SHRINKING HOUSE: A SERIES ABOUT OUR JOURNEY TO TINY LIVING

Jun 6, 2016 · 3 minute read

By: Colleen Valles

The Beginning

After a year or so of talking about it, we’re starting the process of moving into a tiny house!

I’m not talking only about decluttering, which we still need to do more of. I’m talking about actually finding/building/converting a space into a tiny house and moving in.

This could be a long process, and I want to write about it here to help others who are looking to go tiny or those who would like to make similar, but less drastic, changes in their own lives. So I’m starting an occasional series to document what it’s like to find, acquire or build and move into a tiny house. I’ll discuss our pitfalls and successes and the challenges and opportunities we encounter. There’s a new wrinkle that I’ll talk about later in the course of this journey, and the series will be sprinkled throughout continued posts on living simply so we can focus on doing the things we love.

This path to tiny living is a manifestation of that philosophy. We are simplifying to buy ourselves time, save money and make more room for our creative endeavors. That will continue to underlie these posts on tiny living.

Let me begin by telling you about the catalyst for action. Over Mother’s Day weekend, my older brother and I were at my parents’ house talking about my plans to go tiny. My older brother is an inspiring minimalist, though maybe not consciously. He simply enjoys living with less and just doesn’t like shopping, really. Anyway, we measured the back yard for tiny house specifications, and then inspiration struck and we measured the garage to determine whether we could convert it into a separate unit. It seemed like an easier thing to do …

My parents are fine with either option, and my mom even drew a basic floor plan of a garage conversion for us when talking to contractors.

There was nothing left for me to do but find out what was feasible.

Not much was feasible I learned after I called the city planning department to check on what one needs to do to convert a garage. The regulations would be a comical Catch-22 if they weren’t affecting so many people’s lives, and the whole interaction inspired me to write to my city councilperson. I understand that the regulations were developed to protect the greater good, but now they are working against the greater good, and Silicon Valley is faced with a severe, unprecedented housing crisis. We have one of the highest rates of homelessness in the entire country, and the gap between obscene wealth and abject poverty grows larger every year here.

So with that backdrop, I called a couple of design-build contractors, the ones who do everything from drawing up plans to securing permits to actual construction. We spoke over the phone to a couple, and this past weekend, my parents and I met with one of them about converting the garage or adding a separate space onto their house.

One thing that stood out to me was he was so nice. And genuine. The gist of the talk was:

  • an addition adds more value to the house;
  • a garage conversion is feasible, but may run into issues with replacing covered parking on the property (Don’t even get me started. People need shelter more than cars do. ‘Nuf said.);
  • and that if tiny houses are where my heart lies, well then, that’s what I should pursue.

That really is where my heart lies, so I did a little looking around, and found a tiny house for sale in a nearby town. We’re hoping to take a look soon, and I have messages out to other contractors, and a couple ideas for getting a tiny house on wheels into the back yard.

You guys, this is happening. Fast. I’m excited and nervous and planning to charge full steam ahead.

Now, to get rid of half my stuff …

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Colleen Valles
I'm Colleen, a writer, mother, knitter, pet mama and tiny house enthusiast who truly believes that everybody should slow down and simplify to make room for the things that are most important in their lives. I'm on a journey to do just that, to be able to spend more time with family and friends, riding my bike and working in the garden. Sign up to get awesome content right in your inbox, or follow me on social media.