6 Months Later...
Six months ago I moved into my tiny house. It was the first week of December and about 10 ° outside as I watched my house be backed into its new home in Fairplay, Colorado. My tiny house neighbor, James, came over to say hi. Roughly my age, ski patroller at Breck, mountain bike guide in the summer, I knew we’d get along. However, the only thing I remember from our first encounter was his comment “Oh yeah, it takes a village to survive a winter up here.” I was immediately unsure why I choose to park at 10,000’.
So six months later, now summer, what have I learned?
I love living in this tiny house.
It was a great test to move in in the winter because it was all about the indoor space. Turns out, we had a relatively calm winter, still filled with plenty of snow, single-digit temps and wind. Lots of wind. Thankfully, during the build my parents recommendations always weighed on the side of extra nails, bolts and glue. That being my first piece of advise, build for strength and durability. I can't tell you how impressed I've been with how well things have held up with what feels like hurricane force winds outside.
Is the small space working?
I can completely and honestly say that that it is. Just today I got rid of more clothes giving me extra space (what!). I've started to find joy in finding things I never use and getting rid of them. An important reason the space is working is that I really considered what was important to me in the design of the house. That has proven essential as each aspect of the house is used at least once throughout the day. I love my kitchen, I cook more than I ever have. I love the space for guests. A typical dinner party thus far is 6 people and the house accommodates that nicely. I’ve used my projector less than I anticipated, but it really doesn't take up any necessary real-estate like a tv would. The extra storage under the living room has proven essential for backpacks, gear, paints, etc. The garage is also a huge reason the house is working so well. The garagae holds my skis, bike, snow shovel, extra tools, garden supplies. Without this space I would be in trouble as those balky items would not sit nicely inside the house.
Even the small things that were pretty last minute additions have made all the difference. Copper's pull-out food and water bowl is an amazing save of space and keeps random things off the floor that I would certainly trip over daily. The cutting board over the sink (seen to the right) makes the counter space in the kitchen so much bigger. I remove it when I do dishes but having that as my go-to cutting board is not only convenient but also saves my counter top from needing to be sanded and refinished.
How About Copper?
I’m pretty sure he’s convinced that this is his giant doghouse. He runs up and down the stairs like it’s nothing, has his favorite sleeping spots in every corner of the house and has mastered his pull-out bowl. He often paws at the drawer when it’s closed so the next step is having him figure out how to open it on his own (tennis ball knob?). We do have a horse corral behind the house with ‘Lil Sebastian’s brother (a miniature horse). He gets us VERY excited when he trots around his pen.
I've found that living in this small space with a dog has gotten us both outside so much more often. We have an awesome 20 min loop trail behind the house that is ideal for a few Copper walks/ work breaks throughout the day.
Working from home?
There are definitely a lot of benefits from getting to work from the tiny house. Saving money, getting outside when I want, hanging with Copper all day, working when I feel like it... well, that's a bit of the struggle. Feeling so comfortable here I easily get distracted and that does hurt my productivity. I've found that going to a nearby coffeeshop or giving myself a bit more structure in my 'working hours' vs 'at home hours' has helped with that, but it's still a work in progress. The no commute is SO nice but sometimes I will head to Dillon to work with Alexa just to get a full day of work in.
Other things I've learned?
Cleaning the whole house takes no time.
I am buying a lot less.
Making purchases is a really thought out thing now. I went all winter without shades on the windows. I don't have any neighbors to the left of the house (which has most of the windows) and the right has a curtain on the door. But, now that it's summer, it seemed like maybe a good idea.
Just last week I installed shades on the downstairs windows. One of my favorite things about the tiny house is all of the natural light, but for privacy purposes, napping purposes, and movie watching purposes, the shades are nice. The windows in the loft are still uncovered which has been really nice, particularly in the summer. I am waking up earlier and going to bed earlier, both things I have struggled with in the past. Catching the sunrise most morning from bed is a new habit I never want to leave.
What hard lessons have I had?
I knew it wouldn't take long before I would be back in build mode. Ironically, I was talking to a friend about the tiny house as he was giving me a ride back to the mountains and I told him, "Yeah, everything has been great so far, I almost wish something would break because I want to try my new building skills." Dumbest thing I could have said.
As I walked in the door after being dropped off, the house was freezing, which it shouldn't have and had never been before. I see that the ENTIRE bathroom, EVERY surface was covered in ice. Here's a break down of what happened:
- My pilot light on my wall heater was no match for the high winds in Fairplay. This means that while I was away for 5 days, the pilot at some point had blown out and this is tied to the thermostat which regulates the temperature in the house. No wall heater plus single-digit temperatures led to the the inside of the house dropping below freezing.
- The plastic shower head exploded when it froze, causing all of the water in the lines to cover the bathroom and freeze (luckily everything in the bathroom was designed so that it could get wet). Warming the house back up, lots of towels and a bit of hair-dryer cleaned it all up.
- I replaced the plastic water head but still there was dripping from the faucet when the water was off, which turns out is actually a problem in the shower knob, more specifically the cartridge. DELTA, the manufacturer, was amazing with a replacement part and had lots of knowledge on the issue I was experiencing. The cartridge was pretty easy to replace as the metal panel in the shower is removable so all in all that repair took about half an hour.
- Next up, the hot water heater became finicky. At first I thought it was just readjusting to me being away and not using it for a few days but before long, crazy sounds, unregulated water temperatures and occasional steam out of the faucets made me pretty weary that something more serious wasn't wrong. Gary at Precision Temps was also incredible in helping to figure out what was going on. We had many phone calls where he would walk me through troubleshooting things within the machine (a bit outside my comfort zone) and though we gave it a very valiant effort, in the end, he decided sending a replacement would be best. Again, amazing awesome customer service as the water heater was a $1,200 item that he replaced for free and included a return shipping label.
- As grateful as I was for the replacement, the water heater was in (by far) the tightest, most squeezed in place in the whole house under the sink. It was definitely the most challenging appliance to replace. Luckily, mom and dad were headed out in a few weeks and they suggested we tackle the replacement together. We spent a whole day and with lost of perseverance, tools from James, and luck we got it swapped out.
Take away from this, NEVER jokingly say you want something to break, because the second you do, it will. I do feel that a positive thing I got from the freezing house situation is that it now feels a lot more like a home. It's no longer this perfect, never lived in, all new appliances, fresh paint, house. I now feel that this is a space that has been lived in, that was created by us and will constantly keep me on my toes. Problems will arise but I don't have to be afraid of them. No matter how big or small, they can be fixed. There were so many road blocks during the building process, and those all found a solution. Getting back to that state with the water heater actually has made me feel better.
I've had many different living situations in my 28 years. Never before have I felt like I was headed on a vacation when I returned home. I am traveling a lot this year with a new job and with that I am gone for about a week and a half most months. Those trips are great, and often are vacation-like in themselves, but every time that trip is over, I get so excited to get back to the house. Sure, it's still all new and exciting, and sure it's in the mountains so it's quiet and peaceful, but I think it's more than that. I think it's about the connection I have with this house and how it all makes me feel. There's something about the joy of waking up with the sun and seeing Copper awake already, staring out the loft window watching the birds and prairie dogs flying and running about. To pour the steaming hot coffee from the french press and sit down at the table ready to start the day. To take a shower remembering the big debates my parents and I had on what materials to use and how exactly to cut each metal panel and now to feel that it's just so perfect. To be running out the door needing to grab that one jacket and knowing exactly which cubby in the stairs it's in. Even cleaning reminds me when each nail was placed or wall painted and that makes me smile knowing how far this house has come.
I'm sure this house will see many different parking spots in its lifetime which will hopefully only make this feeling of home that much better. However, I couldn't be more excited that I am so in love with this house on it's own.