A Couple’s Decision to Build a Tiny House on Wheels

Reader Contribution by Mary Beth Duda And Russell Mullin
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“What do you think about building a tiny home?” When I asked my partner Mary Beth that very question, it felt a bit crazy. “Can we do it?” “Can we afford it?” “Where do we start?” All of these questions were suddenly already bouncing around in my head. For the first month or two after I initially proposed the idea (nearly two years ago), we certainly had more questions than we had answers. But after the idea sank in a bit, it began to feel like perhaps we were onto something. We don’t have a piece of property to call our own, we both enjoy travel, we’re both striving to pay off student loans as early as we can, we’re constantly working toward shrinking our footprint, and we’ve both been focusing on paring our possessions down to the belongings that really matter. Neither of us have ever built a house, but we knew people who had, and we both had the mindset that what we don’t know now we can learn from others, from books, and from the internet. We’re both also fortunate enough to have incredibly supportive family and friends that we knew we could call on if we needed help.

After we took some time to fully digest the idea, identified the benefits and risks, scoured blogs, watched videos, and read articles on the topic, we felt even more confident about it. Others are out there doing it, and with a growing number of folks successfully living in tiny homes on wheels, we knew that (while it wouldn’t be easy) we could figure out a way to make it work for us too. The positives really began to outshine the doubts, and so we dove in.

Why Tiny? The Initial Idea

I think to fully understand how Mary Beth and I began on our journey, we need to start from the beginning, when a chance meeting with a very special woman planted the tiny seed that grew into this big idea. I was working on my permaculture design certification, and through the course of my studies, our class visited this special woman’s property to participate in a practicum course to present permaculture designs and put them into action. During lunch, I sat down and struck up a conversation with the property owner. During the course of our talk, she shared that she envisioned hosting a young couple on the property in exchange for helping her keep up the place. I really enjoy working outdoors, so this idea intrigued me. It stuck with me for months, until that little seed began to grow into an idea. Perhaps we could be that couple? Months after our initial meeting, I called her and she invited us over for lunch. We talked about the idea more in-depth, and we came to the conclusion that it could be a positive thing for both her and us, and so we began taking steps toward making it a reality.

While Mary Beth and I were hunting for apartments closer to the potential build site and my job in Topeka, Kansas, Mary Beth’s mom graciously extended the opportunity to live in the finished basement of her home for little more than help with the utilities. I can’t even express how helpful this was. It provided a giant boost in how quickly we could save up the funds for our tiny home project and made us that much more confident in fully committing ourselves to building a tiny home.

Decision to Build on a Trailer

We were originally exploring the possibility of renovating an existing small building on the property, but, after talking it over, we eventually landed on the idea that perhaps something mobile would be better. This would allow us to keep our investment (take it with us, sell it, etc.) if we decided to go a different route in the future. However, it also opened up a lot more complexities and some hurdles that we’d need to overcome. And that’s what Mary Beth and I are going to be sharing in this series, not just our perspectives, but also our goals, our obstacles, our solutions, and everything that goes into a journey like this. You can look forward to how-tos, how-comes, and how-nots in our tiny home series of posts: everything from what to look for in a tiny home trailer, how to install windows, what type of framing we went with and why, our design process, dealing with zoning, and so much more.

Mary Beth and I may be on the same path, but our perspectives, strengths, fears, and experiences are very different. So we’ve decided to blog individually but in tandem, sharing two perspectives of a shared journey. We hope you’ll find them both useful and entertaining.

If you’d like to join us on this journey, sit down and buckle up. We’re in for a ride.

Read all of the posts from Russell and Mary Beth’s journey to build a tiny home on wheels by clicking here.


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