I Lived in A Barn for Three Years

I was thinking back the other day about our tiny house build. Our experience was so different from a lot of other tiny house people. We built our home on a foundation on a mountain three and a half hours from where we were living and working.

From day one the whole experience was an adventure for us.

Now, I am not saying that tiny house building or living isn't an adventure for everyone. It just happens to be a very different adventure for each person choosing to build their own home.

For us, our adventure involved living in a barn. 

Yes, that is right, a barn. 

When we found the land that would eventually be named Mt. Matt we were uncertain about the old barn filled with junk. It wasn't considered a usable building and didn't add any cost to our purchase price. Our only request was that the sellers clean all of the junk out of it before we took possession of the land.

Our first few trips to our own patch of the Smoky Mountains were camping trips. Sometimes a friend or two would come along. We didn't even know what we were going to build - except there was a perfect little clearing about half way up the mountain that needed something built there.

Once we decided that the thing we were going to build was a tiny house, we knew we would have to travel up to the mountain from Atlanta as often as we could. Our original time estimate was finishing the house in a year. Spoiler alert: it took us three years. It wasn't that we weren't capable of building a house by ourselves but rather all of the other things that happened along the way to halt our progress.
  • One of the rainiest summers the region had ever seen...
  • A freak snowstorm that took down over 100 trees on our land (directly in our path)...
  • An unreliable ATV, which was the only way to get supplies up to our building site...
And through all of this time we slept on an air mattress in a small, unfinished, enclosed room in the barn.

It wasn't glamorous. Sometimes it was too hot. Sometimes it was too cold. Once, there was a bat trapped in the room with us while we were trying to sleep. 

But you know what? I kind of miss it sometimes.

I'm not saying I would abandon our cozy, well-built tiny house and go live in the barn again, but there was a real sense of adventure during those days. I also remember sleeping until noon one day. I never do that. Apparently I needed sleep and the quiet mountain and fresh air let me sleep soundly even in a barn.

So today, to celebrate the process and the adventure I wanted to take a walk down memory lane about the years I lived in a barn. Join me, if you like.

The room we stayed in was behind those windows.

The finished insulation - before we put a double high queen sized air mattress in the room.
Sometimes there were snakes. He's just a rat snake - won't hurt anyone.
Barn Sweet Barn
And sometimes Canadians camped in the hayloft. (This is our friend Andrew)
Now the barn is storage space for us. We still have some ideas of ways we want to finish it, but we aren't hurrying to do that. We also learned a lot about our barn in the time we've owned the land. The back corner of the barn, behind our "room" was the original cabin on the land. It is built with old, hand-cut timbers that are as big as a person. The rest of the barn was built around it with no real rhyme or reason. We are really glad we had the old barn because we couldn't have built the tiny house without it. At least not the way we built. Our equipment and materials could stay in the barn while we were home in Atlanta for two weeks. We parked the ATV there. We camped there. It was the best free structure we could have had. So, here is my tribute to my barn. I hope you've enjoyed it.


  1. Maybe a small family could help finish the barn and add some resources to it and then "rent" a space on Mt. Matt for some vacation living in the future?

    1. Hmm...this sounds like a proposal to me. Let's talk!

  2. An old barn is a *really* cool thing to have on your land! And useful, as you've obviously discovered. I completely sympathize about the whole 3 1/2 hours away thing... we're remodeling an Airstream right now, but didn't have any room for it at the house we're renting, so some relatives are storing it for us... in Chattanooga, TN. (We're in Asheville.) So yeah, that drive is starting to get verrrry familiar!

  3. Ok I was with you until That snake! I know it's not poisonous, but oh the thought of it there when I 'm sleeping! You are very very brave.
    Blessings, Joanne

  4. When pitching a tent in a hayloft, it's important to remember padding in the form of ground mats. Multiple ground mats. Grass covered dirt? Relatively soft. Hayloft planks? Not so soft.

    The voice of Canadian Hayloft Sleeping Experience.

  5. I've never tried living in a barn but the thought of it gives me the feeling of fun and adventure. I think a little bit of fixing, cleaning and painting will give the barn a good homey look.


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