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 😉

bad hair day?

For a long time now I wasn’t very happy with the fact that I could find shampoo only in plastic bottles and mostly filled with who knows what exactly. This got me started in looking for alternatives. How did the people wash their hair back in the day when there was no shampoo from the supermarket/factory?

I saw a short report on TV a few years back, where there was a guy cleaning his hair by “rolling around in the dirt” like his donkey did. I was kind of confused how that would actually CLEAN the hair, but didn’t pay any more attention to it.

A little later – by semi-chance – I stumbled across a blog post about a “water only” method (text in german, but helpful pictures) that explains how brushing your hair correctly (from all sides, from the hairline to the ends, and at least 25 times each side) with a boar bristle brush – try saying that three times fast 😉 – can reduce the need for cleaning your hair immensely, so most of the time, only water is needed to wash it.

As an extension to the first one, I also found a second post on this blog on DIY dry shampoo (text again in german, again helpful pictures). In this post, the author explains how to basically use corn starch or medicinal clay to clean your hair. Just put it on the hairline and use the technique of brushing your hair from all sides (back, right, left and front) to brush out the corn starch.

Cleaning the brush often is also very important, because if the old dirt stays in there, the new dirt has nowhere to go. I haven’t found the perfect technique for that yet, but using a little soap and another brush to rub against and really foaming it does the trick pretty well.

I’ve tried this combination of techniques for almost three months now and that’s what I can tell:

  1. The corn starch really does clean out the sebum! – Yes, I was surprised myself!
  2. I had a long-lasting problem with scall – that’s gone now! The hair is still dry in parts, but it’s continually getting better. Even my hairdresser mentionned that my hair is thicker and stronger now.
  3. It does need some time getting used to that type of hair care. But for me it’s worth it.
  4. I have some natural curls that are usually almost gone as soon as I brush my hair, so for a long time I didn’t brush it at all (only after washing), so I actually need more time for hair care, now that I’m NOT washing my hair 😉
  5. For the “problem” of losing my curls, I just used a little water and let the hair air-dry.
  6. There is a risk of using too much corn starch (happens to me a lot). I haven’t observed any pros, but it takes forever to brush out, it stays on your skin – particularly in that spot behind your ears, or sometimes IN your ears -, and it might make the hair look a little pale or dull. Also if you wash it with water right after, and there is still starch in the hair, you might just have to do the whole procedure again when the hair is dry, because it’s sticking together. So USE WITH CARE 😉
  7. I clean my hair with corn starch about once a week, sometimes less, but I do maticulously brush it every day.

Some impressions of my own:

before - dirty hair hair with corn starch after - clean hair

Conclusion: I haven’t stopped experimenting completely, but I found a direction of where to go. It just makes more sense to me to use a method like this than buy chemicals in plastic bottles to put on my sensitive skin.

What do you use as shampoo alternatives? What different experiences did you have with them?

connecting the dots

A while ago a friend of mine told me about an interesting method of raising children that was developed by the Hungarian pediatrician Emmi Pikler. One of the main principles is to not “help” the child to get into positions or places that it couldn’t reach on its own. So for example if you put a baby in a sitting position before it can get there on its own, it will feel insecure and won’t know how to get out of that position and probably experience stress. But if you find the patience to wait until it gets there on its own, it will be much more stable and also feel pride to have accepted the challenge and succeeded.

This information got me thinking about our society today and the experiences we make, that are ripped apart from its natural cycles. If you believe different reports and that general feeling, more and more people develop all kinds of distresses like the ominous ADHD, but also clinical depression and who knows what other psychological “problems”. Could it be because we don’t really know how to reach goals in a stressless way after having accepted a challenge and therefore being stripped (at least partly) of that feeling of pride when having accomplished it?

Also not many people in western society learn and experience in a profound way where our food comes from. We see pictures and movies, maybe have some herbs on the window sill or even tomatoes. But we’re missing so many steps inbetween of what it takes to have that food on our tables. That relationship is probably especially disconnected when it comes to meat, but I won’t go into that now. The way I see it, this could be at least one of the reasons for our behaviour towards food.

The same is true for traveling distances. Most of us don’t have a real understanding of distances, because we (probably) never walked the way to work that takes the subway/train only 20 minutes, but would actually take a few hours to walk. I don’t even want to imagine the distances we overcome when travelling by plane. Because of this, not many people have a real understanding of how much energy is needed to be taken from somewhere else to actually make it happen for us to use public transport, cars, planes – you name it.

So is it really a surprise then, that we consume so much more than we could afford, considering people and nature in other parts of the world or our next generations? The way I see it, it’s a problem of us not being able to connect the dots because we never learned to…

(almost) running water

To get myself some luxury in my tiny house, the next thing on my bucket list was to build a rack for the sink. The idea was to have some kind of canister for water storage connected to a tap, the sink, and a bucket below to catch the greywater. My goal was to produce a system that was as simple as possible while still serving all the needs I had.

enamel sink

This was the enamel sink I found on the internet months ago and fell in love right away. perfect size (38×40 cm), perfect weight, and most importantly: exactly the style that I was looking for. I didn’t want plastic because that’s just cheap, doesn’t look good and … well I don’t really have to list all the reasons why this just isn’t an option. Ceramic would have been okay, but it’s extremely heavy and didn’t fit into my tiny house stylistically. Metal wouldn’t have been perfect, but was the only other option I could live with, but luckily didn’t have to. The funny thing is, that the sink wasn’t only perfect for all the reasons I already mentionned, but it was also the cheapest option, because the guy selling it had a few of them and didn’t know what to do with it.

sinkrack

So for the rack… I didn’t want to build the whole rack myself, because I was a little insecure about the stability of the thing, so I used an IVAR rack (from IKEA) that was 50 cm wide and 180cm high for the back that was going to be by the wall, and another one that was only about 80cm high for the front. Since 80 is a little low for the sink, I added some height by tinkering, built a frame for the sink to sit on, and screwed everything tight.

sink with running water

For the water storage I found a solar shower bag with a tap that I just hung on the IVAR rack, put a bucket below, and now I have the luxury of running water! It’s amazing how seemingly little things can make such a big difference and produce so much excitement for me! I’m still looking for a prettier water container (maybe out of glass), but for now it’ll definitely do.

It’s all down the drain… or is it?

Since I’ve been asked some questions about the composting toilet I built, about how it works and what’s the goal of it, I decided to share some of the research I’ve been doing. Warning: I will not sugarcoat this topic, so if you don’t want to read about shit, just stop reading.

So what’s the difference between the good old outhouse and a composting toilet?

The outhouse was – as the name suggests – outside, so the problem of it being smelly didn’t really exist or at least wasn’t a focus. You just dug a hole, put a “house” over it and used it until it was full. In the early days they probably just dug a different hole at some other place. Later on it was emptied regularly.

The composting toilet is in some ways not that different, but the focus and intent is. For example one of the main goals is to conserve water, and by extension not water down the excrements so that they cannot be used for anything other than be treated in a plant with a high input of energy. To go even further, the idea is to create/close cycles in nature. So by composting your excrements, it is – with time – converted into valuable soil that can be used to grow food again.

That is probably the part that worries the most people: “But diseases can be transmitted and all kinds of stuff…” – Well, I can only rely the information that I found during my research, but it all depends on the time and quality of the composting process. I would probably still not use it for my vegetables but for bushes and trees instead, but that’s only because I didn’t go into the nitty gritty science of that topic (yet).

If that’s the part that worries you, there is always the possibility to just collect it in a (thick and preferrably not see-through) bag and throw it in the trash. With this solution, no natural cycles were closed, but at least the other goals that I mentioned can be achieved.

I also briefly mentioned the smell before… well, I read in a few articles, that a big part of the smell comes from the combination of urine with excrements. I did a small field test about a year ago and did notice a big difference. Having said this, I also feel the need to mention, that even though it does smell a lot less, it still smells. So it is imperative to always close the lid and preferrably have a way to ventilate the area of collection.

To achive this separation of urine and excrements, I used a special toilet seat produced by a company called “Separett” that offers all kinds of different non-water toilet solutions. From a very simple toilet seat like I used to a high-tech composting toilet.

In my first few weeks of usage, what surprised me the most, is the ratio between urine and excrement. I do need to empty my urine bucket almost every other day, whereas the excrement-bucket is still only half full after a few weeks. In the beginning, the smell was not really detectable, but now after about 3 weeks it seems to be time to clear out (even though it’s still not too bad). And I don’t have any ventilation yet!

Does anyone of you have different experiences? I’d love to read about them.

Move your ass!

Even though I wrote before that I needed the toilet to be fully functioning for me to move in, the whole process of building my toilet overlapsed with moving in, since I just couldn’t wait any longer. So the big question was: What do you really need to live?

Well, “need” is defined a little different by each person at each point in time. But since I experienced that being too radical or fast in certain steps of a transformation can turn me off the path completely, I did “allow” myself to stretch the meaning of “need”.

For the moment I moved some clothes, some utensils for the kitchen, towels, and – what I found surprising – mostly books! I did get rid of some of them, and others are still in a box (marked: read at least once but can’t get rid of yet), but at least a third (if not more) of what I moved to my tiny house were books! I can’t (and won’t) say if that’s good or bad, but it was just surprising to me.

I don’t have everything in there yet that I might need at some point, but the first step to living in my tiny house is more or less completed. I didn’t really clean up or prettify it for the pictures (like a lot of tiny house pictures are), since I do actually live in there, but just to give you an idea of how it looks inside at the moment:

tiny house inside

20150106 223831-small

There is obviously a lot still to be done (fix the door-curtain, get a bathroom wall, get a more permanent sink, get a kitchen that looks more in order and more like a kitchen etc. but it’s a start! So what do you think?

Shit

After sleeping in my new little house for two nights in a row, it became apparent pretty soon that the next thing before really moving in had to be the composting toilet. There is a house right next to my new home where I can use the toilet, but it’s winter, and I do want to have some luxury…

I found some leftover wood in the attic so I started to build my wooden box for the toilet. The separating toilet seat I had already ordered and received months ago from Separett .

So I started to build the box for the toilet. I’m sure that any carpenter would be horrified by the way I did it, but being pretty or doing it the “correct” way was not high on my list of priorities. I just wanted it to be stable and do the job. First, I built the frame.

toilet frame step 1 toilet frame finished

After that, I just screwed on the leftover wooden plates on all sides but the top. I thought about building one side to be like a door, but then decided against it (out of laziness probably) and try it with just the hole on top.

composting toilet box

The tricky part was the hole for the ventilation shaft and the hole for the toilet seat. I didn’t want the seat to be moving around on top, but couldn’t make the hole too small because – since I didn’t build a door on the side – the bucket needed to fit through there. So it’s not especially pretty, but it should do the job.

composting toilet box

And that’s how it looked in the end:

composting toilet in a box composting toilet in a box

I’ll let you know how it’s working out in a while…