Connecting the Dots

My Tiny Casita

As I endeavor to persevere, through moments of doubt, not that I can’t do this, but simply “how am I going to do this?”, I learn just a little more. Building any structure has it’s challenges, but building a tiny house on wheels in New York City,…well that’s a whole other story. Unchartered territory.

First I must find a build site. Given the fact that there are not many open green spaces in Queens, I quickly realize that I must become creative in my quest to build. Except for a few public parks and privately owned spaces, including warehouses and other businesses, there are not many spaces to build on. I live in an apartment with no yard or property to speak of. Reflecting on these obsticles or minor bumps in my road, I decide to write up a proposal about my vision of freedom and sustainable living. In this proposal I discuss my vision of building a tiny house and why. The fact that I want more of less is the more prominent  message that I am trying to send out. I want a smaller life for many reasons; freedom, both financial and material. I want to consume less and give more, whether, to the earth or humanity. I want more time to travel, do mission work, spend time with those I love, and serving my community.

My first stop is a lovely park a block away from my apartment which sponsors artists and their works. It is a lovely small park with access to materials, electricity and a great open space. It also closes at sunset and opens at sunrise which means it is secure. It would be a dream to be able to build here as proximity and security are ideal. I approached the director who was intriqued by my project, but, building in this park for one’s personal “gain” is not supported. It is specifically geared toward artists who apply for a fellowship. The project then becomes part of an exhibit and stays up for about six months. The director did encourage me to apply for the fellowship for Spring of 2016 as he says that my prroject is sustainable in origin and artistic in nature. He feels that it will also give something back to the community when it is completed and I do an open house. He cannot guarantee me a fellowship but feels that I should apply.

Next I stop by my neighbor, who owns a metal company and, I might add he is a talented and gifted writer and poet. The warehouse has a lovely backyard filled with scultures that I can see through my bedroom window. I remember moving in and thinking that there was such a good energy being surrounded by art. I approach Jim and give him my proposal and discuss my vision and project with him. He is so generous with his time in the middle of the work day that I immediately felt a connection and a sense of great understanding from him (I will mention his company at a later time as I don’t want to be presumtuous at this point). Jim is genuinely excited about my project and since he houses and sponsors other artist there, he especially likes that I want it to be a community endeavor for all to enjoy. He shares about growing up in this same neighborhood and his childhood. He speaks about his own visions about art and community and how important it is that we all connect, if this project is to be done on his property. We left off on a positive, yet tenuous note as there are some logistical issues that need to be cleared before he gives me the okay, but he did not say “not possible” and that is a start.

So, if like me you are planning on buildilng in a city where there are some issues with space, don’t be afraid to ask around. My experience has been mostly positve when speaking to others about my tiny house project. Somehow, it resonates with people and mostly they seem to be genuinely supportive and even a little excited. I mean honestly, tiny houses are just beyond cute and fascinating.

Some ideas on where to look for build sites:

*Someone’s personal backyard.

*Local businesses and warehouses (I live in a somewhat industrial area).

*You local city enviromental groups.

*Anyone in your community that has space and vision for sustainable living.

**Keep in mind that you need; easy access to your project for building, space dimensions that afford you the room needed (my tiny is 8’6″ by 20′ and about 13’5″ in height), electricity, a place to safely store materials, and a place that you can get to easily – not one that you have to travel too far to get too. You want to be able to access your project whenever you have time available to work on it.

Mostly, Don’t Give Up. There will be challenges as I am finding, but I assure you that people are fascinated by our movement and it seems many want to help and see it succeed. I am ever so grateful to live in a city where Art and Community are something to be proud of and encouraged.

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How a 21 Year Old Student is Building a Tiny House and Wowing Me!

I don’t know about you guys, but I can assure you that at 21 years old, sustainable living, gardening and living simply was not what my 21 year old brain was focused on. That is a sad truth that I must live with. I figured all is not lost and though its taken years, I finally get it. I finally get that what is important in life is not what sits in our closet, or the car I drive, or the amount of money spent on stuff. What truly matters is family, love, humility, community, kindness, generosity, God, the planet. All things that don’t cost anything but have tremendous life enhancing value. This is my goal, to live a life where stuff does not dictate my joy or peace. A life where I will be more connected to people, service, community and writing. A simpler tinier richer life.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never been a pillager nor was I someone who spent my days in a mall. Well, except when I spent 15 years in retail which I can tell you, were painful. I never understood the days when we had a One Day Sale and people would line up outside the closed doors hours before so that they could purchase “stuff.” To this day I find it incredibly disturbing when people camp outside of stores overnight, just to get the biggest television. I don’t get it. Don’t get me started on Black Friday! What is that? Bizarre and unconscious, that’s what it is.

So, hence, my absolute awe of Sarah. A friend of mine was in Massachesetts on vacation and see’s an ad in a diner, while having lunch that said, “Got land for my Tiny House?”- on that ad, is the story of a young woman who is building a tiny house as her thesis for Architectural Studies at Mount Holyoke College and seeking land to put it on after it is complete. My friend snaps a photo of the ad and sends it to me. Immediately I am excited and email Sarah, who kindly shares her story with me and invites me up to visit her tiny house on the school campus where she was granted permission to build until graduation day. This was her first building experience and WOW, what a job she did. She did have some help – her father would drive down every weekend for almost a year and work with her on her project. She also had some local sponsors but she did most of the work along with her dad. She quickly became one of my heroes.

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I went to visit Sarah on a beautiful day in April with my friend Bob, who happens to also be an architect. Her home was not yet completed, she had gotten as far as wrapping the exterior and some of her electrical was wired. Her bedroom which was genious, as she had a gooseneck trailer (which was purchased used on craigslist), allowed for a light and spacious room with a wonderful huge window, that was not in a loft like many tiny houses, was finished. Her windows were purchased from a local restoration site and she used many recycled materials to build. I was in awe not only of her beauty, both outward and inner, but at her youth and vision and the fact that she designed her own home at 21. Mind blowing to me. No offence but I have never met any 21 year old who was that together. Heck, I don’t know many adults who are that together and actually “get it!”

Going to Sarah’s open house was another confirmation that I was doing this. I remember walking into her house and thinking, “wow this is huge.” When you see a tiny house and think it is huge, well I think that is a sign that you are ready to live tiny. You have no preconceived ideas of wanting more of anything. The more tiny houses I see, the more I know that a 20 footer is perfect for me.

Bob and I hung around talking to other people who were there for the open house and that is how I met Doreen, an artist and art teacher who lives in Rhode Island who is also in the planning stages of building a tiny house. Doreen and I hit it off and have since then developed a beautiful tiny house friendship. We were all so impressed with Sarah’s journey and her immence tenacity. She inspired us! We all left having made a new friend, some connections and another validation that yes, we can do this. We can live Tiny.

I am going to visit Sarah in her now finished tiny house in her new location in August. I have seen photos of her amazing new home site and I can only say that it is going to be a treat. Stay tuned!