Dee Williams used to live in a 2,000-square-foot, 3-bedroom home. Then she traveled to Guatelama (to help build a schoolhouse) and when she came home her house felt too big so built herself a home that fit. That turned out to be a 84-square-foot foot home on wheels that cost her $10,000: $5000 for the materials (mostly salvaged) and the other half for the solar panels and low-E (low thermals emissivity) windows.
She spent 3 months building her new home in Portland, Oregon and then hitched it to her truck and parked it in the backyard of her good friends Hugh and Annie in Olympia, Washington. For the first 7 years she moved in and out (removing the back fence), but for the past two years her wheels haven’t moved.
Annie describes their setup, half-jokingly as a “compound”, which also includes a sauna (built by Dee) and until a few months ago, included Hugh’s Aunt Rita who lived in “the big house” and Dee helped care for (incidentally, Dee’s home is permitted as a caregiver’s cottage, though Aunt Rita died this spring so now she’s only allowed to “recreate” in her tiny house).
When she moved into her 7×12 foot home back in 2004, Dee got rid of not just a $1000/month mortgage, but most of her stuff. She admits it’s not easy to keep things to a minimum- “creep happens”-, but it’s a constant process.
“I was engaged to be married and I kept the wedding announcement for decades and finally I was like I know that happened I think I can let it go in writing. After awhile it’s okay to let some of that stuff go and to trust that there are things that you hold inside you that are actually a lot more meaningful.. than the photo or piece of paper.”
Today, Dee helps design and build tiny homes for her company PAD (Portland Alternative Dwellings) where they “encourage people to design things that fit their bodies”: instead of obsessing over square footage (their designs run from 70 to 136 square feet), “all of a sudden you can let your body be the tape measure”.
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