Manifesto

22 comments

Editor’s Note: This manifesto was originally written and published on Sept. 15, 2010 before we had even found a trailer to become the foundation of our tiny house. We are now living full-time in our 240 sq.ft. tiny house and have already started planning more ways our house will become a home.


The first home I owned cost just at $52,000. For that price I got a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, fixer-upper that was on .35 acre in the middle of a post-war neighborhood in Norfolk, VA.  It was built in 1953.

At the time my home was built America was reestablishing itself. Men had returned home from the war and were now firmly rooted in their post-war career. Women were homemakers and mothers, not CEOs and business owners. Homebuyers were encouraged to look to the future and stretch themselves as far as they could to buy a house. It made more sense then.

Fast forward to 2010.

The nation has been in a recession for almost three years and unemployment is at a thirty year high. Real estate has become a risky investment and those who do own homes are seemingly stuck in a vicious cycle of working just to afford the home they currently have; homes that are often larger than needed.

Since that first home of mine was built; never mind. Let’s go back a little further.

Since my parents purchased the home I was raised in (a 1100 sq. ft., post-war, cracker box) much – if not more – has changed.

  • Rapidly rising prices in the 70s and 80s meant you could count on hefty annual raises. Today, you simply can’t rely on double-digit income boosts to make your mortgage payment less of a burden year after year.
  • A generation ago, single-income families were far more common. If the breadwinner lost a job, the other spouse could go to work in an effort to save the house. With more two-income families needing both paychecks to match the mortgage, there’s no one on the sidelines to possibly take up the slack.
  • Thirty years ago, it was tough to get a mortgage for more than you could really afford. And while lenders have recently learned their lesson after the “swinging arm” loans, they still seem to push, knowing that the vast number of borrowers will do whatever it takes to pay their mortgage – even if it means trashing the rest of their financial lives.
  • A much bigger portion of the American work force was covered by traditional, benefit pensions thirty years ago than they are today. Social security is becoming more of a myth and most workers have little to no money left at the end of the paycheck to invest in 401k plans and IRAs.

Somewhere along the line the American Dream became defined by owning more stuff than your neighbor and having the best quality money could buy. Many times that meant relying on credit that was unsecured and came with lofty interest rates. But is that the way to go? Is that the new truth? Do we need a bigger house, a better car, or a large salary to find happiness? And just what is this elusive happiness anyway? Does it come about when we sacrifice our dreams for the pursuit of stuff?

I am done believing it does. My family is done believing it does.

From 2009 until the present, my wife, Crystal, and I have worked hard at simplifying our lives. We have minimized the number of clothes we own, the types of food we eat, our dependency on cars and travel in general, the number of square feet we need to exist indoors, the amount of books we surround ourselves with, the number of CDs and DVDs we buy (largely for one-time use), and the overall debt we have amassed.

In this exchange we have maximized our quality of life, our love for each other, our concern for the world around us, our ideas of entertainment, our health (mentally and physically), and our general dispositions.

And so it is that we have decided to alter our own course in life and spend the next few years of our life building our own Tiny Home of up to 300 square feet!

Originally inspired by Jay Shafer and the Tumbleweed Tiny Houses (as well as the nomadic lifestyle of the Janssen family and the design inspiration of the Katrina Cottage) we are going to build our own home on a heavy-duty trailer that will feature sustainable building supplies and techniques, solar power, a modern bathroom and kitchen, a sleeping loft, passive solar heating/cooling, and our own sense of style. And we’ll do this for less than $10,000 by recycling, upcycling, repurposing, enlisting the help of family and friends, and doing the work ourselves.

Through our Tiny House and our choice(s) for our life from this day forward we are not trying to create a movement or even enlist in one but rather rethink our perspective on life, love, community, relationship, and consumption.

You can also read our Plan of Attack to find out how we are going to break down this seemingly large project!

  • Kim

    Andrew- Caught you on the Chicken Whisper’s show today- I so agree…I’m just starting on the journey of considering alternative living means and looking deeper into my role of consumerism…making some tiny changes here as well…best of luck in your efforts…i’d like to keep up with them…what’s the best way?
    Kim- NC

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You can put tinyrevolution.us into your RSS feed as well as check us out on farmersalmanac.com on Mondays and Thursdays.

      Thank you so much for wanting to follow our adventures!

  • Tmurray

    I am making my plans to live in a tiny house once my youngest daughter is finished high school. I work in Norfolk at ODU. I have been searching for a place I can get a first hand look at a tiny house.. any ideas??
    thanks
    Tracy- Smithfield VA

    • anotherkindofdrew

      I am actually from Norfolk. I grew up in Ocean View. Small world. As for tiny houses in that area, I don’t know of any. In fact, I only know of 25 or so that have actually been built in the country. Are you looking to see a tiny house on a trailer or just a tiny house on a foundation? You can always email me at drew@anotherkindofdrew.com or you can find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/tinyrev

  • Tanja Hoagland

    Hey Andrew,

    Thanks for pointing out your manifesto to me on twitter. I don’t know how I missed it because I’ve been going through a bunch of your posts lately. Here’s to the tiny house revolution! It was great connecting with you on twitter.

    • anotherkindofdrew

      You are so welcome. Thank you so much for chatting with me Tanja. I love what y’all are doing with the Taj Mahal. Here’s to a remarkable community!

  • http://www.gardentenders.blogspot.com/ Garden Tenders

    I have always admired and longed to live in an “alternative home” and now I have found another dream to add to my list of earth ships and strawbales!  This one might just be more attainable!  Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/ezweber Emily Zweber

    I just stumble upon your blog tonight! What a gem and a great find. My husband and I want to build on tiny home on his parents’ dairy farm (where he works) and live in it with our three children. I was searching for a families (sane families) who did this and I found you guys. Thank you for what you are doing! I am feeling very inspired. 

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      You are so welcome Emily. I am glad you found us. We are rare, indeed. We are a family of 3 building a 30′ long tiny house. It will ultimately serve as the center of a larger POD style home where our family can grow and thrive. We are homesteaders so much of our life is lived outdoors which makes our tiny house a perfect fit for us; a place to eat and sleep. If you have any questions or just want to bounce ideas, you know how to find us!

      • Abel Zyl Zimmerman

        Awesome indeed , Drew. I built my first tiny house a few years ago, and since, my family has grown to 6! That is not counting our rabbits. We don’t live in our tiny house, but it has become part of our homestead. It is one of the sweetest spaces here.

        I plan to build another one a few years down the road. One that my wife and I can grow old in after the kids pick up and leave (or build tiny houses of their own.) 

        The question of how to live tiny with so many kids is an interesting one. The house we currently live in IS tiny for a family of six. But everybody is happy… It is a 900 sq ft, 2 bedroom house. 

        Ironically, and because I now build tiny houses as a business, my shop is almost as big as the house! (I live in the Pacific NorthWET, so I need enough covered space to work year-round.)

        Your blog is really nice, and I’m looking forward to reading more.

        The photo is of the second tiny house I built:

        Abel Zyl Zimmerman
        zylvardos.com

        • Andrew Odom

          WOW! I am incredibly excited to have you checking out our blog and even commenting. I have been in love with the “Fortune Cookie” design for some time; the simplicity, the craftsmanship, and the efficiency. Just stunning! 

          I hear EXACTLY what you are saying. I am not sure if you have read any back posts or checked out our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/tinyrev) with digital sketches but our tiny house is very similar to your current living situation. We believe a home should grow with the needs of the family. We don’t think a family should have to grow into a home, per se. Our tiny house is essentially the epicenter of a pod system home that will expand as we do and will meet the needs of our family; one tiny structure at a time. This also allows us to build “cash on the barrel” and remain debt free without sacrificing comfort and habitat. 

          It sounds like your 900 square foot home is one where our family doesn’t just survive in but THRIVES in and that is the name of the game. I talk to people regularly about what “tiny” means and I think the hardest concept is getting people to understand that the term “tiny” is flexible and depends upon each independent situation. What is tiny to me may not be all that tiny to someone else. The goal is not to see who can live in the smallest space but rather to understand that a home should not be a debtors prison but should provide shelter and comfort for a family that experiences and lives life daily! 

          Thank you again for stopping by and do enjoy all you can read. We also invite you to stop in our Thursday podcasts and comment anytime! Best wishes to you, my friend.

    • Leif Jacobson

      Hey Emily & Odems. My wife & I are inspired by both of you’re information; the older we get the more elemental we want our lives! So many tiny house stories/models are of singles folks & couples w/o kids. It’s encouraging to find folks w/young families who are moving toward simple living; we need help in knowing how to design/live in a tiny house as a family (we have 4 kids under 7). There aren’t very many models out there that I’ve seen. Andrew, you mention a POD design… is that to add a couple “wings” as you have more kids, etc. Any input/resources to share with us would sure be appreciated! The Jacobson’s in Washington State.

      • Andrew Odom

        WOW! Such a very warm response Leif. Thank you for that. You are right. The majority (read: 99.9%) of tiny house stories are of singles and young couples. That is not the limit though. Those are just the demographics that are willing to take more risks; put it all on the line for adventure. Truth is, a tiny house is every bit a home to the family that lives in it. You just have to make it fit your needs. The overarching idea behind Tiny r(E)volution is understanding the difference between need and want. 

        I would start out by researching what Washington State (or your city) requires for minimum square footage…if that is where you want to build. Then I would think about how much space your family actually USES in your current living situation. Are the children all the same gender? If so, room sharing is totally cool. If not, you may have to think about that as they get older. Do you and your wife feel you need a master bathroom or could the family use one well designed, well-built bathroom? 

        Then I would look into modular homes…just to get an idea of what is possible. You can build an epi-center structure that includes your bedroom, bathroom, a sleeping loft, a kitchen/dining room/living room at first. Then you can think of expanding when needed by creating a walkway, building the addition, and connecting the two. 

        I would fully recommend my friend Kevin at cozycabinhomes.com for help in this area. He has a mind for spacial reasoning and he designs homes for folks just like you. Just tell him I sent you and he’ll treat you right! 

        I do hope that helps, my friend. And thank ou again for joining up with the r(E)volution!

  • Treesonggal

    At age 68 and 59, I doubt we’ll build a tiny house on wheels, though nothing in our future is ruled out! However, we live small & frugally in 652 square feet on a 110′x135′ lot in Florida. Paid $25,000 for it turnkey. It is a 1984 mobile home with an 8′x12′ screened porch & we’ve made/will continue to make some improvements. We feel FORTUNATE and have downsized repeatedly over the past six years. Less is definitely more.

  • Mark Rodland

    Create a Movement…It’s one we all need!

  • http://www.facebook.com/amsterdamsel Laurentia Cincoski McIntosh

    I am so there with you, mentally, financially, creatively, spiritually…I applaud your willingness to question the status quo and your commitment to simplify your lives!

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      Thank you so much for your support Laurentia! We are pleased to have you as part of the community.

  • Teleia Pastore

    This is really inspiring. I’m just beginning the journey, and seeing that you did it (with a family, no less), means I can do it too.

  • Pingback: 1.1: It Has To Start Somewhere | Small Home. Big Life.

  • Bob Ratcliff

    If only more people would learn less is actually more. Maybe we’ll see people learn the difference between living large v/s having a great lifestyle? Meanwhile we’re watching the tiny house explosion – this is great. One sour note: While the concept of living in homes 400 square feet or less is great most of your life, I purpose we look further down the road. If there’s ever a time in your life when you’re battling mobility challenges and need a walker or even a wheelchair, tiny homes don’t work. We’re in the early stages of building a 2 bed, 2 bath guest house that’s 100% wheelchair friendly yet that’s less than 1,000 square feet. Look at not only todays needs but tomorrows changes. Little homes don’t come cheap either yet when it comes to selling them, the limited market appeal doesn’t assure you can recover your investment. Maybe the middle ground is a better way? I’m just asking – that’s all?

    • http://www.tinyrevolution.us/ anotherkindofdrew

      Hey there Bob. You bring up a good point. You MUST look down the road or else your home will be nothing better than a temporary shelter. We built our home as part of a POD home if you will. In the framework of the trailer we have built in another entrance/exit door and a 6′ entryway for a hallway that would lead to our ANNEX. The ANNEX will house a master bedroom, if you will, and our daughters room as she grows up and requires that personal space. We chose to look at how our house could grow with the needs of our family rather than vice versa. I love hearing about your project. I think you are right on target.

      • Bob Ratcliff

        And SO are you! Your common sense approach to never building/owning more home than you can afford is the ONLY way to go. Instead now all people care about is if they can get the financing. Of course buyers regret hits by the 3 month mark. This pod concept of yours is the best approach yet. I wish more people talked and utilized this idea. Going small hasn’t boxed you in. Instead it’s opened up more options than ever. I look forward to watching you and your projects grow just like you as a family have:)