Archive for tiny houses

Why Fox is going for an RV and not a tiny house

Posted in tiny living with tags on 11/26/2011 by Fox

There is no dependence that can be sure but a dependence upon one’s self.
~John Gay

Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens has recently moved into her tiny home. Her tiny home in someone else’s backyard, which I personally find a little…stifling. If I recall correctly, her tiny home lacks a bathroom and a kitchen, forcing her to rely upon someone else for cooking and showering and taking a piss. Of course, her fridge is a cooler, so I suppose she could just set that outside. But even if she goes raw she’s still infringing on someone else to perform basic bodily functions. Hopefully whomever she’s living with is either gone a lot or really really really likes company.

Not to mention her tiny house won’t be moving around very often. Why’s it on wheels then? To get around building codes devised to inflate property values by forcing homeowners to build a minimum square footage. Her friend, Dee Williams, supposedly has a special dispensation from the City of Portland to live in her own tiny house. But from what I’ve heard, just putting on wheels may not be enough. Tammy may find herself in legal trouble if the city ever finds out about her tiny house and decides to go after her.

I, however, have absolutely no desire to infringe upon someone else for basic necessities, (I don’t care if it “creates a better sense of community” or some other flowery excuse), remain in one place, or attempt to flaunt the legal system. Fuck all that. I’m going to move into a Class C RV. Not nearly as unusual, or shall we say, trendy. RVs have kitchens and bathrooms, however small. RVs can be moved with very little effort and time. It’s harder to break laws in an RV. You can also obtain used RVs, which helps to negate some of the financial and environmental burden. It’s also easier to find someone to fix a problem in an RV should said problem be beyond your abilities. Tammy’s alleviated some of that by going without the bathroom and kitchen, the major problem areas. But I’ll take the need to repair those over relying on someone else. Fuck community, I’m about independence. And being able to live somewhere other than someone else’s backyard. For god’s sake, the woman makes her living online…she’s in a perfect situation to be location independent. But I guess some people just like to be where they’re at. I don’t.

I’m all about where I’m going next. And right now, that’s Colorado, mother fuckers. I’m itching to leave again and I just got back from Alaska in September.

When tiny living sucks

Posted in tiny living with tags on 11/14/2011 by Fox

The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.
~Doris Janzen Longacre

My downstairs neighbor gave me his futon frame. I was originally going to give the bottom panel of mine to Dargon, but neither of us could remember to get an Allen wrench to take it off for a while. And by a while I mean a couple weeks. And then when I finally got around to it, a screw was stripped and he didn’t feel like jacking with replacing an assembly and the bottom panel, so I put it up on Freecycle instead.

The point is, I had a futon frame taking up a considerable portion of my living room for the better part of a month. Considerable as in I had to pull in my desk chair so my roommate could get to the front door.

And then yesterday, I was cooking chicken tortilla soup in my crock pot. I was cleaning up after prepping everything and putting it on to cook. There were crumbs beneath the crock pot, and I moved it a little to get at them. Now, the only open plug near a counter in my kitchen is just barely within reach of the cords of most small kitchen appliances like toasters and crock pots (you may already see where this is going). So my precariously positioned crock pot, when adjusted slightly, lost balance and nearly fell straight off the counter.

As it was, I just ended up with half of my soup all over the floor and in the cat dishes (yum!). I put what had been caught in the lid back in the pot, set it back up, swore a little, swore again, and then started cleaning up the mess. And then swore some more for good measure.

Thankfully, the part of chicken tortilla soup that’s expensive is the chips and sour cream that weren’t involved. I did lose quite a bit of chicken, but I only add one breast. I’ve got half an onion, some cilantro, and celery left over, so I’ll just make a fresh batch when I eat this up. But still, losing all that food rather sucked.

Add in sharing a bathroom with a sometimes bizarre Chinese woman who insists on hour-long bathathons and doing her laundry in the bathroom with a very small washing machine, and, well, sometimes living tiny just sucks.

On the other hand, of course, I can vacuum the entire apartment in less than five minutes.

Fox’s tiny living future?

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 06/18/2011 by Fox

We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.
~Charles F. Kettering

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff written by people who live in RVs. One thing that caught my attention was the idea of parking someplace, working for a while while saving a bunch, and then wandering about until the money ran out and it was time to work again. Sounds like my kinda life, and one I could easily live considering my very minimal financial needs. Doubly so if I had the RV paid off.

Of course, my biggest concern is the fact that such a life makes saving for retirement improbable. Temporary jobs don’t often pay well, nor do they come with the benefits that long-term jobs have…such as retirement plans.

So the question is…do I live like I am, saving my ass off for retirement and in hopes that I could save enough to invest enough to enable me to work very little? Or do I live like I want to live, and put very little away for the future? If I had a decent job, I’d go with the former. But without that job, the question’s not so easy.

Right now, my answer is to go for it, and live like I want to. Life is short, and I don’t want to be sixty-five and full of regret. I can always change my mind and settle down if I want. And this won’t be happening for several years…in order to pull this off, I have to be debt-free, and own an RV. Which means I have some serious saving to do, even if I decide to deal with the debt, buy the RV early, and live in it while making payments.

The RV will be used, of course. Some of the ones I was looking at cost $100,000 new. After taxes…yeah. If I search enough, maybe I can find a relatively new one in the hands of someone with buyer’s remorse.

The other issue is my (now) three cats. That’s a lot of cats to live in one RV. But I’ve got a few years to figure that out, too. Luckily, two of them are already accustomed to living in relatively small spaces, although not as small as an RV.

But there’s a lot that could happen between now and then. I can make plans, and try to see them out, but how things will pan out ultimately is anyone’s guess. If you would like to help out financially, though, you can do so via Paypal. For the few, the proud, the ones who have already donated, you are all the most fucking amazing people on the entire planet, even if I don’t notice your donation for months until one glorious day and thus I forgot to thank you. D: You guys rock something AWESOME.

That’s right, donate and you, too, could feel the gratification of having me tell you how awesome you are in public.

Finding your tiny apartment

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 02/26/2011 by Fox

May your home always be too small to hold all of your friends.
~Author Unknown

By far the easiest way to live tiny is to just rent an apartment. But the challenge posed by picking an apartment out can be daunting…especially in a college town where the apartments are thick.

1) Be prepared to search. The best apartment’s not always the first one you look at. I found my current place after hours of searching by car and on the internet. I checked out dozens of places.

2) Don’t be fooled by the cost per square foot. It’s a good indicator, yes, but your goal is tiny, not best value per square foot. I’ve had apartment complexes try to sell me on bigger apartments with this argument. And they were better deals, but what am I going to do with 1200 sq. ft. when 600 is too big? Going by sheer square footage isn’t a good idea, either. Instead, decide if the apartment as a whole, both in size and in layout, is right for you.

3) Decide what you have to have and what you can live without. I have to have ceiling fans and windows I can leave open all the time. I don’t need a dishwasher or my own washer and dryer. This may be a trial-and-error thing. There’s a good chance you may need something you didn’t even think about or that you can live without something you thought you needed. This is doubly true for tiny spaces, which can exacerbate seemingly minor details.

4) Location, location, location. Do you want to be close to work? Close to a park? Far away from train tracks? Know what needs to be close, what can be far away, and how much you’re willing to sacrifice to have these things at hand (or far far away). Is location a dealbreaker or do you care if the dream apartment is a half-hour drive from everything?

5) Know the prices. Tiny apartments should be relatively cheap. Most people these days want big apartments with lots of closets. My current place is one of the cheapest in town. In order to fill the units, they have to keep the prices low to entice people to live in small apartments.

6)

7) Look for older apartments. They’re not as nice, but as houses got bigger, so did apartments. Older apartments tend to be smaller than newer apartments.

8) Avoid taking something that’s “okay.” If you’re meaning this to be a permanent or semi-permanent residence, you don’t want to live somewhere you aren’t in love with. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make a trade-off or two, but you should be able to say with confidence, “This is it!”

A tiny apartment Fox wouldn’t want to live in

Posted in tiny living with tags on 09/20/2010 by Fox

The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
~Hans Hofmann

While I have to commend Steve Sauer for his use of space, I’m afraid to say I’d have to redecorate his home before I’d live in it. I like the muti-level effect, and the coziness of that TV space he has, but the entire apartment just looks too busy for me to feel relaxed in.

One of the things people in small homes are constantly trying to do is create the feel of space. Using light colors, natural light, etc, etc. Sauer’s home is a small home that feels very small and very cramped. Part of it is the immense amount of stuff he has here and there. Vases, a backpack, The two horizontal bands running along the walls. It makes the room seem complicated and smaller.

And while he hates wasted spaces, I would say that the TV lounge and “cafe area” are wasted space to me. I wouldn’t use either, personally. I read a lot, but I would be reading in the TV lounge and the cafe area would go completely unused. I would clear both out to give the apartment more of an open feel. Alternatively, I’d bring in some storage space for my camping equipment.

There don’t seem to be photos of the bedrooms, but from what I can tell, I dig them. My current bedroom is much too large…I just need space for the bed and room for my clothes.

The kitchen looks amazing, as well, (again, save for the cluttered look). I love tiny kitchen appliances. If it weren’t for my roommate, my fridge would be very empty and my freezer even more so. I don’t do weekly shopping trips, and generally cook a meal within twenty-four hours of obtaining the necessary ingredients. The freezer merely stores meat. I’m very into obscenely tiny kitchens.

I think is bathroom is bigger than mine, actually. It’s certainly nicer. I’d have to chuck the tub, though. I’m not taking a bath in the middle of my apartment. For two, the cats would fall in and I’d have to fish them back out again.

Really, all I think this points to is the need for a tiny space to be very precise and very personal. You don’t have the luxury of room to make do. Each and every space has to be just right, or it doesn’t work. What works for Sauer doesn’t work for me, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for some other tiny living enthusiast. You can’t crank out a bunch of ultra-small dwellings and expect that there won’t have to be alterations made for each person. Look at the myriad of different ways people handle one-room efficiencies. Some people make the closet into a bedroom, others push the bed against the wall and hide it with furniture or curtains. Others make the bed serve as a couch as well. Tiny spaces are all very unique.

Tiny kitchen tour

Posted in tiny living with tags , , , on 07/24/2010 by Fox

Be grateful for what you have.
~found on the bottom of a Sweet Leaf Tea cap

Fox's tiny kitchen

This is my kitchen. For some scale, that’s a cat peeking out from behind the bar. (She’s not one of mine, I’m catsitting.) The refrigerator is hiding behind the wall to the right. The top three cabinets are my roommate’s along with the tiny section of countertop in-between the sink and the fridge. The pan and the kettle are also hers. The three cabinets and drawer on the bottom are mine. The sink is split…the left side is mine, the right side is hers.

I cook about 75% of my food here. My roommate probably cooks a similar amount. We don’t have a dishwasher or a pantry and that’s a 3/4 stove. Only two of the burners work. Believe me, we make this kitchen work hard. Generally it’s a time-share kind of deal. We both cook in batches, so it’s rare that we both need the kitchen at the same time. It works out well, since it is physically impossible for two people to work in this kitchen.

Here’s my fridge. The microwave sits on top, along with the Captain Morgan Silver, the cat food, the blender, the bread, and the dish towel. As you can probably guess, there’s just not any space for the microwave to go elsewhere. The Sunfish Magnet of Awesome is holding coupons and anything pending (my cat’s vaccination reminder at present), and the praying mantis magnet is holding up a tribute to the greatest comedian ever. That thing in the middle of the floor is a cat toy.

This is the storage space under the bar. Top two shelves are mine, bottom shelf is my roommate’s. At the top left, you can see my pot stacked in the colander stacked in the frying pan. The chips and any other plastic objects have to be kept out of the cabinets because my cat Zoe (the blurry cat-shaped thing in the very top left corner) eats them. Not pictured is the big green container, which sits in the Pyrex dish in the middle of the second shelf. Right now it’s got egg salad in it. On the near side of the trash can on the floor is the kitty filling station, which isn’t visible. It’s literally a ceramic bowl for food and a stainless steel container for water.

My pantry, which some people would call a cabinet. On top is the container holding the pasta, the olive oil (behind that are some of my food storage containers), the Pam in front of some canned tomatoes, and soy sauce in front of the flour in front of the baking cocoa in front of the red wine vinegar. These cabinets are deep…the stuff only goes about halfway back. On the bottom is my “spice rack,” along with my tea bags, lunch containers, and salt. I only have three lunch containers in total. I take my lunches five days a week. I’d much rather wash a few dishes a couple times a week than own more containers and do a lot of dishes Sunday night.

And that’s it. A very tiny kitchen.

Storage in tiny spaces: a case study

Posted in tiny living with tags , on 04/24/2010 by Fox

Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.
~Leonardo Da Vinci

I have one closet. Okay, okay, really two. But one has a hot water heater taking up most of it. Not very useful. So, seriously, just the one. I’m really glad I started purging possessions when I had more closets, otherwise I’d not have been a very happy camper in this place. I also only have one drawer in the kitchen, and two small cabinets, four large cabinets, and some shelves under the bar. No pantry. And I have to share those with my roommate, who got the two small and one of the large and a bar shelf. And most of the counter top space, at the moment anyway.

So how the hell do I fit all of my crap into one closet and a meager amount of kitchen storage?

Well, for one, I don’t own a lot. That’s a biggie. The more storage you have, the more shit you tend to own. My mother told me that once, and it’s a lesson that holds very true.

Stack. Stackstackstackstack everything like you’re an interior decorator stuck in Kogoruhn. Microwave goes on top of the fridge. The pot goes into the colander, which also hold the pot’s lid when it’s not in use, and the colander sits in the frying pan. Tea goes on top of the salt, which sits in front of the pasta. The syrup, olive oil, and sugar jockey for first place in their own little column. All the spices go in the spice basket, regardless of how well or even if they all fit. Bowls go on top of plates if necessary, not so much now that I got rid of the tiny plates. All the utensils go in the drawer. All of them. In the fridge, the sour cream and milk sit on top of the eggs and the soda is pushed all the way to the back. My roommate has entirely too much food in there. In the closet, the bird feather box is stacked on top of the sleeping bag. The box for the computer monitor (which seemed like a good thing to hold on to at the time) is on top of another box. If it’s not hitting the ceiling, you’re doing it wrong.

Put stuff in stuff. The suitcase is going to take up the same amount of space empty or full. It holds shoes I wear infrequently and the quilts. The cooler holds the tarp and a few other small camping items. The cardboard box holds other boxes. The computer monitor box holds the Wii box (another item I felt somehow obligated to hang on to for some undefined period of time.) My bone cleaning supplies all go in the big boiling pot. Craft supplies all stack, along with the oversized books and my file of important documents.

Put stuff under stuff. I have a rubbermaid container for under the bed. The roommate’s closet door (which lacks a necessary component to actually hang) lives under the futon with the ferret food and ferret litter. The cat toys are all under the fridge, for reasons only those owned by cats can fathom. My roommate keeps her dirty clothes in her tiny washing machine.

Outsource. My printer comes with people to operate it for me. Unfortunately, they require a small sum before they’ll turn my printing over to me, but what the hell. Most of my books are at the library. A good place for books to be. I bet you can guess where the movies are at. Yea, they want some cash, too, but I guess they gotta eat.

Hang. Some of my neighbors do this. They hang pots, pans, and cups from the overhead cabinets and the wall. My jacket hangs off a hook on the back of my bedroom door. I could buy a bracket to hang the bicycle on, if I wanted to make it decor. I could hang the quilts, too. And the computer monitor. Wall shelves are easy to come by for books or more kitchen storage. Hell, the fire extinguisher hangs in this apartment, even though that’s not exactly a decor plus. I’m just glad it has one even though it looks like it hasn’t been off the wall in years.

This is just a starting point. With a little ingenuity and a imagination, crap can be stored just about anywhere.

Killing Fox’s TV

Posted in tiny living with tags , , , on 01/17/2010 by Fox

Lister: There is no such thing as ‘Silicon Heaven’.
Kryten: Then where do all the calculators go?
Lister: They don’t go anywhere. They just die.
Kryten: Surely you believe that God is in all things? Aren’t you a pantheist?
Lister: Yeah, but I just don’t think it applies to kitchen utensils. I’m not a FRYING pantheist. Machines do not have souls. Computers and calculators do not have an afterlife. You don’t get hairdryers with tiny little wings, sitting on clouds and playing harps.
~Red Dwarf, “The Last Day”

This post is a day late because I woke up Saturday morning and discovered that my computer screen had gone plaid. It made all the appropriate booting-up noises, and eventually displayed a terrible mock-up of my desktop background, but the screen was unreadable, and thus, unusable. I automatically figured that my CRT monitor of 7-9 years had finally gone on to Silicon Heaven. (Turns out it didn’t, and now we’re suspecting the equally old and decrepit mother board or maybe the not-so-old-and-decrepit video card.)

Anyway. I immediately called the Bird (who comprises one portion of my three-person Personal Geek Squad) and we scoured Craigslist for a “new” CRT. We found one guy who might be willing to part with one, but did see listings selling LCDs. I figured if I was going to be spending money on a new monitor, I was damn sure going to get what I wanted. And what I wanted was a set-up that could run my computer as well as my gaming consoles.

I decided on this several months ago, talked to my friends about it, discussed LCD vs. LED vs. HDTVs and cables and cords and TV tuner cards and sizes and gods know what else. Good thing I did, because we already knew pretty much what we were looking for now. We hit up NewEgg, found a couple of likely suspects both in the LCD monitor and HDTV department.

I wanted to see these things in person, so we went to Best Buy. Almost immediately the actual computer monitors were ruled out by the Bird…they couldn’t be viewed very well from far away (necessary for the Wii and PS2). So HDTV it was. We spent maybe an hour looking at specs, sizes, and prices before mostly deciding on one. After an employee confirmed my hopes for the response time, I was set. So now instead of a computer monitor and television as separate entities, I have a 22″ Insignia LCD HDTV that works for both. I normally don’t like composites because if one breaks, you’re screwed for all devices, but the TV was something I used for a few hours a month. Losing the TV if the monitor dies is no problem. Losing the monitor when the monitor dies, however, is more of a problem.

Losing the TV (and to a lesser extent, the enormous CRT monitor) makes my apartment look much bigger. It’ll work better when I eventually move into an even smaller space. And having one relatively small thing to move instead of three heavy things (TV, CRT, TV stand) is going to make leaving this apartment that much easier.

Yes, I paid in “cash” (actually, I used the debit card). It puts me a half-month behind on my time line for getting rid of the student loan, but my savings account remains untouched and I was sure as hell not going to finance it. Another reason to go composite. I spent a little more money than I would have had I gone with an LCD monitor, but I got both the monitor and an HDTV to boot. No need to shell out more money for a nice TV since I already have one. And the sound on my “monitor” is much better than the sound I would have gotten with a standard monitor’s onboard speakers.

The TV stand is already back at the Bird’s (it was hers to begin with) and one of my co-workers has expressed interest in the TV. The monitor, now that we know it’s probably not broken after all, might go to a friend or it might end up on Craigslist itself. It was a good monitor, but I don’t need an extra hanging around. May it serve for many more years before it finally really goes to Silicon Heaven.

Good things, small packages

Posted in tiny living with tags , , , on 01/09/2010 by Fox

Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.
~Leonardo Da Vinci

So J. Grant asked me if I was going to do a post on mini-houses (<1000 sq ft). It was then that I realized I had not yet done an actual post on the topic. So here it is.

In short, I fucking love tiny houses. I also fucking love ridiculously small cars. But I digress.

I’ve mentioned a time or two that I feel apartments are a better bet than houses. And yes, in a strictly environmental sense, apartments are better than tiny houses, too.

But while you can paint herrings green and nail them to walls, you can’t exactly pick up an apartment and drag it around the country with you. Which is precisely what I want to do. And there are always those people who want to have sex with their windows open, thus making their downstairs neighbors piss themselves with laughter. And that guy down the road who insists on painting his house purple, much to the chagrin of the homeowners’ association.

So the next best thing to an apartment is a tiny house. They don’t have to be mobile. You get many of the same benefits as apartments…they’re small, cheap, easy to heat and cool, quick to clean, and can’t be filled with nearly as much bullshit. And they’re just fucking adorable when being pulled down the road.

However, there’s a hiccup in the whole tiny house thing. While there are plenty of small houses for sale, and used RVs can be easily found and converted, they’re not as plentiful as standard housing. Which means that a lot of people going into the tiny house/small living movement (especially the <400 sq ft group) are building new instead of going used. There are people out there building tiny houses from reclaimed materials, but that’s still more resource- and energy-intensive than buying a used house or RV.

But I think that the benefits may very well outweigh the negatives in the case of the tiny houses. Especially when compared to the McMansions that were fast becoming the norm before the economic bust.

I’ve personally found myself more at ease in apartments with smaller square footage. I don’t own enough furniture of the size necessary to fill out even the 600+ one-bedroom I lived in at one point. The bedroom was too large for just a bed and a desk (I moved a couch in there, even) and the closet was the size of my kitchen before I managed to fill it with bullshit. I’m quite content now in my tiny apartment, and would like to live in a 100-200 sq ft tiny house on wheels, be it a Tumbleweed or an RV.

Small things just make sense. I’ve never been one for conspicuous consumption, and tiny, cheap things, or tiny, not cheap, but very very nice things, just appeal to me.

And there’s always the whole still-working-for-effectively-minimum-wage thing. That really puts a damper on house sizes.

Tiny house showdown – Tarleton vs RV

Posted in tiny living with tags , , on 09/28/2009 by Fox

Alright, I want a good clean fight…

Although I would love a Tarleton, I may end up going with an RV instead. Granted, I have years to go before I decide one way or the other, so I’ll probably waver back and forth several times between now and then.

But reading The Mini-Mobile Cottage and learning that the Fencl design, at least, is very heavy and tall has made me waver in my decision to go with a Tumbleweed.

Ideally, I want something I can travel with 24/7, and I don’t think the Tumbleweeds are made for that. But let’s compare the two:

Tumbleweed:
Pros:
-It looks like a house, feels like a house, and has windows. The last bit is important.
Cons:
-Cost is a big one. I’m not sure I’d be able to come up with 50k in anything less than ten years, and I’m unwilling to take on a mortgage. I have less than half that in debt right now and I can’t stand it.
-Height, weight, and the fact that it might not be able to stand up to a lot of moving. Mobile, yes. Suitable for RVing, probably not.

RV:
Pros:
-Cost. I could get a used RV, or even a new RV, for less than a Tumbleweed.
-Height, weight, mobility. RVs are made to be moved about all the time.
-No one would care if I painted Art Deco gazelles on it or just covered the damn thing in bumper stickers depicting places I’ve been.
-It’s easy to find a place that services RVs.
-I know first-hand RVs can go off-grid for a week or more easily.
Cons:
-RVs have to be dressed up before they’ll look or feel like a house. -Also, the lack of windows. And no loft or porch.

I’m reasonably certain I could fit either with a solar setup for electricity. The RV would probably come with AC, which I’d rather learn to live without, but might be useful in some cases.

At this point, I’m leaning toward a gutted and redecorated RV. Laminate flooring and actual furniture instead of RV chic. Books would be an issue in either scenario; I’d probably have to have them stored in a cabinet with doors. I’d like glass-fronted bookcases, but there’s too much chance for breakage. Closets aren’t really a big deal. I only have one closet now, and it suits me fine.

So, Tarleton or RV? Anyone have an opinion?

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