By CathyHarrisInternational.com, Syndicated Columnist
At 62 both my daughters want to make sure I am okay as I go into my golden years. After all, that’s why many people have kids in the first place – right? After speaking to both my daughters on the 2018 Thanksgiving holiday by phone, they have really given me some great ideas.
I raised my daughters to think logically so all 3 of us kind of tag team ideas off each other. I am seriously thinking about becoming a Minimalist and going off the grid and moving into a “Tiny House.”
When you call a person a Minimalist, you’re describing their interest in keeping things very simple. A Minimalist prefers the minimal amount or degree of something. But anyone who likes things very simple could be called a Minimalist.
I am currently living in a Studio/Efficiency Senior apartment building in Orlando, FL, but since everyone smokes cigarettes, I will definitely have to move after my one year lease is up.
But because I moved into such a small space, it actually gave me the idea to think about “Tiny Home” living. However, this is not the smallest space that I have lived before. In 2014, I rented out a room at a big house in Tampa, FL for $450 (with everything included Rent, Wi-Fi, Electricity, Gas, Water). I was there for 6 months.
I am at the very early, early, early stages of conducting my own research so this title of “Tiny Homes” might come up now and then, while I work on other projects and ideas for my listening audience, especially going into the New Year.
The Pros and Cons of Tiny House Living
Remember a “Pro” is something good and you should move forward, but a “Con” is a reason to stop and rethink your idea.
The first “Pro” I can think of is I would save tons of money so instead of driving all around the country as I do now, I should be able to afford to hop on a plane and fly and #Teach.
However, I love the freedom of driving a vehicle and seeing the gorgeous countryside and I can put all my 18 non-fiction books in my car. It would be expensive to try to take books with me on planes so I would have to mail my books ahead of my events.
My second “Pro” is I will be in a position to grow my own foods again as I did in Austin, TX for an entire year when I had 3 raised bed gardens. The fact that ALL MY NUMBERS (cholesterol levels, blood pressure, blood glucose, tricyclerides, and other important numbers) were always at their lowest when I was growing foods in my own backyard, just tells me this is the lifestyle that I should be embracing.
I might not get there over the next year or two, but eventually, I will try my best to get back to growing my own foods again and becoming a Minimalist.
The first “Con” right off the bat that I can think of is it will be isolated where I will place the “Tiny House”, on 30.5 acres where my 3 brothers already live, which is a very, rural area.
Being isolated this would mean I would probably be living in a “food desert” and would not have access to good, clean organic foods until I was in a position to grow these foods myself.
The second “Con” is I am not even sure if I want to live on the land where I grew up as a “Black Sheep” child, even though my Mom and Dad is no longer alive. So this might just be something I do in the future.
Will a Tiny House Be Too Small For Me?
I am currently single, but dating, and don’t need a lot of space for what I am trying to do with my life. When I left Atlanta in 2013, I actually became a Minimalist and cut down on things. The hardest thing I ever had to do was to give my paperback books away.
Before going on the road for an entire year in my vehicle, with my Empowerment Seminarsand Workshops, and putting what was left of my life in a storage container in Atlanta, I purged and downsized many material things from my life.
This level of thinking and action plan brought so much happiness into my life. My last mate was very materialistic. He had 8 vehicles including 2 brand new Mercedes, a brand new truck, and put all his money into his home.
He rebuilt the home from the ground up and bought all this expensive furniture, had every electronic device you could think of, had put several 60 inch widescreen TVs in several rooms, put in new countertops and floors, redid all the bathrooms and had just finished building a $45,000 sunroom — two weeks before I left.
At the end of the day, he put garbage (GMO processed foods) into his body so it was making him sick and angrier and he was on tons of medications. He put materialistic things before gaining access to good, clean, organic foods, so I knew from the very beginning of our relationship, we weren’t compatible.
Many women would have been really impressed with all his material things, but not me. What is the use of having all these nice things if you are not feeling great and can’t spring out of your bed every day? What’s the use of having these big gorgeous homes, if you are too sick to enjoy them?
And I certainly don’t want to be like many women today, especially single women, who live in these big sad homes with all these bills, unable to buy good, clean organic foods or do all types of exciting and adventurous things with their lives because they are tied to their homes.
I never wanted that to be my story.
As I drove around the country in 2016 and went up north to 8 cities to hold events, I saw tons
of these beautiful homes with big attractive lawns and the occupants of these homes were too sick to even walk outside to the mailboxes.
Again, I never wanted that to be my story. I always wanted to be as free as I can — able to get up and go at the drop of a button. I don’t know what the future holds for me, but for now, I know that a “Tiny House” would be ideal for me.
I can imagine if you tried to live in these “Tiny Houses” with another person and especially an animal, you would have to ask yourself, would there be enough space.
So I am leaving my options open and if I desire to team up with another mate, significant other, partner or husband in the future and need a bigger place, we could always rent out the “Tiny House” or turn it into an AirBnB.com .
RVs and Trailers vs. “Tiny Houses”
One of my daughters said if I got a RV it would work like a “Tiny House”, but I told her I did not want to get a RV or Mobile Home/Trailer because they were made out of “unhealthy” material (I thought).
And this is why I never bought or rented an RV to drive around the country to give my events, instead, I chose to drive my car and stay at Extended Stay and other hotels, and with family and friends for an entire year.
A Mobile Home (also trailer, trailer home, house trailer, static caravan, residential caravan) is a prefabricated structure, built in a factory on a permanently attached chassis before being transported to site (either by being towed or on a trailer).
We learned that during Katrina when they put many families in Mobile Homes/Trailers, many ended up sick from the material the Trailer is made out of.
But she argued with me and said an RV is made out of different material than a Trailer, so my next move is to visit RV, Mobile Home/Trailer and “Tiny House” showcases, go on Google.com and YouTube.com and conduct more research and even sign up for “Tiny House Workshops,” where I will probably have to travel to another city.
Your Biggest Issues – Zoning and County Codes
Zoning and county codes will be different in each county. So one person in one county can get away with placing a “Tiny House” on a property and another person in the next county over might be told no they cannot place a “Tiny House” on their property. Some will need more convincing so don’t give up.
I know the zoning and coding issue will be a BIG ISSUE because many of these county offices, do their best to prevent families, especially black families, from putting dwellings on these family lots (family farms, etc.) so that the families can eventually sell the land.
Our farm, or should I say our land, where we had a family farm when I was a child, is zoned as an agriculture property (30.5 acres), which means we can grow foods there.
But when we contacted the county office (my 8 siblings and I) a few years ago when my Mom died and left the land to us, (my father had died 25 years earlier), we thought we would be able to split the land between all 9 of us.
But the county office said we could only split each lot up 5 ways instead of 9 ways (5 lots instead of 9 lots). Again, this is done, so that families cannot and won’t end up homesteading on these lands again and allow other family members to move onto these lands.
This is one of the biggest tactics that the government uses to keep control of YOUR LAND. So again, you have got to fight with these county offices, if you are serious about putting a “Tiny Home” on your property.
They are hoping families get discouraged and give up and just sell the land. And as soon as families fail to pay yearly taxes on the land, the government will grab the land. This happens all the time, especially to black families.
First Step Before You Go Too Far
Before going too far in your “Tiny House” planning, try to meet with the city planning staff or county zoning office or call them on the phone and make sure you are even allowed to put a “Tiny House” on your property.
If you are not allowed to put a “Tiny House”on your land, and you still want to live in a”Tiny House”, then look around for other lots where you can put this dwelling. For instance, the homes of families and friends or just go out and buy other land or just take these “Tiny Houses” on the road with you.
Reach Out To “Tiny House” Builders Before You Go Too Far
You have to fight to have these “Tiny Houses” put on your property. The gas, electricity, water, and sewage will be set up like a regular home.
Remember many of the “Tiny House” builders will specialize in different styles, shapes, and prices of “Tiny Houses.” So reach out to several of these “Tiny House” builders — even others from other states.
One “Tiny House” builder said he only offer homes from around $45,000, which are 28 to 34 ft., however, he is building a cheaper “Tiny House” version over the next year that will run from $30,000 and up, which will be the same size at 28 to 34 ft., but will offer the bare minimum, for instance the house might not come with a loft, oven, bathtub, etc.
According to a “Tiny House” builder out of Atlanta, since the “Tiny House” will be permanently affixed with steel to the ground, where they will remove it off the wheels (but can put it back on wheels to be moved to another location), it is call a “Modular On-Frame House” and these “Tiny Homes” can last a 100 years.
Therefore, it can sustain any type of rough weather that you experience, since it will be permanently affixed to the ground. So when talking to your county office, the zoning department, tell them it is a “Modular On-Frame House” and ask them how many square feet is the “Tiny House” required to have for the county.
There is a difference between an On-Frame and Off-Frame Modular Home. Off-frame modular homes are lifted off the transportation carriers by a crane and placed on a foundation. On-frame modular homes have a permanent steel beam chassis and are built to state and local building codes instead of Federal HUD Codes.
The maximum square footage for many of the “Tiny House” is from 550 square feet. You might have to go by the zoning office and show them a picture of the “Tiny House” or drive it there in person so they can understand that it is built to state and local building codes instead of Federal HUD codes.
If they tell you that the usual 550 sq. ft is too small and tell you the home need to be at least 1230 square feet, as they told me, if you already have other dwellings (houses) on the land or property, ask if you can put the “Tiny House” there next to the other properties as an “Alternative Dwelling Unit (ADU)” .
If they still say “No,” tell them you want to put 3 “Tiny Houses” on your property and use them as Airbnb.com rentals. And see what they say then.
So again, try to work with the “Tiny House” builders and realtors that specialize in selling “Tiny Houses” so you can come up with the right wording for your county zoning offices. But don’t give up!
You might even need to help change the laws in your county by running for office yourself — so conduct research before you get your hopes up of putting a “Tiny House” on your property, a family members’ or friends’ property or even before you purchase any land.
What Cities Are Embracing the “Tiny House” Movement?
The “Tiny House” movement is fairly new and there are tons of these communities springing up all over the country, where you can just go and set your “Tiny House” for FREE. Other places like RV’s and Mobile Home parks will charge you a monthly fee.
States like California, where housing is too expensive and the homeless population is out of control is embracing the “Tiny House” movement. Plus these “Tiny Houses” do really great in warm weather.
In Colorado, where occupants must go on a WAITING LIST to find housing, the “Tiny House” movement is extremely important. Colorado, as with other states, “Tiny Houses” often fall into a grey area in the law.
More often than not, a “Tiny House” on wheels will be classified as an RV in Colorado. Whether a “Tiny House” is legal in your backyard will depend primarily on local zoning regulations.
Cities like Atlanta that have TOO MANY BUILDERS and TOO MANY VACANT HOMES, probably won’t embrace the “Tiny House” movement like other cities. So again conduct your own research.
“Tiny House Workshops”
Personally, as a female I am not trying to build a “Tiny House” so if you are unsatisfied with the current “Tiny House” builders, many are offering classes to build your own.
Keep in mind that you can’t buy a USED “Tiny House” because they don’t exist. There is not a market for USED “Tiny Houses” because once people have these made to their standards or make them their own selves, no one gives these back.
There has been a lot of hearings on these “Tiny Houses,” especially from builders of “Tiny Houses.” Many are saying that when they build they are putting toilets in with showers, and they should not do this so there is a lot of specifications and codes that have changed since the “Tiny House”
movement first came on the scene.
Pay attention. Black people are the last aboard and the last to reap the benefits of any new movement — so pay attention to the “Tiny House Movement” and become a “Tiny Home” builder yourself.
If we are ever going to tackle the homeless problem in this country, the “Tiny House” movement is certainly a way to look at long-term options. Good luck!
Cathy Harris is a #VanDweller living ‘The Good Life.’ Her blog website is SimpleLifeRVing.com. She is also an Empowerment and Motivational Speaker, Advice Columnist at DearCathy.com, Non-GMO Health and Wellness Expert, Business and Love Coach and Self-Publishing Expert and the author of 26 non-fiction books at www.AngelsPress.com. Her books cover topics such as family and community empowerment, health, youth and adult entrepreneurship, writing/publishing, workplace discrimination, whistleblowing, government, law enforcement, domestic and international traveling, politics, media, beauty, car buying and selling for women, aging/retirement – just to name a few. She offers seminars, workshops, and consultations atwww.CathyHarrisInternational.com.