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This St. Louis Family's Tiny House Will Be Smaller Than Your Kitchen

Categories: Bold Types

jessiewright.jpg
Virginia Harold
Jessie Wright, her boyfriend Joe and their son, August.
Jessie Wright wants the American dream. She just wants it smaller.

Wright is building a new house for her family -- a place of their own, a true home, she says -- but this isn't your typical house. Wright, her boyfriend and their baby August will move into a "micro house," 190 square feet of space built onto a 25-foot trailer.

"All the principles of happiness are broken into only having the amount of stuff you can handle," Wright tells Daily RFT. She's updating followers on her tiny house adventure on her blog, This Tiny House Family. "I've gotten used to having fewer things. Our kitchen is down to 100 most useful objects."

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Jessie Wright
The plans for Jessie Wright's 190-square-foot home.
Building a tiny house is the best way Wright can think of to own her home without giving in to the dark side of the American dream -- the mortgage. The average tiny house costs $20,000, she says.

"Being trapped in a mortgage just isn't appealing to me," says Wright, who has saved $1,000 and fundraised about $500 towards her tiny house dream. "It just doesn't make sense to live above your means."

See also: St. Louis Architect Wants to Build "New Arches" That Save the Earth and Help You Lose Weight

Wright is not alone in looking to downsize her home life. The tiny house movement has become a legit ecological and economic cause nationwide, attracting people who want to have smaller carbon footprints, spend more time outdoors or live in a home that's not tied to just one place. There's even a dating website for tiny housers.

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Dee Williams' tiny house memoir.
"People want to step away from their debt, not just a mortgage and utility bills, but the debt of owning so much stuff," says Dee Williams, a Kansas City native and the author of The Big Tiny, her memoir about building an 84-square-foot home from scratch. Williams will share her story at Left Bank Books downtown Thursday night.

"That dream of homeownership is still very real. It's just that there are a lot of people who are turning it on its ear by going super small," she tells Daily RFT.

A tiny house is typically smaller than 1,000 square feet, Williams says. "That's based on the fact that the national average-sized house is about 2,200 square feet, so if you're going tiny, you're cutting that number in half."

Wright's 190-square-foot house is so small it that it technically qualities as a "micro" house, Williams says.

"It's only since the 1960s that our house sizes have grown so significantly," Williams says. "All of a sudden, culturally, the middle class has moved away from living together to everyone having their own room. Everyone has their own sink in a lot of houses."

For Wright, a tiny house means portability and flexibility. Once she can afford it, Wright wants to be on the road, living in something that's part RV and part house.

"I don't like being tied down to a specific rotation," Wright says. "I don't have to do winter. I'm going to strengthen mine to be hurricane proof."

At first glance, Wright seems to be cutting down on her living space by moving into a micro house. But she doesn't see it that way. As she takes care of her young boy full-time, she hopes their living space will spill over into the great outdoors.

"My favorite part is that you don't exist as much indoors" in a tiny house, Wright says. Sure, she'll need to be inside to cook, bathe and sleep, but "you spend the rest of your times outdoors as much as possible."

At the end of the day, tiny house owners shrink their living spaces to find a different kind of freedom, Williams says.

"Ultimately, I think home is really ephemeral," Williams says. "It's a feeling when you walk through the door. It's less about whatever structure it is and more about whom you are hanging out with."

Dee Williams will discuss her book, The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir, at 7 p.m. today at Left Bank Books' downtown location.

Follow Lindsay Toler on Twitter at @StLouisLindsay. E-mail the author at Lindsay.Toler@RiverfrontTimes.com.


My Voice Nation Help
85 comments
Jessie
Jessie

Our fundraiser campaign was suggested by more than a few people because we had talked about building for so long and had made little progress other than paying down debt. Indigogo (fundraiser platform we used) encourages "perks" to be offered for contributions. I made recycled zipper bags for every donation over $50, sold reveal party tickets, and postcards. My fiancé works an insane amount of hours every other week so we can make progress and not send our boy to a daycare (that costs more than my salary). I am employed, and educated. I am a registered Veterinary Technician (5years). I work when family is available for my son. Other than that I make money for the fundraiser by crafting bags, art, baked goods, etc. These are things that I love doing. We make our life fit what we enjoy. No one is suffering or begging. This article was meant to bring the Tiny House option to light for those who would benefit from it. Our mission is to help those people while making a better life (less work more fun) for ourselves. I invite you to read our blog if you want to learn more.

Jackie LeMaster
Jackie LeMaster

Phil Lennon they're just dreads of course.. Nothing wrong with them.

Athena Petro
Athena Petro

This is a good thing ? Sorry but NO THANKS

Cassy Heinz
Cassy Heinz

It's one thing to strive to have less stuff, but this is ridiculous. What about the carbon footprint for the gas it takes to move the structure from place to place, and energy wasted since theres no insulation? There are so many existing houses, many empty foreclosures that are under 1,000 sq ft and cheap to boot… how about occupying those to reduce carbon footprint instead of building something with new materials?

MommyKillz
MommyKillz

I dont like that she is begging for handouts to build her dream home. get a real job and pay for it yourself.

Brenda Denton Langbein
Brenda Denton Langbein

Being trapped in a mortgage just isn't appealing to me," says Wright, who has saved $1,000 and fundraised about $500 towards her tiny house dream. "It just doesn't make sense to live above your means." what? She IS living above her means if she has to beg for money to do it with.

Jazon Parker
Jazon Parker

seems if she's "fund raising", to buy her micro, they are living beyond their means...who begs for money to buy a house?lol!

Timothy Burch
Timothy Burch

I have a house near U city that was just 1900.00 more. Its all brick with full basement and hardwood floors. Stupid idea. Just buy a mobile home and watch out for tornadoes!

Patrick Hickey
Patrick Hickey

You can buy a new travel trailer for $15,000. They are building this thing for $20,000....

Lacey Smith
Lacey Smith

I'm sure that counts as child endangerment

Amy O'Connell
Amy O'Connell

Geez people are so judgmental these days!! Good for them!!

Holly Shepherd
Holly Shepherd

This is wonderful what you guys are doing Joe Bay. I would take a small house full of love over a big house full of empty rooms any day.

Brian Boyd
Brian Boyd

She can buy a house in north St Louis for $5000 or less.

Gary Tripp
Gary Tripp

Good luck! Don't fret the comments, it's a special kind of asshole to bash someone on a newspaper facebook feed whose ideas differ from their own.

Michelle Duncan
Michelle Duncan

When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself. - Wayne Dyer

Aida Livingston
Aida Livingston

Are those dread locks? Yeah, so they don't take showers....

Megg Ray
Megg Ray

Id due a tiny home the size of a kitchen and living room. But not the size of my kitchen. Cheers though.

doublefuckyou
doublefuckyou

Does anybody proof these articles before publication?

LaTonya Ann
LaTonya Ann

No. after living in a motel for some time I'm good.

Steve Mincer
Steve Mincer

i wonder how "tolerant" that crown will be if i brought sarah palin as my date.

Rick Schriewer
Rick Schriewer

Jessie rock on! I've built a few small homes... in high ridge welcome to visit

Audrey Annette
Audrey Annette

Wow, why are so many people such haters? While I want a large house with lots of land, I think it's cool she and her family want to do this. While she's busy trying to live small, all of you haters are living so large behind your hateful comments. Wow, you're all so much better than them. So many people are obese and don't exercise enough or even care to pay attention in school. I think their son won't have any of those problems! I know them personally, and they are great people. You negative people need to get a life and get off the computer and keep it to yourself!

Megan Riley
Megan Riley

Wow, some people on here are really rude! How can some of you sit there and judge people so badly when all they're doing is trying to build a happy life for their family? Like Jodi Martin saying at least he can leave her if he wants? So you promote a broken family over a tiny house? Some things just ain't right in this world, sorry you guys have to deal with this Jessie! I wish you all the best!

Sarah Louise Bennight
Sarah Louise Bennight

Amy Scheve you have the parties outdoors. Drive your house to a neat location, your living space extends into the world, you are in reality less restricted and living healthier. Jessie Wright dont let haters get you down. I'm thinking of doing the very same thing. It would be perfect for Konrad and I.

Matthew Orf
Matthew Orf

Cool stuff! I am fascinated with the concept. When I buy land I don't think I will build this small but it will incorporate a lot of similar ideas...

Sarah Morris
Sarah Morris

something tells me this girl also uses horsehair tampons...ironically

Haley Soetebier
Haley Soetebier

go to the even. give dee a hug and tell her she's your little sister's favorite tiny house dweller. and i never read commetns on tiny house stuff. haters gonna hate.

Jessie Wright
Jessie Wright

I knew it would get a wide range of comments but wow. Just to answer a couple of questions. Our son is attending private school in the fall thanks to our debt free lifestyle plans. I don't expect everyone to try this, I just want to show others how easy it will be. I'm here to help those that are interested in living smaller, not be judged by those who can't imagine it for themselves. Oh, and the big picture is made up of the little things. Every effort to be more sustainable is a contribution to our future. We are not celebrities or even trying to be, we are a family choosing to share their journey. Be kind, and try to be open-minded.

Paula Parker
Paula Parker

Really if you think about it. It would be no different then living in an RV type home. And ppl do that all the time

Keith Stephens
Keith Stephens

Didn't you get the memo? It's Condescending Elitist Day on facehate.

aaronmccoy242
aaronmccoy242 topcommenter

@MommyKillz  I agree, I'll give her some money but I want to spend the night every once in a while.  

TMR87
TMR87

The article says shes a stay at home mom for one. Also, what's so wrong with that?Corporations and charities do kickstarter campaigns all the time. Instead of sitting behind a computer bashing someone for trying to better themselves, take your own advice and get a real life.

MommyKillz
MommyKillz

@TMR87  I do have a real life. I work for what I have. When my children were young, I was a stay at home mom, also. And we couldn't afford certain things, so we did without. We didn't ask others to pay for our wants.


I took the time to read her blog and look at her "give me money" page. I understand where she is coming from. BUT asking others to fund her dreams is what I am against. I would love to live in a small house on the beach, it is actually one of my dreams, but can I afford it? No. So should I ask others to give me money to achieve that dream? No. She wasn't offering to do anything for the money, she just wants people to give it to her. She should be having bake sales, or selling her crafts. That I would be behind. 

ivarose_22
ivarose_22

@MommyKillz @TMR87isnt it merely the choice of those who are giving money to her? Just because someone is asking for money doesnt me she is going to get it. More power to those who are willing to help others. I see no wrong in that

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