It was your average, white picket-fenced, 2.5 kid life. But there was no white picket fence (Mr. Hart hadn’t gotten to that yet…). There are no 2.5 kids, and no plans for them. But there we found ourselves, in the middle of the perfect neighborhood for raising a family, in an 1800 square foot, 4 bedroom 3 bath house with ours and earth’s resources going into the bank’s mortgage, the landscape, the decor, the heating, the cooling, and the maintenance of…what? This lifestyle?
We worked all the time to keep up. We were maxed out in bills and felt like we were consuming “things” and using resources that were beyond what we needed, or even really wanted.
Most of the rooms in our house were not furnished completely, for lack of extra funds and lack of the necessity of doing so, so we rarely used them. Yet we heated and cooled them (inefficiently), cleaned them every week (okay, not every week), and worked on the yard when we could. We felt strapped to our jobs for fear that if we took time off, or worse lost them, that we would most certainly lose the house. We were late with most of our bills and living paycheck to paycheck. We were stressed and anxious, and we felt guilt for living a life that consciously treaded on earth in a way that made us feel…embarrassed.
Choosing how to spend our time was a constant battle. Cleaning, yard work,and maintenance or upgrades to the house?…or enjoying the amazing place we have settled, perhaps snowboarding or windsurfing, or any other of the reasons we moved to this area in the first place?
Occasionally the choice was made for us, we just didn’t have the money to fully partake in the lifestyle that is important to us. We never took a vacation, and we couldn’t afford to invest in the activities that we love such as photography, mountain biking, snowboarding, and taking up new sports or activities (the next ones on my list are stand-up paddle boarding, road biking and cross-country skiing!). We also needed a more efficient car for Mr. Hart and couldn’t find one in our price range that met his needs.
As the economy changed over the years there were other lifestyle choices that were becoming impossible for us to make, and we began to find ourselves giving up luxuries that we had been affording previously. Among them, buying and eating organic and sustainable foods, and quitting the swim team. Others of them we gave up willingly seeing some benefit, such as canceling the home phone, and satellite television. Yet others were changes we felt forced to make, such as leaving the heat as low as possible. But, between the cost and the impact on the environment because of our huge house, it felt necessary.
Mr. Hart had been suggesting for a while that we consider a change. We needed to do something. But we had moved to the Gorge from a 600 square foot house that needed so much work, we lived in that small house while it leaked, molded and was being eaten away by termites for far too long. And then we lived in it while it was a torn-apart construction zone (for not as long, thankfully :), so I was having trouble imagining where we might find ourselves if we were to sell our house and buy something smaller, a fixer-upper, or even rent. I’m not gonna lie, I had become quite comfortable in the big brand-new home that didn’t need any “up-fixing.” Besides, anything older, smaller and cheaper would need work to make it efficient, and that costs time and money, which is a major motivation for wanting to move and downsize in the first place.
Then one day something triggered my memory of a guy from our old stomping grounds of Sebastopol, California who I had seen on the local news, like 10 or 15 years ago. He had built himself a 65, or 85, square foot tiny house on wheels and that is where he lived.
I did a google search for a tiny house on wheels. I found him, and the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, as well as many other people doing the same thing, and I found a whole movement called the Tiny Home Movement!
I was so intrigued. I loved the idea of getting to build the home ourselves to ensure that it was well-constructed with sustainable materials. I loved the idea of downsizing and releasing my attachment to “things.” I loved the idea that we could live lightly on earth, mortgage free, in a tiny little home requiring very little cleaning and maintenance. It didn’t take long that Joel and I began to develop a vision of small, simple living.
We quickly realized that if we could sell our house, even if we broke even, we could rent a place for cheap and start building with the extra income that being free of our mortgage would allow us.
Joel’s parents live on 20+ acres in Mosier, Oregon where they would allow us to build it. They offered us a room in their house to live in after we sold our house which would make our “rent” quite inexpensive indeed! Sue (my mother-in-law) was so excited she started scouting out places for our tiny home and found the perfect spot, and we were getting more and more excited. We could live in it there, with no mortgage, for as long as we wanted or needed!
Right away we scrambled to get our house ready to sell, believing we had a chance to sell it in this down market, but with no delusions that it was guaranteed or that we would get what we wanted, or even needed. I think people thought we were crazy. Why try to sell in this market? We were so ready, though. At that point we would have been willing to take a loss and pay our realtor the difference. Tara from Don Nunamaker in Hood River guided us in the right direction, though, and four short months later, we had buyers.
And so there we were, in Mosier, at the in-laws, starting this crazy adventure!