“The moral causes of prosperity… reside in a constellation of virtues: industriousness, competence, order, honesty, initiative, frugality, thrift, spirit of service, keeping one’s word, daring – in short, love for work well done. No system or social structure can resolve, as if by magic, the problem of poverty outside of these virtues.” St. John Paul II
JQ: Good day, Allison! I am excited you agreed to this interview! This is my first and second interview with a person who lives in a tiny home! So firstly, please give us a short introduction to the readers. Where are you from? Who are you? How many children do you have?
Allison: Ken and I have been married for 24 years. We moved to Alaska from Rhode Island just for fun on our honeymoon and after a brief move back east, have been here 19 years now. We have 7 children, from age 20 down to 2.
JQ: So getting back to this tiny interview. Why don’t you tell us how big your home previously was? How big is the house you currently live in? How many rooms and bathrooms do you have?
Allison: Our first real house was about 2000 square feet (we had 3 children then) and our current home (that Ken built nail by nail!) is 1400 sf. We’ve been here almost 13 years. It has 1 ¾ bathrooms (one of them only has a shower, that’s the ¾) and 3 bedrooms. For 5 years, Ken and I slept on the futon, giving our eldest, who has cystic fibrosis, our bedroom for privacy doing his nebulizers and airway clearance techniques.
JQ: What on earth possessed you and your husband to move into a tiny home? Are you secretly hobbits or do you live in the Shire?
Allison: I would love to live in the Shire! Alaska’s pretty wonderful, though! As our family grew larger, we wanted more time with each other and more available money to play together. Having a child with a condition like cystic fibrosis brings home the truth that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. We wanted to live “funner,” to do things Today as much as possible. We didn’t want to have to budget an impromptu ice cream surprise or fast food outing. A little house with no mortgage was our plan. We did have a tough year, paying for both our old house and land; lots of beans and rice. Once the ground thawed enough for building, we sold our house, paid off the land, and rented a camper to stay in while Ken built. We moved in when the house was just an enclosed shell, wired and plumbed. That’s it. Each weekend he would drag in the next project: a toilet, some drywall, a refrigerator, etc.
JQ: Considering the square footage per person of your home, what you find most beneficial in a small home? What is most challenging?
Allison: It gets cluttered in a hurry and gets neat in a hurry!
JQ: I can imagine that a smaller home is much easier on the pocketbook. Less space means there is less places to put stuff that can get collected. What are some of the things that you miss? Have you found any gifts that you did not expect to find in this lifestyle?
Allison: I miss having a quiet, spare bedroom for me to hole up in or to send a kid to. The closeness of the children is a gift; they all end up together anyway (in someone’s bed, under the table fort, squished up on the futon).
JQ: Being frugal is a virtue. It comes from the Latin “frugalis” which means useful, proper, temperate, economical. How does living in a tiny house require you to be frugal? Do you find being frugal is more freeing or less so?
Allison: Oh, much more freeing. Some things are “no question” purchases because there’s simply no room (paintings, shelves, pantries). We are frugal also because we live on one paycheck (no mortgage means more money for things like those ice cream trips, but also, it’s OK to make payments for braces, for example.).
JQ: I do not know if you are a personal organizer but I figure living in such a small place makes you near an expert. Do you have any tips you care to share? You know, ways of organizing that make more space?
Allison: Many things do “double duty” ~ the table bench that 4 kids sit on is a huge box on wheels with 2 hinged covers that holds my pots and pans, the toy box had a padded top for a chair, the futon and beds have roll out Rubbermaid totes for clothing, and the walls by the doors are hung with 2 layers of hooks for coats.
JQ: Do you have any recommendations for those that may be interested in living in a smaller home? Books? Videos? Etc.
Allison: We loved reading *The Not So Big House* although it was hard to see such gorgeous designs, knowing that, since we were building “out of pocket,” most of the customizations would not be ours. It was mostly inspiring to see that people with money were building small, too.
*Last summer, my husband and 2 teen sons built a garage that contains an efficiency apartment that our now-20 year old has moved into (still incomplete of course) so Ken and I have our bedroom back!