Monthly Archives: August 2014

How much stuff do we actually need?

When we watched “Tiny: A Story About Living Small” it was clear to us that this was definitely something we wanted to seriously pursue. In that film, there are a series of clips with a woman named Dee Williams. I remember Barry saying “she’s a Williams, she gets it” and noting on how genuine and real she seems on the film. I was digging for more interviews, videos, pictures, anything, as she seemed to embody the same mentality that Barry and I have toward moving to this way of living our lives. Then I found her TEDxConcordiaUPortland talk.

I’m just going to leave this here for you. Dee Williams gets it. And I want to go to a book reading, or run into her somewhere, and buy her coffee and give her a hug. She totally gets it.

Dee, if you’re out there reading this somehow, we want to fill your cooler with creamer and beer and hang out with you long enough to need to use both.

So, tell us. What item would you want to hold in your arms as you die? What favorite room in your house could accommodate that last breath?

Storage: Where Are You Going to Put XYZ?

Storage: Where Are You Going to Put XYZ?

Since we went live with the website yesterday, we’ve gotten a lot of “where are you going to put _____” with regards to storage inside the house, not the house itself (that’s another post for a different day). Most of these questions are in jest, some of them serious. I love these questions, because some of them we have the answer to, and the other ones make us think about the layout of the house.

Where are we going to put the beer? A popular question since we’re both big fans of all things craft beer, especially Barry. At our house now, we currently have a 3/4 size fridge and were previously contemplating getting a dedicated beer fridge. I’m glad we didn’t go that route now that I think about it, because that would be one more thing we need to find room for or give away. I think if we can get a full size fridge in the tiny house and not have it be weird or out of place or whatever, we should be totally fine on beer storage. If not, we can fit plenty of big bottles/growlers of awesome beer in a 3/4 size fridge. Either way, we’ve got this covered.

Where are we going to put our skydiving gear? Fortunately, we have a locker at Skydive Elsinore that is pretty much the perfect size for all of our stuff, and something we could easily integrate into the storage (I’m thinking under the stairs to the loft). The locker at the dropzone is something I’ll need to measure, but it has four rig racks and room to hang our jumpsuits, helmets, and a bunch of other junk we don’t need in it. We could do one with two rig racks and be totally good to go. YOU GUYS, OUR TINY HOUSE WILL HAVE A RIG RACK CLOSET! This is so exciting!

Open Shelving vs. Kitchen Cabinets: I’m a sucker for the look of the open shelving. It makes everything seem so much less narrow, and if you have cool stuff to put on it, even better. One reason I want open shelving in the kitchen is so we can display our growing collection of tiki mugs. At our house now, they’re just chillin in the cabinet. Each one is a memory, and each one is really, really awesome in its own way. Definitely need at least one open shelf thing for the tiki heads. Priorities, people. Functional decoration. I think that’s a thing.

My new obsession with Pinterest. I never thought I’d say this, but holy smokes, Pinterest is AWESOME. I kinda tinkered with the site back when it first launched, but I hadn’t really had a practical use for it since then. I have started a board about Tiny Houses and Permaculture to keep all of the ideas/articles/bookmarks in one place. Everything from mason jar for spice/dry good storage (it’s like freaking ART what you can do with those things, all the colors), to how Barry wants the stairs to have some kind of lighting (good idea), to color schemes. I haven’t crossed over into borderline-dangerous obsession mode on Pinterest, but I have started to utilize it as a tremendous tool to keep track of the things we’re interested in incorporating. Never EVER thought I’d say that. Awesome.

Do any of you guys have tips for small-space living? Websites or magazines or blogs or shows that inspire you? Let us know in the comments!

A (New) Reason To Wake Up In The Morning

A (New) Reason To Wake Up In The Morning

I used to write. A lot. And it’s been a long time since I’ve been so excited about something. My other blog was down for more than a year and I really didn’t care. Life was go-go-go and I barely made time to write my columns for Blue Skies Magazine.

Since we started our Research Bender, I have been more compelled to write. Even if it’s only to document this process for ourselves, it’s really nice to get back in the swing of things. This year has been a rough one, probably the hardest of the years I’ve been on the planet. It feels like we’re losing friends left and right, massive (for us) financial setbacks, and everything pretty much created the perfect storm. There’s a lot that has happened this year, both really really awesome (Barry getting promoted) and really really sucky. A roller coaster, for sure.

Our good friend Adam died on August 1st. Without getting too far into it, his death rocked me to my core. At 23 years old, he had his shit together. He was dreaming big dreams, living those dreams daily, and gave everything to everyone, without expecting anything in return. When I heard of his passing, it caused me to take a good hard look at how I’m living life.

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Adam, Barry and I on his first official day in California.

By any definition, life for us is pretty freakin’ sweet. We’ve already managed to break free of the things that would inhibit us from living the life we want to live: largely with our careers. We’re making enough money to keep a roof over our heads, food on the table (and in the dog bowls) and have some leftover for fun stuff. We get paid to do something we’re wildly passionate about, which is a blessing in itself. But with Adam’s death, I know that my list of things I want to experience isn’t getting any shorter, and we aren’t gaining time on this planet in this life.

Realizing that there is a lot we want to see/do, coupled with some Who Is Sydney soul-searching on my behalf, led to this journey with our tiny house project. I’m still processing the fact that Adam won’t come strolling on to the dropzone this weekend, or that he won’t respond to messages if I sent them, and I find myself taking pictures of healthy stuff and thinking “Adam would be stoked on this.”

I had to make some tough decisions this year. One of my teammates was injured early in our training season, an injury that, when the news was delivered, was supposed to keep her on the ground through (if not beyond) the USPA National Skydiving Championships in September. A big part of me was bummed out, because we were on a hot streak with our development. But I couldn’t ignore the tiny voice in my head that was relieved. Committing to the team and the schedule we set was a huge financial commitment, and while we were making it work, I was actually okay with the idea of being able to save the money.

In the months that we weren’t training, we didn’t try to find a replacement. We assumed everything would be good to go and then we’d go about our business and go compete at Nationals. And that plan would have been fine. I could have just held on to the money I would have spent and saved it and a trip to Nationals would be no big deal. But then we had a million and a half unexpected expenses all at once: account theft, car repairs, mishaps with technology that needed replacing, etc.

All of this, and then Adam dies. I’m a huge believer in silver linings, and I’m usually annoyingly optimistic, but 2014 has felt like one blow after another, a fight I just can’t win. We found out on the Monday following Adam’s death that his memorial services would be in Chicago that Friday. This was an absolute no-brainer, not even a discussion point, we were going. As anyone who travels at all can imagine, buying flights for Friday on a Monday wasn’t exactly a walk in the park.

But as soon as we bought those tickets, a little bit of the fog was lifted. As soon as we got to Chicago, saw our friends, and started the healing process together, things started coming into view. Suddenly I could appreciate the memories we were making, and I wasn’t preoccupied about everything else that was going on. There were a lot of tears shed, a lot of “what is your favorite thing about Adam” recalled, and all in all, it was a life-changing trip for us.

We got home and the team needed an answer about whether or not I could make it to Nationals. Before Adam died, I had said that once I saw the numbers (registration for the event, my share of our coach’s/videographer’s expenses, our coaching fees, travel, etc), I could make a better decision. Once I saw the numbers, my heart sank. I knew I couldn’t make it to Nationals. Did I have that specific amount of money in my account? Yes. But if I went, then I would have completely drained my account in order to do so. I couldn’t justify that expense or that decision. I tapped some of my trusty mentors to tell them where I was at, and get their opinion on the subject.

One of them said (loosely): “Think of it this way. If you spend all that money (that you don’t really have to spend), and you haven’t been training for months, are you really going to be happy there, or will it you hold resentment because you’re spending money you know deep down you shouldn’t have spent? If you choose not to go, this isn’t the end of your competitive skydiving career. You’ve been to Nationals once. And, that’s a lot of money to go ‘for the experience’ when you’ve already been there, seen it, competed. Also, if you don’t go, and you hold on to that money, you could be opening yourself up to other opportunities that could better serve your interests, that you might not otherwise be able to pursue if you went to Nationals.”

That conversation, and a few others, helped me see what I needed to do for ME, not what was expected of me, or what I thought was expected of me. And that is something I’ve been challenged by for most of my life – I’m a people-pleaser at heart. I took some time to process what was at stake, both positively and negatively, and let the team know I couldn’t go to Nationals.

Well as it turns out, that mentor friend of mine was totally right. I don’t remember what was the tipping point exactly. Suddenly, the tiny house thing was all I could think about. I had freed myself of the weight of the pending Nationals decision, and with it, came more clarity. Our friends Raelynn and Travis are building a tiny home as well, and seeing their excitement really lit a fire under my ass to get some ideas down on paper and figure out how to get our “someday” plan in motion. What started with a simple “you (Raelynn), Travis, me, and Barry. Costa Rica. Living completely sustainable.” before they moved to Oregon last year, had somehow manifested into this full on obsession we’re in now. Maybe not Costa Rica, but thoughts are things, and now all the pieces are starting to come together. More on that in the coming weeks, and months.

For the last week or so since I started building out this website, my mental commitment to making this dream a reality, I’ve actually been up super early with no problems. It’s really, really nice to have something to look forward to, a (new) reason to wake up in the morning. Other than waking up next to Barry with the Puggles strewn about the bed, of course.

Downsizing, Planning, and Saving, OH MY!

Downsizing, Planning, and Saving, OH MY!

There is actually a lot of correlation between our skydiving lives and our preparation for this tiny house.

In skydiving, downsizing is the act of progressing to a smaller canopy, thus giving you (potentially) better performance. The thought of downsizing in skydiving shouldn’t be taken lightly, as there are a lot of factors that come into play when you’re deciding to go smaller.

Though downsizing to a tiny house certainly doesn’t have the same potential consequences, it does require a lot of thought.

The act of downsizing your life to fit in a home somewhere between 100-300 square feet requires us to really reflect on what is important. We’ve always been able to relocate with what can fit in the trunk of my car, so we don’t have a lot of stuff to get rid of, but we have accumulated quite a bit since we moved to California.

The good news is, we aren’t attached to much beyond what will fit in our dream tiny house. The furniture here was all stuff we either picked up off Craigslist for really cheap or was given to us by friends. This is good in the sense that we don’t have to get rid of a lot of stuff. But if we, like so many other potential tiny housers, were relying on the money we could make from selling what we have to help fund the project, then we would be pretty hard up.

Beyond the whole “what will fit in our new tiny house” thing, now we can get creative about how to best utilize the space, and determine what features we would like to incorporate into our plans.
So far, we have a handful of “must haves” and some general ideas of the look/feel we are going for.

Barry says: I want a funk/metal fusion, with a mix of Tom Jones and Tom Waits.

Sydney says: I like dark wood, stainless steel, clean lines, and blues or greens to tie it all together.

Some must-haves for the build: Shed roof, solar, ample kitchen space with open shelving vs. cabinets, double loft (stairs to the bedroom, ladder to secondary), composting toilet and plenty of windows.

Going through this process has reinvigorated my love for writing, so a place to chill out comfortably and write is also on the docket.

For now, we are saving where we can, waiting for a couple outstanding financial things to come through, and then we can get serious about the rest of the process. We have been doodling designs and floorplans, scouring YouTube for tours and design ideas, and looking at some of the pre-fabricated models for inspiration. Neither one of us has any construction experience, but I have a feeling everything will come together to make our Dream Tiny House a reality.

Fellow Tiny House enthusiasts or residents, where did you draw inspiration? Since we are in the very early stages of planning, what do you wish you had incorporated? What did you add that you find you would change?

Why a Tiny House?

Why a Tiny House?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to have a place to call home. As I watched my parents decorate their first house, I had dreams of what I would do with a house of my own someday. However, I’ve never felt so passionate about one particular geographical location to make the commitment to get a mortgage, build a house, and stay there for an extended period of time.

When I met Barry, I remember him telling me that when he “retired” from skydiving, all he wanted was to have a herd of sheep. The man wants to be a shepherd. I didn’t understand this at first. It sounded so simple. Of course, when we first talked about this, I was still rocking my way up the Corporate Ladder to live the American Dream, and I couldn’t possibly fathom just hanging out in a field all day.

I remember him showing me pictures of a Tumbleweed Tiny House years ago. I thought they were absolutely perfect. The concept of living small had finally started to appeal to me. I didn’t realize that I had been living fairly small for quite awhile. When I moved from Tampa to Chicago, I left behind all of my furniture and just packed my clothes and necessities into my car. I found a studio apartment in the city and got a few items from IKEA to fill the place out. When I jumped on a new opportunity in Austin, I did the same thing. It would cost more to rent a truck and my bed and bookcase and belongings down than it would to sell everything and buy a new bedroom from IKEA. So, I sold everything, packed up my car, and bought furniture when I got to Austin.

When I left Austin, same thing: sell all of the furniture, pack up the car, and head back up to Illinois. At that point, Barry, Jezebel, and I moved into a trailer parked at the dropzone. We didn’t have much, and we didn’t need much, either. When we moved to California, we sold the trailer and everything in it to a fellow skydiver, and you guessed it, packed up the car and drove to California with our clothes, skydiving equipment, and a few necessities.

Since we moved to California, we’re still living “tiny” by many standards. Our house now is 800 square feet and is way too much space for us. For a long time, we had a couple lawn chairs in the living room, until we acquired a free couch and chair/ottoman combo. It feels like a home, but it really is more space than we need.

Living "small" by a lot of standards, but it's still too big.

Living “small” by a lot of standards, but it’s still too big.

We watched a documentary on Netflix about tiny houses and it sparked our full-on Research Bender. Our friends Raelynn and Travis are also building a tiny house, and seeing them post about it and plan their build has only fueled our fire. We’re still in the early stages of our project, but we’ve got a few things we know we want/need out of a tiny house.

Welcome!

Welcome!

Welcome to Big Sky, Tiny House. We are two crazy kids just looking for a bit of adventure, and building a Tiny House is one way for us to be able to experience all that life has to offer without being tied down to one location. This blog will serve as our personal documentation of our journey in planning, building, and living in our Tiny House. We invite you to follow along!