"Stop Dreaming, Start DOING: My (honest) Journey Towards a Tiny Home" a guest post by Jennifer Baxter

Today we have an AWESOME guest post from a Tiny Transition + Downsizing student named Jennifer, who is having her tiny house built right now and is making tons of progress towards downsizing and getting excited to move in! In this post Jennifer explains why she was inspired to build a tiny home, the events that made her realize she couldn't wait forever, and the hardest (and easiest) parts of her downsizing journey.

In the Tiny Transition + Downsizing E-Course, the practical weekly lessons and private student-only forum allow you to make progress at your own pace within a group of like-minded friends on the same journey. I've been told that the group is a catalyst for lifelong change. That's because we not only go through how to eliminate all sorts of crap from your life and space, but because we fundamentally change your relationship with "stuff". It has the cascading effect of positively influencing every area of your life. When you join, you get 8 weeks of practical lessons and challenges (lifetime access), guided step by step help, lifetime access to the private class forum, accountability, support and motivation from me and your classmates, and the tools you need to simplify your home and life. 

You can learn more about Tiny Transition and Downsizing and register here. Class starts March 1st!

I'll let Jennifer take it over from here!

I am building a tiny house because my friend doesn’t have cable TV.  Well… that might be skipping a couple of steps.  But my curiosity and excitement for tiny houses can be traced back to a random (or maybe not) night spent pet-sitting at a friend’s house in spring of 2014.

Since they don’t have cable, I ended up surfing Netflix to find something to watch.  While scrolling through the documentary section, I saw a movie called “TINY: A Story About Living Small.”  The description explained that it followed a young man and his girlfriend as they built a tiny house on a flatbed trailer.  It sounded interesting enough so I thought I’d give it a go.  I had never even heard of tiny houses beforehand.  But by the time the 66 minutes was up, my heart and mind were racing.  How had I not known about this??

It was the perfect living situation for me.  Most importantly, I would be able to buy a home outright and be mortgage and rent free.  Yes, I could spend the same amount of money to own a tiny house that I would use as a down payment on a condo or a townhouse.  Except there’d be another $1,000 or so coming out of my account every month for the next 30 years with the latter.

I’ve also always been kind of OCD about everything in my home being neat and “having its place.”  I don’t like to have a lot of clutter and the idea of only owning the things that I absolutely need and really use on a daily basis, was very appealing.

But the biggest appeal of the tiny house was something very timely for me.  Since my mother (who was also my best friend) passed away in 2013 after a six-month battle with cancer, I have been on a mission to live my life as fearlessly and earnestly as possible. 

Not only because I saw with my own eyes how quickly your life can change.  But also because I realized from reading some of my mother’s old journals, that she ran out of time before she made some of her dreams come true.  It was enough to make me realize that I didn’t want to end up the same way.

So instead of just talking about building a tiny house or dreaming about it, I decided to DO it. 

Plus, owning a home outright would free up more of my money and time to do things outside my house like spending time with friends, traveling and marking things off my bucket list.

I didn’t want to end up the same way. So instead of just talking about building a tiny house or dreaming about it, I decided to DO it.
— Jennifer

The fire had been lit.  I couldn’t wait to make my tiny house a reality, so I spent the rest of the year researching floor plans and builders, collecting design ideas and pinning them to Pinterest, and learning the in’s and out’s of tiny living.

See, tiny living is a lifestyle all its own.  Everything in a tiny house has multiple purposes; you have to make the most of every bit of space you have.  Plus there are all the options for making it more environmentally-friendly and able to go off-grid. 

I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be going off-grid right away, but that it was something I was definitely interested in for the future.  I don’t have the money for solar panels or a water catchment system right now, but that is something I could add in the future. By installing a composting toilet from the very beginning, I won’t have to be tied to a sewage hook-up.

In fact, that ended up being one of the must-have’s for my home.  Besides a composting toilet, other key features I knew I HAD to have in my tiny house were:

  • Plenty of headroom in the bedroom loft (since I’m tall and kind of claustrophobic!)
  • A staircase instead of a ladder up to the bedroom loft
  • A functional kitchen with an oven/stove and a dishwasher (since I love to cook!)
  • A bathtub in the bathroom
  • Some outdoor space
  • Lots of natural light
  • Decent amount of storage

I also knew that I didn’t want the “log cabiny” interior that a lot of tiny houses had, but instead wanted a cleaner, more contemporary look.  And as for the outside, I didn’t want something that could be mistaken for a shed.  I wanted it to look like a real house.  Just… tiny. 

This is the photo that Jennifer showed her builder so that he could see what she wanted her tiny home to look like. This is the ourweehouse.com house. Photo credit: http://ourweehouse.com/.

This is the photo that Jennifer showed her builder so that he could see what she wanted her tiny home to look like. This is the ourweehouse.com house. Photo credit: http://ourweehouse.com/.

PHOTO CREDIT: GRAHAM WALES, "INAUGURAL" TINY HOME. Jennifer showed her builder these photos to explain what she wanted to interior to look and feel like on the interior.

PHOTO CREDIT: GRAHAM WALES, "INAUGURAL" TINY HOME. Jennifer showed her builder these photos to explain what she wanted to interior to look and feel like on the interior.

I was lucky enough to find a great builder who has worked with me every step of the way and designed a house specifically for me, that will have everything I do want and leave out the things I don’t need. 

And since I am currently single, am recovering from some health issues and have zero construction experience, it’s best for me to have someone else build it.

PHOTO CREDIT: GRAHAM WALES "INAUGURAL" TINY HOME. Jennifer was inspired by this tiny house build by Graham Wales.

PHOTO CREDIT: GRAHAM WALES "INAUGURAL" TINY HOME. Jennifer was inspired by this tiny house build by Graham Wales.

So now that the “foundation” (a.k.a. the trailer) for my house has been purchased and the walls are going up (literally!), it’s time for me to take on the fun part.

Downsizing!

It actually isn’t nearly as scary as some may think.  In fact, if I’m being honest, I think I’m getting a little addicted to clearing out my stuff.  Every time I add more stuff to the “yard sale pile,” I get a little high!

It’s just amazing to realize how much you stuff you have that you really don’t need.  The last time that I moved, I filled up one of those fairly large U-Haul trucks all by myself and I remember thinking, “How can one person have so much stuff??”

But now that I know I only have 144 square feet (yes, I said 144) to move into, it’s almost like I have permission to finally get rid of stuff! 

All of the extra dishes and kitchen wares that I thought I’d use for “entertaining” (yet only use once a year, if that), all of the books and movies that I never touch, all of the clothes that I think I “might wear one day,” and probably the biggest thing for me… all of the “mementos” that I’ve been holding on to since childhood.

I am a very sentimental person and I do love holding on to nostalgic items.  But really, how many of them do I need?  Do I really have to have my communion dress, my prom dress and my graduation gown?  Stuffed animals from my childhood?  Every paper/assignment I ever did in school? 

Sure, it’s fun to find old trinkets and relive some memories once in a while but when you have not two or three, but four, five and six Rubbermaid bins of stuff… it might be time to get rid of some of it.  And what I’ve found through this process is that I can still have the memories and the emotions in my heart and mind, even if I don’t have the physical objects anymore.

I’ve also finally been able to be honest about things that I’ve been holding onto in hopes that one day I might use them.  You know… the tennis racket, the pool cue stick, the yoga mat.  Do I play tennis, shoot pool or do yoga?  No.  Will I one day?  Maybe.  But I can always borrow a racket and I’m pretty sure billiard halls still have sticks and yoga studios still have mats. 

It’s all about being honest.  And you know what?  It feels AWESOME.

I think there’s something to be said for “cleaning out your life.”  And since this has come while I’m also healing my body physically, letting go of some old emotional baggage and paying off a lot of financial debt, it couldn’t have happened at a better time for me.

Clean out my heart, my mind, my body, my wallet, the garage AND live more cleanly for the environment, all in a home that is completely paid for?  Sounds good to me.

Bring on the tiny living!

You can follow Jennifer and her adventure at her blog!

Jennifer is a student in the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course. If you want to join an awesome group of other friends and companions transitioning into a tinier, simpler, happier life, you should join us. Class starts on March 1st!

If you're ready to get out from under your stuff, I'm ready to help you get there. This is an 8-week class that fundamentally changes your relationship with stuff and helps you de-clutter, downsize, and clear out your home and mind. I hope to see you there!