Andrew and Crystal’s Tiny Revolution

It has been a few years but we are still smacking our lips to clear off the sticky now that the mortgage bubble has blown up in our nation’s collective face. As we watch our government reach its debt ceiling day after day, our food supply become more and more tainted, and our jobs being handed out to anyone willing to work for just a slice of what was once the American Pie, it seems only right for a r(E)volution to be born; a Tiny r(E)volution.

To one degree or another, we’ve all been active and willing participants in America’s Culture of Debt. Just in short sight:

  • Sunday ad supplements are thicker than the Sunday paper itself.
  • Once you arrive at the store you are immediately encouraged to save pennies by signing up for a high interest store credit card.
  • The Christmas consumer free-for-all begins a month before Thanksgiving, with people waiting in line to gobble up merchandise at 2:00 am.
  • Most teens can’t tell the difference between a credit card and a debit card as they both bear the VISA logo.

As for food, health, employment, cost of living, the lists are no more encouraging. But that is beginning to change and it is happening on all levels; even with rural, Carolina couples, who constantly talk about how to pay off consumer debt, choose to live in a Tiny House, work daily to establish their micro-homestead, and never forget that relationship is the center of it all.

Our Legacy

The first home I owned cost just at $52,000. For that price I got a 2-bedroom, 1-bath, fixer-upper that was on .35 acre in the middle of a post-war neighborhood in Norfolk, VA. It was built in 1953.

At the time my home was built America was reestablishing itself. Men had returned home from the war and were now firmly rooted in their post-war career. Women were homemakers and mothers, not CEOs and business owners. Homebuyers were encouraged to look to the future and stretch themselves as far as they could to buy a house. It made more sense then.

My wife Crystal on the other hand never purchased a home but spent over 5 years in the hospitality industry watching people spend seemingly absurd amounts of money to escape the complex lives they had created for themselves. They entered her resorts begging for the simple life and for a way to reconnect with themselves and their loved ones.

Fast forward to 2011.

The Issue At Hand

The nation has been in a recession for almost three years and unemployment is at a thirty year high. Real estate has become a risky investment and those who do own homes are seemingly stuck in a vicious cycle of working just to afford the home they currently have; homes that are often larger than needed.

Since that first home of mine was built; never mind. Since my parents purchased the home I was raised in (a 1100 sq. ft., post-war, cracker box) much – if not more – has changed.

  • Rapidly rising prices in the 70s and 80s meant you could count on hefty annual raises. Today, you simply can’t rely on double-digit income boosts to make your mortgage payment less of a burden year after year.
  • A generation ago, single-income families were far more common. If the breadwinner lost a job, the other spouse could go to work in an effort to save the house. With more two-income families needing both paychecks to match the mortgage, there’s no one on the sidelines to possibly take up the slack.
  • Thirty years ago, it was tough to get a mortgage for more than you could really afford. And while lenders have recently learned their lesson after the “swinging arm” loans, they still seem to push, knowing that the vast number of borrowers will do whatever it takes to pay their mortgage – even if it means trashing the rest of their financial lives.
  • A much bigger portion of the American work force was covered by traditional, benefit pensions thirty years ago than they are today. Social security is becoming more of a myth and most workers have little to no money left at the end of the paycheck to invest in 401k plans and IRAs.

Somewhere along the line the American Dream became defined by owning more stuff than your neighbor and having the best quality money could buy despite the collateral damage? I am done believing it does.

The Present

From New York to Georgia to North Carolina, we have worked hard at simplifying our lives. We have minimized the number of clothes we own by joining Project 333, the types of food we eat, our dependency on cars and travel in general, the number of square feet we need to exist indoors, the amount of books we surround ourselves with, the number of CDs and DVDs we buy (largely for one-time use), and the overall debt we have amassed.

In this exchange we have maximized our quality of life, our love for each other, our concern for the world around us, our ideas of entertainment, our health (mentally and physically), and our general dispositions.

And so it is that we have decided to alter our own course in life and spend the next 24 months (or so) of our life building our own Tiny House of 284 square feet. Until then though we live in what we affectionately call “The Bungalow.” A renovated wood shop/storage shed behind my brother-in-law’s home, our little 230 sq. ft, one-room, paradise is truly all we need as we spend nearly 70% of our awake time out of doors. Yes, I have a day job and I do work from home but during that time Crystal is often outside piddling around, working in one of our gardens, visiting with family or friends, or otherwise just taking it easy. She is 30 weeks pregnant afterall.

The Bungalow may be small on size but it is huge on functionality and I am pleased to share these pictures with the Packrat family.

The Plan

Simply put, our tiny house plan is this: We are going to build a home on a trailer that will feature sustainable building supplies and techniques, solar power, a modern bathroom and kitchen, a sleeping loft, passive solar heating/cooling, and our own sense of style. And we’ll do this for less than $10,000 by recycling, upcycling, repurposing, enlisting the help of family and friends, and doing the work ourselves.

Through our Tiny House and our choice(s) for our life from this day forward we are not trying to create a movement or even enlist in one but rather rethink our perspective on life, love, community, relationship, and consumption. Are you ready to join us or even start a Tiny r(E)volution of your own?

About the Author

Bigger does not always mean better. Progress does not always mean forgetting our roots in order to forge a new future. First with and then, social media junkie, blogger, photojournalist, and hobby farmer Andrew Odom has spent much of the last few years rediscovering the lost art of living, growing, and being truly happy. Connect with Andrew and his wife Crystal on their blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

Ratty Conversations

Tanja here, chiming in. I’ve been following Andrew and Crystal’s story for many months now at their Tiny Revolution blog and loving every minute of it.

I’m honored to have Andrew as a guest here today on Minimalist Packrat. Andrew and his wife Crystal are at the forefront of a revolution, simplifying life down to the basics, and approaching minimalism from a going small/going green perspective. Everyone, go check out shots of their current tiny home, the Tiny Bungalow, then start keeping up with their Tiny Revolution!

But before you go, make sure to ask them any questions you want in the comments below.   So what about you? Are you as impressed as I am at how much food Andrew and Crystal are growing on their own? Any other thoughts or questions about their unique, back to the land lifestyle? Ask away in the comments below!

p.s. It’s tiny house week here at Minimalist Packrat. Stay tuned as Patrick and I finally reveal the inner sanctum of our tiny house. :)

p.p.s. Would you like to share your story on Minimalist Packrat just like Andrew did today? Shoot me an email and we’ll chat. I love sharing people’s minimalist and simple living stories here. Email: minimalistpackrat (at) gmail (dot) com


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21 Responses to “Andrew and Crystal’s Tiny Revolution”

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  1. Thank you so much for featuring us today. We are always here and via email (drew at anotherkindofdrew dot com) to answer questions about our life, our home, our baby-on-the-way, etc.

    I need to take some new pics and will if anyone wants to see (leave it in a comment) of how we are going to be raising a baby (due Sept. 20) in our Bungalow and then in our tiny house! It is possible. Honest it is.

    Great to be a part of the packrat family!

    • Andrew,

      I’m absolutely delighted to have you and Crystal as guests here today. I know people are going to have lots of questions for you on the details of how you make tiny house living work for your family… especially with a baby on the way.

      The thing I’m most intrigued by is how you are building your new tiny house space for under ten thousand dollars. When Patrick and I first started looking at building a second tiny house we were mortified by the prices we saw. Specialty built tiny houses often cost between $30,000 and $80,000, more per square foot than their bigger counterparts.

      We almost gave up on our vision but we kept rooting around until we discovered our special builder Bronson, who got the vision and was able to do ours for under $10,000 as well (with some compromising!)

      So my question is, can you share with all of us how you’re able to keep the costs down so low?

      • p.s. You so rock for doing this guest post! :)

      • Well, let me rephrase. Actually, let me state our new budget: $12,000K. Now to rephrase. That $12K is for materials. We can’t put a pricetag on our labor because we are doing all of the work. My father (a framing contractor by trade) has graciously offered to help during that part of the build. My brother-in-law (a finishing carpenter by trade) has offered to help during the interior build. I know plumbing and electricity and the rest will be taught by our friend Google! We are really not afraid to try anything and we feel like this is well within our means of construction. It will be a slow process, yes. But we understand that now and aren’t expecting to have a house in 3 weeks or something. So, the actual figure is misleading, I reckon. But who wants to hear about sweat equity? HAHAHAHAHA

        • Hey Andrew, Thanks for sharing some more details on that. 12K is an amazing budget still! Since you’re able to do the work yourself and with family I bet it’s going to be a mini-palace when it’s done. :)

          Sweat equity is awesome, when it works. In your situation it seems perfect because you’re already skilled. Our first alternative housing project wears the scars of many of my sweat equity contributions. That’s why we chose to let the professional handle it in the end. ;)
          Tanja from Minimalist Packrat recently posted..How to Get Rid of Stuff When it Terrifies You

  2. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty envious! We have 1200 sq. ft. for 4 humans, 2 felines, 1 canine, and various furred houseguests on occasion.

    Andrew & Crystal- How do you think things will change as your child gets older? For example, when you can’t be outside all day during the winter, how will your child run around & get out energy? With two toddlers (and months of 110+ degree temps), our 1200 sq. ft. is feeling way too small a space to keep wild boys busy and worn out at the end of the day. I’m so very intrigued by your projects. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out :)
    Megyn @ Minimalist Mommi recently posted..Vagueness

    • Well I am so glad you aren’t going to lie Mommi. HAHAHAH. It would be a shaky start for us. HAHAHAHA. Seriously though. Don’t be envious. We each have spaces in our lives where we maximize because we want to or we have to. Our size house is right for us. It may not be right for everyone though. As our daughter gets older our home will change based on that. See, our primary idea is that simple living means living in and with a home that grows and changes with your family. You should have to enhance your family to fit your home. We live in the southeast region which means that winter is nothing near to say a winter in Iowa. Snow is a weather phenomena and most winter days hover in the 40s. Inclimate weather though? Good point. How will she get out and run? Perhaps that will be a day we stay in and play a board game or rent a movie or bake or something. We believe in enhancing lives through activity and stimulation. I am all for challenging children to do new things. We may even opt to go to a nearby town to visit family or a museum or something like that. And if all else fails? Our town has a Wellness & Health Center with an indoor playground (like at a fast food joint). As for summer? Crystal and I were both raised in the southeast so 110 is pretty standard in the summer months. You work/play during the morning and at evening. The rise of the day, you rest or stay indoors to some extent. One daughter is not 2 boys, 2 cats, and a dog. HAHAHAHA. We might have an unfair advantage. However, we aren’t perfect and we don’t know for a fact it will work out. What we do know is that we will grow as we need to and we will – as you said – see how it all plays out! :)

      • I think it’s cool the way you’re planning on having your living space change based on your current life cycle. It could be really cool if that was a standard part of our society. A lot of people do “downsizing” or “rightsizing” later in life, but upsizing isn’t talked about as much. If my family were going to grow I’d want to upsize as well. :)
        Tanja from Minimalist Packrat recently posted..A Minimalist Take on Clothing

  3. tammy says:

    this wonderful couple… as well as you and patrick, renew my faith in young married families of today!
    inspiring and honest and optimistic! and NOT stuck in the stupid “have to be better and bigger than” name your poison… my neighbors, friends, parents, tv reality shows.. madison ave hype…on and on… at what cost? at the cost of happiness and sane and simple living.
    how wonderful and exciting is this quiet, tiny house revolution in the land of ostentatious and ricdiculous looking mcmansions. the newer generations will have to become smarter than that.
    i wish the both of you couples could have speaking engagements in every high school in the nation!!!
    tammy j
    tammy j

    • I often say if I thought there was a soapbox for simple living I would stand upon and thump blueprints like a renaissance reverend! Thank you for the encouragement Tammy J.

    • Beautifully put Tammy, except for the part about speaking engagements. I’ll leave that to the brave souls of the world. I’m terrified of public speaking :)

      It’s interesting, but it was back in high school that I first became interested in sustainability and standard of living issues. It would be really cool if there were people who spoke at public schools on simple living subjects. You know Andrew, I could see you and Crystal doing that, especially with your connection to the higher level school systems. Just saying. ;)
      Tanja from Minimalist Packrat recently posted..The Lost Art of Slowing Down

  4. Mia says:

    I love hearing about everyone’s tiny houses! As someone who is currently homeless at her mate’s house, having fit pretty much everything I own into one tiny guest bedroom, I’m glad to be reading about others’ experiences for when I move out. I have no idea where I’ll live yet. That’s part of the fun!

    It’s funny, but sometimes I catch myself parroting the consumer culture catch cries… maybe I will take on more debt and get a newer car, trade in my $1000 bomb, or maybe I need another pair of jeans in a different colour. Then I see footage like the video linked, in your post titled “Christmas Crimes (and other things Santa doesn’t want you to know” and I am shocked at myself! Thank you for the great slap in the face. :)

    As Tyler Durden says – “challenge the basic assumptions of civilisation, especially the importance of material possessions!”

    • Hey Mia,

      Now what’s this about being homeless at your mate’s? Last I heard I thought you were staying with your best friend after leaving Mr. Collector? Updates please.

      Christmas Crimes sounds like fun. Is that on Andrew’s blog Mia? I’m going to have to look it up now.

      And yes, we have contemplated trading in the thousand dollar bomb as well. We’re up to 186,000 miles of resistance so far. :) and holding strong for now.

      • Mia says:

        Yes, I am still living with my friend. I am referring to it as being homeless as it isnt a permanent situation! But I am sure I will end up somewhere nice. I kind of like being nomadic, try as I might to settle, I never do! I think it suits me better this way!

        Andrew linked to the Christmas Crimes post on his blog. Its scary though, there is footage of the Black Friday retail stampedes… its kinda like that old show Fear Factor… see how long you can watch before you turn it off in disgust!

        My bomb is about 280,000kms, which is about the same as your mileage! I cant help that I love my little car. Its hilarious because I work at a large corporation where I’m responsible for administration and my job takes me frequently in and out of the office running errands. So I get a reserved parking space! My little bomb lives next to the execs & all their shiny BMW’s. It makes me laugh! :)

        • Holy shit Mia. You surprise me. Somehow I didn’t envision you working at a corporate administrative building. I actually envy you on a certain level. I never could do it. I tried, and once I managed to hold it together for about six months, but I just couldn’t figure out how to comfortably fit.

          That’s cute about your car and the shiny beamers. That’s how my one attempt was. We still had our campervan at the time and long haired Patrick would pick me up for lunch in it sometimes. Then they read my opinion piece against clear-cutting some shopping mall land and my fate was sealed. They looked at me very askance. ;0

          You on the other hand rock completely for being able to traverse both worlds. It’s easier on the pocketbook too. ;)

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