I have said the same thing many times over the years – that I love my house or apartment and I wish I could take it with me – somewhere else. As much as I love The Nest (my adorable rental home in Birmingham), it’s never been the best of neighborhoods. Now with some changes on the horizon, old neighbors moving out, new moving in – I’m feeling more of a little push to relocate. If it hadn’t been for COVID, I would have already been gone after I got my master’s in 2020. Anyway…
This is one of the many reasons I want to live tiny, I really do get tired of being in the same place for too long, not that I plan to move every year (but I love having the ability to do so if I want). Since the transition to that kind of life doesn’t happen overnight (as I am painfully learning), I try to keep my ambitions fed by traveling and experiencing new tiny dwellings so that I can borrow great ideas.
In a last-ditch effort to squeeze out an “end of summer” beach trip, I headed to my go-to location of Gulf Breeze (Pensacola, FL), and ended up booking a THOW in the same RV park as the very first one I ever visited.
There is nothing fancy about this RV park itself, but even with renters coming and going, you wouldn’t really know it. The RVs and THOWs here appear to never move and there’s a sense of permanency. A short walk down the green residential roads and you see million-dollar homes with private docks on the bay. What’s really incredible to me about this neighborhood is the sense of community, regardless of one’s choice or capabilities to live in an RV or a mansion, everyone benefits from this amazing waterside niche.
I now recognize the man with the husky dog who checks his crab traps at dusk. The hipster dude who brings his dog to swim in the boat ramp access, and the old man with the raggedy dog feel like old friends. I love watching the sunset on the water with the now familiar view. It is only my third “long weekend” here.
What I like even more about this neighborhood is having the opportunity to experience tiny living, at least on some scale, before leaping into a commitment of my own. There are a lot of ducks to get in a row even before considering major steps forward, but as I often preach – you must enjoy the process or journey, and not just the destination.
“Tiny Luxury,” the name of this trip’s THOW, is the best I’ve stayed in so far. It’s a newer model, more modern inside with clean lines and white walls and ceiling. The darker wood accents are a great contrast and in-line with what I am thinking for myself. This visit has changed my mind about my design approach – again.
The “Tiny Luxury” was/is the first THOW where I’ve been able to comfortably sleep in the loft bed. Ok yes, you have to crouch, and I’m not going to lie, the hardwood floor on my knees just about killed me (I’m old and have arthritis for real folks). A little carpet could likely solve that issue, as well as the slippery stairs concern. Other than that, I sat comfortably upright in bed for book reading or TV watching. It might take some getting used to going up and down the stairs, especially in the middle of the night, but there has to be a trade-off somewhere.
I loved the bathroom, which is bigger than the one I have now, and most apartment bathrooms. The washer/dryer combo in this THOW looks really incredible, but it’s also huge. I am so glad that I made the choice I did with my recent compact washer/dryer stackable. It is going to be perfect for the future tiny. I have also given up on any idea of a compostable toilet – seriously f*** that.
I didn’t feel like I was in an RV in this house.
If you were blindfolded and walked in here, you wouldn’t have that thought it either. The layout is super-efficient (especially the kitchen), and even though I’d have to make a few adjustments, I felt like I’ve lived here awhile, not just for two nights.
The weather cooperated for the entire trip as far as not raining me out of beach time, but it was unbelievably hot and humid. The ocean water was like a lukewarm bath – lovely – but just a hair of a reminder, even on one’s vacation, that we are amidst a geological climate change. Luckily, the THOW had air conditioning.
I received a great guest review when I left and gained some valuable build information. It was hard to leave when it felt so much like home, but I have a recharged focus to get my ducks lined up and ready.
If you have been following the beginnings of my tiny house discovery/adventure, you may recall my mentioning an opportunity to stay at the “Royal Iris” in Mentone, Alabama. I had been wanting to go fall hiking for quite awhile so this 2-night getaway in the mountains was perfect! It was very last minute so there was no real planning for my man to join me, but it ended up being quite mentally therapeutic and an awesome little birthday gift to myself.
Mentone is pretty well known around this area, it’s about as north as you can get in Alabama and lies right on the time-zone border of Georgia (made things somewhat interesting). The tiny house check-in and out times were based in CST and the office that rents it out operates on EST. Not that it matters, it was nearly impossible to get a phone signal anywhere near the house or trails anyway. Although they made it very clear on Airbnb that this was a possibility, the hosts of the Royal Iris didn’t provide WIFI either – so basically, I was dead in the water whenever near the house – truly unplugged whether I wanted to be or not!
I drove up on a Sunday and the ride was beautiful with the leaves and colors changing; it was my main reason for taking the trip. Since I couldn’t check-in until later in the afternoon, I planned to explore some of the waterfalls and trails that were a little further out. My first stop was Little River Canyon National Preserve. The falls were easily accessible via a boarded path (that would be the easiest it would get for the rest of the trip). After about a 2 mile (easy) walk, I had worked up an appetite. I stumbled across a local lunch spot favorite as I headed towards the tiny house location – The Hatter. It looked like a cottage from the outside – I decided to go inside and grab a late lunch.
Inside – you quite literally fell down the rabbit hole. The entire place was decorated in Alice and Wonderland theme. It was over the top x10 and absolutely fantastic. In this case a picture is worth a thousand words – here are some of my favorite things inside the restaurant.
After a really fun (and tasty) lunch, I drove the last few miles to where I would be staying. The tiny house is located in a tiny house community, where pretty much every THOW on-site is rented out. It made for a less homey feel than the first RV park I stayed in while in Pensacola, but it was still a really nice location. The Royal Iris was the first house on the left and there was ample parking and a nice pathway to the front door. Of course – I couldn’t unlock it.
I knew immediately it was something I was doing wrong, but the keys were sticking. I attempted it several times before I noticed I had been trying for about 35 min and should probably call the office. How does a hearing impaired woman who uses an app call someone? Answer: she doesn’t! I walked to the road and managed to send a text (thankfully it went through). One of the owners was about 20 min away and so I just walked around a little, looking at the house from the outside (was really nice). When he got there, the first thing I said was, “I’m sure there’s some kind of trick to this, sorry about this.” He was very nice and said it had happened once before – of course the first time he tried it the door opened immediately – whatever.
The tiny house was HUGE! I couldn’t get over the high-end appliances and first real confirmation that there is more than enough space in a well-designed THOW. Even the spacious loft master bedroom reassured me that space will make a perfect office/guest room. The bathroom had a walk-in tub with jets and I may be spoiled forever now. I put all my groceries away and started to explore the finite details of the home. It was very cozy and helpful in providing ideas and inspiration for our own tiny house.
After I settled in, I decided to walk through the park and look around (plus it was the only way I could get reception to text anyone that I had arrived safely). I appreciated the park’s effort to add communal space and a dog park, but it lacked the neighborhood feeling I would want. The area was beautiful, quiet and so relaxing – but it was getting chilly very quickly. I wisely didn’t lock the tiny house when I left this time (just in case).
My evening was very laid back, snacking and watching satellite TV – there was no social media or texting because there was no service or WIFI. It was a gorgeous clear night, so even though it was chilly, I sat outside for awhile just enjoying the quiet and the amazing stars.
Then it was time to try the walk-in jetted tub. Much to my surprise, it was shaped like a throne/seat (I wouldn’t have to try to cram into the small floor space). It also had a handheld for hair washing and rinsing. The first downside to the walk-in tub was the fact that you have to sit on a cold ceramic tub naked before you can fill it up with water. Sitting on a washcloth helped but it wasn’t ideal waiting for the tub to fill. Luckily it didn’t take that long. Although it’s deep, the volume is probably equivalent to a normal sized tub due to it being fairly short and box shaped. As soon as the water level passed the jets, I turned them on. It was awesome, and I could see the TV from the bathroom. I was able to relax and wash my hair (there was plenty of hot water). I may be sold on this idea if they make a two-person walk-in tub, it is exactly what we need.
When it was time for bed, I decided to try sleeping in the loft. On the one side, the roof was high enough that I could sit straight up and not have to worry about bending my neck (it wouldn’t have worked if we had both come, one of us would be knocking ourselves out). I didn’t feel closed in at all – especially with the windows and head room. The bed was pretty comfortable and the temperature was pretty cozy. I was really happy feeling at ease in the loft because I really want that to be my office and guest space for anyone adventurous.
I woke up pretty early as I usually do in the morning and had my coffee outside watching the sunrise over the trees – it was amazing. Today was dedicated to village shopping and waterfall trails. As it turned out, I didn’t end up going shopping. With a little difficulty I found the semi out-of-the-way parking lot for the DeSoto falls – where visitors and would-be waterfall enthusiasts could “pick a path.” They essentially all go to the same waterfall, but there were/are different vantage points.
The trails were coded or labeled based on difficulty. I would soon discover that “easy” and “hard” were left open to interpretation. I chose the moderate difficult path because it would take me behind the waterfall. There were a good amount of people around and some were in worse shape than me – I was confident I chose wisely and started down the path (I had purchased some awesome new hiking boots just for the occasion). Moderate was about right – in the beginning. I am not sure why suddenly I was expected to essentially rappel myself down a 6ft rock face. A few meters in front of me I could already see a pair of women regretting their choice to continue and were struggling to find a way back up.
I decided to turn around, even though I was more than half-way there, and go back to the beginning to take the easier trail. I am not sure of the mileage my little detour added to the hike, but it was definitely not “moderate” getting back up. The “easy” path started out just as I would expect – but it definitely wasn’t smooth and anyone not used to hiking was going to have an issue. Although there were people on the trail – the trails are very long and I was hiking on a Monday morning. The thought did cross my mind, what if someone lost their footing and needed help out of here or had another medical emergency? It wouldn’t be easy.
The “easy” path was longer, but it was absolutely beautiful – I expected the trail to end with a large viewing area with lots of places to sit, but it ends on a cliff with an amazing view and the sound of rushing water. The long walk was worth it – I sat and meditated for quite some time and no one else came along to ruin the moment, it was perfect.
I started the long walk back and was excited to finish off my day shopping in the local shops and eateries. Below me on the trail I passed a family with some small kids and didn’t envy the difficulty the parents must be having in keeping their kids from falling and getting injured.
With my very next step – SNAP – the hot rush of pain flowed from my right ankle up towards my leg. My left foot failed to compensate and felt the full weight of my body squishing it between two huge rocks. I controlled the fall, amazingly not hurting anything else. Stupidly thinking it might be a “walk-it-off” I immediately tried to stand up on – it wasn’t going to happen. I sat down on the ground, grateful for Mark’s USMC army coat taking the brunt of the mud on my ass. I told myself to “relax, breathe, you’re ok.” Not sure I was “ok” but, okay.
I thought about calling to the family below, but I honestly didn’t want to attempt even an assisted walk out of the woods at that moment. So I sat there. It was early morning, tons of daylight and plenty of people within shouting distance – I wasn’t exactly stranded. I did wonder how bad it was going to be and whether or not I’d even be able to get back to my car, let alone get myself to a hospital. I needed to access the damage but I knew I couldn’t take off my hiking boot, or I’d never get it back on or be able to drive. I got myself up on my feet and estimated it was about .5 mi back to the parking lot. I’m not sure if it was sheer force of will or my body was still pumping some adrenaline, but at a certain strange angle I was able to hobble forward.
At that point, I would have accepted some help, but there wasn’t anyone heading my direction at that time (figures) so I just very carefully limped back to the car. Sitting down felt very good but I knew I’d be in for the night at this point and wanted to get some more things for the house (I needed soda and some creamer). I drove to the nearby Walmart and thought I would use the cart as a “crutch” but I couldn’t even put my foot flat on the ground. I drove myself back to the Royal Iris (it was my last night), and my 45th birthday was the next day. I parked as close to the house as I could and used my umbrella to hobble inside (had the unlocking thing down at this point, thankfully). This would be my first “real life” moment in a tiny house and it would be educational.
I made it to the couch (no pets to worry about tripping over, a plus). I carefully took off my right boot (my left foot would ironically have a worse injury, but at the time my right ankle was the one really hurting and non-functional). It swelled up pretty badly, I elevated and iced it right away. That’s the first really nice thing about staying in a tiny HOUSE vs a hotel room. Sure I could have gotten ice from the front desk or a machine but I had cold packs because I brought food so it was exactly the same set-up I would have at home. I even had pain reliever!
I texted my family but there was no use in worrying them when there was nothing they could do (and would have stressed out not hearing from me due to the lousy service in the area). I did tell my man who knew I’d be able to take care of myself and do whatever needed to be done (that’s always reassuring). It did put a slight damper on the mood of the trip, but birthdays never were super exciting after 21.
There were two bar stools in the tiny house which worked perfectly as a walker. After resting awhile, I was able to make myself spaghetti and meatballs and watch some TV to relax. The walk-in tub was a godsend as sitting in the jets soothed all the other aches and pains I wasn’t feeling while focused on my feet. Needless to say I went to bed early that night – I slept in the loft. How did I get up there you ask? Scooting up on my behind, that’s how. I’m telling you that little trick is a damn life saver. I was able to adequately get around the tiny house with little difficulty. It really was a good test; one that I could have gone without, but as always, I find a way to make things work.
The experience at the Royal Iris was a great one overall – I loved the house and got a lot of ideas for our own. I determined no matter where my THOW ends up that I’ll never be without internet or phone service (you can’t NOT have BOTH). The company the owners hired trim their trees showed up at the tiny house Tuesday morning before 8:00AM to tell me to move my car. I explained my walking situation and that I had the house until 10:00AM. I complained to the owners who were apologetic but it was really stressful. The workers proceeded to cut down limbs with my car nearby so I packed up as quickly as I could (I was pretty much ready), and hobbled to the car for the drive back.
I loved the Mentone area, but don’t really feel the need to go back or take visitors – there are a lot of other waterfalls in the country/world and I plan on seeing many more of them. And I still LOVE tiny houses, and the Royal Iris, but you won’t see us reserving another stay here in the future – the neighborhood just didn’t have a homey feel. Made for a good story with a twist ending though.
Update: Since I’ve been home my ankle(s) have improved a great deal. I probably have a long road of healing time ahead (but I am ok!) and will be following up with my doctor over the holiday break.
A tiny house festivus for the rest of us! Well, not exactly, but I had the fun opportunity to attend my very first THOW (tiny house on wheels) Festival at Avondale Estates, GA last month. After joining several social media groups for THOWs and tiny lifestyles, I stumbled across the MicroLife Institute’s event and signed up immediately. Since Atlanta is only about a 2-hr ride from Birmingham, I couldn’t miss the opportunity! I would also now have to find a tiny house to stay in (keeping with the theme).
AirBnB never disappoints so I have been using them primarily to book our tiny house adventures. There are sites out there that focus on just “unique” stays, but I find AirBnB to be user friendly and legit while some of the other sites seem hit and miss to me – but to each his own. I found Dan’s Atlanta Escape in Decatur, GA. It was a good price (I only needed to spend 2 nights) and the house itself looked adorable!
As usual, the directions and google maps led me right to the home – at first it wasn’t clear that renters were allowed to park in the driveway (that wasn’t indicated on the site), so I parked on the street and the person renting the house on the same lot showed me where the “THOW” guests park. He was so nice, and I kind of liked knowing there was a person nearby in case I needed back-up (I watch a lot of weird movies that start out with this exact scenario so it’s just my thing). Parked on a privately owned lot smack dab in residential central, it was almost too residential (little bit of a drive to really get anywhere). They did a great job with the landscaping which I appreciated. There was a nice lighted path and walkway leading right up to the door. This trip would start my “luck” with opening tiny house doors.
After about 5 tries, I re-read the check-in directions and opted to unlock the physical key box and not use the electronic keypad. It was great they had a back-up (not all places do), so I only had to text the contact to tell them I had issues with the lock and would be using the key. They were so nice and it worked out just fine. Upon entering the tiny house – I just fell in love with the entire concept all over again. This particular home originally looked like it was more RV style. Kind of a “one-room” deal without a stove or full kitchen. There was a TV, a great shower and the bed was super comfy. I definitely appreciated the option of the additional pullout bed but so far the custom made couches for tiny houses are wicked uncomfortable. I couldn’t even really sit on this couch to watch TV (luckily the bed is an inch away). I loved the all natural wood/pine walls, ceilings and floors – it just embodied the entire concept of minimalist design (almost a bit too much for my personal taste) – didn’t feel quite as homey as I know our THOW would feel. Then again – this was and still is way better than staying in hotels and I’ll book a tiny house anytime I can over a hotel any day.
The pocket lights and “internal” blinds (the ones that are installed between the window panes) are my new favorite MUST haves in our tiny house. I was obsessed with opening and closing them. I’m sure the neighbors thought I was practicing morse code or something. I didn’t love cubby holes behind my head where a headboard should be and the bathroom sink was so tiny I’m not even sure why it was there – but it was so much fun staying there – and there was also the festival!
After a restful night in the THOW, I headed to the tiny house festival around 10AM the next morning. It was wicked cold – and windy – and rained. Parking wasn’t too bad, I got pretty lucky. There were vendors with food, but I think the weather prevented some companies from attending, because there were supposed to be about 20 houses to tour – and there were only about five. That didn’t dampen my spirits! I was dressed warm and waited in the very long lines talking with other THOW lovers. Most were just interested in looking out of curiosity, a few lifers were there to offer expertise, and then there were a handful of “mes” – people just learning and loving the idea of going tiny. I listened to the solar power speech which interested me, but the guy had an agenda different from providing power for THOWS so it wasn’t super specific. There was a converted bus called The Eldon which was for sale at about $57k, it reminded me of the Partridge family bus only much smaller. Super cute, but definitely want a home if paying a price that steep, not a decked out bus – but it was really cool. There was a generic van retro-fitted out with a pullout bed!
The two homes on display that were closest to what we would want and need for our THOW were both built by Hummingbird Tiny Housing. The first is the model named The Jasper, which is used only for AirBnb rentals (as are most of their models). The main issue I had with this model was the same as most – the loft bedroom being too low to really accommodate a real lifestyle for me and my man who have limited ability to climb into our bed every night – and I’d also really like to not break my neck sitting up in the middle of the night (and has NO ONE thought about how to have sex in a loft bed…hmmmmm? That’s not happening….).
Their next house was generously shared with the public but was privately owned by a female veteran! The best way to describe the Rosebud was it was like a split level THOW. The main living area is awesome, but up in the gooseneck/loft area there is a step up bathroom AND master bedroom that you can stand in and actually walk around. I am not sure of the requirements and codes for driving a house like this down the street but it felt like it would be too big for a normal truck to pull (which is a downside for me). I don’t want to move our tiny house every month or anything – but I do like the idea of “easily” moving it when we need to – otherwise what’s the point? This home was gorgeous though, and felt like a home, which reiterated my faith that tiny living is going to be awesome for us. Before coming into this house, I noticed a young guy who was actually looking at the house set-ups like me in great detail, so I waved him up in front of me in line so we could chat and we talked about some of our thoughts on the THOWS and what we hope to do. There is definitely a community out there!
I signed my name to a list for a contest to stay in a THOW made by Hummingbird Tiny Housing – a few days later when I got home they would call me and tell me I had won a stay in the Royal Iris! (That ended up being my birthday getaway – story coming next!). I saw everything there was to see at the festival, spoke to everyone and decided not to go back the second day, but instead explored Atlanta. I “cleaned” up the tiny house and checked-out (such an easy process), it was a wonderful little Atlanta Escape. I truly hope to attend more THOW festivals in the future (hopefully even display our tiny house at one someday!). For now, the next step is going to be finding a first parking “home” for the THOW – and moving towards more detailed and serious talks with builders.
This process is going to take time, but once all the pieces fall into place hopefully it will manifest fairly quickly. I am really looking forward to the adventures this lifestyle is bringing. Next story to come: The Royal Iris in Mentone, AL.
There seems to be a strange phenomenon that to be happy with our “new” life choices or relationships, we somehow have to keep tabs on the previous situation or relationship – like a temperature check just to make sure we are “winning.” Congrats to anyone who has that kind of time – I have important grown-up shit to do. However, I couldn’t let my 45th birthday go by without addressing some common misconceptions “some people” may have about me now that I’ve reached this milestone in my life. I am sorry to disappoint them…but I’m doing all right.
It took me a long time to get here; I struggled for many years to break myself out of the cycle that my entire worth was dependent upon someone else’s approval. It’s been glorious to discover the peace and self-satisfaction that comes from not caring about that anymore. I don’t actively obsess over past relationships, I don’t wish for those people’s demise, and I don’t wish them well – honestly, unless thrown in my path, I don’t even give them a second thought. That’s not bitter, that’s not regretful – that’s maturity and self-love. The truth is it never matters what anyone else thinks of you, and no one else will ever be able to love you the way you should love yourself.
I don’t have any regrets. I understand I have hurt people, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not. I did what I had to do at the time for my own survival – and I am not sorry for that. As we mature and go through these life experiences we adjust, we learn how to survive without having to hurt others – sometimes we aren’t always successful. I’ll also never be sorry for loving someone (even if I wasn’t perfect) and I sure won’t be embarrassed by it. Sorry to disappoint.
I love the saying, “You can’t miss a place you’ve never been.” I am 45 years old and have never had a child, that’s just a fact. I’m betting some people reading that will add a tinge of “regret” to that statement. That’s THEM – it’s not ME. Allow me to explain:
I love children. I played with dolls when I was a kid (not saying that means all kids who play with dolls have kids….). I do not love bad parents, but that’s another article. I always wanted kids, but I also wanted a career. I’m not talking about a regular type of job either, I wanted to be an actress and moved to Hollywood when I was 19 with my parents so I could pursue it. For that reason, it was never a real priority for me – diapers and staying at home to do seasonal crafts wasn’t in the cards when working 18-hour days on set.
By the time that career path died down and my long-term relationship had turned into a marriage, I made a choice to not have a child. Let me say that again – I CHOSE to NOT have a child. My reasons for this were simple; although I made the decision to stay in the relationship I was not going to raise a child with someone who didn’t value me, whose family and even some of our friends didn’t respect or feel I was worthy of him (among other things). I did not regret that decision then, and in hindsight I don’t regret it now – it was one of the smartest choices I ever made, and I would do it again.
A few years after that relationship ended – I did meet the only man I ever wanted to have a child with – and mother nature didn’t exactly cooperate for us! However – the daughter of the man I love (and his former wife) is a fierce beauty, strong and smart (sassy). She’s beautiful inside and out – and she looks exactly like him. It warms my heart that her sweet spirit and energy exists, and I look forward to many more fun adventures with her over my lifetime!
And you know what else? I like her mother. That’s right, my man’s “ex” is an awesome woman. I have nothing but serious respect for her as a working mother – I am in awe of these two people that raised such an amazing person with respect for each other, humor (wicked funny humor), and affection. Maturity.
Best meme I saw recently is “The best sign of a good relationship is no sign of it on FB.” I must admit, my man has really turned my head around about this concept of keeping personal stuff off FB. As a writer and a smart ass, that’s a tall order for me. But I must admit there is something special about saving our private details for just us and not spewing on FB to get likes and validation. I am not against the awesome love and support couples show each other on FB, please, it’s adorable.
In fact – here is a rare rave about my man: He’s a genuine person – I don’t just love him, I LIKE him. What you see is what you get – I have NEVER heard him say a bad word about ANYONE behind their back – EVER. I know the respect he shows me continues even when I am not in the room, even if I am not in the state! He will never act one way to your face and secretly feel another way about you (that was my life for YEARS) and it wasn’t until I met him that I had finally fallen for someone who was real. His dedication to his daughter, family, and friends (veterans) is astounding and limitless – despite his own battles as a combat veteran. They don’t make men much better than him; I am his 100% and I am truly blessed.
Back to my point, there are serious manipulations and deceit going on social media to try and make people feel bad about themselves and it just sickens me. Insinuations that if one doesn’t have children and perhaps rescues cats instead, they are “sad, regretful and bitter.” That is why I agree there is something to this approach about life in general also – I do love sharing with my close friends and family special things going on in my life, but I also like keeping some details for just us – or just me! Bottom line, if you are using my FB page to try to gauge my relationship status, you’re going to be wasting even more of your time. I can simplify it for you – I’m happy.
We choose who we are every day. I choose to live my life simply and with intent. I choose to love and support the genuine people in my life. I choose to try to be the kind of person that helps others, that takes the path less traveled, that will choose “right” vs “easy” – and just always, always be genuine. So if there is anyone out there that truthfully wishes me well – I thank you and I am. To the ones who were hoping for a different reply, I’m sorry to disappoint.
A beach vacation was long overdue for me and my man this year. I also had a strong desire to try out Airbnb (not to mention I jumped on and was now driving the tiny bandwagon). Much to my delight, Airbnb had plenty of tiny house choices! Although I had never been to Alabama’s Gulf Shores I wasn’t interested once I found out how close we are to Florida! Pensacola was the target city, and I found an amazing deal on the very first tiny home we would ever stay in – The Lemon Tree Tiny House.
This particular tiny home was permanently parked in a lovely RV park less than ½ mile from a boat ramp and dock by the Gulf Breeze. The house didn’t have water views but we didn’t care because the plan was to spend the days on the beach. The planning and reserving was easy, but I would end up having to go solo (work happens). My orders were to report back on the tiny house life and do some relaxing (well, and snorkeling). For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus solely on the tiny house and not the trip itself (stay tuned for that!).
The directions on AirBnb were perfect (plus I learned long ago not to trust my Garmin and use Google Maps). The RV park itself did seem a touch out of place in such a residential area, until I took a closer look at the set-up in the park. Most of these RVs were pretty large (almost as big as a tiny house), and had semi-permanent set-ups. One had a carport, outside grill and firepit! There were even two other tiny houses in the park (one was definitely “lived in”). I liked the tiny park itself, many times I’ve visited RV parks and had to drive around and around to find the right number. This parking spot was set-up lovely with a picnic table, umbrella, rocking chairs and patio lights. As soon as I saw the tiny house, I gleed with excitement – it was so cute! Ready for the most cheesy statement ever – it looked just like a tiny house.
The door had a key combo lock (love these) and the wonderful owners had the AC on full blast for when I opened the door. I smiled immediately and said out loud, “Yep, we are going to do this, this is it.” I knew immediately that going tiny was the right decision for us. I had never set foot in this house before but I have never been on a vacation where I felt like I was coming home to my own house. I don’t mean a vacation house either – I mean home. I could easily imagine me, my guy and his daughter going off-grid and living in one of these – but maybe not this particular one.
To state the obvious – it was tiny. After being there awhile I discovered the layout had a lot to do with the flow, some things in this particular design wouldn’t work for us. It was narrow with the living room area and kitchen counters lined along the right, the entertainment center/desk and some storage and steps along the left. Straight ahead was the bathroom and a sleeping area with a twin sized mattress. The master bedroom was in the loft. At this point I have watched hundreds of hours of tiny house programs, but still hit my damn head when I climbed up the ladder. I was able to sit on the mattress in the loft, but not without a slight neck bend. This was super dangerous to me – what if I sat up quick in the middle of the night and forgot where I was? Not to mention there was no way we were having any kind of sex up there without hurting ourselves – let me just make that clear for couples immediately – even without attempting I can tell you, don’t do it.
I was able to get a great view of the bottom floor from up there though, so that was something. Since it was just me, I ended up sleeping on the downstairs twin bed and it was so comfortable it is what inspired me to buy us a new mattress as soon as I got home. The bathroom did have a tub, and of course I tried it. It was hysterically tiny, it wouldn’t even work for a teenager really, so sticking to a large walk-in shower in a tiny house makes the most sense. The water pressure and temperature were comparable with an actual house (not an RV or even a hotel). It was actually about the size of the bathroom in our rental house. It did sound like an airplane toilet when draining the water though, but I expect that might just have something to do with the RV park set-up.
There was a downsized retro fridge, stove and microwave – more than what was needed for a 4-day vacation. I had to remind myself I was only there for a visit, I wasn’t going to be living there. It was a great experience to see how it would actually feel to be inside a tiny house for a longer period of time. As much fun as I had exploring, snorkeling and being on the beach – hanging out in the tiny house at night, talking to the “neighbors” and just living simply was the best part of the vacation.
After taking some notes, measurements and pictures, I realized our tiny house doesn’t have to be much bigger, we just need a more custom design for our specific needs (a common tiny house approach). Adding the man, two cats and the occasionally visiting daughter could completely change my perspective on this size being “plenty big”, but as long as everyone is not attempting the exact same task at the same time – I think tiny can work. I love the idea of never having to pack to move again, to be able to stay wherever we want for long periods of time, or travel as much as we want, and tiny living gives us that option.
I can literally hear my sister’s vocal impression of Baloo whenever I think of this Jungle Book song. We always (to date) have fun singing the parts, my sis as the bear and me as Mowgli. True to Disney’s nature, they hid a much deeper message in those lyrics that didn’t even hit me until the other day when I had this song stuck in my head. Tiny living, ‘bare necessities?’ it was all making sense now.
“Don’t spend your time lookin’ around for something you want that can’t be found…”
I’m pretty organized. It’s pretty rare that I can’t find something. I do tend to hesitate to throw things away or donate them because as soon as I do, the very next day I need it. (I’m convinced it’s a subliminal level of trickery I do to myself, but I digress). After rewatching tiny living tips from my minimalist hero Josh Milburn on HGTV, I started to look around my two-bedroom rental house for things I could “pair down.”
I almost immediately convinced myself that I didn’t have anything that wasn’t worth keeping – this will be EASY! After all, when I got divorced a few years back everything I took with me fit in my car. I started over from scratch, never owned a house – how much “junk” could I have possibly accumulated in such a short time?
Then I noticed my DVDs. In comparison to most, I don’t have a lot. But my Little House on the Prairie (don’t you dare judge me) collection took up an entire shelf by itself. This collection was sold when they hadn’t quite mastered the art of slimmer packaging, each season’s case (nine in total) was about 4 inches wide. They also weren’t formatted with closed captioning (ugh, why???), so should I just get rid of them? I really had to ask myself what it was about this collection I couldn’t let go – and the reason was the show reminded me of my Dad.
The thing is – I didn’t have to get rid of anything (that’s not the idea behind minimalism). The idea of living tiny with less tangible things isn’t to get rid of them all, it is to identify the things you are passionate about. I needed the DVDs, not the bulky cases. Even though avid collectors would say I ruined the value, I took out all the discs and put them in a CD album. The stack of “packaging” on my floor was staggering. Yes, the pictures of the actors and the movie covers were nice, artistic even – but the amount of cardboard was surprising when it was all laid out in a pile. Before I knew it, I had a 13-gallon garbage bag FULL of just DVD cases.
We don’t even need the entertainment center anymore. It’s just a big table for the TV which could be mounted on the wall. I had just eliminated the need for a huge piece of furniture. I find it really funny that it’s now pretty much just a big paperweight that I have to dust. It was very satisfying taking that bag out to recycle, and in truth I hadn’t gotten rid of anything! It was a valuable exercise in showing me it is ok to break some rules and customize your life to your lifestyle.
Just like the song, “…when you find out you can live without it…the bare necessities of life will come to you…”
“Why don’t you just get an RV?” “I could never do that, it’s so cramped!” This has been the immediate response whenever I tell someone I’ve made the decision to live in a tiny house and adopt that lifestyle. I have come to realize that it does seem to be an odd declaration to make out of the blue, so I can understand the confusion. While the choice does appear sudden, I believe tiny living is in my blood. This is a story about how recent life events have caused me to reassess what is important to me and take an intentional journey to discover what I really value in my life.
My father had a natural talent for design and construction. He made his living as a carpenter and mason most of his life. When my grandparents gave my Dad and step-mother land as a wedding gift over 40 years ago, there was really no limit to what he could have created and built. It never occurred to me until recently – he built a fairly small, rectangular, non-inspiring box – made out of brick.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful home, and has a stone fireplace like I’ve never seen anywhere else – but overall it was simple, practical and semi-small. I wouldn’t exactly say tiny – but it could have easily been much larger. It was a 3-bedroom which included a decent sized master, a larger bedroom for my older brother and a room large enough for me and my sister to share every other weekend.
My Dad passed away suddenly in May of 2020 and it occurred to me that I never thought to ask him why he built such a small house. As a kid it did feel fairly large in comparison to my mom and step-father’s home (still another 3-bedroom), but I had pretty high expectations of my crafty Dad to have built a “mansion” of sorts. My father being the nature-oriented and old-school man he was, I believe realized, “less was more.” I am convinced that subtle message took root early and influenced my desire to go tiny.
It is always surreal when you’re a grown-up and you visit your childhood home, especially for me since I moved out of state when I was 19 and have never really been back for longer than a week at a time. Being surrounded by all Dad’s creations and tools (and junk) in his workshop and garage (and closets, and truck) after his death was very soothing to me. Yet it’s funny, even with everything he’s made over the years the “thing” that came to my mind was a note my Dad had written on one of the studs of the house before putting up the drywall.
Of course I took some of the beautiful pieces my father created over the years and some other mementos but that memory, which came to mind without any tangible object to trigger it, got me thinking; those memories aren’t gone or going anywhere. They are all right there, fresh for tapping whenever I need them.
The next life event(s) nudging me closer to a tiny life, was a visit to an old high school friend, and the news that my step-father was losing his year-long battle to cancer. Soon after we knew he wouldn’t have long, I made the plan to fly up in July to see him and spend time. Meanwhile, I had rescued a litter of kittens and spontaneously decided to deliver two of them to a young couple in Missouri (only about an 8-hour drive from my house in Alabama). Everyone said I/we were crazy but in my mind it was an opportunity for a little adventure. In addition to feeling great about finding homes for adorable cats, I got to see my dear friend’s dream come true. This girlfriend of mine has a gigantic estate in Missouri with a farm, animals, a fiance and a tiny house! I fell in love with how cute it was, and her entrepreneurial spirit to rent it out and give visitors an experience.
This was also the same friend that inspired an article I wrote a few years ago, about “clipping coupons and going to Paris.” She really taught me that it’s ok to have fun and be a little frivolous as long as you’re smart about it. I knew she would be the one person who would know the secret significance of taking a helicopter ride over St. Louis. It was a ridiculous amount of money for a 20-min ride and I felt absolutely no buyer’s guilt or remorse for spending it – I thought about both my Dads and knew they would approve of living in the moment.
I stayed in a pet-friendly motel outside of St. Louis where it was a little cheaper, and really enjoyed the cable TV since I haven’t splurged on cable in six-years – it was a real treat! Once I found the HGTV channel and put on the closed captions, I didn’t change it all weekend. What was playing on loop was Hometown and Tiny House Nation (you know where I’m going with this). The idea was slowly coming together in my mind, but the dots didn’t connect yet. I was thinking I’d love to just live in the middle of nowhere like my friend, where people care about you and think to check on you once in a while. I also thought it would be great if Erin Napier designed my house (but then I’d have to move to Laurel, MS). Then I remembered how I get bored – easily – and like to move around. It felt good to have this adventure and reconnect with that YOLO attitude, but it was quickly replaced with sorrow and a desire to make some sense of it all.
Although I got to speak with him via video on Father’s Day and several times after that, my step-father passed away just one day before my flight was scheduled to land to see him. It was tough, but as usual with these types of battles there was a lot of relief among us all that he was no longer suffering. His death started to nudge me in a different direction when it came to “stuff” – because much like my father, my step-dad had a lot of stuff.
A LOT of STUFF. He was a Marine re-creating his Vietnam War days with his memorabilia, photos, weapons – all the history. Definitely a lot of aspects that I love, but when I was sitting and looking at all his items, it was the photos and the stories and notes he wrote that mattered (not the “stuff”). I wasn’t glad I had all this to remember him by because just like my dad, I didn’t need it. On some level it kind of pissed me off. Not that he had left it for us to deal with or anything, but at the same time it got me thinking of my own junk drawers. I’m glad these things made him happy – but what I know is that he was truly happy talking about his memories to his friends and family and telling his stories – all intangible and priceless.
It was when I got back from his funeral that I started to really look into how I could adapt to the feelings I was experiencing. I knew I would have to be open to some non-traditional ideas in order to find my path to a new and intentional lifestyle. Will I accomplish “great things from small beginnings” by living a tiny lifestyle? The best way for me to answer that is to get started.