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From Town House to Tiny House

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I am excited about our next adventure. I’m excited about being uncomfortable, about new experiences and about getting lost. The older I get, the more I realize how intentional change and placing myself outside my comfort zone fuels my creative process and growth.
Lisa Congdon

In 2007, my husband Logan and I fell in love with micro-homes. Discovering tiny homes was a turning point for us. We’d always wanted to purchase a home, but we couldn’t afford a large house. At the time, we were living in Davis, California, and the average home price was more than $400,000. We reasoned a tiny house on wheels would meet our needs, and we began saving for our little house in 2007. In 2010, we hired Portland Alternative Dwellings to build and design our tiny house. We moved into our wee abode in October 2011 and lived in the space—in a variety of locations—until October 2014.

Throughout the fall of 2014, we talked about the possibility of living in town for the winter. Currently, our tiny house is parked on my in-law’s property (it’s roughly 15 miles outside of Yreka, CA). It’s the perfect spot for the tiny house because it’s parked legally, and the location is beautiful. We love our little house, and the space is warm and cozy in the winter. However, tiny house living in the winter presents other challenges.

Plus, we wanted to experiment and figure out if we would enjoy living in town or not. The only way to answer that question was by moving into town. At the end of October 2014, we rented a 700-square-foot cottage and decided we would reassess our living situation as winter ended and spring began. Over the last two months, we reviewed the pros and cons of living in town and living in the tiny house.

In early March, we decided to move back to the tiny house in April. I don’t know if this will be a permanent move or not. I envision living in the tiny house in the spring, summer, and early fall, and spending winter in a larger dwelling.

Living in the cottage was a great experience. I loved the layout of the space, the new appliances, the giant clawfoot bathtub, and the extra room for guests. However, I’m not a fan of the location because the freeway is loud. The noise didn’t bother me during the winter, but now the weather is improving, and I want to open the windows and work outside during the spring, summer, and fall. I don’t want to be blasted with noise from semi-trucks and motorcycles. If we decide to move into a traditional house again, the neighborhood needs to be quiet.

Writing those words makes me feel uneasy because they seem like trite complaints. I don’t want to come across as ungrateful because that isn’t true. I’m extremely grateful to have options and loved ones who support our crazy ideas and perpetual moves.

We feel good about our choice to move back to the little house. It might be small, but it’s our home.

Next steps

We didn’t buy a lot of stuff for our rental cottage. We acquired basic belongings for daily life, like two used chairs, two beds, a small dresser for socks and t-shirts, and a coffee table, plus we bought dishes and glasses from Goodwill. We are planning on putting our new queen bed into the tiny house loft, and the rest of the stuff needs to be sold, given away, or put in storage. I don’t feel good about the storage option. I’d rather give our stuff away to folks who can use it. However, Logan is pro-storage. He feels that storing our stuff is a good option, and I do see his point.

He said, “We don’t know if the move to the tiny house will be permanent, and it might be wise to store the extra bed, chairs, and the coffee table because we will probably move into town (again) for the winter of 2015/2016. I don’t want to run out to buy new stuff for a new place. If we decide to stay in the tiny house for the winter, we can give away the stuff in our storage unit. Besides, isn’t that the purpose of storage? To serve as a transition between places and spaces? It would be like giving away all your winter clothes.”

Whatever we decide to do with our stuff, we will talk about our needs and future plans. We’ve been doing that since we started our simplicity journey in 2005. Communicating with each other, even when it’s hard, is the key to a happy relationship.

I’d love to hear from you. In the comments section below, tell me …

How do you cope with change and transition?

Thanks in advance for sharing your thoughts and ideas.

With gratitude,
Tammy

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • CA March 31, 2015, 6:47 am

    Tammy-

    I don’t have all the answers (far from it!) on the storage issue – however, I wanted to share my logic. You guys purchased relatively few things, and most of them second hand. Storage (in my area) is about $60 a month for a small unit (not sure you could fit the bed in it). I expect you may find that storage costs more than the cost of replacing the possessions. If so – and they aren’t things you are specifically attached to – then I don’t think you do any harm by letting them go. Especially since you purchased used and would donate, you aren’t adding to your footprint in the world either. We have used storage as a crutch for too long – our transition turned into years because of a lack of time to deal with the stuff. We’re moving again, and we still have to deal with many, many boxes. So – possible I have an anti-storage bias. 😉

    • Jill D March 31, 2015, 7:28 am

      Excellent points. All too often temporary becomes . . . well, not so temporary. Inertia is a powerful force. I’m willing to bet that people no longer know what’s in 99% of the storage units out there.

  • Linda Luke March 31, 2015, 7:22 am

    I have so much respect for you and the intentions you have for your life. I love that you are flexible and willing to try new things like the townhouse and then listen within to feel what is right.
    As for storing things, you will come to your own answers, but I feel like you will be able to acquire similar things quite easily in the future if you need them. If you pay for storage it doesn’t make sense unless you absolutely
    love them.
    Listen to your heart. It has guided you beautifully so far…

  • Caitlin March 31, 2015, 7:23 am

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this. I am very inspired by the way you have made tiny house living and cottage living work for you. I think it is a great idea. I don’t think your complaint about noise is trite at all–quiet is important to me also. It’s a legitimate issue and you need to have the location that works for you.

  • Christine March 31, 2015, 7:26 am

    I look forward to your Morning View photos from the tiny house area. The mountain and horses and light are so beautiful!

  • Jill D March 31, 2015, 7:31 am

    Tammy, noise levels are incredibly important, and you’re probably very sensitive to “city” noise having been on the ranch. I’m living in a small village and feel assaulted by the noise levels when I go into the city. I don’t mind birdsong or horses neighing or even coyotes howling. But I sure mind car horns and truck traffic. [I could have sworn I heard a (human) baby crying the other day, but it tuns out it was a baby goat.]

  • Jill March 31, 2015, 7:34 am

    I am glad that you are moving back to your tiny house!

    I think storing your “winter” items is fine, as long as there is a time limit. If you don’t use them next winter, you can get rid of them next spring. By then, you may be in a better position to know if you need to keep them or not.

  • Chandra March 31, 2015, 7:43 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with CA. Storage units do usually eat up far more of your money than they save you when you go to replace the things.

    And HOLY COW, WHERE DID THE TIME GO?! I can’t believe it has been so long already since you two had moved into that cottage! It seemed like merely a few months ago…

    It was a lovely little place, but noise is a no-go for me as well. If I can’t have fresh air from open windows whenever there is the chance without road noise, then nope, nope, nope!

    I would think, though, that this would be a difficult transition to make as we all need a little bit of space and privacy. I’ve also always been fond of living within walking distance to places. However, I think focusing on the fact that you have such a beautiful – and quiet – area again will help take your mind off what you might have given up. There are pros and cons to everything in life, so I guess my advice is this: Once you’ve made your choice, discard the cons from your mind and remember all the reasons (pros) that you made the choice you did. Focusing on the good may sound cheesy, but it can really make a huge difference in our mind set in the long run.

    Hope you guys – and the kitties – are settling back in well! 🙂

  • carissajade March 31, 2015, 7:44 am

    I absolutely love the tiny house. I think that just putting it out there that you’re not entirely sure and being open to making changes is a good sign that things will all work out.

  • Ani March 31, 2015, 8:38 am

    Hey, I love following your blog and FB page! My opinion is that housing should follow the needs of the housed, not the other way around. It is sort of like good manners in that respect. Houses, (and manners), were invented to serve real needs, and we should never be a slave to them. Therefore, I think if you owned two or more tiny houses in various locations, you could spend one season in one, and another season in the other. I know that may seem a shocking idea, but I think there are many valid reasons for being in different places at different times. The tiny concept is ideal for those who would need to do that. I see tiny-ing as a changing thing, where you add and subtract according to need. Too, having storage tinies is another idea. Perhaps a low cost out-building-tiny-house could serve as a place to put stuff that you use, but occasionally. The whole idea is to make things work FOR YOU rather than you working for it. Just a thought!

  • Cody Doll March 31, 2015, 8:42 am

    I’d say store it. Your not going to like if you decide to move back into town and have rebuy everything, that is unless money is of no issue. I want a tiny house. My only problem with this is I am clumsy, being that close to everything I am bound to get hurt or destroy stuff. I think for me I’d go medium size and Im also a country girl. Living in town is nice for comfort of having everything but I like being able to be private. Having space and being outside is so nice.

    If anything you could always do a season every year in a home, for winter. Since you already like it and then go back to your tiny home during warmer months. Nothing is wrong with that.

  • Laurie March 31, 2015, 9:08 am

    Hi Tammy, I hope you and Logan and your kitties have a wonderful spring, summer and fall in the tiny house 🙂

    I’ve always coped with change and transition by holding certain things constant and sacred: my love of reading, going for walks in nature, and spending time in prayer and meditation. Every time I’ve moved somewhere new, or even when I go on vacation, I always make a point to find the library or bookstore, good places to go for long walks, and quiet places for solitary reflection. No matter how much change I’m dealing with, if I can spend my evenings going for walks and reading in bed, I’m able to stay grounded and keep my mind relatively clear and steady for coping with whatever I need to work on in a new place in life. I’m an introvert, so allowing time every day for solitude and decompressing is essential.

    • Betsy March 31, 2015, 3:34 pm

      Laurie, Very well said! I don’t cope well with change at all, especially moves. I love your ideas. I have moved so much the last few years I can’t get (or feel) grounded or settled and now I understand why…because I’m NOT!! So I need to find things like you do that make me feel more at Home and grounded. Thanks for the tips

  • Ember March 31, 2015, 9:17 am

    Any kind of minimalism or living simply creates questions about how to manage temporary solutions. In general I am in favour of moving stuff on – seeing life in terms of flow rather than stasis, and trusting that the means for the next step will always show up. But one of my blog readers came along with the idea of a ‘quarantine box’ for things I was unsure about moving on. It seems to me that Logan is proposing a large quarantine box for your town house kit. That’s a sensible idea since you have so little stuff in any case. On the other hand, given you have so little stuff, how hard would it be to replace it? Would you even need to? Even if you moved back into the town house? Maybe next time you won’t feel the need for glasses or a coffee table. Floor life or a tree slice will do instead of the table, and just drink from the mugs you have. As always with this groovy way of life, the possibilities are endless. This passage always helps me. http://thoreau.eserver.org/walden1e.html
    Hope life back in the Tiny House is happy; may your summer be full of freedom and joy.

  • Tina Smith March 31, 2015, 9:17 am

    Exciting, Tammy! I agree: the tiny house has a better atmosphere during the spring-fall and I agree about the noise. It’s just nice to open the windows and hear birds singing instead of diesel trucks 😉 If you have the option, take it.

  • Anne-Marie March 31, 2015, 9:21 am

    You and Logan seem to have a well working communication “method.” I am sure most people are not at all as good at doing what you are doing.
    I can truly understand the noise issue. Having lived in Lake Shastina (where it is VERY quiet) it is really different living in Weed with much more noise from I-5.
    I think that you could find a storage unit for not that much money in this area. And in Yreka I think there are quite a few options. But, that’s just my take on that part of your decisions.
    How is the water situation in the area where you have the tiny house? I would definitely have that as part of the decision making process as well. I know that Montague basically ran out of water last summer/early fall. And due to the continued drought (which definitely did not get any better this winter) I think that water will be more and more limited.

    • Tammy Strobel March 31, 2015, 9:54 am

      Hi Anne-Marie,

      The tiny house isn’t in the City of Montague. Our water situation at the house is okay (at least for now). The drought is a huge concern, though. I hope Montague will have enough water this summer.

      Best,
      Tammy

  • Betsy March 31, 2015, 9:55 am

    First a few comments about storage since I have done if for several months these past few years: Keep in mind the temperatures. Unless you get a climate controlled unit, heat/cold damage can be your worse enemy, especially for a bed (one of my lessons well learned!!). I know the heat in California gets worse than in Upstate NY in summer so keep that in mind. Around my area, I could get a climate controlled 8 x 10 unit for around $100/month. That said, no matter whether you decide on climate control or not, the costs of storage could easily run more than re-buying the new, updated, like items you are trying to store. Also make sure your unit is tight enough to keep rodents, moths and bugs out lest you will have another problem. Most of the items I spend all that money storing became things I have found not all that important to me later. This is partly because either I lost interest (like a project I thought I wanted to do) or the out-of-sight, out-of-mind thingy, or I found the older version, of whatever it was, to be outdated. Worse yet, I STILL have some of those items in boxes in my closet 6 months after moving into a more permanent place – which only tells me that they were not all that ‘needed’! I am surprised I didn’t learn this one from my 20+ years of downsizing! Bottom line: I wasted a LOT of money paying for storage!

    None of your ‘complaints’ sound trite to me! I continue to love your complete honesty about all the issues you talk about since the beginning of your downsizing before the tiny house!! As for the noise, that is NEVER a trite complaint!!! I can REALLY relate to that part since half of my moves the past few months were because of noise issues. When my Dad got sick and I moved into my sister’s home on her country farm 3 years ago, I got used to the country QUIET! After he died and I moved back to the city (so I could be close to work and not commute over 2 hours a day), I felt BOMBARDED by noise!! My nerves got so bad I had to take mild sedatives to get through my last year before retirement. I had airport noise, sirens all day & night, screaming kids, domestic arguments, other people and their inconsiderate noise, traffic (trucks, jets, car, freeway, LOUD motorcycle racing, emergency vehicles). I’d rather hear a pack of coyotes or wolves all night long!! And those spring peepers are like heaven!! Noise IS an issue to consider for the kind of Peace I think you are used to, want and NEED. It will work on your nerves, destroy your inner peace and even make you physically sick! Even the Dali Lama would be screaming for the country again if they put him in the city for a week…GUARANTEED!!!!

  • Jenn March 31, 2015, 10:12 am

    Store stuff: if it also gives you the option to store other “nice to have” items- like a few items of seasonal clothes that would otherwise be too bulky. Or if it took quite a bit of time/money/driving to find the right items.

    Get rid of stuff if it would cost more to store (and move!) it and stuff is easy to find. Around here storage starts at about $50 a month, so for more than a few months it becomes much cheaper to get rid of stuff and buy new.

  • Cammy K. March 31, 2015, 10:17 am

    How do I cope with change and transition? Very, very poorly.

    Now, on to the unasked question: We ended up storing stuff for years and paying far more in storage than the items were ever worth–even brand new. We thought our stuff would be stored for only a couple months, but plans changed and we kept moving to fully-furnished houses and duplexes with no room and no need for our furniture and kitchen things and other stuff. I’m definitely on the “let the stuff go” bandwagon due to my poor experiences with storage.

  • Janet March 31, 2015, 10:21 am

    I love the idea of moving back to the Little House for the spring to fall seasons! That’s what I would be doing too. I, like you, need to live in a peaceful place … Five years ago, I sold my condo because it just wasn’t a good ‘fit’ for me, put everything into storage except winter/summer clothes/shoes, my bed pillow, a set of sheets, hiking boots, kitchen knives (because many homes have dull knives lol!) my sewing machine & supplies, art supplies and camera … and I did house/pet sitting full time for two years, moving around and exploring new towns and cities. I even went to the East Coast for one summer. I could still be doing house sitting but I decided that I wanted some ‘roots and community.’ I have found that in a way that I never imagined was possible!
    When I was house sitting, I thought a lot about what I wanted for my living space so I wrote a ‘vision statement’ and put it away in a drawer. In the fall of 2012, The timing was right: I went out one weekend and looked at five places and the last one, which was almost by accident, was ‘The One.’ As soon as I stepped inside the door, I knew I was ‘home.’ It had EVERYTHING on my vision statement except a second bedroom which I would use for guests/yoga/craft/sewing space. Right at the top of the list were ‘a quiet space, lots of natural lighting and preferably a view.’ I have a found a way to live in a smaller space and still have space for my crafts, etc.
    My place is small and when I got my things out of storage, I let go of even more things. (I have been downsizing for years!) Living without 99% of my ‘things’ for two years, allowed me to really take a look at what I actually needed to keep. For example: I donated most of my dishes including my ‘everyday’ dishes and put my mother’s beautiful china in my kitchen cupboards. I use them everyday instead of 3 times a year lol!
    So …. I guess the questions I would ask: what is the monetary value of the things that you want to put in storage? How much will storage cost in your area? What makes more sense, economically: storage or sell/donate then replace in the future? How easy will it be to replace the things that you want to put in storage?
    Whatever you decide, I look forward to more photos and blogs from your beautiful spot out in the big wide space!

  • Anna March 31, 2015, 11:31 am

    I think you’ll be ok with the storage option since you and your husband are reasonable people and you won’t end up keeping the stuff in the storage for many years as it happens to most people. I’m sure you’ll use it wisealy and exactly the way it is intended to use.

  • Susanne March 31, 2015, 1:27 pm

    I love your blog. Thank you for sharing your life with us. My husband and I have built and sold two houses. After the first build sold we stored much of our belongings in a storage unit while we built house #2, which we lived in for 18 years, raised our babies in. After we finally got settled into house #2, and collected our belongings out of storage we added up the storage fees for the year and decided for the cost, we could have gone out and bought everything new instead of storing it. We are currently selling home #2 and we’ve given away or sold nearly everything as we will be living in a travel trailer while we build #3. A storage unit is costly and we don’t believe in it after our first experience. Someone once said that we should all use Goodwill as a closet. When we need something reach into the Goodwill closet and use it. When we’re done, return it to the “closet.” Just our own experience. Whatever decision you chose will be the right one for you. –Susanne

  • Flo March 31, 2015, 11:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing Tammy. 🙂

    My own life is all change and transition. Having moved over 25 times in the past 12 years, the only stable things in my life are immaterial. It’s partly out of necessity and partly choice.
    Whenever I do have a choice I careful examine all my options, try to think outside the box, talk with it to other people (even if the decision will only affect me), but in the end I choose what *feels* right.

    I started downsizing 3 years ago, have only lived in furnished places since, but I chose to keep some of my big items like my mattress, some kitchen appliances, thing that I will most likely need in the future and are quite expensive to buy. Luckily, instead of storage, I found people I could lend those items to. I like the thought that my stuff is not sitting idle in someone’s attic, but that it’s useful.
    Maybe that’s something you could look into for your items? Sometimes when neither options seem suitable, the best decision is to come up with a third option.

  • Maria April 1, 2015, 3:21 am

    I think it is so important to be in the process and try not to have any set “rules”.. living tiny is a choise and I would love to try it, but I also know that having my family and friends over and being able to cook and eat together is important to me. I find that our current 500-600 sqft fits perfectly for my needs right now. I think it might be a good option for you guys to have an apartment where yo have that extra space, unless you were able to live where it’s warmer so you can have garden parties.. then you probably wouldn’t need a bigger space.
    I would store the stuff till winter.. don’t your inlaws have a corner in their barn somewhere. If you decide to stay in the tiny house then get rid of it. Good luck tammy:)

  • Mrs. Frugalwoods April 1, 2015, 4:14 am

    I’m with you on the value of communicating openly through challenges/transitions. That has been the key for my husband and me. We’ve found that–silly as it sounds–as long as we remind ourselves that we’re on the same team and we want the same things, we’re able to navigate just about any life change. For us, it’s been all about having productive, respectful conversations following a disagreement or difference of opinion. If we’re able to turn the argument into a new learning experience, then all the better.

    As far as storing your stuff, I guess I’d ask how much it cost you initially vs. how much it’ll cost to store. If it was all relatively inexpensive, it might end up costing more to store it. But, conversely, if it’ll be cheaper to store it, then I’d keep it. Best of luck to you in this exciting new phase!

  • Denise April 1, 2015, 6:17 am

    I’m not a fan of storage either but I do see Logan’s point. Maybe you could use the coffee table and chairs for an outside sitting area and just stash the bed with family or friends.

  • Maggie April 1, 2015, 10:09 am

    Ugh, I don’t deal well with transitions, although I know they are part of life. So usually I cry and moan and complain, throw a tantrum and stomp around a lot. When it’s out of my system, I calm myself, pull up my big-girl panties, and get on with accepting what curve ball life has hit me with.

    I recently moved into a bigger house, but I’m still trying to get rid of stuff. I love having all that empty space. It’s so peaceful and calming to be able to see vast stretches of the living room walls!

  • Shannon Ike April 1, 2015, 7:54 pm

    Thanks for this post. I am excited for you and Logan to return to your Tiny House. It was the story that encouraged me to live more simple.

    I handle transition and change by acclimating as quickly as possible and starting up new routines. As long as the change feels right in my gut, then any amount of fear that bubbles up ends up passing.
    Warmly, Shannon

  • Meg @ Adventures in Verdance April 2, 2015, 8:34 am

    If I am having trouble coping with change, I take it day by day. “If I can make it through Tuesday, then the rest is cake.” I hope you guys find what you need. 🙂

  • Anna Mitchell April 2, 2015, 10:02 am

    Hi Tammy,

    I’ve been following your blog for a while and when I read that you were moving into a small house due to challenges with the tiny one and now your decision to move back in to the tiny dwelling, I was very interested. I have read from other tiny housers that frozen pipes during winter is a common issue. Do you know of ways to prevent it now that you’ve experienced this? Was this something the architects could have helped design around to prevent it? Since my husband and I are planning to our own tiny house, I’d be interested in learning what you think. Looking forward to more posts and thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Tammy Strobel April 2, 2015, 10:45 am

      Hey Anna, it depends on how you design your tiny house. Our house is similar to an RV and we use a basic hose system to bring water into the house. It’s hard to avoid frozen lines using this system. You can read about our plumbing set-up here. Also, I’d suggest checking out Ethan’s book. It’s really useful.

      Also, I’d suggest reading our post about why we moved to town for the winter. Dealing with frozen pipes was a challenge, but it wasn’t the only reason we moved into town.

      Best,
      Tammy

    • Logan April 3, 2015, 11:17 am

      Hi Anna,

      It depends on how cold your winter is…

      There are methods for preventing pipe freeze such as thermal/heat tape that has electricity warming the water and sewer/greywater lines. However, if you get cold enough such as in Alaska, Canada, and the North East it can be a difficult problem to overcome. Tammy’s recommendation of Ethan’s book is a good one. He lives in Vermont and writes about his “decisions” when it came to planning for plumbing.

      Cheers,
      Logan.

  • Gene April 2, 2015, 11:51 am

    Would the cost of a storage unit exceed the cost of the items you are storing?

    • Tammy Strobel April 2, 2015, 1:34 pm

      I’m not sure, yet. We need to price check units and make our final decision.

  • Brian April 5, 2015, 2:36 pm

    I can understand the want to store stuff for next winter, but unless you are going to store a lot of stuff, it’s probably not very cost affective. Besides, moving into a tiny house at least partly was intended to get rid of stuff, wan’t it? It seems odd to get a unit now.

  • Becky April 11, 2015, 8:29 am

    I was running in Ashland yesterday and cruised by a tiny house that looks just like yours! Was it yours? It was parked in someone’s driveway. I wanted to go over and look at it more closely, but I had miles to complete and didn’t want to freak out the owners 🙂 they may be used to it though – such an adorable house!

    • Tammy Strobel April 11, 2015, 8:48 am

      Becky,

      That is awesome! And, no it isn’t our tiny house. I’m in Ashland frequently, though. We live outside Yreka, CA.

      xo,
      Tammy

  • Anne April 12, 2015, 4:31 am

    have you considered renting furnished properties? Iyou might find people on airbnb happy to let for 3 months, most of those places are furnished.

    (Resending as I forgot to click be warned of notifications)

    • Tammy Strobel April 12, 2015, 8:58 am

      I have considered that option, Anne. There isn’t a lot available in our area, though.

      I’m going to post an update about the storage situation soon. It all worked out for the best. 🙂

  • Whitney April 14, 2015, 1:01 pm

    Love this! We are new to our tiny home. There are four of us in 470 sq ft. We love it so far!!! The hardest thing is having a small kitchen when cooking for four people, but I’m getting used to it! Hoping to build a tiny home in the country in the next few years!!

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