The Lady Loam (Re)Creation Story

Part 5: Making the House and Home

To catch up on the first part of the series, start at Part 1: Big Dreams require Bigger Decisions.

At every step, we felt the gratification of progress being made. It was incredible to see how much could change in just a day, and how much could change in a week. I got used to spending what would have been a whole paycheck every time we bought supplies, and Isaac paid a fortune to local food businesses for delivered lunches and dinners to maximize our working time and efficiency (a well-fed worker is a happy worker). Our most frequented places around town were Ace Hardware on Campbell, Lowes on Oracle, and Ramiro’s Drive Through Taqueria.

Now was the fun part, the part I had been dreaming of every single night for years (even before I had any savings or an inkling of a tangible plan to build my house, about 6 years ago). Now was the time I would actually build the living space of the tiny house, full of intentional design and custom nooks and crannies for optimal usage. Now was also the part when my mental capacity and willpower faded. It had been an exhausting and burning hot summer, one with few days off and high pressure to finish the tiny house so we could move out and begin our journey without paying another month’s rent. The heat and sun bullied us every day, and the constant problem-solving and emotional regulation for obstacles we honed over the months became overwhelming. To those who don’t know, I am infamously bad at math. Committing myself to a project like this meant I had to face my worst academic enemy every single day since the first day of construction in August of 2021. Some things I got better at, while others I found workarounds and clever fixes in the often event when I miscalculated, misdesigned, or miscut. The weight had gotten to me, but thankfully our friends rallied together to help push the last 10% of the project.

I got almost the entire interior built in the week that Isaac went on a business trip to Atlanta. I started with the bed platform, and built it mostly out of 2x4s and a few 4x4s, connecting it to the walls, floor, and wheel wells as I pieced it together. I cut the 1” birch boards into 6 squares so they could be removable from above. My standard for building the bed was that if I shook it as hard as I could, it shouldn’t budge in any direction, and after a day of working, I accomplished it. I also built the step platform over the wheel wells that could conceal the 2 lithium batteries Isaac bought to store our solar energy, and any extra space was later used as shoe storage. I then began on the mind-breaking task of building the couch and kitchen. I designed the couch so we could reuse the comfortable cushions Isaac’s family had given us from a couch earlier in the year, and designed it with the size of our chest fridge/freezer in mind (given as a gift from Isaac’s parents). Isaac and I built the upper cabinetry that extended almost the whole length of the interior on one side.

The empty trailer was quickly becoming a house with places to sit other than the floor, and places to write on a hard surface at standing height too. Our friends came to help for a few long and humid days, and together we got much of the kitchen built using scrap wood from upcycled shelf planks and our old bed frame headboard/footboard. With friends, we also built the bathroom, cabinet faces, and installed the exterior roof edge siding. Isaac installed LED strip lights on the ceiling, and by mid-August I installed the sink, fauet, and simple foot pump system. Isaac impressively worked on the power system and installed the inverter (which overheated and broke the first day it was installed). He spent a great deal of time working with the company it came from, and magically, Isaac repaired it with their guidance. We began to charge our batteries from the solar setup, and we had power inside the tiny home for the first time! I gratefully ran a fan to manage the heat as often as I could from that point on. As the move-out deadline loomed nearer, a friend and I filled the back of Isaac’s truck with all the superfluous, unsalvageable building materials that had accumulated from the project, and we unloaded it at the landfill. That night, I began to migrate our personal items into the tiny home. It was a stormy evening, with lightning and thunder and many inches of rain. I’ll never forget hugging our pillows and quilt across the house, out into the rain, and into the trailer to make the bed for the first time. The drama of it all! Isaac and I spent our first night in the trailer, two days before our deadline. Monsoon season had come, and the storm gave us a memorable evening sleeping in the front yard where we had spent so much time building and stressing, in our new and never-been-slept-in-before tiny home. The exhausted pride we felt to seek shelter in our completely self-built home is unmatched.

The following day was our final day working on the trailer, and our final day living in Tucson. It was one of the longest days of our lives. We migrating our belongings, finishing the electrical system, separating items for goodwill, our “garage” under the bed, our truckbed and cab, to friends, or trash. Friends came later in the day for a goodbye gathering and to help finish off some projects, then we all pushed the trailer to the other side of the front yard so Isaac could have a good angle to hitch up in the morning. I found a place for everything we had decided to keep (a LOT of work and months went into deciding what to keep; weighing its versatility, size versus value, long-term quality, similar or duplicate items, and criteria of that nature). Isaac and I felt satisfied that most of what we wanted, we had. After living in shared housing for 4 years, I felt especially cleansed to have all my things together with me, in one place, compact and accessible and not to be confused with anyone else’s. Although the truck bed was overflowing with our building supplies and salvageable materials, and the tiny home bathroom full of things I had yet to find a place for, we were happy and tiered and excited and nervous. And we slept so well, that second night.

We left the next morning, on the last possible day to move out, on the exact deadline we had pushed towards. Not every project was finished, but the tiny home was totally livable, and that was good enough for us to start off. We escaped the heat by driving 4 hours north to Flagstaff, AZ, where our building tasks slowed and our traveling adventures began!

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