Changing My Mind

I am very good at completely changing my opinion on something – sometimes in the space a few seconds, sometimes in a few years.

Example #1: In college I remember thinking, “I could never date a vegetarian.  I wouldn’t know what to cook for him.”  A dozen years later I’m not dating a vegetarian – I am one myself.  And can come up with plenty of great things to cook on any given day.  But I reserve the right to change my mind again: A year from now, don’t be surprised if I’m a meat eater.  Or a vegan.

Example #2: I thought for a while I wanted to live in a Tumbleweed Tiny House.  One hundred twenty-eight square feet.  On wheels.  I even went to see one.  With my parents in tow.  And shortly after that decided I couldn’t live in one.

Or did I?  One year after seeing my first Tumbleweed, I took a class called Building A Garden Shed.  Because there’s a book that says you can build a Tumbleweed with just fourteen tools.  So I thought I’d get an idea of framing and such.  In class, I learned I have no interest in physically building it myself. God has given me many gifts.   Working with wood is not one of them.

But I still find myself tempted to own a Tumbleweed.  Especially when I read Tammy Strobel’s blog. She started by moving to smaller and smaller spaces, eventually transitioning to her one hundred twenty-eight square foot house on wheels.  Think it’s too small for one person?  Well, she lives there with her husband.


Yesterday I walked into a friend’s studio apartment.  The bathroom is normal size.  The main room is about double the size of the bathroom.  I loved it.  The closet thing threw me though – one was filled with the washer/dryer, the other with the hot water heater and such.  Zero room to hang anything. I laughed when I realized a Tumbleweed actually has more storage space than this apartment.

Will I move to a Tumbleweed one day?  Who knows.

There are a lot of people going smaller.  Some of them then change their mind.  And thanks to them, I can spend hours perusing Tiny House Listings.

All levels welcome

The class is called “Building a Garden Shed.”  I don’t have a garden.  Nor any property on which to put a garden.  In fact, I’ll be living “on the road” for the next year, so it’s inconceivable that I will need to know how to build a garden shed anytime in the near future.  Despite all of this, it is one class I’ll definitely be taking during my four months at the John C. Campbell Folk School.

Why?  Well, because I still have it in the back of my mind that I may one day want to live in a Tumbleweed Tiny House.  And I may just want to build it myself (well, with help of course).  There is just one small hurdle here: I have zero home building skills.  You might think building a garden shed is quite different from building a tiny house.  In which case I ask if you’ve seen a Tumbleweed?

My class covers use of hand and power tools (the only power tool I’ve every used is an electric screw driver thing), framing, trusses (I think those are the things that hold the roof up?), shelf building (I imagine this could be useful even if I never build a house), and window and door installation (because just about any house I live in will have windows and doors….though now that I think about it, maybe not…)  And when it’s all done, we’ve built a garden shed for the Folk School to use for years to come:)

Building anything is so out of my element that I just love the idea.  I mean, how else would I learn all these things?  You might think JCCFS would want only experienced builders on such a project.  And you would be mistaken.  Because one of the things I love most about JCCFS is that so many of the class descriptions, including this one,  end with the words “All levels welcome.”

Thoughts on the Tumbleweed

“So what do you think?”  I asked my mother after we saw the Tumbleweed Tiny House in Ohio.  I was shocked when she actually gave me her opinion.  See, Mom never wants us to be able to say, “But you told me….” so she rarely gives her opinion on our life decisions big or small.  She just asks the questions to make sure we’ve thought of all the parameters.

“Well, I think you’d get sick of it after three months….like everything else.”  And that one thought seemed to sum up the whole experience perfectly.

Yes, it’s adorable.  And I could see traveling in it – but not living in it for an extended period of time.

So what next on the “where to live” front?  Well, for quite some time I’ve said I want to become a snowbird.  I want to live in the Asheville, NC area mostly and be able to be in NY near my family for a few months too.  So I’ll keep that thought in the back of my head percolating.  And who knows…one day I may just up and do it.

Visiting the Tumbleweed Tiny House

As we drove up to the Harley Davidson dealership in Austintown, Ohio, the Tiny House was no where to be seen.  I grew a little nervous.  “Uh oh,” I said.  “Wait a minute,” responded Dad.  “Let’s drive around the whole building first.”  And that’s when we found it.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  I would have felt terrible if we had driven seven hours only to have the thing not be there.

Here are some pictures of it – inside and out.  I’m in most of them to give a sense of scale!

In the Sleeping Loft

Outside the Fencl

The Kitchen (the bathroom is through a doorway opposite the sink)

Sitting in the bump-out

Mom and Dad in the Living Room

Dad peeking in the front door

Dream Big

“What’s your dream?” she asked me.  I explained that I want to have an organizing business.  That it will be in NY in the warmer months and NC in the cooler months.  “Dream bigger,” she said.  I thought that was big enough, but I added that I’d like the business to give me the time and money to travel.  But that was a cop out – I already live a life that gives me the money and time to travel.  “Bigger,” she said.  I was stumped.  “Think about it and get back to me,” she offered.

I didn’t specifically sit and ponder the idea.  I knew that it would come to me eventually though.  And it did.  I was taking a class and the question we had for homework was, “If money were no object, what would you do to with your talents for the kingdom of God?”  Don’t let the God thing stop you if you’re not into that.  The crux of the question is how are you going to use your talents in this world?  Our instructor specified that the question didn’t say that we had all the money in the world, it just said that if money were no object.  In other words, if you didn’t have to work to pay your bills.

I love these questions.  I didn’t have to think about my answer.  My heart told me and I put it down on paper.  I wrote this:

I would travel around the country visiting friends.  Seeing where they live – through their eyes.  Spending a couple weeks, maybe longer.  Help them declutter and give their stuff away.

When I shared my answer with the class, the instructor said simply, “You could do that.”  Yup.  She was right.  I could.

Then it all kind of came together.  My college teaching was over for the semester and I had opted not to teach over the summer.  My high school tutoring was coming to a close in a few weeks.  And the only work I had that would continue into the summer was a consulting gig that I could easily walk away from – not abandoning my client, but I had just figured out that all they hired me to accomplish was nearly complete.   In fact, I had just had a meeting with them and they said, “What else would you like to do for us?”  How great is my life that I have work where they don’t tell me what to do, but ask me what I’d like to do?  Well, I fed them an answer, but was really thinking, “I don’t want to do anything else with you.  I accomplished what I came here to do and it’s time to move on.”  Such is the curse of consulting – though you sell yourself as a temporary solution, they always want you to stay forever.

I haven’t left them yet, but I liked that the option was there.  And then it continued to come together.  The tiny house.  On wheels.  With a garden in the bed of the truck from which I’d pull it.  I’d drive the thing around the country helping people to declutter and simplify.  The friends in Pennsylvania who said I could park it in their backyard and help declutter an office.  The friends in Rhode Island who want to hire me to help in their houses, and a local librarian in their area that wants me to give my decluttering talks while I’m out there.  My mentor who said, “Oh yes – that would definitely work,” and then proceeded to give me even more ideas, encouragement, and support.

So what’s your dream?  Go ahead.  Think about it.  Then dream bigger.

“You don’t own a house, a house owns you.”

Yesterday, on my morning walk, a woman stood waving to her daughter as her daughter’s school bus pulled away.  She said hello to me as I approached her driveway and I stopped to tell her how adorable I thought her house was every time I passed it.  “Ugh,” she sighed.  “Every time I look at it, I think of all the work we need to do.”  “Well, you can’t tell that from here,” I said.  And as I walked on I thanked God that I decided not to buy a house a few years ago.  I want a house to bring me comfort and peace – this woman’s house didn’t seem to provide that for her.

I’m not saying all homeowners feel this way, but in my informal poll I find it’s a dominant thought.  There always seems to be something that needs fixing or updating.  My friend Lois says, “You don’t own a house.  A house owns you.” I wonder if I’d have the same feeling if my house was only 130 square feet? I’m going to start figuring out the answer to that question:  On June 17, me and mom are taking a trip out to Ohio to go see a Tumbleweed Tiny House!

“Can I invite your father or is this a girls trip?” my mother asked.  “We can invite dad.  But only if he promises to not shoot down my idea of living in one of these things,” I replied.  I wasn’t sure at that point if this was one of those ideas she was going to ease him into for me, or if I had to do it myself.  “He is good at asking questions,” my mom offered.  “Yeah, that’s true,” I said.  “I’ll just have to bring a bottle of wine.”  I handle dad’s driving much better with a glass of wine in my belly.

I was chatting with mom in the office of her house yesterday when we heard dad’s pounding footsteps upstairs.  We were looking at the web site for the Tiny Houses and as I heard dad come down to see what we were up to I said to Mom, “Did you tell him yet?”  “No,” my mother said.  I was in a fabulous mood, so figured I’d throw my idea out to my dad and could handle whatever reaction he had for me.  “What are you two doing?” he called to us as he walked down the stairs.  My family is one in which you don’t have to be in the same room as a person to have a conversation with them.  Or even on the same floor for that matter.  “Looking at Tiny Houses,” I said as he peeked into the office.  “Oh yeah?” he said as he turned around and went back up the stairs, off to accomplish his next task.  The man never sits still.  Or stands still for that matter.

“Mom and I are gonna go see one on June 17.  Wanna come?” I asked, following him.  He looked at me and wrinkled his face into a look of amusement and thought.  I could see his brain saying “This sounds just crazy enough to be fun.”  “Oh really?   You’re gonna go see one.  Hm.  What day is that?”  “A Thursday,” I said.  “We drive out on Thursday – but we have to get there  by 7 cause that’s when they close, and they don’t open again til 11 on Friday.  So we just see it on Thursday and then drive home on Friday.”  “So we have to leave early in the morning on Thursday,” he said.  My father loves leaving early in the morning.  He meets friends for coffee every weekday before most people’s alarm clocks have gone off.  “Not too early,” I said.  “It’s a seven hour drive.  We could leave at 9 and still have plenty of time.”  If he was disappointed we’d leave two hours later than he liked, he didn’t show it.  “A quick road trip to Ohio,” he pondered.  “Yeah, that sounds good.”

So on June 17, I’ll pretend I’m an only child and hop in the car with mom and dad for a quick little trip.  Will keep you posted:)

A Tiny House…and A Garden?

“I just can’t see you driving a truck,” said my mother the other day during our discussion about the possibility of me buying or building a Tumbleweed Tiny House.  What’s a Tumbleweed Tiny House?  Well, basically it’s a hundred (or so) square foot house you tow around and plop down wherever you want to live.  Then, when you want to move, you hitch it up to your truck and move.  As in, you move your entire house.  Which is not that difficult when it’s only a hundred square feet and on wheels.

I was thinking this might be the solution to my always-wanting-to-live-somewhere-new problem.  Instead of renting apartments all over the place, I just own a very tiny house that I can tow around.  I can be visiting friends in Lancaster, PA, visiting family in Charlotte, NC, or spending a couple months out west working at a National Park, and no matter where I am I can always sleep in my own bed every night!

What I love about my mother (among many things) is that she didn’t bat an eye at the tiny house idea.  She just got into the practicalities of it.  This is what she does: she never shoots down my ideas anymore, just asks questions to 1) satisfy her own curiosity and 2) make sure I’ve thought it all through.

Mom was right (which doesn’t surprise me so much anymore).  I’m not the truck-driving type.  But it looks like only a truck or an SUV can tow my 5700 pound house.

I wasn’t too thrilled about becoming the owner of a truck, but then I heard a story on NPR that got me thinking it might work out quite well.  They were interviewing a guy who lived in NYC.  He had a pick-up truck.  And you know what he put in the back of it?  A garden.  Yup.  Isn’t that fabulous?  So now, not only could I move all over the country but I could even have the garden I’ve always wanted!

Now I need to take a step back here…and figure out if I can really live in 130 square feet.  So my goal (hopefully before the end of the month) is to go see one of these tiny houses in Bike Town, OH.   Then I’ll have the answer to that question.  I’ll keep you posted.