I put up an About Us page this week, and it goes into our goals a little bit — one of which is a tiny house. So why do we want to go tiny?
Well, I’ll tell you. Way back in August 2009, we moved to an apartment in a house in Dover, New Hampshire. It wasn’t a nice house by any stretch of the imagination. It was poorly kept up, though the owner assured us that its flaws were cosmetic and he’d fix them right away. We dismissed a lot of the issues as the quirks of an old house. We were young, flush with excitement over being newlyweds and new dog owners. We looked at it on a beautiful bright day. With the sun streaming through the windows, we decided to go for it.
Within weeks of moving in, I began to get migraines every day. Now, I’ve always gotten migraines. I had a few as a kid, none through my teens, and once I hit age 20, they came regularly. They weren’t terrible in that medicine could take them out quickly. They were once a week. They were manageable.
This house made the migraines unmanageable. I’d wake up groggy and unfocused every morning, and by mid-afternoon I’d have a migraine. Every. Day. It didn’t sink in that this was connected to the house. When you’re in the middle of a migraine, analytical skills are not your strong suit — at least not mine. And Seth was in a grad school program with almost no time to think between classes and student teaching. And we were young.
Over the months, my health issues compounded. I developed food sensitivities like no tomorrow. I became sensitive to chemicals, lights, sounds, smells. I was dizzy every day. I was drinking upwards of 3 gallons of water every day because if I became thirsty, that day’s migraine would be unstoppable.
Finally, we realized that this was because of the house. That the mold that was on the bathroom ceiling was actually everywhere — clogging the bathtub drain, growing on our things in the closets, growing on the window sills. The front door was so saturated that you could press on it and your hand would come away damp. And so we began the process of leaving.
We got rid of everything that could not be soaked in vinegar, which meant our furniture, our books, our papers and pictures and paintings and electronics.
As we chipped away at our belongings and did more research on mold, we discussed what made life worthwhile. Because of the migraines and food issues, I couldn’t go out with friends. I could barely travel. My work performance suffered and then fizzled out. I couldn’t listen to music. Shopping made me ill from the amount of scents and chemicals in new products and stores. If the dog barked, I’d be down for the count. The migraines limited so much of my life. I realized I didn’t want to spend what time I had doing a job I didn’t like, working long hours to pay for a big house that I never spent time in, full of things I had no time to enjoy.
Meanwhile, Seth had come to learn that he didn’t enjoy being a workaholic. That friends and travel and good food were more important than the Standard American Lifestyle. That if you didn’t take care of yourself, you could end up a shell of a person.
Enter the tiny house.
A tiny house is small. That means less time spent cleaning. A tiny house has minimal storage. That means there’s no use shopping every weekend. A tiny house can be on wheels. That means that you can bring your home with you when you travel to out-of-state family and friends. And more than anything else, a tiny house is relatively inexpensive. That means we could control every step of the process, every piece of material that goes into building, and never have to wonder about if our home is full of chemicals or mold.
We moved out of the moldy house in January 2011 — a little under a year and a half — with a pickup truck’s worth of clothing and kitchen supplies. We moved to a clean apartment where my family gave us a card table, folding chairs, and an air mattress. It sounds bleak, but it was heaven. It was a relief to have nothing, so we could focus on ourselves and our health.
Unfortunately, it was not as easy to give up the side effects from living in a moldy house. I still have a ridiculous amount of food and chemical sensitivities. I still get migraines, but half as many (about 1-4 times per week). But I don’t wake up groggy. I can listen to music again. Seth, who had developed some sort of walking pneumonia, regained his usual vigor. We have the time and energy to really push toward our goals.
We’re looking forward to a tiny house so that we can live in a way that makes sense to us and for our situation. We want to pull back from the rat race. Some people do that by opening their own businesses, some people move to Europe. This is our way.