Offering Gratitudes

Me & Isha enjoying post-feast relaxation

Me & Isha enjoying post-feast relaxation

This time last year I was Giving Thanks for the Little Life. The year before I was planning ways to Unstuff Your Holidays. (By the way, I’m teaching a Downsizing E-Course in January, so if you’re interested, you can join us!) The year before that I was thinking about how most of my stuff is Just Stuff. And the year before that, when I had first moved into a tiny house on wheels, it was just a simple Thanksgiving!

Gratitude has become more of a habit for me over the past year. It’s becoming easier to count my gratitudes.

I’m keeping a 5 Minute Journal. And although I like a paper journal for my morning sip, sit, and jot, I like the electronic version of the 5 Minute Journal because it has a little notification that reminds me to complete it in the morning to record gratitudes and set intentions and in the evening to reflect on gratitudes, accomplishments, and serendipities and think about how I could make the day better.

food-04On the nights that I cook Community Dinner at Simply Home Community, I ask everyone to say something they’re grateful for to kick off the meal. Mind you, we don’t let the food get cold while we say thanks. We dig right into our dinner and go around the table to hear what everyone is thankful for. Usually it sparks other conversation as people have follow up questions.

This year I spent Thanksgiving at my fairy godparents house with my sweetie, The Guy Next Door. It was a fabulous visit with people near and dear. Between carbo-loading with a Bread Bake-Off on Wednesday night and our Thanksgiving day feast on Thursday it was a very rich and delicious couple of days! Fortunately, we also enjoyed a hot sauna, a chilly run, several mugs of tea, catch up conversations, and a hilarious party game.

food-01To add to all that goodness, Isha and I also spent time on our drive to and from Corvallis comparing notes from our Tiny House Considerations Challenges as we scheme our tiny house for two. As we rolled back into Portland we were wrapping up a conversation about the objects we own and looking forward to the Downsizing E-Course I’ll be teaching this January and February.

While we were making breakfast this morning, Isha said “We have soooo much to be grateful for!” I completely agree. We really do.


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Key Free

Key RingYesterday while I was having a working date with one of my best friends at our beloved Townshend’s Tea House, we got to talking about keys. This isn’t necessarily an unusual topic of conversation for the two us because we used to be housemates and we have stories to tell of times that one of us (I won’t say who) locked herself out and the other of us (I won’t say who) rescued her!

We were discussing losing things and she was showing me her pod. We each have one and I Still Don’t Leave Home Without It! But what was interesting this time around was that when I showed her my new pod, she said “where are your keys?!” and I got to tell her that I’m now Key Free.

Yup. That’s right. I don’t have any keys anymore!

(Well, okay, that’s not entirely true, since I do still have a key to my post box. Buuuut… it’s a small space and they know me – and they’re meticulous about checking my ID anyhow – so they give me my mail even if I don’t have my key with me.)

Wallet Phone Case

my new wallet phone case – just right for my phone, debit cards, drivers license, insurance cards, and a $20 bill

I used to keep my keys on the zipper pull of my pod. But now I’ve upgraded. Now I just have a phone case with slots for my work and personal debit cards, my drivers license, my insurance cards, and a $20 bill. Easy peasy. My new case even protects the screen of my phone (which is great because I’m a klutz and I drop that poor thing on a daily basis!)

So how in the world did I become key free?

The biggest trick is that it’s all about Access Rather Than Ownership. I can still access the stuff I need but I don’t have to carry around keys to get to it.

Lucky Penny's combo lock - photo credit: Tiny House Giant Journey

Lucky Penny’s combo lock – photo credit: Tiny House Giant Journey

I used to have two house keys for my garden cottage (this was part of the reason we locked ourselves out regularly!) but more recently while I’ve been living in tiny houses I’ve only had one key. When I built my tiny house, The Lucky Penny, I purposely put in a combination lock so that I could avoid having a house key anymore. (I do, of course, have a back up key, in case the batteries conk out in the combo lock – and the great thing about having a metal trailer as the foundation of my house is that there are soooo many places to tuck a magnetic hide-a-key – a trick I learned from a fellow tiny houser! No fake rocks for us, thank you very much!) Oh, and we have combination locks on The Big House, too. So, no house key.

I used to have a bike lock key, but when I was Bettering Things one day I got my combination U-lock all set up so I’d never have to carry a bike lock key again. So, no bike key.

I don’t own a car. So, no car key. (I rent cars regularly through Car2Go, Enterprise, Getaround, and Zipcar, so when I’m using them I have nice big clunky car keys to contend with, but this usually only happens once or twice a month. By the way, what is up with having TWO big fat car keys attached to each other and big clunky plastic key rings, anyhow? Really. How does that make any sense at all?!)

I am self-employed these days so even though I don’t always work from home, I no longer have any keys to gate locks or construction trailers or offices. So, no work keys.

I can’t even remember now what else I used to have keys to, but at this point I’m glad that it’s one less thing to think about. This is one of my favorite aspects of minimalism. Not just less stuff but less stuff to think about (and lose!)

Do you have keys? What are your keys to? Do you use them on a daily basis? Could you get by without your keys? Would you want to?

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Staying at Sol Haus

Lee & Lina at Sol Haus

Lee and Lina sipping tea and eating a yummy breakfast at Vina’s Sol Haus, photo: Vina Lustado

When I was in Ojai last weekend for the Tiny House Community Workshop, I got to stay at Sol Haus, Vina Lustado’s beautiful tiny house on wheels. And it was so wonderful I must tell you all about it!

Lee and I confessed to each other as we were driving to Vina’s that night that we anticipated we’d have some tiny house envy. We’d seen pictures of Vina’s beautiful home, but of course, Vina’s house, like so many other tiny houses, can’t really be captured in photos. The feel of her house is splendid! So cozy, such clean lines, such well-thought-out details. Vina is an architect and her design aesthetic is fabulous! I loved the curve of her spacious desk, the awesome library ladder, and the way the low window in the kitchen makes you feel like you’re cooking al fresco. It was awesome curling up on the comfy bench and falling asleep to the flickering flame of her propane fireplace. (Lee slept up in the loft which has a nest feel with a circular window and an operable skylight!)

There were a few other things Vina did that I was surprised I liked so much. Here are my top three:

  1. Sol Haus loft is like a cozy nest

    Sol Haus loft is like a cozy nest, photo: Lee Pera

    A ceiling under the loft. I’m used to seeing exposed joists under a loft which I like because it shows off the structure of the house and gives a sense of spaciousness. I’d always thought that a ceiling would make the space seem too small. So I was impressed by how the clean lines and light color of her kitchen ceiling actually made the space feel larger (of course, at 6’8″ Vina’s kitchen ceiling is about 5″ higher than normal. And somehow the loft feels spacious, too! I’m pretty sure it’s Vina magic! That and having the walls tall and the roof pitch a little shallower!)

  2. A tiled shower. Vina’s lovely tiled shower reminded me that maybe it’s worth considering tile for the Tiny House for Two I’m designing with The Guy Next Door. I used to think tile was a bad idea for tiny houses on the move because of the weight and the cracking potential, but for little houses that don’t move much, I think they can make a lot of sense (especially if they’re small tiles which seem to handle movement a little better). I installed tile in Tandem (under the instruction of a great teacher named Rocky) and it’s held up well.
  3. A second sink. I also appreciated the handwashing sink in the bathroom. Typically I don’t feel it’s necessary to have two sinks in a tiny house if there are just one or two people, but since Lee and I were staying in Sol Haus and Vina was in and out hanging out with us and getting herself ready in the morning and for bed, it was quite nice to have two sinks. I’m now convinced that if two or more people are sharing a space it’s at least worth considering a second sink.

I feel very, very lucky to have had the opportunity to stay at Sol Haus. If you ever have the chance to tour this little house, please take it!

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Talking Tiny House Community in Ojai

Ojai Tiny House Community WorkshopWhat a treat it was to teach a Tiny House Community Workshop in Ojai with Lee Pera and Vina Lustado last week! I’ve been under the weather the past few days, but I’m still buzzing with excitement from this great group of folks interested in creating tiny house communities.

On Thursday afternoon I hopped on a plane to L.A. where I was met by Lee. She and I had a fascinating conversation (as usual) as we drove to Ojai, CA to meet up with Vina and Anna who coordinated the Tiny House Community Workshop.

After designing and building her beautiful tiny home, Sol Haus, Vina is excited about the possibility of creating a tiny house community in Ojai. She knew she wasn’t alone because she’d been having good conversations with lots of other interested folks in her area. So after seeing the presentation on Tiny House Community that Lee and I did at Tiny House Jamboree 2015 in August, Vina asked us to come to Ojai to share our experiences with tiny house community. After months of planning across time zones, conference calls, and a shared Dropbox folder, it was exciting to know that the time had finally arrived and the workshop was sold out! That night, as Lee and I were Staying at Sol Haus, we were giddy with excitement that we’d get to expand on our previous presentation.

In the morning Vina hosted a tour of her tiny home and Lee and I finished final details for the workshop. Around noon I also got to reconnect with Julie, a former student from Yestermorrow’s Tiny House Design-Build Class who is in my Tiny House Considerations E-Course but also happens to be living at the Krishnamurti Center right now. It’s a tiny world after all!

When the participants arrived at the Pavillion at the Krishnamurti Center and we had them introduce themselves by telling us where they hail from and what their tiny house community dream is. Then Lee and I presented the Six Ways to Create Tiny House Community that we’re familiar with. We asked the workshop attendees to identify which one we think best suits their dream. We then did a Regulation Roundtable and we were lucky to have several people in the room who work in building and zoning who were able to help us describe the complexities of the regulatory landscape. At one point one of the participants said “Wait! I’m confused!” I asked “Who else is confused?” and we ALL raised our hands. It is, indeed, confusing to navigate the paradoxes of tiny house regulation. No one has all the answers, but collectively we can come up with great solutions (or at least the right questions to ask!) The power of being in a group of other tiny house advocates is amazing! One fellow said he felt like he was in a support group for tiny house enthusiasts and he was so glad to know he wasn’t alone! We feel ya, man!

We then shared five steps for creating tiny house communities and split into groups to brainstorm. It was neat to see groups form around creating tiny house communities in particular areas (we had an Ojai group and an LA group) as well as tiny house businesses and tiny house regulations. We brought everyone back to share some of the things we’d discovered in our small groups.

No one wanted the conversation to end, but by the time we reached the end of the workshop the sun was setting and it was time to say goodbye. We took a group photo, swapped hugs and contact info, and told everyone to keep us posted about their tiny house community adventures!

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Small Home Weekend Wrap Up

tiny house on Portland's Park Blocks during Build Small, Live Large Summit

tiny house on Portland’s Park Blocks during Build Small, Live Large Summit (photo credit: Fur Gebhardt)

What an action-packed weekend it was for little houses!

On Friday I enjoyed visiting with other small home advocates and enthusiasts from all across the country at the Build Small, Live Large Summit. Alan Durning of the Sightline Institute and Dee Williams of Portland Alternative Dwellings laid the scene perfectly in their Keynote Address: The Power of Small. I especially appreciated that Alan’s point that small housing is so often illegal and his encouragement to think really BIG about how we can move forward housing options that are better for people, communities, and natural environments. It was hard to pick between the concurrent sessions, but I’m glad I went to the one about demographic shifts and housing trends because it was really interesting learning about how certain trends (towards smaller households, larger homes, longer lives, delayed marriage and childbearing, increased desire for walkability, etc.) are impacting housing choices.

The five panelists for the Space-Efficient Housing Policy Round Table (Eli Spevak, Jean-Pierre Veillet, Danell Norby, Liz Getty, and Rachel Ginis) did an excellent job describing the regulatory challenges they face in their daily work as they attempt to create small homes. They also presented clever solutions to address or work around these challenges and we left the audience with Tangible Ways You Can Support Space-Efficient Housing.

The Courtyard Clusters session with my heroes Ross Chapin, Mark Lakeman, and Eli Spevak was full of incredible ideas and images. I tried frantically (and failed miserably) to capture the poetry of how smart land use creates sustainable community. I also learned new words like “pre-legal” which I have already begun employing. (Thanks, Mark!)

The Best of Small Design Slam was fabulous, too. As he was ducking out at the end of Mark Lakeman’s presentation, Mayor Charlie Hales leaned over to me and said: “I know a vacancy coming up soon and that guy would be a good candidate to fill it!” I completely agree, Mayor Hales.

On Saturday Eli and I both lead Guided ADU Tours with 14 participants, showing them a great line-up of accessory dwellings. Many of the people in my group are considering creating an ADU on their own property so they had lots of questions about the ins and outs of the upcoming Accessory Structures Zoning Code Amendments and the impacts of Multnomah County’s new method for assessing property values on properties with detached ADUs. It poured down rain all day, so we ended up soaked, but morale remained high as we went to as many ADUs as we could fit in.

That evening we celebrated Simply Home Community’s 1 Year Anniversary with a party at our place. It’s always fun to get our friends together to mix and mingle. We hosted little parties in our tiny houses (at one point I had 17 people in The Lucky Penny!) as well as activities in the Big House. And, of course, we had singing and s’mores around the bonfire to wrap up the night.

Yesterday during our Simply Home Work Party we donned our rain coats and put our garden to bed. (Amazing how much we can get done quickly when working together!) Then Jake, Isha and I hunkered down at Bison Coffeehouse in the rainstorm to work through our Tiny House Considerations Lesson & Challenge for Week 2. (Since I’ve fallen in love with The Guy Next Door, I’m going through the same process of scheming a tiny house as the other participants in the E-Course!) We had a great conference call for Week 2 of the Tiny House Considerations E-Course and I look forward to sharing the Lesson and Challenge for Week 3 because it’s full of fun design exercises so participants can consider what’s most important to them. The bell rang for Community Dinner just as the conference call wrapped up, so we trooped inside for one of Lindsey’s fabulous meals. Our Heart Meeting after supper focused on capturing our Values in preparation for upcoming conversations about Vision and Mission.

If my weekends are going to be so full, I’m glad that they’re full of great things and wonderful people! With a good breakfast in my belly (fried green tomatoes from yesterday’s garden harvest) I’m ready for a brand new week! Happy Monday, everyone!

Posted in accessory dwelling, ADU Case Studies, building, cohousing, community, design, downsizing, food, garden, minimalism, planning, tiny house, Tiny House Movement | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Small Home Weekend in Portland

This weekend is jam-packed with small house events! Some folks are even referring to it as Tinypalooza!

Build Small Live LargeThe Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, Nov 6th will take place at Portland State University. I’m moderating the Space Efficient Housing Policy Roundtable, which includes a great line-up of panelists. On Saturday and Sunday Dee Williams’ company Portland Alternative Dwellings (PAD) is leading a Tiny House Basics Weekend Workshop.

OADU Tourn Saturday, I’ll be leading a Guided ADU Tour, showing off 11 fabulous ADUs in Portland. I’ve lead Guided ADU Tours a couple times now and they’re always a blast. This one should be, too, because the ADUs on this tour are beautiful and use lots of clever space-saving tips which I get to point out. Coordinating the ADU Case Studies Project the past two years has been a fabulous experience! I’ve learned a great deal about the challenges related to ADUs as well as the creative solutions homeowners, designers, and builders have developed. It will be fun to share these tips, tricks, and cautions with the group of people joining me for the tour. My guided tour is sold out, but you can still Register for the ADU Tour and take yourself on a self-guided tour. If you can’t make it, keep reading the ADU Case Studies to learn about how other people have created second dwellings to create community, housing flexibility, and additional income.

TandemFinally, on Sunday Caravan – The Tiny House Hotel is hosting a Tiny House Tour and they’ve asked me to be there. It’s always fun showing off Tandem, the tiny house I helped finish out for Orange Splot when I had my Summer Dream Job: Tiny House Design-Building.

I look forward to the chance to geek out with so many other small home lovers this weekend. Will you be there? If so, what are you most excited about?

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Build Small, Live Large Summit on Friday, Nov 6th

Build Small Live LargeA couple years ago I participated in the Build Small, Live Large Summit, hosted at Portland State University. This Friday the event is happening again and it’s sold out! If you didn’t manage to snag a ticket you can still tour tiny houses in the Park Blocks.

Meanwhile, for those of you who got one of the golden tickets, I’m excited to be serving as the moderator for the Space Efficient Housing Policy Roundtable. Here’s a description:

Although demand is growing for small homes and creative residential developments, there are sometimes regulatory barriers to innovative, space-efficient housing options. Our panel of experts brings a wide range of experience with the very latest solutions in small housing policy, from affordable housing advocacy to regulations pertaining to tiny houses on wheels. This “fishbowl” style panel will acknowledge regulatory roadblocks to small housing, share how successful projects navigated those challenges, and brainstorm policy changes to help small housing options flourish.

Our session, which begins at 1 PM, will include five fabulous folks, with a wide variety of backgrounds, including affordable housing, development, real estate, and policy making.

Liz Getty, Urban Nest Realty
Rachel Ginis, Lilypad Homes
Jean-Pierre Veillet, Siteworks
Danell Norby, City of Vancouver, Washington
Eli Spevak, Orange Splot

These are the folks I love geeking out with about the challenges we’re facing in the regulatory landscape. I look forward to hearing their suggestions for policy changes that would support the creation of more small housing options. Please join us if you’re coming to the summit!

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The Guy Next Door

The Guy Next Door: Isha in front of the Rustic

The Guy Next Door: Isha in front of the Rustic Tiny House

In June, when we hosted our monthly Tiny House Community Tour, we let everyone know that Tony’s tiny house, The Rustic, was available for rent. At the end of the tour, one of the fellas expressed interest in renting it, so I told him that we’d invite him over for dinner to get to know him better. He came over a couple days later for supper and a game.

By the end of the evening our whole community was pretty impressed with Isha, so the next day we invited him to move into the tiny house next door to mine. My only hesitation was that I had a little crush on him, but I didn’t mention that in our deliberations about Isha. I figured it would quickly dissipate as we lived together.

How wrong I was!

A couple days later, Isha began the process of downsizing from his 300 SF condo to Tony’s 120 SF tiny house. He also started showing up for work parties and cooking us dinners on the night he claimed. We quickly learned that Isha is thoughtful, clever, witty, hard-working, organized, responsible, and articulate, not to mention a great cook.

My crush got worse. But I was going to be traveling for work nearly all summer. (See Five Weeks in a Carry-On and How to Travel with Just a Carry-On for more on that!) Surely the time and space away would help me get over Isha.

Wrong again.

Shortly after he moved in, Isha confessed a crush on me and told me it was futile to ignore all the ways we’re an excellent match. I knew he was right. So we decided that when the time seemed right he would check in with our landies to see if they would give our relationship their blessing.

Fortunately, our landies were thrilled for us. As Karin put it. “I love you both and I want you both to be happy, so I’m thrilled that you want to be together!”

Lina, Isha, Bell Rock

Lina & Isha at Bell Rock in Sedona, AZ for his best friend’s wedding

Isha and I had all summer apart for a new-fashioned courtship (a game of 20 questions by email, google chats, Skype dates, texts, and phone calls). We found that absence truly made our hearts grow fonder.

Isha and I had our first kiss at the airport when he picked me up at the end of my travels. The past two and a half months, living in his and hers tiny houses at Simply Home Community, has been a blast!

I’m so lucky to have fallen in love with the guy next door! Now we’re scheming a tiny house for two. We’re planning to design this winter and start building next spring. Stay tuned for updates as our design develops and our relationship grows!

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Tiny House Community Workshop in Ojai


Lee Pera & Lina Menard presenting about tiny house communities at the Tiny House Jamboree

TINY HOUSE COMMUNITY WORKSHOP | Friday, November 13th 1pm-5pm | Ojai, CA

  • Are you a tiny house enthusiast or builder interested in forming a tiny house community?
  • Are you a landowner who would like to start a tiny house community?
  • Are you a city official interested in learning more about tiny houses and their potential in cities and towns?

Join us for a half-day workshop on tiny house communities and city zoning. All topics above will be covered during this comprehensive 4hr workshop.

Get your tickets to the Tiny House Community Workshop in Ojai here: 

Sol Haus Design is excited to bring two seasoned experts in forming tiny house communities. Lina Menard of Niche Consulting and Lee Pera of Boneyard Studios will lead participants through different models for how to form tiny house communities, how to look for available land, zoning considerations, and how to work with city officials and neighbors to set up a tiny house community responsibly.

Lina and Lee have both set up tiny house communities in the Pacific Northwest and in the Mid-Atlantic, so their knowledge covers both sides of the country! Come learn with us and explore opportunities for tiny house communities in California.

The workshop will be held in beautiful Ojai, CA at the home of Krishnamurti Foundation:

WHEN: Friday, November 13th from 1pm-5pm
WHERE: Krishnamurti Foundation on 1098 McAndrew Road, Ojai, CA 93023
COST: $90 for 4hr workshop
EARLY BIRD DISCOUNT: $80 If booked by Oct 31st.

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Tiny House Considerations E-Course Kicks Off Nov 1st

Tiny House ConsiderationsEarly Bird Pricing (20% Off) Available Through Friday, Oct 30th

Register for Tiny House Considerations!

This course is specifically designed to help you explore the plethora of options, considerations, and decisions surrounding your design and build.

We’ll talk about our inspirations and aspirations as we discuss layout, size, shape, and siting. We’ll dig into fun design considerations related to windows, doors, kitchens, bathrooms, and built-ins. We’ll also help you noodle through the plethora of building options and make smart choices about your systems for water and power. And, of course, we’ll help you figure out if a tiny house is right for you by discussing regulations, cost, and timelines.

The best part is you’ll get to do this with the encouragement of other people who are embarking on a similar journey. These folks may well be helping you build when the time comes!

This eight-week e-course will include a weekly lesson, a weekly challenge, and a weekly check-in with your fellow tiny house enthusiasts. The November course begins on November 1 and runs through December 20th. Check-ins are Sunday evenings at 5pm PST (8PM EST). 

The course price is $200. Through Friday, October 30th you can take advantage of the Early Bird Price of $160 (a 20% savings)!

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