Alexis & Christian spent nine months building their tiny house, and now they're in a middle of a two-year project capturing the stories of the tiny house community across the nation. There's a power in storytelling, and their goal is to contribute to a ripple effect of positive change through tiny housing advocacy.www.tinyhousetinyfootprint.com
Our DIY tiny house on wheels is 11 months old and took nine months to build. The general footprint and size is based off of Tumbleweed plans (Elm model), but after framing, we went in a completely custom direction.
We are currently traveling across the US with our tiny house on wheels (THOW) in tow for our documentary and community outreach project, Tiny House Expedition.
Before going mobile, I was working as an account executive at a marketing agency in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and was itching to get back to my filmmaker roots. Christian was already fairly mobile, working as a freelance photographer and videographer. He traveled between North Carolina, New York and sometimes around the world. Christian has always been happiest traveling with a camera and a backpack.
Post-divorce, I was in a transitional period of my life and looking for opportunities to simplify and embrace everyday adventure. The tiny house movement deeply resonated with me. It was a way of life that ditched the traditional script of our largely dissatisfied consumerist society for a life in a simple small space. It meant fewer things, more experiences and a better quality of life.
Through my extensive research of the movement, I was amazed by the many developing alternative communities and grassroots housing projects that were popping up all over the country. These vibrant projects creatively addressed modern housing issues, the need for sustainable living and the yearning for more meaningful lifestyles through tiny or micro housing. I had a major light-bulb moment.
The underlying purpose of our project is to spark community conversation, share resources and inspire positive community building to create more tiny housing projects, providing a sustainable housing solution for all. This is entirely a passion project. We believe there’s a power in storytelling. Our goal is to contribute to a ripple effect of positive change through tiny housing advocacy. More unconventional, quality and legal housing options are needed and desired.
Beginning the downsizing process was a bit overwhelming. Christian, a veteran downsizer was a major source of support and coaching. He encouraged me to focus on one room at a time and start with the easy pickins in each room, the true junk items. Item by item and layer by layer, downsizing started to become exhilarating. The downsizing process enabled me to see and feel each item for what it was—either something that resonated with me and I loved dearly, something that was crucial to my daily living experience or something that was just taking up space.
Construction was long and slow, but very rewarding. One of the biggest challenges in the building process for a DIYer is first finding a place to build. Our good friend Tom, a master carpenter and general contractor, generously let us build on his property and use his tools. He also mentored us and helped us accomplish some of the most difficult aspects of the build, like framing. Later Tom and his wife, Johanna, created their own tiny house on wheels business, Perch & Nest, a tiny home and cottage company.
Christian’s favorite phase of building is the finishing work. He loves the details, and also has a great problem-solving skill set. Christian came up with many killer multifunctional and space-saving storage features and crafted a beautiful interior. Downsizing is a prerequisite of living tiny, but the effective use of space, to house your remaining things while maintaining a sense of openness, is crucial.
Also embracing your personal sense of style and tailoring your home for your needs is fun and exhilarating.
How do you shower? We shower in our luxuriously large 34” x 36” shower, lined with recycled, galvanized and powder-coated metal sheets. We have a great propane tankless hot water heater offering instant hot water.
Where do you park? Wherever we can. Our tiny house on wheels is not fully off-grid capable, so we rely on plugging in and access to water. We can go a few days without water access, thanks to our 20-gallon freshwater tank. We’ve parked at city and state campgrounds, RV parks, parking lots (at locations where we also held an open house and at Walmart, out of necessity), driveways and in tiny house communities we visit. City and state campgrounds are often beautiful and less expensive than RV parks. If you have off-grid capability, you can score free scenic free parking on Bureau of Land Management land. Through networking online or with friends and folks we meet at events, we find free parking offers on private property. Many kind and generous folks have invited us to stay, for free, on their land. We met this lovely family while showing our tiny house at a home show in Phoenix, and we ended up staying on their property for a week and became good friends.
Exploring the great outdoors on foot or by bike, attending live events and saying "yes" to spontaneous invites from folks we meet on the road, like attending a rural bluegrass festival or an invite-only corporate meeting with Cirque du Soleil entertainment (believe me, it was amazing).
For me, tiny living is an expression of the essence of who you are; it leaves you with the items you most love and most need.
Go for it. There is absolutely no time like the present to prioritize your well-being and embrace adventure. If you keep putting it off, it will only get harder to begin.
Start saving and research, research, research. How tiny is right for you? Is building your own house feasible? Access to available land, tools and a support group are crucial to success of DIY builds. There are many great online resources, YouTube videos and workshops. If you don’t know how to do something, ask an expert for advice or guidance. Do you want to travel occasionally or frequently? For frequent travel, we recommend going tinier, 20’ or smaller. The bigger the house, the harder it is to maneuver on the road and in and out of parking spots.