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Mother Builds $4k Shipping Container Home and Tiny House on Wheels

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This post is based on a video created by Kirsten Dirksen of Faircompanies.com about a woman living in a shipping container and a tiny home on wheels with her family.

A friend suggested she build something after being forced out of her last home where she was renting.

After that she was able to attain a shipping container for free that used to bring things back and forth from China.

The homeowner spent $4,000 to convert the container into a home so that now there’s a kitchen, living room, tiny playroom, and more- all crammed into the small space. She customized everything without any previous carpentry experience.

You’ll also get to see the awesome tiny house on wheels that the woman built right beside her container house so that she and her children can enjoy more space.

Please don’t miss other exciting tiny homesjoin our FREE Tiny House Newsletter!

Woman Living in Shipping Container Home Conversion and Tiny House on a Flatbed Trailer with Family

Photo Credit Kirsten Dirksen/Faircompanies.com

One thing that I like about what she said in the video, towards the 3:55 mark, is how it helps to be able to take your time if you’re using reclaimed materials.

Go ahead and take a tour of this unique shipping container conversion and tiny house on wheels living combination. I think it’s a great example of how you can combine two tiny houses for more comfortable living.ย One can serve as the bedroom and office while the other is the kitchen and bath with a deck or nice outdoor area to bring it all together.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy We The Tiny House People, a full length documentary on tiny homes by Kirsten Dirksen of Faircompanies.com.

If you liked this video tour of the shipping container home conversion and tiny house on wheels, “Like” and share using the buttons below then if you want to talk about it in the comments. Thanks!

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More Like This: Tiny Houses | Man Converts Shipping Container into Tiny Home on Wheels | THOW

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Alex is a contributor and editor for TinyHouseTalk.com and the always free Tiny House Newsletter. He has a passion for exploring and sharing tiny homes (from yurts and RVs to tiny cabins and cottages) and inspiring simple living stories. We invite you to send in your story and tiny home photos too so we can re-share and inspire others towards a simple life too. Thank you!
{ 51 comments… add one }
  • Mark
    May 13, 2012, 12:41 pm

    I don’t have sound on my recycled computer, so I don’t know if she discussed the following ponts:
    1) the kids in the loft sleeping area need a safety rail to keep them from falling out and getting hurt.
    2) Don’t know what part of the country she is in, what issues did she have with permits, if any, always a concern when you reach a certain floor space.
    3) How is her waste water handled–drained onto open ground, into a cess pool, or?
    4) Where does the fresh water come from. The garden hose to the instant on water heater is probably not for potable water, they need a safety rating for fresh water from NSF or you are drinking chemically polluted water that is REALLY BAD for anyone, but especially for small children.
    5) looked like she had a cool stockpile of recycled materials. I’m jealous.

    • June 26, 2012, 11:54 pm

      Great questions/concerns, Mark, thank you so much. Great point on safety rails for the kids.. As far as permits I’m really not sure and I don’t recall that being discussed on the video. I’m pretty sure she is in a remote area so she probably has to drive quite a bit to get to most places.. Not sure how her water situation works exactly either but there are so many options. She can collect rainwater and filter it or she can make water runs as needed in town. Thanks again Mark!

  • Tanya
    May 13, 2012, 6:42 pm

    I TOTALLY love seeing stuff like this being done! But it leaves me with questions….. how did she find somewhere to put that and build it without getting in trouble with legal issues (permits, etc). Is her toilet composting or does she do something else with the waste? Where does she get water from? A well? Do her kids go to school? Is it close by? The questions plague me because I just want to pick peoples minds on this topic. I am in Florida and would love to do something this unique and self-sufficient but the restrictions here are difficult to get around. Aargh!

    • June 26, 2012, 11:50 pm

      Thanks Tanya these are all great questions but unfortunately I’m unable to answer them as I don’t know the exact location but I imagine it’s farther away from schools, work, etc. than another ‘legal’ and less remote location. Thanks again for the questions!

    • Chris
      August 22, 2014, 3:15 pm

      Tanya, Only in the United States is there a problem with building, Anything… In any other country, there are not as many restrictions. I can understand regulations for the safety of the people but, it’s mostly padding for the ones we elected to give us, regulations. I’m seriously thinking about moving to Ecuador myself (but not where all the Americans are, way too expensive)(or maybe down south). The way the Americans were brainwashed to live in the states is just unbelievable. (I’m sure this will kick up some dust ๐Ÿ™‚ cgr)

      • Julie
        February 21, 2015, 9:06 am

        No, it’s not only the States Chris. Australia is absolutely over-regulated for everything.
        Many local councils won’t allow dwellings under 60 square metres. Most councils don’t allow “temporary accommodation” (caravans/trailers) on your block of land for more than 6 months, and you have to apply for a permit. If that runs out they may let you have a further 6 months, but in theory that is it.
        I live in a little outback town, with enough old sheds as dwellings that have been there forever, and such a distance from the main centre they just don’t worry about us. Thankfully.
        I wish I’d realised that and built a shed, rather than the tiny 31 square metre cottage I got from a factory builder (who ripped me off).
        Our environment & health regs are over the top. I have bathroom & laundry in one room, yet I am *required* to have a hand basin as well as a laundry tub when the laundry tub can double up.
        That’s the short story, I could give you a long list of stupidities but I won’t waste space.

      • sgmaps
        February 21, 2015, 6:40 pm

        I think you should include Canada in those restrictions. In my municipality, the max size you can build a freestanding garden/tool shed without a permit is with exterior measurements of 9 x12. Any size of the same type of bldg requires a permit. As for a tiny house, in most cases, I’m sure it’s just as bad here. As far as I’m concerned, if you are in the country, you should be able to build & have a tiny home (whether on wheels or not) on your own property, especially if it is well set back from the road. I see nothing wrong with small granny flats in ones back yard as long as you have the size lot (an acre) to support it in your back yard & it is decent in appearance.

  • sesameB
    May 14, 2012, 1:12 pm

    This was so smooth– shipping container living. Yes, I noticed th stockpile of recycled materials—- nice. Very Nice. We have a small amount of stockpiled recycled materials on our 4 acres too. We do not mow either, so it was nice to see just a meadow-like setting, much like my own here in rural south central sunny Arkansas.
    Kirsten Dirksen is truly an artist. The arts, if I can be brief with my definition, are about communication. Put simply, someone who works in the arts notices things: emotions, actions, remarkable and humdrum elements of their lives and the lives of others and โ€“ of course โ€“ the fruits of their imaginations. The artist generates and captures material, analyses it, crafts it and then presents it. And the artist expresses. Something only they know about and have come to understand is given to us โ€“ we are made richer by a stranger, who takes us into times, places, situations and personalities which we could not otherwise experience. Ms. Dirksen certainly does this with her work. Excellent, just plain excellent.

    Painters will see and see and see: the fall of clothes, the combination of colours, the alteration of faces, the endless effects of light. Actors will pick up minute alterations and inaccuracies in inflection, will assess strangers with horrible rapidity and accuracy and, having spent years making themselves deeply accessible to their emotions in a way that allows them to pay their bills, will cry at the drop of a hat. To repeat, the artist generates and captures material, analyses it, crafts it and then presents it.
    Years ago, I looked at possibly buting a new/old shipping container here in rural Arkansas, but chose my current small home with a loft, with no regrets. My next choice would be to live in a shipping container and/or a used steam boat. I love the lakes here in the state of Arkansas.

    • June 26, 2012, 11:54 pm

      Thank you so much SesameB!

  • sesameB
    May 14, 2012, 2:07 pm

    This song — A Change Is Gonna Come, Sam Cooke, 1963, truly applies to the tiny house movement.

    • June 26, 2012, 11:54 pm

      I’ll give it a listen, thanks!

  • Tom
    May 26, 2012, 11:19 am

    This young lady seems to know what is realy important in life!She has a wonderfull attitued.She shows what can be done with some creative thinking.

    • June 26, 2012, 11:50 pm

      Thanks, Tom, glad you liked it!

  • Kat
    June 26, 2012, 9:52 am

    She may say she lives in “poverty” but she is truly rich ~ in life, with her child, and with the wonderfully creative way she chose to live her life. What an inspiration she can be to other young, single people. Would love to see this go viral!! Blessings to her and her lifestyle!

    • June 26, 2012, 11:51 pm

      Thanks you, Kat, blessings to you too and I’m glad you’re inspired by the way she’s living.

  • Sylvia
    July 9, 2012, 10:33 pm

    I LOVE her attitude, her personal strength with a twist of humor, her dedication and ingenuity! I also love the statement she made “since when does it take a pink room, pink curtains, pink toys to make a happy childhood?”- bravo Mom, way to go! Oh and to the person on the recycled computer- she said the little girl sleeps with her and they enjoy the night sky view from the large windows for astronomy lessons- thats the only child she addressed as her own. I think she’s so amazingly awesome!

    • July 12, 2012, 4:57 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it Sylvia, thanks!

  • Carl in SC
    July 12, 2012, 4:14 pm

    That lady did a great job creating living space on a tiny budget. I’ve seen a lot of used shipping containers in the Greenville area and would love to find one at a great discount,probably a 40 ft size. I surely can find some free or discounted building materials here.
    Living in a rural area and with just one acre I believe I could put it in the back yard and use it for storage temporarily. Maybe later putting in a few small windows and a door. I like the idea of keeping the original doors on the end and build a separate wall with a door and side glass just inside those doors as I saw on one of your featured units. It would then be a guest house and may be where I’ll put my home library also. Thanks for posting the different container homes to give us ideas.

  • jade
    August 6, 2012, 2:56 am

    The woman has certainly has guts, creativity and the passion to make the best out of life. Her story should be an example to other people who are the same situation and should know that life is not yet over and anyone can start again with a good plan, a lot of faith and grim determination. I admire her and compliment her for what she has done to and for herself and the children.

    • Alex
      August 19, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Same here, thanks Jade!

  • Jo
    September 9, 2012, 1:31 pm

    This woman is awesome, She saw the big picture to what is really important. I really like what she did with that shipping container. This is what I have in mine for the one I own or a hobby shop. I have a 40ft and it’s presently on one of my friend’s land at the moment. I need to get some land and get this project rolling! I want to use mostly recycled things to build up mine as well. I use my shipping container as storage for a whole lot of stuff I don’t use any more right now. I’m so excited to have one. More so after watching this video! I saw a container, at the yard in which I purchased mine, that the end with the big doors still in place and about the first ten feet remained the same for storage and then a wall was put in place. A door and window was cut on the side and electric, more walls and installation was add to make the rest of the container into a office. I really like that they left the big doors and made that first part a storage room and added a door in that first wall so you can go from the office to the storage without having to go outside. I think I will use this ideal in the future. Then I think I will add a small cut-out for a pet door. Thanks everyone for sharing. I love getting new ideals from everyone. Thanks Alex for having this website I love to see what everyone is doing. I’m praying to attend one of the Tumbleweed workshops one day so I can build my very own Tiny House. God Bless Jo

    • Alex
      August 19, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Couldn’t agree more with you Jo, thank you so much! And blessings to you too :))

  • Dawn
    August 19, 2014, 9:47 pm

    This lovely woman is awesome and so are her buildings! Ditto on what Kat said.

    • Alex
      August 20, 2014, 10:54 am

      Couldn’t agree more. She’s amazing.

  • Rebecca
    August 20, 2014, 12:09 am

    Awesome woman. Great value system and good use of materials. I like the on demand water heater. I found one for $189 but it is 110 volt. I want solar power one day.

    • Alex
      August 20, 2014, 10:52 am

      Isn’t she awesome? She’s a great example. Thanks Rebecca.

  • Dee
    October 17, 2014, 11:26 am

    Remarkable lady, so much strength and talent. What a blessing that the container was free. I looked into containers here in Tampa, FL – which has a large port, and found they run at least $3,000 to $7,000. Does anyone know why these used, no longer useful for their original purpose, containers cost so darn much? They sit in huge stacks, just waiting for the next hurricane to knock them kit over kaboodle – one would think their owners would be delighted to get rid of them. Such a waste, when we have so many low income and homeless here. And the building codes aren’t any help, either. Dee

  • Dug
    October 18, 2014, 9:18 am

    Hi again guys
    Just like to point out that it’s NOT only the US that would potentially go all out to stop such development of a shipping container or other similar self build home, the UK are as bad if not worse in this respect as it’s virtually an impossibility to obtain and build to planning office specs and conditions in this country also, which is a pitiful shame as it doubtless puts a great many would be self builders with plentiful “original” not seen before housing ideas that if this continues will never be seen either as I stated in another post I added to earlier even in the far North Highlands of Scotlnd you wouldn’t be able to easily if at all build anything resembling this either.
    Come on!! Planning authorities get off your poverbial drawing board seats ๐Ÿ™‚ and smell the roses (or coffee) and part the wood from the trees and allow a few even to be passed which I am sure would open many minds to utilising otherwise waste materials which cuts down on extensive and expensive land fill materials by using or indeed reusing and up cycling as much as is possible surely that can be a bad thing can it? The strange thing is that both the US & UK are striving for Eco and zero waste figures but yet allow these types of vast wastes to carry on undetected nor attended when they could easily be in the bulk of areas solved by allowing this type of development — We have were told free speech now allow us free building consents to allow us to strive to help, assist and promote reuse of waste type materials for you!!! Up in the Highlands and Islands it’s often prohibitively expensive to buy new and have delivered materials to build with thus on so so many levels this just makes so so much sense as I am sure possibly for the same or similar reasons In the US

  • sharon griffith
    February 21, 2015, 9:16 am

    does she own the property where she has built?

  • scott collins
    February 21, 2015, 10:00 am

    I love the way she did this and understand why she did. My question is about the land. I really want to build a container home like she did, how ever land is so expensive here in Texas. She stated she didnt have any money so im wondering how she was able to build..

  • Sue
    February 21, 2015, 10:37 am

    I certainly hope they are safe, and not too isolated where they are… 4 children! God bless her.

    • Kacmor
      November 8, 2016, 4:18 am

      Sue, for goodness sake, watch it again!
      Hers was only ONE daughter. The little “bossy” one, who didn’t like the loft, since she couldn’t sit or stand there. Other children belonged probably to the ladies helping her with filming the video. Also, while it looked rural, it definitely was not isolated. There were other, more substantial dwellings visible in her vicinity. As for the question of water, somebody else raised, tere is a blue, collection barrel visible on the video, but I think she uses it only to water the plants. She doesn’t have any filtration devices and yet uses the water to make tea, and she has a full bath hooked up for her “submerging baths”, so she’s probably hooked to the communal warer/sewer system. It looks deceptively isolated, but the lady took student loan to invest in, as she put it, “her own intellectual property” instead of the mortgage, she goes to school, visits junk yard/dump to buy/get her building supplies, and probably even works a bit. She said she doesn’t want to work MORE THAN ten, twenty, or thirty hours a week. Plus, this is California, after all, nothing there is as isolated as that, even the most isolated farming communities. So there. And for the record, I too admire her brave ingenuity.

  • Dale Desprey
    February 21, 2015, 10:51 am

    Hi Alex,

    I enjoy your newsletter. Gives me ideas!
    I’m not sure you can just move into a shipping container. The 20′ ones I have smell terrible when I open the door. To live in one, the minimum would be to remove the existing floor.

    One site I could find quickly:

  • Marsha Cowan
    February 21, 2015, 10:51 am

    I have been following this lady for a couple of years now. Trust me, she takes care of safety issues. We automaticly assume that if things do not appear in the picture, that they do not exist. Safety rails can be removed and put back when necessary. They have been drinking this water for a few years without harm, and so it must be potable and safe. Her drain water is grey, and so can be drained anywhere without harm, but it helps to keep the plants around her home green. This lady is intelligent, creative, skilled, and cares deeply for the wellbeing of her child. Let’s give her some credit.

  • graham.
    February 21, 2015, 4:48 pm

    As long as a Home is Portable ..and can be moved it is not considered to be a Permanent home. So on a Trailer with Wheels it can be towed .a shipping container can be moved on a truck. If you Callyourself an Artist. then say you are Building an Artwork…..or Sculpture ..i saw a Classic .a man wanted to build a Sun shelter for his horses .he was not allowed to so he got permission to build a Giant Table and Chairs as an artwork which was his Sun shelter .another idea i came up with over 25 years ago is a Drawer idea. the entire Side of a Container ,Truck,Bus slides out. it had a roof but open on inside it almost doubled the width of the building once it was slid out and only needed legs to stabalise it. when you have to move you Push the side in like a drawer bolt it down so it does not slid out and drive away..

  • rob
    February 21, 2015, 5:30 pm

    A very versatile girl that create a great lifestyle for herself and daughter. Did Jo own her own land before she started ? Good flat land can be hard to find and is often more expensive then a complete house here on waiheke. Congratulations Jo keep it up

  • Sally
    February 21, 2015, 8:21 pm

    Beautiful Lady has built Beautiful Home .. I agree 100% with her attitude to life .. I could live happily in her Container Home .. Challenges would be ; Find Container (for free?) .. Find land without restrictions (or remote enough to not be discovered) .. Having the needed skills to build & fit it out .. Anyway , she is inspirational !

  • Alaxi
    February 22, 2015, 12:07 am

    I am very intrigued. here I’m watch thinking very cool. & then was viewing comments; 2012, I thought darn how come this is just coming up now? then I see 14, & now feb 15 comment whew!
    Now I want to add, for those of you talking about the safety of her children & her & OH MY STOP! she & her girl (s) are safe n sound & shes NOT going to endanger them; + she only refers to 1 daughter the rest are friends over playing!
    ASk about the important facts; her plumbing, she installed her sink? her electricity?? Toilet compost? she sates she has lots of insulation & it gets warm if anything, so what about summer Heat how does she cool? & Where is she? where did she find the land to put it on? w/o Regulations, (means she owns it, or knows the person that does) so how did she afford it if shes renting land? it looks like Mid calif somewhere, (based on the plant/vegetation & hills in the background) shes from Argentina, thats where her brother is.
    someone above in comments said they have been following her for 2 years? any info? I know its all personal & private, But when you post yourself on youtube, you have opened the door to PUBLIC.

  • CamaKay
    February 22, 2015, 12:21 am

    This was the video that inspired my tiny house devotion several years ago =)

  • Rich Wehrsteinr
    February 22, 2015, 9:08 am

    I’ m an aspiring carpenter who wants to find a niche. Tiny Houses may be it but I need a little information to get started and what may sell. I love building residential homes. I would like to start a correspondence with you about this field . Yuor help would be greatly appreciated.

  • Kay
    February 23, 2015, 4:57 pm

    Congratulations to this woman!! She did a great job. Made me a little nervous with the kids in the loft, I get the feeling it’s located in another country. But she is doing great and will be building more additions. Keep us posted, please!

  • Janet
    March 1, 2016, 1:24 pm

    I’d like to know how she got a shipping container for less than 4,000 dollars. I have shopped all over the west coast and I haven’t found one for under a couple thousand dollars, and then they want another couple thousand to get it to my property. With tax, it amounts to around 5,000 dollars just to purchase the container (a 20-footer) and get to my property.

    • Jill Joiner
      August 16, 2017, 9:20 pm

      4000!! Yikes I’ve seen them in Galveston, TX for max 3000 and Mobile Bay, AL for 2500 or so. I think it is because you are on the west coast.

  • Janp
    March 1, 2016, 3:26 pm

    Chris I hear you any non traditional thinking in living and codes that dash all dreams. Years ago,in the 70s, my hubby and I wanted to convert warehouse space into living space and we fought a losing battle to do that. Now that’s prime space for thousands of dollars a month whether you rent or own a warehouse home or apt.

  • Kristina H Nadreau
    March 2, 2016, 6:28 am

    I applaud this woman’s ingenuity. Also, take a close look at her site and structure. then ask yourself if you can understand why someone else might want to restrict the zoning in their neighborhood to exclude these kinds of dwellings.

  • Peter Piper
    March 2, 2016, 12:37 pm

    Nice affordable living. The only thing I see that needs to be done is to clean up the outside area. It looks like a garbage dump. Clean it all up and plant some flowers or a garden.

  • Matt M
    March 2, 2016, 5:25 pm

    Shipping containers are specifically designed to meet certain strength requirements. Cutting out sections of the sides like for doors and large windows can compromise the structural integrity and create an unsafe condition. Professionals will weld in additional steel framework to support these structures when removing large sections.

    Please do your research and consult professionals before hacking up a container or stacking anything on top of one.

  • Bluesgirl
    March 3, 2016, 8:38 am

    Hey, came across your video about you creating something from nothing.
    I’m so impressed and so very at awe with how you “just did”.
    You are an in creditable lady and your child(ren) are so very blessed to have you in their lives.
    I enjoyed your story about how you lay in bed and star gauze…nice ๐Ÿ™‚
    All the best

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