Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tiny House Giant Journey's Trip to 120 Squre Feet

Earlier this summer, Guillaume of Tiny House Giant Journey was in Asheville, NC to host a workshop for Tumbleweed Tiny Houses. We met him at Bar of Soap on Friday night after I got off shift and had a couple beers. He invited Matt and me to the workshop the next day to tell a little bit about our story and answer some questions.

We are super glad that we did this and we met some great people there.

Here is the post I wrote about it after it happened.

But while Guillaume was in town he went with Matt and Art Cormier to see our tiny house while I worked another shift at Bar of Soap. I really wish I could have been there that afternoon but I am excited about the photos that Guillaume took!

Check them out! (All photos courtesy of Guillame Dutilh and used with permission.)

Our old barn.

Front view. This makes it look like 2 barns squished together, which isn't entirely inaccurate.

View from the Folk N' Ale

Matt at the Tiny House

Our trails.

Thanks so much to Guillaume for taking these photos. I love how he made our tiny house look huge and the land look magical. These photos gives me the same feelings I get when I realize how lucky I am to live in this little house on this mountain.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Where is Laura of Life in 120 Square Feet?

Hello 120 Square Feet readers.

I wanted to pop in and let you all know that I am alive and plan to get back this blog very soon.

However, just because I live in a tiny house doesn't always mean that life is always sunshine and rainbows. Right after the Raleigh Home Show Matt and I got some news that made us have to stop in our tracks and focus on just one thing. Our precious cat Piglet, a favorite pet of many tiny house aficionados, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of feline cancer.

We may have caught it soon enough and we rushed her to a specialist an hour away from us where they immediately performed surgery to remove the mass and other affected tissue. She is safely at the vet the remainder of this weekend. We will be picking her up on Monday. Once we get her test results back we will know if there are additional treatments or if the surgery might have been a complete cure.

There is a longer involved blog post in this story somewhere, I just don't have the energy right now to tell it. There can certainly be drawbacks to living in a small space but that doesn't entirely discredit the benefits of tiny homes either. While Piglet is in recovery we will be staying at a house in Downtown Asheville. However, our simpler lifestyle and flexible schedules means that we have the ability to do this for a little while.

If you do want to keep up with Piglet's care and story you can follow her Facebook page here. We'll be back soon with more blog posts about tiny living.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Raleigh Home Show September 6th and 7th

On September 6th and 7th Matt and I will be speaking at the Raleigh Home Show.

We will be speaking about what it is like to live in a tiny house and when we're not speaking we'll be at a table to talk with people and sell my book 120 Ideas for Tiny Living.

Also in attendance will be Teal and Gerry of Wishbone Tiny Homes. They will be bringing their model home on wheels for tours! 

For more information on my schedule and the other speakers you can see while your there, you can see the stage schedule here

If you're in Raleigh, we'd love to see you.

Matt and I are available for speaking engagements and have spoken at a number of events around the country including the 2014 Tiny House Conference and Earth Day events at the University of South Carolina Upstate. Please contact me to learn more! 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

3 Questions a Tiny House Can Answer, and One it Can't

The "Tiny House Community" was largely non-existent when we started building our house in 2009. We could only reach out to a handful of people doing the same thing, some of whom have since fallen off the radar. Over the last few years the concept has spread like wildfire and has been popularized by an amazing documentary as well as some reality television shows. Tiny houses appear to be bigger than ever.

With the new interest by people of all walks of life there have been a lot of folks asking questions about tiny homes. They want to know everything from how to get started to how a tiny house can change their lives.

My tiny home absolutely, unequivocally, changed my life. 

But maybe not for the reasons you would expect. I didn't know while we were building that a tiny house would become bigger than the building. I had no idea that tiny living was a philosophy and in order to fully embrace everything a tiny home has to offer you really have to dig into parts of your personality that you didn't expect.

So I learned that there were things the tiny house could answer, and one big thing it could not. Let's take a look at what these are. 
  1. A tiny house can make you brave. When we started this process we didn't know the first thing about building an entire house. Sure, we could put two boards together with a screw but that doesn't necessarily result in a livable house. I figured if I had the confidence to learn how to build a house, I could probably do anything. I learned that tiny living is all about risk taking. It is about living outside of your comfort zone, no matter what you think your comfort zone is. 
  2. A tiny house can help with finances. The biggest reason I wanted to build a tiny house was to reduce my expenses and pay off my debt. It did exactly that. However, it wasn't the actually tiny house that helped. It was simply the thing that changed my mindset and got me away from thinking in such cyclical terms. My debt was paid off before we moved into the tiny house. I quit my job before we moved into our tiny house. And that takes me back to the item one.
  3. A tiny house can give you opportunities. I had no idea when I moved into my tiny house that it would affect the way I interacted with my community. I think this has been the biggest benefit so far. Changing from a situation where I got up at the same time every day, drove the same commute, worked the same 9 hours at the same desk, drove home again, and sat on my couch to one where I felt free to schedule my own time made me excited about exploring my community and meeting new people. This has really changed my life. 
But, there is one very important thing to understand that a tiny house cannot do.

The tiny house itself can't fix the things that are broken. 

All three of these things: my confidence, my finances, and my desire to connect with community were already things I needed to fix. The tiny house gave me a new framework (no pun intended) to work on fixing them. But ultimately, I was the one who needed to do all the work. Not the nailing of 2X4s. Not the roofing. Not installing windows. In fact, in some ways, those were distractions. But as it came together it gave me a new perspective. It gave me something to work toward to give me the opportunity to fix these things in my life on my own.

A tiny house is not a magic bullet. 

The second you move into a tiny home your problems will not be solved. It isn't the responsibility of the building to solve them for you. It can be a catalyst for you, like it was for me, but you still have to answer these questions for yourself.

I know it can be done. I've done it. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it. The tiny house allowed me the confidence to do it, but there were infinite ways I could have gone about it. Your job is to pick the things in your life that you want to change most and work on changing them. Only then will the tiny house be a worthwhile stop on your journey.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Camping Festival 2014

I just got back from the annual camping festival in Minnesota that Matt and I take with our friend Cara Schulz, of Martinis and Marshmallows, and a host of other friends.

The flexibility of my tiny house life is what affords me the ability to take trips like this throughout the year. It is very special to me and important. So I went and pulled a bunch of photos off of various Facebook feeds and am unapologetically posting them here. I can't take credit for most of them....

This is our annual 6 course meal. We invite people we want to get to know better. We serve food and wine and offer topics of conversation.

Cara set up tea each morning. It was a great way to start the day.

Our new tent is actually bigger than our tiny house!

And because it was already blue and silver, we decorated it in a Detroit Lions theme. We camp in Minnesota and our friends bring their Vikings tent so this was a direct response.

Our friend Ryan looking pensive...after having neon orange paint smeared on his face by some rogue teenagers.

And Matt played us some music.

And we enjoyed afternoon cocktails with friends old and new.


We all bought tiaras at one of the vendors.

This may be my favorite photo. I don't even know who snapped it but I was tagged. That is my friend Heather and me wandering off to the stage to check out some music.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Tiny Houses: How to Start When You're a Complete Beginner

People frequently ask us how to get started building a tiny house. Or, alternately, how we got started building a tiny house. I certainly don't know everything about building and I am not a professional or an expert but I do know enough to give someone a considerable head start.

Here are 5 steps you can take to start building your tiny house.
  1. Determine your finances. Sometimes people are surprised to hear that Matt and I spent 10 years of our lives saving money for this project before we even knew what we wanted to build. It started before we even moved to Georgia. We knew that we couldn't see ourselves in a suburban home working corporate jobs forever and the best way to give us an exit strategy was to start saving money. This gave us the opportunity to buy land in the mountains without knowing what kind of house we would build. It also gave us the flexibility to choose the right home when it came time to build.
  2. Figure out how much space you really need. Once we knew we were going to go tiny we needed to determine if we could fit our lives into that space. I'll admit, we kind of put the cart before the horse on this one. We bought plans for a 120 square foot house without deciding if we could fit in it. We just made our lives fit into it and it gave us a great experience learning to downsize and simplify. There was simply no going back.
  3. Read about other tiny houses. When we started our tiny house journey there weren't very many blogs on the subject. In fact, several of the blogs we used as our original inspiration are no longer around and I can't even point you to them. That is one of the reasons I decided to start this blog. Reading other people's stories helped us understand what we liked and didn't and could steer us in the right direction for us. Read a combination of blogs about how to build and how to live in a tiny house.
  4. Do a test build. Having had no previous building experience we decided to do a test build. We constructed a 6X6 deck that would be used as an outdoor shower. And let me tell you: it is the ugliest deck that has ever been built. But it gave us an opportunity to learn what we were doing. We got hands on experience, made lots of mistakes, and learned how to fix them when they happened. That's not to say we didn't make plenty of mistakes on the actual build but we were better equipped to handle them along the way.
  5. Just start. Finally, there comes a time when all the reading, planning, and everything else needs to translate to doing. Eventually we realized that we needed to pick up that hammer and start swinging or else we would never have a tiny house. We also realized that just reading and planning wouldn't guarantee a "perfect" house. In fact, building didn't even guarantee a "perfect" house. But the final step to getting started has to be getting started or else you'll just be planning forever.
What other steps do you think are important to building your tiny house? 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Tiny House Weekend and Our Foundation

This weekend was fabulous. As it turns out, I discovered that Guillaume of Tiny House Giant Journey was going to be in Asheville presenting the Tumbleweed Tiny House workshop. On Friday, when he arrived to town, he met up with Matt and me at Bar of Soap just after I got off work.

We talked about tiny houses, beer, and other fun topics. It was grand. Then he suggested we come out to the workshop the next day toward the end and answer a few questions and stick around for the mixer afterward.

So, we did.

We met some really great people from the greater Asheville area. It was a perfect time for the workshop because the recent article in the local paper, the Mountain Express, was giving the local tiny house scene a push.

I know Guillaume has some photos... when he gets home maybe I'll get them from him and replace this sentence with pictures. Or maybe I'll make a whole new post.

However, I spent a while with a great guy named Bob who was very interested in learning more about our foundation. I thought I would also share this link from a post I did on Tiny House Talk a while back that goes through the steps.

Guillaume and Art even came out to see Matt play some music on Saturday night. Good times!  

On Sunday I had picked up a shift back at Bar of Soap so Matt took Art and Guillaume up to the tiny house in the afternoon. They seemed to like it...

It is always so great to meet others who have built and live in their own tiny homes. I am very happy to be a part of this community!