Locking horns with tiny houses

Sky Veek with Lucky Bear the bull • Photo by Natalie Kate Photography

Our first house was a 640-square-foot log cabin. It had a kitchen, living room, full bathroom, loft and wrap-around deck. It wasn’t until we signed the papers and moved in that I saw what it didn’t have: a closet. That was OK, the hubs built me one for my birthday. It was the first of what I expected would be many, many more projects as clearly 640 square feet was not a real house any normal person should be expected to inhabit. Day after day, I sat in that little log cabin pondering how we might make it bigger. I thought we could raise the roof, bump out the side, add a garage, and one day our cabin would be tiny no more.

I know now, of course — thanks to the tiny-house-living craze that has gripped our nation — that my cabin wasn’t tiny at all. We had, in fact, space to spare, and oh, the things we could have done with all of that 640 square feet of space. But I no sooner get started designing my imaginary space than I am brought up short by one concern: Where does everything go? Where would I put my stuff; my shoes, my clothing, my jewelry, my books? My 40 odd years of personal journals, my antique typewriters, my decade of reporter’s notebooks. Where does it all go?

Sky Veek, owner of Lucky Bear Soap Co., has pondered the same, but that’s not stopping her from plans to shrink her life. She caught the tiny house bug after converting a rundown 600-ish-square-foot garage into a vacation rental, and realized how much simpler life might be rendered on a smaller scale. She currently lives in a 2,400-square-foot, five-bedroom house, an abode she is not particularly enamored of.

“I love being outside on the property, but never felt the house was special to me at all,” says Veek. “I’m tired of spending hours cleaning and dusting all of that space. We have high property taxes, high utility bills… I’m ready for a big change. I’d love to have a loft bed. Right now I have a huge bedroom and I look around and I think this is so stupid, I have this giant space just to sleep in. I want to design something that aligns with my values and principles, which is to downsize. I want to use reclaimed materials and natural materials. I’m getting ideas from boats and RVs where every item in our space does double and even triple duty.”

Veek, who already makes her soaps, shampoo, laundry detergent and toothpaste, isn’t planning to go teensy weensy, but looking to design something about 500 to 600 square feet. Even then, she expects she’ll need a separate space for storage.

“You see the tiny houses and they are all in show mode. You never see paperwork and filing cabinets. I think it might be too extreme to think you could live in 200 square feet. I want to be realistic.”

And tiny living isn’t nearly as simple as it’s made out on TV, says Veek, whose research has included yurts, school buses and straw bale construction as possibilities for her tiny house.

“What you see on TV is you just build a tiny house and stick it in your friend’s back yard. It’s not that easy. Most are illegal and they don’t tell you that. To legally build for full-time use, you have to check out building codes and zoning … and make sure those align for full-time use. If you are on wheels, you can register it as an RV and get a license plate and find a place to park it. Then, you’ve got to figure out how to power it. Propane or wood heat or batteries?”

Veek also has one matter to consider that most of us will never have to worry about. She’ll need a property three to five acres in size and livestock friendly. That last part is for Lucky Bear, the now-1,500-pound bull she rescued from a roadside ditch where it was left as a calf to die.

“Lucky is going to be with me for the next 20 years, and I’ve got to be sure Lucky is safe. I thought we could have matching barns. It’s going to take some time, but I put my mind to something and I make it happen.”

Unlike the rest of us who can’t get past the matter of where to put all our stuff.

Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at loritobias.com.

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