While we really can't celebrate like we want to this year, we didn't want to let this opportunity pass by without a quick "Hiya Folks!" from our head mouse in the house. Next year, expect decorations outside for Halloween and Christmas.
Where we are today
We've been living in our Tiny Mouse House for just over two months now and we are loving it. As with any new house of ANY size, there have been ups and down. There have been a few small maintenance issues that Forever Homes or the device manufacturers have immediately addressed. But overall it's been everything we had hoped for. Definitely more room than the trailer we were in, which actually makes it feel roomier - because it is. :)
And we're really glad we stuck with the design and didn't compromise on any choices. The house features amazing items like an on-demand hot water heater (soooo easy to take unlimited hot water for granted), quartz counter tops, a jacuzzi tub, dual mini-split AC/heaters, dishwasher, stackable washer and dryer (separate units), LCD fireplace and so much more. And we've added items like solar screens and coming soon a 20' Sunsetter awning.
It truly feels like home. And we're adjusting to the reduction of space both with less storage - making us more aware of what we purchase and what we have to keep in our storage unit - and with display surfaces. We have to constantly catch ourselves with the collectibles and decorations we buy, because there just isn't any room without it feeling cluttered. We are purposely leaving more empty wall space than we normally would, to avoid an oversaturation of our themes.
And each area does have a theme. I won't spoil what they are yet, but we are super-excited that they have all come together so well.
Soon we will have interior pics and video, and we will continue to post about how certain things came to pass, answer questions we may get in the comments, and fun stories from life in a Tiny Mouse House!
Our house sold in late December 2019. Our downsizing was going well enough. We found a location for the tiny house. We had a closing date for funds to release so we could have Forever Tiny Homes start the build. Design was finalized enough for them to start. All in all, things were going well....
Except we had no place to live while the house was being built, estimated 4 to 5 months (that would become 7 months, primarily pandemic reasons.) We were close to panic mode and all the thoughts raced through our minds: Do we rent a house? Do we buy a trailer then sell it? Do we try to live with family? None of those were ideal solutions for various reasons. Key was not using any of the proceeds for anything but paying off debt and paying for the tiny.
On a whim one night, I had an idea. I posted to Facebook "I know this is going to sound crazy, but does anyone have a trailer we could borrow for 6 to 9 months while our Tiny House is being built?" Gave myself a few extra months, just in case things ran long during the build (this would prove prescient). We did NOT expect a reply.
Only we did get a reply. Quickly. From a friend who I can never thank enough. I won't mention his name here without permission, but rest assured he knows who he is. :) He offered us use of his 26' trailer for as long as we needed it, and I offered a small monthly payment to offset insurance costs for him (though I also took out a policy, to cover his property and what we would have inside.) He and his wife were so kind and accommodating during the entire process, never once worrying or checking up on us. It was complete trust and true friendship. Again, I can never truly repay such a kindness.
We contacted the place we would be living in the tiny house, and asked if we could move in early with the temp trailer in the spot we would be in, just pay for the location starting then and then swap out when the tiny was ready. Was not a problem, and on January 21st, we moved from an 1800-ish square foot home into a 26' trailer. We stashed what we wanted to definitely keep in a very close-by storage unit, moved a few suitcases and bins of items we needed to live day-to-day into the trailer, and sold or donated everything else before the move date.
Now please understand this is ZERO fault of my friend or ANY complaint of the trailer itself. Yes, we had to make some repairs during our time in it, but that is simply because most (if not ALL) travel trailers are NOT MADE FOR FULL-TIME LIVING. The appliances, the furnishings, the overall build all have life expectancies based on total use. 2 weeks here, a couple weekends there - you might put in 20 days total living per YEAR and that's on the high side.
We lived in the trailer for just shy of 7 MONTHS STRAIGHT. To its credit, it held up fairly well. I had to repair things like the thermistor on the refrigerator, burnt out LED light bulbs, a bent stabilizer jack. We had to adapt to a 5 gallon hot water heater and showers that involved turning on the hot water for a minute at a time, scrubbing and rinsing and hoping we wouldn't suddenly get a blast of freezing cold water - man, I missed long hot showers, not to mention a simple thing like a bath. And don't get me started on the horror that is a black water tank....ugh....
But persevere we did. And all the while, the world started crumbling around us. What was normal became taboo. Our cruise vacation to Alaska was cancelled. Our regular Saturday night dinners out became impossible. I refuse to get political on this site, but our country became a hate-filled powder keg, our state exploded in flames and our world became a contagion. We were suddenly forced to spend more time in this little metal box then we had ever anticipated.
I cannot thank my parents enough. We agreed early on that our "quarantine group" would be them and my son and daughter, with her fiancé. We kept the group small, and found ourselves- just for our sanity - spending the weekends at my parents house. There was room to stretch, conversation beyond the little metal box, reason to look forward to Saturday and Sunday.
And we continued to talk with Arlin and Dominic. The design stayed true, with small adaptations as needed. Despite the chaos of the world and the difficulty in getting things that were just recently easy to source, the vision was never compromised. If anything, they found ways to add even more details and unexpected touches to the house. We limited our visits to their facility to just twice during the entire process. Texting probably drove them crazy, but it was weekly (if not daily sometimes), getting the details, the feel, the dream just right.
The months pushed on. The expected 4 months became 5 became 6 became almost 7. But suddenly, almost unbelievably, the day came when were scheduling my friend to pickup his trailer, washed and cleaned, our belonging stashed into an already-packed storage unit. Two days later, a driver came around the corner....and behind him, was our dream home.
Our forever home.
A brief video intermission...
Below is a video posted by our builders, Forever Tiny Homes. It's a brief interview of Mona and I when we took delivery of our home. Take a look!
The second half of 2019 was rapidly approaching. The house was up for sale...or was it? We had a trip planned for September and we would be in Europe with our son. We put on the brakes and told our agent let's wait until we get back. The agent's pictures were ready, the listing prepped for posting... 3 weeks later we pulled that particular trigger and the process began. On the tiny house front, we proceeded towards two important decisions: we started touring possible locations to park the THOW (Tiny House On Wheels), and we discovered Forever Homes.
Forever Homes is owned by Arlin and Dominic and they have an amazing website that lets you put all their pieces together and get a quote online. No other builder in Northern California - at that time - had that available. But it wasn't just the site that impressed me. It was the fact that within hours of creating the quote, Arlin contacted me. We hit it off immediately, chatting like we had been friends forever. As I described our custom design, now pretty fleshed out in my mind but not on paper, she reacted opposite of what I had expected; not with a "well, we only customize our pre-set designs" but rather "That sounds amazing! Let's talk more about it!"
And talk we did. Over the coming months, through back and forth, we hashed out all the pieces, from overall size (36' L) to exactly where specific electrical plug types go. Below is just ONE version of many documents we emailed and texted back and forth.
Absolute controlled chaos. And Arlin and Dominic always stayed positive and excited throughout the entire process, encouraging us not with "no, we can't do that", but instead with "Yeah! That sounds awesome! Let's find a way to make that happen!" Home theater recliners in the living room? "Sure!" A full-size jacuzzi bathtub with rainfall shower and custom tiling with hidden Mickeys? "Of course we can do that!" We love them to death and consider them close friend we would do anything for. They certainly did everything for us!
Now location was a complete different - and less enjoyable - experience. I give 100% credit to Mona for this one. While I was working on the design with Forever Homes, Mona was calling everyone and anyone for places we could LEGALLY park our home. Our real estate agent gave it a shot at first, bless her heart, but realized quickly this was a morass of legal quicksand she did NOT want to step foot near. From antiquated zoning ordinances written decades ago to un-budging commissions more interested in the increased property tax from a large house on a property rather than one holding just a Tiny House...which they haven't (yet) figured out how to get their share from. It was a nightmare.
Mona found the known locations, most notably Delta Bay which we definitely want to give a shout out (and link) to, because they were the first legal tiny house community in Northern California, formed within the Delta Bay RV Park. And while we decided against moving there - for many reasons, including challenging driving conditions along the Delta levee roads and the awesomeness that are Delta Mosquitos - the location really is beautiful and a great spot for many in the valley and the bay area.
What she kept hitting her head against were RV Park owners and managers that simply didn't understand what a Tiny House was. They argued with her that they only accepted RVs - our Tiny House is fully RVIA-certified and registered as a recreational vehicle in the State of California, license plates and all. Or they thoughts, as I mentioned before, that we were in a rundown-camper or poorly-remodeled school bus, some of which are beautiful I want to point out; love to the Schoolies out there. Or they didn't take "full-timers", which was a deal-breaker for us because we already knew we could have the house delivered to our parking location, with two regular cars, we couldn't easily move it. And way too many places who would allow a tiny house, insisted we either move it every 6 months, or even LEAVE for at least 2 to 4 weeks before returning IF they had space.
Mona persevered and we found a spot, one that, per request of the owners, I will keep private and ask that others who know us do as well. Thank you. They were friendly and even eager to have us come join them, having had a positive tiny house experience the year prior with a home owned by two local police officers.
We had the builders and design locked in, the location set, and we even found a surprising option for full insurance for our home while living in it full time - thank you Progressive Insurance! The date was early December 2019....
The house sold. Suddenly down-sizing became critically urgent. We had to find a storage unit that was affordable AND near our new location. We had to finalize the design and be ready to get Forever Homes the deposit to start building as soon as the money from escrow hit our account in January. The timing was all coming together. It was happening! And....oh no....oh no no no...why didn't we think about this earlier?!
Our tiny house would take 5 to 6 months to build. It couldn't start until we sold our house and received the funds....
Where the heck are we going to live for the next 6 months?????
Next: 2020. What could have been a nightmare is saved by an unexpected and wonderful act of kindness.
From Big to Tiny...
We didn't plan on a Tiny House at first. About two years back, when the housing market was making its comeback and we were 9 years into the 30-year mortgage of our two-story, four-bedroom house, we realized that it had become too big for us. The daily trips up and down the stairs, especially for Mona who was working at home - though in hindsight was great exercise - was taking their toll as we entered our fifties. It was a house with no practical backyard, with neighbors - other than a select few - who were less than neighborly (to be polite about it).
Our kids were just about gone. Our son had moved out years before and our daughter was seriously considering that as well with a now-fiance entering her life. The "empty nest" we had heard about was becoming a reality. And it was a BIG nest.
Initially, we thought about single-level ranch style homes nearby. Perhaps even a condo. But they all had one major drawback: cost. You see, we were in a mortgage with a super low interest rate and an equally low monthly payment - lower than most rents anywhere in town. Selling the house after paying off the mortgage and other key debt pieces left us with just enough for a down payment. But then the 30-year clock reset and we would have a higher interest rate and higher monthly payments. No matter how we crunched the numbers, no matter the scenario, it just didn't make sense.
Mona had been looking at Tiny Houses for a while by this time, watching videos on social sites, and mentioned them to me. Of course, I immediately shot down the idea. We had too much stuff! All of our collectibles, our paintings, our curios and knick-knacks. There was a reason our garage barely fit our two cars. How could we go from such a large house to something, by definition, is less than 400 square feet? Inconceivable!
Time marches on and in early-2019, we started looking into selling the house. We weren't sure where we would end up, but we had to do something. I also began researching tiny homes in more earnest, and fortuitously I came across the YouTube channel of Bryce Langston called Living Big In A Tiny House. HIGHLY RECOMMEND by the way. Watching his videos and others I found, I soon realized that maybe, just maybe we could do this.
There was so much to think about. Downsizing sure - that would be a major challenge. But that ended up being the least of our concerns. There were builders to find, a design to er, design. And perhaps the BIGGEST TINY hurdle: location, location, location. Sooooo many ways cities and counties and the state made it SO DIFFICULT finding a spot to live LEGALLY in a tiny house. From zoning ordinances to allowances (or lack thereof) for ADUs (Accessible Dwelling Units - aka "Mother-in-Law" housing) to simply a lack of available tiny house parking and communities in Northern California.
And then there was the misperceptions of what Tiny Houses really were. So many people - RV and Mobile Home Park owners especially - had this image of a beat-up converted "Schoolie" (school bus) or a homemade shack haphazardly stuck on an old trailer. Yes, admittedly those do exist. But tiny houses can be so much more! But that lack of understanding led to SO many brick walls at places where we should have been able to park.
We found ourselves in the unenvious position of wanting to sell our house, pay off most of our debt and using the remaining proceeds from the sale to buy our tiny house. But without a guaranteed spot to park it with the hookups we needed to live, we couldn't proceed with any of it. And unbeknownst to us, a "world of change" was marching toward us. Time was more of the essence than we could ever have imagined...
COMING NEXT: How through what we now realize was amazingly fortunate timing, the dominos in this crazy process started falling in place...
Hello and welcome to TinyMouseHouse.com. Originally, I had intended on simply creating a video of our house interior after it was all decorated. Perhaps also post it to Facebook or YouTube or....
But the response to our home has far exceeded our expectations. The reactions from a single image - the one on the front page of this site, us standing on the Mickey-red steps in front of the Mickey-red door, the mouse ears towering on each side - well, the reactions have been magical. The house demands a closer look, and we hope this website will help fulfill that.
My plan is to randomly-but-regularly post stories of how we came up with this idea, our core design principles, our unbelievable luck in the timing of all this given the "new normal" of today, and the people that made it all happen.
I'll try to keep the posts brief, but anyone who knows me is probably laughing right now. So verbosity full speed ahead! We hope you enjoy your visit here. There will be pictures and videos and stories and more.
Just remember: for this amazing journey, it all started with a mouse....and resulted in our tiny mouse house.
Disney fans, gaming addicts (well, one of us is) and devoted parents. And Disney fans.....did we mention Disney fans?