When You Don’t Want to Sleep in the Living Room Any More: Tiny Home Reality

There was this moment, about a month and a half ago, when I thought everything was finally going to fall together.  We were going to actually get money back on our taxes instead of paying, so we could finally move forward on remodeling the attic into a loft bedroom for us, and move off of sleeping on the hide-a-bed couch in the living room.  I had made it to the final round of interviews for my dream job, and was beginning to imagine that it would actually be mine.  My husband was about to begin working at a start-up company that would pay more than he currently makes and that he was really inspired by.  I was daydreaming about all of the home decorating and garden design I would do in our cute little house with the bit of available income we might finally have (instead of getting creative with rice and beans for a third night in the week and wearing mostly the same clothes as in photos from 5 years ago).  And feel inspired by going to work every day; feeling like I’m making a difference.  And in an actual office!  I have worked from home for 5 years now, and despite it sounding great, it’s mostly been me sitting alone in a corner of the house, yelling at the dog to stop barking and staring at a pile of laundry I’m not able to fold, until the corners of my eyelids twitch.  I want a place to go work that is not my home; and then be fully home when I am home.  I was daydreaming about the plants I’d put on my desk, and heard a song on one of my Pandora stations that I planned to post on my social feeds when I announced my new job.  I’ll post it here just to feel like I got to do it, as you can imagine where this is going by now:

And then…..none of it happened.  After three interviews….they decided to go with the other guy.  And my husband had already quit his job to start at the start-up, and then the start-up delayed starting up while they waited for investors to finalize their investing.  This meant that instead of a sweet new job, my husband was unemployed indefinitely, at exactly the same time as me not getting the dream job.  And the undefined period of this job situation for my husband has been the worst part.  One month went by, then two….then we realized it could be any length of time until it came together, and there was always the chance that it might not.  Which meant that I was stuck at the job I had been mentally shedding and walking forward from….and not only still there, but needing to really dig in and work to support the entire family, and try to find new inspiration in what I was doing.  And we ended up needing to use our tax returns for normal bills and household things instead of remodeling the attic.  At this exact timing, our lease was up on our electric car, the Nissan Leaf, and we needed to pony up money to buy a new car.  So we did, and somehow found our dream Eurovan for a steal locally and snagged it….only to find out that our new home state of Washington has an enormous tax on vehicle purchases, and we owed over $900 to register it.  Etc., etc., etc.  Many of you will get the kind of phase we just rolled into.  I felt like I had been looking out at the horizon, and seeing an oasis that we were nearing, and beginning to let go of my white-knuckled grip on life and breathe in, and imagine a phase of some leisure.  And instead, realized that the oasis as in fact a mirage, and not only that, but we were entering a phase actually MORE DIFFICULT than what was already going on.

Laying on the hide-a-bed couch in the living room, trying to fall asleep one night a few weeks ago, I had a melt-down.

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The hide-a-bed couch we slept on for 5 months in the living room

I felt homeless in my own life.  I had been working from home for 5 years with no real office; just finding odd corners to make work.  And now I’d had no bedroom for 5 months as well (in our 684 sf. two bedroom house, we gave each of the kids a bedroom, and each took half of each of their closet space, thinking we’d remodel the attic into our bedroom in a month or two), and the couch was not meant to be slept on every night, and had developed lumps where the wood frame poked through, so I had to put an air mattress on top of it to sleep, but then the air mattress sprung a leak, and it was always flat by the morning.  I lay there, on the air mattress on top of the sofa, crying, and wondering what the fuck had happened to my life.  And all the daydreams dissipated.  And the reality sunk in that the attic would not get remodeled into a bedroom in the foreseeable future.  Maybe in the next year, but not in the next month.  And I decided that I needed a bedroom.  I really, really, really needed a bedroom.

The only way to allow for me to have a bedroom without remodeling the attic was to move both kids into a shared bedroom, and take one of the bedrooms.  Which was going to make the tiny house thing get real.  We were kind of hoping to cheat the system a bit, in that after remodeling the attic I bet our house would be closer to 1000 sf, and everyone would have a bedroom.  We never actually wanted to cram into 684 sf, to be honest.  But to move a 5 year old and a 1 year old into a very tiny room together, and then try to move ourselves into the other room?  Not as easy.  But the only alternative to staying on the couch.  And thus, Plan B came into being (aka “mom needs a bedroom”).

The first hurdle was convincing my husband that this is what needed to happen.  As he likes to brag, my husband spent two years in his early twenties living out of his truck, traveling around as a rock climbing dirt bag.  And so I think some part of him was actually enjoying sleeping on the couch indefinitely.  When we discussed the topic, it was surprising to him that I no longer wanted to sleep on an air mattress on top of the lumpy couch.  But I absolutely needed to move into a bedroom on a mattress.  It was the only thing in the mix that was feasible, and that I could control, and felt like it would make a difference.  I like to think of myself as fairly flexible and adventurous, but I’d reached my limit on this one.  So he agreed.

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My husband and son working on a building project together

The hardest part of all of this was booting my five year old out of his own bedroom, with the cool built-in lofted fort bed that my husband made for him, and taking the room for us, and putting him in a room with his baby sister.  But we decided to buy him a lofted bed, basically a bunk bed with no bottom bed, so he could have some space of his own (I think I will write a separate post about how we end up accommodating both kids in one tiny room).  And try to really talk it up as a cool thing.  My amazing son has had a really positive attitude about it.  Yet it still makes my heart ache a little to feel like I’m taking something from him.  I know they both will ultimately be fine, and still hope to soon be able to move to the attic and let him have his own room again, so am able to move forward with Plan B.

As of last weekend, when the whole family got a horrible flu and I was laying on the couch in the living room trying to rest amidst all the family milling about since I had no bedroom, and I ordered Sean to go buy a mattress immediately, and he did, and we moved the last couple of items out of Cedar’s old room and set up our bed, I now have a bedroom and a mattress.  And it is glorious.  The things you should never take for granted, people.  Really.

We are still moving forward with figuring out all the rest of Plan B, since things have taken a different path than expected.  And still getting the kids’ shared room situated.  I hope to post again about how we get that worked out.  But I can say that I have moved through the original darkness of this new direction, and am starting to find hope.  Some incredible projects have some up at work that I’m glad to be a part of.  And I’ve found some new dreams about the future that require the flexibility of my current job, and Sean’s job stuff is moving forward as well.  And we really, really love this little house.  It is so light, and open, and crisp and so home to us already.  We also really love the community, and the landscape around us.  The kids are playing more in their room as they are being forced into closer quarters, and their laughter often fills the house.  We know we are blessed.

Here’s to continuing to find creativity, and dusting yourself off to move forward.

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Exploring beauty in our “neighborhood”.  Photo:  Sean O’Connor

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