A Tiny Existential Meltdown…

How can I begin this blog post without sounding horribly fatalistic and defeated? I was going to start,

“Tiny house progress continuing painfully along.”

or, “Do yourself a favor. Don’t build a tiny house.”

or my personal fave, “Casita strangling me slowly.”

Not too much good cheer or positive attitude to be found in the above words for someone who just got half the soffits up, the door trim up & ready for painting, finished sealing the door, cut & sealed the bottom edge of all the siding, and got some more siding up today with the help of Claudio the Carpenter. Still, this project is killing me softly.

I know it’s going to end and be finished and I will have a beautiful house to live in that I build with my own two hands but the terminus of this path is still far out of sight. Summer has nearly come and gone and still the outside of my house is lingering unfinished, not to mention the mountain of tiny tasks remaining inside. I realize I say this as though I have little control over my situation, which of course is not so much true. The brutal truth is that at this point, I just want someone to finish the house for me and say, “here you go, enjoy,” and be done with it so that I can go travel far far away to India or Tasmania or somewhere in the Caribbean or anywhere but here and have no more rooting, obligation, or worry for the material realm. I chose a tiny house to be free… And somehow I’m finding myself more enslaved than ever.

Oh, I know, no one likes to read about the unpleasant. If you’re such a person, you can forego this blog post altogether. But it’s not easy to make something you’ve never made before, with little time, money, or gumption. People say anyone can build a tiny house, and in theory I believe that is true. In practice, however, you must have very hearty helpings of resourcefulness, inner drive, friends or family with skills and time, or plenty of cash. With a deficiency in any one of these areas, your tiny house project may be floundering excruciatingly like my own. Don’t flippantly decide to build your own house; You might find yourself suffocated by its weight.

~~~

Now that I’ve sufficiently wallowed in front of all of you, I can get on to describing what I’ve been doing for the last month. What have I been doing? It’s a blur, really. The house gets worked on in short and completely erratic bursts. A little window sealing here, a little sanding there, a few boards screwed into place there. It’s ridiculous how high my expectations are for speed and how low the actual velocity is.

With that said, I did get three of four sides of the house sided. Efforts were repeatedly thwarted by aggressive nesting wasps in the eaves, which I sadly sprayed (and have continued to have to spray) with poison. Killing things feels bad. I don’t like doing it and I feel sad to be in a situation necessitating the damage of their homes and bodies. Today we got soffits in the long sides of the house, although the ends are going to take more time. There was a lot of precision cutting involved but fortunately we had a glorious day for the task, with dry air to speed the setting of stain application too.

A friend of mine in Massachusetts connected me with a local meditator who happens to do construction for a living, so he came over one day and helped me seal my windows. I decided to try using Claudio’s version of Waterlox, since I couldn’t find any quart-sized containers locally and the gallons were way out of my paycheck-to-paycheck price range. It seemed to work well, although it’s going to need several more coats and I only had time to do two on each that day. I also re-sealed the fascia and trim with this mixture with good results, although they need another coat or two. Likewise I tried the same mix (2 parts tung, 1 part linseed, 1 part spar varnish) on my front door, but for some reason had rather tacky results there, so I sanded it down and applied straight exterior-grade poly spar with much more beautiful effect. The last coat (who knows how many at this point?) is drying as I write.

In short, everything takes two or three times as long as I think it will. Almost without exception. You would think a person would stop having this kind of issue after 15 months on the job, but no. Impatience reigns. Each task is painstakingly slow. I guess that’s how it goes when you have no idea what you’re doing, every step of the way.

Two things bobbling around on the surface of my mind that I would note for next time:

  • Acrylic-based products are crap. I know they’re supposedly more eco-friendly, but I don’t think they actually are in practice, because you end up using more of them, more frequently. Next time I would use all the chemy, oil-based primers, paints, and stains for exterior wood surfaces. Period.
  • If I could do it over again, (and I might) I would have listened to the people at Salamander Stoves and bought a Hobbit instead of the Pipsqueak. This thing is way too small to be everyday practical. But yes, I paid half the price.

Maybe I’ll be finished in a year. I estimate that I will need another $5,000 to finish the project and I’m really not sure where that’s going to come from, since at this point I’m just shaving off what I can from each sad paycheck. Having a tiny house may ultimately free me from the cycle of making money to pay for rent, but until it is completed, I am stuck in the rat race of an inadequately-paid part-time job that I don’t like and no time or inspiration to find a new one. Ordinarily in this situation, I would take off or do something drastic, but now I’m rooted to this house. I have considered doing a Kickstarter campaign or something of that nature, but somehow it feels like it’s not right to ask other people for money for a personal endeavor when I should be able to go out and get it myself. It’s strange, isn’t it, how some people just fall into money, while it eludes others interminably?

But good news! The blog exceeded 40,000 hits!

~~~

What is the point of possessing anything really, anyway? Maybe even a tiny house is too complicated for this wanderer. I keep saying it’s time for big changes. Yet here I am, treading water longer & longer, caught in a whirlpool of a dysfunctional paradigm. What is my message here? I guess that it’s really not about the tiny house, people. It’s not about what your reality looks like on the outside, but how it feels on the inside. Aren’t we doing the same old materialistic bullshit to think that we’re going to be better people, or happier people, just by living in 130 square feet instead of 1300? Maybe I’m just a little lost right now, but I don’t think the size house you live in or the eco insulation you use or the used plates you buy have very much to do with how pure or happy a life you lead. Maybe those things will come naturally as byproducts of your purity and happiness. But to focus on them in reverse, as though they will somehow fix all of our deep and real mental problems that are keeping us unhappy to begin with… I just don’t think it works that way.

So I’m struggling once again, to find my way back to myself, to focus on happiness inside, to find what makes me feel free and do that more. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to do, to live a truly authentic life. To live for yourself. To live in such a way that one’s heart remains unadulterated by the “should”s of friends, family, or society. This all feels somehow paradoxical to my efforts to finish the tiny house now. I guess I just don’t care very much anymore. So I’m re-evaluating. I want to finish what I started. But somehow I’ve lost my way over the last year and a half since I began, so that I’ve broken into a little chaotic pile of myself, and I’m hoping to build myself back together. Silver lining? This is most likely a very beautiful gift from my Life that I just can’t recognize as such yet. Sometimes I’m stubborn and it just takes a little while to get moving again.

News flash: If you’re poor and building a house by yourself, don’t build it unless you’re willing to be rebuilt yourself. Love, a very reluctant rebuilder.

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35 thoughts on “A Tiny Existential Meltdown…

  1. Keep on going! Sometimes it’s a matter of seconds or days before things turn around, and as I’m sure you know, without the the struggle our achievements wouldn’t feel so good! Also you’re blog is great! I’ve learned so much! Here’s a little pep talk from kid president:

  2. It looks really awesome. The love shines through your pics. When this is all done, you will be able to take the longest vacation ever!!!!!!! πŸ™‚

  3. Let me give you some encouragement. I have been a carpenter for 50 years. Built LOTS of houses. A tiny house is a challenge. Just because of the small space and no where to put anything. You rout in the weather and you cant just set up all the tools and leave them set up. Plumbing is harder. electric is the same as a big house all jammed down into a tiny space. Your constantly moving things around. If you don’t have a plan and or are building according to your heart then you are adding to the frustration. But you will be happier in the end. I’m a little bit peeved at the TH Industry because they promote Tiny houses and take pictures to make it look like there is more room then there actually is. You are learning some good lessons and coming up with the right solutions and judgements. If you ever build a regualr house it will be a piece of cake. Hang in there

    • You and I both know that mobility is a limiting factor.As far as a conventional house,a certain size makes sense both $ wise and function wise.
      These folks dont want to be rooted, I guess.She doesnt,.so?
      The camera does play tricks on the eye for sure.

  4. It’s normal to feel this way in a big project like this. You will bottom out in the feeling and start on the upswing again. Once you get the outside done, everything will go so much easier. Don’t be hesitant to ask for help with work or money. We all need it at some time. And you can always pass it on and pay it forward. If you need Kickstarter help to finish, the people that donate will be paying forward from some help they received. Even if you don’t get all the money needed, if you get enough for some materials you could have a work party and get lots done in one day.
    You may be able to move into it before its completely finished and maybe that will help also.
    Hang in there. We are all rooting for you! And if you decide you need to walk away from it, it’s not the end of the world. Who knows what wonderful things are down the road for you. But I’ve got a feeling you and your project will move forward.
    Take care and thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

  5. I understand how you are feeling. I am working towards my tiny house as well. I am still on the hunt for the trailer, so I have been acquiring and building the things that go in it like the watery system, kitchen appliances, water heater, etc. I am super frustrated that I can’t build further until I find the elusive trailer. I love your blog, don’t give up!

  6. >The blog exceeded 40,000 hits!

    Don’t be ashamed. Do a Kickstarter. If every one of those, or even half of those kicked in $1, you’d have enough money to finish your house.

    For what it’s worth, I think your project looks good. Just keep pecking away at it until it’s finally done.

  7. It is very much a journey into your soul. It’s so true everything takes WAY longer than you think. I started at the end of October (’12) and my time estimating for each phase has not improved at all. Each phase is a new challenge and at the end every nook and cranny will hold a memory.

  8. Hi! I really praise you for writing this because of it’s honesty.

    I think you hit a very important point in noting that the whole tiny house movement is just materialism on a tiny scale if the necessary life changes do not accompany the building of a new home. I believe that the tiny house movement is sort of an exaggerated response to the unbearable excessive wastefulness of modern day American society. People can live on 130 sq feet
    , but it’s not for everyone, and it doesn’t solve all your issues. For anyone who feels stuck in your shoes, I would recommend the following things:

    -before you build go and travel. See how others are getting by and learn first hand. I would recommend taking part in a program like woofing, to learn about sustainable farming, and alternative lifestyles, get to know others who share your visions, but most of all discover where you fit in to this beautiful world.
    -you don’t need to build tiny, small is ok too! Look into other possibilities! Cob and adobe can be much better for the environment than tiny houses made from normal construction materials!
    -take time to change you life, and yourself. It won’t happen from one day to the other. Spend as much time in nature as you can, and get to know people who feel similarly and have similar goals. Think about moving altogether but don’t rush anything! Instead take time to plan and think everything through. Problems in your life won’t go away from living small, but it can be a huge part of changing your life and your lifestyle all together!
    -I strongly believe you should not be building things alone. You should find friends or a community who will help you. It changes everything! Construction will be faster smoother and more fun.

    In all I very much respect the fact that you are building for yourself and I hope that in one of my suggestions you will find what you are missing today, and achieve it tomorrow! It’s never a question of money, but will, luck, and friends, but mostly friends πŸ™‚
    BALÁZS

  9. Pix-
    This reminds me of when I was giving birth. Miles, being my first, meant I had no idea what to expect when labor hit. I had read and seen tons of information about what the experience would be like, but once inside it there was so much unknown revealed. I was told ahead of time that I would reach a period of time during labor where I will no longer believe I am capable of going through any more labor. I was told I will likely break down, give up, cry, refuse to go on, and be all around defeated. This would be the time, this would be the hardest time, but to push through would lead to victory. I was in labor for 36 hours. At around hour number 32, these feelings I was warned about began to flood over me. I was told they were coming, and thought in advance that I would remember the warning and not get taken over by the feelings. But I did– the feelings hit me like a ton of bricks. I cried, I begged for it to end, I wished I had been highly drugged up. I decided to take a shower. The cool tiles on the wall against my face were just enough pain relief to be reminded that if I pushed through, I would relish in the reward. After 2 more hours of pushing and screaming and laughing and more screaming, Miles was born. My work of art, my tiny house πŸ™‚ Its amazing how quickly you forget about the pain and struggle when you have a most brilliant masterpiece before you. Pix mama- you are building the perfect home for your wandering spirit. You have to pay some price for the pay off- your biggest price is being tied down– and you are– for now. But you are getting so close and your achievement is near! Keep pushing through– you will quickly forget the struggle when you are enjoying your new home. The progress has been incredible to watch. You are almost there!! Please come visit Portland with your new home soon!!

  10. It feels a bit wrong but omg-my-god you made me laugh. This piece was so well written. I hope you’re keeping a journal. Some people come into cash when they write books.

  11. Pix, I can’t tell you how much this piece resonated with me and the similarities to how I’ve been feeling the last few months. I especially liked your comment about “This is most likely a very beautiful gift from my Life that I just can’t recognize as such yet. Sometimes I’m stubborn and it just takes a little while to get moving again.” I feel the same way – at some point I know it will all come together and I’ll understand why I took on this crazy project, but days and months like these sometimes all I want to do is run away and it takes all my energy to stick with it and not leave yet another project of mine half-finished. Thanks so much for sharing your frustrations, it really helps to hear others grappling with the same struggles and frustrations, especially when you read so many “feel-good” blog posts about how wonderful tiny houses are, how easy they are to build, and so on. Look forward to seeing more of your progress…I love your door!

  12. OH MY GOD. I literally just waived my right hand in the air like Christina Aguilera issuing a Hallelujah when one of her The Voice contestants hits a glory note. My wife and I both just want to fly away to Europe and escape all of the stress that this tiny house is putting on us. I foolishly thought we’d finish the whole thing in 6 months, and it’s been much longer than that.

    Running out of money? Check. Running out of motivation? Check. Losing my fucking mind? Check. Of course, we’ve slowly put those things all back together, but this is a REALLY, REALLY hard thing to do – building a tiny house.

    I’m with you – I know it will be great when it’s done, but right now I just feel like FUCK THIS TINY HOUSE.

    Preach it, sister!

  13. I’m casey friday’s wife. He read this post aloud to me and I gave it an ovation when it was over. I could have written this (and kind of did if you want to check it out: http://ow.ly/o7XgC). This is all so true, seriously, and THANK YOU for telling the truth. So much sunshine being blown up asses in the tiny house community. If I had to pick one part that stood out (without just copying the blog post) if would be this:

    “People say anyone can build a tiny house, and in theory I believe that is true. In practice, however, you must have very hearty helpings of resourcefulness, inner drive, friends or family with skills and time, or plenty of cash. With a deficiency in any one of these areas, your tiny house project may be floundering excruciatingly like my own. Don’t flippantly decide to build your own house; You might find yourself suffocated by its weight.” AMEN. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this.

  14. Thanks so much for your honesty. It takes courage. But we all need a bit of bitter truth to keep the movement, and ourselves, humble, responsive and REAL. Keep at it – and thank you πŸ™‚

  15. Dont focus on the huge task ahead.Just take it one step at a time.
    The longest journey begins with one step.Do a little job everyday.
    Building houses on a budget by yourself takes a lot of discipline.If you dont work regularly,it wont get done. Hopefully you are up to the physical part.,,,
    Avoid Acrylic exterior paint.Stain is better.
    Tung Oil? Its not an exterior finish and it takes forever to dry.
    I built my house to live in and avoid the 30 year Mortgage plan.
    Your reason is >>>>?
    I hope you have a place to put this.That seems a large complication to me.
    Cheer up It looks great.
    Get living inside and just make the exterior weather proof.
    My opinion these Tiny houses are too small for everyday living.Good luck.

  16. Really Folks,
    You cant live on air or love.
    Yes,you need some $ to do anything.
    Yes it requires work,lots of work.
    Yes,it requires some skill.
    I guess most folks are not disciplined enuf to take on a building task.
    Cheer up its tiny after all.
    One step at a time.Get your materials before you need them.
    Hopefully you have some friends in the trades to offer some advice.
    WALt.

  17. Fantastic comments, you have a great following Miss Pix and you’ve always been exceptional with words. Lovely and painfully honest blog. As for the tiny home, it already looks like it fits in somewhere around the Evergreen woods.

  18. Thank you everyone for your comments. I’m quite surprised by the level of interest in this blog post! (Positive, negative, and neutral…) I hope you all don’t mind that I’m not responding to your comments personally, but know that I read all of them and appreciate your participation on the blog.

  19. Pingback: tiny aphorisms | aatinyhouse

  20. Well, all I can say is I might feel this way VERY soon. And your windows are the color I want so I’m a bit jealous of that! I feel like I sacrificed summer to build on the weekends and I hope to move in by January, which is probably an INSANE goal, but you gotta have goals anyway.. Keep up the great posts lady!

  21. From someone who’s been there, you’re doing an amazing job AND taking time to blog in the midst of it–impressive! I didn’t start blogging until I moved into mine. It took five years to build. While I didn’t think that I wouldn’t finish, I often couldn’t imagine how or when. You are not alone in your questions and frustrations. A friend once advised me to release my attachment to timeline (a nearly impossible concept) since it was my first build and it would simply take as long as it needed to. At least it helped ease self-criticism. I would also add, it’s ok to take breaks (even a week or months) for balance and perspective. Love the post. Sending good energy for the journey. Angela

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