On August 25, 2015 (this past Tuesday AKA my sons 11th birthday) we had to leave Maine to come back to Massachusetts. Our house is not finished but school was starting the next day and no way was I going to be able to commute 2+ hours to drive my kids to and from school nor did it make sense to register them for school in Maine for a month. So, on Tuesday, we moved in with my husbands uncle (a single man with a ginormous house and is never home to enjoy it) (omg I can’t believe ginormous is actually a word!) who lives in the same city we do and in the same school district so that my kids can still take the bus. Even better my husband can sleep here with us when he’s done working and working on the house instead of sleeping in the tent in the back yard like he has been all summer.
So here it is.. My plans.. Yes I have more than 1. Always good to have a backup plan or 3 right? Honestly I’m having some trouble figuring out a plan that will work with minimal chance for hiccups, please everybody AND have us comfy cozy by Nov 2016. My goal for this post is to simply get all my options down and hopefully something will click or perhaps someone will find this post and bless me with a comment containing something I’ve missed or a possible solution. We shall see!
No matter what our plan it is going to take some sacrifice on all of our parts to make it work:
I was visiting with a neighbor last week while waiting for it to be time to pick my kids up from dance camp and she told me that because of our current situation I would qualify for assistance with paying for daycare for my youngest so I could find a job (remember those sacrifices I mentioned earlier?). I have been a mother for almost 11 years and never have I put one of my children in daycare and it scares me to death!
It has never been easy for me to find a job. I’ve been out of the workforce for far too long and it seriously counts against me. I’ve tried looking off and on for about 5 years and I’ve never even gotten an interview. This time has to be different!
Step 1: Go to the appropriate office the day we get back and fill out daycare assistance application with the help of my neighbor (she works for social services and knows how it works and offered to help me fill it out.
Step 2: Once I get approved (I’m thinking positive here because otherwise I cannot get a job as daycare would cost more than I would be making in a week thus making it pointless) FIND A JOB.
I’ll be looking for a retail type job. It gets kind of tricky because I still need to get my older kids on the bus in the morning and be home when they get home so my only available hours would be 8:30-2:30 Monday – Friday. I plan to ask for $10-$15 per hour and at that rate I would need to have a schedule that is basically those hours I’m available so as to take home $300 or slightly more per week.
I’m hoping all goes well and I (for once) find a job fairly quickly. I’m a hard worker but the whole being out of the workforce for more than 11 years seriously limits those willing to give a mom a chance.
Now, lets assume I get a job and I manage to get 30 hours per week and bring home $300 per week. If I work the months of October, November and December I could have $3900 by Christmas.
It would help, if my husband was agreeable, to put aside some of the money we hope to receive from our 2014 tax returns that we have not yet received since some jerk pretended to be us and filed our taxes before we could and ran off with the money. Even $1000 of that money would bring us up to $4900.
For $4000 we can find a decent travel trailer. We purchase the travel trailer. This will be our home while we build our tiny home up in maine. Plan B will deviate here cutting out the need for the camper, but as I’m doing research it could cost even more.
In Plan B we ditch the camper and ask a friend of ours if he would allow us to build our tiny home on his property. When its complete we would then have to pay to have it hauled as a wide load requiring special permits and I’m told it’s expensive (Close to $8,000 or more). However this would give us the most building time to be settled in before the start of the 2016/17 school year.
Another 13 weeks brings us to the beginning of April. I should have managed another $3900 and (husband willing) We should have our 2015 tax returns back with no problems giving us approximately $12,000 total. We would like at least 5 acres of land and I’m allotting approximately $10,000 for the purchase of land. (There is a really nice lot right now in Palmyra, ME that has been calling to me but doubt it will be available come spring). We purchase the land (having spoken with a qualified realtor so as to be sure there will be no zoning or size issues or any other problems with building a tiny home on the property. so that it is paid for and ready for our tiny home or camper. So far we have taken no loans and paid cash for everything so no new debt.
At this point we have a few options. It is April 2016, we put our house on the market and hope for a miracle that it sells quick and for at LEAST what we owe, then we take our camper to our land, find new jobs (Something we will have already been working on and could potentially have set up before we leave, though it may take a trip or 2 up there before hand to acquire) and start building our dream tiny home.
This plan allows for us to be there in early april giving me PLENTY of time to plan and plant a nice garden to feed my family in the summer and through the next winter. It DOES, however, raise a problem. Taking the kids out of school mid year and transferring them (not the end of the world) my bigger concern is their dance team. My kids are passionate dancers and LOVE being on the competition team and look forward to performances and their end of the year recital in June…
We COULD wait until the end of the school year (more of a possibility if we are able to build down here on our friends property) Waiting until June and moving up there with our camper raises the problem of not having enough time to build our home before cold weather sets in if we deem building on our friends property not a viable option AND too late for a decent garden meaning having to buy the food I would have grown at the store and no canned or frozen food stocked up for winter, again, necessitating the purchase of more food than otherwise would have been necessary.
Someone recently asked me what “living tiny” means. As I was thinking of the best way to answer her question I began to realize that it can mean different things to different people and they can have different reasons for wanting to live this way.
In simple terms it is simply choosing to live in a small house. MUCH smaller than most people would EVER consider. A tiny house is typically defined as a home that is less than 500 square feet of living space. While a small house is less than 800 square feet of living space. Below are just a few photos of some tiny houses I found by searching google for tiny house:
OK, by now some of you are probably thinking, “ok, this lady is NUTS! NO WAY could I EVER live in such a small space!” But hear me out. The average home in the United States is 2,700 square feet and the average home costs almost $200,000. Over 30 years plus interest you will have paid about $393,000 for you home. You’ve just about paid for it twice!!! And its very unlikely that your home will be worth what you ACTUALLY paid for it. Sure it will feel like you’ve made a profit because when you sell it you might get this nice big check. But it wont be for what you paid for it, you actually took a loss. In todays market and in the future you just don’t know what will happen. You can’t rely on property values to go up and certainly cant count on them to constantly rise, that is just illogical. If they only ever went up then eventually nobody would be able to afford a roof!
Now you have all this wonderful empty space! What are you going to do with it? You have to buy STUFF for it! Before you know it you’ve spent tens of THOUSANDS of dollars on SUTFF! We are so focused on stuff. As I was tossing all of our possessions in the dumpster I saw all these things that we never even use! Cleaning out my kids overpacked cluttered bedrooms I began to ask myself, “why do they even have this?” Things my son hasn’t touched in years. Clothes pouring out of dresser drawers (by the way I’ve decided that clothing does not belong in dressers and it’s hangers or bust you cant see what you’ve got they are so bulky..) Presents my daughter got for her birthday and christmas the last 2 years had gone completely untouched, never even opened.. After a while this spacious dream home you purchased doesn’t feel so spacious anymore does it. A bigger house will solve the problem! or will it……? NO. It’s a vicious cycle, buy bigger house, get more stuff, bigger house feels smaller, buy bigger house, repeat.
I see lots of blogs and social media pages about the tiny home journeys of single people, couples and even a small family. Well, we are a family of 5 (6 if you count our 75 lb lab/hound and I do count her, she is my 3rd born as far as I am concerned). Let me start by introducing us. Maybe you can relate to some part of our story. Grow with us, enjoy our triumphs with us and learn from our mistakes with us; No sense in making them yourself when we can do it for you, make some new ones instead!
We started our family in a 2 bedroom mobile home. My husband had been living in it since he was about 17. It belonged to his grandmother and was built sometimes around the 1950’s. When our son was born in the summer of 2004. It was old, it was falling apart and it was growing smaller by the day. And so… We took the next step that every other family takes… In 2006, we bought our own house!!! We had our very own 3 bedroom 1140 square foot home on 1/3 of an acre of land. Hooray for us, right?
A mere 2 years after we purchased our home the housing market crashes… Our home is worth next to nothing…..
Fast forward to March 2015…
We are now the proud parents of 3 beautiful children and 1 dog (Yes, my dog is one of my children) 4 bunnies (a year ago we had 35!!) and more chickens than our city technically allows (SHHHHHH…). Still living in our temple of financial woe that is STILL not even worth what we owe on it. In the past few years my husband was unceremoniously let go from his job of 15 years and lost another job when it was discovered that the companies owner was embezzling from his own company. He, luckily, never went long without a job but now he is making a whole $10 LESS an HOUR than he was making previously. Our mortgage payment has also been steadily increasing these last 9 years. We are now struggling to pay almost $500 more per month than we were when we bought the house due to increased property taxes.
We take our youngest, Emily, to the Dr. for her routine check up at about 16 months old. Less than a week later I get a call from her pediatricians office. There was something wrong with Emily’s blood work… She has lead poisoning and the source is most definitely our home built in 1900 that we have been raising all of our children in for the past 9 years… My mind goes into overdrive, my heart sinks down to the floor.. I want to run to scream. I want to set the damn house of FIRE! How long has she been exposed? what about my other children? My dog? Me and my husband?
I have spent the majority of my life as a parent trying to keep my family healthy and safe. Making my own cleaning products and bath products to avoid all the unnecessary and harmful chemicals. I read labels like a mad woman making sure to avoid all the crap in our food that isn’t really food. Artificial flavors and colors (Why on EARTH does my relish NEED yellow 5 in it?! I don’t give a damn if its neon green!!!). I try to feed them healthy and, when available, local, organic or home grown food. OMG! is it in our soil too?!?!? I feel like I am suffocating in this house that has been gradually weighing on us more and more as each year goes by, we struggle harder and harder to make ends meet, often having to borrow money from family to pay our mortgage and other utilities (oh, did I mention this is also the year we become victims of tax return theft?) and for what?! To poison my children?! To live our lives in a miserable rut where we are just marking time until our untimely demise having never REALLY experienced life?! For a home that causes us nothing but stress and grief, My husband and I argue ALL THE TIME, and it’s ALWAYS over money. I have had ENOUGH!
My husband and I sift through our options. I want to walk away (I know in my heart that we can’t, at least not right away. My conscience would eat away at me if we tried to sell the house (at a loss) knowing what was inside. I couldn’t put another family through that. But I also know that this house has caused too much trouble for us and that how much we have struggled and are still struggling even moreso, its not worth holding on to. But since his father has been helping to pay our bills off and on (more on than off lately) he has a say in this too. I feel stuck and frustrated.
August 4, 2015
Me my 3 children and my dog have been living in Maine (we are from massachusetts) since June 23rd in a family summer cottage (we had to wait 3 LONG months in that house for school to end so we could get our children to safety). My husband is sleeping in a tent in our back yard while him and is father work tirelessly to replace all the lead contaminated moulding. They have only 6 weeks to do this. They had to take a special class and get certification to be able to do this on their own and its not easy to do properly (Just a note, most companies that do this DO NOT do it properly putting you and your neighbors at risk). Nobody, not even my husband is allowed to live in the house while it is being decontaminated, hence the tent in the back yard. Our 2 oldest children go back to school on the 26th of this month (just one day after my sons 11th birthday) and we are expected to be back in that house by then… Before we left EVERYTHING we were keeping hat to be meticulously cleaned with Lysol (Don’t get me started) wipes. Each wipe could only be used ONCE, you swipe it once you fold it in on itself, you swipe it again, you toss the wipe, you get a new wipe, do it again.. and so on and so on. One item could easily take multiple wipes to clean… Our clothing had to be washed in certain laundry detergents that had serfactants in it so that it would bind to the lead dust. Why go to all this trouble you might ask? There is NO WAY to know which items were contaminated with lead dust and which ones weren’t.. 99% of our belongings went into a dumpster before we left. it was beyond full… Well, after all, they’re just things…
I’m sitting at the house having lunch with my kids. I don’t even remember why I thought of it or if I saw something that sparked my memory or interest. TINY HOUSES!! I started searching facebook for groups related to tiny house living, searching the internet for designs and space saving ideas and I began plotting out a floor plan. I could not WAIT to tell my husband about this! I asked questions and researched and asked more questions and did more research. I wanted to be ready to talk to my husband when he came up to visit us on Friday. How could he NOT think this was a great idea?!
We fought the entire weekend. I became so frustrated that he couldn’t see it. That’s right.. My husband and I do not see eye to eye on this. After having some time to reflect, I know we are both trying to do what is right for our family. But we do not agree on what that is. He did begin to warm up to the idea of tiny housing but the argument turned ugly and my abilities to follow through with, well, ANYTHING were called into question. I’ve always believed that you don’t know unless you try. if you don’t at least try, you have already failed. Not everything is going to work out as planned and some things will completely bomb. He said one thing to me that is still echoing in my head.. “Prove it”. He is asking me to prove to him that I am committed to doing this, he wants to me prove to him that I can do everything I said. Well… The only way to do that, is to DO IT…
So, I am going to do it!!!
Join me on my journey, OUR journey, as we navigate through the ups and downs toward our goal of living tiny as a large family.