The initial hard part was figuring out the dance, and the dance is how do you both get ready in the morning, how do you both operate within 125 square feet. How do two people and two dogs find an operating routine to make 125 square feet work? That was the hardest part.”
Tom and Diana Kerr were adjusting to life living in a tiny house on wheels, a huge change from where they had come from. Just weeks earlier, the noise from the DC streets trickled through their condo window stealing the tranquility out of the wind. Staring around at the stuff, the stuff they bought that had no meaning, it gradually started to dawn on them, this was not at all what they had wanted for their lives.
“We felt like we were living to work, and working to pay for all of these things we didn’t need. We were in a state of exhaustion.” They had been tricked into the American mind frame that more is better. “We were the poster children of consumerism, and it was empty. 1
”Drastic things started to happen: the sale of their condo, the purging of belongings, and then the young couple headed out on the open road in an RV for what was supposed to be a year. They loved it, it was freedom. They soon built a tiny, self-sustaining home reminiscent of a rustic cabin in the woods only it was on wheels. This rogue way of life became a permanent thing.
The lifestyle transition had a “learning curve”; getting used to working around the rhythms of the earth and using power when the sun was shining or wind was blowing. “When the battery runs out, well that means it is time to read a book or go to bed, it is a more natural way of living, your body kinda gets in rhythm with the sun more. 2” They learned the new rhythms of being aware of battery levels that stored the energy for when the energy sources were not producing; realigning time with the cyclical cycle of the earth.3
“As you get older, you kind of go back to where your roots are, and our roots are in the country.” Waking up to birds singing in sunny South Carolina, the Kerr’s have set up a homestead on some family property. The work is definitely harder work but it is much more rewarding. “A lot of jobs I’ve had, you work really hard on a powerpoint or a document you create for your boss and they look at it for maybe 5 minutes and then all that effort is done. Now, I plant rows of carrots and when that’s done, we actually have carrots we can eat or sell.” Success had to be redefined from the traditional sense, “our definition of success is being able to be financially free and be the product of our labor.”
Not everyone is accepting of tiny house living. “The vast majority of people think we are really weird for doing this.” Some family members and friends cannot understand why anyone would choose this life. Other people just get it, they understand the calling back to self-sufficiency. For young couples, children become another thing to evaluate when it comes to space. Tom and Diane hope to have children but would upgrade in space to around a 500 square foot more permanent structure. The wheels would have to come off which actually makes tiny house living more difficult. If a tiny house is on wheels, it can get around building codes and minimum square footage rules. Once a tiny house grows roots in the form of a foundation, the government has a lot more say over what you can and can’t do with your home.
“To build the house, it cost about $30 grand, but we could have done it for less. We set up to be totally off the grid which costs more upfront but in the long run will save us money.4 ”Another expense is land to park the tiny house on but since Tom and Diana are on family land, they were able to bypass that. Other than groceries in the winter months, fuel for the truck is the largest expense. They spend money on little things like water fill stations and propane tanks for heat back up and cooking.
By choosing a tiny house lifestyle, Tom and Diana have been able to blend a natural way of living with the technological advancements of the present and of the future. They did not disconnect with society, instead, they reconnected in a totally new way; in a way that is in touch with the earth and working towards making that possible for others who feel the allure of this type of lifestyle. They created a business, Carolina Sustainable Structures, around sustainable living by making tiny house kits and selling them with a larger concept in mind: “not just to sell these homes, but to help educate people on alternative ways of living.” It is their work in making the world a better place and finding true happiness in a complex and over-cluttered world.
Consumption of goods drives our economy, but at some point, over-consumption can become a problem. Tom and Diana transitioned to a minimalist lifestyle offered more meaning in their daily lives. They trained their brains from thinking more is better to less is more. Living lightly on the land has become a staple of tiny living.
Tom and Diana were able to purchase a top of the line system for their tiny home. For citizens living in conventional housing in South Carolina, transitioning off the energy grid is becoming more difficult due to the SD-15, a solar bill passed by the state. The bill discourages residential ratepayers from transitioning off the utility grid and becoming more self-reliant like Tom and Diana.
To use energy when it is dark outside, solar can be stored in batteries which have historically been expensive for the average person. Advances in technology are making batteries more affordable as well as increasing storage capacity
When people think of a solar set up, they think of huge, black systems anchored to a rooftop. Solar technology is not only developing quickly, it is becoming less cumbersome and more aesthetically pleasing.