Deciding how to decide: How to deal with overwhelming decisions in tiny house design.

Photo of tiny house interior bench area

How many design decisions can you spot in this photo? – Photo by Tammy Strobel

Recently at a restaurant, my partner Tammy had a difficult time deciding what she wanted to order from the menu. Her difficulty in making a choice reminded me of all of the choices that went into building and designing the tiny house. As renters, Tammy and I had always chosen the part of town we wanted to live in and let our feelings help us decide which apartment felt right. Once in the rented apartment we accepted the building as it was. We added creature comforts to fit our aesthetics and our preferences but we never had to consider detail of the infrastructure.

When designing the tiny house we were overwhelmed with choices that we had never considered before. What we focused on seemed to expand, and soon we had to ask:

Tammy quickly abandoned me. It was hard enough for her to decide what she wanted to eat in a restaurant much less deciding what furnishings would be permanently installed in our tiny home; and so it became my job to narrow down the options.

I enjoyed the challenge of design, but with the thousands of decisions that lay before me, I knew I needed help to strategize. I needed to decide how I would decide. “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz was a great intro to this topic and helped me understand Tammy’s decision paralysis. Jonah Lehrer’s book “How we decide” gave some me some fantastic insight and tools to use in making my decisions on tiny house furnishings. Both books cite research that finds:

  • The logical portion of our brain can quickly become overwhelmed once the variables (choices) exceed about seven.
  • We should encourage reliance on instinctual emotions for decision making (this mechanism can handle millions of variables)
  • It’s important to understand decision weaknesses. These emotional blind spots include things like loss aversion and normative social influence.

To simplify my choices I tried to listen to my instincts and look for examples while keeping in mind my logical needs and budget. Each area of the house had different needs so I tried to consider each area as a separate project instead of, for example, trying to find a lighting type that would be a compromise fit for everything. Also, I tried to relax a bit since perfect is the enemy of good. As humans, we adapt quickly to our surroundings and soon rarely notice the details of our routine environment. Further, nothing is permanent. If I really hated something or wanted to improve it, I could save some money and replace it the future.

I no longer take home furnishing details for granted. Next time you are in your home, a public building, or staring at tiny house examples, try to notice a few details. For instance, maybe consider which door handles were chosen and why. After going through the process of choosing tools and materials for the tiny house I can now appreciate the small details I find in other homes. I now pay attention to how things work and try to imagine the designer’s rationale. It’s a fun challenge, but Tammy still thinks I’m crazy. ;)

Microsoft Surface Pro, A User Review

Last spring my 7 year old Macbook Pro was increasingly showing signs of age. The hard drive was failing, the processor was struggling to manage new software updates, and things kept breaking. I’d done my best to keep my favorite tool running. I overhauled the computer when it needed repairs using the wonderful sites Powerbookmedic.com and Ifixt.com for tools, parts, and instructional guides. I upgraded the RAM and the hard drive but this only delayed the inevitable. It was time to let this faithful companion go. I adopted my partner’s 6 year old Macbook (after she upgraded) and I kept this hardware alive with a similar strategy. Unfortunately this computer was also near its end and this Fall I decided it was time to upgrade. I don’t take upgrading lightly, but I had run out of options and I needed a new computing tool.

A lot had changed since my last upgrade. Last time, I replaced my Dell desktop PC with a smaller and lighter Apple laptop for portability. This time, even smaller and lighter touch screen “tablets” are being to dominate the market. Hardware specifications are great to reference but with so many choices it really came down to what I needed. My computer had taken on a new roles as a work tool, a communication tool, and an entertainment device. As such I needed multiple ways to interact with the device. Of course I could have purchased several devices to fill these needs, but as a simple living advocate, I value multipurpose tools that can do many things well. I really loved the simplicity of the touch screen interface but most of these tablet-computers were designed for entertainment and lacked the computing power and file management required for professional work. Based on this desire to have both of these features I decided to purchase a Microsoft Surface Pro.

Switching from a Mac back to a PC, much to the ire of friends. ;)

Switching from a Mac back to a PC, much to the ire of friends. ;)

The Surface Pro is a bit of a new medium being a hybrid between a tablet and an ultrabook laptop. For reference, the hardware specifications on the Surface Pro are nearly identical to Apple’s MacBook Air. I won’t list “specs” here, instead I find it more interesting to hear how someone feels while using it. A lot of the Surface Pro reviews have been lackluster mainly because, as a reviewer at the Guardian artfully put it, “…powerful, but too forward thinking.”  As folks have been using this new medium, and as the young software infrastructure improves, there seems to be a change in sentiment. Below is one of my favorite reviews describing this shift in perspective:

The windows 8.1 interface is a new one and it takes a bit of getting used to…but like this fellow, I find myself loving it more and more as I learn to use it. I really dig touch gestures and all of the ways I can interact with the device. I can touch, type, mouse-click, and use a stylus.

I wanted a tablet experience for my new computer after having so much fun with iPads and my iPhone. I loved the intuitive interaction of using my fingers and reading digital magazines on a tablet. However, I realized I still needed a computer because the iPad doesn’t have a mouse. Not having a mouse doesn’t seem like a big deal until you need to accomplish fine/precise tasks like editing text documents, and correcting errors on website forms. Keyboard arrows can only go so far in this area. Also the iPad is a bit limited when it comes to organizing files and computer processing power (editing videos or running apps/programs simultaneously). The Surface Pro handles both of these concerns very well and I love the split screen feature where I can view two or three programs at once.

The Microsoft doesn’t have a huge app store yet, however it is growing as a young platform, and it makes up for it with access to legacy windows programs. Anything that can run on a full windows desktop can also be run on this device. Also, since I already have an iPhone, I have access to many of the fun and creative apps that I would normally feel iPad jealousy over.

The new version of this computer (the Surface Pro 2) has addressed the main concerns of limited battery life, limited storage, and kickstand angle. It is indeed a bit heavy to hold in one hand at 2 lbs but I compensate for this by using a workstation stand I built and by cradling it with my legs and knees up when sitting. I find it amazing that just a 1/2 pound difference between the iPad and Surface Pro can make this big of a difference in hand fatigue. It is important to note however that in that 1/2 pound difference, this computer has the power of a full laptop and so it is a bit unfair to compare it to an iPad except to reference a relative “tablet feel.”

Although I love the genius idea of the magnetic keyboard “type-cover” I have held off mainly because of the price. Also, I’d love it if this keyboard had Bluetooth so that it could be detached and used wirelessly with my workstation stand. Microsoft does have a fun minimalist accessory for this problem right now. But, like I said before, it is pricey, especially when I purchased a Logitech wireless keyboard with touch pad mouse for only $29 or about 15% of the price of the Microsoft accessories above combined to accomplish the same task. I tend to not use laptops on my lap because of the bad ergonomics so a disconnected keyboard wasn’t a sacrifice for me.

The biggest perk that makes this tablet/computer stand out to me is number of ways I can interact with it. I find myself seamlessly alternating between touch-gestures, typing, and using the mouse without consciously realizing the transition. If you are curious to see these interactions I recorded a 5 minute screen-cast demonstration of the Surface Pro that you can view.

It seems funny as I write this but the stylus is another natural feature that I didn’t know I was missing until I had it. The stylus makes it easy to hand write notes in meetings, edit documents, and my biggest favorite: signing documents. One hassle I had in the past was trying to sign documents from an emailed file. In the past I would have to print out the form, sign it with an ink pen, scan it, transfer the scanned file back to my computer, and finally email it back to the sender. I tried signing with my mouse on a PC or using my finger with an iPad but it always came out looking like I was a kindergarten student first learning how to write. Now I can simply open the document, precisely sign it with my “pressure sensitive” stylus, and send it back instantly. Yes, Macs have a similar feature in the Preview app of scanning an image of a signature but it’s buried under several menus. The stylus makes it easy and it has opened up my imagination as to what else I could use my computer for like drawing.

I’ve been using my Surface Pro for about 4 months now and I love it. I highly recommend this computer to anyone looking to invest in a new computer. This new tool fit wells with the constraints of the tiny house and I find it replacing even more tasks than I had intended. Let me know if you have questions and I’d be happy to answer them.

Learning to Invent: Building a Custom, Modular, Workstation for a Tiny House

Workstation Collage

As a relatively tall human (6’1’’) I’ve struggled with using tools designed for others of average height. One primary example was the ergonomics of my computer workstation. Computers have gotten smaller and more portable over time which has been wonderful for adapting the computers to tiny living spaces, but hunching over a laptop all day was a pain in the neck. I tried all sorts of marketed solutions, yet, these solutions were designed for smaller humans and never quite fit me. I loved the laptop size and portability for our tiny house but the problem was always that the keyboard and the monitor screen were connected so that either my hands or my neck were uncomfortable. My hands needed to be low and my screen needed to be high to meet my gaze.

Recently, I retired my seven year-old MacBook Pro computer. As such, I decided I had a new opportunity to address my old keyboard/screen problem. I purchased a new Microsoft Surface Pro computer which is a tablet, touch-screen, laptop hybrid where the keyboard is removable. I loved the concept of this new multipurpose computer but I hated the idea of hunching over an even smaller device at my desk or in my lap. Even if I had a separate wireless keyboard at my hands I needed a way to put my screen up high.

“Necessity is the mother of invention.” – Richard Franck

To solve this surprisingly complex problem of a pain-free, tiny house workstation, I had to distil my most basic needs and wants. This computer workstation had to be:

  • Adjustable
  • Stable, durable, and inexpensive
  • Modular, storable, and easy to use

Most of the ergonomic products on the market were expensive, business oriented, and had to be permanently mounted for stability. My partner, Tammy, solved this problem elegantly by using the bookcase in the tiny house as a standing workstation. Unfortunately, the bookshelves are not at the correct height for me. Even if we had made our book shelves adjustable for my height, I like to alternate between a sitting and standing workstation. Also, I use my computer for more than work. If I wanted to read a recipe from my computer while I was cooking in the kitchen, or watching a movie in bed, I wanted to be able to do so hands free. I realized I needed a mobile stand with a mount for the tablet computer.

Since part of the tiny house DIY ethos is to simplify, it didn’t make sense for me to engineer this tool from scratch. I decided to search for a motley hodgepodge of items that I could assemble together. The result of my inventing process was:

For approximately $75, I now I have a stable, pain-free, workstation that can move around the tiny house. This little workstation adjusts to my height (standing, sitting, or laying down), and can easily be disassembled for storage. Living deliberately with a DIY ethos has helped me assemble my life to meet my physical and emotional needs. I believe all humans are capable of clever ideas. It’s the implementation of those ideas and inventing them into reality that is the challenging part. With a little practice using the Tiny House DIY ethos you too can tailor your life and reduce the discomfort of having to use tools made for the status quo.

Rear view of workstation

Tiny house DIY ethos

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In an age of experts and specialization most of us surrender to the complexity of a new problem and pay to have a professional repair the issue for us. However, there is something about living small and striving for simplicity that has changed my perspective and given me a sense of empowerment. Experts call this improved “self-efficacy”, which means, you have greater confidence in your ability to understand problems. When I run into a problem now I try simplify it and make it easier to understand the parts that make up the whole. Recently I have noticed that many tiny house dwellers share a similar do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos. Some people go so far as to build their own homes without any construction experience. In this article I want to share a recent DIY success I had and describe the limits I see to the DIY ethos.

I will be the first to admit that I use complex technology that I don’t fully understand daily. I do prefer tools that I understand for obvious reasons, if it breaks I can fix it. Recently, I had a tragedy occur to one of my favorite tools. I broke the glass touch-screen of my iPhone. After getting over my feelings of clumsy ineptitude I realized I could learn how to repair my phone. After all, the glass is only one part and parts can be replaced so how difficult could it be?

Even only twenty years ago it would have been difficult to accomplish a similar task because of the lack of information. What tools are needed for repair? Where do you order these tools and parts for the repair? How do you perform the repair? Experts were experts because they had more information than others on a topic. With the advent of the internet information age, combined with the altruistic nature of other people documenting their knowledge in blog posts and YouTube videos, anyone can address their ignorance. With the help of DIY websites called ifixit.com and powerbookmedic.com I was able to order used parts and tools and learn how to fix my own device. Further, I used my new skill and tools to repair my teenage cousin’s phone and teach her what I learned.

The success of my DIY project was fun to share with my cousin, however, it begs one big caveat: What are the limits to DIY projects? When learning a new skill I try to imagine the risks of a mistake. If I damage my iPhone during the repair, I can correct it with minimal consequence. However, if I repair the brakes on my car and the repair fails, it may be fatal. You can certainly learn how to perform complex tasks with greater risk, but I would advise getting an experienced teacher to help check your work and lower your risk of harm.

My simple and smaller living philosophy doesn’t mean I have to grow every bit of food or repair every tool that breaks. It means I enjoy living deliberately. By becoming smarter about my ignorance I can help others and obtain more meaning from my contributions to my community. In this way I can worry less about my personal value being tied to my financial spending power. I believe my greatest contribution to society is not the money that I spend but how I spend my time.

iphone fix

Small is Beautiful – Tiny House Film Documentary Fundraiser and New ebook available

I wanted to give everyone an update regarding two fun tiny house projects I’ve seen recently.

Small is Beautiful is a tiny house film documentary that is conducting a fundraising campaign. Check out the trailer below and be sure to visit the YouTube Channel for more film vignettes of tiny housers.

Small is Beautiful – A Tiny House Film – Pozible from Jeremy Beasley on Vimeo.

HowToDecorate_300x2501Also, our friend Andrew Odom at Tiny Revolution is launching another ebook called “How to decorate your tiny house.” I’ve read through this book and there are some fun ideas of how to incorporate style and functionality into tiny spaces. Just reading the ebook is enough to inspire all sorts of creative multipurpose solutions. You can find out more about the ebook by clicking the image to the left.

The refrigerator experiment

Tiny House Refrigerator - photo by Tammy Strobel @rowdykittens

The joy of living in a tiny house has given me the freedom to experiment with voluntary simplicity. Ironically, voluntary simplicity isn’t as simple as it sounds. The challenge of reducing possessions and becoming more aware of how your everyday choices align with your values is fun, but it’s also a lot of work.

My partner and I first discovered the idea of voluntary simplicity by watching a YouTube video featuring Dee Williams and her tiny house, in January 2008. We instantly fell in love with Dee as a person and it was more than her cute house and tiny square footage that inspired us. Dee’s philosophy on life seemed to challenge common traditions and technology in a way that made us more aware of our consumption and what we took for granted.

One great example of this was Dee’s choice to live without a refrigerator. This idea seemed mad yet engaging at the same time. How could anyone live without an appliance that was more common than a television?  However, when we looked in our refrigerator we found only alcohol, condiments of uncertain freshness, and milk for coffee. Did we really require a refrigerator for these things?

In addition, we always seemed to be frustrated with our refrigerator. These refrigeration frustrations included:

  • Too much noise for quiet loving writers
  • Too much cost for holding forgotten food ($10/month in electricity)
  • Too much mess with accumulated weird odors and mystery stains shortly after cleaning

Before designing our tiny house we wanted to be sure we could live safely without a refrigerator, like Dee, so we unplugged our giant appliance and practiced in our apartment in Portland, Oregon. Since we lived in a city, we could outsource our refrigeration to grocers and pick up fresh food several times per week. During this period we realized that most of our diet did not require refrigeration. Living without a refrigerator also reminded us to not waste food.

After we moved to California, however, the new climate extremes made living without a refrigerator difficult. In Portland, Oregon the temperatures were rarely extreme. We used an ice box during warm summer days and the rest of the year we stored our perishable foods in the cooler outdoor temperatures. During our time in Northern California the winter temps were commonly freezing and the summer temps were greater than 90 degrees F. Further, living in a rural area in California, with trips to the grocer less frequent, we had greater need of refrigeration. We resisted adapting to our new climate for a while but recently realized that our life quality would be greatly improved with a refrigerator.

I did some research and purchased a small Danby refrigerator that would fit into our cupboard. The Danby has been wonderful. It is quiet, energy efficient, and it seems to be just the right size for holding cold beer, some milk, a few leftovers, and perishable summer vegetables. The joy of this experiment has been that I take fewer luxuries for granted and I have greater gratitude for simple pleasures. Now when I drink a cold beer on a hot summer day, I savor the experience and feel happier for what I have in my life.

 

How cycling has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life

Human sized tools - photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

Human sized tools – photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

I started bike commuting in graduate school because parking was complicated, stressful, and expensive. This was about the same time that my partner, Tammy, and I began to seriously consider simplifying our lives. We hadn’t discovered tiny houses yet but the simplicity of cycling appealed to us. By riding my bike I saved money, I grew more relaxed, and I felt healthier. Tammy was envious of my relaxed commute by bike. Her work commute was a stressful two hours by car. Looking back, I think cycling was our “gateway drug” to simpler living. Eventually, to pay off our debt and to pursue happiness, Tammy found a job she could walk to, we adapted to a smaller (400 sq ft) apartment, and we sold our remaining car.
Recently, I realized the reasoning behind our choice to use bicycles as transportation was similar to our choice to live in a tiny house for shelter. After getting into cycling and saving money we read the pivotal book Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. This book prompted us to ask ourselves “how much is enough?”. After answering this question, we started to understand that we didn’t need the all of the space in a big house just as we didn’t need the mechanical-power of an automobile for our lifestyle.  We simply wanted to have enough time and money left over to contribute to our family, friends, and community. Working to pay a large mortgage and a car loan made us feel like we didn’t have enough left over for our relationships. With the money we saved by cycling we were able to pay off our debt and save up to buy a tiny house. Our tiny house and our bikes have similarly contributed to our goal of “having enough”. Below I’ve listed a few similarities that I’ve drawn between tiny houses and cycling:
  • Inexpensive, fun to use, and environmentally friendly
  • Human sized designs that are relatively small and simple to understand
  • Opens you up to being more vulnerable and reliant on your community
  • Requires spending more time outside and noticing the seasons
  • Stimulates mindful awareness
  • Requires outsourcing occasional big tasks
Biking in Shasta Valley - Photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

Biking in Shasta Valley – Photo by Tammy Strobel Rowdykittens.com

Cycling and tiny houses aren’t for everyone, nor are they a cure-all for affordable transportation and housing problems. Like climbing a ladder into a tiny house loft, one must be physically able to accomplish cycling. However, I believe bicycles are a part of the solution for “smart-sizing”.  Most of my transportation needs require less than 10 miles of travel from my home. When I need to go farther to visit family, I rent a car or hop on the train. Cycling and tiny houses have been a wonderful choice for my partner and I. In reflection, adapting to life on a bicycle has gone hand-in-hand with downsizing and living the tiny house life.

12 X 12 Project

The 12x12 project under contruction at the Queens Botanical Garden in NYC - Image from the12x12project.tumblr.com/

The 12×12 project under contruction at the Queens Botanical Garden in NYC – Image from the12x12project.tumblr.com

Head’s up North East readers! A group of artists and organizations is joining with the World Policy Institute and author William Powers to bring the 12 x 12 project to life at the Queens Botanical Garden in New York City. If you are nearby, RSVP for an admission ticket and to get more info on this wonderful tiny house built in the middle of New York City! :)

Cover of William Power's book - image from New World Library Publishing.

Cover of William Power’s book – image from New World Library Publishing.

About the project from the World Policy Institute website above: “The installation is a simple, modular space that houses panels containing text and questions from the Twelve by Twelve book. These panels will vary, allowing the project to grow and evolve. Participants including the public, invited groups, and artists will engage with the question: “What’s your 12×12?” to spark new thinking around what smart consumption means for each person.”

The history of the project is further described on the World Policy Institute side as stemming from “…author and WPI Senior Fellow, William Powers, who was inspired by the powerful story of a North Carolina pediatrician who gave up a luxurious home to live off the grid in a 12′ x 12′ house and permaculture farm. Powers, who spent a season living in the tiny house, chronicled his stay in the 2010 award-winning, national “green living” bestseller, now in its fifth printing: Twelve by Twelve: A One Room Cabin, Off the Grid & Beyond the American Dream.”

Tiny houses are a beautiful symbol of home. Whether home to you means a simple place of peace or the planet Earth as a whole, I think this project offers a wonderful philosophical perspective to consider.

Cheers, Logan.

How we keep cool in a tiny house during big heat

Elaina the cool cat blocks my workstation relief

Elaina the cool cat blocks my workstation relief

During the summer months in Portland, Oregon, air-conditioning was unnecessary. The temperature was typically around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (F) and rarely felt hot. The wool insulation in the tiny house combined with a fan to suck in the cool evening air was all that was required to stay within a tolerable temperature. However, now that the tiny house has moved south to the Central California Valley, the summer heat has been intense. We moved to Red Bluff, CA during the first week of May and quickly experienced high temps above 95 degrees F. In early June, one day exceeded 113 degrees F.

I quickly realized after a few days in our new climate that we needed to adapt. Our tiny house has a wonderful feeling of space with 10 windows, however, a sunny day can rapidly turn this benefit into a green-house effect. Further exacerbating the problem was the tiny house parking spot. In Red Bluff, CA the tiny house is parked directly in the sun and on a black asphalt driveway. To cool the house, I started drawing the window shades after mid morning to reflect sunlight. Also, to reduce solar gain in the loft, I mounted a nylon sun fabric to the outside of our skylight. Although, blocking sunlight and using a fan to circulate the air reduced the interior temp about 10 degrees F, this wasn’t quite enough to get the house down to a comfortable temp.

Exterior view of AC

Exterior view of AC

To meet our immediate need and to save the cats from another day of misery, I purchased a small window air-conditioner with good reviews. The model I purchased was a 5,000 BTU, 500 Watt, Frigidaire unit. Thankfully, this air-conditioner was inexpensive ($118) and easy to install with the provided insulating foam and a few added “L” brackets. The opening for my tiny house window is only about 18” wide but the air-conditioner with insulating foam fit easily. The unit is very stable with the “L” brackets and conserves space by protruding only about 5 inches beyond the exterior siding and less than 1 inch beyond the interior wall.

Initially, I was concerned that the energy consumption with this new appliance would skyrocket. After using the unit nearly constantly for about two months I’m happy to report that our electricity cost merely doubled from about $6/month to $11/month. In comparison, the central air conditioning and attic fan in my mother-in-law’s 2,500 sq ft home costs about $300/month to run. This cost is so prohibitive that my mother-in-law keeps her central air off. We have invited her to come over to the tiny house to cool down periodically. For example, during that 113 degree F day I mentioned earlier, we all hung out in the tiny house and relished the comfortable 70 degree F interior temp.

In summary, after six seasons in the tiny house spanning three distinct climates, I’ve learned how to adapt. Below are a few tips I’ve learned that can help keep a tiny house cool in the summer heat:

  • Trees are wonderful for blocking the sun and reducing the wind, so incorporate them into your parking space planning.
  • If possible, park on grass surfaces during the summer. Black asphalt surfaces can dramatically increase the heat.
  • Sun screen fabric is a great addition to the house and has the added benefit of greater privacy.
  • Tiny houses are easy to efficiently heat and cool so don’t worry about the added $5-10/month additional cost in maintaining a comfortable temperature.
Dang, our power billed doubled to $11! ;)

Dang, our power billed doubled to $11! ;)

Big Moving with a Tiny House

tiny house move

One of the biggest perks to living in a tiny house on wheels is that it can be moved. This perk allows my partner, Tammy, and I to be flexible in our plans and adapt to changes in circumstance and choice. It’s heartbreaking when we hear stories from friends that lament feeling “trapped”, having to turn down opportunities because their traditional home mortgage limits their choices. Recently, due to an illness in the family and the loss of my job, we decided to move closer to our relatives in Northern, California. We moved from Portland, Oregon to Yreka, California and then 8 months later moved again to Red Bluff, California. In two months we plan to move yet again to Chico, California. Tammy’s article entitled “The Big Move” on RowdyKittens describes the “why” behind our moving. In this article I will briefly describe the preparation, journey and arrival aspects of our tiny house moving adventures.

The Prep
You may have guessed that tiny house moving is as simple as closing the door and hitching up the house, but unfortunately, even moving tiny is still “moving” in many of the traditional connotations of the word. Moving stuff is typically anxiety provoking and expensive (in both time and money). To minimize costs and angst we did our best to prepare for our tiny house journey southward. As with any move, we still had to pack and box our belongings because we didn’t want things falling and breaking while the house was flying down the road at 55 miles per hour. Additionally, prior to the move, we typically have to move the tiny house from its scenic parking location to a truck accessible location, such as from a backyard to a driveway.

To accomplish this task we have a “power mover” electric dolly. This dolly tool is approximately the size of a lawnmower, attaches to the tongue of the tiny house trailer, and because of its small size, can move the tiny house around just about any obstacle. This dolly is wonderful for placing the house in a shady scenic location and getting it back out again for moving.

Moving the house from the backyard is relatively easy compared to moving the tiny house down the roadway. One of the often overlooked aspects of preparing for a tiny house move is height restrictions on roadways. Since the department of transportation typically restricts loads to within 8’6” wide and 13’5” tall many tiny houses are built to those limits for maximizing interior space. Unfortunately, not all bridges, over passes, and telephone cables are beyond these limits. Further, some gas stations have roofs that are also below these limits and can’t be accessed with the trailer attached. Because of this, it is very important to scout out your route for potential conflict locations and plan out good spots for re-fueling. There are long-haul trucker resources for best route information and most states allow wider and taller loads with a permit. The nice thing about obtaining a permit is that you get certified expertise regarding the routes that will work for your “haul”.

The Journey
Hitching up a tiny house to a truck is similar to any other utility trailer or camper. Follow the guidelines set by your trailer manufacture and you are good to go. Briefly, we raise the trailer tongue with the mounted jack, back the truck up, and lower the tongue receiver onto the ball hitch mounted to the truck. We then plug in the trailer’s electric cord into the truck’s bumper outlet for powering the trailer’s brakes and lights. Finally, we attach the safety chains/break-away cables and double check that the trailer lights and brakes are operating before hitting the road. For our house, we purchased the ball hitch size that fit our trailer and decided on an adjustable modular hitch system that can be swapped or moved up and down. Because we don’t own a truck, we wanted our trailer hitch to be as adaptable as possible to whatever we have available to tow.

Driving down the road the first time was nerve-wracking. Although we had prepped and double checked our route, it’s nearly impossible to measure every wire that appears to hang low across the street. Every wire looked “too low” and every passing commercial truck seemed too close to our house. However, after a few hours on the road we relaxed into the ride. Our second move, from Yreka, CA to Red Bluff, CA was much easier both in length and because of our experience from our prior move.

On our second move we were also relaxed enough to enjoy all of the smiles, honks, waves and thumbs up we received rolling down the highway. It never ceases to amaze me when I see someone’s first impression of the little house. It’s a look of sheer wonderment and smiling. We literally had so much encouragement on the road and at rest areas that our friend Dee suggested we should have a little wooden shop sign with our blog address, RowdyKittens.com, on the house for advertising.

The Arrival
Even though our last move was easier than our first move, nothing beats the feeling of relief when arriving at our destination safely. It’s like being a kid on the first day of summer after a difficult school year. We can literally feel the stress melt away and excitement build in us for our new location.

After placing the house were we want it, we take our time setting up camp. First we connect water, electricity, and begin leveling the tiny house. Secondly, we hang out with our new neighbors. We always have our immediate needs of food and drinks planned out so that we don’t need to worry about unpacking boxes on the day of arrival. Instead, we can relish in learning the stories of our new neighbors and start the difficult process of making more friends and never forgetting those that we left behind.