One Love (Two Tiny Houses)

Donovan and I went through a rough patch this last month. We came to one of those inevitable forks in the long-term relationship road–greater commitment, or separation?–and I thought that we might part. We divided the animals. (Clover goes with me, of course; Stella, with Donovan. The cat’s a toss-up, as we’re equally adoring of and annoyed by her.) After a few days of pondering and talking, we realized we just needed to focus on building not one, but two tiny houses (which leads to even greater commitment!). Even if we mostly live in just one of them, we need to have our separate (tiny) spaces. Once that was decided, things have felt much smoother and on-track, though we’re looking at a greater task. The burden of tiny co-habitation has been lifted! I am now enthusiastically involved in researching, taking notes, and designing (and infinitely re-designing) a house to suit my own needs, and so is he. We have proven to ourselves once again that we can work well together and create a fun and functional space out of very little, with our work on the shipping container/shop/studio. And we’ve been learning much about how cozy and efficient and perfectly adequate a small space can be!

Our most recent actual work on the shipping container was to build a shed roof to work under–a necessary feature in the hot, humid summers of the South. Donovan designed it so that it can be easily dismantled and transported when we are ready to move on. The roof can be separated into three pieces, and the galvanized steel posts (which we threaded to fit into custom-welded pieces at the top and bottom) come apart. We also sealed the roof of the container and an overlapping transition piece linking the shed roof with liquid silicone, which easily rolled on. The white color will help reflect some sun light, and we should have a rain-tight structure now!

Getting the posts in and first beams in place took a lot of patient measuring
We left the posts long, to suit the container’s future as a house on a foundation, and we buried them deep, adding gravel for drainage
Fancy framing finished!
Best part of my uniform: American suspenders
Painting on the white silicone membrane, to make it rain-tight
We painted a second coat after this one

Last night I realized I was sleeping with four other beings in the roughly 400-square-foot house, a number that surprised me, because it felt so spacious and quiet. Cosmos kitty lay between Donovan and me, Stella was on a rug next to the bed, and Clover snored on his blanket in the next room. The payoffs of staying in a much smaller space are immense. The time and energy it takes to care for our yard and house are greatly reduced, as are our rent, utilities, and carbon footprint. At the same time, our quality of life, living in closer relationship with our neighbors, has risen. We’ve shared many meals with our neighbors, and we’ve enjoyed being able to run back home to get the beer we forgot and walking back home under the stars at the end of the night. We’ve also borrowed tools and gotten advice and labor with our building projects, and we’ve shared our wheelbarrow and even our cars. We feel much more in alignment with our values, and we are so grateful to live in a beautiful place, close to town, with many like-minded folks (as well as dogs, cats, a horse, birds, rabbits, and other wildlife).

So lately I’ve been staying up half the night with a measuring tape and a pen and paper, drawing numerous versions of my tiny house. There are a surprising number of variations in an eight-and-a-half by twenty-foot space. There are a few elements that I feel sure of–having a double kitchen sink and plenty of counter space, a small under-counter fridge, a simple bucket compost toilet, a bathtub, and a big bed—but many elements I’m unsure of. Stairs or a ladder to the upper loft(s)? Then there are the details like colors and flooring and siding, and the research projects of the electrical and plumbing systems. I want to stick with a small, easily moveable structure, even though I don’t see doing any long-term traveling with the house. It is all very exciting, and I see a huge learning curve ahead. Because I’m a person that enjoys and excels at making do with what I have, I am itching to search for materials, which might help to inform my design.

Building and designing structures and negotiating new aspects of semi-communal living, from keeping the peace with the neighboring dogs, to car-sharing, to lawn maintenance standards, makes for quite the learning adventure. I’m grateful to be sharing this with Donovan, and with you, friendly readers!

4 thoughts on “One Love (Two Tiny Houses)

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