Renovating and Building my Tiny House

When I first opened up the door to my old cabin, it was even worse than I’d anticipated. The grime-encrusted detritus of my old life was strewn everywhere. Mouse shit piled in tall drifts on the shelves, where I’d abandoned full bags of cornmeal and raisins. I had no recollection why I’d left underwear dangling from the rafters or felt the need to keep a quart jar full of dried rose petals and Christmas lights. In the cabinets, though, the photo albums and letters were remarkably well preserved; painful reminders of my abusive and long-dead first husband, and my beloved grandmother who had died only months before.

Worse even than the memories was the extensive black mold in the drywall. If I’d hoped for a quick, cheap, and easy renovation, I’d hoped in vain.

At that point, I was really unstable. I’d attempted suicide before I left California, and I landed more than once in the mental health crisis center after reaching Washington. I needed a place where I felt safe and that I could call my own. I needed a home that was inexpensive enough so I could devote all my time to building my writing and editing career. More than that, I needed something to be proud of, something to raise my self-esteem and make me feel like a whole, capable person: when I’d told my husband I was moving back into my tiny house, he said it was a shithole and that I’d never be able to fix it up on my own. He said that, if I’d had an ounce of respect for my daughter and myself, I’d get a real job and a real apartment.

So, no matter how completely disgusting and unmanageable the job looked, I was determined to fix up my tiny house with my own hands, and I’d make it comfortable and beautiful. I’d make it my home.

I squared my shoulders and got to work.

img_1454I didn’t take any “before” pictures: I was afraid that I’d never be able to sleep there if I had a reminder of how absolutely horrifying it was. I regret it now, because it would be nice to look back and see how much I’ve accomplished. The “before” pictures I do have were taken after I’d already filled a gigantic trash hopper with garbage and debris, ripped out all the drywall and insulation (which was even harder than it should have been, because I couldn’t see with my face mask steaming up my goggles), swept it clean, and scrubbed it several times with bleach. But I guess you can get an idea.img_1455

After I gutted it I put up new insulation, my mom helped me reroof it, put up new drywall and replace one of the windows (the original window had been stolen since I’d last lived there—don’t ask). I had to do dig out and repair the water line, do some minor plumbing on the indoor sink and replace the faucet.

img_2081When the house was done, my mom helped me build a little bathroom next to it, using reclaimed wood she’d kept after doing some demo on the property. I set it up with a composting toilet, and a shower with a propane-fueled, in-line heating unit. I created a rudimentary greywater system for the indoor sink and the shower; they currently drain into the flower garden in front of my house. I have plans to expand or improve that system in the future.img_2080

My mom really loves to do home-improvement stuff, and I loved working with her. It was kind of one of those “bonding” experiences people always talk about. Plus, it made me feel like she wasn’t just tolerating me, but actually liked me being there. Plus, I felt like she loved my tiny house almost as much as I did. She didn’t seem to think I was living in “a van down by the river” because I was too immature and lazy to get a real job and an apartment. She knew that I was choosing to live this way, and she seemed to understand why I would. And that felt good.

img_2083All told, the renovation and construction only cost about $1,500.00, including the toilet and shower…most of that money, in fact, went toward the toilet. I was able to do the job pretty cheaply, and to pay for it all out of savings.img_2086

So, I moved into my tiny house and started my new life.


Next episode, I’ll talk about how I’ve set up my space, and how I think it might be better utilized. If you have questions about my experience with tiny house living, or if you have an issue you’d like me to address in my blog, I’d love to hear from you.

17 thoughts on “Renovating and Building my Tiny House

  1. I’m loving reading about this. And I think it’s perfect. When everything in life feels out of control, both in your day to day life and inside your own head, taking control of something, something *meaningful,* is priceless. I don’t know how to explain how this makes me feel. Everything in and about that house is yours. It’s you. You made it, you earned it, you created it. Nobody gave it to you, and nobody can take it, or the accomplishment of it, away from you. If anyone tries to make you feel weak, broken, or useless, they’re clearly wrong, because that kind of person couldn’t accomplish this (AND write deep, moving, thought-provoking books as well). You don’t need more, bigger, fancier stuff. You need peace, security, a refuge, and you’ve made it. YOU have MADE it.


    1. It won’t let me reply to your other comment. I actually don’t have Internet there. I do have one power outlet, but I’m pretty off-grid. I go to my parents’ or to the coffee shop for Internet, or just use my phone, which unfortunately makes me a flake for responding to emails, comments, and messages. But I have plans to expand my house slightly to give Kid her own room, and maybe get internet.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always nice to have personal posts in the author platform. I need to do more personal posts in my blog! I love how honest you are here; yet it reads so well, like a novel excerpt more than a diary entry. I like it!

    Your tiny house is so pretty and unique. I love the furniture style you have, the step-up bed and that chair…and the teal/aqua paint on the wall.

    And how nice to not have too many possessions to deal with! Tiny is simple.


  3. I think it is so great u have the talent to do all that work by your self. I can’t even hang up a mini blind lol. I wish I had just a little of your talent.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not really talent. I just have my mom to show me that this stuff isn’t rocket science and you can do it if you just put your mind to it and are willing to follow instructions, make mistakes, learn and persevere.


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