Some Tiny Clarifications

As the story of the theft of our house has made it to more corners of the internet, the story has become less accurate with every news outlet it hits.  I want to clarify a couple points.

Why Did We Even Want a Tiny House?

The main reason we wanted a tiny house was:

So we could build it with cash and be mortgage-free when it’s done, giving us the ability to save massive amounts of money.

There were other smaller reasons, such as the desire to have a space designed by us, completely for us.  We also liked that if we ever got tired of a place (after a couple years), we could just move it somewhere else.

To be completely clear, although we are not global warming deniers, our initial motivation to build this house had almost nothing to do with environmentalism.  I admit that I don’t know everything about the environment, but I’ve read enough on climate change to know that if we as a planet at least attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change, it can only result in a positive change for everyone.  (See Hippie Wastefulness section below)

Price of Materials

I wrote in my first post that we probably put about $35,000 in parts into this tiny house.  I told the first reporter I spoke to that it was $25-35,000, but they went with the $35,000 – likely because I wrote it myself.

Since writing that, I’ve tried to go over all the expenses in my mind, and it’s incredibly likely I put out too high of a number as that initial estimate.  I tracked all of my purchases with myLowes, and I’ll be going through every single one of those purchases and adding it to the initial spreadsheet I created, to find out exactly how much I’ve spent on this house.

I’m guessing the number will be closer to, or less than, $25,000 – but give me a couple days, and I’ll actually add it all up to see what the grand total is.

Duration of Theft

Some people have been surprised that it “only took 24 hours to recover the house.”  We reported the house stolen on December 20, 2015, and it was recovered on January 2, 2015.  It was gone for about two weeks.

Why We’re “Quitting”

The Police are just about finished with their investigation, but it’s not clear yet if anyone in the neighborhood our house was stolen from will be arrested.  I’ve spoken with other people from the same neighborhood who’ve said they have also had multiple thefts over the past couple years.  We can’t continue to build up our Tiny House just to have it vandalized or stolen from on a regular basis.

As Jessica said in her blog post, over the past 2.5 years, we’ve realized that everything we’ve been working towards has been put off by the building of this house.  Meeting with friends, having a garden, having a lower electric bill – all of these things can be accomplished in shared housing (apartment).

We don’t have it in us to find another location (and do all the proper vetting) to put our house at now, so I’ll simply be finishing it out while it’s stored at a secure storage facility.  We’re not quitting the Tiny lifestyle, we’re just not going to live in this house right now any more.

Why it has Taken 2.5 Years So Far

Although the commentary has been 99% supportive, I’ve received criticism at the 2.5 years it’s taken to get the build as far as it is now.  For the past three years, I have been building my business from scratch.  I’m an entrepreneur with a specialty in web development and e-commerce business management.  I have had to juggle multiple jobs while building this house, and it was often difficult to make the decision between working toward another gig or going out to the house to work on it.

I’m not playing the victim at all, with regard to my employment.  I love being self-employed, and I love the challenges these three years have brought me.  It’s been incredibly difficult to build my business up to a sustainable level, but I have, and I got a damn large portion of a Tiny House built during that time too.

There have been multiple-month long periods during this process where we made no progress because I had to earn more money.  If we had all the money we needed and at least half of each week free, I might have been able to finish it in 6-9 months.

Hippie Wastefulness

I fully accept that the building stage of a Tiny House is incredibly wasteful.  Any new construction is incredibly wasteful.  Living 40 minutes from a major city will likely cause you to drive more than you normally would, which is also wasteful (although I am self-employed, and I work from home).  So yes, I fully understand how wasteful this build has been thus far.

I also bought the majority of my materials from Lowe’s or Amazon.  I’ve read that I made an amateur move by doing that, but I haven’t gotten any recommendations of where I should have gone, and I still don’t know.  I only used those sources because I know them.

Our end goal is to live somewhere in a big city with fantastic public transportation, where we don’t need a car.  The residents of New York are some of the most environmentally friendly people in the US – even if they don’t want to be – because of all the shared housing, public transit, etc.  We will eventually live in a city like that (anywhere in the world) so that we can get rid of our car and have shared walls for more efficient heating/cooling.

I try to be as eco-responsible as I can, which is nowhere near perfect.  I drive a diesel car that gets 48mpg, so I use less fuel.  Does it still burn fuel?  Sure does.  I am still contributing to pollution, but I’m doing my best to contribute less.

The Future of the Tiny House

Edit: Our plan now is to sell the tiny house in its current condition. I’ll have another post up soon with more details (about the house, and explaining why we’re selling).

At this point, my plan is to continue building the house until it’s completely finished.  No, that two-tone paint scheme was not planned – it’s just not finished being painted yet.  Once it’s finished, perhaps the neighborhood our property is in will be safe again, and we can put it back there (assuming arrests have been made).

If that doesn’t work out, perhaps we’ll find another place to put it, where we can rent it out on Airbnb.  We also might just sell it when it’s completely finished.  The thing about tiny houses is, they’re incredibly customized to the person who designed them, so this design might not work for someone else.

The main point is, we don’t know what the future of our Tiny House is.  The only thing I do know is, it will not go to waste.

Conscious Incompetence

I was recently told that one of my defining factors is that I go into things being consciously incompetent.  I had no idea how to build a house before I started this, and now I have a much better idea.  Learning new things is my number one, favorite hobby.  I didn’t know how to change the oil in my car before I did.  Same with brakes, suspension, fuel injectors, thermostat, on and on.  I didn’t know how to set up an Ubuntu email server before I did it.

I always want to learn how to do more and more things, and the simple fact that I always start out consciously incompetent explains completely why I probably spent more money than I should have for the parts on this Tiny House.  Even if I did, though, I did it to learn how to do something, and that’s what makes me happy.

Questions

I will try to answer some of the comments on this post, so please post any questions you have.

19 Replies to “Some Tiny Clarifications”

  1. So glad this had a (semi-) happy ending. I hate that this is even a concern with tiny houses, but I suppose it doesn’t surprise me.

    Your comments on “conscious incompetence” are spot-on. I was born with none of the knowledge of the things I know how to do now – most of my knowledge is from “jumping in” and not being afraid to break things in order to learn how to fix them/build them/etc. I have absolutely had mentors along the way, but they are exactly that – mentors, not detractors. We’ve had our share of people who offer unsolicited opinions on how we’re doing things wrong, but short any constructive suggestions, their opinion holds zero value, and we’re learning to ignore them. Some people just like to think they’re the smartest person in the room. 😉

    Thanks so much for sharing this bizarre event. It would have been easy to keep this private (or maybe it wouldn’t, I don’t know), but I think it provides a tremendous benefit to the community and just to people in general. We’ll be following along to see how it all unfolds!

    1. I totally agree re: learning new things. The thing about keeping this private is, had I kept it private, I would not have had the internet looking for it, which is what led to its recovery!

  2. Im readong about your TH theft and return. IVE BEEN SEEING AND READING ABOUT ALOY OF FOLKS TRYING THE TH LIVING. OM INTERESTED IN THIS LIFE STYLE AND HAVING ONE BUILT.
    WOULD YOU BE ANLE TO GIVE ME ADVISE ON WHERE THEY ARE MADE? EXPENSE? LEGALLITIES TO PARKING THEM. ARE THEY HANDELED LIKE AN R V. ?
    IS THERE A REQUIED LICENSE LIKE A MH? DO THEY HAVE TO BE KEPT ON THEIR
    Are you considering selling your TH ? N how much? Im on retirement (very fixed income)

    Contact. : Integritytru1 On yahoo

    Thks

    1. You can browse my blog to see other posts about the building process of my Tiny House. I’m currently working on a Google Docs spreadsheet to calculate the exact costs of everything up to this point. I’ll post another update when it’s complete.

      I’ll also post details of how much we’re selling the house for (in its current state) and what needs to be done to finish it.

  3. If you do decide to sell it. What would you require from the buyer & how much.
    I have a disabled friend with spinalmagiffia. (Or how ever you spell it.) Who needs a house but, unable to afford it. He lives in a small rv that isn’t suitable.

    Thank You

    1. I’ll be putting together a Google Docs spreadsheet to see exactly what we’ve invested in the house so far, and I’ll be posting our asking price, along with more details about the house as soon as I’ve finished that spreadsheet.

  4. Hi Casey!

    I came across your story through one of those >>many<< media outlets; so glad to read your blog and clarifications. My husband and I live in a Tiny House outside of Fort Collins, CO. Though, none of our stuff has been stolen or vandalized, we totally understand your change of plans. We get it. We went into building the house for about 100 reasons. We came out the other end with about 1000 lessons learned and about another 1000 of why perhaps it isn't for us for the long-term (we'll be selling our house in the spring). My husband I and wish you well in your endeavors – and don't let anyone tell you that this was a wasted experience! Look how much more you know now because of it. How much wiser and more talented you are. And probably more patient and flexible and creative and…the list goes on. Best of luck in the next chapter and in your business!

    1. Very nice of you, Morgan! Thanks for your kind words. You totally get it – we don’t want to quit the Tiny Lifestyle, we just don’t want to live in a Tiny House any more. As our businesses are growing, we need more space for inventory anyway, so it really works out that we won’t be moving into the Tiny House.

      1. If you needed space for storage, you could’ve gotten some shipping containers. There are plenty out there and affordable.

  5. I’m amazed that anyone would criticize you for taking 2.5 years to build your house on your own. If I were to undertake such a task, I wouldn’t be surprised to have it take me 250 years. It seems a really complicated learning curve. I hope you will be glad to have done it and to have learned so much! And that you can find a buyer promptly.

  6. Hi Casey,

    I just discovered you not too long ago. You and your wife are such strong people! My dream is to one day have a Tiny House somewhere in Malibu or anywhere in the South Bay, but I’m lucky that I know how to change a light bulb so I’ll have to buy one. I constantly say I’m going to Home Depot to learn some basic repairs because I’m recently divorced and my partner was the one who did all the repairs on our (now mine) condo in houston.

    I have read a handful of your blogs and being from Nyack, NY (20 minutes north of NYC) I say move to NYC. It gets a bad rap but I can tell you it’s filled with wonderful people and lots of opportunity, cultural, food, fun and transportation. If I weren’t a teacher and chose a career that paid more I’d have a tiny apartment there now. I go home often and love every second of being in that fabulous city. I left there at 26 and moved to Los Angeles. My partner and I moved to Houston eight years ago and now I’m almost 40, and very much over Houston. Transportation is awful! So, first I was jealous of your tiny home and now I’m jealous of your move

    1. Catherine, yeah NYC is definitely the sort of place we want to go. I’m not quite sure if that’s the exact place we’ll move to next, but it’ll definitely be something like that. I’ve only been to Houston twice, and although I don’t know much about it, I’m guessing it’s pretty similar to San Antonio – sprawling, have to drive half an hour to get anywhere, and the main attraction is… wait for it… FOOD.

      Jessica and I both don’t want to die 10 years early, just because we live in a place that encourages staying at home on your couch and only going out for food, so we want to move somewhere that encourages moving around and being active much more often. Riding bikes to get places would be super ideal.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Well, at least next time you build a tiny house, you’ll know to secure it. Hey, we learn something new every day! One time I left a basketball in a university gym and when I returned a couple hours later, it was gone. Some jackwad stole it, but that didn’t make me pout and say “I’m never playing basketball again! The whole basketball community is so self-entitled and some of the people are mean!” Nope. I just got another basketball, marked it up with my name and designs to make it very identifiable, and KEPT IT NEAR ME, secured! lol

    1. Good for you, JoeBob. You were able to successfully take your own personal story (undoubtedly fictional), and turn it into a judgmental metaphor about how you disagree with the course of action I took, while simultaneously taking nearly everything I wrote out of context! I mean, shit, you didn’t even read THIS post! And to top it all off, you wrapped it up with a “lol”, to take the edge off.

      The internet has been waiting for you all your life. /s

  8. So sorry for the trouble you’ve experienced in trying to live out your tiny home dream.
    I’m somewhat interested in the property you’re selling, but not in the THOW. I’m inferring from your writing that your THOW was stolen from that property. Is this theft indicative of crime in the area? As a single woman living alone, is it safe?

    Best to you in your new journey.

    1. Hi Deb,

      I called the Detective in charge of my case one week after the THOW was recovered (around early January), and again about 2 weeks ago. Both times, he said, “We’re just about getting ready to wrap this thing up and make an arrest.” I asked if he was going to arrest anyone in the neighborhood where the THOW was stolen, and he said they hadn’t made any connections to it at the moment.

      My guess is, though, with the police investigating this, if there is a crime problem, it will likely be much less of a problem now, if not eradicated. What would be really nice is if the police would arrest whoever was in connection to the crime in the Spring Branch neighborhood, but only time will tell with that.

      I hope that answers your question.

      -Casey

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