Tiny House Revisited

Now that we’ve been in our highly chronicled (Tiny House: Start to Finish) little bugger for a few months, I thought it might be fun to share some truths about our tiny life. Nothing dramatic to report, as we spend just weekends there and, therefore, haven’t had to totally purge. We still have – and use well – the 2000 sf in Condoville. Nevertheless, we are getting clearer about what it would take to live tiny full time. Or, to more accurately describe our aspirations, we’re getting clearer about what it will take to live in Laupahoehoe full time, which just happens to be in a very small house. The peace and quiet of the land, the expansive view of the horizon, and the overall feel of the east side of the island make “Lanikaimakani” our ideal landing spot, and we are eager to make that happen in our little hale.

In the meantime, we work towards financial independence (read: no need for salaries). So, given our part-time-resident status, we have the luxury of easing into this new, idillic way of life. That being said, we are starting to get a sense of the level of fortitude that tiny housing requires.

First off, we have not yet installed a water catchment system. We live off of two 3-gallon and one 5-gallon water bottles, which doesn’t allow for a shower or a convenient way to wash the dishes. So there’s that. We slime our way home Sunday evening. Needless to say, when we talk about what is essential for living here full time, water is A number 1. B number 2 would be a fridge. The one we (okay, I) bought on Craigslist is not yet functional, though Jim finally bit the bullet for us and drove it to the repair shop, which is an hour away (god bless that man’s patience with my spontaneous purchases). We’ve been living out of a cooler and have been hauling our food back and forth from civilization. It’s not such a big deal to live this way, but it would be really nice to be able to leave some things here, chilled and ready for action upon our arrival… say, for example, beer.

What does work is our little 20″ gas stove/oven. We can cook like regular people and (more importantly) can boil water for coffee, which we make in our manual Keurig contraption (ADORE!). Anything that uses gas versus electricity is our friend. Ditto the stovetop camping toaster. We also use the boiled water for washing dishes in a little tub. Why the tub when we have a sink? Well, the drain pipe isn’t hooked up to anything, so the gray water still dumps out under the house. Even particles of food can’t be washed down. Rats, you know. On the bright side, our glass-to-human ratio is about right, agreed?

We haven’t yet hooked up our compostable toilet, since its ultimate landing spot will be in the not-yet-renovated bathhouse. So, our bio breaks continue to be nature and crap-bag dependent (as you might have read about in It’s Potty Time!). Enough said.

TV management has gotten a lot of our attention, and we’ve made good progress. For downstairs we got a mini-projector and retractable screen combo, which mostly works well as long as the former is fully charged in advance of any use because the thing is pretty cheap and uses power faster than it charges. Once we get that resolved (either through better power planning or replacement) and bury the mountain of cords, it is going to be a sweet little set up. What we love most of all about it that it all unclips from the ceiling, folds up, and is stored under one of the benches when we’re not watching. Right now we stream from our phones, but the plan is to mount an AppleTV under the loft.

Speaking of the loft, we each have an iPad for those occasions when we want to watch something that the other of us doesn’t (most of the time). When we are (occasionally) in sync, we use our ceiling mounted iPad Pro, which folds up flush (thank god, because I already whack my head a dozen times a day up there). The holder easily slides out of the mount to become a table top device.

One “construction” modification we have made in the loft is the addition of vinyl flooring. The house was delivered with a painted plywood surface up there, which seemed simple and sleek enough. We quickly discovered that every speck of dust and dirt shows because, yes, it was Navajo white (Wait, What White?). The stuff I got when I had every intention of replacing the flooring in the camper worked out perfectly in quantity and in color. To the unknowing eye, it appears to match to the stuff we used downstairs. Happily, it took only about an hour to install start-to-finish (though don’t look too closely; I’m no professional). True confession, I put it around the bed, not under it, because that sucker weighs a TON.

Among my favorite aspects of tiny living is that a Swiffer Duster, a Swiffer Mop, a broom, a Dustbuster, and about 15 minutes are about all you need to clean the house from stem to stern. The yard? Well, that’s another story. We look forward to the day when we can afford to build the lanai (deck) we want, but for now it’s just lounging in the dirt. Thanks to the cows that are our leased pets (for agriculture tax status) as well as the rainy winter season, grass has been slow to return since we cleared the land 6 months ago. I blame those pesky bovines, who seem to wait for the exact moment we leave to return to stomp on, crap on, and rub up against anything within 50 feet of the house. Yes, we’re building a fence to protect around the structures, but that’s taking time since we’d like to do it ourselves. (Isn’t fence building a required life skill? We think so). Consequently, we live in a mud, dust, and hoof-divot pit.

Back to the fun stuff (although the cows are pretty dang cute)… Decorating our little preshy has been a surprisingly slow process by my standards. I like to get that shit done immediately, which you’d think would be a snap with so little wall space. Alas, it’s not. Bit by bit, though, we’re beginning to fill the oddly-shaped and small wall vacancies with things that are especially meaningful to us. Among our faves are Jim’s tiki mask that he got on his first trip to Hawai‘i and a sketch from an event he attended at the Honolulu Museum of Art that I had framed for him when we first started dating. I’ve added some paintings from and of Eleuthera, as well as the iron sculpture of my beloved island. My most favorite of everything, though, is the FABULOUS wooden nautical map of the Big Island that Jim gave me for our first anniversary! In addition to being a gorgeous piece of art (and deserving of a closeup stock image), it fits perfectly over the electrical panel. Love! How to adorn the upper part of the walls is the big question, and I ponder the issue often as I take my daily siesta. Anyone have a Chihuly lying around? We think one would be perfect on top of the fridge cabinet. Anyone?

And I’m not sure Jim likes my fridge decor, even if he did give me the flag for Christmas. Go, Pats! Come to think of it, maybe the fridge removal for repair wasn’t motivated by sheer altruism. Hmmm. Anyway, our new Echo Show is PERFECT for the house, once you learn to tune out the the incessant, “Alexa, skip!”

The tininess of our little peach has been regularly tested, even in the small bits of time we manage to spend there. As I’ve mentioned before (Here We Go Again!), we really do need a second structure for more space. Yes, it’s official; we need less tiny. You see, turns out we do need to have ways to be alone inside. Above and beyond general quietude, it is critical when we both are working or if one of us is napping (guess who?).

We had our first overnight guests – Nick and Ellie – and though we pulled it off, it was tight, and that was with Nick’s sleeping in the pop-up camper. (I would share a picture, but none of us had space enough to pull out our cameras.) We haven’t really had other quests out for more than a look-see, because even hanging outside is a bit rough. Plus, without a fridge, our rations are always pretty basic (read: low). Ellie reports, though, that the bench is perfectly comfortable as a bed. Glad we ordered the “overstuffed” (by Johanna’s standards) cushions. No shortage of pillows, needless to say, which I promise are always neatly arranged as they were in this open house photo from before we moved in. Yeah, right.

We’re slowly tackling the renovation of the bathhouse, which we still anticipate turning into the master bedroom (the loft is getting old already, even though the bed is perfect – Open House Prep!). So far, the demo is complete, and the exterior has been repainted. We can’t do much more until the guy who originally delivered it comes back with his heavy equipment to put it on the piers. For now, it sits in the middle of the driveway where it was unceremoniously dumped. We hope it will make it to its final resting place soon, so we can start to work on the interior and to find a way to cover up that hideously green metal skirt. Ahh, Hawai‘i time, you’re killing me.

Our little solar generator seems to be doing the trick, though we did kind of crash the system when we ran the fridge on electrical after discovering the gas system would not ignite. Way too much load, so we slowly had to work our way back into the good graces of our delicate little system. One day we’ll have a grown up solar set up, but for now, it gives us just what we need to power devices and to turn on lights at night. Unfortunately, until we do, the house surrounds have a bit of a Sanford and Sons feel, which – needless to say – tests my aesthetics patience, but I’m surviving.

In terms of storage inside, we have way more than we need right now. To conserve the living space, we love anything collapsible, like our dish drying rack, kettle, strainer, etc., and we put anything we can in a drawer, including laundry in one, empty duffels in another… hardware, toiletries, digital supplies, etc. We only use a couple of the tansu (stepped cabinetry) drawers for clothes, which works just fine. The “closet” is okay, though I keep my evening gowns in Condoville. And the space under the “bar” (or, more aptly called “dumping ground”) has become a nice spot to store shoes. Why do two people need so many shoes and boots? Sheesh.

The kitchen cabinets provide ample space for food, pots, pans, utensils, etc., with the pantry cabinet’s being the real shining star, along with the micro cabinet to the right of the oven that stores our cutting boards. So glad we asked Johanna to add a door at the last minute.

As featured in Land Ho!, we continue to wrangle our way through the legal process of clearing the title to our property. It’s a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, but we have to accept that we’re doing all we can in leaving things in our lawyer’s and the court’s hands. We’re about six months into a process that they say takes about a year. Fingers and toes crossed, please.

So, that’s where we are, happily plugging away at the process of making Lanikaimakani our home. We love that people are curious about our tiny adventure. If we can shed any light on other aspects of our progress or what we do in a given situation, feel free to ask!


To read more about our Tiny House project, view a gallery of progress photos, and join me in my musings, take a wander around my website