You Are Not Your House

I woke up really early this morning, thinking about all the people who I met at the 2016 Tiny House Jamboree, and how we all have this thing in common with each other. Every one of us. We all like tiny houses, want tiny houses, are building tiny houses, live in tiny houses, or something something tiny houses…

I’ve known Macy Miller for some time now (almost two years already?), and finally got to meet her and her family recently for a dinner before going to the Jam, and last summer, I had met Guillaume Dutilh and Jenna Spesard of Tiny House Giant Journey, so already knew some faces in person before going to the Jam. But at the Jam, I met oh so many people who I knew from chatting with online, and who I had been looking forward to meeting for so long.
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There’s a fun little thing that happens though in the tiny house world. You get interested in tiny houses, in downsizing, in minimalism, in sustainability, in living authentically, or saving money, or whatever reason you choose to get interested in tiny houses for, but the fact remains that however many things you remove from your life in order to do so, all the stuff that won’t fit, the things you don’t use, don’t love, it’s still an actual thing that connects you to other tiny house fans. That thing may be super tiny and afford you to let go of all the other things you find you don’t need in your life, but it is still a thing, and a lot of us identify each other with it.

Macy and I only became friends because of a shared love for tiny houses. All my friends from the Tiny House People group only became friends of mine because of a shared love of tiny houses. I’m a huge fan, like you are, of the houses, and the houses are beautiful, and the people who own them have a bit of a celebrity status now because of their homes. Macy Miller? I introduced her to someone as the woman who owns the most famous tiny house. (I know she hates that) But it worked! I was right, the person knew immediately who she was, because of her house. Ariel McGlothlin from Fy Nyth (who I finally got to meet even though we’re both in the same state, it’s a BIG state!) did a nice write up of the people she met and commented “Why I can remember details about someone’s house plans and life goals and draw a complete blank on their name, I don’t know.” And it’s so true!
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Moose Henderson who I didn’t get to meet, is known for his tiny “Moosevilla.”  Sean David Burke is known as the guy building the shipping container home. Jewel Pearson is the black woman in the tiny house. (So much so that several black women there were mistaken for her!) Kim Kasl (who somehow I didn’t get to meet) is the woman with the family in the tiny house. Michelle Bredeson Boyle is the woman with the tiny house with licence plates in it. Ariel as mentioned is the Fy Nyth person, everyone is known by what house they have, or even by what role they play in the tiny house world. In this community, you identify the people with the house. I can tell you what various people are planning who haven’t even begun to build yet. I can tell you blog sites of people who are currently building, or who have finished building, and I only know of them because of their house. Look at the builders who don’t even have a tiny house of their own, yet their names are synonymous with tiny houses. Hell, the entire industry building panel at the Jam, I think only one person on it even lives in a tiny, yet they’re all advocating for tiny houses. Jay Shafer and Zack Giffen had celebrity status at the Jam, and simply because of tiny houses.

So the houses join us.

The houses bring us together.

But you are not your houses.

There’s a line in Chuck Palahniuk’s book Fight Club that really has always resonated with me. More so in Brad Pitt’s excellent rendition in the movie, (one case of the movie actually outdoing the book I believe) that has helped me onto my tiny house journey. “You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis.”  I like to believe that we all undergo a similar transformation in our own journey to living tiny, in that we choose to put just living forward as the important part of our lives, and not our stuff. Not our houses. But being in the community makes it really hard to see beyond the homes, when the homes are what it’s all about.

So I want to tell you that you are not your stuff. You are not your tiny houses, and you are not your celebrity status. I didn’t go to the Jam to see the houses, I can see them far better on Deek’s youtube channel in his awesome videos than I can in person, cause in person, I had to stand in line and hustle through them. I didn’t go to watch the speakers, though I did see a few of them, and they were really great! I didn’t go for the workshops. None of that is what the Jam is about anyway, or what it’s meant to be about from talking to Darin Zaruba who is the Godfather of the whole thing. The Jam is a meetup, the Jam is a rally, the Jam is all about fun and camaraderie. The rest is just icing on the cake.

I came for the people. You are not your houses, not to me. I wrote in Jewel Pearson’s Turning Tiny book something that goes for all of you equally. “I love you as much as people love your house.” 
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So I’d like to say, that I’m honoured to have met those who I have met, and to know otherwise those who I have yet to meet. House or no house, you guys are amazing. House or no house, I’m glad I know you. House or no house, I’m really happy to have been able to meet who I did at the Jam.  In this post, are some of my fave pics of the people I met, wish I had more, don’t know how I missed some of you. (Jewel if you have a pic of us I’d love a copy!) The rest of you? Looking forward to the future, when I can say I’ve met you too. House or no house.

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Budget

Right now, my budget is more budget than actual… but it’s a great starting place for what I’m going to need, and how much it’s going to cost. I spent the better part of today working on it, and while it’s still not complete, and likely will change as I find better options, and learn more, I’m happy with it.

At this point, I’m liking the idea of going with a twin temp jr water heater/hydronic heater. It’s probably one of the most expensive things on the budget, but it hit a lot of buttons for me, in that I don’t have to put a hole in the side of the Airstream, and have a potential spot for water to come in, and it takes up less space than a separate furnace and water heater would. This will give me some much needed pantry space, where the existing heater is, and should give a much better quality heat to the entire trailer, rather than just one area.

I haven’t yet filled in the electrical, because I haven’t dug too much into what I’m going to need, and I think I’ll need a full day to complete just that part. That, and Amazon deleted my saved list… where all the solar that I liked were saved, as well as particular part numbers. So I’ll redo that research and update when I feel like I know a bit more about it. These are loose numbers at the moment, because I haven’t done a lot of shopping around either. I know Vintage Trailer Supply is the go to for everything, so I’ve just been trusting that, but, you know I’ll look for deals when it’s time to purchase. That, and they may be out of what I want when I want it (look at the nuvite now, I’d actually have to pay more than I budgeted if I needed it immediately, because I’d have to buy half gallons for more money, due to them being out of stock!)

I did drop my original budget for the trailer. I really thought I’d probably pay up to 12k for one, in decent condition.  And that might have meant it was polished before, but I would probably still need to polish it again anyway, so I’d save some time and effort, and maybe 100 bucks in polish, plus the compounding tool… but not 5000$ difference. Maybe you got a better deal on your Airstream, or think I paid too much, but I’ve been watching sale prices on them for a while now, and I’m happy with what I paid… and what I’m going to put into it!  The difference between this and a tiny house, is at least half what I would have spent, plus, I don’t need a really heavy duty truck to pull it around either!

So, even with some pretty big ticket items on it, I’m happy. There’s tweaks to make (I haven’t budgeted the vintage fabric yet, and I KNOW that’s going to be expensive) but I have a start.

You can view my budget here:

Flying Cloud Restoration Budget

Pictures!

A lot of people are asking for pics of our new acquisition, so here they are!

 

and some interior shots

 

Some details

 

and a cool video of how the bathroom sink works:

 

So This Happened…

 

The plan originally was to try to live in a tiny house on wheels, but in the hours and hours of research, we found that it wasn’t truly compatible with the lifestyle we wanted to lead. We were attracted to them first, because of the idea that we could travel in them and live wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted, pretty much treating them all like RVs.

I found that they aren’t truly as mobile as originally hoped, unless we wanted to pay for a monster sized truck to pull it. Even still, they still seemed like a solution for living, that fit in perfectly with our version of “living lightly.” A smaller home, a smaller footprint, we could move it with us, just not travel, it seemed almost perfect. We looked at a lot of plans, even figured out a budget and a timeline, but as we got deeper and deeper into looking at it, it became clear, that at least in our area, it would be a lot more expensive than originally hoped for. More even than living in a tiny house we owned on land.

So we started researching different builds of tiny houses on foundations, and what it would cost us to buy land, and build.  We looked at moving in a log cabin onto a pier foundation, and were even offered one at the low cost of 5000$, we’d only need the land to put it on, and the permits. We looked at building our own timber framed structure. We looked at yurts. We dug deep into the building costs including adding electric, septic, building permits.  It was totally doable, if still more than what we originally expected, or wanted with a tiny house.

Thing is, we live in an area where there’s already lots of smaller homes, in the 700-900 square foot range. The idea of building for more than it would cost to redo something existing, wasn’t as appealing, when we could instead be reusing something instead of building new. This appeals to me on such a deep level, that I know I would have felt guilty building a new tiny house with all new construction, over living in something that is already built, and the cost of the existing home being less just made it that much more appealing.

So we had our plans on hold, until later this summer, when we would have a downpayment for a home, and could start looking for one.  In the meantime, the love of wanderlust has never left me, or my husband. We had discussed living in the home until retirement at which point, we’d decide if we wanted to purchase something like an Airstream and travel around in it, or just travel and stay in hotels.

But I’m working part time now, and really was just putting my money into savings, and thought that rather than buy a new Airstream in ten years, I could buy a vintage one now, which I love much more than the new ones, and renovate it to be livable once we retire, then sell our house and off we go. (This fits in perfectly with not creating something new, so the environmentalist in me really likes this route.) It even looked to be less expensive than buying one already done up or new, and it could be made exactly to our specifications.

So I’ve been saving for this. I have 2000$ saved up, and estimated that even with buying a house this summer, my savings would allow us to also get an Airstream this fall, and if we didn’t find one we loved till next spring, that would be fine because of how cold it gets here.

It gets pretty cold here. There’s no way that you could live in an Airstream in the winter time in this climate. It would likely ruin your Airstream and your belongings because of the condensation being so bad that everything would be constantly wet and moldy. That and the risk of bursting pipes, meant that once we jumped onto this track, we’d be definitely saying that we’re moving in ten years.

That would mean that whatever home we would buy, would need to be sellable quickly at retirement, and predicting the real estate market in ten years really isn’t possible. So we were talking about just staying in the apartment, and making the best of it. We’d even do some work to it to try to make it more livable, and yes, probably finally buy furniture. (We really really don’t have much, it’s very minimalist here)

So that’s what we were looking at. Until yesterday, when this happened:
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A woman named Tiffany, in Colorado not far from here, posted about living full time in her home.

In Colorado. In the winter. In a climate much like my own, and look, it just went through a massive storm where it maybe dumped 15 inches of snow!

My mind was doing somersaults. I immediately totally jumped on this complete stranger and spent the next few hours asking her how she does it, because “you can’t live in an Airstream here in the winter!!!”

Well, it turns out you can, and there’s more than just her doing it. There’s even someone up in Cody doing it, and that’s a little colder than here. The condensation? Not much of a worry, they never get any because the climate is so dry. Pipes? Oh they take care of it with an insulated box and heat wrapping the intake, and keeping the tank open. Nothing has frozen.  Staying warm? Well, they run a couple space heaters, and one looks just like a little fireplace.

So yeah… everything yesterday turned on its head for us.

Where originally we looked at living in a tiny house, but it was cost prohibitive because of finding a place to park it.. an Airstream is something that we can always find a place for, and even free parking if we boondock it. It’s also going to be a lot lighter than a tiny house, so we save the cost of the giant truck, and that makes it a lot less expensive too. So instead of waiting ten years to live in our future Airstream full time, we’ll be renovating one this summer, and moving into it as soon as my son is old enough to move out. That’s probably 3 years at the most.  We’re back on our original timeline, but it’s so much better because it fits the dream we originally had.

Yes, that dream of having a home we love, and I do mean love, that we can just drive around with when we want a change of scenery. The freedom to travel with it during retirement, but the ability to use it as a home in the meantime. There is no better choice for us than an Airstream for this.

You can bet that Tiffany is one of my favourite people right now. She’s just made my dream happen a full 7 years earlier, and we get to start looking immediately, instead of in a few months.

So I better get on this thing, we still need to decide what size we want!

The Rabbit Hole

 

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So where do I start… There’s a whole lot of information I need to sort through, and it’s a lot like falling down the rabbit hole in “Alice in Wonderland” once I get into it.  Believe me, I’m going to get into it.

Consider this my landing page where I’m going to put down all the things I need to know, and do in order to get this done. I’m sure I’ll have to come back here as time goes by and add things that I don’t yet even know that I need to know. (For now, it’s just going to be simple steps, so I guess I’ll republish as needed)  I’ll link to any future posts back here once I get into it, but so far, here’s a good start.

How to judge a good trailer and how to price it

Budgeting

Current For Sale that interest me

What year/model/size

Restore vs Reno

Solar Options

Floor Plans

Styles I like

How to Heat?

How to Polish

Addressing Condensation

 

Order of Operations:

  1.  Fix Running Gear – axle, brakes, tires, shocks, suspension
  2.  Trailer/Tow Lighting – make safe and swap to LED
  3.  Seal the exterior – replace and reseal all vents, A/C, windows and doors
  4.  Remove interior fittings and skins
  5.  Dispose of existing subfloor and insulation, and black water tank
  6.  Wash everything and seal again from inside
  7.  Assess the frame for damage, remove any rust and repaint
  8.  Replace subfloor
  9.  Replace insulation
  10.  Replace electrical with updated wiring
  11.  Replace plumbing with PEX and new pump and hot water tank
  12.  Install new gas lines
  13.  Install new furnace/woodstove/heater
  14.  Install new battery, inverter and possibly solar
  15.  Replace interior skins and refinish
  16.  Install flooring (these last two may change order)
  17.  Refinish cabinetry and install, or build new
  18.  Refinish dinette and install or build new
  19.  Refinish and install bathroom, or use new
  20.  Refinish and retrofit appliances or go with new
  21.  Install kitchen
  22.  Install lighting
  23.  Add furnishings, curtains/blinds, cushions
  24.  Install rock guard
  25.  Install awning
  26.  Make cover

 

I’m sure there’s going to be a lot more I need to add to here as I get further into the hole. I’ll just pop back in and add it when I find it. I’ll also welcome any comments that will tell me what I may not already know that I need to!

Shiny

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So I’m a Firefly fan, those who know me, will see that as perfectly in keeping with my personality.  What more perfect word, to describe our future tiny house, other than shiny.

And yes, it will be shiny, it’ll be oh so shiny in every way possible, from its vintage beginnings, its complete renovation, and its mirror finish, this will be a shiny home for us.

Welcome to my new blog, everything’s shiny cap’n, not to fret.