a story about living small

How It All Started

It’s hard to remember exactly when or where Christopher and I each learned about Tiny Houses, but we think it started for both of us with this issue of Yes! Magazine, back in 2008:

This was before we knew each other, and long before Christopher would buy his land and I would suggest that he film the process of building a tiny house from scratch, and we would decide to make a short documentary.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before any of this happened, for much longer than I’ve known him, Christopher has had a fantasy of building a small cabin in the Colorado mountains. It would be remote, surrounded by open space, and it would include a porch with two rocking chairs, a dog, a banjo, and possibly a pick-up truck. It was the kind of fantasy that started out vague, the details slowly being filled in over the years (his friend David would sit on the porch and play banjo during rain storms, the dog’s name would be “Buck”). But the potential of making this dream into a reality was always pushed off to someday in the future. “When I get older.” “When I have money.” “When I feel like settling down.” A few months after I first met Christopher, he sheepishly showed me that he had a Park County real-estate website bookmarked on this computer, featuring cheap parcels of land that were far from any amenities. This is when he first told me about the cabin that he one day wanted to build. The dream was there, always in the background.

Fast forward to February of 2010.

At this point I’ve known Christopher for almost two years, and he’s turning 30 in 6 months. It was a frigid week in Colorado, with temperatures near zero in Boulder and well below that in the mountains. I remember that I texted him from work one day, something like, “What are you doing?” and he replied, “Nothing. Homework” and a few hours later, “Think I might go up to the mountains.”

It wasn’t until later that night that he confessed: “I put an offer down on land.” It was a 5-acre parcel outside of Hartsel, Colorado, a town so remote that my iPhone can’t find it when I search for the weather report. The town is comprised of a white water rafting business that’s closed during the winter, a liquor store, a gas station, a random lot of antiques, and a Mexican restaurant that serves really good tamales.

I went up to see the land a few weeks later, for the final inspection. I understood. “I’m turning 30. It’s time for a place of my own,” he’d said to me that night when he first broke the news, “If I keep talking about doing it someday in the future, it’ll never happen.” It’s true that Christopher doesn’t really have any savings, and only somewhat steady work, part-time as a graphic designer. But that’s just further proof that there’s no reason why anyone else can’t do what he’s doing, can’t take the leap and make an idea into a reality, into an actual, physical home that we’ll be sitting in this time next year. (We hope!)

The film was somewhat of an afterthought, a way of documenting this process of finding a sense of home, and building it from scratch with his own bare hands. The building’s just begun, so we’re still not sure exactly how the film will turn out. We’re sure that it will capture some mistakes, maybe even some doubt and frustration, but the fact that we’re learning as we go along only adds to the honesty of our endeavor.

Hopefully, by the end of this summer, Christopher will have built his house and we’ll have answered our questions about what makes us feel at home, what makes our lives feel full. We hope you stick around for the ride!

~ written by Merete Mueller, 4/10/11


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