Hi blog readers,
First, look at this:
Then, read this:
I’m selling the sheep wool insulation for the Casita. Those walls will never know the gentle warmth of sheep, unfortunately.
As it turns out, I am also selling the Casita. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I’m selling it to my parents, and they are completing the interior and then hoping to use the house on a piece of land, possibly in the mountains of Virginia, as temporary vacation housing. They’ve been talking about doing this for many years but now my mom is approaching retirement (whether she admits it or not…) and they seem to have an eye on making the dream come true.
As for me, my tiny house dreams fizzled away once I fell in love and got a city job. My life took another completely unpredictable twist and I’m now working in real estate development/management in South Philly. I live in a gigantic row home (2200 square feet), just me and my boyfriend. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? Fortunately we’re not that crazy – that house is up for sale. We just finished painting the walls of our 1100 square foot brand-new row home 10 blocks west of there. I like people and all, but I really couldn’t see myself living in 120 square feet with another person in a 4-season climate, nor was I motivated to rally the City of Philadelphia into letting me put a tiny house on an urban lot.
I discovered that unless you live in a very rural or very progressively-minded area (ahem, Portland Oregon), tiny houses don’t actually make that much sense. I’ll come back to that in a minute…I want to say that I’ve always loved cities but I’ve never lived in one until now. The closest I came was far Southeast Portland (more like suburbia). When I was little I was absolutely certain I would spend my whole life in Manhattan and be fabulously rich and famous in a gorgeous apartment, wearing silk dresses with gardenias in my hair like Billie Holiday. BUT, the free and expansive part of me was always drawing me away to the forest and desert and places I could see far away and hear lots of quiet.
Last winter I was so miserable and done with living with my parents and working part-time, having lots of free time and almost no money. I was also terribly done with commuting and driving in densely populated areas – I get road rage sometimes, and at the very least a lot of exhaustion and frustration from the stress involved. Last winter I had a temp job working for an insane yoga organization (My boyfriend called it “the yoga factory”) and I was commuting almost 2 hours a day. When they offered me a full-time permanent position, I had to tell them it was too crazy there and I respectfully declined. I had also started working with an EMDR therapist – the first competent therapist of many I visited over the years – to finally address some old trauma, and the start of treatment was quite bumpy. I was on the verge of sanity – a really ugly state, the likes of which I hadn’t seen since high school. (Yikes.)
Back to my part-time job I went, and I started a desperate search for office work, preferably at one of the big universities so I would have the option of paid graduate schooling if I wanted to do that kind of thing. One day in my job search, I came across a little ad on Craigslist: “Small, busy South Philly office looking for a manager”. I read the description and I could immediately tell it was written by a sane, thoughtful person I might get along with. I sent an email & resume and kept moving – I had sent out dozens and dozens of emails & resumes on Craigslist with absolutely no response. The universities kept sending me automated rejection emails. A few weeks later I actually got an email from a real person, asking if I was available for an interview for a job I applied for on Craigslist. I had sent out so many emails that I had no idea which job it was for. Once we talked on the phone, I realized it was for the one ad I actually liked, in South Philly. I had two interviews. They offered me the job. I said yes. It just happened to be about 10 blocks from my boyfriend’s house versus 1 hour in traffic from my parents’ house, so it made sense to move in with each other a little sooner than we were planning (by a few months). I moved in, I bike 5 minutes to work, rarely have to drive my car, and started feeling so much happier, more grounded, more free, more myself since I made the changes.
So, back to the impracticality of urban tiny housing: South Philly is pretty much the most densely populated area in Philadelphia. I guess I could have rallied to buy a vacant lot for $30K and tried to get the City to let me park the Casita on it, then spent about $5,000 to connect it to the sewer (which apparently would have been the bare minimum). I hope a time comes when people can do this. But not yet. And not me. Also, the main point of a tiny house to me was to have a debt-free lifestyle and lots of freedom. But really, I’d still have a mortgage, or pay rent to put it on someone’s land, albeit less than renting a house/apartment. Finding a spot for it would also limit where I could live – a certain loss of freedom. Another thing I started thinking about when I began learning more about real estate investment was that if you buy some rental properties in populated areas and you take care of them, they will almost always appreciate over time if you hold onto them long enough. This isn’t so in the case of a tiny trailer house; those dwellings will likely depreciate over time since they’re attached to a trailer bed, and are subject to greater wear/decay.
I’m so analytic that I could probably find a reason for just about any choice. The tiny house was a conundrum though – a back-and-forth of yes and no and maybe and why not, until I mentioned I was thinking of selling it and my parents said they were interested in buying it and now that’s happening and I’m closing a very frustrating but very hopeful chapter in my life. It’s bittersweet; I feel some failure. Yet another project I didn’t complete. (If only I could be in charge of starting, not finishing, things!) Some wistful thoughts of what could have, should have been. Some regret that my adorable little USA-made pressed blue glass cups I bought for $12 each from Anthropologie are ending up lost in an 1100-square-foot house instead of honored in a little space on a special shelf. I liked the idea of me, contained in a little house all by myself… Kind of like a den, or a nest. I do feel sad that I won’t get to experience that.
But I guess I’m getting less wistful in my aging – so what? The casita is staying in the family. I wish I had learned the finishing work, but something tells me I will have absolutely no shortage of frustrating carpentry jobs on my horizon if I want them. The truth is, I didn’t really enjoy construction. It was frustrating and stressful for me, and the moments of satisfaction came at quite a high price. I guess a lot of good things in life are like that… I guess you know you’re really growing as a compassionate, patient being if that frustration and stress get minimized and the moments of satisfaction get stretched. Good thing that lesson comes from everything, and not just tiny house construction.
I’ll share pictures of the Casita as they complete it. They said no to the wool insulation and are opting for spray foam and possibly considering selling the wood stove. (Gasp.) My mother sent my blood pressure soaring when she told me she wants to paint my refinished front door purple.
My future is as uncertain as ever, but I seem to have a little more rooting than before, so I guess that aspect of the tiny house project was indeed fulfilled. Now I’m talking about buying a “real” house as an investment property, and I want to go back to India sometime not-too-far-from-now and maybe next year when I’m done volunteering for the Vipassana center trust, I’ll sign up to be a Big Sister… And life just keeps on being consumed. I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since my last blog post – life can really swallow you up!