, and I definitely earn a livable wage at EITHER one of my jobs. But I want more. I want to live in a place where my downstairs neighbor doesn’t ring the doorbell SIX TIMES for me to turn up the heat because he’s cold. I want to own a home so I can garden and lounge outside and make improvements and have people over. So I began my house-hunt.

Then I did the math. I was crushed. To purchase a relatively cheap $100,000 home in my desired area, I’d definitely have to be a landlord or get married. Since one isn’t appealing to me and the other is, at best, far in the future, I had to come up with a new plan. I could a.) rent the rest of my life, b.) become a landlord anyway, c.) move back in with my parents until the cows came home, or d.) dive head-first into a more sustainable lifestyle. Enter: tiny houses.

It didn’t take long for me to get excited about tiny houses. (After all, hadn’t I always wanted a tree house or a fort?!) The options available to me were vast and at first it was overwhelming, but it only took a little bit of research to find my footing. In the beginning I’d planned to build the whole thing myself, from the trailer up. Then reality sunk in… I realized that I’d never so much as built a shelf from scratch; how was I going to build a house?! So I found a builder (well, actually, he found me) and together we’ve embarked on this journey together. Mark, my builder, is building the shell of my tiny house then I’m going to finish the interior. I’ll still need a little help from my friends and family, but this is a much more attainable dream now!

In the coming days and weeks I’ll be posting lots of things as my build gets going – my plans, my budget, my power point (because anyone with parents like mine NEEDS a convincing argument…), and my ideas. Hopefully you’ll enjoy taking this journey with me!