Friday, August 16, 2013

Results from our search for a quick tiny house move

We want to pass along the results from our search for a quick tiny house move.

I was all ready to post on Craigslist but with the great results we received in such a short period of time I decided not to.

Within 24 hours of announcing that we were looking for a new space to move to we had 4 offers to host us by people we know directly. This was through general word of mouth and email to specific people. Both Jeff and I also posted flyers at our desks (work and school) that were copies of the 2nd blog post we did saying what we were looking for.

Within another 2 days of the announcement we had another 2 offers that were from friends of friends. One was through Facebook and the other was through word of mouth.

We first posted about our move on our blog on the 6th and had 6 solid offers by the morning of the 9th. When we moved to Seattle we had more offers but we also had surprise media coverage by the neighbor paper where we wanted to live and had months to prepare while we were building.

You’ll see on the map that the 6 possible spots to move to vary in location from the same neighborhood that we’re in now to up to an hours' drive away from work and school.

Although we’ve enjoyed living in Ballard these past four years, it’s now changing. Huge apartment buildings with hundreds of units are being built. Older houses are being torn down and three or four units are being built in their place. Some older houses are being saved but two units are being built in their backyard. The roads to the freeway and to downtown were congested before, now they’re worse. So we’re ready for a change in atmosphere… we considered all offers seriously. All six offers had what we needed and we felt very welcome at each location.

Bainbridge Island was very tempting. To have the experience of commuting by ferry from an island! How many can say they have lived on an island?

On Capitol Hill we’d be a shorter distance from our work and school locations. Being closer to downtown is very appealing too because we enjoy going to live performances. The location would be very close to my brother and his family.  We'd see them more often which would be great.

I haven’t yet been to Index but I’ve been told that there are some very eccentric people living there. It sounds fun to be surrounded by such interesting people.

The location in Kent seems to be not quite rural, not quite suburbs and is a great location. Very nice hosts and an open vista between our house and the next one over.

All 5 of those locations had their pros and cons. Population density and congested roads. Commute time short or longer. Being closer to entertainment and family.

Then…. we went to the Snohomish location. We really enjoy spending time with the hosts. One of them said, “We have lots in common but we’re different enough that it makes it interesting.” They have 2.5 acres and it’s fairly rural. We’d be a only 3 mile drive to restaurants and the library. We’ll miss walking to the grocery store and restaurants but we’re actually interested in how rural ‘feels’. We’ve built our own house, I garden for most of our food and we have many other self-sufficiency skills. We enjoy quiet, and ‘slower’ will be good for us.

When Jeff graduates this coming June we’ll be moving again. We’ve both experienced the city and the suburbs but neither of us have experienced rural yet. Living with this couple will be a great way for us to experience it, learn from them, and know if we want rural when we’re ready to buy a place to live and settle down the next time we move. Snohomish it is. Our move date is August 31st.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

We're planning a tiny house move


Yes,... we've been told that our homeowner friend accepted a job in New Mexico and that the house we live next to will be sold. We need to find a place to move our tiny house by the end of September. The sooner, the better though.

We're putting out the word that we're looking for a space to move,
but we would appreciate it if you'd try to think of places and would pass along the word as well.

What we need:
- the spot should fit our tiny house (about 24' long, 8' wide and 13'-6" tall)
- the space should be available soon through June 2014
- utility connections within 15 feet of our house for an outdoor extension cord (preferably 20amps),   
   an RV water hose and internet (wi-fi or wire)
- within an hour drive or ferry ride of Seattle
- either urban or rural would be fine

What would also be nice:
- a space equal in size to a one car garage or bedroom where I could do my art projects
   (either at your location or a place nearby that I could rent)
- an area for a small vegetable garden or space for a few containers
- washer and dryer privileges once a week

What you'd get:
- two very nice neighbors who are quiet, are willing to house-sit and look after your pets when
  you're on vacation, and have a great reference from their current landlord
- monthly income while we live on your property
- the possibility of you owning our tiny house once Jeff graduates in June

Do you own a residential or light commercial space with enough room for our tiny house?

Do you have a vacation property that you'd like watched or that you'd like to earn some income on? (Maybe on Bainbridge Island or east of Seattle?)

Maybe you want to own a well-built, nice looking, tiny house at a fraction of what it would cost to build your own? We've thought about trading it.

Maybe you always pass a spot that you think would be a great place for a tiny house or you know someone that has a space for us?

We're great at thinking 'outside the box'. (We live in a tiny house, right?)
We're open to all ideas. What can you think of?    :)

Thanks for your help,
Jeff and Arlene 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sure, our house has wheels... but how mobile are we really?

Recently we starting wondering how easy it would be to move our tiny house to live somewhere else.

What do we have to do so the move goes smoothly?
How do we find a new space to rent?
In what areas would we want to live?
Urban or rural this time?

We started thinking about this because the owner of the house where we've been renting tiny house space for almost 4 years is looking for a new job. Not all of the jobs he's applying for are local though. Some jobs are far enough that he'd sell the house we currently live next to, in fact.
We didn't expect to have to move until June 2014 when Jeff graduates and starts working. Until he's done with school, we need to stay in the Seattle area.

Getting our place ready to move should be easy compared to the many moves we did when living in larger conventional spaces simply because we own a whole lot less 'stuff'.

Because our trailer is rated to carry 7000 lbs maximum we'll have to box everything up (dishes, clothes, etc) and move our 'stuff' separately. We have trailer skirts that also cover the wheel wells that we can easily remove. We have a wooden fence that surrounds the trailer tongue where we store gardening equipment, our propane tank and bikes that also removes easily.

I rent a room in an office building for use as an art studio. I planned that workspace so that both tables and metal bookshelves are on wheels so I can configure my space depending on my project needs. Those wheels will make it easy to simply wheel everything to the elevator and out.

So far, so good, huh?
Where to move though?

When we were building our house and planning our move, I posted on our blog that we were looking for a space to rent in Seattle. I also asked two members of my family who already lived here to pass along the word and we were also lucky that a writer for our neighborhood paper wrote an article about alternative housing and linked to our blog.

We happily received 12 offers for a place to live! Rental costs ranged from free farther from Seattle to an unbelievable $800 a month (she said she wanted to pay off her student loans and didn't care that we brought our own house with us).

Six offers didn't work out because they had enough space, but we couldn't maneuver the house into the space. The two free spaces were great locations but farther than we wanted to commute. Another one was an empty lot surrounded by tall pines but no water or electric service we could figure out. The offer with the high price tag we didn't even consider. That left two offers. We could fit into either space, both are nice couples that we'd like to live near, they live in the same neighborhood... but we connected with one couple more than the other because of many common interests. Jeeps, rock climbing, yoga, organic gardening.

We feel extremely lucky that we found such great neighbors, new friends, and live in a walkable area where we can grow fresh food in the backyard. 

We met some very nice people while doing our search the last time. If we have to move soon, then I'm sure we'll meet more very nice people. Hopefully, finding a place to move the tiny house will be as easy this time as it was the first time.

If you have suggestions on how you'd approach a move like this, or have suggestions on where we should / could move, please post a comment. Lots of people are interested in living in a tiny house but how easy will it be for them to find a place to live in it?

We'll keep you posted on whether we have to move or not...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Trade for work: one way to get quality details

We are frequently asked about some aspect of how we built the tiny house. Recently someone asked about how we found a door that fit our exact dimensions (23 ¼” x 70”), and others have asked questions about how we made our cabinets.

The short answer is that we didn’t find or make the door or cabinets. We did a trade for work deal (and we think got a great bargain for it) with a woodworker friend of ours. We traded a MIG welder and some other tools and in exchange Mike Snyder crafted our door and the cabinets for our tiny house (pictured).

Actually, Mike was instrumental in terms of guidance and assistance for many aspects of building our home. Many people were. We found that once folks realized that, yes, we were serious about building and living in a tiny house, we had many offers to help us in different way. Scott, Rick, Michael and Kerric helped us build the house, Rick towed us from our initial build space to Carol and Mike's, where we finished it, as well as from California to Seattle, WA. Rick also helped install the windows and Johnathan and Dorothy helped us do finishing work on the interior walls. There were many other folks who loaned us tools, gave us suggestions and helped out in other ways too.

Since it was four years ago that we towed the tiny house to Carol and Mike's I decided to email them and find out what Mike has been up to. The clock and table below are examples of his recent work, and you can find more here.

It's gratifying to see him do what he loves doing. Indeed, part of the motivation for us building and living in a tiny house has been to follow our dreams. We couldn't have done that as easily if we'd been locked into house payments or paying to rent an apartment big enough to hold all the stuff we'd been dragging from place to place. 

After living in the tiny house for nearly four years, we feel that having a aesthetically pleasing space to come home to has made living in tiny house a gratifying experience. We see our friends in the cabinets, the windows and the finish work. Our home is our cozy cabin in the Winter, our breezy cottage in the summer and our retreat from the stresses of day to day work.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tiny Trees and Big Wishes

Living in a tiny house is fun. Sometimes the constraints of being in a small space make for creative solutions... like our Tiny House Christmas Tree. In the past we've had ornaments on a mobile hanging from the livingroom ceiling and lights strung all around.

Up here in Seattle it's getting colder (and we even have a bit of snow in the forecast), but we're toasty and comfortable in our tiny space.

Below is a link to an animation. It is in response to the question:

What would happen if everybody posted or tweeted a single word on a single day?

Could it raise awareness? Would it help folks stop, for one minute, even one second, and consider how the world could be different?

Of course, there are a billion reasons why we might not all post / tweet the same word on the same day.

But what if?

Wishing all of you Happy Holidays and a happy, healthy and peacefilled New Year.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Living large in a tiny house

Part of the point of building a tiny house has been for us to have affordable housing while I have been a PhD student at the University of Washington. But there have been unexpected perks. One of which is focus. A by product of down-sizing is that I have less stuff to distract me, which has meant that I have more focus that I can apply to things that are important to me. One of which has been my education. So what do I study? Networks.

A post I did on this blog a while ago provided a very brief network analysis of the tiny house blog network. More recently I have been working in the SOcial MEdia Lab at the University of Washington's iSchool to visualize Twitter retweet networks. Retweet networks are networks that arise out of the data traces that are left when one person retweets another person. By visualizing these networks researchers can better understand human communication on these new social platforms - like Twitter.

If you have ever taken a basic statistics class you can imagine how this might work. Statisticians have long encouraged students to make plots of their data as a tool for helping them make sense out of their data. The very process of making a visualization requires interacting with the data in ways that can help students better understand what is in the data. Of course, without understanding histograms and distributions the plot to the left isn't going to make much sense, but that is part of the learning process. And it is exactly what I have been doing for the last few years: learning about networks.

I wrote a blog post recently about whether or not network graphs were art or useful data visualization. In that post I briefly talk about some of the things that can be gleaned from inspecting a network plot. I also just wrote a post about some of the challenges of interpreting network visualizations. But I know that I am also drawn to the aesthetic appeal of these graphics. My most recent effort has been to animate a retweet network over time to show the dynamic nature of these types of networks. I have embedded it here just for fun.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Here is a more detailed follow up post...

Yes, we both still live happily together in the house. It's been almost 3 years and things are still going well.

People have asked about us about the lack of space and if it causes us to get on each others nerves. We really enjoy each others company so the answer is no. We're at work/school as much as anyone else and we also meet with friends and go places. Our joke when someone asks about privacy: When we need privacy, we simply turn around so that we don't see the other person. I think that you need a sense of adventure and humor to live in a place this small after having always lived in larger places. We are also aware that most of the world's population lives smaller than Americans do. Some people would think our place is big for only 2 people!

What we've changed:
Our 2 person sized antique settee (it fit through the door!) was donated to a thrift store and we now have sectional seating. This seating also serves as a guest bed for the occasional out of town visitor. We've had 3 overnight visitors so far, obviously not on the same weekend.

We haven't invited many people over for dinner since we've lived in this house though, and we kind of miss that, so we're thinking of who and when. We have added a few kitchen appliances since we moved in. We started out with a refrigerator, stove top, juicer, dehydrator and a microwave. I've added a blender and a slow cooker. We're ready for anything now.

Last years garden was great and this year's is shaping up too! Funny thing what some fertilizer can do!! We're growing beets, carrots, chard, kale, spinach, corn (I didn't know that many ears grow on each stalk), peas, green beans, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, cucumbers, onions, potatoes and wild flowers. Recently we were out there weeding, hand tilling in the compost we've made from our kitchen scraps and yard cuttings and planting seeds. It's looking great!

We've painted the house interior to off-white so that it's brighter inside during Seattle's (many, many) gloomy, grey months. I'm so glad that we originally installed the operable skylight. In the winter it adds lots of light and in the summer it keep the place cool inside with the aid of opening the sleeping loft window.

This past summer we also painted the house exterior a light brown. The redwood exterior didn't stand up well to the Seattle elements and needed to be better protected. We gave up on the clear coating that we've redone 2 years in a row. We'll add a window trim color this summer.

Last weekend we changed our desk setup. We had thought that we'd both need desk space so along one wall of the 'living room' we had a desktop and two chairs. I never used the desk and Jeff has found that a standing desk works better for him. We took out the desktop and nearby kitchen counter, cut the long desktop at a 45 degree angle and installed it as the kitchen counter replacement. Jeff loves it and now we have room for an arm chair to sit and read in between the front door and heater which makes me happier.

It snowed a couple of times in Seattle last winter but inside our house it was a 65-70 degrees though outside was as low as 28 degrees. We used the Dickenson wall mounted boat heater in the evenings if we needed more heat, but used a wall mounted, low energy usage, Envi convection heater convection heater at other times. It's safe to leave on while we're gone so the interior never got chilly.

We've talked about replacing the outside vent on the front of the house with a stained glass window that opens. We either need to find the right size or one of us needs to take a class and make one. We currently have a fan connected to that vent that goes from inside to outside intended to remove the warm air in summer time. We've used it only once since the skylight seems to do a better job and the fan is noisier than we'd like.

We'll try to post more frequently!

Jeff & Arlene