Thriving In 114SqFt

For those that have been with us for a couple of years or more, you will know that my wife, Gabriella, 12 year old daughter and I spent nearly 5 months living out of a 110sqft pop up tent trailer in Baja, Mexico two winters ago (you can read that blog here). You will also know that we not only had an amazing time during those months living tiny, but that our lives were transformed in such a positive and significant way that we completely changed our entire relationship to housing and space.

Our focus since that time had been to find a piece of land to create our own homestead in a way that reflected our new view on space, housing, and family relationships. A few months ago we found our little patch of heaven. We definitely consider it to be our forever home.

BedroomWe are now living here full time and it’s hard to describe how right it feels to be here. Our land came with a 114 sqft cabin equipped with a queen sized bed, plenty of shelf storage for books, office supplies, and toiletries, a kitchen with a small double sink, double propane burner, storage for food, utensils and plates/glasses, and even a desk to work on. The cabin even came with a very small solar system that supplies enough power for a light, to charge our laptop and to run our modem for a couple of hours per day for internet.

Our water comes from a spring fed system that so far is more than meeting our needs. For a toilet we are using both a composting toilet system (17 gallon Rubbermaid bin with plywood platform and attached toilet seat) and the toilet in our pop up tent trailer (which we brought up to the property). Our 16 year old son gets the cozy cabin to himself at night while Gabriella, Terra and I sleep in the pop up, which feels like home to us. We ordered a Sunmar composting toilet and expect it to arrive any day now. I never thought we could be so excited about a toilet! It couldn’t come soon enough as neither of our current systems is great. Our camping hot water heater arrived a couple of days ago so the promise of hot water showers are within sight.

CabinWe purchased an off grid 600 watt hour per day solar system from BackWoodsSolar.com and that should more than meet our needs for a good long while. We are also the proud owners of a Honda 6,500 watt generator which will come in handy when we begin construction of our intial structures (two 120 sqft tree house cabins for the kids and a 224sqft tiny house on a trailer for the main house). In a couple of years we will build our dream straw bale house (a 500 or so square foot home). The tiny home on the trailer will allow us to move our house around as needed to experiment with various home sites on the land.

The cabin is small but so far it’s worked out so well that we have hardly noticed its size. I do all of the cooking in it and the kitchen is well suited for us four (though a tiny bit more counter space for a cutting board would be nice for the long term). The other night we had five people in it (three on the bed, one sitting at the table, and Gabriella cooking in the kitchen) plus a dog and a cat and it was wonderful. Everyone was included in the conversation and it made for an engaged dynamic.Fun

Given our previous experience of thriving in a tiny space, we have been spared the initial struggles and withdrawals we had gone through in the first month in Baja. So the family dynamic has been extremely pleasant and from day 1, it has felt right to be here and living tiny again. The kids are both totally on board (though I will say that our 16 year old son has wanted to go into town to see friends more than we have been able to take him) and when we started talking about an internet satellite system being installed on the cabin, both of the kids cried out that we should not get wi-fi, or else they would just be on the internet at every opportunity.

We are all living with the rhythm of the sun, weather, and the land. On cloudy days, there is no internet because our solar sytem doesn’t have a chance to charge our battery and run the modem. On other days, we don’t get a cell reception up there at all. And when it’s cold outside (we’ve dipped to freezing a couple of times since we’ve been there) we all just have to bundle up and be as active as possible during the day to keep a chill from setting in.

KitchenMoving up to our new land, we weren’t sure what we would need so we held off on buying anything until we got up here and allowed the needs to essentially find us. It’s been a couple of weeks of more trips to town than we would like but it feels like we have great solutions for each necessity that has arisen (hot water, toilet, waste removal/trash, power, and internet). Now that the infrastructure is largely installed, we can move on to the next phase: building tree houses! Though it’s a lot of work and we will likely feel busy for a long stretch, it’s good honest work and it feels wonderful in knowing that the investment we make now in infrastructure will be used and appreciated for the remainder of our lives.

15 Responses to Thriving In 114SqFt

  1. Kim Davison Sat, June 15, 2013 at 8:44 pm #

    What an uplifting message! I am so happy that all is going so well. By the way, has the Applegate model ever been built?

  2. Jeni kardinal Sun, June 16, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Your story brings back so many fond memories of our family living aboard a small sailboat and how our relationship as a family bonded so tightly within such a small space. Our boat was 36′ x 11′ but it was only that wide in the center. We had 5 solar panels which kept up lit and ran all the electronics and the refrigeration and laptops. We made our own water with a water maker to transform salt water to drinking water.
    We lived within sight of each other and our daughter has a great sense of security and closeness to us.
    We also felt the motions of the earth, every breath of wind, motion of the sea, and delight of the sparkling of the sun dancing on the water and the wonders of what lived below. Living in a small space for the years of 0 – 9 years old with our daughter has helped to create a bond so strong that I believe is making her years as a teenager much more manageable.
    Your stories remind me of how fun it is to live in small spaces. We used to be in the lighted boat parade in Sausalito and had 22 people on board! As we passed the judges stand everyone went to one side of the boat tipping it starboard! we won the grand prize!
    It’s also nice having a house small enough that you can take your house with you traveling! We were more like a turtle traveling with our house on the water. Sailing for 4 years with our daughter. Such benefits to being small and affordable!
    Cheers
    Jeni

  3. Alice Sun, June 16, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    What an adventure! It all sounds very similar to what we’re living through on 206 acres of undulating heaven on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

    I admire your ability to live small, and you’re clearly not burdened with lots of junk, as we seem to be. And your kids are a bit older and more on board than ours – 7, 5 and 6 months.

    I love the tree house idea – hope you blog more about how you go about it! As our kids get older I’d love to harvest the property’s Mallee and build them little cruck frame straw bale cabins to live in. Sadly Mallees tend to consider their trunks dispensable, so fall over readily – hence nothing too ambitious in the treehouse department for us!

    We’ve built a straw bale shed/workshop that we’re living in at the moment while we build our grand (ish) strawbale home. I’d love to see your house designs, and read the rationale behind them, as you build.

    I’ve been blogging our experience too – theechohilladventure.blogspot.com.au

    Keep it coming, Andrew! I love your build and design principles, and can’t wait to hear more.

    Alice

  4. Philip Taccetta Sun, June 16, 2013 at 6:25 am #

    I hate to “bad mouth” Sun Mar,but we had one for 8 years – it was difficult to clean, and no matter what we did we had a new “crop” of tiny flies every 6 weeks. We replaced it with a “Separett” urine diverting toilet – collect and use the urine, compost the solids away from the house. You can even buy a “kit” to build your own. Best of luck to you!

  5. clairette Sun, June 16, 2013 at 7:26 am #

    Hello family and enjoy the Father’s Special Day.

    Strangely enough, yesterday I made up my mind on building a small house on trailer until I find the special spot for my straw home that I dream of.

    Today I opened my email, and this is exactly what you are doing. How refreshing to live off grid, own water, soon hot shower (may be wood heating hot tub) and composting toilet on the go. What else can you ask for to live fully with the sun, the moon and the stars.

  6. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, June 16, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story Jeni. Sounds like an amazing experience for everyone involved.

  7. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, June 16, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Thanks for the feedback Phillip. We’ll see how it goes for us. I’ve heard that they work really well as long as we stay within the very specific requirements for temperature, etc. Hope we can make it work. We did the humanure thing and we could go back to that, although this system, when it works, seems much more effective and producing compost and killing all of the pathogens.

  8. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, June 16, 2013 at 10:49 am #

    Hi Kim. The Applegate has ben purchased so many times but I have yet to see a finished structure! I sure hope that someone sends me some photos of s finished Applegate Residence soon!!!

  9. john campanale Sun, June 16, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    Greetings Andrew, Gabriella, Terra and Paiute. So great to here much more on your grand adventure into living gracefully on the earth. Thanks for the wonderful details…just what I had been wondering about once I heard you guys were embarking on that Colorado trip. As usual, andrew, your ability to bring me there in your story telling is shining through.
    When I first heard of Joe Jenkins and the Humanure Handbook, and read it with great interest, I felt like I’d been awakened from a very deep sleep, and emediately became a great prostlatiser. But the part of his teachings I focused on most was “compost building 101”. After all, if your going to shit and piss in harmony with nature, the composting end of it is a critical part. And tempuratures high enough to handle potential pathogens in the heap are a must. Guess what makes the critical differece in achieving those high temps(120-150)….layering with our very own (high carbon)STRAW. The beauty of straw is that it guarantees the delivery of much needed oxygen to the bacterial party taking place (beautiful tubes of air that serve us all over our lives, eh?) 7 parts straw to 1 part high nitrogen material (humanure, kitchen scraps, anything green from the world of vegetation, etc).
    Also, I want to turn you on to a great documentry called “Land Awakening” by Raul Alvarez. http://www.landawakening.com If you haven’t already discovered it.
    As always, I live in deep gratitude for all the great cheer and insight you share so freely. Hugs all around, john

  10. Andrew
    Andrew Sun, June 16, 2013 at 3:51 pm #

    Great stuff John. Love to you, as always.

  11. Vernon Huffman Sun, June 16, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Bicycling is a great way to get in touch with how little we really need. Try it! Pack everything you think you need to live for a month onto a bicycle and start riding. Before you crest the first big hill, you will have decided you could do without a great deal of what you packed.

    Since turning 50, I’ve cycled through 33 states. I’ve found deep appreciation for simple, lightweight items that meet multiple needs. I don’t need much, but what I have must be excellent quality.

  12. Constance Mon, June 17, 2013 at 1:22 am #

    I’m so proud of you all, you are really doing it the proper way. top-tip: you have a double sink, fit a cuttingboard to one of the sinks to double up your space.

  13. Niki Sun, June 23, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    Hey Andrew and everyone! This post was SO inspiring to see. My fiance and I are building your 200 sq ft mountain view cabin in the middle of the bush which will be our place to stay while we build our larger, more permanent strawbale home later on. There’s the two of us and our mutts. Our friends all think we’re completely nuts and that we won’t last in such a small place. Seeing that you guys have done it and are doing it again makes me want to do this even more. So thankyou! And way to go!

  14. Angela Mon, July 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm #

    Congratulations! You all are such an inspiration. How exciting to finally be in your special place – on your own land! We’d love to hear how things go as you build and get settled. We’re wishing you the very best!

  15. Rob Thu, July 4, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Greetings All, My wife and I travelled around quite a bit and lived in a Ford Cortina stationwagon for 3 months, a Sierra designs two person tent for 6 and a Ford van for 18 months. We made that same connection with the outside that Andrew speaks of and have slowly drifted away from that (as you do with modern living) over the last 10 years of living in a palatial 780 sq ft house. Sounds small, but it is just big enough to keep you inside.

    Going small both lets you connect with the outside, AND keeps all of your costs down.

    Thanks for the reminder to get back to the land and the outdoors. We are now thinking of building some small strawbale cabins and with your post are reminded to GO SMALL. Thanks for that.

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