“Small is Beautiful” revolves around the anger, the frustration, the doubt, the defeat, the hopelessness, the heartbreak and the raw emotion that they all experience during their unique journeys. It would be unfair to call “Small is Beautiful” a cautionary tale but it shows that tiny house building isn’t the proverbial walk in the park that it’s often made out to be. It’s hard…One goes as far to state that: “I feel like I have a lot in common with Captain Ahab. It’s like me versus my tiny house — and I’m trying to build this thing and this thing is trying everything it can to not get built.”

I enjoyed reading this review of Jeremy Beasley’s new documentary Small is Beautiful as it realistically portrays the challenges of building a tiny house. As someone who has written openly about my struggles with building my house, I appreciate reading pieces that don’t simplify the process. As my house nears completion (finally…photos to come soon), I am reposting a piece I wrote last year for a tiny house magazine about the importance of project planning in the tiny house construction process – something I think many DIYers like myself are not as prepared for as we could be.

“No one “builds a house.’ They lay one brick again and again and again and the end result is a house. Procrastinators are great visionaries—they love to fantasize about the beautiful mansion they will one day have built—but what they need to be are gritty construction workers, who methodically lay one brick after the other, day after day, without giving up, until a house is built.”

Through the process of building my tiny house I have had to learn to transition from that visionary, big-picture person (who procrastinates and fantasizes way too much) to the gritty construction worker. It’s been a constant challenge, and I have resisted laying those bricks more times than I care to count, but I’ve also come to appreciate how structure and constraints in a creative process lead to better design and easier, more efficient work. Like many tiny house enthusiasts, the images online and the marketing that told me I could build a tiny house with just 14 tools and my time on the weekends sucked me in to thinking that because it’s a very small house, the effort and planning involved would be a smaller commitment as well. Not true at all. As a woman with no building experience prior to this project, I was expecting a physical challenge. What I wasn’t expecting was how mentally exhausting building can be with all the decision making involved and figuring out how those decisions impact one another (often through trial and error).

Planning the cabinets

Planning the cabinets

I’m a person who likes to research all options and loath making decisions for fear that I will have missed out on an option that would be better. But this is no way to build a house. Being a novice, I often wanted the right answer for a problem and was afraid of making a wrong decision. Even the times I was good at making decisions, I didn’t realize where in the process those decisions needed to be made or how they might impact other decisions or designs later in the build. This meant I had to redo or reconfigure various aspects of my build and spent way more time and money than I needed to simply because I hadn’t planned out the steps or made decisions in a timely manner.

Through seeing me struggle with this process of decision making and planning, the architect involved in my project decided to make a critical path project plan for constructing a tiny house. He developed this plan to use in our workshops, but I wish I had created one when I first began my project to plug in all the major decisions and tasks and have them shift around accordingly when things got off schedule. The creative side of me, and the person who wants the ability to change her mind hates sticking to a project plan, but I now see the utility of it and the benefit of taking the time before beginning a build to thoroughly plan out all the pieces. While it may seem laborious to do that when you just want to begin building, the time spent to organize and structure your process will save you much time and money later. You will have all the nails you need and won’t have to run to Home Depot as often (of course you will still forget things, just not as often!). When your door doesn’t arrive on time you will know what other tasks will be affected because you will have scheduled in your dependent tasks in your plan and those will change automatically when you change the delivery date for your door. You will have a much more efficient process which not only saves you time and money but frees up your mental energy to be applied elsewhere.

Planning the design of a tiny house

Planning the design of a tiny house

While I’m sure I will still wing many projects in my life, I have a new appreciation for structure and planning. They simplify a huge project like building a tiny house into manageable components so that a novice like me doesn’t get overwhelmed and give up out of frustration. My only regret is not having embraced structure and planning earlier in the process. It’s so easy to stay in the visioning and fantasizing stage because it’s fun and creative, but my hope is that future tiny house builders take the time at the beginning of your project to design a critical path project plan and then begin the work of laying those bricks as soon as possible so that your vision of a tiny house transforms to an actual structure in the most efficient way possible.

Category:
General, Lee

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Great post Lee! I just watched the documentary last night and I also felt the same way – I really appreciated that they painted the struggle. It was a good reality check. It also has been many months since we met and I am still in the visionary state – a good nudge :)

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