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Young Man Explains Simple Living in a Tiny House on Wheels

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What does “living simply” really mean? That was one of the questions on Aldo Lavaggi’s mind when he set out to design and build his own tiny house on wheels. He purposefully chose a very simple design with no running water and no shower, curious about how it would feel to carry in his own water, and how difficult it would be to shower at friends’ houses instead.

But a simple design doesn’t necessarily mean a spartan one. He also designed a space for a collapsible hammock chair to provide “squishy comfort”, which can be rare in tiny houses with lots of built-in wood seating. He installed solar panels as his primary energy source, and used several large and interesting windows so the house could be heated by the sun as much as possible, a technique called “passive solar” heating, even in the cold winters of New York State. He also rigged a retractable stepladder to his sleeping loft, and added an external storage area over his trailer hitch as a small shed for tools.

Young Man Explains Simple Living in a Tiny House on Wheels

Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Exterior

Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Inside Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Kitchen Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Hammock Chair Aldo Gold Thread Tiny House Exterior Storage

When I met with Aldo, he spoke very thoughtfully about how he’d experienced the benefits and challenges of his experiment in living simply in a tiny house.

Aldo: “A tiny house, it’s not some silver bullet, like all of a sudden your life gets great…. It makes some things easier, and it makes some things harder, and the two are really intertwined.

I have plenty of friends who own large houses who are always like, ‘The squirrels have gotten into my so and so,’ and, ‘These double hung windows are stuck, and I’ve got to get storm windows for 25 windows.’ And I’m like, ‘God, it’s nice not to have to do that.’

But here’s the trick, for all of us, right? It’s, can we be aware of our good situation? The truth is, the common man in America is wealthier today than at any other time in history, by monetary standards. But our levels of anxiety and of expressed dissatisfaction with our lives are also higher than ever. The two are not in correlation. So I might be having a hard day, whether I’m in a tiny house or a large house. But to really see my blessings for what they are, and have an appreciation for my good fortune? That’s going to be a challenge whether I’m in a large house or a small house.

However, I will say this: My appreciation of public spaces and larger houses has really bloomed, because I’m living without them. Society has gotten wealthier around me, even though it hasn’t changed at all, because my lifestyle has stepped down. So on the one hand, life can be harder in a tiny space. But then you go to the library, you know? And you use their state-of-the-art bathroom. And you turn on their faucet and hot water comes out. And you go to this giant room and sit in their chair and read literature, it’s like, ‘Yeah! How much does this cost? Free!? Right on!’ [Laughs]

No outer situation is going to ultimately make us happy, whatever the outer situation is. So long as that [outer situation] is the perceived cause of our happiness, we’re going to wake up one day and realize, ‘I’m not happy. I want something different. I want the thing I left two years ago, that’s what’s going to make me happy.’ And we start to realize: Tiny house, large house – none of it is going to make me happy. It’s dependent on my inner activity, and my inner ability to wake up and perceive the blessing in my current situation.

So this tiny house has not made me happy. Nor has it made me sad. But it was a conscious choice which has intensified some of the hard things, and also intensified some of the joys and appreciation of what’s in my community, and what’s in my life.”

You can read more about Aldo’s tiny house experience at his blog Gold Thread Tiny House. You can also see more of my interview with Aldo, or learn much more about his imaginative house and thoughtful perspective in my Life in a Tiny House Ebook.

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Billy Ulmer

Writer at PAD Tiny Houses
Billy Ulmer is the author of the Life in a Tiny House Ebook, a collection of photos and in-depth interviews with people who designed and built their own tiny homes. He is a co-owner of PADTinyHouses.com.
{ 27 comments… add one }
  • Kristina H Nadreau
    July 23, 2015, 10:42 am

    I applaud the mans insight and view of life. His home suits him, even if it is not for everyone. I would need a real shower and toilet. I have lived without running water in the house, and with bouts of no electricity. It is not easy.

  • Mary
    July 23, 2015, 10:45 am

    Thank you for expressing your wonderful perspective on happiness related to external circumstances, it’s a good reminder to look within. Great little house, I’d like to see a few more pictures.

  • alice h
    July 23, 2015, 10:51 am

    Well said. I think a lot of people expect some particular change to solve all their problems and life is just not like that. The ease (or not) of living without running water depends on your set up and source. You can make things pretty easy inside your house for storage and disposal but if you depend on carrying containers of water a long distance or needing a vehicle to go get water it definitely complicates life. You also don’t need running water to have a shower. Having a life that gives you enough free time to pursue your interests rather than being a slave to subsistence is going to be a lot more enjoyable.

    • M
      July 27, 2015, 9:07 am

      I use a folding luggage carrier to tote my water containers back and forth when collecting water. It helps keep my arms in shape as well.

      • alice h
        July 27, 2015, 10:36 am

        That’s how I get my water jugs to the neighbour’s and back if I buy or trade a fill up there. There’s a water bag that fits inside a wheelbarrow that comes in handy too. Also some interesting wheeled water containers. Potable water needs more care and attention than wash water. A lot depends on what kind of ground you have to get over and what kind of physical shape you’re in. A 3 or 4 wheeled cart is easier on the arms than 2 wheels, larger wheels are easier on rougher ground. Sometimes using a pump briefly every now and then to fill a large container set up for gravity feed next to or inside your home works really well. I’ve maintained a hole in the ice to get water from a lake 1/4 mile away and dragged the containers home on a toboggan, hauled buckets or used a hand pump from a well in the yard, had water delivered by tanker truck and a variety of other options in various places over the years. I’m going with large rainwater cisterns for my current place as soon as I save up enough money.

  • July 23, 2015, 10:55 am

    It sounds like this young man has realized a basic truth: No, tiny house living is not a panacea. It will not solve all problems. For most, it’s a stepping-stone to another goal, debt-free living, travel, serenity, something that is important to the person making the transition.

    And it sounds like he may have reached his goal before he began building his house: the recognition of that simple truth.

  • Alex
    July 23, 2015, 11:49 am

    This is one of my favorite posts ever on Tiny House Talk. It’s an honor to have it published it here. Thanks Billy and Aldo for sharing.

    • Andrea Hardy
      July 23, 2015, 12:51 pm

      Preach, Alex! Very beautiful, intelligent and insightful post! This is such a thoughtful, balanced view on the subject. Very informative and realistic too for all who are thinking about going tiny. I must say though, judging by those awesome pictures of him in his home, looks like he’s livin’ LARGE to me, lol

      • Gabriel
        July 30, 2015, 6:56 pm

        Awesome man…great comments. …Jill’s comment actually is childish….obviously a miserable person who doesn’t get it…which is cool…any one who has the time to spread negativity about someone doing awesome shit needs to go watch the bachlerette wonder why they can’t find a decent spouse curl up in your big house and just die…thank you… this boy is doing wonderful Things …,How dare Jill call someone names…very crappy of her…childish???…I think u just defined childish for a large group of us. ..thanks Jill your ignorance spoke so loud nobody wanted to hear it. …Awesome!…keep up the great quest of life young man!

  • Jill
    July 23, 2015, 12:21 pm

    His tiny bedroom is nice but its not a home. He showers at friends’ houses so he’s a mooch. That water at the public library he speaks of is not free. His perspective on intensified joys and challenges is interesting and is known by anyone who has grown up with some hardships. I already appreciate public spaces in my town and I do pay for then through taxes. A tiny home is about self sefficiency. Many people probably wont like my comment. I just think his view is uninformed and childish.

    • Lisa Marie
      July 23, 2015, 6:01 pm

      So, if you don’t own a home on land, then you don’t pay for public spaces? Does this then apply to renters? And as libraries are generally funded by the county, do you resent visitors from out of state enjoying “your” library?

      Would you begrudge a good friend (who is obviously thoughtful and handy – may even be able to fix that leaky sink or cook a healthy dinner while visiting) a quick shower? Or would that be too much of a burden upon your water bill after you flush the toilet your 20x/day? Maybe it would be ok if he/she paid you? How much would it cost for a friend to cross from being a mooch to an asset?

      Since when is nativity and childishness a bad thing?Is being a “grown up,” complete with selfishness, judgement, and negativity so preferable to childishness, complete with an open mind and sense of adventure and exploration?

      Please do think about the energy and messages that you transmit to the world, and try to see and be the POSITIVE influence that this world needs in order to leave the days of mindless consumerism in the past and bring love and kindness into our hearts.

    • alice h
      July 23, 2015, 8:51 pm

      As a person who has had lots of friends come to my place in town to use the running water for showers, to fill water jugs, etc. I’d like to say that I never had a problem with it. If you go shower at someone’s house it’s usually a mutually agreed arrangement which may or may not include an exchange of labour or other resources. It’s also a private arrangement between the people involved and therefore not up for use as part of an argument against those who don’t have their own showers. If you don’t want people using your shower you say no. If you say yes, where is the problem? If saying no is a problem, it’s your own problem for not being able to speak your own mind.

      Most people pay taxes of some sort or another, not just property owners. NOBODY is totally self sufficient. We all depend on society as a whole for infrastructure, agricultural and industrial products, etc.

  • MareM
    July 23, 2015, 12:34 pm

    Kudos to this young man on his experiment and his insights. And his tiny home is actually comfortable!

    • Debbie
      July 23, 2015, 5:16 pm

      I absolutely agree with you about the different towns allowing tiny homes. I am having one build so I can be self sustaining, but I also will be paying taxes on my home. I would love to live in my town of choice without having to jump through hoops to do so. It would sure make a lot of peoples life easier if the cities and towns would allow tiny homes, with or without wheels.
      Well stated KareM

  • gale
    July 23, 2015, 12:53 pm

    Well stated. Your comment is thoughtful and fair.

  • July 23, 2015, 1:39 pm

    Smart man. This is more the foundation for my change to living small and simple than the rhetoric I often read in Tiny Home blogs, where it’s all about making a “statement”. We’re all ripples in a pond, and our ways of being influence those around us more than all the words in the world. Thanks for sharing his story.

    • M
      July 27, 2015, 9:17 am

      Amen. Your reference to “statement” is spot on. I had almost grown a tad weary of TH newsletters due to posts that did seem more inclined to those who seemed to be making a statement versus those who are stating a purpose. (No offense to Alex intended as he does a great job of portraying the entire spectrum). There will be those who jump on the bandwagon to be seen and noted. There will be those who like those young man are developing a personal program of enrichment using TH as a vehicle. Pun intended.

  • Bruce
    July 23, 2015, 1:41 pm

    Such a nice read…

  • Jim
    July 23, 2015, 2:39 pm

    “…to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to it’s lowest terms.” Simplify! Simplify! Simplify! Henry David Thoreau

    • M
      July 27, 2015, 9:24 am

      “Life” cannot be pushed or confined into a corner. Complication tries to do that to life and either succeeds in extinguishing it or causing it to explode outward. Simplification allows it to expand and move upwards. The less you have to take care of the freer the mind to create, meditate, mediate, proliferate. Thoreau wasn’t correct on all counts.

  • Patty
    July 24, 2015, 1:28 am

    Nice homey place. Glad he is satisfied with his space. We all should be.

  • Susanne
    July 24, 2015, 1:40 am

    Aldo, are you from Bosnia by chance? If you are, I can certainly understand from where your great insight has come from….God bless you!

  • vee
    July 25, 2015, 1:02 pm

    I enjoyed this! This young man has some depth. I personally am fed up with house maintenance (too many years, too much trouble and too much money wasted). I want to spend what time is left in my world,
    doing things I want to do not “have to” do! Thanks for this inspiring story.

  • Rue
    July 26, 2015, 7:25 am

    This young man is wise beyond his years (though maybe not beyond his experiences…it’s gotta come from somewhere!).

    It’s very tempting, reading these posts about living simply and debt-free and having minimal bills each month and think, “I could be happy IF…”

    But he’s right; happiness isn’t magically produced by external things, it lies in being grateful for what you have, and finding the positives of where you are….such a simple truth, but not as easy as it sounds.

    I’d also like to see more of his tiny house….self-built ones are often more creative and have some good ideas to show.

  • Elle
    July 29, 2015, 11:23 pm

    Remarkably well designed and aesthetically appealing. I agree, musical instruments grace any room or house. Aldo you’re artistic talent clearly isn’t limited to music alone. I noticed there’s a rain catchment system that probably helps with the water supply. I see a nice propane heater so am guessing the stove and oven are the same. I’d love to know where you found that great little stove. I used an ‘alternate’ shower system when I had my plumbing redone. I just went to my local rec-center/gym. It really wasn’t that inconvenient. Best wishes to you in your wonderful home and life and thank you for sharing your beautiful work with us. 🙂

  • Rosalie Hagerty
    October 13, 2015, 6:15 pm

    I love the tiny house movement. Most I have seen on the internet seem to be well made. I don’t understand the complaint against them, rvs and trailors or campers have been around for years. Most of the rvs I have spent time in were hot in the summer and cold in the winter. You can insulate better when you build your own.

  • Cate
    October 16, 2015, 1:25 pm

    Nice but a bit cluttered looking without cabinet doors.

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