This video shows the extreme contrast between what has occurred in our situation and what the experience could have been. With each city council member interviewed I found myself longing for that kind of acceptance and the attitude that embraces constituents’ approach to community-centered solutions. I wish Steilacoom would sit down and have a conversation with us about what we could do to stay here instead of what appears so far to be a simple and very direct “no”.
I continue to feel hopeful that the right thing will result. I know there is a shortage of affordable housing. I know there is a lack of options for people to get out of debt. I know there is a drain on our resources and that we all need to make less of a footprint. What I don’t know, is why the town would rather have us gone than listen to us.
I love what I’ve known about this community and every conversation I’ve had with neighbors over the last 5 years. I just believe that something will happen where we’ll be welcomed. I have faith in you, Steilacoom! You can do it!
We’ve been asked to share contact info for our town council so those who support us can address their concerns with the people that have the power to send us packing or let us stay. That info is below this post. The support you’ve all shown us is wonderful and SO appreciated. In the meantime, here are some of Peter and my current thoughts and then of course… my personal emotions.
I remember taking this photo from our first night staying here so clearly (maybe because I was 7 months pregnant and getting comfortable in our new bed took a little maneuvering)! There have been so many emotions over the last few days. It is so hard to feel like the community you’ve poured yourself into doesn’t want you there. I admit it. I’ve felt angry at moments… Not angry about there being a law that we’re being asked to follow (I like to think I’m a good, law abiding citizen), but rather how the situation was handled and how they’ve made us feel like criminals. “Exploiting” the codes as one town official put it. Side note here: We attended two town hall meetings before moving into our Tiny House. We made public comment and we sent the town planner a letter asking that Tiny Houses be added to the comprehensive plan the town was currently undergoing. So to hear that we were “exploiting the codes” is not only hurtful, its inaccurate. We tried to include the town before our Tiny House journey even started.
The emotion that has been more common for me in all of this though is just feeling sad. I don’t want to leave. I don’t want a commute to separate our growing family. I don’t want my husband and I having to choose between family time and time investing in our students. Anyway, now that the school is starting and contracts are signed at Steilacoom High School (Peter) and North Thurston High School (me) our current hope is that the town will give us a more reasonable timeframe to make these life changes. We feel that the end of the school year would allow us to be good employees, good teachers and still good parents. (I’ll be honest, there is part of me that wishes this had happened in June when we would have had options to sell, move and pursue jobs in other districts just for simplicity’s sake). At that time we’ll make a decision whether Steilacoom is still the place for us. If we stay and move into the big house, we will be strong advocates throughout the town’s planned 2017 review of Tiny Houses.
Below is the contact information for the city council members. Also included is Town Administrator, Paul Loveless and Town Planner, Doug Fortner as they are influential in policy making.
City Planner, Doug Fortner
Town Administrator, Paul Loveless
Mayor Ron Lucas
Title: Council Member
While in Portland for a couple days for Peter to continue his collaboration on curriculum development with a fellow art teacher, we received a call from a reporter asking for our “response to Paul’s letter”. My heart sank the minute her words hit my ear. It was our biggest fear. They aren’t willing to wait and see what the town votes next year, rather they are wanting us out now due to utility code violation (that we could actually remedy) and a pretty restrictive interpretation of a gray area in the code. Well not now… in 30 days, on September 17 to be exact.
We don’t know what we are going to do at this point… Any legal advice or suggestions are appreciated. The selfish part of me wishes it wasn’t so close to the start of the school year so that we’d have more time to make a bigger change but since that’s not the case, we’ll need to figure out a solution for this next year and then go from there.
I don’t recognize this town anymore. We felt so welcomed and appreciated up until this point. Now it just feels hostile and elitist.
We had a great visit with Brynn and Peter from the TNT. They spent two hours with us and I commend them for a great story that investigated the details. Front page news!
Hi everyone. I wanted to write an update that covers what has happened so far to the best of my understanding. The long and the short of it is that we’re not kicked out of our tiny house, at least not yet (Small victory #1).
First, to recap the events leading up to tonight:
On our way to the meeting at the Town Hall we definitely weren’t sure what to expect. The ordinance proposed seemed to be targeted at us and our tiny house, especially when we considered the timing of everything. What are the odds that all of these things are happening right now? I’m sure people have been living in RVs for years but shortly after they discovered our tiny house, suddenly there are ordinances going into effect that might prevent it? In reality it might have just been coincidence that all these things are lining up, but it’s hard to tell.
At the Planning Commission meeting tonight we asked the commission to consider creating an exception for tiny houses, to not lump them in with RVs but to recognize them for what they are: houses (just really small ones). They do not serve the same purpose as RVs and are built to be long term livable places. They make more sense to be considered as ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units, AKA Mother-In-Law units, AKA backyard cottages) and essentially they serve the same purpose which is more affordable, smaller impact housing. Several other town members and friends also spoke on behalf of us and in favor of tiny houses.
Ultimately what the planning commission decided is that because a tiny house really isn’t an RV (small victory #2), the proposed code doesn’t affect tiny houses so the whole conversation about tiny houses isn’t really relevant to the new ordinance (which they then passed). They also admitted that tiny houses can’t be ignored, some of the members seemed to actually be very in favor of the idea (with caveats of course) and they decided to add the discussion around tiny houses as an upcoming agenda item (small victory #3). Creating a new agenda item to discuss tiny houses in a future Planning Commission meeting seems like a good step. Tiny houses will be talked about by actual people who create municipal code and the implications will have to be considered seriously. We of course plan to be at any of the upcoming meetings related to tiny houses to voice our opinion and hope that they will be open minded and progressive when it comes to this movement. It will still be a battle of course and definitely not everyone involved is open to the idea. It feels like there will be a mixture of yes, maybe, and no. So at this point we will have to wait and see what happens and we will do our best to remain a positive advocate for Tiny House dwellers in our city, state, and beyond.
Thanks to everyone for your support. As of now it appears that we can stay in our tiny house at least until more decisions get made. We will keep you updated as we learn more.
KIRO 7 News Coverage 8/8/2016 11pm broadcast (link coming soon)
Big night tonight… The Town of Steilacoom planning commission is going to be presented with a new ordinance that would prevent us from calling Steilacoom home as tiny house dwellers.
We made this video to share the details of what’s been happening. We love this town so much and believe that the planning commission will make a wise determination that wouldn’t simply outlaw our way of life.
Now I want to take a moment and share why it means so much to me that we can stay in Steilacoom. I am the wife of a wonderful man. Peter cares for his family well while also putting so much time and effort into his students and the curriculum he’s developed. Steilacoom is a wealthier community with few affordable homes for a young family. If it wasn’t for the tiny house, we wouldn’t have been able to have been living here this whole time. There are countless evenings and weekends where Peter is putting in extra time with students. If we didn’t live IN the community he simply couldn’t do it. The incredible success of his award winning program and students is a result of us being part of this community. We love that he can do that and not have to sacrifice spending time with me and Hart. Often career and family do come into conflict and that’s a daily hardship for families everywhere. With Steilacoom and the tiny house, we’d found a way that makes both feasible. We’re hoping the town doesn’t make us choose one.
Finally, watch the first 5 seconds of the video at least because there is a hilariously terrified look on Hart’s cranky face.
A lot of people asked what it was like to live in the Tiny House with a baby. Now a year later, we thought we’d share our update. Enjoy!
Also, a lot of people asked if we would sell our plans. Before we can do that, we have to have good plans made. In order to do that we need to pay a professional who knows what they are doing to make really legitimate plans for the tiny house. You can donate do that fundraiser to a) get a copy of our plans at a discount, and b) ensure that plans actually get made. Check out our indiegogo page for more info.
Today I received an email from a mother of a 6 month old who is about to move into their Tiny House. She had questions ranging from storage to laundry to how the heck do naps work??? I was so happy to hear from her and so happy to answer her questions with what has worked for us. As Hart changes, we have to change too and some moments have been hard and we’ve certainly been stumped a time or two as well. That said, I am pretty sure parents living in mansions are not immune to the craziness that is the first year of a baby’s life. As I closed my email to this mother I encouraged her to stay strong against any nay-sayers. It can be really discouraging to always have to explain your decision to go Tiny with a baby. So with that in mind, here’s a few more of my thoughts on the matter.
Just because something may seem like a challenge, or more accurately stated, just because everyone tells you something will be impossible, doesn’t mean that it is! While pregnant, this mentality of “How is that going to work” (AKA, “that will never work”) was so disheartening to me. Here I was about to bring a baby home to the tiny house and so many of my conversations revolved around raised eyebrows of “you’re making a big mistake”. It was enough to put me into full on panic mode on several occasions! Thankfully I had some really encouraging friends and most importantly, the other person in this marriage is much more of an independent thinker. Peter repeatedly assured me that we could make it work. He wasn’t fazed.
Now nine months on the other side, I think I’ve got something to say. As Americans, and affluent Americans especially, we have standards when it comes to babies. Those standards have gone from what they should be, a preference, to this erroneous sentiment of being a required precursor to being able to have a baby. I mean, for goodness’ sake, in our experience, all you need to have a baby is a missed birth control pill! The way Peter and I saw it, we had to have a car seat, we had to have a place for him to sleep, and we had to have clothes and diapers (assuming his nutrition would solely come from nursing which we were aware could end up not being the case). Sure, there are things that might make living with a baby easier and more convenient, but thanks to the tiny house, we are constantly forced to choose the simple option. And you know what? It works! Our baby is surviving–and dare I say–thriving, even though he doesn’t have a diaper genie, a changing table, a rocking chair, a boppy, a bottle warmer, one of those grass-looking bottle drying things, or even drawers for his clothes. For the record, Hart’s clothes are in three plastic (not sure why plastic is relevant here, but thought I might as well be accurate) Target bags in the kitchen cabinet under the stairs. One bag for pants, one bag for shirts and one bag for sleepers. It is a little silly, but it honestly works great. Quick tip for packing for trips with a babe: I discovered this solution while packing for our trip to Austin. I didn’t want to have to dig through all his little clothes to find a clean onesie after a huge blowout so I organized them in the bags before putting them in the suitcase. It worked great on the trip so then while unpacking I decided to make the travel solution our permanent one.
I want to be clear. It is not that I think anything is wrong with the amenities and comforts that have become our standards and norms. In fact when I’m at a friends house I happen to LOVE nursing Hart in their rocker or heating a bottle all lickety-split. These comforts are well… comfortable.. What I am saying is that it can be done, and done well, without them. I can’t tell you all how encouraging it is when my friends say, “oh you’ll be fine, you don’t need all of this” or “you can totally figure out a way that works for you” or even “if anyone can figure it out, you guys can!” as opposed to something to the effect of the dreaded, “that will never work”. How am I supposed to respond to that? I mean it HAD to work. We don’t have another option. That baby was coming and we lived in a Tiny House. Like mentioned above, I walked away from those conversations discouraged, somehow embarrassed and honestly feeling a little frantic. Again, thankful to good friends and an eternally optimistic husband for getting me through tough moments!
So if there is one message I’d like to get out, it’s that it is possible to have a baby and live simply. Wherever you may find yourself, you and your baby will figure it out. I am forever thankful for this experience as I am a more creative, resourceful, flexible and accepting person today because of it.
HE. IS. SIX. MONTHS. OLD.
I am pretty sure that I echo every mother ever when I say, “How did this happen? How is my baby already six months old?”
Let’s quickly recap by highlighting Hart’s likes and dislikes.
As I look at the photo of Hart from the below blog post my heart skips a beat because if I were to lay him there now, he’d be on the floor in a nanosecond. The kid has been rolling since month 4 and is rarely in the same position for more than a second or two. Case in point in this photo of him trying to get away from me.
Which brings me to some more thoughts about having a baby in a tiny house. Before babies develop object permanence they like to be able to see you and hear your voice. Well in a tiny house, that comes very easily. I find that I am able to get a lot done because he is content playing in the living room but can see me if I am working at the desk, cooking, or even showering as I can peek out the curtain and make eye contact with him in the living room. I’m really thankful for that convenience. Some things that are hard is now that he is getting a little older I think he naps better when it is dark and quiet which is hard to do when he naps in an open air loft to the rest of the house. With a noise machine though, we’ve managed to make it work and he gets in 2-3 solid naps in a day. That is our biggest “issue” as of yet. However as he gains more and more mobility, I can see that having his space be so limited will bring challenges…
More on that in a later post.