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Coming out the other side

Updated: Jun 16, 2019

Well, I haven’t kept up with the in-depth blog posts as much as I intended to. A quick photo with a comment on my Facebook page or Instagram is just so much easier! But coming back to the website after a long hiatus has spurred me to write another post. Because a lot has happened.

It’s now June, 2017. I started my physical build when I took delivery of the trailer in November 2015. I built full-time for 7 months and got to lock-up stage before I went back to full-time work as I was running out of money. Work started in the US for me so I left the build site for 3 months. Then I came back and worked in Sydney for 4 days a week, effectively continuing the build 3 days a week. I did this for 4 months until I got totally frustrated with the lack of progress and stunted momentum and decided to sacrifice my savings and go back to building full-time. I have been building full-time again now for 4 months and I am about to go back to work again, because I am out of money again but also because I am about to finish the big jobs!

Finishing the internal walls – one of the more satisfying jobs.

I knew this day was coming and I am predictably sad about finishing building full-time. It’s been such a pleasure to be my own boss, working physically and being outside everyday. My colleagues are the local Bunnings store employees who now know me by name. My lighting store knows me by name and understands what I am doing so they know exactly the right product to recommend. I look forward to the days my electrician comes out where I get to be the helper and I learn so much about wiring. Despite being able to decide what I will do every day, I choose to build most days. I try to give myself at least 1 day off per week, mostly because my body starts to really object if I don’t, and that is usually spent doing computer work. I like to write, I do research or I design a piece of furniture. It’s not really a day off, but more a day off physical work. Occasionally my friend convinces me to take a bike ride with her and I remember how much I love to ride. In summer I am often distracted with paragliding plans but as we are entering winter, there is little distraction from that activity.

My solar system housing – designed in Sketchup, built out of leftover ply in 2 days

I think I have about 4-6 weeks before the Tiny House is habitable – with electricity, functioning bathroom and kitchen. There will be a thousand little jobs to finish but these should be manageable on the weekends. So that means in total I will have spent around 12 months building full time and 4 months building part time to get the tiny to habitable state. That seems like a lot when compared to other people’s builds, but I have done that just about completely by myself. Occasionally I have recruited a helping hand for a job that just has to be a 2-person job but 90% of the work I have completed on my own. Since I didn’t know how to build prior to November 2015 I have had to work it all out myself. By that I mean, working out what needs to be done next, talking to people about the work, googling it, watching Youtube videos, talking to suppliers and having a go. That takes time. It also takes money because you don’t want to buy the cheapest or the most expensive so you need to do a lot of research and I usually err on the expensive side. And then I make mistakes. So I usually need more material to account for errors so that makes it more expensive also.

My favourite days are when the electrician comes and I get to be the helper!

So I am saying this project has taken me more time and money than I expected. Roughly double of both. But I don’t call that a failure. This journey has taken me in directions I never expected. My usual line of work is in Tech as a well-paid office worker. I would wash and preen my hair every day, wear make-up, make sure my clothes are clean and modern and commute for hours a day to and from work. Whilst I build, I wash my hair every 3 days, my clothes have holes in them and are covered in bits of paint, waterproofing, sealant and finishing oil. My make-up has gone stale from lack of use and on the odd occasion I do go out I have to think about what to do with the stuff. And that leads me to question why it is that I wear make-up. I do look in the mirror as I head out the door to the tiny build site, but I think I look good. Even without make-up or freshly preened hair. I prefer how people treat me in my building clothes. The people who place a lot of value on clothes ignore me, and the interesting ones see me. I once had a supermarket employee who was monitoring the self-service queue come up to me and tell me how much she loved my work boots with leopard skin print elastic on the sides. This made my day and I bet I would have easily been able to sit down and have a coffee with this person because of what she noticed. She didn’t see someone who looked like they didn’t have enough money to afford well-kept clothes. She probably wondered what it was like to work as a tradie as a woman. Which is not what is happening but it would have been a logical assumption, given my appearance.

It’s not just my appearance that has changed the way people treat me. It’s the confidence I bring to conversations with people in the trade. I no longer slink into a plumbing supply store, hoping to avoid the gaze of the tradies who I believe are all wondering what the hell I am doing there. I am now there for a reason and I want to be in and out as efficiently as possible. I walk straight in and ignore the tradesmen. When it’s my turn, I take it confidently and tell the salesperson what I need. If there is a problem I confidently tell them what I am trying to do to determine if they can see a solution. And then I leave confidently and continue my day. My friends who might consider themselves handy, or work in trades themselves can see the difference also. I was explaining to a friend how I managed to build my bedhead out of a single piece of rather-expensive bamboo ply. He was taken aback even by my vernacular. He helped me with a job I needed a hand with on the tiny and commented on how confident I was in measuring and then getting it exactly right, first time. These are things I don’t even consider anymore, but his comments made me pause and reflect how far I have come.

Yes, I’ve paid more in savings and time then I expected to build the tiny. But I have learned new skills. I have learned how to build. I have sampled life as my own boss, and felt the satisfaction of working through many problems a day. I don’t get stressed every time something doesn’t go as expected. I know I can work it out. I also know I can lean on friends to bounce ideas if the problem is particularly tough. The really big realisation has been that I have had the capacity to learn all of this all along. This process has made me realise that I’m not that different to the people who know how to build. They just have experience through effort. And that’s something anyone can choose.

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