Next Move: Set Up Shop (and Survive Cohabitation in 525 Square Feet)!

We’ve ordered our shipping container! This 8 foot wide by 28 foot long by 8 foot high steel box will be our construction shop, storage unit, and potting shed, among other things, and it will be delivered to the Tiny House building site this week! Once it’s there, all we have to do is cut out the holes for and install the steel window and door frames Donovan commissioned a local welder to make; tack in the frames and seal them with metal caulk; order and install the door and window into the frames; attach some kind of hardware to connect an overhanging shed roof; paint the entire container; research, design, and mount a water-proof membrane to the top of the building; design and construct the overhang roof; build shelves for storing lumber and other materials inside the shed; and move our shop inside. Simple!

Oh, except that before that all can happen, we need to order and install a utility meter; dig a trench for the electric to run to said meter (after first calling Arkansas One Dig to get any underground water or gas lines marked); and figure out what kind of receptacle the welder needs to plug into–and install that on the utility pole. All of this to prepare the shop to build the Tiny House.

Needless to say, there are many days I don’t feel like we are making progress, and I question whether this Tiny House dream will be realized. We’ll soon be moving to a 400 square foot house, a third the size of our current abode, and while I’m excited about that transition, there’s an edge of anxiety there, as well.

I don’t know if I can handle living in smaller quarters with my beloved, because as I’m pushed indoors by winter’s chill, I feel I need more R O O M around me to even know who I am. Among my inner circle, I’m notorious for complaining about sharing space. And the information I’ve found Tiny Housers divulge about how to keep a relationship together in tight quarters is miserably slim or unbelievable. Donovan and I have listened to several podcast interviews during which the couple in question enthusiastically insist that they “never want to be apart.” That is not me and Donovan. In fact, throughout our relationship, I’ve often edited his “when we build our house” statements to the plural “houses.” And though he’s not as quick to admit it, his need for space is above average as well.

This is the biggest fear that friends and family express to us when they first learn of our Tiny House plans: “Are you sure your relationship can handle it?”

So, how do I ease my loved ones’ (and my own) sincere concerns?

In the three years we’ve dealt with common co-habitation issues (cooking, cleaning, noise levels, schedules, random annoying habits) we’ve come a long way. We’ve had breakdowns and neared breaking up, but we’ve managed to keep going. So, we’ll continue to communicate and compromise. We’ll design spaces where we can close the door and be alone. We will likely depend more heavily on our friends, family, and neighbors when we need a break from each other. Donovan will likely make more trips to his café “office.” I’ll keep attending my monthly women’s group and making dates with friends. I’ll walk the dog. I’ll work on my temper. I’ll ask for what I need. If that’s not enough, we talk of building a Teensy Tiny House for myself when we’re done with what may be deemed “the main tiny.” We might some day build a straw bale house. We’ll figure out what’s sustainable for us. We’ll deal.

Speaking of sustainability, it’s been incredibly satisfying to find multiple purposes for the energy we’re already using since my Halleluiah-Return-to-Mother-Earth awakening a month or so ago. And since I’ve been more committed to making lifestyle choices like consolidating driving trips and riding my bike to work or to a carpool location whenever possible, and washing all of my clothes on Cold then hanging them to dry in front of the wood stove, I’ve discovered how much more pleasantly quiet it is to reduce my energy/carbon load. I even notice the lack of the light bulb buzz whenever I forgo turning on a lamp and instead move my chair closer to a window to read. All of these little things may not make a huge difference, but they increase my awareness and care. They also slow me down a bit and heighten my enjoyment. My bike ride commute puts me in touch with the weather, time of day, and season. Even getting my face pricked by freezing rain on my way home from work is an exhilarating feeling!

Having the privilege to make these choices that matter to me is something I’m extremely grateful for. I just turned 33, and many friends and family have wished that my dreams for the new year come true, including the manifestation of our Tiny House. I don’t know if all the dreams I’ve dreamt with my lover will come true. I don’t know if I will escape my “poor folk mentality,” or if I’ll be able to earn the money that will give me the privilege of living “simply” (and financially free) and not “poor.” I wonder if I’m really making the most of my gifts.

But I do know I have so much to be grateful for. My body mostly functions properly, and it’s strong. I have the world’s most adorable dream-dog, and a fairly charming cat. I am literate. I am resourceful. I have an abundance of warm, home-cooked meals, prepared lovingly from mostly locally grown food. I have cultivated a love of simplicity. I have a wonderful, wise family. I know some amazing, loving, regenerative, strong, unique, caring women I’m lucky to call my friends. I live on a gorgeous piece of the planet. I’m in a community of do-ers, thinkers, givers, feelers, movers, protectors, and creators.

And finally, I am blessed to share this planetary orbit with a loving, funny, skilled and imaginative (not to mention beautiful) partner. One who enjoys trading his electrical skills for goods like olives, eggs, rent, art–even musical instruments. Whose love of craftsmanship has prompted him to trade for the work of many talented friends for our future Tiny House. Who patiently guides me in honing construction and electrical skills that have felt, for much of my life, somewhat off-limits to me, as a woman. By whom I am most challenged, and from whom I learn so much. I think we’re gonna be okay, whatever comes next.




8 thoughts on “Next Move: Set Up Shop (and Survive Cohabitation in 525 Square Feet)!

  1. Rachel, there are so many aspects of the above to which I relate. Especially the sense of stagnation, or SLOW progress when attempting to build a dream. It all seems to be digging at first. Ditches, ditches and more ditches. I remember thinking–when do we actually get to see something above the ground? And yes, the winter chill makes a bigger difference to some folks more than others as far as the cabin fever aspect of tiny-house living. When Dan and I spent winter 2013/14 in the 144 square feet of our ‘summer kitchen” I spent a LOT of time going in and out the door. I chopped a LOT of wood. It’s a soothing outdoor activity. Bringing in armloads of wood seems to increases comfort and well-being in more ways than just the heat. And there were no worries about the wood piling up and taking over, like so many other “things’ seem to do. I mean, we burnt it so fast! And speaking of all the things taking over….I had a visceral reaction to bringing new objects into the living area. I mean, each square inch means so much to my mental and physical sanity, that to find a place to store yet another book or cooking pot or jar was always sad. Taking the time to find new homes for all the beloved ‘stuff’ can be draining as well. Ah, how good it feels to see a bare wall or empty horizontal surface. It’s a constant effort to keep those spaces bare. But the resulting simplicity, comprehensibility and spaciousness provides unmeasurable reward.


    1. Thank you so much for your response, Laura. Yes, you would know all about the slow, upward slope to dream manifestation. Wood chopping–that will definitely be an ongoing task for us too. I’ll add that to my sanity list. And I completely understand relishing an empty space and feeling anxiety about accumulating clutter. You and Dan are extremely inspirational to us, and we have so much to learn from you. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and how you relate to some of these experiences. I’m sure we will call on you guys for guidance or at least a pep talk in the months to come!


  2. Sister I love reading your posts. I love your writer’s voice- the simplicity and honesty you bring to the page. Thanks for writing, and sharing your gifts on that level as you keep us all in the loop of slooooow but steady progress. Your posts give me joy and make me feel closer to you though. Thank you, I love you!


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