Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tiny House Meetup

In late January, Ty and I drove down to San Diego to attend the Tiny House Meetup hosted by Hillary and Michael over at There were about 10 people there besides me and Ty and Hillary and Michael: a couple living in an older small house in SD who also have a trailer like Hillary; a guy who lives in an RV in the backyard of an older woman and her daughter (who let him live there in exchange for helping them out with chores and such), and his friend; a small-house enthusiast, who just finished building a small cob house in New Mexico and is now working on a second one nearby; and a woman whose strawberry-themed trailer you can see Hillary sitting in below.

We got there early and had some time to hang out and get to know Hillary and Michael before the rest of the crowd showed up. They are living in a very narrow two-level house in San Diego, which is separated by mere inches from the neighboring house. It's funny seeing the house because the two have downsized to such a level that they hardly have enough possessions to fill such a space. They're renting this house while working on outfitting Hillary's trailer and they've already spent some time traveling around in it.

In case you're not familiar with Hillary, she had a short jaunt doing web work for Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and has been living in extremely small spaces for more than seven years. We spent a lot of time talking about living small and her and Michael's various experiences. At one point, Hillary and I were talking about her experience living in a commune and being in this place that was so shut off from the rest of society. I asked her what she thought a better model would be, that still incorporated small living, and she said that for her, the ideal community would actually be a series of communities, so that people were still able to share the benefits of the community, but while encouraging travel and not shutting oneself off to the outside world.

For me, it was so gratifying to talk to other small-housers in person and have the chance to interact offline. So much so that I've been thinking we need to arrange some kind of convention where we can all get together and hash stuff out around a table or room. Chat Room 1.0. If anyone has thoughts on where or how to do that, please shoot me an email.

Hillary has begun work on forming an actual tiny village network and I encourage you to take a look. She is trying to make her vision, of people with moveable houses and people with land coming together, a reality. This is what's needed if we're going to start building infrastructure to make small living a simpler process in terms of residential concerns. Thanks to Hillary for beginning the effort.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Of Hurricanes and Tiny Houses

So I have recently discovered Julie Martin with Lodge on Wheels (thanks to Steph) and am hoping to talk to her soon about including her in my documentation of the Small House Movement. While scouring the internet for more information about her, I found that she actually contacted Jay Shafer and they worked together on a design for LoW and have a licensing agreement for the Gulf Coast model for people affected by the hurricane. In case you haven't read any of the stories on her, she worked restoring historic homes in Mississippi, and actually lived in the oldest home on the Gulf Coast (built 1787) until it was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane, she decided it was more important to work on building small houses that she saw were desperately needed by the people around her (and herself).

While reading about this woman and in addition to doing research for my own project, I started wondering more as to where all these houses were. We've been hearing now about Marianne Cusato's Katrina Cottages for years, but where are they? We're inching in on 4 years since the hurricane, but the only coverage I've seen of houses built in New Orleans have been by Habitat for Humanity. Apparently, not one Katrina Cottage has been built in New Orleans or Louisiana in the two years since the $75 million grant was awarded by FEMA to provide homes for those displaced by Katrina and Rita. BUT, in Mississippi, thousands of cottages have been completed with their $281 million grant. You might be wondering how that could be, and no doubt, Jay Shafer was right about this one: "Mississippi was able to avoid lengthy and complicated environmental regulations by putting their homes on wheels."