Thursday, November 29, 2012

Finishing and Beginning

Soooooooooooooooooo the inspection went really well - so pleased.  The dog behaved, and the buyers are reportedly happy with the house, and I agreed to do just a few minor repairs.  The inspector provided the report same day, but I wasn't able to discuss it with Bryan until this morning to be clear on what the buyer was requesting.  Then Amanda sent the contract amendment over already today, and I signed it, and we are good to go!  I can exhale on that piece of the process.

I plan to sign a lease - somewhere - on Saturday.... I will really exhale then.  I haven't been sleeping well - I think it's the unknowns that are getting me...  But so far, things that I have been stewing over have not come to pass.  I may need to tattoo that on my palm to remind myself.  At least I've managed to stay fairly faithful to the gym, and I know that is helping immensely in keeping me balanced.

I've been thinking about my next meeting with the City.  One thing that I need to do is organize news bits from different cities across the country that have come out about tiny houses and tiny house communities and zoning changes; I could have have done a better job with that in my first meeting, but - no harm done.  It's a learning curve...  I think there is an app for the iPad, too, for business presentations.  I need to check that out.

And James is asking me about floor plans for my house - he's chomping to start working on my trailer.  And trust me, I am dying for him to get started on it!  I'm just not quite ready is all.  It's um, sort of a critical component, lol, and I can't rush it.   I am thinking about ordering The Lusby plans from Tumbleweed as a jumping off point, but I need to review options again first.  It would be fun to have them to take with me to Minnesota over Christmas to show my dad.  He loves to build things.  I have two architect friends that I'll contact too, and see about input from them.  That will be fun.

I plan to get some boxes this week/weekend, and also to tackle my workshop for the move.  I need to sort tools, and assess what type of container(s) I need to move and store things.  There is a new Harbor Freight open, and I'm going to look there for some hard sided boxes on wheels with a pull handle like luggage, or something similar...  In my mind most of what is taking up the most space out there is lumber and lumber scraps - I don't think my actual tools are terribly voluminous.  But there are probably more than I am envisioning.  Par for the course...  I have this weekend, next weekend, and then I want to move the following weekend.  It should totally be doable.

What is becoming urgent, however is my consignment furniture. I do not want to have to move that.   My regular consignment place referred me to another consignment place that I need to call -- they come and pick up furniture for a nominal fee. I need to call them and find out what their protocol is for determining what items they will accept.  That is on my list for TODAY.

I'm already looking ahead to 2013 -- Exhibit 1 - there is a Tumbleweed workshop in Austin in March... [giddy laughter]

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Anxiety II

With my house inspection today, and the option period on the house contract ending on Friday, it's time for me to figure out where I am moving to!  I called some places close to my neighborhood a few days ago -- some old old complexes that I've always thought were charming - but they don't take dogs.  But one of the leasing women I spoke with - Sherry - we totally bonded on the phone!  I ended up telling her about my tiny house plans... it felt like we were fast friends. She said she has a few acres of land outside of Dallas and that she is thinking of retiring soon - and was intrigued with the tiny house idea.  I gave her my blog address to read about what I'm doing.  I also asked her to keep me in mind in case she knew of any garage apartments, or other tiny spaces for rent - she said she would.  Having been in the area for a while she seemed like she might know "people."

Yesterday afternoon my friend Kelley and I went to 4-5 apartment complexes, so grateful she could go since it was way more fun than going alone!  I didn't find anything that I just had to have, and frankly they were more expensive than I expected.  I haven't leased an apartment in probably 10 years, so gosh, shocking that they are more than I expected! (That's a joke...)   Not outrageous, and still manageable, but ...nonetheless more than I thought.  

Really what I want (I think) is a garage apartment - although admittedly I've never been in one - but it seems like it would be ideal.  I wouldn't have any shared walls, it would be quiet...and odds are good for some type of yard for the dog.  But I know those are difficult to come by - I think you pretty much have to either know someone, or be there when the sign in stuck in the yard and be prepared to write a check on the spot...

I ducked into a class at Apple last night - and then home for a bite and to give the dog some attention.  Sacked out at a reasonable hour... until... 1:20 a.m.  BING!  Eyes wide open.  Positive it was nearly time to get up.  Um, no.

I proceeded to work myself into a lather of worry until 4 a.m.  The "dark times" as Tom and I call them - those wee hours of the morning when it's sooo dark and sooo quiet.  The wind was just whipping around the house, and in between gusts of wind I heard the owls calling in the night.  I worried about the house inspection.  I worried about the dog being kenneled in the guest room during the inspection.  I worried about putting Greta dog back into apartment living, and how much she might bark.  We lived in an apartment when she was a tiny puppy and thus began the ritual of her laying on the bathroom rug while I showered -- left loose in the apartment she would invariably see something threatening out the window  to bark at and me, in the shower, unable to quiet her.  Today she's 12, and she still loves to come and lay on the rug when I shower.  : )  Rationally I don't really believe she would be a chronic barker.  She sleeps all stinkin' day...

Anyway, I had major anxiety under the cover of darkness.  It doesn't matter if it was rational or not... After surfing the web for apartments, catching up on news, and taking my turns on Words with Friends and I was STILL wide awake, I prayed for peace of mind and for a solution.  The last I looked at the clock it was 4:04 a.m.

Greta of course slept through all of that - so she awakened me at our usual hour of 7.  Painful.  And then this morning while I was getting ready for the inspection, my phone chimed that I had a voice mail.  It didn't ring...some glitch in the system.  And who was it?  Sherry!  With the names and phone numbers of two people with rental units available - and that I should use her name.  I started crying - what had I done to deserve her kindness?   

I called the numbers right away.  One indeed is a garage apartment that is walking distance to Lydia's and walking distance to Wholefoods (and next door the Sherry!)  A great price, and all bills paid, and the landlord doesn't mind a big dog.  It's still under construction, but she hopes to have it ready to see on Saturday.  Downside?  No central heat and air - a space heater and a window unit.  I still want to see it.  I can do anything for a year or less...

The other one is a 1/1 (not sure if it is a duplex, or what) also nearby.  I'm going to see that one today!  They also accept pets.

I guess some anxiety is pretty normal with the big changes I am doing.  Last night was only my second bout of it which I think is pretty darned impressive, and by morning, my prayers were answered with connections from a stranger.  (I can't even call that the Power of Who!  LOL)  Because this process thus far has been nearly anxiety free, and I have no remorse, when I do experience some worry it hits me pretty hard.  I love my plan.  I believe in my plan - I think it's solid - but when it's dark and cold, and you can't sleep, it's easy for negativity to creep in.  I can still "see" myself in my rental place, making my plans.  I still "see" myself climbing up into my cozy sleeping loft, after a day of sharing my excitement about living small with my community.  I'm on track!

This afternoon Kelley and I will look at the 1/1 and do a drive by on the garage apartment.  And I think we'll hit a thrift store or two - I threw down the gauntlet of challenge to my family for an Ugly Christmas Sweater Contest for Christmas Eve... my sister Kate called today and said she already bought her sweater and a sweater for her husband!  I need to get on the stick!

Tonight?  Christy is coming over with some wine and we are going to catch up - we haven't sat and chatted in  f o r e v e r!  I think I'll build a fire in the fireplace.  Ahhhhh.  Everything is going to work out just the way it is supposed to.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Big News!!

I have a contract on my house!!!!!

The sign was in my yard less than 24 hours - and I received an amazing offer that I said "yes" to.  

Even though I did all the things to make this happen....

Even though I had asked for this....repeatedly....

Even though I halfway expected a fast offer....

I was stunned.  I was in Austin when I got a text from my realtor -- holy cow.

I will tell you more when it's a done deal, but for now, I hope for the expected good report on the inspection, and then closing is scheduled for December 20th if all goes well.

Target move out date? December 15th so that Tom and I can celebrate our Christmas the 22nd.

I am set for trial December 17th but its expected to settle.... THAT better happen... LOL

Tomorrow? Apartment hunting.

More tomorrow when I'm on a real computer (I'm on my iPad.)


Saturday, November 24, 2012

Time Out

. . .  I am still alive - just really busy with the Thanksgiving holiday and a family wedding.

Stop by Sunday evening for some big news!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Connection...

A gentleman from a Dallas non-profit* was kind enough to lend me his ear for a few minutes yesterday morning.  It was our first contact, so I began by giving him the thumb nail version of who I am, and my ideas for tiny houses in Dallas.  

I explained that I had met with some folks in Sustainable Development at the City, and that I have several more avenues for discussion to go down and that I am just getting started, but that I was interested in his thoughts and views on what I am trying to do.

He was encouraging, and my understanding is that he feels a trailer park would be the easiest place for me to begin as far as where to park my tiny house as zoning is in my favor.

He told me about a handful of parks around town that he is aware of - one off of Zang Boulevard, one by Ferguson/Garland Road, and one behind the Belmont Hotel - Colorado Avenue, I believe.  Sounds like an afternoon of exploring may be in my future.  : )

He also touched on code with regard to modular house design, and related inspections.  It seems that I will want to look into some level of inspections for occupancy.  That is the first I have heard of that, and I've made a note to do some reading to educate myself on possible inspection requirements.

I asked if I could contact him again as my plans clarified, and he was kind enough to agree to that - he also offered to introduce me to another gentlemen who may be helpful to speak with.

* I'm awaiting permission to use his company name.  : )

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Here We Go!

I signed my house listing agreement today, and the photographer is coming on Sunday to take photos for the MLS listing!  Showings should begin in earnest next week!!  It's happening!!!!  I feel like I need a toast...

And the Meetings Begin

Yesterday was a great day!  In the afternoon I had my first meeting with the City of Dallas, and in the evening I was privileged to attend a Habitat for Humanity reception with my friend Sara, honoring the beloved Rex Spivey as the Habitat for Humanity International Volunteer of the Year.  There were so many great people and good friends in the same room - it was a really fun evening in a lovely setting in the design district.

My meeting was with two people from the Department of Sustainable Development & Construction.  It was a casual meeting and they didn't really know why I wanted to speak with them, and so they just gave me the opening to tell them what I am all about.  As I find in so many rooms when I tell people my plan, the room was split (in my estimation) between the group that gives me the "double eye-brow-raise" and the group that says, "Oooh, I think I might like to do that!"  I was happy that they were so generous with their time, and they were very helpful, printing sections of the Code for me, and suggesting other connections.  It's nice that they had such open doors for me.

While the red carpet has not been rolled out for me to bring tiny houses and a tiny house community to Dallas, nor were any doors slammed shut.  I was able to ask elementary questions about zoning and code without judgment, which was really nice as my learning curve is pretty much vertical.  I was able to say the random ideas rolling around in my head out loud, to an audience who had some idea whether or not they are feasible or not.

Some examples --
The elder housing idea I have?  Not feasible.
But the temporary housing during home renovation construction?  Maybe.
The idea of buying a lot in a traditional neighborhood and being able to put 2-3 tiny houses on it?  Unlikely, but not impossible.

The idea of a local business wanting to take me under their wing and let me park my tiny house on their property in some type of partnership?  Likely, if they have mixed use zoning.

At the start of the meeting, we had traditional thinking.  By the end of the meeting, it seemed a lot more like "outside the box" creative thinking, which is always fun.  A lot of "what ifs" and "how abouts" were bandied about.  It was fun - not necessarily because I saw the way paved for me, but because I was having a conversation the clarified some ideas for me.  My first real meeting with that purpose - !  I should have been nervous, but I really wasn't - I think because I believe in my ideas so much.

 So then the conversation turned to, well, so what are my real options to try to make this happen?

A PD, or a planned development
A Code Amendment - I'd write a section that applies specifically to tiny houses, and get it on the books.  At that point I could then find land to apply it to.  I would either have to own the land, or get the owner to agree to change the zoning.
A Deed Restriction - between the land owner and the City, to run with the land.  
Look at land in Dallas County, outside the City zoning restrictions.

The PD and the code amendment would each run about 6 grand, and take anywhere from 4-12 months if things ran smoothly.

Admittedly, the details are hazy because my learning curve is so high, but it's a start.  They also gave me names of some folks in Building Inspection and Zoning to speak with, and also suggested I speak with someone from The Cedars and the Design Group here in Dallas.  I need to look them up.  There are a lot of conversations I still need to have and the public (and the City Council) will need to be educated about tiny houses.  One example of that is that a tiny house isn't the same as a mobile home, or an RV - a tiny house is in it's own unique category.  And my house being on wheels could be misconstrued into a transient or gypsy interpretation, and that sounds a lot less desirable than.... well, [fill in your impression of who  think I am and what cool thing you think I am doing... lol].

At the reception I had more entertaining conversations with friends and new acquaintances about my big dream of living tiny - and handed out more blog cards.  I learned that the wife of a dear friend has been enthralled with tiny houses for years, and we agreed to get together to dream the details of my house!  What fun!  As James would remind me, he's waiting for trailer dimensions...

And the end of the evening?  It couldn't have been better; when Sara got out of the car she leaned in and said, "You know, however things go for you, I'm behind you."  You've just gotta love a good friend and her support - it truly means the world.  Thank you, Sara!

Next up: a telephone meeting on Wednesday!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Little Yellow Door

Check out Ella's latest posting...

She has a way of writing that makes me feel like I am right there with her.  And I so understand all the emotions she writes about... I'm sure I'll be right there with her on my moving day! : )

My Trailer

I drove 40 miles northwest of Dallas on Friday and had my first real meeting with James, who owns a steel erection company, about the trailer my house will be built on.  (If you followed the blog I used to write about my 1929 Tudor house, then you will recognize James as the same guy who built and installed the back steps and canopy on my house.)  He does amazing work, and he has volunteered to custom build my trailer for me.  Walking through his shop is always an eye-opener for me.  Just the sheer size of the place is jaw dropping - it's enormous.  I wish I had snapped a few photographs.  Next time...

Before the meeting I had emailed to him the trailer specs for the Tumbleweed Epu and also The Lusby.  I also sent him a few links to companies who sell the recommended trailer, as well as some color photos of the houses.

He is going to build the trailer from scratch, as opposed to retrofitting an existing trailer.

The first thing he pointed out is that in photos, the house doesn't extend out sideways to cover the wheels.  He think we should extend it out on each side and gain some space.  He says it will maneuver the same, but my visibility when towing it will be slightly reduced.  I don't know yet if I need or want additional space, but it's nice to have the option.  It could be great space for some inset shelving in the walls.  I really want space in my kitchen for Mason jar shelving for my pantry items, and also some inset shelving in the bathroom.  Okay, maybe I want inset shelving everywhere... LOL

I reminded him that weight is a consideration, and that I don't want to be heavier than necessary.  He agreed that he does tend to build heavy.  I laughed and said, "I sort of figured you did - in the same way that Tom hangs things on the walls in my house that would withstand an earthquake... "  He said he would be mindful of that...

So the next step is mine - I need to figure out what length and width I want the trailer to be.  He strongly suggests that that I tape off the dimensions on the floor somewhere - my car port, our conference room at work, somewhere -- and walk it, and get a feel for it.  I've always planned on purchasing floor plans from Tumbleweed, so it may be time to do that.  I will still need to change them up, but I think I need their base plans to start from.  I know a couple of architects that have expressed interest in this project, but I haven't actually asked any of them to put pencil to paper.  James says that once he begins fabrication the width of the trailer will be set, but that he can adjust length as the project progresses.

We also discussed floor insulation.  From the construction videos I have watched of others building their tiny houses, it looks as though the insulation is typically on top of the trailer bed, and under the floor.  James says he can construct it so that the insulation is under the trailer bed, thereby giving me a few extra inches of interior space.  I don't know yet if I need that space for wiring, etc and if losing it would be a problem or not, so I'll need to research that.

I am going to get online and look around for trailer design discussions from fellow tiny house builders and see if there are any "lessons learned" postings.  I know I'll want to add some custom widget-y things to mine as plans clarify....  

Friday, November 9, 2012


Yes - Friday!  I am finally feeling on an even keel after last week.  I'm mostly caught up on sleep and don't feel zombie-like anymore.  I'm back in the gym in the mornings, and I've mostly reclaimed my house from the post-sale mess.  I have the mental space to start offering my help back to friends on their projects, and am just generally feeling more balanced.  I'll put that on the list of things I am thankful for.

On tap for this weekend?  Another career transition workshop day.  I'll finish returning borrowed tables, and I'll turn my focus to readying my house for the professional photographer the realtor is bringing in soon for my full sale listing.  I also get to go to a spa with Tom.  That's spa-ahhhhh.  Bliss.

Next week I have a face-to-face meeting with someone from the Sustainable Development Department of the City on Tuesday.  And I have a phone conference with the founder of bc Workshop on Thursday.

I attended a Habitat for Humanity event last night with some friends, and  in addition to getting to just have fun with my best pals, I had the opportunity to tell a few more people about my ideas and show them a few pretty color pictures from the Shafer tiny house book - really fun.

My steel fabricator* who is going to build my house trailer is chomping at the bit to get started, so I'm working on pulling details together for him.  I'm so excited!!  

I seem to be leap frogging on my journey - while I am on the tail end of finishing one big segment, I'm already starting the next one.... fun stuff.  Have a great weekend, everybody!  Thanks for reading.

 * Do I love that I even HAVE a steel fabricator?  Yes, yes I do. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Boneyard Studios in DC

I am following with great interest the adventures of Lee, who is creating a tiny house community in Washington, D.C.  The capitol!  How amazing is that?  She has carved out a small space already and put in gardens and fencing, and is finishing out her tiny house. She has much, much more experience with living small and tiny houses than I do, and I expect I will learn quite a bit from her.  I'm so happy she is writing about her journey so that others can follow along and be encouraged by what she is accomplishing.

She is from Minnesota, like me - a kindred spirit!   Here is a link to her bio:

This particular post is one of my favorites:

I had to laugh at her SUV (Saab Utility Vehicle) loaded with lumber -- I have done very similar things with my Mini Cooper Convertible!  It's amazing how much you can fit into the back seat when the top is down... 

And here is a link to her community page:

The site has a wealth of information and reflects her hard work and the hard work of others.  I've read a lot of it, but not all of it - and it's inspiring and thought provoking.  I'll definitely be referencing her work when I speak with the City of Dallas about my dreams.  If she can do it in DC, I can do it in Big D!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Six Day Recap

Uff da.  I wish I could mind meld all of you to give you the recap of things since Tuesday.... is anyone working on the science for that ability?  I hope so.

I don't know where to begin -- what to include and what to omit, so here are the two biggest things:

The sad news is that Tom's mother passed away Thursday night/Friday morning. The good news is that a few days earlier my sister Mona from San Diego booked a plane ticket to Dallas to help me with my sale.  By Sunday the sale was over, my sister was dropped off at the airport, and the family funeral events were underway.  It's Tuesday now, and I'm just back at my desk.  So, yeah, sort of a big weekend. Physically and emotionally exhausting on a few levels.

The sale was a great lesson in giving and receiving.  I sent a plea out to friends/neighbors and family for help and received so much support.  All of you, and you know who you are - thank you.  I couldn't have done it without you, and I certainly wouldn't have been laughing as much.

The fun started Friday afternoon with Liz coming over for table assembly, laying out items and pricing items.  Liz left around 5, and Renee and Lydia arrived for sorting and organizing items with bites of pizza in between.  Sara swung by for a mental health check (she was checking us, we were not checking her - LOL) and dropped off another table.  Renee and Lydia left at 8:30 when I went to the airport to get my sister.  I got my sister home, fed her pizza, opened beers, and the pricing games began.  We turned on the 70's hit music, and armed with Sharpies and stickers we danced through the rooms, putting price tags on nearly every single item, and laughing and catching up on each others' lives along the way.  At 1:30 a.m. we put our wine glasses down and stumbled into bed.  The sale was set to begin at 8 a.m. and I had my alarm set for 6 a.m....
In a pinch, a bread twistie works as a wine charm...

. . . and awakened at my usual time, without an alarm, at ....7:15!  Eeeeeek!  And as I looked at my phone for the time I saw a text from Lydia at 6:38 - "going to Starbucks, what do you want?"  (Thank you isn't enough, even though I was too scattered to ever go find the oatmeal...) I'm sure I said a bad word as I swung my feet to the floor and went to get Mona up.  I peered out the front door window into the darkness and was relieved that customers were not lining up waiting for the door to open.

I'm not going to lie - the first few hours were down right hairy.  I was freaked out and stressed out and friends were giving me a wide berth.  If you were nice to me, the odds were that I'd start crying.  I know I snapped at a few people....  sorry!  I didn't have my street signs assembled (but I great ones, courtesy of a vendor from work) I didn't have any of the outdoor items moved outdoors, I hadn't started unloading the garden shed... and I kept setting my coffee down and forgetting where it was.  Eventually I/we got on an even keel.  

Bryan and Amanda were amazing at the packaging and check out table on the porch.  More than once during the day I went to check on their well-being and I'd insert myself into the check out program and start giving deals, and more than once I was told to leave my own porch and stop interfering.  Honestly I just wanted things GONE.  (But in fairness, I would have totally made a terrible cashier.)

I am not going to try to name all of the friends who came by to help or loaned me tables - I'm not even sure I know who all was there and I know I will forget someone.  Tom, Ashley & Jason, Laura & Brad - thank you being brave enough to tackle the garden shed, and for everything else you did.  Liz, thank you for breakfast and lunch. Monty, Wendy, Sara, Christy, Anna... (okay, maybe I am trying.  But I'm still probably forgetting someone.  Sorry.)

We had some usual garage sale customer drama - extreme drama and distress/competition over the copper fire pit.  One lady bought the nail polish that I had just used last week -- a color I was actually wearing at the time -- not even for sale but I sold it to her!  I found another lady wielding my $100 Williams Sonoma chef's knife in my backyard like a serial killer - "Ah, that's not for sale!" as I gently pried it from her hands... the lady who took her negotiating a wee bit too far and then I turned around a few hours AFTER the sale and she was standing in my living room, looking to make one more deal... Get. Out.  

I had just really fabulous conversations with a few people (Bruce, James, Phillipina...) (not sure I spelled that right) about living small and tiny houses - and I handed out several blog cards.  That was super fun - I never tire of telling people about my adventure...  I love their disbelief and the enthusiasm that follows!  (I got a shriek of excitement and a hug from a cashier at Wholefoods on Monday... love that...)

At 2 p.m. we declared 50% off.  At 3:30 I tried to say, "Okay, what they can carry to their cars they can have for free" and I was promptly removed from my porch.  We started tear down at 3:30, and Anna and Christy started loading their cars for a Goodwill drop off.  Christy offered to take all the books to Half Price - something I was completely unwilling to do.  (Have you seen how far you have to carry books to their sell desk?  Up stairs?  And then they give you about 25 cents a book?)  But Christy -- with her enormous vehicle?  We loaded that car to the roof and she got every single thing remaining in one trip.  At one point while loading the car, I saw my Halloween witch legs in the car  -- 

-- and thought I was going to lose it laughing - they captured exactly how I felt!!  Face planted next to Easter decor, covered with leftover sale items.

What happened in the next hour or two was dreamy - with the sale items gone, tables were folded up, furniture was carried indoors (for consignment) floors were vacuumed, dishes were washed... Many hands make light work.  The last thing I did before I took a much needed shower was steam clean my floors and put down clean rugs.  The thought of all those shoes on my floors - I run a "no shoes house" was really more than I could take, but having overslept, covering the floor was something that didn't get done.

Shortly after that, Mona and I were ensconced at Ali Baba, a bottle of wine opened, and veritable feast laid out between us.  I couldn't believe it was over.  And my house was reclaimed. I was on the other side of my sale!!! And then our waiter - Austin - his landlord buys old houses and fixes them up.  His landlord also is making a house out of a shipping container... Whaaaat?  I exchanged enough information that I can go meet him and see it at some point.  And Austin scrawled this quote on our ticket when we left:

Whatever it is that you can do or dream that you can
 Do it
 Boldness has beauty, power and magic in it.
                                -- Goethe

Several people since Saturday have asked me how my house feels now post-sale, and how I feel.  Do I feel free?  Liberated?  So far I have to just answer that I haven't really spent much time in my house since Saturday, so I don't know yet.  And I still have some lingering furniture to donate or consign, and some loaned tables to return, so it isn't totally empty yet. I can say that never panicked watching my life's accumulation of things sail out the door in the hands of strangers and  I don't feel any seller's remorse.  But I did chuckle Sunday night when I opened a cabinet in my kitchen and all that remained was a single round baking pan.  "Ohhh yeah.  I really did that..."  LOL  I really did have to laugh.

I'll say though, I did have the most amazing flying dreams last night... those are the. best.