Monthly Archives: October 2014

Future Thoughts on Dwelling.

The first house I ever built is a working experiment. The purpose was not only to create refuge and shelter. In addition to creating a suburban sanctuary, I desperately wanted to learn new skills to apply throughout my life. I’m glad I did.

I’m poised now. I’m ready.

At no point did I think that my little 8’x12′ structure would be my final home. It’s a lily pad. I’m paused upon it; waiting for my next leap. I have long been obsessed with alternative dwellings – and finding the right design for every imaginable circumstance. It is unfortunate that experimentation in this realm is so expensive, because otherwise I would have box trucks, vans, tiny houses, and shacks spread far and wide across the land. Each would be adorned with smart and simple interiors designed to sustain life indefinitely or as-needed. I would have a string of vacation homes tucked in every corner throughout the United States and beyond. I would allow good people to visit my lands whenever they’d like, and I’d hope that only good people found out.

With a wealth of free land and structures to visit, a semi-nomadic lifestyle would be easy. I can think of nothing healthier than getting the hell out of here, no matter where “here” is, as long as you’ve been there for awhile. When I leave my area for a time, I return rejuvenated with a fresh perspective on myself and the space I occupy. With more places to go, I would go more often. CouchSurfing.com is fantastic, but a key under the doormat would be an invincible invitation.

It’s probably the people who have nothing who assume they are the most generous. I recognize that it is easy for me to offer everything when I have almost nothing to offer.

A Tiny House can be an onerous drain on materials and resources. A simplification for some is still a challenging investment for others. Tiny Houses are cute as a button, and I want to see them continue to become a norm. But my heart has another idea. Box trucks are cheap once they need expensive repairs. A box truck can contain an enormous amount of space and provide the perfect platform for conversion to a full-time home. The roof and walls already exist! I can hardly think of a better canvas to begin to paint a cozy home. Do you have an active imagination? Then you can see this too.

Vans. I have lived in a van for months at a time; more than a year in total. Almost nobody understands the satisfaction gleaned from opening the side doors each morning to a burst of the outside. There is great satisfaction in weathering a storm as you drift off to sleep – with a roof that will never in 100 years leak. I have long dreamt of permanent parking. I have longed for a place to park my van home forever – on the outskirts of a cute little town, or on a forgotten lot inside the city. I have parked in one place for weeks, but always eventually you must move. Usually sooner than later, and in practice, every day is better.

I can imagine almost no greater joy than the freedom to permanently install a box truck or van on a reasonably-located lot of land. I would bury four posts three feet deep in cement. Cross beams would span the posts, and the vehicle would be supported a foot or so off the ground. With the sleepy old vehicle level and at rest, the next chapter would begin. The interior would be gutted. In the case of a van, even the driver and passenger seats could be removed. Wood flooring? A raised roof? The finished interior would be the choice of the beholder. In the case of a box truck, the cab would make a lovely front porch. I’ve imagined myself as the captain at the helm – perched in the glass bubble of the cab during a storm or blizzard. I sit there almost steamy warm from the drop of propane providing the heat. I listen to music. I listen to audiobooks. I put my feet up and read, or eat breakfast and brush the crumbs onto the floor. Years pass as I sip coffee and wonder that I’m alive.

None of this might happen. In America, we live in houses – not cars. If you think that tiny houses have hurdles of zoning and code, then consider the almost universal illegality of living in a car. In certain private settings, an installation such as described would be possible. The challenge is in the details. One certain fact is that securing a loan would prove nearly impossible.

I get lost in romantic fantasy. I must always remind myself what is real. I have another recipe. I know a way to live well, and if it is inside your reach, it is something to consider. More than a simple consideration, this is my plan. This is what Kristin and I intend to do. The year 2015 in my mind is synonymous with the following vision.

I need a place where I am free to create and improve. I want space that is mine with no undue restrictions. I have a covenant with Mother Earth, and our business together will be no nevermind of naysayers. To paint the picture more clearly, let me describe my dreams using real words.

Step one: Find a distressed property with a bit of land at a good price.
Step two: Build, move, or somehow install your personal tiny home somewhere on the property.
Step three: Rehab the main house, adding value.
Step four: Rent out the main house for an amount of money greater than the mortgage payments.

This four-step program is simplified, and it can be modified. The important point is that it is thoroughly possible – if you are motivated – to acquire some personal space at almost no long-term cost. The only major downside is that it can be quite a hurdle for some people to muster the funds and motivation to get past the initial barriers.

The plan is a good one. There is nothing overly romantic or impractical about this plan. Accessory dwelling units are common and legal. Done correctly with faith, most of us can achieve this freedom. Affordable mortgage payments can be completely covered by the rent checks, with room to spare for taxes, insurance, and the interminable unknown. In the long run, you live cheap or free while getting equity in a house that you can later keep, sell, or use as collateral for other loans to build your tiny sustainable empire.

I am taking steps toward making this a reality. Tiny steps. I am putting money in a jar. I am a romantic who could be classified as borderline insane, if not for the fact that some of my ideas eventually see light.

Talk to me.

Love,
Chris
747-444-1076 or chrisharne[at]gmail

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I’m Done! I’m Happy!

You know what? I think I’d like to gut my whole house and start over. I keep making these baby-steps improvements, and it seems like each one is a tiny compromise adding up to a compromised heap. The heater takes up too much prime real estate, and so does the fridge. But I have the copper lines run already, and the big holes cut in the wall. If the bathroom were a teeny bit smaller, we could fit a better couch. I haven’t been happy for a single moment with my choice to install drywall.

I woke up happy today. I woke up late as rain fell from a gray sky, and I remembered that my therapy appointment had been moved to ten o’clock. Maybe I’m happy because I’m leaving soon. Or maybe it’s because I decided to lighten up on myself and forgive the multitude of intertwined debacles which I’ve been collecting and arranging like dominoes. The bottom line is, everything is fine and I’m thankful that I finally noticed. My only challenge is to remember: everything is fine. Peachy, even.

I started writing here to show my process and progress with building my tiny house. Around the time I finished the exterior is when I stopped knowing what to do next. The process of framing is very straightforward. Once you finish one step, there is no question or confusion about what to build next. The interior is different. I am awash in choices and possibilities, none to few of which I can actually afford. So for now, I’m done.

We have lights, heat, refrigeration – we have a cozy bed, and we can charge laptops. We have a house. It’s not the perfect house, and the options for improvement are many. But we have a house, and I can honestly say it’s a pretty cool one. My goal was to learn, and I’ve done that. I’ve built walls, connected wires to batteries, and bent copper tubes for propane. I learned 99% of what I wanted to learn, and the rest doesn’t intimidate me in the least. I accomplished what I set out to do. It took a year and a half, and I have one more important piece of advice that I need to follow: ease up on myself. Sounds good.

The future of my house is as uncertain as its genesis. By force of will, I made this thing happen. My parents want this house eventually gone. They still think some code enforcer is going to bust up the party while squawking into a walkie talkie or something. That won’t happen. But I want the house out of here too. I want to install myself on greener pastures. I want my own space under my own control. I will get there in time. Impatience and frustration will not turn the wheels any faster.

I am excited to take some time off to get a fresh perspective. The year 2015 sounds like a great time to assess the situation and plan the next move.

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This Tiny House is Getting a Bookmark put in it.

I have a little bit to say about tiny houses again. I started getting frustrated out the wazoo on the regular with mine. There are reasons, but it’s an unfortunate fact that none of the reasons are “good.” Sometimes I just get that way. I look up, and all I see is weight.

I lose my sight all the time. My vision doesn’t suffer much, but my heart pumps out an extra beat.

If you have a contractor friend or $20,000 – I have great news. You can have your own tiny house. You can begin a small-world-after-all journey where you float in and out of the fairytale pages at will. Do NOT be afraid. You cannot lose.

If you’re going it alone with a few grand – if you’re waiting for windfalls – if your name isn’t Bob or Deek: you might not find this easy. This can be a hard fucking scrabble.

My story here continues; my story here ends.

I began building my house a year and a half ago. I was under-funded, but I hoped I could make it work. I started selling more stuff online, and as the money trickled in, materials were purchased. What I didn’t realize is that I’d never be done.

I’ll never be done!

I’m not particularly happy with my home’s layout. If I could go back a year and start from there, I would change a lot. A lotta lot. At no point have I had enough money. I look at people’s tongue-and-groove this-and-that and all I hear is the Beach Boys. “Oh, wouldn’t it be nice!”

I have this cute little house, and I’m living in it. It beats the pants off my apartment in Philly. Most of the time it’s where I’d like to be more than any other place. Quiet; heat cranked; just a touch of cowboy. But I have wires hanging all over the walls, not nearly enough storage, and washing dishes is a nightmare. (Yes, even doing a shitty job of it). Furthermore, I can’t afford to continue pumping all my money into this project. Every time I get a couple hundred bucks, it’s gone. I’m going to escape for the winter with Kristin, and money is too tight to be buying some kind of pine right now.

All of this started to get me more than frustrated. Now I have to focus back on telling myself that everything is fine, and nobody died from not having a halfway decent table saw. At some point – and I don’t care when or how – this house will be “finished.” For right now, I’m just trying to live my life and count my blessings. Reality is whatever you think it is, and I need to remind myself that life is easy. If I don’t do a goddamned thing for the rest of my life, I will live and die just the same. And I mean that as a good thing. That’s a bar I can step right over.

**** I’ll be traveling this winter. Me and Kristin will be driving around and sleeping in my tiny car. I’m usually a pretty damn good writer during my jackassed adventures, so if you want to see a story unfold, go to 721pm.blogspot.com. The trip is an unplanned hip-shot with a fair chance at a boatload of WTFs. Hopefully in a fun way, but almost definitely in some kind of way. Also, thanks for reading this. I love writing, and I feel absolutely great whenever somebody notices. I hope to have something cohesive and coherent going by… November 10th-ish? I have no idea how we’re going to sleep in my car for +/- 4 months, and it will be a screaming success if it isn’t a disaster.****

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