Once upon a time, #TinyHouseFamily was our very own Instagram tag, now look! So many families have joined us that you have to scroll back quite a while to get to our early days of sharing.
I am happy that so many families are living tiny these days, and I thought it’d be fun to interview some of them. Here is the first interview in the series. Enjoy!
Thanks, Meg and Brand!
We are Meg and Brand MacGabhann, and together with our son R.A.D, we are the TinyHouse43 family. Meg is a Registered ER Nurse, Brand is a SAHD and full-time online college student, and R.A.D is our precocious 4yr old and reason for everything we do! We started our tiny house journey officially December 26, 2013 with our first blog post, but we had been researching ways to downsize from our 3193 sq. ft. house for a couple years prior. The idea to travel in a THOW came about after Meg’s mother was diagnosed with a late stage cancer just a few months after R.A.D was born. We decided life was too short to wait around for the perfect time to chase our dream – a cross-country road trip ending with a land purchase in our favorite area of Washington state – and after Meg’s mother died we started the ball rolling full steam ahead. We picked up our Barn Raiser in May 2014, spent the summer saving up cash and parts, started work earnestly in August 2014, and got the house to a livable state in October 2015, just in time to move to Colorado for Meg’s job transfer. Six months later, however, we’ve concluded the cost of living in Colorado is too high to allow us to achieve one of our primary goals – paying off all our debt over the next 12-18mo before we start to travel – so we are heading back to Texas at the end of March 2016. Unfortunately that means no longer living in the THOW full-time for a while, but it does give us the chance to FINALLY finish the build, improve upon some areas we identified over the winter as needing attention, and live a rent-free year dedicated to paying off ALL our debt. While it isn’t what we’d hoped for, it definitely does NOT mean the end of tiny house living for us – just a brief pause to regroup and improve our finances so we can REALLY live the traveling tiny house life we dream of! You can follow along with our ever-changing journey at TinyHouse43.com
TinyHouse43 (read: Tiny House For Three) started as one of the first Tumbleweed Barn Raisers, which is a 24′ Cypress based on Jay Shafer’s original Fencl model. We did all the finish work ourselves. Really, Brand did about 90% of the work while Meg worked a ton of overtime to pay for parts. We used a mix of new and reclaimed materials, but we hired out professional closed cell spray foam insulation. We also hired Tiny House Systems to design our mechanical-electrical-plumbing systems based on our specifications to be both on-/off-grid friendly, and we did the install work ourselves. From the front corner porch walking through the house, it includes:
Meg and Brand have two photo galleries of their tiny house on TinyHouse43.com. View photos here.
Two, though we’re adding a flip-up piece on the sofa base end to allow it to convert to a single bed for guests or for me if I’m lucky enough to get pregnant again and can’t navigate the stairs.
We wanted to make sure our son had his own private space to play and sleep, so we basically designed the entire house around his bedroom. We added sound barrier insulation into the underside of the loft over his room, closed in the ceiling, and used a wood sliding door to block more light and sound. Eventually we’ll add curtains on the loft end as well.
R.A.D is 4 going on 14 these days. He amazes us with his grown-up conversations until he has an epic baby meltdown and needs snuggles. It’s an interesting age for sure!
We had a local college student come interview us for her thesis, and we cleaned the house top to bottom for the first time since moving in. Even though we still have so many unfinished projects, seeing the house clean and organized gave us both a great sense of pride. Meg was happy she took a ton of photos before it got messy again which was about 3 days later, of course!
The first few weeks in our THOW were particularly stressful because the hospital I came to Colorado to work for was delayed in opening which meant extra driving, too much eating out, and not enough sleep. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for the stress to boil over and end in a screaming match. We got it all out and it’s been back fine since then, but the tiny house seemed microscopic that day.
This is definitely still a work-in-progress for us, and it depends on what we have going on that day. When Meg manages to have a day off while R.A.D is in school, she stays home to sleep in and lets the boys go on their own. We value those days because Meg gets a much-needed day of solitary silence at home, Brand has a whole day to himself away from the house, and the munchkin has a fantastic day at his mixed-age Waldorf farm school.
We are quite happy to have offloaded so. much. crap. when we moved out of our Big House, but we do still find ourselves having to resist the urge to buy toys for the kiddo. Meg originally said, “As long as they all fit in his two 18×18″ cubes, I don’t care how much he has.” She changed her mind the day a Lego stabbed her foot and broke the skin.
We’ve gone to two coffee shops that have kids areas, driven to Wyoming and Estes Park just for the heck of it, and have visited a couple local museums. We still go out when it’s snowing though!
That’s easy: our garden tub! Brand will throw a real computer chair into mix since he has to sit so long to do his online classes.
Our THOW was never intended to be our permanent house, but then we’ve also never planned to get rid of it. Long term we want to buy multiple acres in Washington state after we travel North America in the tiny house. We want to live in the tiny house while we build a 500 sq. ft-ish Whidby cottage (another Jay Shafer design) and connect it to the THOW parking area with a screened porch. With any luck we’ll convince my dad to come live with us as well!
Be realistic with your needs now, and don’t forget to plan for the future. We’ve heard of several young couples who built a THOW and didn’t plan for having kids, and they ended up selling it just a few months later. Also, be honest with your kids about whether or not you intend the tiny house life to be your permanent lifestyle, be willing to be flexible on that answer, and try to involve them in the process as is age appropriate. It was a first priority to us that our son help choose toys to take or donate, and since he’s so young and really had no say in the decision to go tiny, we felt it was our duty to make his space as personal and fun for him as possible.
On a more personal note, we suggest if at all possible starting off with as little debt as possible rather than using the theoretically lower overhead of a tiny house lifestyle as your chance to pay stuff off. That was our plan, but there are so many variables at work that can derail even the best laid plans – we know first hand! Obviously, several folks have managed to go tiny and pay debt off in the process, but it’s not a guarantee and folks need to know that.