I built a tiny house. If that sounds pretty cool, you might as well do the same thing. I had no carpentry experience when I started, and I wouldn't say that I'm blessed with a particularly great work ethic. Not in the basic traditional sense.
Let me talk all about it.
In the winter of 2012-2013, I decided that it was time for a change. I was living with my girlfriend Kristin in West Philly, and that alone wasn't bad at all. I had a great job as a bicycle mechanic, and there were plenty of social options and activities. You can get everywhere in Philadelphia with a bicycle, and nothing about the situation was particularly difficult.
There were a couple issues. First, we were living with roommates. Our roommates were good folks who I still adore, but both Kristin and I would have preferred some more privacy. Also, fewer mice. No more loud impromptu parties beginning at 3am would also have been a considerable boon. Plus, think about it: how long can you be a bicycle mechanic before you start to get bitter? At some point, a career bicycle mechanic needs to open up their own shop, or start to stagnate. The job has a ceiling of fulfillment, no matter how great the shop.
I didn't have enough money to buy a house - imagine my surprise - but it was clear that a big change was needed anyway. I'd been keeping an eye for years on what some call the "tiny house movement." Initially, I liked the houses because they were cute, but my interests became more practical when I started considering our options for increasing privacy and autonomy while decreasing our spending on life-crushing expenses such as rent.
The motivation was born: I was going to build a tiny house. My parents live on 3/4 of an acre in the suburbs, and there is a flat little enclave next to the woods. That would be the place. In the meantime, I'd have to figure out how to build a tiny house.
When I need to learn a new skill, I usually turn to books. I ordered books about construction, house framing, tiny houses in general, and anything else relevant. Over the winter, I started to read the books. I downloaded Google Sketchup and began watching a long series of tutorials on how to use it. I bought another book. I got skilled enough with Sketchup - just enough - to make a 3D model of what is now my house.
In March of 2013, I built the subfloor of my house, and rested it on the foundation: six buckets full of cement and gravel; buried to the rim and leveled. The house is built on skids to allow it - hypothetically - to be moved. The walls went up, then the rafters, then the siding and shingles. Every single step was a new skill to learn. Every step was much harder than expected. The whole project took longer than expected. I knew it would be hard, and I learned exactly what "hard" feels like. I did 99% of the work alone, because I am obstinate and I hate asking for help.
Now I know how to build a house, and I can't wait for the next one. In my imagination, building another house sounds like a dream. Every step for the first house was a learning process. There are hundreds of small ways that I could have done it better. I relish the thought of getting the opportunity to start again with the skills I've gained. I'm no carpenter, but to say the first time is the hardest has got to be a huge understatement.
Next? In the springtime of 2014, I intend to implement many finishing touches to the interior - storage; trim; enhanced electrical layout - and find a new place to park it. I'm trying to keep up the faith that I will be able to find a capable mover with a trailer and winch, and a new piece of land to settle on for awhile. I've been wearing out my welcome on my parents' land steadily, and it's time to make a move and give them their space back.
Progress: on track.