“The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir” by Dee Williams (Blue Rider Press, 284 pages, in stores)
If you have ever wanted to simplify your life; if you have ever pulled a camper trailer behind a vehicle, stayed in one or admired one at an RV show; if you have ever desired a simple cabin in the woods, off the grid; if you have an unfulfilled desire to put your hands to work and make something, this book is for you.
In “The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir,” Dee Williams gives readers a funny, quirky, touching glimpse of her life in the Northwest and explains how a major life event turned everything upside down — and how she chose not just to lie down and wait for the end to come.
Williams had always been an outdoorsy person, from helping deliver calves at her childhood home in the Midwest to climbing mountains, kayaking, hiking and skydiving in the Northwest. She owned, restored and remodeled a full-size house, which she shared with roommates, and she worked as a state hazardous waste inspector.
Then she found herself in a hospital, being treated for congestive heart failure. When she returned to the healthy world, with a tiny defibrillator now residing inside her chest and zapping her whenever her heart grew hesitant, she took stock of her life.
A close brush with death will do something to a person, especially one as introspective and decisive as Williams. She saw a magazine article about a man who had built a tiny house and lived in it, and she decided she wanted to do the same thing. She would sell her house, sell or give away most of her possessions and build her own little home on a trailer base, so she could take it anywhere she pleased.
And build it she did: an 84-square-foot home on four wheels, no more than 13 1/2 feet tall and 8 1/2 feet wide. Walk in the front door and the kitchen is immediately to the left, with a single-burner stove and a cooler large enough to hold beer and half-and-half. Across from the kitchen is the commode — that is, a composting toilet — this house has no running water.
Then there is a living area, for dining, entertaining guests (the few who can be crammed in) and, at times when health requires, for sleeping. The living area is open to the ceiling, but over the kitchen and commode is a loft, reached with a 7-foot ladder, on which she has her bed.
Outside, she has a solar panel array to provide daytime electricity. A propane heater keeps the winter’s chill at bay, although she turns it off at night for fear of being trapped in a fire.
For showers and other water needs — here’s the kicker — Williams has excellent friends who let her park and live in her tiny home in their backyard, and make use of their facilities as needed. But she could have found all sorts of alternatives if that didn’t work out.
In “The Big Tiny,” Williams walks us through the entire process, openly letting us in on her fears and mistakes as well as successes and sense of excitement. The book includes photos — sorry, just black-and-white except for the dust jacket — and is a delight to read from the opening pages all the way to the end. She has a way with words as well as with wood.
And if anyone has a desire to simplify, live off the grid, get away from mortgages and all the other responsibilities that come with a regular-size home, “The Big Tiny” may help provide some incentive to do just that.