Another Year of Little Living

The end of the year presents us with a great opportunity to look back and reflect upon what we've accomplished and what we've learned. I cataloged A Year of Little Living back in 2012. In 2013 I wrote 87 posts about my Little Life experience and you can read the best of the best here. I'm grateful for the opportunities that were presented to me in 2013 and I'm already Looking Forward to 2014.

Here are some highlights from 2013:

This Is The Little Life

I started blogging two and a half years ago, but I was shy about it, so I didn't tell anyone at first. For all intents and purposes, this month marks my two year anniversary as a blogger. It's been an incredible experience to share my vignettes about my Little Life with all of you. I've enjoyed engaging in fascinating conversations with followers from around the world. It's especially been a pleasure to meet many of you over the past couple of years at gatherings or during visits. Word Press conveniently showed me yesterday that in 2013 This Is The Little Life was viewed approximately 140,000 times by people in 155 countries. Thank you for your support, encouragement, ideas, insights, and for following along!

 

Niche Consulting LLC

In January 2013, I started up my own sustainable design consulting company, Niche Consulting LLC. I created Niche so that I could work with clients from across the country and around the world who want to create a little home of their own. I've enjoyed doing individual consultations, teaching small group workshops, and assisting clients with small home design work. It's a real thrill to see a design that I helped a client develop be constructed in real life! I've also been able to partner with fabulous sustainable development companies like Portland Alternative DwellingsCaravan - The Tiny House HotelYestermorrow Design-Build SchoolShelter Wise, and Intrinsic Ventures.

 

Workshops

I kicked off 2013 by teaching a tiny house workshop for my cousin's fifth grade classroom and discovered Ten Year Olds Design Awesome Tiny Houses! In February, April, July, and November I co-taught Tiny House Basics Workshops with Dee Williams and Joan Grimm of Portland Alternative Dwellings. In April, I worked with Shelter Wise, PAD, and six amazing students to build a tiny house in two days for the Casa Pequena workshop at Casa Verde in McMinnville, OR. In a July PAD Tiny House Build Workshop we constructed the floor of Dee Williams' vardo and built three walls for Naj Haus. In October, I co-taught a two-week-long Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow and in December I taught Unstuff Your Holidays: A 1-Day Decluttering Workshop.

 

My 200 Things Challenge

Before Downsizing from a Tiny House to a Tinier House, I decided to embark upon My 200 Things Challenge. This time last year I was half way through the challenge. I did a New Year's Re-Inventory and spent some time Taking Stock Without Stocking Up. I also made a New Year's resolution to go paper-free, so I was Strategizing Digitizing and Getting All My Docs in a Row. I recapped What My 200 Things Challenge Taught Me in October.

Masters Degree & Urban Design Certificate

From January through June I worked with Five to Nine Consulting to develop a framework for reintroducing housing into downtown Oregon City. This was our workshop project for our Masters of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) degree. In June I graduated from Portland State University's College of Urban and Public Affairs with a MURP and I wrapped up my Urban Design Certificate the next month.

 

Tiny House Fair

Unfortunately, I missed graduation because I was at Yestermorrow in Vermont, presenting at the Tiny House Fair. Fortunately, it was one of the best weekends of my life. I joked that I was taking commencement really seriously and getting on with my career. It was a treat to be back on the Yestermorrow campus and to meet so many great tiny house enthusiasts, builders, designers, and dwellers. My posts about the Tiny House Fair were republished in Tiny House Magazine.

 

Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours

In June, Kimber and I coordinated the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours. I'd coordinated the tours in 2012 while working with Orange Splot. In 2013 we put both tours on one epic day, which you can read about in the Pedalpalooza Recap. It was great fun to meet so many small home enthusiasts and show off great spaces. We wrapped up at Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel, where we showed off Caravan's Tiny Houses, including Tandem, the tiny house on wheels I finished out in the summer of 2012 as part of My Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building with Orange Splot.

Moving from Home, Sweet Yurt to Home, Sweet Pea

In August, I moved from my Home, Sweet Yurt into Sweet Pea, a tiny house on wheels located in POD49. It's a great little place with really great neighbors in a wonderful location. (And the Sweet Pea Plan Set is available for sale through PAD.) I've thoroughly enjoyed this little home. I've had a Snow Day in the Tiny House and I've even tried Sharing Sweet Pea with my Sweetie.

Site Managing at Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel

In July, my friends Kol Peterson and Deb Delman opened Caravan - The Tiny House Hotel. Their soft opening was serving as the final destination for the Pedalpalooza ADU & Tiny House Tours, but the Caravan Grand Opening in July was a truly wonderful party. I loved visiting with the people who stopped in to take a look at Tandem, the tiny house on wheels owned by Eli Spevak of Orange Splot that I finished out as my Practicum Project for my Yestermorrow Sustainable Design-Build Certificate. Speaking of parties, I celebrated my 30th birthday with a Big Birthday Bash at the Tiny House Hotel. In September I served as site manager of Caravan for two weeks while Kol and Deb were getting married then on their honeymoon. I got to know all the little houses a whole lot better as I developed my Tiny House Cleaning Checklist and I joked Everything I Need to Know About Designing Tiny Houses I Learned From Cleaning Them.

 

Tiny House Mixers

In 2012 I helped coordinate several Tiny House Potlucks. They were a lot of fun, especially when we had them in parks during the summer months, but it was hard to find a place big enough for us to meet in the winter since we all live in small houses. Fortunately, in 2013 PAD began hosting Tiny House Mixers, which have been wildly popular. The November Tiny House Mixer drew nearly 50 people and the December Tiny House Mixer drew more than 30. I'm already looking forward to the January Tiny House Mixer and February Tiny House Mixer.

TinyHomes.com

In October, I began building out TinyHomes.com, a new website which I've co-founded with web developer Kenny Bavoso. TinyHomes.com is a website for tiny homes and the people who love them. Kenny and I are both huge fans of small spaces and we look forward to making TinyHomes.com an in-depth, engaging, and informative website for people interested in tiny homes. You can learn more about what we're up to and how you can contribute in Looking Forward to 2014.

Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project

In December I began Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project on a contract with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. I'll be compiling a series of case studies of permitted accessory dwellings throughout the state of Oregon over the next couple months. Read about the ADU Case Studies Project to learn how you can contribute or follow along.

The Things We Don't Carry

This post was originally written as a journal entry this time last year when I was on a study abroad trip to Havana, Cuba. I was looking back over the entry today and decided it would be a good one to post here. Enjoy!

One of the things that has struck me while I've been here in Cuba is that people carry things here. It's made me more aware of how infrequently we Americans actually carry something. If we have anything we need to transport we do it by car, even if we're not going very far and even if it’s something we could easily carry. It's almost as though we are ashamed to have anyone see us porting an object from one place to another!

 

Okay, maybe we do our hauling by bike if we live in a place like Portland where transporting things by bike is cool, but Portland is a special place.

It certainly isn't the first time I'd traveled to other countries and seen people carrying objects by foot or bike. Walking and biking are primary modes of travel in many place where the cost of motorized transportation is prohibitive. However, I've also traveled places in Europe where people transported things by bike or foot even if they could afford to use cars because a car simply wasn't necessary. (An image that lingers was the man who bought a recliner chair at a Dutch flea market and threw it over his shoulder as he climbed on his bicycle and pedaled off down the cobblestone streets!)

As I've embraced the Little Life over the past couple of years I've often had these flashes of insight in which I realize that the American lifestyle is the exception rather than the norm. And in America we don’t often just walk around carrying things.

In Cuba I've seen people walking with all sorts of things: a plastic bag full of eggs, a lawnmower motor, a table, a mattress, a fifty pound bag of beans.

Oh, and the cakes. So many cakes. One of my favorite images that I didn’t manage to capture on candid camera was two men on a motorcycle, speeding down a little cobblestone street in an old part of Havana. The man on the back of the motorcycle was holding a little round pink cake. I loved seeing people with their pink cakes! Come to think of it, I’m not sure why so many of them were pink, but they were lovely! I couldn’t help but grin at them, happy for this little clue that they were off to celebrate something. This is probably the same phenomenon that makes me grin at people carrying flowers. How can I help it?! It’s so sweet knowing they are on a mission to cheer someone up. I love seeing people carry things because it gives me a little glimpse into their lives.

When we put things in our cars other people don’t get to see what we’re up to. So much of the joy of life that’s visible when we carry things in our own two hands is hidden when our cars do the schlepping. Seeing people carry things throughout Cuba has made me wish that more Americans carried things about if they are able. Not only would it be better exercise for us and more environmentally friendly, it would also provide more conversation starters.

The next time I bake a cake I think I’ll just carry it to the party myself and enjoy the conversations I start along the way! How's that for reinventing the Cake Walk?!

Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project

Kol's ADU Exterior

While I was working with Orange Splot LLC, a Portland-based development company that specializes in innovative sustainable infill housing projects, I Showcased Accessory Dwellings in Portland on the AccessoryDwellings.org website. You can read these posts here:

Now we have updated the AccessoryDwellings.org website so that we can feature more ADU profiles. Our goal is to compile a collection of case studies of permitted accessory dwellings from across Oregon. I’m delighted to be coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project. I look forward to helping people share their ADU stories so that we can continue advocating for ADUs as a flexible, affordable housing option. You can read our first new case study, Kol Peterson's ADU: A Backyard Home.

If you or someone you know has a permitted accessory dwelling in Oregon and you would like to participate in the project, please email me at accessorydwellings.org.

Sincerely,

Lina Menard

Coordinator

ADU Case Studies Project

AccessoryDwellings.org

(541) 854-0875

Sharing Sweet Pea with my Sweetie

Lina & Matthew with Umbrella Man If you’re looking for a good way to test out a new romantic relationship, let me suggest spending a week together in a tiny house on wheels. I moved into my Home, Sweet Pea at POD49 back in August. I’m in a walkable neighborhood, I have great neighbors, and the house really is sweet as can be.

So I’ve loved living here… all by myself, anyhow!

I’ll admit I was nervous about the prospect of my new significant other sharing my tiny house with me for a week. Matthew’s housemate’s mom was in town so we decided that Matthew should stay with me so that she could stay in his room. Since I was rather honeymooney and didn’t want to be away from him, it sounded like a good idea to me. I figured it would be a good make-or-break experience.

One of my favorite things about Matthew is one of his favorite things about me: we both live our politics. Matthew has been impressed by my fascination (okay, okay obsession) with space-efficient design. He thinks it’s cool that I live in a tiny house on wheels. He is impressed that I’m compiling a series of ADU Case Studies. So I was really looking forward to sharing the Little Life with him.

Matthew & Raffi

The day before Matthew was going to temporarily move in with me it occurred to me that if I was going to move in with someone else for a week, I’d really like to have a place for my Stuff - especially in a tiny home where there’s a place for everything so everything can be in its place. I also realized that if I was going to live in a teeny, tiny house with someone else for the long-run it would be best to go into the adventure together, rather than trying to shoehorn someone else into my tiny space. The couples I know who have moved into a tiny house together (like Tammy & Logan) tend to do pretty well, but the ones who have one person move in with the other seem to struggle a bit more. (If you’re doing either, I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments section!)

Now the thing is, even though Sweet Pea is spacious, I’d already done a pretty good job of filling up the closet, drawers, and storage space under the window seat. (And this is after spending nearly a year being very conscientious about my possessions during My 200 Things Challenge!) On the Packing Lightly vs. Packing Densely continuum, I tend towards density. So I had a hard time figuring out a place for Matthew to put his Stuff. I ended up clearing out a bit of the closet so that he could put his clothes in there and tucking away a pair of my shoes so that he would have a place for his. I figured we were pretty well set for everything else since I have a well-stocked kitchen and his extra toothbrush had already migrated to my place.

I was ready for my sweetie to move in.

DSC02121

But the next morning I discovered that my hose had frozen. Now this had happened to me twice when I was living in Bayside Bunglow, but this time we were in for a longer cold snap. I called Matthew and warned him that we’d be living without running water for a few days. “Oooh! An adventure!” he exclaimed and instantly won himself brownie points.

Matthew showed up with a bag of clothes, his coffee maker, his favorite frying pan, and a pair of slippers. Now that, I thought, is my kind of man! He found places for his things and did his best to make himself at home in my wee abode. Two days later, we had a Snow Day in the Tiny House.

We settled into a bit of a routine. We both had days we were out of the house all day long and we managed to alternate them enough that we both had time home alone. My cat was delighted to have such constant companionship. We also made a point to get out of the house together so we wouldn't feel cooped up because of the cold. We took turns cooking warm tasty dinners and doing dishes afterwards. We watched TV shows on my laptop sometimes and read to each other evenings. Sometimes one or both of us would be out for the evening. One night we even hosted a dinner party for five friends. Matthew borrowed my neighbor’s oven to cook a pork roast with apples and potatoes and my friends brought salad, cobbler, wine, and ice cream. It was quite the feast!

Dinner Party for 6

With two of us here the house wasn’t as cold as it would have been if I’d been here alone. But not having running water was more inconvenient when there were two of us. It gave me a chance to reflect on Simple vs. Intentional Living. (It was also nice at the December Tiny House Mixer to find out other tiny housers were in the same predicament.) We hauled water from the BIG House every day. I showered at my neighbors’ place and Matthew showered at school. My neighbors were gracious about loaning us their space heater and letting us doing dishes at the BIG House. I even used the dishwasher after the dinner party. That was really exciting since I hadn’t lived with a dishwasher since I was in college!

Matthew was a good sport about living in a tiny box with no running water for a week. All in all, we got along just fine. He still likes that I live my politics. I’m more smitten with him than ever before. But whenever someone finds out Matthew lived with me in a tiny house for a week and asks how that was, Matthew laughs and says, “Well… it was during the cold snap so we didn’t have any running water” and inevitably the other person winces.

So here’s my advice:

If you’re trying to convince someone that tiny house living is simple, don’t pick the coldest week of the year to show them how it’s done!

December Tiny House Mixer at ADX

On Thursday night more than thirty people filled the loading dock at ADX for the December Tiny House Mixer. There was a great November Tiny House Mixer which I cross-posted about on TinyHomes.com.

This Mixer was the debut of what I can only imagine will be an incredible partnership between ADX and Portland Alternative Dwellings. PAD is committed to educating, inspiring, and empowering people to create tiny homes of their own. ADX is a collective workspace for builders, makers, and tinkers. I think PAD and ADX go together like butter cookies and apple cider. Yummy!

It's awesome that PAD's upcoming Tiny House Basics Workshops, Tiny Chair Workshops, and Tiny House Mixers will be hosted at ADX. There is already one PAD Grad, the intrepid Ben Campbell, who has claimed a tiny house building spot at ADX and he’s well on his way to a wee home of his own. You can follow along (or better yet, help him build) by checking out Ben Builds a Tiny House.

At the Mixer, Joan Grimm welcomed the crowd and shared information about PAD’s newest products and services, including a holiday sale on plan sets, a series of winter and spring workshops (including Tiny House Basics in February and March and a Tiny Chair Workshop in January and February), and PAD’s new Consulting Partners program. Then Dee Williams gave a teaser for her soon-to-be-released book The Big Tiny and reminded everyone to explore our world with curiosity and wonder.

Then I invited up a series of guest speakers who had 2 minutes to share their 2 cents. Nathan Miller of All-Ways Electric and Ian Bruner of Bruner Plumbing offered information about their tiny house services. Then Karin Parramore described building her wee home, Serenity. Ben Campbell talked about his experience building his vardo at ADX and Whitney Johnson talked about her project to facilitate insurance options for tiny home owners. (If you’re a tiny homeowner, please take her survey!) Four of my students from the 2013 Tiny House Design-Build class at Yestermorrow attended the December Mixer from as far away as Boston. We think that's quorum - or at least a reunion!

After the mini-speeches Ben offered a tour of his tiny house in the ADX parking lot. Then there was much mixing and mingling next to the snack spread. There was talk about tiny parking spots available and discussion about which on-demand propane heaters are the best. Many tiny housers also swapped tales of frozen hose woe (Portland had an unusual cold snap this year which left most tiny house folks hauling water for a whole week!) It was, as always, fabulous to see so many connections being made and I'm already looking forward to the January Tiny House Mixer at ADX. Please register so you can join the fun!