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.

Making a Decision and Taking the first Plunge

“Well all I need is the air that I breathe and a place to rest my head” ~ One Republic

I have been tired for a long time. Not the kind of tired where you just can’t do anything or find it hard to get your day going. I have the kind of tired that forces me to move, to change, to want, to create. There are many reasons for my desire to live simply. I want more of less, if that makes any sense. Wanting more of less is going to free me to have a bigger life. For over a year I’ve watched, read and followed all things about tiny houses to the point where it was no longer an idea or a curiosity, but more of a need. It resonates with my soul.

I decided to take the first plunge into real research by signing up for a Tumbleweed Tiny House Conference in January of 2015. The conference was in Orlando, Florida – making it even more appealing. as the unrelenting cold and ice in New York City was slowly killing my spirit this winter.

First, let me just say that even if you are not planning to use them as your building company, but are thinking or planning to build a tiny home, I encourage you to go to one of their conferences. When I first signed up. I called the company to just ask what I could expect by going to this conference. They are so lovely and always willing to answer questions. I had no idea what to expect, or even how I was planning to do this. I have no money and live in the city for God’s sake. But I can tell you what I have, gumption, fearlessness and intense desire and curiosity. That curiosity has helped me have develope some wonderful connections with other Tiny Housers.

Upon arriving at the conference, I was so taken back by how many people were there. For some reason I thought there would be maybe 30 people. but to my surprise, there had to be at least 100 like minded people. There were people of various ages, backgrounds, and cities. Some were young couples, students, contractors, people nearing retirement, attorneys, engineers etc…And the overall consensus of why we were all there was “freedom”. We all want financial freedom, more time for living, more time for people and less stuff to be attached to.

I am one of those people who went back to school so that I could support my then young son as a single mother. Laden with student loan debt even after being at my job for over 14 years, I feel like a prisoner. My job has been a blessing in my life, It has afforded me to support my son and has given me a life time of wonderful memories. both from my students and the wonderful people I have worked with. My son is now grown and I am nearing an age where I can choose to retire and live a different kind of life. I have made a conscious decision to retire in two years. No longer wishing to be a prisoner to a future or pension that may never come. I am choosing to live for today. Building a tiny home will ensure that I have a roof over my head and a home that I have built on my own with the freedom to build over a time frame that will keep me mortgage and debt free.

Our presenter, at the two day conference, was Art Cromier. Art built his own tiny home and is a presenter for Tumbleweed. It was a gift to have a presenter who could walk you through the building process from his own experience. Art generously gave tips, shared mistakes, lessons and answered many questions. For instance, he shared that he has a ladder to ascend to his sleeping loft but has changed his perspective and feels that stairs are better and less slippery especially as we get older even though stairs take away from precious floor space. Space is the key to design as going tiny is not an easy thing and it takes quite a bit of purging to do it. But, in Art’s words. “all we need as humans, love, warmth and shelter can be had in a 175 foot space. You can watch many of Art building and installation Videos on YouTube.

IMG_2771 IMG_2727 - Copy IMG_2729 - Copy

Also present at the conference, Jenna and Guillaume. This young couple built their tiny home with their Tumbleweed plans and are traveling the United States with their tiny home. Graciously, they opened up their home at the conference and gave us a tour and answered so many questions and provided such helpful tips to us. Their home is sweet and Jenna has made it her own work of art, adding vintage crate boxes for stairs and uses burlap as a utensil holder. Their home is a creative and lovely example of living small. If you want a real treat, follow their journey. Their blog is a plethora a beautiful writing by Jenna and scenic gorgeous photos by Guillaume.

Be forewarned though, if you plan on attending one of the these conferences, make sure that if you want to see a tiny house that you inquire prior to booking it, if there will be a tiny house to view. Jenna and Guillaume said that not all conferences have a tiny home for viewing and may be a disappointment to some. So if you are planning to attend, it’s a good idea to call Tumbleweed and just ask if there will be a home at the conference. It would be disappointing not to see one especially, if like me, you flew to another state thinking there would be one and then one was not available. Other than that be prepared to be inspired and like me, be full of anticipation and excitement!