Written by George Scott
While I have been living tiny over the past year—house sitting, living in a broken down RV, staying in cheap motels, and crashing at the office—I have realized there is a great deal to consider to fully embrace the Tiny Living Lifestyle. With my decision to embark on this downtown journey, I have started to do more research and planning. I have discovered the options are as vast as the imagination. Things to consider about a tiny domicile include size, style, type, location, implementation of solar energy, composting, necessities, storage, and the list continues. With others already living the lifestyle, I believe they can offer a wealth of experience in my preparation. Through my search, I found Heather Wade.
Heather Wade was part of a project taken on by the Department of Integrated Engineering at Southern Utah University during the 2013-2014 school year, with Erin Elder and Ryan Bingham taking on the project for their senior project. I had the opportunity to interview Heather.
George Scott (GS): How did you get involved with SUU on the build?
Heather Wade (HW): It’s a cute story, actually. I happened to be sitting in a coffee shop looking at tiny house plans and going through one of [author and tiny house designer] Jay Shafer’s books when an old friend of mine, whom I had lost touch with for a couple of years, sat down, and we started catching up. She told me that she was going to school and getting her engineering degree. I told her [about] my tiny house idea that I wanted to do and she seemed pretty curious about it. Later, that same night, she called me up and asked me if my tiny house idea was something she could take on as her capstone project. Of course, I said yes!
GS: How much did it cost to build?
HW: We aren’t completely sure of the total cost; but, we are thinking between $17,000 and $20,000.
GS: Where and how did you find land and building permit?
HW: I don’t have land at the moment; but, that is what I want to do, eventually. Because we built the house through SUU, we were able to use the campus space to build the house on. My friend, Erin, and her partner [Ryan] for the project, dealt with the building codes and permits. I wasn’t really involved with that aspect of it because it was all done through the university.
GS: Are you living in it full time now?
HW: I am living in the tiny house full time. It is me and my dog Jackson. We are currently living in an RV park in Leeds, Utah. We love it!
GS: Tell me about your living environment in the park.
HW: The RV park that I am living in at the moment is amazing and beautiful. I am surrounded by so many loving and selfless people. Some are people just passing through and just visiting what southern Utah has to offer. And, others have been living there for 9 plus years. It’s a beautiful community where we look out for one another and help each other out when we can. I have had a lot of great memories there and I have so much appreciation for the living situation I am in now. I’m in a great area where I don’t have to go far for hiking, trail running, or just taking Jackson to the lake before work. I’m very happy.
GS: Why did you decide to do Tiny Living?
HW: The idea to live more tiny and more simply came about when I was looking to buy a home. I started looking at homes in the area. The more and more I looked, the more and more frustrated I became. I started asking myself a lot of questions. Do I really need two bedrooms when I’m the only one living in the home? What do I need all this space for? Do I really need a yard? I hate yard work.
I would start to think of all the payments that go into owning your own home: paying a mortgage, utilities, maintenance, and the upkeep. It all really started to turn me off to the idea of owning my own home. I even began to wonder why anybody thought it was a good idea to live this way. It really started to frustrate me. The idea of living the way people expected me to didn’t make sense to me and my lifestyle.
I happened to be on Pinterest one day and came across a pin that had a picture of a tiny house on wheels. I clicked on the pin and instantly fell in love with the idea of the tiny house movement. It suited me and my lifestyle. It made so much sense to me.
GS: When did you decide to do this?
HW: I decided that this was something I wanted to do about 4 years ago. And, it was something that I was going to do, even if I was going to do it all by myself. I knew this way of living was very fitting for me and I was bound and determined to do it.
GS: What was your living situation previously?
HW: I was always living with other people. I lived with boyfriends or housemates. As much as I loved and adored all of these people I have come to know and love so well, I needed a space of my own. I needed my solitude and sanctuary. I was ready to be on my own.
GS: With just 160 square feet of living space, can you have guests over, and how does it work out?
HW: Ha! One of the many reasons I went tiny [is] I don’t really like hosting or sharing my space. But, yes, I have had guests over and it’s been so great. I have had people stop by that were just curious and wanted to see it. The space does workout for intimate gatherings.
GS: That is funny. Do you ever smack your head on the ceiling when you wake up?
HW: Only when I’m making my bed. I have stopped making my bed.
GS: What sorts of sustainability and/or off-grid/self-containment methods have you implemented?
HW: So far, I just have the solar and composting toilet. I do want to eventually recycle my grey water.
GS: Is it fully functional, including the shower and toilet?
HW: Yes! It has a shower and the composting toilet.
GS: What type of heating and a/c do you use?
HW: I just have a heating unit on one of my walls and it uses propane. My A/C is a window unit that uses the solar.
GS: Is it really possible to maintain clutter in such a small space?
HW: I do pretty well with keeping the space tidy and neat. I got rid of a lot of things when I was transitioning to the tiny lifestyle and I have been able to just keep things that are useful or beautiful, and get rid of everything else.
GS: Do you miss a full size kitchen, closet, tub, or living room?
HW: Not at all. I absolutely love the tiny space! Its so cozy and romantic. I have never felt so comfortable in a space before, and that is the honest truth. I do like to run long distances, so a nice ice bath would be great once in a while, but sitting in Quail Lake isn’t that bad either. I don’t mind the small closet either. I thought that I would, but it has been perfect. I’m definitely not out spending my money on things that I don’t need.
GS: Do you ever think you might prefer to go back to a standard living arrangement? A bigger space? Fireplace?
HW: I don’t see me getting tired of tiny living at all. Every time I’m in somebody else’s home I look around at all the wasted and useless space. It boggles my mind.
GS: What are some of the challenges?
HW: The challenges up to this point have been experimenting and testing my solar unit. I get a bit nervous with new appliances and the solar arrays tend not to do as well in the summertime. I’m not entirely sure why.
GS: You are obviously enjoying this lifestyle. What are some of the biggest rewards?
HW: Accomplishing a dream. I had so many people doubting me and telling me that I wouldn’t like it. I had one woman even call me an idiot. I had so many people against me. And there were times I let that get in my head. But I also know me better than anybody alive, I knew this is what I wanted and this would be something that would be so good and happy for me. I was able to build a home with people I love and care for. I was able to meet new people and experience something really special, and I get to feel that every day in my house. I get to feel free and simple. I get to live the way that I want.
I love living this way. I feel so fortunate and happy. That’s all I want to be in life, I want to be happy. Even though I’m not on my own land and I still pay for a spot to put my home, I’m still living the tiny simple life that I want to live. I really can’t see myself living any other way. It sounds too depressing.
My interview with Heather has provided a great deal to consider as I go forward in my approach to Tiny Living. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to visit with her and am excited to integrate her insight into my own journey. She answered questions, offered insight, and provided considerations, resulting in a new friendship that has opened my Tiny Living to a larger world. I found that we share a great deal in the philosophy and reasoning for answering the vagabond spirit that resides in us both. There are many ways in approaching the Tiny Living lifestyle, simplifying, and implementing technologies into everyday living. As I continue my research along my path, I am finding a wealth of knowledge in making connections with others.
Make it count!
Tiny Living in a Giant World is all about sharing ideas, ideals, and experiences related to living essentially, happily, gratefully, and simply. Presenting methods in which one can apply to living a more meaningful and purposeful life to the level determined individually suitable. Exploring simple living while living fully.
George Scott is a single dad living the tiny home lifestyle with his son and their dog. George states, “Simplicity doesn’t mean having nothing. It’s not about sacrifice; rather, it’s about eliminating clutter (tangible non-utilized items, over-extended schedules and commitments, etc) and allowing for the meaningful (life-breathing activities and relationships). Though, in its infancy, the tiny home movement is poised to be one of the biggest housing trends in the coming years. People from all demographics are making the move for varying reasons. One does not need to live in a tiny home to apply many of the principles employed. The areas of particular interest for engaging in this adventure and nature of this column stem from several perspectives: mobility/freedom, affordability/economics, simplicity, sustainability/environmental impact, and self-sufficiency.” Join in the discussion here or find George at www.facebook.com/tinylivingworld or email him at [email protected].