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Tiny House Motivation: Put Down the Books and Pick Up That Hammer

Over at the Tiny Life, new contributor Marie made a great post about what she calls “Procrastiprepping.” This is the idea that you can stall your work by convincing yourself that you are doing work preparing for the actual work.

“While waiting for the trailer, then the welding on the trailer, Alan was purchasing used tools (compressor, nail guns, sawsall, etc) from Craigslist and Amazon while I made materials lists, estimated board-feet of lumber and plywood, and scanned the internet for FSC-approved flooring. I call this our Procrastiprepping Phase. Sure, buying an expensive trailer and ordering equally expensive windows is a financial commitment, but nothing says Point Of No Return like screwing down that first bit of floor joist.”

Marie is absolutely right. There is nothing like getting started. It is really easy to get caught in the trap of learning how to do something rather than actually doing it. You can tell yourself you’re trying to be prepared as possible but just because you understand how to do something doesn’t mean you’ve done it. When people ask me how to get started building a tiny house I always say that the first thing they need to do is put down the books and pick up the hammer and nail down that first board. This is metaphorical, you understand. Most of the time nailing down a board isn’t the first step anyway.

Notice how the drill matches my shirt. Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Notice how the drill matches my shirt. Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

So, how do you find your own motivation. Read more to see my thoughts on the subject.

Our own tiny house adventure started with lots of dreaming and planning. When we were ready to start we had an added challenge of preparing the land since we were building on a foundation. We got the clearing ready, we rented an auger and dug the holes for the concrete piers, and finally we poured the concrete which is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. Because we took that step, though, the rest of the house seemed like a piece of cake. Big reveal: It wasn’t. But I knew that we were up for it.

We did have a little help from our friends. Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

We did have a little help from our friends. Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

We took our time. We still lived and worked three hours away from our build site so we only got to work on it just about every other weekend for three years. It is funny because we would get up early and drive to the mountain and be very productive for most of the day, but it was pretty easy to convince ourselves to stop earlier than we planned so we could go into Asheville and enjoy the town. Probably one of the reasons it took three years. Still, that was the adventure and I wouldn’t change it even to be able to build the tiny house faster.

I can't resist a beer festival. Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

I can’t resist a beer festival. Photo by Laura M. LaVoie

Recently, when I asked my Facebook community for inspiration someone wanted to know “How a tiny woman with no building skills or knowhow and no money can build a tiny house herself.” All I can say is to put down the books and pick up the hammer.

How do you motivate yourself?

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Laura LaVoie

Contributor and Tiny House Owner at 120SquareFeet.com
Laura M. LaVoie is a professional writer living in the mountains of North Carolina in a 120 Square Foot house with her partner and their hairless cat, Piglet. Laura graduated from Western Michigan University with a degree in Anthropology. She has been published in magazines and anthologies on the subjects of mythology and culture. She spent nearly 15 years in the temporary staffing industry before deciding to become a full time writer. Laura works closely with the Zulu Orphan Alliance volunteering her time and the skills she's learned building her own small house to build a shelter for orphans and other vulnerable children living near Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Laura also enjoys simple living, brewing and drinking craft beer, and popular culture.
{ 4 comments… add one }
  • alice h February 13, 2013, 11:32 am

    I was lucky enough to have a carpenter for a dad so I’ve been messing around with building since I was a kid. If you’ve never built anything before and are completely unfamiliar with tool use you might want to start small to build your confidence, starting with a doghouse (for a friend if you don’t have a dog), an outhouse, a tiny toolshed or just practice banging nails without bending them or smacking your thumb. You can always help somebody else build or fix something. My motivation is fully functional, it’s just limited by finances and health until the last of the money is saved and the second knee surgery is done and dusted. In the meantime there are all these marvellous blogs to help stay inspired and informed.

  • Edueck February 13, 2013, 12:00 pm

    Hi again: I read your post about putting down the books,I have a few ideas which will help get you started. An acquaintance of mine build his own cabin by the lake. He live and worked an hour away from his site, so what he did was build the walls first. He build it on his driveway after work, when one wall was done he started on the next one. This type of construction went on till he had his walls build, he knew how big his floor would have to be. Then he build his rafters and laid them one on the other. This way he could move everything to his location at one time.
    He did this over a few weekends while he was there he cleared his building site for the big build. You could say it was a prefabrication, now all he had to do was to assemble it. What ever work he could do at home after work he did and the rest that would have to be done on site he arranged for the weekend. The foundation was poured on a Saturday and left to dry for the next week. To make sure it would cure properly before he started with the floor.

    About this time he took holidays from work for two weeks and started to build.With the help from some friends and contractors he had it standing and the roof was on, all he had to do was the finishing work inside. He did this over the course of the summer and come fall he had his cottage ready.
    He started his project after work and on weekends, so you see it is very doable if you want it bad enough. The basic construction is like building a fancy play house for your kids just bigger and better.

    If your waiting for a trailer there is no reason you can’t start on construction. You can set out your lumber first and start building your walls (as long as you know the right size) to build them. Build one wall at a time and stand it up out of the way then build the next. Just build the 2×4 or 2×6 frame no plywood this way if you have to change something it’s easier. You know how wide it will be you can do the rafters the same way and the floor. Now when you get your trailer you can make any changes if you need to ( I know some will have to make a change or 2).
    I just thought I would give you something to think about while your waiting.

  • LaMar Alexander LaMar February 16, 2013, 5:51 pm

    While I agree people do procrastinate it is usually because they do not trust their building skills, they do not know how to estimate building costs, or they are afraid they will be judged for a small house lifestyle.

    Small house living is NOT for everyone and it takes a certain person that can live full time in a small but cozy place without going a little crazy.

    That certain kind of person is usually already a little crazy (by conventional standards) and we have usually already rejected conventional living so he step to a small house is an adventure to us.

    People can get building skills by taking a few trade school courses or helping on a Habitat For humanity project.

    People can do an estimate for all materieals by doing a draft of ther project first.

    BUT you can not teach conventional people that living unconventionally will make them happy. That happens on it’s own!

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