Tiny Houses in Portland

Tiny House Hotel Caravan

As I mentioned in my last post, I was in the Pacific Northwest at the end of last year. One of the stops was to Portland, Oregon, which is widely known for its big Tiny House community. But when I heard that there are about 6000 Tiny Houses in that area, I was really surprised about the number. Before I had come to Portland, I wasn’t aware, of how big that Tiny House Movement in the U.S. really is. There are two or three different regular shows on TV covering that topic, from following a person or family in their journey to get their very custom-fit amazing Tiny House, to realtors specialized in “Tiny”, looking for tiny and small houses to buy.

While I dove into the scene, I learned that some definitions are more strict than others. A “Tiny House” to a lot of people is not just a very small house, but specifically a small house on wheels. Others just use it for all kinds of very small houses, even tiny appartements. The Tiny House Movement is not just about choosing the size of your home, it’s also (at least most of the time) a social statement. It’s about questioning the current house sizes and all that it entails, simplifying your life, getting out of (or as a precaution not to get in) debt, being able to move without having to give up your house, and probably many more other reasons. But even though everyone has a different reason for joining the Tiny House Community, it still feels like a bonding aspect that really forms a global (sub)community. This inspired me to look a little closer at the Tiny House Communities in Europe, which merits a separate blog post 🙂

During my trip I was able to visit the Portland Tiny House Hotel “Caravan “, which is actually just an old parking lot with currently 6 Tiny Houses arranged in a circle and a small communal area with a fireplace in the middle. Even though it’s not especially cheap to spend a night in one of the houses, it is a great (and relatively cheap) opportunity to try out living in one of them, and maybe even finding out some details of what you really need or don’t need in your own Tiny House.

Lilypad

At the Tiny House Hotel tour I met a Portland resident living in a Tiny House named Lilypad . She was very gracious and showed me her tiny magical amazing universe. It is relatively unusual compared to most of the other Tiny Houses I know, because it has two lofts, both accessible by stairs (not with a ladder). She really created a space with 5 different areas that feel like rooms, making it feel a lot more spacious. The thing that made all the difference was the roof, that was high on one side and a little curved on the other. Having that instead of a gable gives you about twice the headroom (to the sides) in the lofts.

A lot is said about why going Tiny is great, some voices are already countering it. For me, it always depends on your goal. What are you willing to give up? What are you longing to gain? It’s a very vital part of going tiny that should be asked in the beginning. But I believe if those balance each other out, you’re good to go. How about you? What do you think is the most important question to ask when going Tiny?

food for your thoughts

Climate change is a very talked about subject. What can we do? What should we stop doing? Many people have all kinds of lists as an answer to “stop” or rather slow down the process. But almost everyone thinks that humans can and have to do this alone, because we’re the most intelligent (and maybe also because we caused most of it). I want to share two videos that show in a simple way, that the intelligence of the brain might not be relevant in helping the cause, that it might even be counterproductive:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M18HxXve3CM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q

It might not be about what humans should invent or introduce to help the problem, but rather what they should stop doing so that animals and plants can do the job of restoring the balance…

The Great Turning

thegreatturning.jpg

A few weeks ago I travelled to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. where I happened upon a community fair by students of Antioch University Seattle. It was the final project of their class that is called The Great Turning, based on topics covered in a book by Joanna Macy called Coming Back to Life. I had heard of the fair only a week before, after talking to Michael Withey from Micro Community Concepts in Portland, Oregon. Eventhough I didn’t know it before, this place was right where I needed to be.

The building of Antioch University Seattle doesn’t look very special from the outside, but when I went in, I was in for a treat. It seems to be a gem for ecology and sustainable living that is well known to people in that region that think a little different than the rest of our consumerist western society. The fact that such a place exists, and all the people I spoke to and that held a talk at the community fair gave me new hope and motivation to continue what I’m doing and to take the next step – whatever it will be.

The idea of The Great Turning is, that all those challenges we (humankind) are faced with, all those changes, instabilities and crises are one of the greatest opportunities we’ve had in human history. I definitely like that viewpoint. Makes my view of the world not so bleak. To sum up the theory, it comprises three dimensions of change:

  1. Actions to slow the damage to Earth and its beings
  2. Analysis of structural causes and the creation of structural alternatives
  3. Shift in Consciousness

More details can be found here: www.joannamacy.net/thegreatturning/three-dimensions-of-the-great-turning.html

The talks at the fair covered projects for all three dimensions. One of them would have been Michael Withey from Micro Community Concepts  in Portland, Oregon. Since he got sick, I really want to mention his non-profit organization here. I met up with Michael Withey while I was in Portland and was really impressed and inspired by the idea. He wants to support people with low income that can’t afford the skyrocketing rents, by finding land to build small Tiny House communities, and even – with enough monetary support – buy appartement buildings to offer affordable living. The world needs people like him and his team that really try to change the world by supporting others and building more sustainable community living.

Another great organization I heard about at the fair is called Rite of Passage Journeys. They offer Rite of Passage events (one week or more) to teenagers on the verge of becoming adults, which is something that is sorely lacking in our society nowadays.

Thanks to all the amazing people I met at the community fair. You’re an inspiration to others! I’ll touch on some more information about what I learned on my trip about Tiny Houses in the U.S. compared to Europe in my next post.

It’s party time!

As I mentioned in my last entry , I finished my tiny house mostly because I set myself a deadline. Aside from the final result, this really shows how good I work with a deadline and a little pressure ;-). And it wasn’t just a random deadline.. It was the date of my (tiny) house warming party!

Over the years I spent some time with project lifecycles and especially systems like the one in Dragon Dreaming and the natural cycles of the medicine wheel resonated with me. Within Dragon Dreaming, there are four recurring phases in the cycle:

  1. Dreaming
  2. Planning
  3. Doing
  4. Celebrating

The last one – Celebrating – is looking back on what you have accomplished, reviewing your actions, maybe naming all the things that you could have done and will do better next time, and especially celebrating. This is a vital part of finishing a project that is overlooked a lot of times in our society.

I almost forgot about that important last step (of the first cycle) of my project, but since I had told so many people who were interested about my home that there will be a party, I felt the need to actually do it, not being aware of how important it would be for me. It was a great party and with it I was able to really enjoy, celebrate and be proud of what I had created. Only during the celebration did I realize how important celebrating and really appreciating your accomplishment is.

Tiny House update – kitchen – bathroom – I’m finished!!

My tiny house project was hibernating for a while. But when I decided to put a deadline on finishing it, the motivation came back and rebooted everything! The big parts that were missing were the kitchen and the bathroom.

The kitchen

For the kitchen I wanted to have at least a small area where I could cut or otherwise temporarily place ingredients, etc. I had a few different ideas of accomplishing it, most of them needing a lot of building material and time and energy, because I would build most of the rack myself. While thinking about how to get the wood for building it and how this could actually be created, I had an idea that was so much easier. I didn’t have to build anything, just put an existing cupboard, an IKEA rack and some small trays together, and voilà. That’s how it looks now:

kitchen

My electric stove + oven I put on a rolling cupboard, so that normally when I only use one burner, I can use it as is, and if I need the second burner or the oven, I can slide out the cupboard and use the full range of the appliance.

For my sink-system I’m still looking for a nice glass container with a tap to put the water in, but sadly it’s not that easy to come by in Austria. Also I want to have a curtain or something to hide the mess below the sink. But since that’s all just in the category of “pretty”, it wasn’t that important to me for now.

The bathroom

The last part that was missing for my understanding of the house being finished was the bathroom. The composting toilet was already finished a long time ago, but since I don’t have curtains I always felt a little exposed when using it. Also I wanted to try out having a shower as well (even though this wasn’t a must). So first I built a wall on the side that the shower should be:

bathroom without wall bathroom wall

I wanted an additional wall and not a curtain, because then I would have more vertical space to maybe hang something (pictures, mirror, etc.). Sadly I don’t have a final picture of the shower, but the way I implemented it was with a storage box (60×80 cm) – because I couldn’t find a shower tray that size – and another solar shower bag that was on a lifting block so that I can let it down when I have to add water to the bag and lift it up to get the slope for the water to poor down. All of that is securely wrapped with a shower curtain. So if I take a shower, I only have as much water as is in the solar shower bag and it all has to fit in the makeshift showertray that I have to empty at the end of the shower. Luckily the tray at least has tiny wheels on the bottom ;-). To give you an idea of where I put the shower, here is a picture of the first step:

makeshift shower tray

To finish the bathroom, I put up a curtain for the “door”, and I already have a small mirror! Voilà:

bathroom curtain-door

That’s it! Finished!! I haven’t gotten around taking a good picture of the whole finished interior, but that will come soon 😉

One of those days/weeks/months…

Have you ever had a time in your life where it felt almost impossible to sit at the computer one more second than absolutely necessary? Well, that’s what happened to me. Somehow I was functioning, but my inspiration was missing. I had ideas of what to write about, but for the life of me couldn’t sit down and form it into words. But I want that phase to be over, so with this post, I let you know: I’m still alive and kicking :-). I even (almost) finished translating my older posts into german!

For a long time there has been only one real constant in my life, and that is change. But blogging can be one of those constants too!! So in my next few posts I’ll catch you up with all the important things that happened since you last read from me. So stay tuned 🙂

Home is where my heart is

sunset

I’ve been asking myself: When does a house become a home? – Well, I found the answer in an old folk song (probably from the Natives of North America, but I never verified it):

I’ve been travelling a day,
I’ve been travelling a year,
I’ve been travelling a lifetime,
to find my way home.

Home, is where my heart is
Home, is where my heart is
Home, is where my heart is,
My heart is my home.

My heart IS my home, but since I put so much of my heart into my little house, it is now also part of my home. My home also includes people I call family and dear friends, so I’ll probably never be truly homeless, but since I moved in, I do feel like I’ve come home. Being in my tiny house feels like a warm hug by a loved one. Not perfect by outside standards, but perfect in my eyes, including all its imperfections.