In the interim….

It has been a bit since my blog entry but I can promise you I am working hard. Searching for trailers, looking for sponsers and working to find construction help. In the interim, I published a small piece on – why I want more of less. And it’s called oddly enough lol, “Why I want More of Less”. I’d like to thank Elephant¬†Journal for supporting my writing and my vision.

So while I get myself together, please read, enjoy and share. ūüôā


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.

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!

Austin Part II: A Tiny House Community that Rocks!

It astonishes me how in one of the richest nations in the world, there could be so much hunger, poverty and homelessness. Working with kids for all these years, I am still astounded by their daily struggles with hunger. I have worked with families and children for over fifteen years. Working with them to facilitate a better life for themselves and their children by providing resources.

I¬†keep snacks in my office for some of my kids who very often don’t have breakfast. It is not unusual for some of my families to live in tight and sometime unsafe dwellings with multiple family members just to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.

As I ride the subways, the number of homeless that are asking for handouts, whether it be cash or food appears to have increased in just the 3 years that I have lived in Queens. On the streets of New York City, the homeless with their signs, and even pets, litter the streets. It also seems that they are getting younger. Begging for shelter and food. When did we become a nation where this is okay? The National Allegiance for the Homeless seems to indicate that our numbers have gone down since 2013. Personally, I don’t see it and still think that any number is not okay, not ever. In my small effort to help, I generally do not¬†give money but¬†I try to remember to carry snacks in my bag and happily give them¬†away. There are instances,¬†where my heart is tugged at, I will buy someone a meal. I try to do this every once in awhile because if not us,… then who?

This leads me back to Austin and its Austin Awesomeness. If I thought it was awesome prior to visiting Community First Village (Mobile Loaves and Fishes), a community that offers shelter with dignity and a sense of family to those in need, well I can tell you that it is even more freaking awesome. This incredible organization started in 1998 when five catholic church parishioners got together with a mini van and started distributing sandwiches to the homeless on the streets of Austin. Their goal, at the time, was to feed as many people as possible. Eventually they upgraded to a pick up truck with a catering bed and to date they have fed more than 4 million meals with the help of about 18,000 volunteers. Their Mobile Loaves and Fishes trucks are still going strong and feeding the hungry in various states.

While doing research on tiny house living in Austin, I came upon Community First Village. I emailed them and to my luck, Pastor Matt Freeman, who now runs the program along with its original creator Alan Graham, emailed me back and we set a time for me to come and get a tour of this phenomenal community that truly should be a global example of taking an idea and putting it into action. Pastor Matt, explained that eventually they raised enough money to purchase 27 acres just minutes from downtown Austin.

Once again, my sister and brother-in-law drive me to Hog Eyed Road, after our first attempt the day before landed us on the wrong Hog Eyed Road where we drove for what seemed forever. The drive, not being a total waste, as it deemed us with incredible landscape and a view of a few longhorns.

Pastor Matt greeted us eagerly. He showed us a video in their office/trailer, depicting the long journey that brought them to the place we were standing. Pastor Matt explained that Community First Village is a 27-acre planned community that will provide affordable, sustainable housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. It is a Christian based community, but its residents are not declined or accepted based on there religion. They believe in helping its residents not just have a home, but feel a sense of family, dignity and purpose. All residents must pay a small amount of rent and donate time to working in the community whether its building, cleaning, cooking, gardening or helping with the animals that will be living there. This cooperative environment allows for a sense of pride and self-worth. Volunteers and residents are involved in farm development, coop care, food distribution, composting, caring for fruit trees and keeping the grounds beautiful!

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To my delight the houses, which I will say are stunning and lovely, are also tiny. Each tiny house was designed to meet different needs. They are all colorful and cheerful. Looking at the exteriors, you get such a sense of welcome and pride in the work that is being done here. The homes have barrels for collecting rain water and are sustainable. There is an amphitheater, generously donated by Alamo theaters. There is an outdoor community kitchen since most of the homes only come with a small efficiency. Which is kind of cool as this is a community and they are focused on cooperative living. They also have a community garden to grow much of there food. When I visited this past April, they were still in the production stage and no residents were living there yet, but residents were would be moving in shortly. The chicken coop was still being worked on, as well as other parts of the grounds. Yet, being there and seeing so much being created for the good of others and with such incredible vision made my heart smile. I was in my happy place.

Community First can certainly be a global example to all on initiative, taking a stance and applying it. If you ever want to volunteer¬†and don’t want to go to a third world country, try Community First. There is need and hunger right here in our own backyards. Being there, you can feel the incredible energy of good work being done. It was truly an honor to be able to visit and learn about what they are doing to promote and create a difference. It is a special place, like no other I have seen. Please visit their website and learn for yourselves about this amazing organization.

I cannot wait to return to Austin and volunteer along with the many wonderful people who keep Community First and its mission a reality that truly takes care of those in need.

How and Where to even Start? That is the Question

So now that I’ve gone to to a conference and I am literally all fired up and ready to go, uh where to – not sure yet. I go to work each day and it’s almost too much, as I have way to much planning, reading, researching and purging to do. My job is a necessary not so horrible evil, as it does still provide me with a much needed income, but honestly all I can do is focus on my tiny house project. I mean I know its not really a tangible project as of yet, but in my heart and head it is as tangible as anything I have ever done.

So. in order to fully feel as if I am being productive in making my project a ”¬†real project” in¬†progress, without actually being involved in the actual building process, I do a lot of reading, researching, finding tiny homes to visit, finding tiny house builders to talk to, proposal writing, and blogging. All these things, though not actually hands on building, are in some way paving the way to my future building as I am taking note of all things relevant to actually building a tiny home. It’s inquisition on steroids. I figured, all this passionate inquiring can only insure a more well orchestrated building project when I do finally get there.

Some helpful things to do prior to doing any building:

*Go to a building Conference – Learn about the actual building process; learn about what it means to live in a tiny house from those who are actually doing it. Check out Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, they have many workshops going on at different times and in different states around the US. Also check out Tiny House Blog, they also have listings of workshops in various areas.

*Read, read, read – Nothing will give you more inspiration than reading the stories of those who have forged the way already. You will gain passion, perspective, insight and tons of do’s and don’ts from your fellow tiny housers. It is also a great way to see designs and start thinking of what you like and don’t like.

*Keep a recording Log – Since I decided that I was going to build a tiny home someday, I started to keep a log of dates and ideas, whether its reading, watching videos, talking to builders, talking to other tiny house enthusiast. Any and all of it, I keep notes. I use my iphone to take notes as well as something as simple as a marble notebook. I also keep a file with loose papers, such as photos and articles from magazines. All this gives me a point of reference for when I am ready to build.

*Start a Pinterest Tiny home Board – Pinterest has a search engine where you just type in tiny homes and OH MY GOD….you will find thousands of design ideas, photos, links, and just probably all wonderful cool things to look at. Be warned, it can be highly addictive. One minute you are cooking dinner and just browsing through casually – the next minute your smoke alarm is going off because you forgot about dinner and an hour has gone by or you start to look for just one thing and you look up and two¬†hours have passed.

*Visit or stay in a Tiny House – I have found it helpful to visit tiny homes – thanks to google and friends who know about my obsession, I have been able to go in a few. Being in one is quite the experience and may actually help you to really see if this is for you. I walked into an 27 foot tiny house and my first reaction was “wow this is huge” and then I also went into a 14 foot home and so “oh boy too tiny” – thing is you really need to know what you can live with. Like¬†Goldilocks, you have to try it on for size.

*Look around your current “bigger” home – Go from room to room and start thinking “what can I live without?” So far, without even moving or getting rid of anything major yet, I already have cleaned out house in my head. I also started to make a list of what needs to go and what I will allow myself to keep. Happy to say that the to go list is longer than the must keep ūüôā

*Start a possible building¬†team – Listen, one can easily have a tiny house built by one of the many builders out there. There are many reliable, awesome companies out there: Tumbleweed, Four Lights Tiny House Company, Tiny Home Builders¬†and a few others who will build you a beautiful tiny home but the price may not be so tiny. These are fantastic companies but if you are like me, and finance is an issue, building your home with a good set of plans and the help of friends and family, you can build your tiny home for under $20,000 or as I’m hoping much less. Building your own home, also allows you to build over time without having to borrow and incur debt which is probably one of the reasons you are doing this in the first place AND you can build a little at a time. Sure it may¬†take you longer but there are some perks – such as pride in doing it yourself, community working together, time to get a feel for your own style, and it is financially feasible.

*Think about where you are going to build – Okay, if you are like me and don’t really have property or a backyard to build on, this could be a problem. I live in Queens, New York, in an apartment with no backyard and on a very narrow street. I had originally written a proposal (and I might add that it was a very compelling one), which I sent to a local sculpture park. The administrator found it commendable and intriguing but because it is a state park, personal building is not possible, so he recommended I apply for a fellowship with a theme of Art Installation. Well, I am going to give it my best shot. I have also noted various warehouses in the area that I am planning to petition to (I will keep you posted to how this is received and my progress). A friend had kindly offered her driveway in the suburbs of Long Island but there may be issues with permits, neighbors who may not be keen on the idea and also its not demographically desirable because of the distance (about an hour travel for me). I need to build near me so that I can build every second I have available. One tiny house builder, told me that she was trying to build in a friends backyard in New England and the friends neighbors went bananas. So, having an ensured place to build is one of the first things you should figure out.

These are just a few things that come to mind and things I have done in my own process. I honestly feel that it is so important to do these things prior to building, as the more you know the more prepared and knowledgeable you will be. I find that every day, I learn and read something new. Gosh, Composting toilets can take weeks of research. I never ever thought that toilets could be so captivating, but they are!