looking out from within
Something strange happened on my most recent build stint. My house became real.
I had thought it was real before, as the walls went up and the roof sheathing and layers of foam went on, but I was wrong. It took up space but it only had the faintest of heartbeats, personality, soul. It had vacant eyes and a bald purple head. I loved it anyway.
But this time, with only a little prodding from me, it came into its own. It now has a full roof and windows and a crazy smile. It’s still without siding and a door, but now there is a definite sense of interior and exterior, a defiant assertion of self. I feel like my child has just sprouted a wispy beard and gotten a driver’s license; it’s both amazing and a little terrifying.
The last few weeks have been a time of big changes and a girding of loins. Of peering through the dark. Of confronting fears and planting seeds and taking leaps of faith. As I look back on my fifth build stint and the pictures I took, there’s a preponderance of grays and black, of clouds and drizzle, of cold metal and granite rocks. Of shadows, winter twilight and aluminum crutches.
But burgeoning beneath all of this are oranges and reds, warm light and glowing wood, budding friendships, camaraderie and familial love, and the promise of spring and of becoming, bubbling up like lava, inevitable, molten, raw.
The Introvert herself.
Recently there was an interesting thread of comments on Tiny House Talk’s post on John Labovitz’s house truck that highlighted some classic introvert versus extrovert perspectives. The arguments supporting John’s choice of living arrangement and lifestyle mirrored my feelings exactly, and bolstered some ideas I’ve been mulling over the last year regarding introverts and tiny houses.
So for all the introverts thinking of living tiny, I offer you this valentine and validation.
Bucking decades of negative labels, there is a burgeoning movement to acknowledge the value of introverts and the gifts we bring to the world. I have a theory that there are strong parallels with the rise of the tiny house movement. Based on the common themes I read on tiny houser blogs, I rather suspect that tiny houses innately appeal to introverts.
I don’t mean to say that there aren’t extroverts living tiny – clearly there are (though as we will see, introversion is not always obvious on the outside). I just wouldn’t be surprised to learn that there is a high ratio of introverts to extroverts within the tiny house community. Agree? Disagree? Read on, then share your thoughts.
Why is this important? I’ve found that the more I understand my own nature, the better my tiny house design has become. I’m fairly certain that those who take the time to look inward during the design process are more likely to be happy with living tiny in the long run, whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. There are big differences in how each interact with the world, and how they like to spend their energy. If you are considering living tiny, take some time to figure out what this means to you and the design of your house. This post delves into what I’m learning as I go through that process myself.
Tiny Homes.com invited me to be a regular monthly contributor to their new tiny house site and my first post, Catching up with Naj Haus, just launched today. It’s a compilation of excerpts from some of my earlier posts, so if you’re new to Naj Haus, it’s a quick way to get up to speed on my tiny house journey.
Tiny Homes.com was started by Lina Menard and Kenny Bavoso to connect people interested in tiny houses. By gathering a multitude of contributors, they hope to share a wide perspective from people who are designing, building and living in tiny houses. They are also growing it into a resource hub for tiny house workshops and events around the country. Go check them out!
Putting this post together was a nice opportunity for me to see how far I’ve come over the last year, from my first tiny dream beginnings through all the experiences I’ve had along the way. I would like to once again give a big, deep, heartfelt thanks to Dee, my original inspiration, mentor and comic relief, and also to my other friends at PAD, Joan (and Rita) and Lina, all of whom I’ve known just over a year but it feels like much longer; to all of the rockstar PAD work party participants who got three of my walls up so cheerily; to Derin and Ben at Shelter Wise who are making sure I will stay warm and dry under my stellar roof; Steffen and all my other friends and neighbors who have donated expertise and wood and an extra hand or two or three; to all of the other tiny housers and bloggers and readers out there who have become part of my tribe, sharing their knowledge and stories; to Trish for allowing me to take time off from work to do this crazy thing; to my Bay Area (and elsewhere) friends who have cheered me on and been patient and understanding as I’ve been largely missing in action; and most especially to my dear family for being so loving and supportive in ways too numerous to count.
There is no way I could have gotten this far without all of you. You’re so awesome.
Here’s to another year of adventure and friendship (and hopefully a completed house)!!!
Current state of Naj Haus – January 2014.
Song of ice and fire
Okay, I know I’m really late to the party but as I was killing time in the airport on my way home from my fourth stint of building my tiny house, I picked up a copy of A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin. The series, as most of you know, is called A Song of Ice and Fire, and this seemed rather appropriate for the last three weeks. Although Oregon was fortunate to miss out on the extreme weather of the “polar vortex” hitting most of the country, we did get temps down in the 20s and each day was a dance of trying to keep the barn warm enough to apply stains and other building materials, but not too hot to work.
So pour yourself a cup of mulled wine, throw another log on the fire, and listen to the epic saga of this last build stint: Continue reading
Cover for Dian Sousa’s latest book of poetry.
It’s my day off and I should be out Christmas shopping or replacing my one pair of jeans that just blew out (the downside of downsizing), but instead I feel the need to write about poetry.
Yesterday I was trapped thirteen floors above downtown Oakland, breathing recycled air and banging my head on my desk, but when I got home my spirits soared. Dian Sousa’s new book of poetry, The Marvels Recorded In My Private Closet, was sitting on my doorstep, waiting to be let in.
It’s starting to look like a house!
I’ve now finished my third building stint. This was a particularly reflective trip. Last time it had been hot summer and now it was definitely fall, cold and crisp. As I drove up, leaving the unseasonably high Bay Area temps behind, it felt more than ever like I was going home.
It was also a time of solo building and quietude, which was nice given that I have now gone beyond my plans and am figuring things out as I go. This involves a lot of pondering, which would likely drive others crazy waiting for me to decide the next step. Building is a lot like playing 3D chess. You need to visualize how things will come together many steps down the line. It’s incredibly challenging. I love that about it.
On top of this, I was contending with my heights phobia so I moved at the speed of a sloth while on the scaffolding and perched on the ledge mounted on the roof. As a result, I made very little obvious progress but I feel good about what did get done. There were a myriad of details that had to happen before I could sheathe the roof: blocking, hurricane ties and strapping, framing and sheathing the gable ends, laying in the outriggers and flying rafters, figuring out my house “ears”, caulking the blocking, and framing the skylights – and of course they all took longer than I expected. I also continued to do research; tried (and failed) to procure more green building materials; ordered my gas heater, stove top and ventilation fan; and dealt with returning a load of moldy sheathing. Oh, and celebrated Thanksgiving in the midst of all that with my dear family!
I want to send a big thank you out to my parents for making sure I stayed warm and for making me wonderful hot meals at the end of each day. Really appreciated.
Here is the month in pictures: Continue reading
My current 300 sq ft apartment: bathroom on left, kitchen on right (it used to be a closet). It’s been a good training ground for living tiny!
I thought this would be an endless two months between building stints, but somehow it’s flown by. As I ready myself for the next trip north for another month of building, here is a quick recap of what I’ve been up to: Continue reading
Slow but sure progress…
I just completed my second stint of building my tiny house and it’s very exciting to see it start to take shape. (See the Blood, Sweat & Tears and Doing Justice to Complexity posts for how the first stint went).
As most of you know, I’m currently living in Berkeley but am building at my parents’ place in Oregon. This means I am building in concentrated chunks of time, with one to two months off in between. There are pros and cons to this approach. There’s a lot of pressure to get as much done as I can while I’m there, so it can be exhausting building day after day. Despite this, I hate to leave it for so long when I’m done. On the flip side, it forces me to take a break and gives me time to step back and rethink things, and to be better prepared for the next stint. I do wish I lived closer, though.
Here are the last few weeks in pictures: Continue reading
Naj Haus subfloor – doesn’t look like much…
Now that I’m about to leave to build my roof, maybe it’s time I caught up on how I constructed my floor! The three big take-away thoughts I had on the floor were:
- Floors look deceptively simple, but they encompass nearly every aspect of building the entire house.
- Because of #1, they are a good training ground for learning most of the skills you will need later on.
- Because of #2, the floor will probably take waaaaaay longer than you think.
But I should insert a caveat here – my floor was perhaps more complex than most due to a) the way I decided to integrate the house and the trailer, b) my choice of insulation, and c) my perhaps neurotic concerns about moisture and mold. The following walks through why I made the choices I did and then documents how I went about creating my floor.
(Note: this is all pretty technical and matter of fact; if you want to read about all my agonies and ecstasies during this time, see my Blood, Sweat and Tears… post!)