Guest Post: Tiny house living, part 2 — the husband’s perspective

Laura’s note: Earlier this week, I ran a post from Elisabeth Sharp McKetta about living in a tiny house with her husband and two children. Today we follow up with her husband James’s take.

by James Stead

We moved into a tiny house. Specifically, a backyard apartment that we built in 2010 in order to gain a guest room and an office for Elisabeth.

Here’s the full story… When we started dating, Elisabeth lived in a 300 square foot condo and I had just moved into a 750 square feet house after 2 years living in a Subaru followed by a year living in/on a bicycle. We are minimalists at heart.

She moved into my 750 square feet place here in Boise and in 2010 we had two dogs who didn’t get along, we both worked at home, and we were expecting a baby. We needed more room. Elisabeth wanted a “writing shed.” She envisioned a Home Depot Tuff Shed with a desk and a window, but I took over and we built a tiny house in the backyard. It gave her a place to work, our parents a place to stay when they visited, and in 2010 we put it on Airbnb. It was the 2nd Airbnb in Boise. We named it The Shed in honor of the writing shed concept.

In late 2011 the combined 1000s square feet was still not serving us and we went hunting for a bigger place. We were looking for ~2000 sqft but we weren’t finding the right place. Instead we bought a 4000 sqft house just 2 blocks from our original place. The location appealed to us both and Elisabeth liked the big house idea, having grown up in a large house with 4 siblings. We kept the original house and the tiny house as rentals and enjoyed the big house for 6 years.

It was a pleasure to be able to host large parties and share the house with friends in need, but there were big house woes too. I never knew which of the 6 bedrooms the kids would be in when I woke up, and they spread chaos throughout. When one room was too messy to occupy they simply moved to the next. Elisabeth and I both enjoy a tidy space and neither of us relishes the tidying, so it was a bit trying.

Our kids seem to do better when they are challenged. They are better behaved when traveling than at home, and they are more generous when they have less to protect. As an example, Snowden was given a baby doll when she was about 18 months old and loved it. Seeing her joy, grandmothers soon showered her with babies and baby clothes. I can remember a time a few years later when she sat on the stairs with her FOURTEEN baby dolls, crying because some friends were coming to play and she couldn’t possibly protect all 14 babies from the intruders.

We were constantly pruning “stuff” and our extended family frequently joked that if you opened any cabinet in our house it would be empty. We had so many systems for maintaining order and the systems required constant maintenance.

By a few years ago, I realized we had lived in our big house longer than I have lived in any house in my life, and I had lived in Boise longer than I’ve lived in any town. I was getting restless. Elisabeth saw that, and not wanting to leave Boise, she started urging a move to The Shed. I thought she was insane — she is — but she’s also a genius. Anyone who has spent as many as five minutes with her can attest to both of those statements. It took about a year for me to see that in moving to The Shed we would free up so much time — and some $ — that we’d be able to dramatically increase our travel without abandoning the community we’ve enjoyed so much in Boise.

In September 2017 we rented out the big house and made the move to The Shed. We sold/gave away a ton of stuff, but we also put our nicer furniture and art into storage. We retained one garage bay at the big house for storage of bikes, camping gear, and out-of-season clothing.

We now feel like we’ve fooled the whole world. Let me explain: I was at the Fort Lauderdale boat show earlier this month and it drove home the fact that there is nothing to benefit from chasing consumer dreams. One can buy a $20 million boat and still they aren’t keeping up with the folks who have $100 million boats. And none of those boats are any more seaworthy than a $500,000 boat. There is no difference in functionality, nor in the happiness quotient of the owners.

I feel the same way about 200 vs. 4000 square feet. We have more time for friends, for each other, and for travel. We plan to stay in The Shed for a few years before figuring out what’s next.

Presumably we will need more space when the kids are teenagers.

Bio: Bio: James Stead is a realtor in Boise who worked formerly as an investment manager. An avid skier, mountain biker, swimmer, and traveler, he lives in Boise with his wife, two children, and Labrador. 

4 thoughts on “Guest Post: Tiny house living, part 2 — the husband’s perspective

  1. I really enjoyed these two posts because it provided some insight into a very different way of living. Sounds like they are very happy with their decision, which is all that matters. Personally, I feel extreme claustrophobia just reading about The Shed, let alone living in it 🙂 (I’m actually not kidding…it makes me feel trapped.) We by no means have a giant home, especially since we have a larger than average family, but after having lived years in NYC where everything was so so SMALL, I just love having space and, yes, even clutter. I like being “spoiled” enough to know I have room to hang on to something even if I don’t absolutely need it. I think part of being happy in life is really understanding one’s self, and these folks seem to have understood and embraced their minimalism. I’ve embraced not being minimalist (in that regard, at least).

    1. @Rinna- I am definitely not a minimalist. I think clutter (and stuff in general) bothers some people more than others. One of the reasons we did wind up moving to suburban PA (from NYC) was to have space to spread out and not be on top of each other. It doesn’t feel excessive — two of the kids share a bedroom, and we actually do wind up using pretty much every room every day, which is what the whole Not-so-big house movement ideal was. The home office? I’m in it 40 hours a week. The guest room functions as my husband’s office and is where our nanny stays when she’s here overnight, so yep, that gets used. The kids play in one basement room and watch TV in another (which is where my treadmill is). We sit and read in the library. Maybe the dining room is less used, but that’s it.

      I do travel light, on the other hand.

  2. These posts were both so interesting. I love to read how people make their homes/living arrangements work for them in various seasons of life.

  3. Hi, this was very elucidating and might have been brilliant info, but I don’t know how much is even truth since this couple appeared on tiny house hunting (season 2, episode 12) were shown three options and behaved as if they had never seen their own accessory dwelling unit and acted is if they chose and purchase d it then because it offered Elisabeth the best ‘monastic’ writing option. Clearly they already owned the property and had built this unit themselves and were ‘acting’ this was the first time they’d seen this unit and they didn’t purchased it since they already owned it. They could have seems three other options for comparison and then chosen their own place. Why lie? It seems completely unnecessary. Just my thoughts.
    All the best.

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