Reflections from a tiny house move

1.28.2015

Three years ago, I built a small house. Three days ago, that small house moved.

Last Sunday, the Matchbox set sail on its debut voyage. It didn't move far—just a few miles up the street, into a cozy, quiet yard in Brookland. And it won't be there long—just a few months, until we find a new permanent site for Boneyard Studios, our little tiny house community-in-exile. But as I prepared for the move, I found myself burdened by all sorts of doubts and fears, questioning whether this small mobile house was even really mobile. The roads, they had bumps(!) and potholes(!) and little hills and big hills and tight turns and crazy drivers and low-hanging power cables; and then there was the house, stuffed with jars and frames and gear and appliances—it all just seemed like so much work, so much that could bump or bend or break.

Stress kept me from packing, and not packing left me stressed, and after a few weeks of this silly cycle and the inevitability of a Sunday morning move looming, I finally got to it Saturday evening. And to my surprise, it was so easy, perhaps just an hour of putting jars and candles in a big garbage bag on the floor. I jacked my floating table up with a few books resting on adjustable stools, and I taped up the cabinets and took a look around and, well, that was it. There was a little more work on the outside: detaching the rainwater tank, moving rocking chairs and planters inside, clipping together the rain chains and, of course, lifting the whole thing with four bottle jacks. But two hours of packing isn't bad for a move, and early the next morning, my friend Robin of Build Tiny arrived in her shiny red Ford to haul the house to a happier home.

A few cranks of the hitch handle and we were on our way, crawling cautiously through the alleyways of Stronghold. A journalist from the BBC and a crew from Offload Labs came out to document the move, so we had something of a parade marching down the block, directing Robin and moving windswept rubbish bins out of the way. And then we hit Michigan Avenue, and the crews hopped in the car and I hopped on my bicycle and we all turned east for a straight shot to Brookland.

Lifting power cables out of the way (Photo courtesy Offload Labs, offloadlabs.com)


It's funny, watching people react to a tiny house on the road. Some stop and stare and point and photograph; others look over with an uninterested glance and go back to what they were doing. Cars pull in dangerously close to take a peek, or honk endlessly in the hopes their noise will speed the house along (which it won't). Not that it was a slow tow, I should say. Robin's a pretty expert tiny house mover—she hauled Lee's just a few months earlier—and within twenty minutes, we were pulling into the Brookland alley. All told, the move could have taken a half-hour.

The Matchbox driving by the National Basilica
It didn't. Though the first three miles were easy hauling, the last twenty-five feet were a tad trickier. The fence I had hoped the house could squeeze through was a tad too tight, and so we had to take the house around the long way, removing another fence, manually trimming a number of branches in the way, and putting those bottle jacks to use in raising a bench that was more than a little difficult to move out of the Matchbox's path. It was muddy, too, and so the heavy house sunk a good foot into the mud, limiting just how much we could fine-tune the Matchbox's position in the yard.

Robin and her amazing crew, accompanied by Colm from the BBC
Robin and her crew, nonetheless, were nothing short of fantastic, and after another two or three hours prepping the site, my house was finally settled in its new temporary home. Unpacking took, perhaps, another hour, and the interior turned out remarkably undisturbed: picture frames still hanging, a deck of playing cards on the shelf still right where I'd left it, a tiny bottle of eye drops on the counter still, unbelievably, standing proud. Despite a bumpy ride and a near-thirty-degree tilt getting the home around a tight alley corner, not a bit of plaster was cracked, nor a single throw pillow disturbed. Move: complete.

***

Almost. There's still a bit of an electricity glitch to figure out, and that rainwater tank to reinstall, and then the requisite leveling and stabilizing underneath the house. The porch will need a set of stairs for the flat yard, and the deep grooves left by the tires will have to be filled in—stuff like that.

But most of the adjustments will be internal. I had a dizzying moment after unpacking when I stood up and felt positively shaken by the windows just not looking right—that is, the house looked the same as it always had, but the scene outside the windows was different: the surroundings of a different place, a different vista. Three days later, I'm just starting to get used to it.

There's the obvious compass-resetting, too, where I head home from a friend's and point my bicycle to North Capitol, forgetting that, well, I don't live there anymore. And, most happily, there are the emotional adjustments, the good fortune and warm realization that my new landlords are kind, gentle, generous people. There's a slow dissipation of the deeply pervasive fear I've harbored these past six months that I'd come home and find my house ticketed, or chained up, or towed away by Brian, my next-door-neighbor-turned-tiny-house-tyrant. There's the feeling that I've escaped something dangerous, and abusive, and harmful to mind, body, spirit, and community.

There's that, and then there's hope, and possibility: my home can move, and tiny house communities can work, and though Boneyard Studios may be physically separated at the moment, there are a whole lot of people that I feel so fortunate to create something wonderful with in 2015, and I can't wait to get that started very, very soon.

But first: I need to go to India.

Following the Matchbox on its way to Brookland (Photo courtesy Offload Labs, offloadlabs.com)

2 comments:

  1. Loved this post! SO GLAD you guys are out of there. Good things on the horizon.

    Love from La Petite and I. <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is such a fun, interesting experience to hear about. Thanks for sharing. Bon voyage!

    ReplyDelete

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