Tiny Home Values (or- Why Are You Actually Doing This?)

One thing that we, rightly or wrongly, always feel the need to explain to people is our reasons for living in the truck.  Moving your family into a tiny house definitely doesn’t align with society’s norms, and it feels like some explanation is needed.  There are certainly practical reasons that we can give people, the most obvious one being the financial savings.  Even with the cost of buying the truck and the build, we are still significantly better off than we would have been if we had been paying rent all this time (including bills we were paying about £1500 a month in Brighton).  The ability to pack up our home and move it wherever we want is another advantage that is obvious to people.  But there are more abstract reasons for our choosing of this lifestyle that are sometimes harder to explain, but in many ways are bigger factors for our family.


Something we strive to do as a couple, and are constantly working to be better at, is slowing down.  It is so easy, especially in this super connected electronic age we live in, to feel like you are always rushing- even when you don’t have anywhere to get to in a hurry.  Living a life where we try to step back from that a little, and have our technology (which we still use probably too much) work for us rather than feeling enslaved by it, is our aim.  It’s something that is surprisingly difficult, as these little devices are very addictive, but finding the right balance of connection and screen free time is the aim.  Another aspect of time that is important to us is that having such dramatically reduced expenses means that Henry needs to work much less so we both get to spend lots of time with Annabel.  Henry’s job is such that when he works he is away for at least 5 days a week, so being able to spend this precious time together while she is so tiny is an amazing gift that is completely priceless, and I know we will always look back on this era so happily.


The feeling of freedom we have living in our tiny home is a wonderful thing, and hugely important to both of us.  Knowing that, if we wanted to, we could strap everything down and drive our truck almost anywhere is awesome.  It is also freedom from a mortgage.  We have both always rented before so having a place that is our own, all 200 square feet of it, is a lovely feeling, and building it from scratch means getting to decide exactly what we want and where we want it.


We are people who like to do things ourselves.  One way of being free is by viewing problems as an opportunity to learn to do something new, rather than paying someone to fix things for you.  If something in the van needs to be repaired or replaced, Henry will do it himself.  If we need bread, I’ll bake it.  Every part of the truck was done by us, from the insulation to the parquet, to installing the wood stove and plumbing and wiring, the windows and every single nail and screw.  We don’t buy mayonnaise, or hummus, or jam, or smoothies.  We grow vegetables and herbs.  We are very far from self sufficiency, but what we can, we do.


Although we are currently plugged in, we have the capacity to get our energy from the sun, and to be able to collect and filter rain water.  We have designed the truck to be able to live off the grid, in a large part for sustainability reasons, but also to be able to take a step back.  We believe in healthcare and education and of course pay our taxes, but we don’t want to be giving hundreds of pounds a month to energy companies if we don’t have to.  We shop from local farmers and butchers to give less of our money to the supermarkets.  Annabel wears cloth nappies and most of her (and our) clothes come from charity shops.  Neither of us watch or read the news, because whether or not we know what is going on in the world has no effect on events, it just makes us sad.  There is a lot more we can, and will, do- but we are always working towards stepping away away from the consumer-driven society we live in.  I would also like to make clear that when I talk about “society” I am not talking about COMMUNITY.  Sharing with and leaning on neighbours and friends is very different than becoming outraged by reading news designed to make you angry and fearful, and is something that is a big part of why we are doing all of this.

You may have noticed some overlap in all of these ideas.  Self reliance is an important part of freedom, which gives you more time.  Freedom and time make it more possible for you to opt out.  There are lots of other things that are important to us, and that we hope to pass on to our daughter, like being in nature, kindness to others, and trying to be mindful, but if I had to sum up the values that have led us down this path, it would be these four things.  Trying to walk the walk and live by your values isn’t easy, and we are very far from perfect, but we are working all the time to bring the way we live in line with the way we feel.

Build Progress: Appearances

I would like to think, as we all would, that appearances aren’t that important.  That every person and thing is judged on their inner merits, and not what they look like.  In some cases (most famously books) that may be true, but for many things in life, for better or worse, appearances really do matter.

Let me take you back to November.  The bedroom and floor were finished, but the truck was pretty lacking in modcons.  There was no woodburner, no electricity unless we were plugged in, no kitchen, no back door.  It was very much like camping in a big rectangular tent.  Annabel (then a 6 month old) and I came to see Henry for the weekend, when the weather turned from beautiful Indian Summer into bitter cold overnight.  We needed a plug-in to run our heater, and headed for the Brighton Caravan Club site.  Henry had called them a few weeks before, explained our project, and been told that we’d be welcome.  We arrived and before we’d even walked to the office a woman came running out saying that they were fully booked.  She gave us the address of another campsite about an hour away.  I asked to use the toilet and she said that the toilet blocks were all closed.

As we drove off we thought… that was weird.  There were loads of empty pitches, though maybe all the people who had booked them were arriving later, but how strange that they would be fully booked on a Tuesday in November, and even more strange that all the toilets should be closed when they were fully booked… hang on.

When we finally, after dark, got to the next campsite the lovely warden gave us a pitch, and confirmed that we were turned away by the rude woman at the Brighton Caravan Club Site because of how our truck looked, rather than because of them being full.  We got the heating on, and the next day had a beautiful long walk on the beach followed by a really excellent breakfast at Seaford sailing club.  When we arrived back at the truck the warden was passing, and said “Hello!  You’re just staying for one night, right?” we said we’d love  to stay another night .  He looked a bit sad and embarrassed and told us the owners had been by, and said that we had to leave, as they didn’t like the look of the truck.  We were feeling pretty rejected by this point, and went to stay on still another campsite (thankfully there are lots to choose from in Sussex) where the man who worked there laughingly said “I bet you’re having a hell of a time trying to find a place to park that thing!”.

Anyway, this story is an extremely roundabout way of saying that one of the issues which moved up our list of priorities was the outside of the truck.  Just to remind you, the truck before looked like this:


In terms of stealthyness and looking like an actual commercial vehicle, quite good.  In terms of looking like a beautifully finished tiny home, not the best.

So once we got ourselves situated here in beautiful Suffolk, one of the first things on our to-do list was a quick paint job.  And this is the result!


Progress in Life

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There has been a lot (like, a LOT) of progress on the build since we last spoke.  We are now living in the truck full time, and although it doesn’t have a bathroom yet and there are a few little details to finish off, it is basically there.  That, however, isn’t what I am here to speak to you about today (though there will be a build update soon!).

Henry and I are the kind of people who roll through our lives thinking that things will always work themselves out for the best.  So far we have seldom been proved wrong.  However, the last time we spoke Annabel and I were in Surrey, Henry was down in Brighton, and we had no idea where we would be living.  I can’t explain, but I’m sure you can imagine, how incredibly stressful this was.  The uncertainty of putting our hearts into building this tiny truck house but knowing we might not have anywhere to park it was really difficult to deal with.

Over the winter we had been looking everywhere for a place to go.  We found a few options but none of them were really ideal for our family.  After our wedding we got back in touch with friends of friends who have a smallholding and campsite in Suffolk, and the timing now is much better for them, and once again in the amazing lives we lead, it has all worked out for the best.

So that is where we have found ourselves, on a beautiful smallholding full of awesome animals, where Annabel can crawl around on the grass, there is a toilet block to use while we build the bathroom, I am learning about animal husbandry and helped with lambing, Henry is building beehives, and we are all beyond happy.  Suffolk is absolutely gorgeous,and this little corner of it is, in my opinion, extra amazing.  The stars are incredibly bright, the people are really friendly, the pub serves good wine and food, it is really win win win.

The progress in the truck is very exciting and amazing (and we will be sharing it) but the progress in our life is kind of more exciting.  We are married, planning our move to North Carolina, living in a beautiful place in the amazing house Henry has built for us, and it is spring. Things don’t get much better.

I post more frequently as @tinyhomemaking on instagram if you want to follow along with our adventures in real time, but also stay tuned for more updates here!



The last time we wrote we were heading to beautiful North Carolina to visit my dad for two weeks, which turned into a month, and I thought it was prudent not to tell the world that our truck house was sitting empty.  When we got back it was Christmas, we are planning a wedding in, typical for us, a very last-minute fashion, and between that and baby wrangling, life came before writing.  Anyway, all of this is a very round about way of apologizing for the radio silence here, and a sincere hope that we won’t go this long without speaking again!

ANYWAY, on with the update!  We don’t have a lot of news on the build front- not because a lot hasn’t been happening, actually A LOT has been happening, but without any beautiful pictures to illustrate our progress I am going to wait and tell you guys about that later.

What I am here to tell you about is our exciting truck adventures!  We have taken her on her first road trip, and in typical Henry and Jess style, decided that rather than a little jaunt over the West Sussex border, we would ride to the complete other side of the country and head to Scotland.  We spent a night in Brighton, then were off!  One reason life in a truck is amazing is because you get to wake up to views like this out of your bedroom window:

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It was a trip full of love, adventure, sisters, cousins, trying to go over an icy ford and having to retreat and getting stuck in the mud, puppies, great food, beautiful views, finding out exactly how tall we were by going under a railway bridge and knocking the rain cover off of our chimney (just over 13’6″, if you’re wondering), firewood, sheep, and black pudding.  You get a really different perspective in the truck, both literally, because you are sitting about eight feet in the air, and also figuratively, because you are speed limited to 56mph, and between that and travelling with a baby it took us about five days to get up the country, and two or three to get back down.  This relaxed pace of road tripping isn’t ideal if you need to get somewhere in a hurry, but is really wonderful in it’s own way.  Anyway, the truck was a trooper. she rode 2000km without a complaint, and even tried to back up a giant hill (though her clutch wouldn’t take it).

Please keep an eye out for a very extensive build update coming soon, and take care of yourselves!


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But… Where Are You Actually Going to Live?

This excellent question is one we have been asked by a few people, both through the internets and in real life. The answer, at the moment, is “we don’t know”. We didn’t just start this project with no idea of where to go- we had a spot lined up on a small farm, but that isn’t happening right now (though possibly in the spring).

One of the awesome things about the truck house is that we can go anywhere. We can stay in different towns every week if we want. We can take a ferry to France or Spain or Holland and have, quite literally, all the comforts of home. We’ve even talked about putting it on a ship and driving around the US.

All of these dreams are awesome things we’d love to do, but they aren’t why we are building this.
What we hoped for when we hatched this plan was to rent a little field, or corner of a field, or some woodland. Somewhere we could put our little home, get some chickens, plant a garden, be self sufficientish, live frugally and save for our next move.

That is still our dream, but is turning out not quite as easy as we’d hoped. There are a lot of laws in England, quite rightly, to protect the beautiful countryside. What this means in practice is that, even in something as demonstrably portable and low impact as a truck, you can’t just buy land and go live on it. There are various loopholes you can jump through, but none of them are quick options (the one we have our eye on involves living “temporarily” on land for four years while you build a barn, then demonstrating that you make most of your income from agriculture and THEN applying for permission to build a house). Hence why we are hoping to rent land on a farm that is already established and has people living on it.

Our current action plan is asking everyone we meet if they know any spots, and occasionally knocking on farmhouse doors. We have met some lovely people, but so far haven’t found a place for our little family.  I am confident the right place is out there and we will find it if we persevere and keep asking.

So, dear reader, do you know someone with a bit of space? Do you have any thoughts of how we should be looking? We are thankful for any and all ideas!

Jess, Henry and Annabel (+Keffie)

Shifting Priorities


We have finally stayed in the truck as a family!  It is a lot like camping at the moment, as we have no cooker or running water (though we do have an oven, warm bed, lights, and drainage).  Our first night was in a beautiful and peaceful little spot by the seafront in Brighton.  There are always vehicles parked there and it was a no-brainer for where we wanted to spend our first night.  All of our neighbours were really friendly and we went to the Ginger Pig to treat ourselves to an outstanding steak to celebrate being reunited in the truck.

We found that our priorities completely shifted in a week of living in the space.  Part of the reason is that the weather went from about twenty degrees to three, and also just because living somewhere lets you really get a feel for how you are going to use it.  For example, a back door shot up the priorities list, quickly overtaking a cooker and hot water.  Rolling up the shutter and lowering the tailgate every time we wanted to come in or out was not very realistic, and Henry finished our beautiful back wall and door today.  Also climbing the charts is a wood burner, which will be installed very soon.

One of the really awesome things about doing the build ourselves is the ability to do this- if we had hired someone to build this truck for us we would have had to decided what we wanted in advance, and waited for it all to be done.  It is great to be able to actually live in and use the space, before thinking “okay, we need a plug socket here, and another window there might be nice, and we probably need to think about doing this before that”.  It also means we are able to consider child proofing as we’re building, rather than running around trying to make safe everything in an old house.

It is a process that takes time, but is coming along.  I must just point out again because I’m so in awe of him that Henry is doing all of this himself.  I apologize for the lack of posts recently, I didn’t take my computer on our little jaunt, or my camera, but will be making sure I have both in the future!

Build Update VI: Parquet for Days

Last week I showed you guys our amazing reclaimed parquet flooring that Henry had spent hours (and hours and hours and hours) scraping, cleaning and laying in a millimeter-perfect herringbone pattern.  All of that painstaking work is great, but it isn’t everything that had to be done.

Here is a reminder of how the floor looked while it was being laid:


(And yes, that is a sneaky preview of our adorably beautiful wood burning stove in the top right corner)

Anyway, it was all that dark brown colour that soaked up light like a sponge.  So Henry rented a gigantic sander and started stripping it back.

IMG_20141029_085959You can already see how much more beautiful it is!


And this is the whole floor sanded!  The wood is actually gorgeous!  No more gross dark brown varnish!

Then it was time to add our new varnish, to seal the wood and protect it, and bring out the colour and grain a bit more.  It turned out even more beautiful than I’d hoped:


This is the finished floor in all of it’s glory.  I think this will be the perfect floor for Bel to learn to crawl on.  It is also exciting because, now that the floor is finished, we can start adding other things such as the kitchen!  Furniture!  The sky is the limit for things we can put on this beautiful surface!

Also we ended up with this:


A bucket of sawdust that will come in very useful when we make the composting toilet.

I know that updates here have been a bit sparse recently, that is partly due to the fact that the floor took a while (it was a huge amount of work) so there hasn’t been much exciting to report, but also because I am still up here in Surrey while Henry is in Sussex working on the truck.  Henry is sending me photos from his phone, but hopefully very soon our little family will be reunited and living in the truck!  That is also when a lot of the exciting finishing off bits (like building the kitchen, decorating, etc) will be happening, and I really look forward to being able to document and share all that stuff.

Updated to add: Henry wanted me to give a shout out to Parquet Parquet who were an amazing resource for information on how to lay the floor, as well as really nice guys who identified the type of wood as Sapele. If you are considering parquet (and really, why wouldn’t you?) they are fantastic!