Dee Williams built her tiny house on wheels in 2004, so long ago that she had to track down Jay Shafer in person just to figure out how to build one. It was before the tiny house movement as we now know it – there were no blogs, videos or ebooks back then. Dee has lived full time in that little house in Olympia, Washington for over ten years, although last year she added a second, even tinier house to the mix: an eight-foot-long Don Vardo design with no loft. This second house has become her home-away-from-home in Portland, Oregon when she visits friends or teaches tiny house workshops.
The full story of how Dee came to build her first little house more than ten years ago is a long and rich one. Her memoir, The Big Tiny, came out last year and arrives in bookstores in paperback on April 22nd, 2015, and there’s no better way to hear the story than from Dee herself.
When I visited her simple little house in Olympia last year, most of our conversation focused on how the house has changed her life and perspective. For Dee, one of the biggest changes was that despite building the house to be “self-contained,” it actually taught her to be interdependent with others – to lean on her friends more and let herself be leaned upon.
Dee Williams’ Life in Two Tiny Homes
This lesson shows through in her second little house in Portland. It feels more like a bedroom than a house and doesn’t pretend to be self-contained. It’s parked in a friend’s yard, just like the house in Olympia, but without a bathroom or kitchen, she leans more heavily on the big house. Below she shares some of why self-containment wasn’t all it was cracked up to be:
Dee: Part of the reason I bought the solar electric system was because I wanted to be autonomous. I didn’t want to have to ask for electricity, and I didn’t want to put anybody out. I didn’t imagine that I was going to use Hugh and Annie’s shower, Rita’s shower, their kitchens… In my mind, I was fully contained. And then my understanding of things changed. And my understanding of each of our places on the planet has changed.
Who do you want to rest in the arms of? No matter what your situation is, whether you’re living in your own house, you’ve got some housemates, you’ve got a partner, or you’re living alone: you’re still resting in the arms of a beautiful community. You’ve got this natural community all around you. If you live in a city, you’ve got all this infrastructure.
None of us, not one of us, is living alone. Ever. It’s a myth. So I think I just needed to recognize that. And man, it’s good to know I’m not alone.
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