Work begins

Work on the trailer began with a surprising amount of metal work. We had thought the custom trailer out really well, but I think because it was a custom order there were just too many things to think about, and we didn’t think of them all. I know, surprising, right? : ) If we ever find ourselves building another one of these, these are things that will be part of our custom order.

Mr. Hart realized that the trailer needed a lot of extra bracing and tie-down brackets, somewhere to attach the house to the trailer and cross supports for front and rear of trailer.

Down the center you can see some small vertical brackets that will be used to attach the floor joists. A hole has been drilled through each one so that a bolt will secure the floor joists directly to the trailer. They are staggered to leave room for blocking that will run down the center.

The trailer originally had no cross bracing on the ends, where the front and rear walls will sit, so Joel welded on some extra supports to the front and rear of the trailer to cap off the rails.

To wrap up the “foundation” he painted the metalwork and seam-sealed any open gaps or cracks.

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We’ve moved!

We have moved into our friend Hollie’s house. Hollie has moved to Helena (sadness for us…and happiness for her…) and has left her house behind. (Now if it were attached to a trailer she could have taken it with her, but it is not. : ) It is closer to Hood River and to our jobs, and is not far from Jesse and Sue’s. So we have decided to rent it.

This has slowed down our process in our ability to purchase materials, but it will also offer us the flexibility of moving more slowly and thoughtfully, not having to make quick, impulsive decisions when deciding on materials or layout.

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They say size doesn’t matter…; P

We have procured the trailer.

MS Metal Works is in a little town called Molalla just outside of Portland, which is where we had our trailer custom built for its purpose.

Our good friend Chris from 6th Street Bistro lent us his van to tow the trailer and on a Sunday morning we set off on the hour and a half drive to Molalla to go and pick it up.

It’s small. Oh, I’m sure that from other peoples’ perspectives it’s big. It’s big for hauling a car. It’s big for hauling a boat. It’s nice and roomy if your wanting to move some furniture, camping gear, sports equipment, or tools. But it is small if you are going to live on it.

Occasionally one of us has a moment of, “What the eff are we doing? Are we crazy?” I had a small one at first sight of the trailer.

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Chuck it

We have a vision of small, simple living. In order to really achieve the vision, I am having to work out detaching from my “stuff.” I have always been bothered by my consumeristic (is that a word? well, spell-check is liking it) mindset, but I didn’t know how to change it, or even that I could.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a hoarder. Well, Jesse, my father-in-law, might beg to differ on that. Anyone who has seen how I used to keep my kitchen pantry would want to challenge me on that. Hey, how do you know when we’ll need to live in lock-down for weeks on end needing sustenance, and toilet paper, and Jiffy Corn Muffins and pickled vegetables?

Detaching from my “stuff” and analyzing what is really important has been a therapeutic exercise indeed.

Before we even put the house on the market we were so excited and nervous about the idea of minimizing that we began the process early, more than a year ago.

I started by looking at minimalist blogs and websites such as zenhabits. I identified two weak areas for myself. My kitchen and my closet. I’m sure to anyone who knows me that comes as no surprise. I love to cook, I have quite a collection of dish ware and glassware, new and vintage, and I love clothing and fashion.

I decided to tackle the closet first. This seemed less daunting since I recently have lost a few clothing sizes through changing my diet and exercise, and so I have things in my closet that just don’t fit anymore. My sister-in-law, July, has been doing the same, and she can wear all of my former self’s clothing! She looks awesome in it, much better than I do swimming in all of it, though it is painful to give up some of my favorite pieces. But it feels good that it is going to someone who appreciates it a lot and is in need of new clothes that fit! Mr. Hart and I have worked hard to become healthier and fitter, but those are stories for another blog.

At first, chucking out all my “stuff” was really hard. I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on clothing, and I take painstakingly good care of it. I hand wash and line dry many delicate items, I care for each item to prolong its life and I own items that I have had for years and years, wearing them frequently.

Alas, there will not be room in a 160 square foot house for all these clothes, shoes and accessories. I needed to start minimizing. I set up a “trial” area where clothes live for several weeks before I decide to give them to July. I put any items there that I think I can live without for a chuck-it trial: how does it feel to not see it in my closet? Do I think of it and wish I had it? That happened once or twice during the process. I would go to fish something out and try wearing it again. Usually I was right in that it was no longer flattering on me, or I just didn’t love it anymore. Within a few short weeks I had cut my wardrobe in half.

Now, this doesn’t begin to do it, mind you. All of our clothing will still not fit into a 160 square foot house. It fit in our 250 square foot living space at the in-law’s, tightly, but it is too. much. stuff.

I read on the internets somewhere (I’d love to credit properly, if anyone knows or finds where I got this idea) of someone who separates her wardrobe into seasonal “pods.” (I like the sound of “pods,” very, sci-fi, or something). This person decided on a number of items that would be allowed in each pod, I think it was around 35. If I remember correctly, this did not include undergarments, but it did include all shoes and accessories like belts and jewelry. Then, she just rotated the pods in and out each season. I really like this idea and am considering something similar.

Furniture was easy to chuck. We owned very few pieces that were valuable to us, and had a garage sale selling almost everything, and donating what was left. It felt so good to let go of things we didn’t need or love. It feels good to look around now, surrounded only by that which we do need, use and love. We have gotten rid of most of our books, all of our cd’s and dvd’s, all extra sheets, towels and linens that we’ve been saving for guests or for “just-in-case.” We’ve let go of picture frames, candle holders, and all sorts of decorative items.

Confession time: I have not been able to chuck any of my collection of dish ware and glassware. It sits in storage, carefully packed up in boxes, waiting for a new little home to live in someday. Also, there are far too many kitchen tools in storage to comfortably live in our tiny-home-on-a-trailer. The commercial mixer, the blender, and the food processor are not really part of the whole “simple-living” vision.

Another big confession: I still have far too many crafting items. I have scaled back considerably. But not enough. I am still working on it. One.small.move at a time.

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The story behind one.small.move

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!

Here's the spot Sue has picked out for our tiny home!

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!

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Hello there….

Six years ago my husband, Joel, and I decided to sell our house in northern California and move to Hood River, Oregon in the Columbia River Gorge. We were making the move to this area for many reasons, among them to be able afford a bigger home that would have a garage and a little bit of land so we could have a garden, and maybe even room for a farm, to feed ourselves. We couldn’t afford what we wanted in California, and we found Hood River and knew it was perfect for us.

We didn’t want to max ourselves out financially, we wanted to be able to live a sustainable, healthy life, travel more, and enjoy the Gorge area and all of the outdoor activities it has to offer. We wanted to windsurf, snowboard, mountain bike, and learn many other outdoor activities and sports.

Somehow we were distracted and ended up in a track home neighborhood with 1800 square feet of house to furnish, decorate, clean, maintain, landscape and improve.

Slowly we were consumed by the time, energy, money and resources that owning a house like that requires. Soon, the economy began to worsen, and income began to dwindle. We were feeling stuck.

Over the next couple of years we found ourselves craving a simpler life, a “back-to-basics” life, where all we would have is all we would need, and only what we needed is what we would have.

We want more time, and we want to be able to invest in ourselves. We want to improve our minds, our health, our fitness…. Okay, I know I sound a little idealistic and dreamy, but it’s all really true, and we don’t want to go broke or have a mental breakdown doing it.

So, in a series of “one.small.move” moments, we have sold our house, and let go of most everything we own (okay, its a process, we’re still making small moves, working on “letting” go!), in an effort to regain control of what we are getting out of life.

We have decided to build a tiny home on a trailer. Tiny. As in, 160 square feet, tiny. To live in. Full time. The plan is that this will be our home for the next 2?, 3?, 4? years. Are we crazy? Maybe.

Please, join us as I document the story of one small move, a simplifying and downsizing process with the goal of gaining freedom. Freedom in the form of more time, less mental stress, financial flexibility and the potential to focus on the things in life that we value.

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