Luise and Shawn Gleason plan on running away.
Late day sunlight in their Huntingtown Road apartment fell across a vase of wild asters and black-eyed Susans set on a table strewn with books about tiny houses. This summer, the Gleasons will build their own tiny traveling house, and take it with them wherever they go.
They flipped through glossy pages of blueprints and design features for mini homes — living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms or lofts, all downsized to (in the Gleasons’ case) roughly 170 square feet. Mr Gleason pointed to tape marks on the floor, where he had mapped out the footprint of their soon-to-be tiny house, named The Runaway Shanty. Its length was about ten casual paces, and its width slightly wider than Mr Gleason’s outstretched arms. Their design concept is based on the Cypress design through the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company.
Already prepped and insulated is the trailer that will carry their tiny house. Walking between the tape marks, Ms Gleason started at one end of the space, and described what she envisioned. There will be a stairway with drawers inside, and, although many Tumbleweed designs include a ladder to access loft and upper areas, she wants stairs. “Our dog [Sophie] needs stairs.”
Mr Gleason has been aware of the tiny house concept for years, before he and Luise met three years ago and have since married. He had originally considered living on a sailboat when he had come across the tiny house designs, which he felt was a better idea for him.
“I couldn’t sail, so…” he said.
As he and his wife stood within the tape marks, talking about interior, space-saving features, he said, “It’s like sailboats. Everything doubles as something else.”
“Just like Sophie,” Ms Gleason said. “She is a dog, and a pillow.”
She mimicked stepping into the house, passing the fold-out table, pointing to a kitchen and bath area, glancing up toward an imagined sleeping loft.
“We can fit a TV up there,” she said.
Ms Gleason admitted that she was not entirely convinced about tiny house living when she and Shawn first met, but soon saw the advantages.
“We wanted to travel,” she said. Maybe they would find a bigger house one day, maybe they will start a family, she said, but for the moment they are eager to build their new tiny home.
Mr Gleason wants to go to Alaska, he said.
“We still want to go,” Ms Gleason said.
“We’re building [the tiny house] for extreme conditions,” he said. “There are no limits.”
They have not decided where to go first, but aside from Alaska they mentioned North Carolina, or New Mexico, Wyoming, Oregon, and Hawaii.
Turning their dream into something concrete started with blue prints.
“We will have something professional to work from,” Ms Gleason said.
They don’t want to sacrifice too much, Mr Gleason said. They anticipate a washer/dryer and bathtub, although the tub will be something tall “but not wide,” Ms Gleason said.
A Balanced Way Of Life
Mr Gleason, an arborist, and Ms Gleason, a digital and print media designer, are about to make changes to their lifestyle.
With a tiny house way of living, the Gleasons will have more time for each other. “Quality time,” Mr Gleason said. They will not be spending their time worrying as much about rent or money, he said. If something should happen with work and income, Mr Gleason said “There is always someplace to call home.”
Ms Gleason said, “I am afraid to work so much and miss the good years. I cannot imagine to not work, but I want a more balanced life, I want to spend time outdoors, pursue my passions, and have time for family and friends,” she said.
“It’s going back to the basics,” Ms Gleason said. A tiny house won’t take up much space, it’s environmentally friendly, and “we can take it with us,” she said. By living in a smaller space, she said she doesn’t need much. “I don’t like a lot of stuff,” she said. Tiny house living will be less stressful, she said, and simpler.
“It’s closer to nature,” and they can “do a lot of living outside,” Ms Gleason said. “We belong to nature, it’s where we come from.”
Wondering why more people are not taking up the tiny house trend, Ms Gleason said the thought may scare them.
“But as far as reasons for us not to do it, I can’t think of one,” Mr Gleason said.
“Many people have trouble downsizing,” Ms Gleason said, “but not us.” She added, “Life is passing by before you know it and I don’t want to see that happen.”
Will they be able to find work on the road? “I can work wherever there are trees,” Mr Gleason said.
Certified in her media design field, Ms Gleason said full-time work is too much, and she would like to spend more time doing photography and writing, which she loves, she said.
They plan to move from place to place, staying for several months or up to a year, and both anticipate that, yes, life will change for the better.
“The changes of scenery and experiences will be nice,” Mr Gleason said, and “to finally do what makes us happy,” said his wife. She said, “The question comes up, ‘What do you really want to do with your life, what would you regret if you don’t do it?’” She recalls the movie Tiny and a quote from the film about looking at life as an experiment and not as a series of dead-end decisions.
“We’re following our hearts,” she said.
Rather than think of what they might lose, they are looking at all the memories they will gain.
“Life is an adventure and people are happier if they do what they enjoy,” Ms Gleason said.
“We are just trying to do what’s right for us,” Mr Gleason said.
Intending to do what is “in your heart,” Ms Gleason and her husband may eventually find where they want to settle down, possibly out west.
“You never know,” he said.
While Plum Builders Inc will assist the couple with framing and other aspects of the build, the Gleasons plan to do much of the construction themselves.
Ms Gleason updates their progress on her blog, RunawayShanty.com. It includes a comment from July 1 announcing “the first magic happened,” when the trailer was filled with insulation, followed by a July 7 post announcing additional work on the trailer. (The most recent post, on July 16, celebrated the win by Germany of the World Cup finals. “If we were already living in our tiny house, I would probably raise the German flag on our roof right now,” Ms Gleason wrote.)
Learn more about project costs, scope, and inspiration from the blog page.