Why I’m Going From Tiny to Tinier

By Dee Williams

In February I asked myself the question, “Will I always live in my tiny house?” And the answer was a classic Dee Williams hedge:  maybe.  I went on to write about why I still love my house — the skylight windows that pull the moon in at night, the cedar planking that supports the loft and the way it looks from the kitchen.  I love the story of dragging the front door out of a dumpster, and how scared I was the day I took a leap of faith and bought a trailer.  There are a thousand stories about my house held in the walls, roof and floorboards.  There are even more stories about how the house has worked a bit of magic in my life, giving me a chance to re-define home and to grow into someone that I think is kinder to the earth, her community and herself.

A month or so after writing about how much I still love my house, my friend Derin from Shelter Wise suggested that we should take the house to Colorado for the Tiny House Jamboree, mostly so we could do an awesome road trip and grab photos of the house passing through the high desert of eastern Oregon, the arches and pinnacles of Utah, and sitting quietly at the base of the Rocky Mountains. The conversation planted a little seed, and then I talked with my nephew Jonathan, who had just returned from a six-month bicycle trip through South America.  He and I had kicked around the idea that I might pass the house along to him some day, and he’d had a lot of time to think about that on his bicycle trip.  He was ready, and was planning to live in Colorado.

The stars seemed to align, and “Tiny to Tinier 2016” was born.

The Move

Dee Williams Tinier Tiny House
Dee, Oly and her new house Jolene. Photo by Tammy Strobel.

For the past couple of years, I’ve enjoyed a 56-square foot vardo, a little curved-roof mini-house called “Jolene” that I’ve been using as a studio and office when I’m in Portland.  I’ve been thinking for a while that one day I’d downsize into it as my primary living space, and now’s the time.  I’m moving Jolene to Olympia, taking my current “Kozy Kabin” little house to Colorado to give to Jonathan, and then he and I will both begin the process of rebooting our day-to-day lives in new spaces.

Jonathan recently wrote about what scares and excites him about moving into the little house, comparing the feeling to white water rafting – the hydraulics, sink holes, Class V water and keeping your wits so you land on the right shore at the right time, laughing your ass off along the way.  I’ll compare my feelings to rock climbing, since that’s what I know.  I feel like I’m standing on the edge of a canyon, ready to rappel down a hundred foot decline, hoping I’ve properly tied into my rope and harness.  Am I safe?   It’s a crazy mixture of, “Holy guacamole, what am I doing?” and,  “Cowabunga!”

The Plan and the Questions

Here are some of the things I’m excited and nervous about:

  • I love a good living challenge, and Jolene is it. She doesn’t have much of a closet, not that I have a lot of stuff to store.  There’s no running water, but I’m used to that. And at the moment, there isn’t a toilet…which is a bit of a showstopper.  My plan is to remodel and figure stuff out along the way.  I’ll be hatching an adventure just by moving in the first day,  which is exactly the situation I found myself in 13 years ago with my current tiny house.  I have been, and still am, happy enough in the tiny house, living in the shadow of my friends’ houses and kicking the can down the road with them.  I’m safe.  I can do this!
  • I love how my current tiny house holds me, and I wonder what it will be like to wake up at 3:00 in the morning without the skylights. Will I feel confused and lost, or will I find new glimpses of the universe?  I recently had friends visiting, so I slept in the nearby sauna.  It has a window roughly the size of a kitchen sink in one wall, and that’s what I woke up to.  No skylight.  No moonlight, but still an amazing view of the Chinese Maple tree that sits behind the sauna.  It was beautiful, and I’m curious to see what Jolene’s windows have to offer at the most subtle, intimate times of day.
  • Oly in the snow
    Karate chop roofline: the archetypal home.

    The gable roofline of the little house creates a triangle, with the downward roof pitch to the left and right pinning the house to the earth like karate chops. That shape says, “HOME!”  Jolene and her curved roof create a longer horizon due to the slow curve down to the earth. Will that shape say “home-ish” or “search the horizon, I’m on the road”?  I talked to a friend about this question, and she suggested that the curved roof makes a circle, something that can perhaps hold me as a person who is curious (and sometimes struggles with) what my life now holds.  I am 53 years old, and not the cavalier woman I used to be.  I feel vulnerable with the way my dad is dealing with his leukemia, the way my friend Annie is progressing with her cancer, and the way my own body (and particularly my heart) sometimes behave erratically.  I am curious and sometimes a little overwhelmed, so I’ve come to see Jolene as being less about downsizing and figuring out what to do with my stuff, and more about how she can hold me.  Again, it’s an adventure that doesn’t include a map or compass, but something I feel compelled to launch myself into.  Maybe walking up to Jolene and seeing that arch will help me understand the inevitable full-circle changes that are a part of life, and that I’m still safe.

What’s Next?

An open house for Dee's new house.
An open house for Dee’s new house.

Things are changing! I’m changing, and I’m trying something new, and that’s a good thing… right? And Jonathan is anchoring himself to a house in a way that would have scared the crud out of me at his age.  But what are we if we fall asleep at the wheel and forget that our lives are meant for challenge and possible failure? Or at least the need to pee your pants in anticipation of what’s coming?

I think Jon’s new little house experiment and moving into Jolene, for me, represent an amazing opportunity to witness what happens when you lean into your fear and realize that you’re safe. That the worst-case scenario isn’t so bad, and in fact, you’d be more distraught if you didn’t take the leap of faith.

Can I live in a smaller space? Can I launch myself happily out the door after sleeping on the couch, because that’s what the bed really is?  Will I be kind and clever, and able to love the people in my life even if everything feels different?

I think so.  And I sincerely can’t wait to find out what happens next.  Cowabunga!


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Click here to learn more about Dee’s Tiny to Tinier Adventure!


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