An Introduction to the Journal

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Stephanie Reiley and filed in Issue 1: Introductions

Tiny house in meadowWelcome to the first issue of Small Living Journal! SLJ is the joint project of several writers who are currently active in the Small Home Movement.

Each of the writers on this site are enthusiastically busy with their own projects including: blogs, books, documentaries, community forums, and blueprints of new tiny home designs. However, over the course of time, each of us ended up crossing one another’s path and discovered how much we enjoy interacting with others who are passionate about the same subjects as we were: tiny homes, simple living, sustainable architecture, financial integrity, and the like.

Writing can be, at times, a lonely business–possibly even more so in the case of people with subject-matter that is contrary to the mainstream way of thinking. And, let’s face it, most people would consider someone whose ultimate dream in life is to live in a space of playhouse-size proportions a little… weird.

Until very recently, the concept of living in a space 500 sq. feet or less was definitely contrary to the American mainstream in all but the most dense of cities. In fact, from the 1950′s onward, the American home seemed to be ever increasing in size and grandiosity with little regard to the costs to either individuals or the environment. (Per the latest real estate sale information, this trend finally changed in the fourth quarter of last year.)

It wasn’t until the recent decline in housing values, failure of the sub-prime housing industry, and subsequent impact to the broader U.S. and world economies that most people were willing to consider any solution out of the norm when it came to housing options. Now, however, there is an increasing amount of media attention on any form of cheap housing solution. Older inner city homes, yurts, tiny houses on wheel, houseboats, RV’s, log cabins and the like are now featuring on the evening news and regular pieces in the New York Times.

I’ll be the first to admit that the small shift in mainstream mindset toward more modest housing options has been exciting to many members of the small home movement. But we realize that there’s a long way to go in terms of right-sizing the “American Dream”.  In the meantime, the group of us on SLJ thought it would serve a useful purpose to have a website where we could regularly release articles that might prove useful to people interested in downsizing their lives to more manageable proportions. (Not to mention, it’s great fun for the writers to have a chance to interact and discuss ideas with one another in the generation of the individual issues.)

Each of the writers who’ve chosen to be involved with SLJ has their own unique experiences and perspective on the small home movement. We hope you take as much pleasure in discovering these differences as we have in the creation of the issues.

Going forward, we plan to post a new issue every other week on Monday mornings. Each issue will be coordinated by a different writer involved with the project and focus on a specific topic of interest to the small home movement such as different options for housing, challenges with zoning, financing the building a small home, etc.

In the first issue, each of the writers shares a brief bio and explanation of how they came to be involved in the small home movement. In the second issue, we will focus on some of the challenges inherent in downsizing enough to fit into a small home.

Below is the schedule of upcoming issues and topics:

  • Issue 2 – Downsizing   4/6/09
  • Issue 3 – Personal Tiny Home Tours 4/20/09
  • Issue 4 – Do It Yourself 5/4/09
  • Issue 5 – Future Planning 5/18/09

Others who are interested in the small home movement are welcome to submit articles for consideration as guest posts in each of the issues.  If you’re interested in contributing something, please use the Contact page to reach us.

We hope that you will continue to follow the project in the ongoing weeks and contribute your own thoughts and ideas to the ongoing conversation surrounding sustainable housing.  SLJ can also be followed via RSS Feed or Twitter.

And with that, I’ll conclude with a quote from one of the most inspiring members of the small home movement, Jay Shafer: “Viva la tiny revolution!”

I hope you enjoy the first issue.

Stephanie

Living Small the Dream

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Kent Griswold and filed in Issue 1: Introductions
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My name is Kent Griswold and small things in general have always been an interest to me. I enjoy tiny cars, tiny RV’s, tiny cameras and tiny houses.

As a kid I dreamed of working in a fire lookout tower and ended up spending a couple of days in the Prescott National Forest in Arizona on a tower to see what it was really like. This tower was an all inclusive workspace and eating and sleeping area. You did have to hike down the tower to the base to use the outhouse or take a shower though.

Later when I was in college, I was still undecided as to a direction to major in so took a year off and went and worked on the Navajo Indian Reservation as a school bus driver and teachers aide. I lived in an old 20 foot airstream trailer that year, and it was quite the experience as we had every type of weather, from snow to extreme heat.

In college I had the chance to take a course in homesteading. The school had a 5 acre parcel, that was developed into a small homestead over the years. I was lucky to get involved early on and we built a tiny cabin structure and learned some log building skills and did some gardening.

Over the years it has always been my dream to have a small cabin in the mountains or by a lake. Nothing fancy, just a nice little rustic cabin. My first choice has always been log for the building structure. It is not perfect, but you just can’t beat the old log cabin look in my opinion. This is still my dream, although it has expanded to be not just a vacation cabin but a full time home.

When I became interested in the internet, I started bookmarking cabin and small house sites that interested me. Later, when I learned about blogging, I decided to start sharing what I had been bookmarking and I started the Tiny House Blog. I had discovered Jay Shafer early on and the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. I found out that he had moved about 25 miles from my home in Healdsburg, California. We have sense become friends and I enjoy the times when we are able work and talk together.

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I have been publishing the Tiny House Blog for about two years now, using my preliminary finds on the internet as a starting point, adding stories of those who are living the tiny house life and sharing it with my readers. It has been fun to be involved in the growing tiny house movement.

One of the joys of being involved in the tiny house movement is the people you meet along the way. Here is a picture of a group of us at Jay’s house and we jokingly call it “A Meeting of the Tiny Minds.” This group is built up of designer’s, builders and bloggers. We had a great time getting to know each other better and sharing experiences.

Living Small and Thinking Big

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Tammy "RowdyKittens" and filed in Issue 1: Introductions

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Hello, my name is Tammy (a.k.a. The RowdyKitten ) and I love to talk about tiny homes and simple living. Writing and learning about these topics is one of my passions. Living small and thinking big is my life philosophy. :)

New Year’s Eve Discovery

I discovered the concept of simple living and tiny homes on New Year’s Eve 2007. I was at home surfing the internet for resources about downscaling and my internet explorations yielded an amazing discovery: Dee William’s tiny house and the Small House Movement .

Finding these resources and meeting so many amazing individuals, via blogs and listserv’s, changed my life for the better. For example, I’m happier, have experienced less stress and learned about tools to manage my finances effectively. As a result, living small and thinking big is my new life philosophy.

Downscaling

Currently, I live in Sacramento, California in a small 1 bedroom apartment with my partner L. Living in a small space has been great because it motivates us to continue the downsizing process . Moving closer to my job was an excellent financial and health related decision. For us, happiness is found in small places.

A New Home and State of Mind

Within the next year, we want to purchase a Tortoise Shell Home . Our favorite is the The Galapagos , but we have run into many tiny house obstacles . It would be ideal for us to purchase a tiny house as soon as possible. Unfortunately, we don’t have a place to park the little home. One of the challenges of finding a location is meeting city zoning and planning mandates. For instance, the City of Sacramento does not allow tiny homes on wheels to be parked within city limits for more than 90 days. Rather than penalizing those who want to live small, cities and counties should embrace these types of alternative housing options. It’s my hope that the Small House Movement can educate policy-makers both at the local, state and national levels of government about these ideals.

To me living small and simply is the new American dream. A home should be a safe, beautiful and welcoming environment and I think tiny homes can be all of those things and more.

Learn more about my downscaling story, by reading:

Looking Back and Living Forward

“Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free.”Joseph Brackett

Living Small Today. My name is Gregory Johnson. I’ve spent time in castles and lived in homes of 4000 square feet or larger. Yet, today I’m living in a 10′ x 7′ home I named the Mobile Hermitage (photo by MakurJain.com). I assisted Jay Shafer with constructing the home for me back in the summer of 2003. By August that year I moved in. I can’t say I’ve written the book on small living, but I can say I’ve written a book on small living. The title is Put Your Life on a Diet: Lessons Learned Living in 140 Squre Feet.

My simple and small journey was prompted by a desire for a more efficient, economical, care-free, and enjoyable life. Along the way, I’ve learned that there is freedom with simplicity, as the old Shaker song suggests. Below are a few impressions that had an influence in the downsizing of my life along the way.

Urbanism and Social Activism. As a college student, in the mid-1980s, with an interest in social activism, I began a study of Urban and Regional Planning with the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) that included travel to several South American countries including Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. I was later able to travel to India, Israel, Spain, Mexico, and Canada, which allowed me greater exposure to learn about housing and urban issues around the world. It seemed to me that urban planning largely influences all other areas of life and wellbeing. So, that became an early interest.

Technology Shrinking Our Lives. There was a global shift in the late 1970s, and as computers became more mainstream, our information possessions increasingly became digital. Music, photos, correspondence, and other documents slowly made their way into computers leaving bare shelves and empty filing cabinets. As one of the early adopters of computers, I became a somewhat of a minimalist at an early age. By the early 1980s, I was already carrying one of the first notebook computers on the market.

Early Impressions. My dreams of small and simple living began at an early age, and were perhaps influenced by the Quaker education I was exposed to for a few years. Later, in the 1970s, as a teenager, I spent many years living in an 18th century log cabin nestled on 17 acres in the rolling hills of Maryland. The home had a hidden room in it that was used for the underground railroad. For vacations, my father would take my brother and I to stay at a cabin in the mountains of the Virginia / West Virginia border. This gave us an opportunity to see the great outdoors and escape from the hustle and bustle of the countryside. At the cabin in Virginia there was no running water and no electricity. The water we fetched on foot by walking down the hill to the spring and filling water buckets. There was a holding tank above the kitchen sink for the water. We didn’t really need electricity in those days (the 1970s) because there were no iPods or notebook computers at that time. I had an ink pen and something called a journal for writing in. Information was stored in books in those days. So, as a teenager, I didn’t miss electricity. The summers spent at the cabin, walking the hills and foraging for beeries were some of the best times during my youth. An alternative to spending time in West Virginia was a trip that we would make to Iowa to ride bicycles across the state on an event called RAGBRAI. While in Iowa, we would always visit our Amish friends in Kalona. I was fascenated by the Amish. From seeing their way of life, and romanticising about the cabin in Virginia, I dreamed that one day I might live a simple, small, off the grid life. With that in mind, I began drawing house plans as an early teenager.

Interview with Hillary “Tinyhouse”

Posted March 22nd, 2009 by Hillary "Tinyhouse" and filed in Issue 1: Introductions
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My childhood playroom

What kind of house did you grow up in?

During my school-years we lived in a moderately sized one-story ranch house for a middle-class family of four. To make more room we utilized the basement and the backyard. We were close enough to walk to school. We played “house” in our tree house.

My childhood best friend lived in a huge mansion by comparison. We had to drive 30 minutes to get to her house. I will always remember the “new house” smell (which I now realize was off-gassing). During thunderstorms and tornado warnings we would get flashlights and a box of crackers and play house in one of her walk-in closets.

Do you think your upbringing had anything to do with your interest in small spaces?

My hometown, Columbus, Ohio, is a classic middle American city… so much so that it is considered the market research center of the country. Imagine growing up in the exact median of America. Naturally, I was interested counter-cultures! ( I think the small house movement is certainly a counter-cultural movement in a society where people shop for houses like they shop at Walmart.) After college I joined an intentional community (read: commune).

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The communal laundry line

And what was that like?

At the community I moved my belongings into my own 10×10 room, which, at one point was an old chicken coop. The rest of the 500 acre communal land was shared space for about 90 adults. Everyone had their own room in one of about 10 different “houses” — there was no lack of kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, workspaces… plenty to choose from! I learned how to make cheese from fresh cows milk. I harvested potatoes. I helped manage a business. I discovered the concepts of peak oil, sustainability and permaculture. I sold my car and lived car-free for the first time in my adult life. I finally had a glimpse of what I wanted the future to look like.

How did you hear about the small home movement?

I learned about Tumbleweed Tiny Houses several years ago on the internet. It was just one of those random forwarded links someone sent me. I remember being really inspired for a few moments, but I didn’t think much of it. Later I got on their e-mail list and found out that they were experiencing greater success as a business and wanted to hire someone. This was maybe 3 years ago and I happened to be moving from New York to California at the time. A year later I was working for them.

What was your position at Tumbleweed?

Mostly I was answering the phone and fielding questions about the specifics of living in a tiny house. It was a frustrating job in part because I realized that I didn’t exactly have the answers. I couldn’t afford a Tumbleweed House (certainly not on the salary that I was getting!) but I really did have this intense desire to live that way.

So how did you start living smaller?

Well I say on my website that I’ve been living tiny for over 8 years. This is true when you count the commune experience and all the tiny apartments I’ve lived in. At one point I was living in my car after I had quit a job and went on a several months-long tour of the country. I visited friends along the way where I could shower and sleep comfortably.

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My trailer, before and after

I loved the idea of a house on wheels but I was intimidated by the building skills needed to build one myself, nor did I have the time, space or money to do that kind of thing. So I did what I could afford to do, which was to buy a used fiberglass travel trailer and start renovating it on a shoestring budget. My significant other has been a huge help in this process. My ThisTinyHouse blog was created primarily to show my friends and family back east what we were working on.

What’s next for you?

I have a great amount of admiration and respect for Jay Shafer and others who are able to follow their dream and manifest it. My vision is a network of tiny house villages throughout the country. I’ve started the Tiny House Village Network as a beginning effort to connect people and really start discussing the details. If you’re interested, please join us. You can also cyberstalk me on Facebook and Twitter to find out what’s next.

Hillary’s blog is located at http://thistinyhouse.com.