Tiny Houses, Trailer Homes and Urban Camping

After a couple of job changes and residential moves in the last 15 years, I have become interested in living more simply — and with fewer material possessions — to both save financially but also to reduce the amount of real estate and belongings that become ‘life suckers’. My attention, energy, and time should be spent on growing in safety and comfort — not maintaining an expanse of toys in a losing battle for modern happiness.

There are a lot of options out there for simplifying and downsizing your residential footprint… I’ll be examining as many cost-effective ideas as I can find. Here is a basic, starter-list to give you a sense for what I’m talking about:

  • Move into a smaller home – Lower cost, smaller space for accumulation of junk, less to maintain.
  • Move into a ‘tiny house’ – Not for the faint-of-heart, these houses can be so small that they sit on trailers that can be pulled by a mid-size pickup (not for travelling; but for relocating).
  • Move into a Mobile Home – Usually much larger than a ‘Tiny House’, and relocatable with the help of professional specialists, these ‘temporary’ dwellings have been a favorite for lower-income living around the world for decades… but can cost almost as much as a normal residential home… but usually sits on rented land with utilities available. The advantage is that much of the planning has been taken care of for you.
  • Move into an RV (‘Recreational Vehicle’) – More mobile, less space. Many people find, after traveling in an RV, that the cost and effort of locating RV-friendly utilities is a worthwhile sacrifice when compared with the alternative (‘normal’) needs of maintaining a full-size home, a yard, a Homeowners Association, and all the stuff that will accumulate to fill in that space.
  • Move into your vehicle (car, pickup truck, or van) – Obviously, we’re now talking about so little living space that it would only be selected by those who are forced out of their previous homes — whether for financial or other related reasons. But looking at sites devoted to the practice all over the internet, there are growing throngs of individuals and families who are left with no other option. With a minimum of shelter, utilities become more a factor of location than cost, and storage of food an issue of daily temperature, while a rented storage unit (or a friend’s garage) serves to hold anything that won’t fit, or would be a great loss if stolen.
  • Full Hobo – No one chooses this until they feel they don’t have a choice… but many who do, choose not to return to normal residential living, even if their finances improve to allow it. I may be looking into studies and articles about why this is.

LINK: “Tiny houses for the homeless thrive in Eugene: Would this work in Portland, other cities?” (OregonLive.com)
LINK: “‘Tiny houses’ no solution to the unaffordability crisis” (Rabble.ca)
LINK: TheOffGridProject.com
LINK: “The Off Grid Project” (YouTube.com)
LINK: “The Do It Yourself World FORUM” (TheDoItYourselfWorld.com)
LINK: TheDIYWorld.com
LINK: TinyHouseTalk.com
LINK: RVTravel.com
LINK: “Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars” (YouTube.com)

46

On this, Beethoven’s birthday and the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, I turn 46. I do not feel like it’s middle age… this feels more like I’ve passed 8 of my nine lives.

At half this age, I was directionless, broke, and humbled by my circumstance — now, I see that I hadn’t quite improved on that station at all, and am living mercy to mercy with every breath.

I see friends and family who are sick, dying, grieving and cannot help them.

I see children who have separated themselves from their betters in a farcical belief that their elders hold no wisdom worth seeking.

jesuswept

I see believers who choose Men’s wisdom over God’s.

I see scholars who teach that intellect comes from turning our backs against authority and order, and that chaos is a sign of an bettered mind.

I see families that split to the winds as a matter of generational tradition — and often, as the only one they honor.

I see good men struggle for Truth, and Evil ones re-write our books.

I find a tapestry of denial and deceit in the hearts of broken women and shattered dreams.

In these years of change, I am not lacking for Faith — it is my only refuge. But the God I’ve come to know weeps for us, as I do. And while we are apart from Him, we will find no end to this grief.

God Bless us. God Heal us. God be patient with us.

Loss of Life

heldIn my life, I have lost.

I have lost the attention and respect of my now-teenage children.

I have lost the illusion that my wife married me for who I was.

I have lost all confidence I imagined as a provider.

I have lost the security of feeling loved.

I have lost friendships that I realize now were only in my mind.

I have lost reasons for rising in the morning, and for laying down at night.

I have lost memories now tainted with back-stories and realities that aren’t mine to retell.

I have lost respect for some I’ve bailed out and who have bailed me out many times over.

I have lost the music once felt with every inhaled breath.

And I have lost the glowing touch of life that renewed daily just from believing in another person.

My God has allowed me to lose these things, and without promise of replacing them, tells me that my needs do not include them.

He informs me that the Game was changed in my favor and that my station is risen though my eyes are cast down.

He reaches down to hold me in the way a parent comforts a truly helpless child and says I KNOW YOUR PAIN, AND I KNOW YOUR FUTURE, AND I AM THERE FOR BOTH.

But I have lost everything I know, except the frailty of being held down, held back, held up … held.

I look up and am blinded by hot tears or light — I’m not sure which.

I have not lost my Lord.

LINK: “Friday From My Heart: Held” (Living-The-Miracle.blogspot.com)

Outdoor Cooking – Rocket Stove

For those living outside Western Society’s normal parameters for ‘comfort living’, there are certain staple needs that can take concerted effort on a daily basis — but are uncompromisingly important to survival and good (sustainable) health. They include:

  • Water
  • Food supply
  • Shelter from the elements (wet, cold, heat, airborne pollutants — both structural and clothing)
  • Security from violence and theft
  • Cooking heat

CinderBlockRocketStoveAnyone who is good at building a camp fire understands that the key to starting and keeping a consistent fire with usable heat is the ‘chimney effect’, which can be achieved by any method that directs or allows air to enter the center of the fire from underneath. Heat rises, so ‘upward’ will always be the direction of airflow in a successful fire. That means you shouldn’t gamble that enough airflow will enter from the sides — gusts of wind and obstructions may reduce the flame’s ability to find ‘food’ (oxygen).

A ‘rocket stove‘ is a construction that is designed to feed air from the bottom — in such a way that you get the most heat, in the most sustainable way. If done well, it also makes for the most efficient use of your fuel; this is important not just to reduce the amount of gathering before a meal can be prepared — it’s also a pretty big deal if you consider how much material gets used in a geographic area… eventually that supply is going dwindle to the point of negative consequences.

You’ll want the most heat, and the least ‘lost energy’ from lack of direction, smoke, and flames that dance around in an unpredictable way. There are hundreds of examples out on YouTube showing how people have accomplished this to fit their own needs… and quite a few commercially-produced stoves now capitalize on this principle.

Here is a great example of one created from cinder blocks — which can be had for just a few dollars at your local home-improvement store (instead of spending more than $100 at the same retailer for an ornate ‘fire pit’), or constructed from reclaimed materials (construction sites, decommissioned or condemned buildings, junkyards).

LINK: “Rocket Stove” (Wikipedia.org)
LINK: “Hobo Stove” (Wikipedia.org)
LINK: “How to make a Rocket Stove from a #10 Can and 4 Soup can” (Instructables.com)
LINK: “Building a rocket stove to heat up the house” (MNN.com)
LINK: “EcoZoom Stove – Wood, Biomass, or Charcoal” (Amazon.com)
LINK: “Rocket Stove Design: Efficiency & Power” (EcoZoomStove.com)
LINK: “Zoom Jet Design Process” [PDF] (EcoZoomStove.com)
LINK: “Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves: Stoves” (CleanCookStoves.org)
LINK: “The Rocket Stove design used in Haiti” (GuatemalaWoodstoveProject.wordpress.com)
LINK: “5 Reasons to Love Rocket Stoves” (ValhallaMovement.com)
LINK: “Rocket Stove Instructional DVD” (Kickstarter.com)
LINK: “One simple thing in the Congo” (CNN.com)
LINK: “New Mud Stove for Refugees mar 28 2009” [PDF] (RocketStove.org)
LINK: “IRS Assembly Guide 10 27 2010” (RocketStove.org)
LINK: “Aprovecho Research Center – Stove Design” (Aprovecho.org)