While most homeowners—especially married couples—decide to downsize in their 40s, 50s, or even their 60s, newlyweds Lucas and Andrea Orton opted to do so much earlier.
The Omaha couple had only been married four months when they left their 850-square-foot rental in midtown and began building a 280-square-foot house on wheels. By today’s tiny house standards, that’s slightly larger than most.
Lucas, 33, and Andrea, 34, love the outdoors. They met near the Elkhorn River and married there in May 2015. While camping at Lake Cunningham one morning, they noticed a number of RVs parked outdoors. It was then they began discussing their dream of tiny house living.
Neither Lucas nor Andrea watch much TV. They were not aware of the tiny house trend until they began researching their next steps online.
“We started looking into (tiny houses) and said, ‘Oh, wow. This is a thing,’” Andrea recalls.
Soon after, Lucas and Andrea hosted a garage sale at their midtown home. Organizing items for the garage sale was the first of what would be many eye-opening experiences of separating their stuff: what to keep and what to sell.
“We were literally pulling stuff out of the house for four hours,” Andrea explains. “And we’ve gotten rid of truckloads since the garage sale. One minute you’re saying, ‘I love this. I’m going to keep this.’ And eight months later, it’s ‘I don’t really love that.’”
In September of last year, construction of the Ortons’ tiny house began. Lucas quit his job as a sound engineer to pursue building the tiny house full-time. The couple moved in with Lucas’ father in northwest Omaha, first building the tiny house in the barn. Once the walls, roof, and windows were complete, they hitched the house to a truck and pulled it permanently outdoors. Friends and family unexpectedly showed up to witness the big (or should we say small?) move.
“Pulling it out of the barn and dealing with centimeters of clearance, it was like giving birth,” Andrea says with a grin.
The tiny house now sits a few hundred feet from the barn. Lucas works on the house just about every day, with their spunky French Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix, Gus, by his side. Lucas used to remodel houses, so mastering the basics proved fairly easy. The rest—such as plumbing and electrical—he learned how to do from blogs, websites and online videos.
When it is finished, the house will feature contemporary interior design, with white walls, dark flooring, and natural woods. LED lighting has been installed throughout, but an abundance of windows allows natural light to stream in during the day.
They plan to add a modular front porch, which will provide additional seating outdoors (weather permitting).
For Lucas (an Omaha native) and Andrea (a Louisiana transplant), building and living in a tiny house has two primary purposes: consolidating their lifestyles and living without debt. The couple has budgeted around $30,000 for the project, and they have been paying for supplies and materials as they go. Most items were purchased locally at The Home Depot and Lowe’s, while others have been ordered online (including windows and the air conditioner). The house has standard electrical but has been wired for solar energy.
And while more is continually added inside (and outside) the house, the purging continues, which Andrea describes as “one crazy ride.”
She adds that getting rid of their belongings has been almost spiritual: “I like to shop, and I work in a retail environment. But even when I go to the store now, I don’t spend nearly as much or get nearly as much as I normally would because it’s not going to fit. We’ve been going through multiple stages of purge, just tapering, tapering, and it’s still too much.”
Lucas and Andrea’s worldly possessions now reside in eight large bins in their temporary bedroom.
“Well, that’s not completely true,” Andrea says after a brief pause. “There’s a little bit more spilling into another room, and I’m trying to reel that in. There’s a get-rid-of pile, and every day I’m adding to it.”
Lucas and Andrea continue to research other pieces of living in a (tiny) house on wheels, among them mail delivery and internet access. They eventually plan to purchase a large pick-up truck that will allow them to tow the house as needed, and even store larger items in the truck’s bed.
They expect to park their home at its current address, live in it through the winter, and move it elsewhere in 2017—likely on vacation while exploring parts of the United States.
For homeowners (and even apartment dwellers) intrigued by tiny house living, Lucas and Andrea have a bit of advice: Draft a lengthy list of pros and cons. Look at tiny houses online. Tour them if they’re nearby. Finally, minimalize and consolidate all belongings, and try to live in a single room.
Visit tinyhouseswoon.com for more information. OmahaHome