The “Tiny House Movement” (a phrase which always makes me imagine a chorus line of little dancing houses in the animation style of School House Rocks) was started out West, and a lot of Tiny House* setups are better fit for warmer climates. Tiny Houses are also typically on wheels, which means that there is usually 2 or 3 feet of open air between the floor and the ground. Unfortunately this doesn’t quite work for the brutality of Maine winters. We are proud of our hardy folk, but we also appreciate our homes to be at least 10 degrees above freezing. But once it’s 15 degrees above freezing we’ll be in shorts, thanks.
We looked at several different tiny homes for sale in the winter of 2014, and it was blisteringly cold. The owner of one of the tiny homes asked us to take our shoes off before coming inside so we wouldn’t track snow over the floor. Even wearing thick wool socks, my feet got so frozen that they started to quietly weep in pain. Trying to be polite, I sat on a bench in the house and nodded along to the kind woman explaining her home, my feet curled up under my bum, willing my blood vessels to stop constricting. As it turns out, mind over matter doesn’t work very well for purple toes.
The third home we looked at was in Newfield Maine. It had been hand-built by a nice gentleman contractor named Kevin who had made it for himself as a kind of alternative bachelor pad. He had a history of building a few full-size homes, and he’d decided to build the Tiny House as pet project. It didn’t have electricity, water, lights, or any bathroom setup. What it did have was 4-inch thick insulation, a wood stove and a chimney. It was built by a man who knew winter. It was so well-insulated that it was a nice temperature even without firing up the wood stove. We knew that it would take a lot of dedicated planning and work to turn it into a year-round living space, but it was a solidly built shell with two lofts, and it felt like home.
We asked Kevin if we could spend some time in the house alone to make our decision, and he stepped outside, telling us we could have all the time we needed.
“Do you like it?” asked Michael, a smile playing around the corners of his lips.
“THE DRAWER HANDLES ARE SHAPED LIKE LITTLE BRANCHES,” I stated dramatically, pointing to the drawers under the kitchen counter.
“Is that a yes?”
“Yeeeesssss,” I crooned, dancing around a little bit, “My feet don’t feel like they’re going to solidify into ice cubes and fall off my body!”
We spent a long time talking about all the logistics, all of our serious hopes and dreams, and how those hopes seemed to fit seamlessly into this little home on wheels. Of course there was more that went into my decision than the fact that there were already some appealing little details. To put it very simply: the house was exquisitely well built, and we wanted to buy something that we knew would last and take good care of us.
We bought our house with a briefcase with $15,000 dollars in cash in a Dunkin Donuts. Don’t worry, it was all official and had all the proper documentation and paperwork for transferring property and money. The three of us sat at a table together, Kevin and Michael having a nice, professional conversation, signing paperwork and going over everything, while I sat with my back to the corner of the coffee shop, briefcase on my lap, pretending silently that I was a nefarious mobster from the 1920’s.
Even though I’m a professional, I have a career, and we bought our house with our own hard-earned money, I have always believed that being an adult doesn’t have to coincide with a lack of imagination. I mean, let’s be serious, I live in a glorified tent. I couldn’t do that and keep a straight face all the time. Having a good sense of the ridiculous is prerequisite #1 for living in a Tiny House.
*A note regarding capitalization: I recognize that it might seem insufferably bourgeoisie to capitalize the letters in Tiny House. I have no excuse for this, other than I have been doing it for a while, and if I switched to “tiny house”, I’d have to go back through all my old writing and change all of it to “tiny house” to keep it consistent, otherwise the 7th grade English teacher that lives in my head would be enraged. I don’t want to do that because I have other important things I need to attend to, such as eating this peanut butter and jelly sandwich.