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Relationships: The Art of Tiny Living

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Lots of folks talk about utility and organization of physical space when it comes to living the tiny life. This is absolutely essential to creating a home that truly meets our essential need for shelter but I’ve found less conversations when it comes to balancing the emotional and mental aspect of relationships in a small space. I thought it might be helpful to discuss the ways that Cedric and I have been learning to navigate tiny living and ensuring the health and stability of our long-term, romantic relationship.

Designing private and communal space.

When designing La Casita, privacy was a big issue. We were trying to figure out how in the world we were going to create communal and private space in such a tiny structure! Cedric and I both believe it’s essential to have these designated areas to sustain a healthy relationship. At first, we tried to build two separate rooms downstairs but there was so much wasted space in the design we ended up tearing it all out and starting over! It was a tough decision but ultimately the best one.

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In our original plans we had an open loft space but after realizing we weren’t going to be able to separate the space downstairs, we decided the loft would be closed off. This has done wonders for our need for alone time. When one of us is in the loft, it feels like a completely isolated, cozy place that you can relax, read, work, meditate, write letters or take a nap. When one person is downstairs and one up, you get a feeling of separation that allows us to recharge and, in the case of a disagreement or high emotions, a sanctuary to cool off.

Open, honest communication.

Before Cedric and I moved in to La Casita, we decided to take a workshop on Non-Violent Communication.  Non-Violent Communication is a method developed by psychologist Marshall Rosenberg that focuses on reconnecting ourselves with our compassionate nature, even under the most trying of circumstances. It implements a non-judgmental, non-accusatory structure of expressing feelings and needs. You can’t hide from issues in anvc home the size of many people’s garden sheds! It’s absolutely impossible and if you try, conflict will quickly escalate. Cedric and I are constantly working on hearing each other compassionately and meeting each other’s needs and it is not without challenges but I’ve found that living the tiny life benefits our relationship in that we can’t let things fester. We have to face the issues that crop up.  Working on our relationship this way creates a continued emotional closeness necessary to living in such close physical proximity.

Patience and Cooperation.

I thought I had patience before moving in to a tiny house. I worked with preschool children so I understood the importance of patience and cooperation. While my experience in childcare certainly helped, it’s different with your partner in 100 sq. feet! Our home is narrow and we often have to squeeze past each other to get to the bathroom or sink. I would have to say that width is something I would like more of! We have to wait to put on shoes, hang up coats, climb the ladder, get in to bed, get out of bed, get dressed, use the sink and prepare meals. It takes continued cooperation to live in such a confined space and makes bumping elbows inevitable. Although, I do love the fact that no matter where one of us is in the house, we can pass each other items with relative ease. It’s really convenient when nearly everything is within arms length!

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Tiny Living: City Vs. Country

When it comes to living the tiny life which is better? The city life or the country life? With the ability to move your home the possibilities are endless. Having recently made the switch from urban to rural tiny lifestyle, we’re assessing the transition. Here are some advantages and disadvantages we’ve experienced in La Casita.

The majority of folks I’ve talked to who live in a tiny house do so for economic reasons as well as ecological ones. Those were the big motivating factors for Cedric and I. Living lighter on the earth is of great interest to us as is meeting our needs with less money so our recent move got me thinking: is living the tiny life in the country greener and more economically sound than living in the city? In the city we rode our bikes to work, the americanogrocery store, the bowling alley, restaurants and most of our friends’ houses. Now that we’ve moved to a more rural area I find I’m driving a lot more. I definitely feel dependent on our vehicle rather than my bike. For me, living the tiny life isn’t just about houses, it’s my intention in everyday experiences. Being dependent on a car does not satisfy my need for a more intentional, regenerative existence.

There’s also the added expense of car dependency. Gas is more costly here than down south. Plus, with winter still in full swing we had had to buy a set of studded tires so we could get out of our driveway!  We’re both feeling as though it takes a lot more stuff to live the country life in the north than it did the city life in the south.

P1000287When it comes to aesthetics living rural has living urban beat-even in the winter! Life out in the country is proving exceptionally beautiful and much more quiet than our life in Charleston. There’s also a lot more privacy. Walking out the door in the city often met with someone staring at the house and wanting to know more about it. I loved talking with passer-bys but when you’re getting stared at on the regular, it starts to feel invasive. Plus, being packed in next to other houses does not provide the most scenic view. Here in Vermont we look out to the woods and up to a mountain and at night the stars are stunning. I’m definitely sleeping better at night without my next door neighbors yelling and drinking in to the wee hours of the evening!

Air and water quality are other big factors. In Charleston, we lived by the highway and after one year there is noticeable exhaust and street crust on our house. It’s disgusting to think that that’s not only sticking to our lovely Cyprus siding but also our lungs. It’s going to take a good bit of work to sand off the black dust and re-oil the house. Even if we had lived in the greenest area of Charleston, it’s a port city and air and water quality are not great. There’s fluoride and chlorine but out on the mountain we have crisp, clean spring water and excellent air quality with little industrial or transport pollutants in the air. Building a tiny house was definitely about living a healthier lifestyle and it feels much more so here in the country than it ever did in the city.

P1000256Living in a tiny house requires the ability to move out beyond its walls on a regular basis in order to maintain emotional balance. In the city this often meant hopping on a bike and going to the park. In the country it means stepping out the front door and taking a walk through the woods. Both satisfy the need for spaciousness that Cedric, me and our pup Asher often crave living in a tiny house. We seem to be able to take care of this need equally well whether in the city or the country, it’s just a matter of preference. Asher, however, definitely prefers the woods to the city and we are more relaxed now that we don’t have to worry about cars. I have to admit I am worried some animal might mistake him for a tasty rabbit, especially when coyotes are howling nearby!

Besides quality of life, the other advantages and disadvantages pertain to anyone trying to make the decision to live rural or urban. The city is more convenient in terms of job density and meeting daily needs although for tiny houses it can prove more difficult when it comes to zoning. After one year in Charleston, a city zoning official came through our neighborhood looking for us. We moved just in time but I can’t say I was surprised when my neighbor called to tell me the city had come searching. We’d been waiting for it.  Rural areas tend to have less stringent codes when it comes to building so for a tiny house dweller it can prove less stressful.

DSCN3040The most exciting thing for me living rural is a big garden. In the city we had limited space to grow.  Although, you could argue that in cities vertical gardening and creative use of space can greatly increase your growing power. I’ve certainly seen some very clever ways that people use small spaces to grow quite a bit of plants!  In the country,  we have acres to work with and providing ourselves with the bulk of our summer food is looking like a reality. That’s something we were not able to accomplish in the city and we’re looking forward to the challenge of growing on a larger scale.

No matter where you end up, every locale will have it challenges and rewards. When it comes to the city vs. country debate it’s a highly personal choice. It’s important to assess your needs and the best way those needs can be met by your home and its location. I’m enjoying living life more remotely but I can appreciate the aspects of city living as well. Ultimately, our home has proven itself a wonderful space whether in an urban setting or a rural setting and to me that flexibility is the key to a positive tiny house experience.

Your Turn!

  • Are you a country mouse or a city mouse?
  • What advantages or disadvantages do you experience in rural or urban living?
  • What challenges have you faced living the tiny life in the city and/or country?

 

 

 

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The Biggest Tiny Move

First off, I want to give a big shout-out and say thank you to the community of readers here at The Tiny Life for the wonderful advice many of you sent me on moving our home.  When you’ve never done something like this it is so incredibly helpful to gain insight from those who’ve gone before you!

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Thanks to suggestions from this blog, as well as the Facebook page and CharlestonTinyHouse.com, we decided to set up a profile page on U-Ship.com and give it a whirl. U-Ship is an online global shipping service connecting individuals and businesses with transportation providers. It works like this:

1. Create a username and password.

2. Fill out a profile.

3. Load a picture and description of what you want shipped.

4. Enter your price range and location.

5. Wait for bids.

After a couple of days we had 3 bids! I didn’t actually expect anything to come of it. I figured most service providers would be out of our price range, but lo and behold we found Roger Howell, or really he found us. With a great price, lots of positive reviews and an excellent, professional profile we thought he was the best bet for the job. He not only moved our home within our budget but without a scratch on it! It was such a relief to be without all the added stress and time of towing it ourselves, especially through a northeastern winter. Plus, it would have cost us as much, if not more, to move it ourselves after renting a truck, paying for gas and taking out insurance. Uship covered us up to $15,000 in damages and as the carrier, Roger also had insurance providing us with a sense of security that was well worth the investment.

The experience was not without hiccups. There were delays on our house due to the severe winter weather we had up ushiphere in early February but Roger was very communicative and sent e-mails and texts as soon as we had questions or something happened en route. We figured it gave us more time to find a place for the house so we weren’t upset at the delay. Nevertheless, it was great to work with a professional who was in the business of towing large shipments, provided quick, clear communication and was first and foremost concerned with getting us our shipment safely.

moving la casitaWe were a bit skeptical of this site at first but in the end we were really happy with the experience. The website is very clear and informative and carriers have profiles and reviews by customers who’ve shipped with them. With very little time to prepare for our move it felt like a huge weight off our shoulders. It wasn’t without work on our part. We had to hook up lights, check our brakes, pack and board up the house and get a license plate for the trailer. It took about 2 weeks to get everything together and ready to go but it was well worth it. We left ahead of the house and were able to arrive in Vermont, place ads and find a home for La Casita in a couple of weeks. If you have a tiny house to move, I’d recommend the services the website provides. Doing it yourself is a rite of passage for some but for us it was going to be more hassle and expense than we wanted to deal with. Hopefully, we won’t have to move the house again. It ain’t cheap moving a tiny house, no matter how you do it. We figured it out to be about a $1/mile so at 1200 miles there was definite expense.

Living the tiny life has its perks but before this adventure I was foolish in thinking it would be a cheap and easy dwelling to move. It’s definitely a more flexible option in life but I’ve learned that more than anything, I want to stay put in La Casita and not have to uproot her too often. Hopefully, this is the last move we’ll be making for a long time and we can settle in to this new chapter of our tiny life.

Your Turn!

  • What alternatives do you know of for shipping a tiny house?
  • Has anyone else used Uship? What was your experience?
  • How has The Tiny Life readership helped you?
  • If you’ve moved a tiny house, what did you find were the most cost effective options?