A tiny house on the prairie3/1/2017
But it’s time to move on
Tucked in the countryside of Elkhart a few miles outside of Des Moines and slightly east of Ankeny is a house without a mortgage, a foundation or zoning restrictions. Inside it are two young professionals simply trying to figure out life in their tiny house.
Tiny houses have many upsides. The utilities are nearly non-existent, they are a lower monthly line item on the budget, and the owners feel good leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Jordan and Sarah Plummer have lived “tiny” for two years now.
“This was my dream,” Sarah says.
The couple had planned to build a tiny house to save money while living with a low, or no, payment. When they heard Restore was building one, they volunteered to help in order to learn some tricks of the trade. Before long, they were talking it out, and they decided to buy the house.
“We were involved pretty early on, so we were able to help make basic design choices,” says Jordan. “I think they found a basic layout.”
“It’s 160 square feet,” says Sarah.
“Lil Blue,” as they’ve affectionately dubbed it, measures 8 feet by 20 feet and is built on top of a trailer. The home is anchored to the ground to give it sturdiness, but it can easily be transported from one location to another in a similar manner as a recreation vehicle. The Plummers moved the house to its current location in April of 2015.
“We’ve loved living in the country,” she says. “We don’t really want to leave. It’s private, it feels safe and secure, and it’s our own instead of having another house 2 feet away where you can see in the windows. I think a lot of people want the escape of the simple life.”
A tiny home has its advantages, but it isn’t all roses.
“I’m an artist,” Sarah explains. “I like to create a lot of different things. If I work here on the couch, then the table comes out and takes up the whole room.”
She says she has to finish each project when she starts it, or else it will take up too much space.
“I’ve romanticized the whole thing,” says Sarah. “And Jordan has just supported me in my dream.”
That might be an understatement.
“The composting toilet is a challenge for sure,” explains Jordan, who is saddled with the responsibility of emptying the 5-gallon buckets that sit under the toilet. Once full, the buckets take up too much space to be left inside and need to be taken out.
Other tiny houses use composting as well, but some have more sophisticated commodes with incinerators or other mechanisms.
“We went with the simplest, cheapest option,” Jordan says. “But then it becomes a big chore.”
Getting water isn’t always a challenge for tiny homes, but in Lil Blue’s location, they don’t have hookups readily accessible — even though the house is equipped with a shower, sink and hot water heater.
“We actually have to haul in our own water,” she says. “We get water from a neighbor a mile down the road and then bring it here.”
They usually bathe at the gym or at a friend’s house and have a similar plan for laundry — using it as an excuse to visit with friends.
“That’s been fun for us,” she says. “If your house doesn’t do everything for you, it forces you out; it makes us more sociable. We’re probably out four or five nights a week. In our apartment, we were lucky if we were out one night a week. So that’s totally changed.”
Jordan and Sarah say Lil Blue has been cheaper than if they lived nearly anywhere else.
The utility bill is low because they pay a neighbor down the street one penny per gallon of water to fill and haul to their home.
“We are very lucky,” he says. “We can see the sunrise and sunset every day. We have that pond across the street, we’re on a farm, and we see cool animals. It’s been wonderful. If it were a little easier (with water hookups), I would be here forever, I think. It’s been a good challenge.”
The Plummers say they will soon be moving into a smaller-than-normal house, something with a little more space.
“In general, we like the values of this movement, and it is in line with what we really believe strongly,” Jordan says. “But we also have come to realize that we’re maybe not meant to be tiny house dwellers, but maybe small house dwellers. Something around like 800 or 900 square feet is probably more ideal for us. We want to keep the values in practice but have a little more space for a big comfy couch.” ♦