Independent Education Project: Building a tiny house

Ed. note: This is a guest post by Hannah Wnuk, a participant in Rise Out’s 2014 Independent Education Project. Hannah is building a tiny house. Please consider supporting her project through her Indiegogo campaign

Hello All,

My name is Hannah, I’m 16, and I am a homeschooler. This year and until I graduate I will be taking a more unschooler route to my education. What I love about unschooling is that I can take a project I am really interested in and make it part of my education. The project I have my heart set on is building a tiny house for myself.

The term “Tiny House” generally refers to a house that is 400 square feet or less. They are often built on trailers, but not always. They are inexpensive to live in, and generally have a low environmental impact. The Tiny House Movement has been making a push to get more people in smaller, more environmentally friendly homes, and to simplify their lives. I love that idea.

I have always loved being in small spaces. When I was little, I slept in my closet for a month because the walls on either side felt comforting. When I got a bit older, my dad and I started to build a tree house in my backyard that I could hang out in. He was a very good builder and I would have learned how to build very well if we had had the opportunity to build more than the basic floor frame. Unfortunately, he passed away when I was 11. I didn’t get to learn all his skills from him and I know he would be so proud of me for planning to build this tiny house.

I learned about tiny houses online. I found one cool video, then another, then another, and pretty soon it was 2:00am in the morning and I had spent the past 5 hours watching videos and looking at blogs about tiny houses. Originally, I thought it was a cool idea but nothing more. I never expected to want to live in one, let alone build it myself.

As time passed and I immersed myself more into the idea of living in a tiny house, I found that it really appealed to me. I watched an episode of Hoarders and did a “deep clean” of my bedroom. In retrospect, I didn’t get rid of much, but it was a start.

I had ignited my dream of living a minimalist life in a tiny house.

As a homeschooler, my education centers on my interests, and this past year I made it very clear to my mom that I was interested in tiny houses. I spent hours looking at all the different houses and styles and I fell in love with a particular house from Tumbleweed. Together we went to and bought me a set of blueprints for a tiny house that is 18’ long by 7.5’ wide.

Shortly after the holiday season at the end of 2014 my mom decided that if I am going to build a tiny house, I must get myself some resources, and she signed me up for a weekend tiny house workshop that I recently completed.

The workshop was very helpful to me because it gave me a more complete understanding of what I was getting into. I learned about what kind of bathroom systems are best and what an R Value is when you are talking about insulation. I got a lot of contacts with people who can help me or could point me in a helpful direction. I also got a book that included everything I learned about in the workshop so I will be able to consult it at home.

Already I have looked back into the book to find out about trailers and the different options that Tumbleweed sells. I plan to buy a trailer from them because that way I know I will not have any major problems with that aspect of my build.

I have saved money in my “Tiny House Account” since I began working and will continue to save. I plan to sell a lot of my belongings, from Pokemon cards to clothes to my entire Polly Pocket collection that I’ve had since I was 3 years old.I’m doing as much dog and cat sitting in my neighborhood as I can to earn more money. But in order for this project to begin in this year, I need outside help. I have estimated that the build for my dream-home/school-project is going to be about $30,000. I will use reclaimed materials where I can, to lower the price, but the best way to save in the long term, living in the house, is to spend a little bit more on the build. That way I can assure I will have minimal problems in the future.

I have a builder who has built his own tiny house on board with my project. He has agreed to help mentor me with the process. I plan to build a model in SketchUp and have him help me perfect it.

I am very excited to build my tiny house and can’t wait to get started.

These are the things I will learn as I create my tiny house:

  •  I will learn trigonometry through making measurements on my tiny house.
  • I will learn writing with things like this blog post and other ways of raising awareness and money
  • I will learn HOW TO BUILD MY OWN HOUSE
  • I will learn how to use power tools
  • I will learn how to use SketchUp
  • I will learn how to ask people for help graciously
  • I will learn how to budget
  • I will learn how to convince people to help me build
  • I will learn how to market myself and spread awareness for things like the tiny house movement and my project
  • I will learn about building codes and housing laws
  • I will learn physics through building
  • I will learn how to keep in touch with useful people
  • And I will learn so much more

On confidence, or conquering your “little hater”

Henry Rollins, former front man of Black Flag -- "You must go at it with almost monastic obsession."

MSNBC host (and high school drop-out!) Melissa Harris-Perry at Wellesley's 2012 graduation -- "Everybody's got to have a Charlotte. You're gonna be Wilbur a lot."

And Jay Smooth on conquering perfectionism and procrastination -- "We each have a little hater that lives inside our heads and tries to set up traps for us."

John Cleese on creativity

As we all know, it’s easier to do trivial things that are urgent than it is to do important things that are not urgent, like thinking. And it’s also easier to do little things we know we can do than to start on big things that we’re not so sure about. So, when I say create an oasis of quiet, know that when you have, your mind will pretty soon start racing again, but you’re not going to take that race seriously. You just sit there for a bit, tolerating the racing and the slight anxiety that comes with it. And after a time, your mind will quieten down again.
— John Cleese