‘Tiny to me, and to us, I believe, means so much,” Samantha Garlow, 28, explains. “It’s about consuming less, challenging yourself and being cognizant of how we live.”
Samantha and her husband Robert, 29, started building their tiny home around Thanksgiving 2014. The 8-by-24-foot trailer that serves as the base makes the footprint of their living space just less than 200 square feet. They affectionately named their home SHED; partially because of its size and also because the project is about “shedding the superfluous.”
The tiny-house movement has been building up steam in recent years, and Robert explained some of the reasons why:
“The applications for this type of dwelling are being explored at an increasing rate, from tourism in more rural areas like wineries, to rural farm worker housing, to helping the homeless population, to travel-based employment, to young professionals like us, who have steady 9-5 careers and plan to stay put for the foreseeable future, yet still see the wide range of benefits that come with the design, construction and occupation of such a project.”
Samantha is a nurse practitioner and Robert is a co-owner of Yakima Maker Space and studying for an architectural license.
Samantha said the couple get a lot of questions about their choice.
“We always get the question, ‘200 square feet — how do you even live in that small of a space? What if you need to get away from each other?’ But to be honest, a ‘large’ house to me means pulling each other apart, taking away from those human interactions that are so important. If you need space, you go outside, take a walk. I couldn’t imagine another way to spend my life than in a huge fort with my best friend,” Samantha continued.
Working full time, the couple have to squeeze in time on evenings and weekends to drive out to their work site in Moxee. They plan to move from their 665-square-foot apartment into SHED in January 2016.
Across the Yakima Valley in Tieton, Kassie and Steve Frith are just settling down in their own tiny home, towed from Omaha, Neb., in mid-July. They relocated because Kassie will begin her first year at Pacific Northwest University of Health Sciences.
“We had started building in January and found out we needed to move in March, so then we knew we had from March to July to finish it up. Going from start to finish
in six months is almost undoable,” Kassie said, sitting in their 310-square-foot (counting loft space) home.
The 25-year-olds had to rely on friends and some hired help to get things together in time. They feel they’re about 95 percent done with the house.
“It’s like doing a weekend remodeling project every weekend for six months. So it’s like when you do that backsplash and it’s supposed
to take you a day and it takes you two weekends; that’s what it felt like, but every weekend,” Steve laughs.
It took the couple about a year of mulling over the idea before they bought their trailer and got started. In the end, they decided a tiny home was right for their situation.
Kassie has two years of medical school, followed by rotations and residency. Building their movable home allowed them to escape rental fees or deal with the hassle of buying and selling homes every few years. But, they stressed that the upfront cost — ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 — is higher than some people expect.
“It’s really, like it takes a lot of investment. You can’t really get loans to do it; there aren’t a lot of banks that will back a little mobile house,” Kassie continued.
“It’s a lot of money to put down for it, and it’s a lot of time but worth it in the end.”
Kassie and Steve had to downsize when they moved out of their 730-square-foot apartment and into their tiny home, a process Steve described as, “worse than expected.” Robert and Samantha, however, are doing more mental downsizing than physical at this point.
“Guilt has begun creeping in when I take a shower longer than five minutes, and we have started the transition into fully biodegradable soaps and shampoos,” Robert explains. “The impending transition is on my mind every day.”
The couple embraces the eco-friendliness of the tiny house movement; they plan to install a compost toilet and are using 80-year-old pieces of metal from an apple bin canopy in Tieton as siding.
While both couples say they’re excited about their tiny homes, they still say that it’s not the right path for everyone.
Robert clarifed: “We are not here to convince anyone that what we are doing is what you should be doing. In fact, there seems to be an unrealistic assumption that occupies many people’s initial excitement that a Tiny House is THE answer. That you will simply get rid of all of the physical and mental ‘stuff’ that has been holding you back and start fresh amidst a drastically simplified and stress free life.
“Living in a tiny house is not for everyone, but I do think that everyone can take something productive away from this educational and significant movement.”