Meet Caitlin, a tiny homeowner

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Our goal at the BC Tiny House Collective is to legalize and legitimize tiny houses in Metro Vancouver and across BC. Sounds a little dry? It can be… That’s why storytelling is such an integral part of our journey and to giving a face to those who want to or are living tiny. Here’s our first of many personal tales. Enjoy!

What’s your name, age and what do you do?

My name is Caitlin Stonham. I’m 23 and an undergraduate cultural anthropology student.

Where do you live?
I’m based in Victoria on Prince Edward Island but am currently studying in Vancouver, British Columbia.

When did you decide to take the plunge and go tiny?
My husband and I decided on the tiny lifestyle while we were undergraduates, as a way to reduce the amount of debt we had after graduation. We were keen not to add a mortgage to our student loan repayments!

Did you build your own tiny house or have it built for you?
We built our house from scratch, without any assistance from professional contractors, relying heavily on YouTube/website tutorials and advice from our local building supply store.

How big is your tiny house and how long did it take to build?

So, it took us four months to build, with Dave [my husband] working on it full-time, and me part-time. It’s 8×12-feet with a 2-foot porch, and a pitched roof that is 8′ high on one side and 7′ on the other (internal height).


What’s in your house? Any unique features?

Lots of things are in it, but of note, we have a couch, a floating desk/table, a bed that’s on a pulley system which raises up into the ceiling, a shelving unit, a storage sideboard, a composting toilet and a kitchen (with a fridge that runs off our small solar electric system). Solar also powers our devices (phones and computers) and a couple of lights and fans, but not our kitchen appliances. We’ll need to run an extension cable from somewhere for that, at least while we upgrade our solar system over time. We don’t have a heater right now, but shouldn’t need one over the summer… It’s all a work in progress 🙂

Total cost?

This is a difficult question to answer, because it’s hard to know what to include. For example, we bought our first vehicle (a F250 truck) to tow the house; should that be included in the total cost? From start to finish, the entire project cost just under $20,000, but the structure itself probably accounted for about $15,000 of that, maybe less.

Where is it parked or do you plan to park it? Is this your full-time home?
It is currently in winter storage on PEI, while my husband and I finish our studies at UBC in Vancouver. We plan to use it as our full-time home starting in April 2017, and will either be parking it on my parents’ coastal property or at a permaculture farm on PEI for the summer. We intend to take the house wherever our work, life or studies take us, and would consider living in RV parks, backyards or infill lots. The key is flexibility and mobility: a permanent home without a fixed address!

Why did you go tiny?
For us, going tiny just made sense for the way we wanted to live. As university students, we didn’t have a big house we longed to downsize from, or any extravagant spending habits that we needed to pair back; we wanted to avoid getting sucked into the consumer lifestyle in the first place. We started to ask questions like: How can we avoid getting a mortgage? How can we reduce our impact on the environment? How can we spend less than our parents so that we don’t have to work as many hours as they do? How can we encourage ourselves to spend more time outside, and with our neighbours? How can we have a place to call our own without permanently putting down roots? A tiny house on wheels was the most natural solution.

If you could sway NIMBers in one sentence, what would you say?

Live and let live.
This lifestyle may not be for you, but I’m not causing you any harm by embracing it myself.

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