tiny house problems

Tiny: It Isn't For Everyone Or Even Necessarily Forever

I feel like I've done a rather thorough job of being very forthcoming about why we built our tiny house, what we intend to use it for, why we aren't currently living in it full-time, and when we do plan to be living tiny in it yet again. I also know I've mentioned many times that our tiny house on wheels has never been planned as our last home forever and ever til death do us part. 😜 One of the reasons I had no trouble convincing Brand to join me on the crazy adventure of building our own house with our own hands (beyond the fact that he'd always wanted to do just that) was the fact I promised him it didn't have to be forever. He knew I have always wanted to roadtrip across the country, so it wasn't a difficult sell to combine both dreams into one little tiny house on wheels.

 

Even though we did build our house and are looking forward to being back in it full-time sooner rather than later, we have always said we want a permanent house on some acreage in Washington state. That dream has never changed, and we still have every intention of moving there by the summer of 2018 before the kiddo starts first grade. We knew as soon as our son was born that we no longer wanted to own a massive 3200sqft house, especially since we were really only using about half the space. When we moved into my dad's place we condensed further into just 2 large bedrooms with shared kitchen and living room use. Only once did our tiny house ever feel too small during our 6 months in Colorado, and it was because we had just arrived, were still setting up, and simply got overwhelmed at all we had done and still needed to do to settle into our new tiny life in a new state with a new job. Just lots of new stuff in a very short time to be sure! That feeling passed quickly, and then everything people have said about how freeing having less stuff and less space to care for kicked into high gear for us, making the whole experience in the house itself pretty darn close to magical. Well, except for the frequently overflowing pee jug, but that's a story from another blog post all together. 😫

 

Anyway, my rambling point is that I know some folks out there likely think we're just another "casualty" of the tiny house "fad" because we aren't living in the house at this exact moment. While WE know that isn't the case at all and have plans progressing nicely that will put us back into our house much sooner than we had actually hoped for, we do know there are still Negative Nellys out there that likely shake their heads at us and anyone else who might have moved into and out of their tiny house in a hurry no matter what the reasoning may be. We can even admit to being surprised by they number of folks, particularly the ones on TV, that have moved on from their tiny houses, too, but we know first hand that sometimes life just doesn't go as planned and adjustments have to be made on the fly. We experienced some of that with the Colorado sticker shock we felt after thinking we could afford to live tiny AND pay off all our debt there, but the cost of living compared to Texas and the distance I had to travel to work (55mi each way) simply to have a legal place to park our tiny house made that as impractical as living in a mostly empty 3200sqft house with a $2000/mo mortgage. It didn't make financial sense to stay there just to stay in the tiny house, so we made the decision to come back to Texas to get the rest of our finances in order instead. The last thing we want to have happen is us getting out to where we really plan to settle down and struggle financially to stay put. We haven't always made the best financial decisions in our lifetime together or even before that, but we'll be damned if we set a poor example for our son by not shaping up and doing right by him. After all, we chose our target area of Washington specifically to put us near an amazing Waldorf farm school for him, and we want to provide for him something neither of us had growing up: a single house to call home all the way through high school.

 

Any way, the ever-amazing Macy Miller wrote her own blog post about the question on many people's minds when they hear of folks moving into and on from their tiny house life in a seeming hurry. As always her post is poignant and introspective, and it touches on the many sides to the stories of why some folks don't live tiny for long. She is in many ways an exception to what seems to be the "rule" about length of time living in a tiny house, but she's got a great answer to that suggestion as well. Enjoy!

 

http://minimotives.com/2016/09/12/whats-hard-living-tiny-whyd-move/

TH43 v1.0 Video Tour

Greetings! I have posted a pair of heavily detailed video tours of our tiny house to our own YouTube channel called TINY HOUSE FOR THREEI've also embedded them at the bottom of this post for sake of ease.

I want to again remind folks that our house is not 100% completed, and therefore you're going to see plenty of projects left to complete. I also intentionally didn't do a thorough clean on the house before filming, because let's face it - how often have you seen a house with kids and pets be immaculate other than on magazine covers and heavily staged TV shows?! Yup, that's what I thought! The only thing that would have made this video more accurate to our real, day-to-day tiny house living would be to have had R.A.D playing with his cars in his room and Brand sitting in the nook studying or playing video games with more dirty dishes on the counter and me sprawled out on the couch reading a magazine. You may wrinkle your nose at some of our unfinished work or the dishes in the sink because it's not aesthetically pleasing, and we've already had some folks give unsolicited snipes about our design choices and layout ("Only thing better would be tiny house with a better design than a hallway... 😬"). Regardless of your own preferences for what you think a tiny house should look like, including your own if you go that route, you need to keep one highly important fact in mind:

 THIS IS OUR TINY HOME, NOT YOURS! 💖

We built OUR house to OUR standards for OUR needs and to OUR budget and timeframe, and we aren't done yet!! We chose to go on and share both photos and a video tour of our work-in-progress house now because 1) it's going to be a while before we really have it ALL done to our satisfaction and 2) because we want to encourage others, especially those who have little to no help for their build who are trudging along fretting about whether or not they'll ever finish it, that IT'S OKAY FOR YOUR HOUSE TO NOT BE PERFECT by the time you are ready to move in! Sure, it's a royal pain in the keester to live in a construction zone, especially a TINY construction zone, but it CAN. BE. DONE.

Your house doesn't have to be HGTV ready to be loved, to be lived in, and to be proud of. The haters and trolls will be there no matter how pristine your floors are, how white your walls are, or how sparkling your expensive hammered copper sink that you simply couldn't resist is, so just keep on keeping on! 😉 Be proud of what you've accomplished so far, what you'll continue to complete in the future, and of the very fact you had the cajones to start in the first place!! I've found some of the most vocal critics of our tiny house and of many others don't even live in a tiny house and have no plans to do so. What suddenly makes them the experts on tiny house building, design, and living?! Oh that's right.... not a damn thing! ☺️ So just remember....

YOU ROCK, AND SO DO WE!! 

Now that I've dismounted the soap box and without any further ado, may I proudly present our unfinished, unkempt TinyHouse43 v1.0 in all its video tour glory! 

💙🏡💜 

P. S. I should also point out this isn't a, " and here's the kitchen, and over there is the bathroom," type tour. I actually share useful information about our house that anyone building or living in a tiny house might find useful. That's why combined the tour is 30 minutes long! 😜

Reality Bites

This should probably be two posts, but that's just not how I roll. Grab some coffee and a snack. This'll take a minute... 

I don't want to write this post at all. In fact, little pieces of my heart and soul are dying as I type these words, but then my brain tells me to STFU because it's not as bad as it seems on the surface. In reality and in the long run, it'll probably the very best thing that could happen to us on our tiny life journey. 

We are moving back to Texas and into my dad's house in the next few months.

Now, before you think, "Oh look, another tiny houser who couldn't hack living tiny is going back to their big house life," allow me to make one thing absolutely, positively, crystal. frigging. clear...

THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE TINY HOUSE ITSELF OR EVEN THE ACT OF LIVING IN THE TINY HOUSE. 

In fact, were we NOT living in the tiny house here in Colorado and instead renting one of the very expensive apartments in the area, we'd be much worse off than we are now. We'd be paying at least double the rent for just a one bedroom, likely triple the electric, and also be paying for water in an apartment. Really, the only advantage an apartment would have over our THOW is that I could potentially be walking distance from my job instead of 54 miles one way or a two hour round trip away.

We had a very specific list of reasons for choosing Colorado for our first stop in our tiny house adventure, which in no particular order consists of:

  • Ability to live in our THOW full-time
  • Ability to transfer within the company I've worked at for almost 5 years
  • Having a stable source of income & legal parking = freedom to focus on debt elimination
  • Remaining close enough to Texas to regularly visit family
  • The Mountains! The Weather! The Everything-That's-Different-From-Texas! ;)

See the emphasis on the third line?? That's because that was THE reason we were okay with leaving Texas with debt left to pay off. We had some debt already, accrued a good deal more building the tiny house, and have no intention of traveling or moving to Washington until we have that debt totally paid off. We thought the security of having the same job and a safe, legal place to park and live in the THOW would be all we needed to really hunker down and start chipping away at the balances. We've had loads of credit card debt before and managed to pay it all off a bit at a time, albeit with two incomes instead of one, and we expected this time to be no different. Instead, though, we started a slow roll down the mountain that has surpassed snowball status and progressed to full on avalanche. We haven't been this broke since I was in nursing school and we were surviving off Brand's $7.50/hr maintenance job.

On paper, our overhead should be less than when we had our Big House. The cost of our truck payment, truck insurance, RV lot rent, electric bill, and our Texas cell bill (more on that in a moment) totals as much as our $2000/mo mortgage. Our electricity has averaged about $50-60/mo at the $1/kW rate the RV park charges, but because of the lack of reliable wifi (a must since Brand takes college classes online), our cell bill has more than doubled. We really weren't expecting a LOT of the pricing differences up here, and we blame that on being more focused on finishing the house and finding a place to park. Food costs more. Fuel costs more. There are state taxes here. We knew about the taxes, actually, but our entire grocery budget ($300/mo) is what that equates to every two paychecks. When your usual grocery budget is being usurped by the State with every check, it doesn't take long for your bank balance to start dwindling and you to start whipping out the plastic to pay for necessities. That, my friends, is a highly unsustainable way to live. 

Really, that's not the whole problem, and really there aren't even just one or two issues I could point my finger at and say, "THIS is the reason we're broke." We knew it was a risk coming here with debt to pay off because yes, we did know the cost of living would be higher. What we couldn't have planned for was the hospital being delayed an additional two months, requiring me to drive those 54 miles ten times a week for 8 weeks in order to be paid full-time hours. Normally as a nurse we work three 12-hour shifts, which would have meant 324 miles of travel from Loveland to Westminster each week. Instead, I was driving 540 miles at $2.50/gal in a truck that was now getting 14mpg instead of the 18mpg it averaged in flat, 17-mile-one-way-commute-Texas where diesel was nearly $0.20/gal cheaper. Worse, on Thursdays and Fridays we all carpool to my work and R.A.D's school, which actually totals 164 miles in ONE day. Go ahead, do the math. I'll wait. 

When we started realizing just how serious the financial situation was becoming, I began keeping a little list of cost comparisons in Texas vs. Colorado. Granted these aren't 100% apples to apples comparisons for various reasons, but I actually notated the differences for my own sake as much as for sharing it here. You'll notice that travel costs are a big part of the equation as made obvious in previous paragraphs, but what this chart doesn't show are the differences in things like food and laundry costs. Here we pay $3/load, which includes one cycle each of washing and drying. While not a big expense (we average 2 loads per week), it is still something we didn't account for. With groceries, for example, I found about an $0.80 difference between the FairLife milk I drink between our Target in TX and the one in Loveland, which, incidentally, isn't a Super Target. We have to drive another 36mi round trip to Fort Collins for food because that's still the cheapest place to go for us. Even the pizza we occasionally treat ourselves to costs more - $6.99 in Texas and $7.99 in Colorado.  It all adds up quick!

***I'll add that those are the CHEAPEST fuel prices I found in both areas recently. It's actually higher all around town in both TX and CO.

***I'll add that those are the CHEAPEST fuel prices I found in both areas recently. It's actually higher all around town in both TX and CO.

If you're feeling like all the comparisons I'm sharing are just nickels and dimes on the grand scheme of things, let me tell you that I agree completely! As I said, there isn't any one or two or even three BIG, obvious reasons why we've been bleeding cash since we got here. Instead, the realization of just how maxed out and drained down our accounts have become hit me when I spent Friday morning 2/12 paying bills online. After paying the bare minimum payments on everything due between then and the next pay day, we have $104.00 to buy food and fuel for the next two weeks. ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR DOLLARS. For three people. And a cat. And a work period that totals 836 miles of driving in a truck that gets 14mpg. Needless to say, that was the final straw, the last nail in the Colorado coffin.

Can you see now why those nickels and dimes are more like thieves and black holes vanishing any and every cent we have or I earn?

Good thing they abolished Debtor's Prisons!

Good thing they abolished Debtor's Prisons!

I'm sure by now you're asking yourself perfectly valid questions like...

"Why doesn't she just get a second job or he start working, too?"
"Why don't they just find a cheaper, closer place to park their tiny house?"
"Why doesn't she just use mass transit or get a car with better gas mileage?"
"Have they even bothered to try to reduce their expenses further?"

...to which I dutifully reply:

  • I actually DID secure a 2nd job here that wouldn't start until the middle of March (which means I won't get paid until April), but in order to keep living here AND being able to not just pay our bills but actually start paying them off, I would have to work six 12-hr shifts per week AT LEAST. We need cash now, and seventy-two hours a week is brutal. Granted I wouldn't have to work that much fooorrr-eeeev-errrr, but it would be a longer period of time than I'm willing to commit to. Colorado was supposed to be a working vacation of sorts for me. At this point in my career I feel I've earned a little work-life balance for the sake of my kid if nothing else, and this would definitely NOT be that.

  • As for parking, go to the Denver Craigslist site and search "tiny house" under the "Housing" tab. You'll immediately see there a dozens of posts by people with tiny houses looking for a place to park. Colorado is a popular place to live for a ton of reasons, and sadly the State - for all its progressiveness with marijuana legalization AND as the home of the most professional tiny house building companies in the country - isn't exactly tiny house friendly. I sent a form letter with the specifics of our needs to every single RV site that shows up on Google maps over the spring and summer of 2015, and if I even got a reply the answers were, "We don't take tiny houses," or, "We don't have any long term parking available." In my desperation at one point, we were even looking at buying a mining claim in Florissant just to have a place to park, though since the BLM actually owns the physical land we'd still just be "camping." Think my drive to work is rediculous now?! Florissant is 113 miles ONE WAY from Westminster. More recently I had a few nibbles in Lyons, but none of those panned out for various reasons including the land being too steep, the land not being zoned to allow occupancy in the THOW (a very common problem), or us needing to be totally off-grid right now. We can handle everything except power right now, and solar systems ain't cheap. Just ask the great and varied folks of the Denver Tiny House Enthusiast group how easy it is to find ANY kind of tiny house parking that's not out in the boonies and/or totally off-grid, and you'll see we were super fortunate to even find Riverview in Loveland at all. 

  •  There's a transit route called "Bustang" that runs from Fort Collins down to Denver proper with a stop in Loveland where I could board, but the earliest it arrives at the Denver bus transfer center at 0700. I have to be at work at 0645, and I'd still have to take an additional bus to work that would make me quite late. Plus, the bus only runs Monday through Friday, and I work all kinds of random weekends. As for a cheaper car, during the time the hospital was delayed I actually did rent a car for three weeks because it was cheaper to pay the $125/wk fee plus about $20 in gas (it got 37mpg) than pay for diesel. With the lower gas and diesel prices now, however, that wouldn't be nearly as cost effective. We contemplated buying a cheap car in Texas to bring here (Colorado car registration fees are outrageously expensive: $600-800 vs. $63/yr in Texas), but that requires a lump sum of cash and a few prayers that it doesn't break down in the winter conditions. It's not really an investment worth making in the long run, especially since we'd eventually have to get rid of it.

  • I should also point out that while we have definitely not done as good a job with general expense reduction as we should have (did I mention we ate out too much when we first got here?!), we did get rid of several services we've used for years just to cut costs where we could. What good are Netflix, Hulu, Pandora One, and HBO Now when you have no wifi and streaming would burn through your meager data plan in mere days? Yes, I like having my gym membership since the weather isn't stable enough for me to run outdoors here, but I've only gone twice since I've been here. Buh-bye. I no longer subscribe to my numerous digital magazines (fare thee well, Tiny House Magazine), I've ended our Monster Muscle shake deliveries from Amazon (this is brutal, because that's my breakfast and I don't like coffee), and I've been tracking down other subscriptions I may have forgotten about (unused website addresses, phone apps, credit score managers, etc) as fast as I can to avoid surprise charges. They don't cost much individually - $3.99 here, $8.99 there - but they do start adding up fast.  

I feel that I have done my due diligence and have exhausted all the avenues I can think of to find a way to make this work that would improve our present situation and not be so demanding as to be unsustainable for even a short period of time. As my dear, sweet husband told me recently, I have to be the one to make the decision to stay or go because I'd be the one having to work all those extra days and continue to drive all those crazy miles. It's not cost effective for him to get a job, as some have suggested, because my pay rate would be at least double anything he could earn right now. Plus, we'd potentially have to pay for childcare if our work days overlapped, which is yet another expense we can't afford. Nope, folks, it's all on me. I WANT to stay, I really, really do, but I also don't want to go insane trying to work 72 hours a week just to make ends meet when we can go back to Texas and immediately eliminate about $2500 of our monthly expenditures just by not being in Colorado. It makes me feel like I'm giving up too easily, it really does, but in the name of sanity and bankruptcy avoidance, "I'm out, Jerry."

Not!

Not!

Now, lest anyone think me ungrateful for the opportunities we have, the support of our family, and the fact that I'm even employed at all when so many aren't, let me be clear that I know dang well everything mentioned above is a First World Problem. I'll also give you my canned response to that observation, which is that admitting that doesn't make the situation suck any less. We are well aware that we are lucky to be able to choose to live the tiny life when many don't have the luxury of choice, so please don't mistake me providing a blow-by-blow of our personal situation as whining, lamenting, or otherwise seeking sympathy for our troubles. I share such specific, personal details because I want each and every person who thinks that just because you build a tiny house you will magically become debt free to know that is simply not the case. 

Can we and will we eventually be debt free? Yes. Will we get to that point while living in Colorado? Doubtful.

We certainly weren't expecting to suddenly be swimming in cash, but some of the posts I see online espousing the financial freedom that CAN come with living in a tiny house border on unrealistic optimism at best and are sometimes outright lies. Yes, you CAN live a lower cost lifestyle in a tiny house, but it doesn't just happen overnight. Just like gastric bypass surgery doesn't instantly make you skinny or healthy, building a tiny house doesn't instantly make you debt free or better at managing your money. You have to change your lifestyle and spending habits to create and maintain financial health the same way you have to adjust your intake of and attitude toward food in order to become physically healthier. Our situation is essentially equal parts unexpected expenses, an inadequate safety net, underestimating the real differences in the cost of living, and not reining in our old spending habits enough. We could likely weather three of those four issues without too much strife, but the combination is overwhelming our resources. Hindsight being 20/20, we'd have been better off staying in Texas to pay off the debt and then coming to Colorado, but there's no point playing the "woulda, shoulda, coulda" game now.

That lifeline I mentioned my dad threw us the other day? It was a check to help us float through until we leave. Without it we wouldn't have had groceries for the rest of the month. It really is that bad. 😔 

That lifeline I mentioned my dad threw us the other day? It was a check to help us float through until we leave. Without it we wouldn't have had groceries for the rest of the month. It really is that bad. 😔 

I equate the situation we are presently in to being nearly identical to when we were cash strapped living in our 3200sqft house except in a house the size of our old master bathroom. Why would we want to stay here and just be making it when we could suck it up, go back to Texas, and really, truly pay off our remaining debt in a less stressful situation? Yes, this means another dreaded Texas summer (Whhhhhhhhyyyyyyyy???!?!?!), but it beats having to parking lot hop with our tiny house in tow and survive off ramen noodles because we have to cut costs so dramatically. We owe ourselves and, more importantly, our son more than that.

This guy right here is our reason for everything we do! He deserves parents who aren't stressed out about money all the time, which was a primary reason we went tiny in the first place. Now we must make good on that plan for reals this time! <3

This guy right here is our reason for everything we do! He deserves parents who aren't stressed out about money all the time, which was a primary reason we went tiny in the first place. Now we must make good on that plan for reals this time! <3

This was not a failure, friends. It was a trial run. 

If you've followed our blog for a while now - which started on tinyhouse43.wordpress.com in December 2013 - then you know we've never set a specific plan for our tiny house life beyond wanting to eventually move to Washington state hopefully by the summer of 2018 for R.A.D to start first grade at the Waldorf school we've chosen for him. That flexibility was intentional, because we most definitely know how quickly life can throw you a curveball, and we want to be better prepared for them next time. I certainly couldn't have predicted my mom's cancer diagnosis just a few short months after our son was born, and I definitely wasn't expecting to only have another 17 months with her!  Our initial thought for Colorado was only to be here six months anyway, and while returning to Texas wasn't on the radar at all, the reality is that we need to be debt-free AND have a large nest egg saved up so that we can be selective about where we live and also not have to take as many student loans out for Brand to finally finish his degree. See, even now we know we aren't really, truly done with debt.  Life changes happen, for better or worse, and we simply have to roll with it. That's why I look at this winter in Colorado in our tiny house as a learning experience that will better prepare us for our future life in it.

In addition to now knowing Colorado is a gorgeous but expensive place to live, we learned of several quirks and kinks in the tiny house we need to fix before we finally travel with it. We can now come up with even better solutions to combat the mold issues we've encountered, including replacing all the loft walls with more resistant materials. We can now finalize the storage additions in the kitchen and nook areas after having spent six months using those spaces day to day. Our Kimberly wood stove is "breaking in" well, and we'll have the funds to get the cobb oven attachment for more off-grid cooking options. Really, though, the best part of all this is that back in Texas we'll actually have the time, space, and funds to really, truly FINISH the tiny house for reals. What could be better than that?!

We've also made some amazing new tiny life friends along the way, and we've witnessed the beginnings of a little tiny house community being created within the RV park we've had the pleasure of living at this winter. This really has been an unforgettable winter filled with many adventures and promising plan-making for the future. Riverview RV Park couldn't have been a better place for us to break in the tiny house, and we are so grateful they see the value in THOWs as homes. They're definitely worth considering if you need a place to park your tiny house for a spell!

The quality of life in Colorado is definitely what we'll miss most, especially when we got to spend tiny with our new tiny life friends from Alaska!

The quality of life in Colorado is definitely what we'll miss most, especially when we got to spend tiny with our new tiny life friends from Alaska!

Remember when I said the decision to move back to Texas has nothing to do with the tiny house itself or even the act of living in the tiny house? All still true! It hasn't always been sunshine and roses (schlepping to the bath house at 0-dark-30 in 2F weather because the water line froze despite being heated, what?!), but on the whole we've had a blast in our little abode. Our son adores his room and all his built-in play areas, we've been getting better and better at cooking in the smaller space (nothing will change our disdain for doing dishes though... ugh), and we've each carved out little areas of our own to spend quiet time reading, studying, or playing games. We enjoy our family movie nights just as much as we did in the Big House, and while we still aren't as successful with our Nature's Head composting toilet as we'd like, practice makes perfect! ;)

If we could live in the tiny house on my dad's acre we'd do it in a heartbeat, and if we could find a really cheap place to park it close to my Texas workplace, we'd do that, too. Right now, though, we're okay with only being able to "recreate" in the house while we finish the last of the build projects where we know the house is safe to be temporarily parked. Brand gets the wifi he needs to take his classes with ease, and he'll handle the remodeling projects my dad would otherwise have to sideline because of his new job's travel requirement. R.A.D will have our Pugs and the big boys across the street to play with, and I know my dad and in-laws are looking forward to seeing him more often. I'm glad to have more time with my dad when he's in town and to work with the awesome folks at my Texas hospital again. Looking forward to the Texas summer, however?? Not so much. Enduring one hundred degree days is, however, a small (sweaty? scorching?) price to pay to get back on track financially so we can really, truly get back to living our tiny life.

 So, this is NOT goodbye to the tiny life, our tiny house, or any of our future plans.

It's merely a pause to regroup and refocus so we can get back to the life we've made for ourselves in our beautiful tiny house on wheels but on much, much better terms. We will still blog and share photos of the finishing process, and if we can swing it we'd like to make a couple open house stops on our way back to Dallas. The move timing is definitely still a work in progress right now - lots of pieces in play that must be dealt with first - but we expect to be back in TX by the end of March or early April at the latest. We'll give ourselves another year-ish to finish the house and get our debt paid off (except the truck payment) before we head out on our travel across the country. We may even work a summer in Alaska into our plans now, which is something we would have never even considered were it not for our time in Colorado and meeting three different tiny house dwelling families/couples from Alaska. It's opportunities like those that make the tiny house life and traveling so amazing, so now we want to take advantage of the opportunity to return to Texas to get our financial ducks in a row so we CAN enjoy the freedom having your house on wheels can bring!

We've got a ton of planning to do again, but we'll keep you posted about the move plans and any open houses we manage to work out. Thank you to ALL our readers for your continued support and encouragement. We don't have any kind of tiny house related business and have no paying sponsors of any sort, so we truly share our story because we enjoy our adventures and hope in some small way to help others thinking of going tiny to weigh all the pros and cons thoroughly. The TV shows on tiny houses show the glamorous side of the lifestyle, but owning and living in a tiny house (especially if you built it yourself) is as much or more work than a traditional house. This life is definitely not for everyone, but we know it is still for us and can't wait to get back on track so we can enjoy it to the fullest!!

💜🏡💙 With Tiny House Love 💜🏡💙 

Meg, Brand, and R.A.D

One of our first days in Loveland, Colorado in October 2015. The wait to return to full-time THOW living will be hard, but we'll be doing it with our financial ducks in a row and a fresh perspective. Viva la tiny house life!

One of our first days in Loveland, Colorado in October 2015. The wait to return to full-time THOW living will be hard, but we'll be doing it with our financial ducks in a row and a fresh perspective. Viva la tiny house life!


 

Mold

We all know it. We all hate it. And if you live in a tiny house, you likely have all seen it lurking somewhere in your home.

 

Mold is a four-letter word that can mean anything from a minor annoyance or a legit illness-maker for those who are sensitive. Thankfully, there are multiple methods of reducing the added moisture in your tiny living space that can help reduce the likelihood mold even forms, and there are some good mold killer products out there that we've recently used with success that we'll discuss below.

 

First, however, please take a minute to read Andrew Morrison's post on mechanical moisture eliminators plus some additional moisture-reducing building tips below. Andrew and his wife, Gabriella, are the originators of the hOMe tiny house that is now being produced by EcoCabins, the primary sponsor of the Tiny House Jamboree. Andrew definitely knows a thing or two about making quality tiny houses and how to deal with excess moisture build up in cold climates in particular, and the suggestions he makes in his post are particularly good if you want to actively remove moisture from your house. The biggest difference between Andrew's post and ours is that he focuses primarily on prevention methods, where as we have actually experienced some pretty nasty mold and cover things to use to get rid of it when it does happen in addition to our dehumidification tools. I've been meaning to update everyone on our issues anyway, and the Morrisons' great post reminded me! ☺️

 

Here's his great post:

HOW TO SAVE YOUR TINY HOUSE FROM MOLD AND MOISTURE ISSUES 

 

For those of you who want to know about some additional methods of moisture reduction, here's a list of what we are currently using based on type (passive, hybrid, or active) and one extra thing we plan to try. You'll see the two electric appliances we picked up listed here, too, because we felt we needed a more immediate and noticeable reduction in humidity than our passive methods provided. We hope once we get the humidity % down we can stop the active dehumidification and rely on fresh air on good weather days and the passive options to reduce our electric pull.

 

PASSIVE DEHUMIDIFICATION

  • We started using DampRid disposable products to suck up extra moisture without any power needs (popular on boats and RVs and found at Walmart or similar stores), which use calcium chloride in bags you hang or jars you set in open areas. They are inexpensive and require nothing other than airflow (which, incidentally, you should provide regularly to mold-prone areas anyway), and we have hung them in our three trouble spots: the loft, the front nook, and the kitchen. So far the bags are about  1/3rd full with the nook one being a bit closer to half full than the others. We are also going to pick up a jar version to tuck into the furthest corner under our son's room as I discovered mold had formed where a basket of extra linens had become wedged behind the clothes cube and the back corner. I've already killed the mold with a spray we've found to work well (more on that shortly), and in addition to the DampRid we'll be making sure we regularly move the cubes under his bed to promote airflow.
Our DampRid hanging bags are scented, which might bother some folks. These are made to hang in a closet, though, so if you want nice smelling, dry clothes in your tiny house closet, these might be a great fit! They come in 3-packs. 

Our DampRid hanging bags are scented, which might bother some folks. These are made to hang in a closet, though, so if you want nice smelling, dry clothes in your tiny house closet, these might be a great fit! They come in 3-packs. 

  • The this next passive method may or may not work, but it does have some other benefits to it. While I'm not expecting much immediate relief of our current humidity levels, I won't deny I think this would make a great, natural addition to our long-term moisture control methods: air plants. Granted I've read some conflicting info on just how much additional watering air plants need beyond what they suck out of their environment, but since they're low maintenance and don't need to take up counter space, I'm thinking I'll create a little installation of them in a couple different areas of the house. Besides, who doesn't love a little live greenery in their tiny house?! ☺️

HYBRID DEHUMIDIFICATION

  • The first dehumidifier product I picked up is the EvaDry silica gel hybrid dehumidifier that can be placed anywhere you want, but when they're full (the gel changes from blue to pink when capacity is reached) you take them outside and plug them in to release the moisture into a well ventilated area. I bought two of these on Amazon for $20 each, and they can be laid flat or hung with the included hook. The ones we have say they can absorb up to 6oz of liquid, and so far ours are still deep blue. One is hanging by the front nook window, which has continued to be a bit of a problem child, and the other is wedged at the head of our bed near the tongue-end window. I'll update this post once they are finally full so we have an idea of how long it takes to fill them up.
Since the big blue window in our front nook has been a particular problem, it has both a DampRid and this EvaDry model hanging nearby to catch as much moisture as possible. 

Since the big blue window in our front nook has been a particular problem, it has both a DampRid and this EvaDry model hanging nearby to catch as much moisture as possible. 

  •  I want to mention here that our Kimberly gasifier wood stove by Unforgettable Fire LLC is another hybrid method of dehumidification. No, it doesn't require electricity, but you do have to burn fuel (wood) in order to heat up and dry out the air. As much as we adore our Kimberly, it has simply been too warm to use her daily and reap the reduction in humidity benefit that comes with use. 

 

ACTIVE DEHUMIDIFICATION

  • We also broke down and bought a small EvaDry mini electric dehumidifier that, unfortunately, has to run all. the. time. and is definitely louder than I'd like. That said, it has sucked several cups of water out of the air already (I've emptied it once just before the "full" light would have been triggered), and we keep it on the edge of the loft directly above the kitchen to catch any extra moisture that doesn't escape out the window when we cook. This is also from Amazon and cost $54
The white storage cube is roughly 15x15", so you can see the EvaDry is pretty small. I emptied the container 2 days ago, and it's already about 1/4 full again. Sucker works! Literally! 😉 

The white storage cube is roughly 15x15", so you can see the EvaDry is pretty small. I emptied the container 2 days ago, and it's already about 1/4 full again. Sucker works! Literally! 😉 

  • We didn't install a kitchen vent like the Morrison's have mostly because we have a much smaller kitchen with a double hung window smack dab in the center of the wall above the countertop. We have been opening the top window sash in the kitchen and a bottom sash on the other side of the house to create a cross breeze that forces the steam out while cooking, but it wasn't always working as well as we'd like. Instead of boring out a giant hole above the window for a permanent vent, we opted to pick up a small, portable O2Cool 8" square fan that can be run on either batteries or AC power, and we instead pull the top window sash down enough to wedge the fan in (facing out, not in of course) and cover the remaining open space with a piece of cardboard while opening an opposite-side window just a little bit. It's not pretty, but it's portable, storable, functional, and cost effective. Can't beat that!
It's not pretty, but it works!! 

It's not pretty, but it works!! 

  •  We also have a Vetus Marine 12V vent fan to install in the wet shower side that was a recommendation of Art Cormier, a Tumbleweed workshop presenter and dweller of the Tiny SIP House. That's something we bought early on in the build but just never got installed, and thankfully not having hasn't been an issue since we've almost exclusively been showering at the bathhouse, gym, or Rec Center depending on what we've got going on at the time. Once we start using our full-time, however, we will definitely need to use that vent. It's low voltage - as is all the wiring in both our wet and dry bath sides - to prevent shock, and as the name suggests, they were designed for the boating industry. Art has a great demo video with all the part numbers on his YouTube channel that's worth checking out.

 

DEALING WITH EXISTING MOLD

This stuff rocks, and it's non-toxic to boot! 

This stuff rocks, and it's non-toxic to boot! 

Now, if you DO develop mold despite your best efforts, there's a spray we can recommend after using it on 7 different wood windows where we've had problems. Bear in mind that we actually performed a series of steps to actually remove the existing mold in addition to mitigating its return (more on that below), but so far we've been quite pleased with the Concrobium Mold Control spray we spent $9 on at either Lowe's or Home Depot - can't recall which. This stuff is recommended by Mike Holmes, the HGTV star of Holmes Inspection and a few other building-related titles, though that's not why we bought it. This one gets sprayed directly onto the mold, and as it dries it actually kills it. It's non-toxic and had no noticeable smell I could detect,  which is helpful in such a small space. So far, none of the windows we treated with this stuff have had regrowth, though let me provide you the actual steps I used to removed the mold:

  • Scrubbed the mold with undiluted bleach and an old toothbrush. Let soak for 30min with all 5 loft windows open. 
  • Took a heat gun to the remaining wet areas very carefully to make sure the wood was truly dry.
  • Sprayed Concrobium liberally over all the exposed wood that had had mold on it plus a few spots I thought might be prone to it later. Let soak until dry, which was around 5hrs in this case.
  • Dried remaining moisture with heat gun again. 
  • Applied Rustoleum oil-based stain to one window, but the other 4 haven't been stained yet and are STILL mold-free despite repeated exposure to wetness/ice/inside moisture buildup. 

The smell is pretty harsh, so be sure you ventilate the area well! 

The smell is pretty harsh, so be sure you ventilate the area well! 

I didn't have as much luck with the Concrobium on the big nook window I painted with milk paint, but I also just realized I never tried the straight bleach technique. Whoops! Needless to say, not remembering that fact, I decided to try to other mold spray, Mold Armor, to see if it would kill the stuff. It's actually marketed more to remove mold stains than kill the mold itself, and I found out the hard way you MUST ventilate the area you're using it in. I dumbly thought it was like the virtually odor-free Concrobium and sprayed it liberally on the window, but even though I didn't actually notice the smell initially, Brand walked in from outside and had his eyes start watering immediately. Whoops!! Open went the windows post haste, and I haven't used it again. Now, that said, it worked!! We haven't had any new mold growth on the big blue milk paint window since then, and I did nothing else to it at all. No scrubbing, drying, or bleach. Sadly, I think I'm going to have to remove all the milk paint and start from scratch to make it look pretty again, but that's a small price to pay to not have mold again. 

You can still see the "shadows" of mold on the milk paint window, especially in the corners like this one. Unfortunately, you can also tell the anti-mold treatments have damaged the paint job. Looks like I'll be stripping it off and starting over... Oi! 

You can still see the "shadows" of mold on the milk paint window, especially in the corners like this one. Unfortunately, you can also tell the anti-mold treatments have damaged the paint job. Looks like I'll be stripping it off and starting over... Oi! 

 

Speaking of of keeping the windows from molding up, here's an observation I made during the removal process:

Mold only appeared on the windows either with no stain of any kind OR with water-based stains like the milk paint big window or the metallic acrylic paint used on the two bathroom awning windows.  None of the ones where I used an oil-based Rustoleum stain or white paint developed mold, which included all 5 of the double hung windows on the main level excluded the largest one. 

Now I'm staining the remaining 4 loft windows with oil-based black paint, and I'll seal the acrylic painted ones with polyurethane. I will add, though, that the milk paint window DID get a coat of poly on it, yet the mold kept on chowing down on it. After I strip it off I'm going to seal the wood with poly first before reapplying the milk paint and sealing a final time with poly. Hopefully that'll deal the final blow to any molds trying to eat that pretty blue-green paint!

 

I'll be researching a few of the products the Morrisons mention in their post, because we sure don't want to keep dealing with this fuzzy, nasty stuff! We do have a gauge that tells us what our indoor humidity is, but I'm starting to wonder if it's accurate. Some days it says 37%, and others it says 50%, even if there haven't been big indoor or outdoor temperature changes. Hmm. My understanding is that at anything above about 40% humidity, mold will have the chance to grow. We'll just have to keep chipping away at the overall moisture volume with all three types of dehumidification as best we can until the weather warms up enough to keep the windows open all the time. 

 

💙🏡💜 

Karma (Don't) Go

Well, as I feared, the Karma Go wifi hotspot will not work for us at Riverview. The Sprint network, which they piggy back off of, is spotty at best anyway, and a look at their coverage map shows it dancing all around us yet skipping over our precise location so completely. I tried repeatedly to move the device all over the house to pick up signal, and I actually briefly did in the munchkin's room. By the time I walked to the iMac in the great room to see if the Karma option populated in the wifi networks drop down list, however, it was disconnected and showed only the green battery power light. C'est la vie - I knew it was a hazard going in.

Here's what comes with your Karma Go wifi hotspot.  

Here's what comes with your Karma Go wifi hotspot.  

We do have a pre-paid month of unlimited wifi, however, so I'll take it and use it with my laptop in town to really test out its capabilities all the same.  I think I will discontinue the Neverstop plan but keep the device and reinstate it once we start traveling. A rep said the plan automatically reverts to the Refuel option at the end of your prepaid month if you cancel the auto-billed subscription, so at least it'll be easy to pause until we head out.

That yellow thumb tack is our precise location. DOH! 

That yellow thumb tack is our precise location. DOH! 

Now, however, I still need to find an alternative and less expensive internet source. I can't sustain a cell bill larger than our truck insurance and more than half our monthly lot rent! I'm thinking a T-Mobile unlimited plan with the cheapest phone they have will be my next try, and if that doesn't work it'll be on to AT&T.

Any other suggestions? 

Nature's Head: 1.... TinyHouse43: -3648272

We have failed as #NaturesHead owners. 🚽

 

Not only have we overflowed our pee jug multiple times despite marking the side with a "do not pass this" line because the naturally occurring discoloration masks the ability to determine the fluid level, but apparently we somehow shoved toilet paper into the urine diverter. Know what that means? Yep, you guessed it: our #1 and #2 mixed, thus defeating the purpose of a urine diverting compost toilet and surpassing the wetness the built in little fan can dry out.

 

So... no dry, earthy-smelling compost for us this time around. All I can say is that I am DAMN GRATEFUL for my husband and his willingness to tackle Mount 💩, and he's damn grateful for the bottle of whiskey he keeps on top of the fridge. I'm also thankful for our collective cold tolerance as we opened all the windows and turned on the ceiling fan to dissipate the nasal onslaught in 30 degree weather.

 

Here are a few lessons we've learned and tips to avoid our mistakes that we're passing on to you, dear (likely a little green around the gills now) readers... 😱

 

1) Spring for the rapid dissolve TP ⌛️, and use it as sparingly as possible. The regular stuff is your enemy. Trust me. If you're the Al Bundy type who likes a mitt for each use, you're going to have to GTFOI quick lest you risk disaster in your immediate voiding future. We thought we could get away with our Charmin Ultra. In the words of Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor...

image.jpg

 

2) Make absolutely, positively certain your trap door is COMPLETELY CLOSED with each #1 use, especially if you have kids! Our little guy is good about opening it, but he doesn't alays remember to close it. On at least two occasions I've found this out the hard way after stumbling down the stairs with a full bladder at 0-dark-30 and not turning on the light. Oops. 💡

 

3) To everything, churn, churn, churn... 🎤 Seiously. Whether it's One or Two, crank that handle a LOT. Every. Single. Time. If the TP piles up, you run the risk of it getting stuck in the urine diverter or wedging itself in the trap door. Either way, your literally pissing away your chance at creating proper compost. 

 

4) And speaking of cranking... always crank your mixing handle counterclockwise as this should help reduce the likelihood you inadvertently shove the aforementioned TP into the urine diverter. If TP does find its way into the diverter, remove it ASAP. Are you finding a pattern to these warnings yet?? ⏰

 

5) Clean your pee jug regularly with vinegar to keep the discoloration at bay. Believe me when I say you WILL cry over repeatedly spilled pee. 😩

 

6) Consider buying a second pee jug just in case you can't keep the first one clean enough to know when to empty it before it overflows. This was sage advice passed on to us, and we are taking it. ✌🏻️

 

If we've learned anything in our first two months of using a compost toilet full time with a little kiddo, it's that Nature's Head takes constant vigilance to avoid an excremental disaster. We've had a very busy, erratic schedule since we moved to Colorado that has led us to be much more distracted than usual, and I'm more than willing to bet that absentmindedness has greatly contributed to this cluster suck as well. That said, the six tips above should help greatly mitigate the likelihood of a similar outcome to our first go round the stinkberry bush. I sure as hell hope so anyway. Brand's liver won't hold up to another Poopocalype Now, and my nose hairs are going to need at least a couple months to regrow.

Our First Blog Post While Living In Our Tiny House

Greetings from colorful Colorado and the beauty of Loveland, CO, which is near the Front Range about an hour north of Denver! We made the roughly 3-day journey from Texas starting 10/9 and arrived in Loveland 10/11 late in the evening after an open house in Denver at Trailer Made Trailer's shop. We had hoped to have open houses in Oklahoma City and Wichita, but departure delays left us heading out in the dark on Friday to make as much distance as our tired brains would let us. Once we start traveling with the house, however, we will make it up to those who missed out seeing the house this time! <3

Since we are now living in the tiny house full-time, even though she's not 100% finished, I thought I'd attempt to start using the Squarespace blog to help differentiate the "building phase" from the "living phase." This is just a test at the moment, and I'll make an announcement on our social media pages if the format switch becomes permanent. For now I'm going to post a little recounting I made this morning of the daily routines that are already starting to establish themselves in the tiny house after just two days. They aren't all that surprising to me, frankly, but watching the little man make such a smooth transition already is definitely encouraging. Brandy and I are still exhausted and stressing out over the remaining work left to complete, but R.A.D has settled right in as though we've lived tiny his whole life. Love it!


October 13, 2015 9:48AM Mountain Time

Our morning routines in the #tinyhouse are already being established. 

Brandy has run off to the hardware store to get supplies to fix our now broken front door (le sigh 😞). I know he's counting down the nanoseconds until the house unofficially d-o-n-e. We've brought most of the components we need to do all of the I-dot, T-cross stuff on our list, but already we're finding things that we inadvertently left in Texas. Thankfully a December return trip is already planned, so we'll pick up those items then. 

R.A.D has been happily playing with Legos in his room, then our loft, and now next to me on the sofa in the great room. 😋 They've been Lord Business, Master Splinter, a boat, a rocket, a car, and gifts for me all in the span of about 30 minutes. 😍 I know his new school won't be wild about the movie watching we do as a family (they're anti-tech for kids, which we actually really like), but frankly I find it impressive that a hodgepodge stack of colorful plastic bricks can take on "character" forms as well as traditional ones like cars, boats, etc. None of his creations look anything like any of what he says they are, but his imagination dictates otherwise. 💖 He starts school this Friday, and I just know he's going to love it!

Kitty has been tolerating Mr. Sir's overly affectionate attempts to snuggle with her in between his Lego relocations better than she did yesterday. 😼 Clearly he didn't learn the lesson the first time as evidenced by his now-healing face (le double sigh 😣).

I'm chugging my morning peach tea Monster (coffee makes me sleepy believe it or not) trying to plot my day through the residual brain fog left from working night shift for over a decade (yawn 😴). You'd think the time change would be working in my favor since 0900 here is 1000 back in Texas, but I find that anytime before about 1500 requires a vast amount of fortitude and willpower (and caffeine) to reach optimum performance levels. Thankfully I've got 2.5 weeks of M-F 8a-5p pre-opening work days to prep me for my brutal 0400-ish wake up calls for my 0645 shift starts after a 60+ minute drive 3 days per week. Yes, I have a two hour round trip for work each day, but that, my friends, is a VERY small price to pay for us to be able to live in our tiny house. 🏡

We aren't completely settled in yet (and likely won't be for about a week+ realistically), but with the shopping trip yesterday and the unboxing of the fridge, the house is starting to feel less glorified camper and more tiny house on wheels. We are still using the RV park's facilities for a few more days (except for #1... Nature's Head requires no extra setup for that) until the last of the water heater setup (that I thought was already done before we left, but apparently not) and vent connections for the compost toilet are completed. Thankfully those facilities are just a short walk away, and the beauty of the park (and the great weather!) make up for any inconvenience experienced on the short journey. 

We've got to fix our temporary front door that went crazy and broke on us last night (the knob broke and locked us all in), but otherwise the first pair of days have been lovely. We've got our permanent door waiting for us back in Texas, so we'll prep it and haul it back from our December visit. Hopefully by then the last of the trim work inside will be done, too, and we can have Jenna & Guillaume of Tiny House Giant Journey over the shoot a proper video tour. Stay tuned!

Have a great day!