Do not go gentle into that good night…

Do not go gentle into that good night…

Good afternoon Tiny House enthusiasts! I know I promised I’d post about my research regarding insulation and other super fun things (like drywall), but first I need to put some things down that have been bothering me…

I was asked this weekend who I am writing this blog for. While I am hopeful that my audience will find this to be both amusing and (eventually) informative, I am primarily writing this for myself. I want to be able to remember the decisions I’m making now and why I made them. I want to be able to look back and show things I accomplished and things that deflated me. For this reason, some of my posts will be less about decisions I’m making and more about how I’m feeling or why I’m confused.

Truth be told, I’ve been having a hard time at both of my jobs lately…

The restaurant I work at started (and kept on) messing up my schedule. I was working Monday night, Friday night, and sometimes Saturday and/or Sunday. I’m not even available to work Sundays or Mondays. It was stressing me out quite a bit and for quite a few reasons. First, with the amount of time I’m spending working I need a full day off each Sunday. Having to find someone to come in on what is actually my only day off was stressful, primarily because no one would ever want to work the shift. Second, I have been at this restaurant since the day it opened. I was one of the first three people hired and I didn’t understand why I was being singled out to work on a day I wasn’t available. So I sat down with them, had the conversation, and have been given my preferred schedule. I now work Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, as well as all day Saturday. My knees are killing me but I’ve already made an extra $1600 this month. (And it’s only halfway through the month!)

Now on to my full-time job. (I find it hard to call just one of my jobs “full-time” now since I’m basically working full-time at both jobs, but I digress.) Things are feeling increasingly stifled to me. I work for a private company, but a large one. We recently moved to a new location and the vibe around the office is becoming more and more corporate. There is a lot more micro-managing and a lot less creativity. There is also an awful lot of inter-office pettiness that stresses me out daily and negatively affects my mood. I’m annoyed or upset more often than not these days and it takes all my energy just to get up in the mornings.

I know part of this is my depression but knowing why you feel a certain way doesn’t change that you do feel that way. My new medication takes the edge off the depression like ibuprofen may dull joint pain, but it doesn’t take it away.

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I worry about what will happen when this Tiny House push is over. I know I’ve outlined all of the reasons I’m embarking on this journey, but what happens when it’s all done? I have always been good at pushing through and working toward a goal. What happens when I attain that goal?

Time for a story.

When I started college I was 17 and very smart. I earned several scholarships for writing and academics. I was excited for all that college would bring. I enrolled in interesting classes like one about Marxism and another called “Your Karma Ran Over My Dogma”. It was exhilarating to open my mind up to topics I’d never really heard of, yet alone dared to study. Coming from a close-minded Catholic education, this was really a treat for my mind.

And then it all crashed, and crashed quickly. My depression quickly spun out of control and by my sophomore year I was failing classes. I had to transfer to a larger and less prestigious school, but I did so well there (while living at home with my parents, mind you) that I was convinced I was cured. I even managed to convince my parents of that. I returned to my fancy (see: expensive) college, and promptly ended up back on academic probation. I quit college just one year shy of graduating.

Why am I telling you this sad story? To tell you this better one:

Fast forward five years. I’d never gone back to school and I’d moved around Western PA a lot. I was fed up with my job after two-and-a-half years and ready to move on. When they said they’d pay me unemployment if I quit, I quit that very day. I decided a few weeks later that I’d return to school. And I decided to return to my school. Sure, I could have gone somewhere closer or cheaper or less distinguished, but I wanted to prove to my 17-year-old self that I could do it. I filled out the paperwork, I got my loans, and I returned to class.

My first time around, I’d planned to graduate with both a Psychology and an English degree. Each Professor who knew me way back when told me to take it easy and choose one major and allow the other to become my minor. I didn’t listen. I couldn’t do that. Instead, I took 22 credits during the fall and 23 in the spring. I re-enrolled in classes I had failed or gotten a ‘D’ in, just to pull up my cumulative GPA. When I returned to school, my GPA was a measly 2.3. My goal was to graduate with a 3.0.

After just one year and enough classes to fill at least three semesters, I graduated with both degrees. I made the Dean’s List each semester and my GPA was a 3.0. (Well, it’s technically a 2.97 but we all round up, right? Math, right!?)

So again, why am I telling you this? Because I need to remind anyone who is listening that you can do whatever you put your mind to. And I need to remind myself that I can do it. Despite any craziness at my jobs or with my family or the battle against my inner self, I will not succumb. And neither should you.

It shouldn’t matter who is with you or against you, as long as you are with and for yourself. So long as you keep your own hope alive, you can do anything.

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     – Dylan Thomas

Framing and Plating and Landing – OH MY!

Framing and Plating and Landing – OH MY!

First I’d like to apologize for my inconsistent updates. I feel motivated in many ways but updating frequently has not been one of those ambitions as of late. I find it is difficult to update when all I seem to be doing is researching the same things over and over again. I also have to do all of my blogging at strange times since I am still working 70-80 hours per week.

Now that that’s out of the way, today I have good news, bad news, and fantastic news.

The good news is that I have some updated pictures of my build from Tiny House Squared! See below for some amazing progress! My builder, Mark Boyer, is working very hard to complete my build despite the flu, the weather, and some visits from curious locals. (Click on each picture to see a description and larger image.)

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Now for the bad news… Due to circumstances (including my own miscalculation with the trailer registration), my trailer delivery has been delayed a week. It is now set to be delivered Sunday, March 19th.

 

Pennsylvania-DMV-testWord to the wise: Check your local requirements for trailer registrations and plates well before you start thinking about transporting your trailer. As it turns out, PA is strict about more things than just liquor sales. Not only do I need my MCO (Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin) and bill of sale, but I also need another form (the MV-41, apparently) that requires VIN and trailer inspection by a certified mechanic. We’re figuring it out now, but it’s taken some maneuvering. Save yourself this hassle and talk this out beforehand.

Now on to the fantastic news. I just found out today that I was approved for my land loan! The appraisal came back and everything is good so I’m just waiting for the closing now.

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My next post will be all about insulation and drywall (or wood). I have a lot of decisions to make and I’m concerned about how the choices I make now will affect the future of my Tiny Home.

 

 

The End of an Era

The End of an Era

If you’re a fan of “Sex and the City” you’ll undoubtedly recognize the photo above as Carrie’s closet from her apartment. (And if you’re like me you’ll even be able to identify which outfits were in which episodes…) It used to be one of my dreams to have a closet stock-piled with clothes and memories like hers. The teensy-weensy difference is that Carrie’s Chanel dresses and Manolo Blahniks cost just a smidge more than my Forever 21 tunic shirts and Charlotte Russe wedge sandals.

One of the things I’ve been both dreading and dreaming of through this process is paring down my wardrobe. Allow me to explain… It takes me a very long time to pick an outfit in the morning and even longer to second-guess my choices. I have at least 30 pairs of heels and yet I wear ballet flats to my first job and Payless-brand non-slip sneakers to my second. I can’t remember the last time I wore heels, in fact. I own dresses I’ve never worn and shoes I’m afraid to ruin. During one after-Christmas sale at Old Navy I bought the same sweater in 9 colors. You read that right – NINE DIFFERENT SOLID COLORS.

In addition to the sheer insanity that is “nine of the same sweater”, my gluttonous need for closet space has inadvertently affected my living conditions. Anywhere I’ve lived I’ve needed a huge amount of closet space. I have even had to buy an extra wardrobe to store my myriad of clothes when the closet in my apartment is too small. (FYI: To me, “too small” is a double closet of normal depth.)

I have bras I haven’t worn in years and hand-me-downs that still have the tags on them. Due to years of going to a laundromat, I have more mismatched socks than correctly matched ones. (And with my OCD I cannot wear the ones that don’t match. I just hope they’ll turn up again someday like a long-lost puppy.) I have leg warmers. I have banana clips. I have at least 20 non-winter scarves. I have…a problem.

I can admit it. That’s the first step right – admitting it?

Here is a picture of my old closet, just for kicks. I don’t have one of my current closet.

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(Please note that in this apartment I had another closet with almost as much clothing in it too.)

So now that my Tiny House will be here any day now and I’m facing the reality of downsizing, I’m beginning to panic. I’m beginning to panic a lot. Where am I going to put all 18 pairs of skinny jeans? How many of my nine solid-colored Old Navy sweaters can I afford to keep? Can I still have my size zero dress from high school to remind me of how skinny I used to be?

AND WHERE WILL I PUT MY SHOES?

I’ve read about people who have pared down to capsule wardrobes but I think I’m just going to call myself out.

I’ve been a hoarder of a clothes and a shopaholic. It was fun. We had some great memories. But it needs to end now.

And isn’t that part of the reason I’ve decided to live Tiny in the first place? I wanted my life to be more simple, less cluttered, and more about actually living. I want to spend more time outside and less time doing chores. I’m going to digress for a moment but bear with me: Do you know how quickly cat hair gets on clean clothes? I estimate it to be about 1/10 of a second. That shit is everywhere. So the natural conclusion must be that the more clothes I have, the more clothes I have to launder. And don’t even get me started about putting them away.

I think the above reasons illustrate that I’m getting myself psychologically ready to part with some of my clothes. In a way, I’m pumped. But I haven’t yet addressed why I’m dreading this process at the same time.

If you read my last blog post you saw my plans for my Tiny House in 3D. If you are a woman (or a well-dressed man), you likely noticed that I was missing something crucial; I had no traditional closet. Not many Tiny Houses do, and I was convinced I could get on board with this notion.

But then I couldn’t sleep last night because I was looking around at all my clothes, panicking about not having anywhere to store them. This is the first time my Tiny dream has truly scared me. Because it is getting to be so real, I am starting to really stress. As such, I’ve had to make a change to my floorplan. I’m going to move my washer/dryer into the kitchen where I have plenty of storage and take 2.5′ from the bathroom to create a closet. See below:

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I may try to install a pocket door but I also may just leave an open doorway to the closet. I can’t decide yet. I am also going to place the washer/dryer under the stairs, but I’m now wondering if I may change the stairs to a ladder. Happily, that can all be decided later.

I hope this new solution alleviates my fears a bit. Maybe I will be able to do my laundry in peace tonight, with no nightmares afterward.

Designing My Life

Designing My Life

I have my delivery date nailed down for my Tiny House and I have some great news to share as well! My builder is delivering the shell himself on March 13th to surprise me. YAY! But the biggest news is the best surprise. My parents have reconsidered their position and are allowing me to store my Tiny House on their property until it’s almost finished.

This makes me feel better since I’ll only be able to get out to my land once a week or so to do the demo. This makes my future home safe, secure, and protected.

Sure, I’ll have to endure endless suggestions from my dad, but honestly suggestions are pouring in from all angles now. That’s part of the problem of going public and of documenting your journey; everyone has an opinion. But it’s also very cool. Some people are pointing me in directions I’ve never thought about before. I’ve talked to a guy building a yurt and a gal who is funding her trailer in a creative way. (BTW, that gal’s name is Melanie and you should read her blog too. It’s called Little House in the Steel City. She is offering to paint small portraits for $15 to help fund her trailer – click here to order yours! She’s an amazing artist. I’ve ordered three!)

Now I’m making decisions about super-fun things, like drywall and insulation. I hate it. I want to keep looking at tile and flooring and paint colors and shiplap (damn you Joanna Gaines…). But instead I’m looking at cement board and radiant heat flooring mats and trying to nail down a budget.

I did make my first fun purchase though. I bought this fireplace from Wayfair.com to heat my Tiny Home. The flames change colors and so do the ambient lights. This won’t be my only source of heat but it will certainly be a fun addition!

I also did a 3D creation of what I think my Tiny House layout will be. I’ve never done one of these before so keep that in mind…

The stairs are all individual cabinets that will open in different directions. Those will have to be custom-made. I also changed my mind for the size of the vanity and shower, but that won’t change the picture much. Here are some of the materials and furnishings I’m thinking of using:

There’s one thorn in my side right now – no news on the land front. The loan is still going through the process so I’m just waiting to hear back.

Giant Leaps

Giant Leaps

I mentioned in my last post that I put an offer in on a piece of land. Yes – it was the land that I’d mentioned previously. (If you missed it, read about it here.) I have good news to share and bad news to share.

The good news is that the sellers accepted my offer!

The bad news is that the sellers accepted my offer…

So I now have the very interesting task of tearing down the structure that is on the property. I wanted to share a few pictures before I begin the process. I will try and get to the property soon to take some more pictures since I don’t have any of the view, which is the best part.

WARNING: They are not pretty!

I also went to the bank to set up my loan and payments, and since I’m documenting my process I will share with you the strange way I’ve had to go about my financing.

First I got a personal loan to pay my builder, Tiny House Squared, and pay for some immediate upgrades to the property. I paid my builder a down payment, plus paid for the order of building materials. (He chose the materials but we worked collaboratively on the layout of windows, the door, walls, etc.) In lieu of a traditional personal loan, I went the route of refinancing my car. This made it a secured auto loan, which gave me a much lower interest rate. I highly recommend it if this is an option for you.

I knew if I bought this property that I would need to pay for some things immediately, like fixing the driveway and renting a dumpster to haul away the trash. (I also need to hire a company to haul away a car that is on the property, but I have to get a abandonment title first since I don’t know who owned it.) Additionally I’ll need to buy some tools I don’t currently have, like a reciprocating saw. I don’t think I’ll need the entire amount of the loan I took out, but I figured it was better to be safe than sorry in this situation.

My next step was to find a bank that would lend on a piece of land. The trouble I ran into was twofold. First, most banks will not give you a mortgage for less than $50,000; the risk-reward is just not in their favor on these loans, I’m told. Second, few banks will give a land loan, which is what I need. The suggestion I ran into again and again was to take out an additional personal loan. With a 4-5% difference between a personal loan and a land loan, I continued to pursue the latter. I was finally referred to a small bank about an hour away from where I live for my land loan. To save yourself a lot of time and a migraine or two, I suggest starting with smaller banks and credit unions if you need this type of loan.

Now that the loan is in process, I have to focus on tedious tasks, such as getting the aforementioned abandonment title and calling electricians to get a quote on temporary electric service. I am also getting a quote from a demolition company just to see if it would be worth my money for someone else to tear the modular home down. I’m currently doubling my income with my second job, so I think about one month of my second income is my cut-off amount for the demolition. I’ve also left messages for the Fire Marshall to see if the volunteer fire department would come and do a controlled burn. That would be ideal!

Either way, once the structure is down I will need to get someone to take the I-beams that the house is resting on. They are very long and obviously heavy, but I have a few options.

The most exciting part so far is that my trailer is finished and my build has begun! Here are some pictures of that as well!

Thank you for continuing to follow my journey! More exciting updates to come!

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”

I have this quote by William Shakespeare tattooed on the inside of my upper left arm. Call me a dreamer, call me edgy, call me a true English major. Call me what you want. But this quote rings true.

It’s not up to us to look up at the stars and hope, pray, or dream something into reality. You can hope, pray, or dream of course; but you cannot expect anything to come to fruition unless you work at it. My Tiny House dream has taken a lot of work and the work is about to quintuple.

I paid the rest of my money toward my flatbed trailer today.

I finalized my floorplan and am placing my order for the materials my builder needs today.

I made an offer on a piece of land today.

Things are moving right along. No day but today!

“You Need A Bigger Dream!”

“You Need A Bigger Dream!”

In my ever-fruitful search for more and more (and more) Tiny House information I came across a few posts this weekend that mentioned Steve Harvey. I know him as the host of Family Feud and for his recently botched gig as Miss Universe host but not much more. So hearing him associated with the Tiny House movement came as a surprise to me. Here is the TV show segment where he seems to address Tiny House dreamers directly:

 

Steve Harvey starts by saying that the average American home measures about 2600 square feet. This seems a bit high to me, but let’s see some comparisons.

  • The house I grew up in with my parents and brother was just shy of 1400 square feet. In that house we had 3 bedrooms, 1.5 bathrooms, a dining room we rarely used, and a full basement.
  • My old boyfriend’s parents’ house is 2200 square feet. They have a master bedroom suite plus 3 other bedrooms and 2 more bathrooms, a huge family room in addition to a formal living room, a dining room they used twice a year, and a basement.

Now let’s start to address some of these rooms. I am one person. I rarely have large groups of people over. I’ve only ever used a basement for storage and I haven’t had a garage since I moved out of my parents’ house. How many bedrooms do I actually need? How many bathrooms? Do I need a dining room? Can’t I dine anywhere? What if I want to eat my knock-off Frosted Flakes in bed? Who’s going to stop me? And what precisely is the function of a “formal” living room? Why does it have to be so formal; who is coming over?

Verdict: I definitely do not need 2600 square feet. Nor, in my opinion, is 2600 square feet the average.

Steve Harvey goes on to ask his audience, “Who in here is going to work every day to buy a damn Tiny House?” This is met with audible groans, which I hope were prompted by his team of cameramen and not 100% real. I think I’ve made it perfectly clear that the point of this journey for me is not to work every day to buy a Tiny House. I would like to work less and for a shorter amount of time because of my decision to buy and build a Tiny House. People are retiring later each year. People are living house-poor. People are refinancing their mortgages to afford extravagant vacations with their families.

Verdict: I don’t want to be those people.

Here are my favorite quotes from the clip:

  • “Who puts a Tiny House on their vision board? You need to get a bigger damn dream is what you need to do!”
  • “This is for people who’ve given up… this is for people who ain’t got no dreams.”
  • “[If] you want to live in a Tiny House it’s because you done gave up. You’re stupid.”

I’d like to address these in detail but I don’t have that kind of time. I’ll give you my highlights.

I understand your profession is “comedian” but poor grammar is no laughing matter. Telling me I “ain’t got no dreams” is a double negative; this means that what you are actually saying is that “I have dreams”. Joke’s on you, Steve. Also, calling someone stupid after saying “you done gave up” and “ain’t got no dreams” is well-played, sir. You are clearly the smarter human being in this argument.

Who makes vision boards anymore? Are we in the 4th grade? Don’t you have Pinterest Mr. Harvey? And why can’t my Tiny House go on my imaginary vision board anyway? Stay in your 2600 square foot house and look at your own vision board, nosy. As the charming J.K. Rowling once put it:

I don’t think I’m stupid. I have a near-genius IQ, in fact. I have the ability to make rational decisions and I have put a lot of thought and effort into this process. I didn’t “done give up”. In fact, my Tiny House dream is giving me hope. I worked almost 77 hours this past week between my two jobs. My feet are calloused, my knees hurt, and I have shin splints. And I can rest at night knowing my bills will be paid. But do I want to do this forever? Would you? I doubt anyone can answer that with an honest “yes”.

What keeps me going through seemingly endless shifts of chili nachos and over-cooked cheeseburgers is the dream of my Tiny House. Any time something catastrophic happens during a shift (see: every single night), I’ve told my managers to simply say “Tiny House” to me and I calm down. My Tiny dream puts it all in perspective; these 16-hour work days will eventually end, and sooner rather than later.

I’ve never heard an older relative say, “I wish I’d spent more on my house, done less with my family and friends, and stayed home all the time.” What I do hear is more often along the lines of, “I wish I’d traveled more,” “I wish I’d spent more time with my loved ones, ” or “I wish I didn’t wait until now to enjoy my life.” As humans we seem to be programmed to forget the things that hurt us and focus more energy remembering the good times. Do you still vividly remember the pain from your first breakup? Or do you remember the butterflies from your first date? Do you remember the first time you really got sick? Or do you remember the love and get-well wishes from your friends? It’s been almost 15 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Americans vowed to never forget. And yet here we are, throwing verbal daggers at one another and following Donald Trump’s lead to oust all Muslims and non-citizens from the country. Remembering something for one day each year isn’t paying homage; it’s lip service.

My vow to myself is not to waste these years. Eventually my youth will fade, my knees will give out, and my drive will wane. I would rather spend my 30s traveling the world, eating dinners with family, and drinking good beer with friends. I can’t do this if I buy a 2600 square foot house. I wouldn’t even have time to clean a 2600 square foot house.

Verdict: I don’t expect Steve Harvey to understand the soul behind this movement. I don’t expect him to know my soul. So keep looking at your own vision board, Mr. Harvey. Mine is off-limits.