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.
At 57 years old, I count my blessings every day and feel really blessed on how my life has turned out – so far. I have had a lot of successes in my life such as two daughters graduating with Master’s Degrees and are now business owners; I helped protect black women international travelers from my co-workers when I became a federal whistleblower; I won my discrimination lawsuit against my job and retired at the age of 48; I started my own empowerment and publishing company in 2005 and now have 20 books released and offer some of the best self-improvement seminars and workshops in the country; and now — I spent one year on the road traveling, building my company, AngelsPress.com, and living my dreams – just to name a few. Can it really get better than this?
Don’t Be Afraid of Change
Change brings about happiness in your life, but why are so many people afraid of change? Last year in December 2012, I decided to purge my life of things, which I realized would allow me more energy to focus more on what really mattered in my life.
I realized the reason I had been so successful in my life, so far, was that I was never ‘materialistic’. So purging my life of things was easy for me and it allowed me to move even closer to my dreams.
Put Your Health First
Some people need things to validate their lives (beautiful homes, beautiful cars, beautiful clothes, etc.) and they rather spend valuable money to get these things, while they ignore the one and the most important thing in their lives – THEIR HEALTH.
Many people live their lives eating bad foods — feeling sick, sluggish and run-down. They are surrounded by beautiful things that they can’t really enjoy because they ignore their health.
Many are empty inside because they have nothing of value to offer the world and I never wanted that to be my story.
Know When It’s Time to Move On
After my daughter’s car was stolen from in front of my place when she visited me in Atlanta, GA and after I experienced two attempted car thiefs in my area — myself, I realized my neighborhood wasn’t what it use to be and it was time for me to move on or out of that area.
When neighborhoods go bad, it’s just time to move on. I had never lived around crime and I was not about to start now – not during my Golden Years!
Not only did I move out of the area, I decided to move out of the city totally. What I was preparing to do with my life was bigger than Atlanta and it needed to be shared with the world.
And because of this decision, I was able to manifest even more joy and happiness into my life by moving even closer to my dreams.
Recognize Your ‘True Dream’
Traveling has always been a dream of mine. After all, that’s why I had joined the military years ago. Because I was in my 50s, I realized I still had 40% of my ‘productive life’ still left ahead of me so I realized it was time to take the steps necessary to find even more happiness in my life.
Because of purging my life of things and concentrating on what I really needed and wanted for my life, I was able to make the following dreams come true:
I was able to see the country by creating a humanitarian tour “Cathy Harris Humanitarian Tour” and traveled by car to 15 states.
I was able to meet some of the people that I had been networking with on the internet for 10 to 15 years.
I was able to build my business, AngelsPress.com, by building my audience with my empowerment lectures, seminars, and workshops.
I was able to release a line of empowerment non-fiction ‘easy-to-read’ e-books, paperback and audiobooks for the entire family, which can be read by 12-year-olds and above.
To purge my life and get on the road — it really wasn’t that hard. To get on the road as a Speaker, Author, and Coach you need the following in place — you need to:
Eat healthy foods along the way.
Get regular exercise along the way.
Engage in regular detoxifications.
Have a good running car.
Have a GPS.
Have contacts in cities.
Figure out where you will stay (family, friends, extended stay hotels, etc.).
I had dreamed 5 years earlier about getting on the road. I visualized it but there was a lot of obstacles in my way. I had these terrific friends that I could not leave. My mom was elderly and I knew if I left Georgia, I probably would not see her again – plus — I was also ‘too unhealthy’ to travel.
After becoming housebound and bedridden in 2007 and self-educating myself on how the human body works, I became a Holistic and Natural Health and Wellness Expert and launched the “National Non-GMO Health Movement” and wrote a line of health books about my experience.
Once I got healthy and after my friends and mom had passed on, it was just time for me to do what I truly wanted to do with my life. And if I had gotten on the road 5 years earlier, I would not have had access to all the great information that my company now offers especially the health seminars and the line of empowerment products. So the timing was key for me.
What was really one of my determining factors that made me realize now was the time to make my ‘life-long dream’ come true of getting on the road was — after reading the book “Eat Right 4 Your Type.”
Once I read the book and implemented the changes and started eating foods for my blood type, within a matter of days, I had a major surge of energy.
Because I was eating good food, not only did I get a surge in energy, but my brain worked even better, which allowed me to come up with my own PLAN OF ACTION to make my dreams come true.
Next, I sat down and compiled a list of every city that I wanted to visit and the people that I had been networking with over the years on the internet — that I just had to meet.
I then looked at my living arrangements and since I had a close relative in the Detroit area, I decided to go there first because of all the cities in the U.S., the city of Detroit had major issues, but I knew my company could make a difference with our line of empowerment lectures, seminars, and workshops.
So on Jan. 2, 2013, I sat out on my journey to make my life-long dreams come true of being a Speaker, Author, and Coach on the road and because of this — I loved every minute of it.
The scenery was absolutely beautiful along the way especially from Youngstown, OH to New York or when I got close to Nashville, TN.
The green trees looked like the trees in the movie “Gorillas in the Mist.” Sometimes the horizon ahead was so blue it looked like you were driving into an ocean, but it was just the sky meeting the ground.
And what about the color of the trees around Halloween and Thanksgiving – the bright red, orange and yellow colors. I had never seen anything so beautiful in my life.
All of it made me think of my home in Georgia and I thought about how lucky I was to have spent the first 17 years of my life as a ‘homesteader’ – working the land.
Even though the city of Detroit was extremely cold and it looked like a wasteland, in my neighborhood outside of Detroit, the view of the snow looked like a beautiful postcard. You just have to learn to see the beauty in everything.
I was raised in Georgia in the south, 2 hours outside of Atlanta, and had never in my life lived in snowy cold weather except when I was in Germany in the military in the 80s. I had never driven a car in snow so I had prepared to stop at a hotel if the weather got bad on my trip.
But all the way from Atlanta to Detroit, it was easy sailing. Even though there was snow on the sides of the roads, I had missed all the major snowstorms. It was like I was being guided by the universe or by a force to live my dreams.
It was as if someone had made everything easy for me because when you step out on your faith — to change your life and the people around you, everything will fall into place. Everything was happening to me in ‘divine order’.
I could have exited any of those exits in my ‘one year journey’ on the road and set up my home. If you have a car and money coming in, you can actually move anywhere.
I truly believe that some people might not be able to get their lives together because they might be in the wrong city. Your family is not just your family. Your family could be the people you have met in your life — that have ‘touched your hearts’.
I love meeting people and don’t know if I will ever get off the road. The biggest joy that I have experienced along the way on this tour is during my seminars and workshops — when I see the light go on in my audience eyes, especially young people when they realized they could indeed change their lives.
Now that I made my ‘life-long dream’ come true of being on the road in 2013 by launching “Cathy Harris Humanitarian Tour,” I can’t wait to see what 2014 will bring but I have a good idea because again, I have already visualized it “Cathy Harris Empowerment Tour.”
What I am saying to all of you is if you want your dreams to come true at some point in your life, keep walking in the directions of your dreams every day, but come up with a plan of action to make them come true, and don’t forget to put your health first.
Embrace ‘change’ and in return, it will embrace you with joy, peace, and happiness and I am living proof of that…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 at www.CathyHarrisInternational.com.