My tiny house journey requires some backstory...
It's Alaska, your Tiny House Concierge, here!
There are a few consistent questions I get asked by strangers on the internet, but one that comes up fairly frequently is: what do your friends and family think of your tiny house lifestyle?
I thought long and hard about how to write the following post. After all, you don't know my friends and family, and in order to make sense of their reactions, you would need some deeper insight into my life. This honestly makes me just a touch queasy, but I have decided to put on my big-human pants and tell you the story of what was going on behind the scenes of a life that led to me living tiny.
To understand it all, you'll have to go back in time with me, because this story starts almost fifteen years ago in Los Angeles.
My tiny house journey began in LA...sort of.
I was nineteen years old- or maybe twenty. I sat alone at a cafe table, chewing on the straw of my iced coffee and simmering in ulcer-inducing nausea that comes from knowing that as a writer, the odds were stacked against me.
A man passed by my table then. Whatever you're thinking about, break up with it, he told me. And then he left.
I don't remember the specific thought I'd been having when this event transpired, but I vividly remember the general discontentment in my life at the time.
I had been living in Los Angeles, working on film sets to pay my rent, and trying to make peace with the gut-wrenching statistic that only 1% succeed in making a full-time living out of a creative passion. But I did want to make a living out of being a writer.
I had wanted nothing more than what we all want: meaningful work and relationships, food and shelter, a little peace and quiet, and to know that it would all turn out OK.
These were not things Los Angeles had to offer me, though. Clearly, as even random strangers in cafes thought to call me out on my misery! So, I did the only thing I could think of: I packed up my bags and moved to Orange County.
Orange County had room to breathe. You could get in and out of Target in less than an hour, and there were parking spaces. Parking spaces. Surely this was the land where my life would come together.
I became an assistant manager of a gym and then a licensed real estate agent—all the while promising myself that someday, I would become the writer I'd always meant to.
Burnout led to me to massive change.
I never know how to tell the story of how my life came apart. I suppose it started with the burnout that comes from forty-hour weeks in customer service. My health began to suffer as a result, and as time passed, I began to write less and less.
In the midst of my burnout, my rent was raised to account for 56% of my take-home pay. Then my marriage ended, and, unable to qualify for my own apartment, I quit my job and closed the doors on my new real estate practice, so I could move home to Alaska.
I had no partner, no house of my own, no career path, or even so much as a pet to attach myself to. I remember the feeling of being untethered as almost unbearable. I didn't understand how it was possible to envision a beautiful life so clearly, and yet have none of it manifest.
I wish I could go back and tell that version of myself not to worry. I would tell her that it was all going to pan out in the most beautiful way thanks to- of all things- a tiny house! But of course, you can't do that. And that girl probably would have thought I was crazy! Still, it gives me solace to know that somewhere in The Universe a different life was brewing.
A different life was on its way, but unfortunately, things would get worse before they got better.
I'd known my sister was sick, but I hadn't realized the extent of it. By the end of summer, it was clear that her autoimmune complications had become life-threatening. So, in a last-ditch effort to save her life, my mother bought a house near a treatment center in Kansas, and I moved into the basement to care for my sister during what I was sure would be her final year.
Oh, and then we were hit by a global pandemic.
Through it all, I hung on to one measly bit of hope: that I would buy a house. Somewhere in the mess that had become my life, I'd concluded that as housing was my biggest expense, it was also my biggest opportunity to live life on my terms. I would use a house, I decided, as the financial leverage I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. A home would stabilize me; it would signify the beginning of a brand new existence.
There was just one problem: I couldn't buy a house to save my life.
There was the house with the lime green walls and real hardwood floors that was perfect until I learned it needed a new roof. Then, there was the house with the purple dishwasher and the life-sized mural of jungle cats that I was sure would be mine before I got outbid. There was the house with the title issue, the one advertised as a "rehab" that required starting with a bulldozer, and the one that the woman decided not to sell after all. At least that last one led me to meet my good friend, Michelle.
My tiny house journey began to crystalize.
I had been looking to console myself when I started browsing tiny homes. Tiny homes were cute and comforting. They were new and didn't have things like lime green walls and roofs on the verge of caving in. There was a simplicity about them, one that I craved.
I'll never forget the moment I saw The Tiny House of Peace. Daylight streamed in through the windows and skylights. Plants grew wild and dangled off every shelf. It was small and manageable; I could afford it, and I could move it. That last part was particularly convenient because I'd recently learned that the clinic treating my sister was closing its Kansas branch, and we'd all be moving to Tennessee.
The best part? The tiny house had a sauna- a major part of my sister's treatment.
It was the worst time to buy a house, but I didn't care. I can't explain the feeling I had when looking at it except to say that it was my house, and I'm eternally grateful that the original owners, @bornandbound, agreed. So, if you're following along, it was mid-move, mid-pandemic, in the midst of both a personal and global crisis that I purchased The Tiny House of Peace.
And it was peaceful, but it didn't fix everything. In fact, I didn't even get to move in! By the end of 2020, I was living out of a hotel room in Tennessee with my mother and our two chihuahuas while my sister received treatment. We had Indian food for Thanksgiving, which was delicious yet strange, and by Christmas, I was so exhausted I don't actually remember what happened. I think I bought a ten-inch faux Christmas tree from Walmart, and we agreed to celebrate the following year?
Meanwhile, somewhere in Texas, my beautiful, tiny house baby lived in a storage unit where it would remain for the next seven months. I missed my house desperately, but knowing that it was mine brought me hope that one day life would be different- and guess what? One day, life was.
Life happens fast. So did the final stages of my tiny house journey.
It comes apart fast, and it comes together fast, or at least that's how life happens to me. It was a few days before the 2021 New Year when I mentioned the idea to my best friend, Heidi. I think I want to start a business called The Tiny House Concierge, I told her.
That's the cutest thing I've ever heard, and you should do it immediately, she replied.*
I started The Tiny House Concierge Instagram the next day and found tiny house parking in Colorado the following month. This time around, I vowed to build a sustainable life of my own design. It was going to be simple, it was going to be magic, and it was going to be mine.
It's amazing to look back and see how all the pieces came together and how every one of them mattered. It was while working at the gym that someone told me I ought to be in real estate. Working in real estate taught me the power of our housing decisions. It was knowledge of that power that ultimately led me to choose a tiny home, and- get this- it's my tiny house lifestyle that is giving birth to writing opportunities.
Sometimes it feels like a dream that this has all come to fruition. For the first time since leaving California, there is someplace I belong, and for the first time in my life, my vision is taking root. There is food and shelter, meaningful work and relationships, there is peace and quiet. I am finally enjoying a life lived on my own terms.
What my family and friends think of my tiny house journey:
I told you in the beginning that I struggled with how to present this article to you. I'd wanted to tell you about what my friends and family thought of my choice to go tiny, but maybe now you can understand why I couldn't just give you quippy one-liners about their knee-jerk reactions to small space living. To do so wouldn't give you any information because my friends and family haven't reacted to the concept of a tiny house as much as they've reacted to the impact a tiny house has had on me.
Had my life unfolded with less chaos, my family might have had greater reservations about my choice to go tiny. As it unfolded with plenty of chaos, I think they were just happy to see me find the thing that kept me from drowning. They all agree that a tiny house seems to be the perfect fit; they agree that it's made me grow.
Every so often, I'll ask my family if any of them would ever live tiny, and while they've historically said that they wouldn't, they are getting more curious about the lifestyle as time goes on. My uncle, for example, has expressed interest in the sustainability aspect of tiny homes, and my aunt says she's inspired by the minimalism component. My mother has said since the beginning that she couldn't live tiny herself, but she also found out just last night that I have a regular-sized refrigerator and not a mini-fridge, so we'll see if that changes anything!**
As for my sister, Betsy, well, she is thankfully going into remission and is starting to think about where she might want to call home next.
Betsy is famous for her champagne taste, but now that she knows you can buy skoolies with skylights and park models with marble countertops, she's warming up to the idea of small space living! She even went so far as to express a variation of my Aunt Robin's latest sentiment: I would want to put several tiny houses together; I would like to live tiny, just not too tiny. Betsy and Aunt Robin, if you're reading this, Tiny House Expedition just interviewed a woman who did exactly that!
As for my friends, well, most of them seem happy living in regular-sized structures, but over the past year, they've shared sentiments like:
- You've grown so much.
- It looks like a fun lifestyle.
- I imagine it's cheaper.
- Great! Now you can come live in my backyard! (Thanks, Maddy, maybe one day I will!)
Over time, I can feel their curiosity growing. They are starting to ask me more questions about what this lifestyle entails. They can see the changes at play in my life, and I like to think they would agree that the tiny-house-glow-up is real!
The past few years have been wild, and painful, and weird, but also beautiful and inspiring in their own way. I don't know what will happen next on my tiny house journey, but I do know that random strangers don't stop me in cafes to tell me I look miserable anymore. In fact, if there is one most common thing my friends and family tell me these days, it's this: you look happy.
And you know what?
Thanks for listening.
All my love,
*Actually, what she was, that's cute AF, and you should do it immediately, but this is a respectable publication, so… 😀
**She's not the only one to be under this impression! People are often surprised to learn that tiny houses often come with regular-sized appliances.
Alaska is a writer, realtor, and tiny homeowner living in the great state of Colorado. She is the founder of The Tiny House Concierge, a company that offers consultation and copywriting services for people looking to rethink their housing and rewrite their lives. In addition to her website, she can be found on Instagram and YouTube.
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