tiny Criticism: Marital Bliss

Believe it or not, there are critics of the tiny house movement. While some people we’ve talked to are strongly opposed to the lifestyle, most people just have curious concern.

One of the smaller, but most common, concerns/criticisms is what to do when needing a break from your significant other (or just the person you’re living with). How will we ‘keep the peace’ with no place to escape from each other?

It would be easy to say, “We don’t fight! We don’t need our own space,” but we aren’t fools. Even if you and your significant other don’t fight and you think you could handle being in each other’s hair all the time it’s probably best to be prepared just in case you do need some alone time.

Fortunately, there are a few options that we’ve considered.

Night Out

One option that we’ll be using is for each of us to take a ‘Night Out’ during the week. We already do this to a certain extent in our one bedroom apartment. One night a week my wife has dinner with her mom. It gives me a chance to have some time to myself. Saturday and Sunday mornings I sneak out so she can sleep in and wake up slow. Whether in a tiny house or not, it’s just good practice to let your significant other to have some time to themselves.

Separate Areas

It’s important to know what you personally need for alone time/decompression. My wife likes to cook and take baths; so our whole bottom floor is basically going to be the kitchen and bathroom. Personally, I just need a little lounge space to read and be on my computer. We’ll be putting in a second loft with cushions and pillows as a lounge space. The choice to build space specifically for us doesn’t leave space for entertaining or overnight guests, but if we really need to do that we can always use…

Outdoor Space

Outdoor space is one of the main reasons to go tiny for us. Going tiny frees you up and in some ways forces you to get out of your house more often. My wife likes to sit outside and relax and I like to run around and be active. We have a lab-pointer mix with endless hours of energy. Without a doubt, the outdoors will be our favorite place to give each other alone time. The best part, if you aren’t a nature lover, is that ‘outdoor space’ doesn’t have to be outdoors. It could be whatever community space you enjoy. Restaurants, coffee shops, friend’s houses, the gym, clubs, religious centers, workshops, etc.

As you can see, we’ve got some options. I’m sure there are more that we haven’t thought up yet. I’ll let you know when we do.

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Finding Tiny

Since I was young, I was drawn to the idea of small living spaces. Forts, tents, campers, and cabins engrossed my internet searches. Though, I never thought to live in one permanently… until now.

Fast-forward to 2012. I started dating a girl that confesses to me that she’s never wanted the ‘white picket fence’ house. To her it represents chains to lock her in one location. Being buried alive. She also doesn’t want to get sucked into the ‘rent trap.’ Spending money she’d never see again on a place somebody else owns.

I married her.

While we were engaged I flew back to my parents’ place to go deer hunting with my family. In a bitter-sweet turn of events I got a sinus infection opening weekend. I was stuck on the couch in my parents place for four days.

Bored out of my mind scrolling through Facebook I had a friend post a trailer for TINY; the documentary about a couple that builds a tiny house (it’s on Netflix). I couldn’t find a way to watch the movie, but I did find a list of links on their website to other tiny house resources… I was hooked.

I called my fiance’, ordered tickets to a building conference, and downloaded all the free plans I could find.

Over the course of the next couple months I downloaded google SketchUp and started drawing out my own plans. She started scouring Pinterest for design ideas. We put together a budget and savings plan to begin work after our wedding the summer of 2014.

At the building conference we met tons of tiny enthusiasts, people interested in building, and a few that had already started. We were offered a DEEP discount on a trailer and plans so we switched and stretched our bank accounts around and saddled up.

Coincidentally, sitting down and actually paying for the trailer was a lot like getting engaged (and married!). I wasn’t nervous at all. In fact, I was confident; driven and focused. That is, until the moment arrives. Ask her the question, walk down the aisle, sign the dotted line…

I wish I could communicate the conversations and research it took to get where we are now in less than 500 words. It honestly, took four months of convincing, seemingly infinite hours of Pinterest, and the conference for my wife to agree that we should start now.

But here we are, over a year after I drew a chalk floor plan in my parents’ driveway, made my mom stand in it, and climbed the roof to take pictures. We currently have a subfloor and two walls up.

Don’t get me wrong; this has been stressful and defeating. People are not always kind or supportive. There will be setbacks. You will question your ability and possibly your sanity. But it is fun. It’s rewarding. It’s exhilarating. It’s worth it.

“What is the most resilient parasite? A bacteria? A virus? An intenstinal worm?” asks Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception, “An idea. Resilient, highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”

If you’ve found yourself even mildly interested in tiny houses or tiny living, strap in and go for a ride. You won’t regret it.

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living tiny!

My wife and I are building a tiny house.

It’s a house on a 20′ trailer and will be 144 sq. feet on the bottom floor.

We’ll have two lofts. One as our sleeping area and the other as a lounge/guest room space. We’ll have a full bathroom and a full kitchen (relatively speaking).

You might think we’re crazy…

That’s ok. I don’t expect you to understand.

The funny thing is that we feel that we would actually go crazy if we were to do the “normal” thing and buy a 2,000 sq. ft. house.

Last April we went to a conference on building tiny and one of the questionnaires asked us to check the reasons why we wanted to build a tiny house. Common reasons were listed; environmental impact, downsize, save money, mobility, etc. I opted for the ‘Other’ box and wrote down, “All of them.”

I love everything the tiny movement represents.

For me it works. At this point in our lives, my wife is on board too.

I understand that ‘144’ won’t last forever and that it isn’t for everybody; but I think that is part of the beauty of the movement. It isn’t a competition to see who can live in the smallest space (although that could be fun to try); it’s about simplifying our lives in an attempt to increase our joy.

Mobility

My wife and I don’t like the idea of being tied to one spot for too long. We also haven’t found a place worth settling down yet. A tiny house gives us the freedom to own a house and take it with us on our search for a home.

Finances

Our combined income puts us in the top 20% in the United States which makes our $1,000 per month rent reasonable, but it’s still not ideal. Most RV parks and tiny house spots can be rented for HALF the price of our apartment. I don’t think I need to expand on why that’s important.

Environmental Impact

Building tiny also helps us reduce our environmental impact. There is a strong push inside of the movement to use recycled and reclaimed materials. Currently my wife and I are looking into alternative forms of insulation such as recycled denim. Even if alternative, reclaimed, or recycled materials aren’t for you there is always the overall impact of a MUCH smaller house. Less materials used equals less strain on our environment.

Downsizing

Weirdly, downsizing is the issue most people take when I tell them we’re going tiny. I’m finding people strongly associate their character with their things. If you are a ‘stuff and things’ type of person, please don’t take offense. We also like ‘stuff and things.’ We just don’t like the relationship we personally have with them sometimes. My wife and I have more movies than we watch. We have more dishes than we use. We have more clothes than we wear. We have more (and bigger) appliances than we need.

By reducing the size of the space my wife and I live in, we reduce the size and amount of items that need care and maintenance. This frees up time to invest more fully into the things we enjoy most.

For her it would be finding new recipes to actually cook. For me it would be having the time and energy to use my camping equipment. For both of us it means more time and money to visit friends, family, and to travel.

Maybe tiny living isn’t moving into a house the size of your bedroom. Maybe it’s just cleaning out the guest room closet. Whatever it is, there is joy that can be found there. I would encourage you to go and live a more joyful life.

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Death of the Superhuman

In 2009 I interned with my campus ministry group in collaboration with a local church in St. Louis, MO. I was one of the teachers in a supplemental summer school program.

It was hard work.

It stretched me.

I had some difficult kids, but I cared for them.

One particular day, one of my little girls was sick. We didn’t want her around the other students in case she got them sick, but we couldn’t send her home. So I had her lay down on a couch, put my by button down shirt over her (we had no blankets), and we read together.

The girl had a twin sister and the three of us grew very close to each other.

On the last day of the school program us teachers brought the students back to the neighborhood they lived in and I walked the twins home. They screamed goodbye as they ran across their front yard to their front door. I knew I would never see them again, but they didn’t.

In that moment I realized both how much influence we have in each other’s lives AND how little.

This is reaffirmed for me everyday in my career as a teacher. For a short time in our lives we are given immeasurable influence on other people and fractions of a second later it could all end.

It teaches me that I’m far more important than my lowest thoughts of myself. It pushes me to strive to be better. It encourages me to continue to offer help and influence in the world around me without fear of failure.

But right now I’m tired.

I’m physically exhausted.

I’m emotionally burdened.

I’m mentally stretched.

I’m financially insecure.

This experience also humbled me. It taught me that I’m not nearly as great as I think I am. I have limits. I wasn’t meant to save everyone. I wasn’t meant to save anyone. I was meant to do the best with the time that I was given.

In my exhaustion I’m not discouraged.

I’m determined.

I’m perseverant.

I’m focused.

I’m resting and recharging before I venture out to search again for the tension between influence and humility.

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The Magic Bullet (Part 2)

Part one of this story can be found here.

…By the time I realized I had been blacklisted school had already started. I submitted an application to every district in the Houston area, but I couldn’t get an interview. Even with hundreds of vacancies around.

I couldn’t even get a part-time gig at restaurants or grocery stores.

Luckily I had saved most of my money from my semester of substituting and working at my Dad’s shop, but even that was gone by the end of September.

An unknown person paid three months of rent for me. The generosity of my parents and future inlaws kept food in my cupboard until my first paycheck.

While I was going through the process of filling out substitute paper work I received a phone call asking if I wanted a job teaching social studies… of course I did.

I interviewed with H.R. the next morning, the principal the day after, and by Monday the following week I was in a classroom.

I was driving an hour plus to work every day. I had to move closer to work, but it doubled my rent. I was teaching Texas history; outside of the Alamo and San Jacinto I knew nothing. Not to mention my classroom management hadn’t improved at ALL since my student teaching days. Though, I was employed and didn’t have move back in with my parents.

My girlfriend was happy. Probably because right before I got my job she showed up at my apartment and found me watching the Lord of the Rings in the dark with beer bottles covering every open table space in the apartment. It was a low point for me.

She graduated that December and the only full-time job she could get was on my side of town. We decided to move in together even though neither of our families were exactly excited about it. Financially, it was the only thing that made sense.

We both made it through the year and got engaged on her birthday over the summer.

My second year of teaching was INFINITELY better than the first, though still not perfect. My now fiance talked me into getting a puppy. We planned our dream wedding in Hawaii.

At the same time we got a puppy I stumbled upon tiny houses. It took six months of convincing (or maybe 30 minutes on pinterest) for her to approve the project.

This past summer we got married in Hawaii and bought a trailer to start building our future home.

We currently spend every weekday and some weekends (summers included) pouring ourselves out for our students and trying to become better teachers. We try to limit our spending on non-essentials so we have more to give away and use for traveling and visiting family. We are consolidating our possessions to fit in a 144 square foot home. We put household responsibilities on hold to spend more time with friends and family. We try to shop and eat ethically and responsibly. We are doing everything we can to be better people, to be happier people, and to give something back to the world that has given us so much.

The problem is that we aren’t always successful. We waste money. We waste time. We waste energy. We aren’t as good as we want to be. We’re selfish. We’re lazy. We can’t do it all, but we’re growing. We’re trying.

There is no magic bullet for what we are trying to do. My job brings stress and satisfaction. My salary brings safety and concern. My wife and dog bring joy and worry. My hobbies bring relief and conviction. Religion brings me guilt and peace.

Too much focus on any one area will lead to negative effects in others. Not enough focus on one area will lead to dissatisfaction in life. This is our story. This is my story. This is life in it’s most raw form. A beautiful struggle.

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The Magic Bullet (Part 1)

I’ve been a teacher for almost three years. In that short amount of time I’ve been to enough conferences to know that in education there is no “magic bullet.” There is no one thing that will make you the best teacher. You must work to improve yourself in a multitude of ways.

Life is similar.

There is no one thing that will make you a better person. There is no one thing that will make you happier. There is no one thing that will give your life meaning or improve it.

Job, money, family, hobbies, and religion all come up short on their own. To be happy and successful our lives need balance. In a world of limited time and resources this can be especially tough as people move through major life changes.

Over the last three years my life has changed more than it did in the first twenty-three combined. During the last three years I hit rock bottom and I’ve had some of my greatest triumphs. All the while I’ve been learning and growing.

Three years ago I moved from Hudson, WI to Houston, TX for student teaching.

It was the most physically and mentally demanding time in my life. There were moments I didn’t know if I would make it through. Every day was a battle to go back and do it again, but as they say, ‘If you can make it in Aldine you can make it anywhere.’

I kept working and I passed by the skin of my teeth.

It wasn’t pretty, but I made it through and was asked back as a long term substitute for the spring semester; so I packed up my ’96 corolla with everything I owned and moved into the spare bedroom of my cooperating teacher.

My classroom management was pathetic and my organization and planning was worse. Luckily, I had the support of some fantastic people and teachers that kept me going and continued to look out for me.

Then I made a mistake.

I allowed a student into my classroom that wasn’t on my roster. The student had a medical condition that I was unaware of that made it life threatening to be in my alternative P.E. class.

I was threatened with a lawsuit from the parents and fired a day later.

I decided to use the remaining month of the school year to work on my resume’ and get a jump on the next year’s job.

During the following summer I went back to Wisconsin to work at my Dad’s store and save up some money one last time. When I left Texas I had just started dating the daughter of one of my coworkers at the school.

She came to Wisconsin to visit that summer and I was offered a job at a brand new high school with state of the art facilities. Unfortunately, my teaching license hadn’t been approved by Texas Education Agency yet.

I moved back to Texas at the end of the summer with my Texas license in hand, only the job I had been offered was no longer on the table. I had a few more interviews, but never heard anything back. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had been blacklisted. One thousand miles from home without a job…

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A Lukewarm Writer

The title “lukewarm” comes from the Biblical passage in Revelation in which God prophesies to the Laodiceans that because they are neither hot nor cold they will be spit out of God’s mouth.

This imagery was a personal message for the Church in Laodicea because of their great aqueducts. In the time period it was common for one aqueduct to provide a city with hot water, while another would provide cool. The city of Laodicea, however, had an aqueduct that stretched for five miles; which, by the time the water reached the city it was neither hot nor cold… it was good for nothing.

With only one new post in the last 11 months, the lukewarm blog has been anything but hot.

I am confidently ok with that. I’ve spent a lot of time since 2011 blogging mostly spiritual and political commentary, sorting through ideas, and working to make sense of life.

In the last 11 months my life has changed by leaps and bounds. Effort and energy that was once driven into stoking a fire of thought and reason has been diverted into those thoughts lived in practice; sometimes successfully and other times not so much.

The fact that this blog ran cold was due to the heat being produced elsewhere.

Now I am writing again to chronicle and share my experiences. I consider it a practice in living a life of utility both internally and externally. I do it to challenge myself to be better than I was the day before and to maintain my sanity, but you’re more than welcome to join me.

As always, with much love,
A lukewarmdisciple

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