Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Between goodbye trips to visit my family members, we have been cranking full steam on the tiny house design. We locked in the layout after a bunch of futzing around, and moved right along to the details. And whoa, are there details. As expected, building a house is far more complex than I realized. Which is precisely why I started re-reading the book below, "The Builder's Secret." In 2013, my brother-in-law picked this off the shelves of a used bookstore for me as a gift. His inscription in the front was such a good reminder back then to keep this dream alive that I held onto it – I usually donate books when I'm done with them and only have a dozen on my shelf.

It's a series of stories about regular people who built their own homes, from single mothers to retirees to the author himself, who was a school teacher that picked up a hammer on weekends. It's already reminding me that we can do this. After all, we're just as capable as other people who've built their own homes, we'll figure it out.

Despite being exhausted after getting the kids in bed, our evenings have been spent researching siding materials (or "cladding" as they call it in New Zealand) and figuring out what we can buy here in the States ahead of time. Packing some supplies in our container when we ship it is a cheaper way to get things to the island than shipping from Auckland. Without further ado, here is a rendering of the main floor plan below (not including lofts). The shower room is a work in progress, and some windows need to be pushed a few centimeters one way or the other, but overall this is pretty much it. In some ways, I think this design will serve us better than the 800-square-foot apartment we are currently living in (and which was not designed for a family of four).

Speaking of which, we have outgrown our apartment SO MUCH that I had surprisingly no problem showing potential tenants around last week. I thought that process would be too emotional for me – this being the place Isaac and I picked out together, and both our boys' first home. But we found a delightful tenant and I can't wait to hand her the keys end of July. I keep reminding the boys that home isn't a place, it's wherever we are all together. I'm such a nester and a "house person" that it took me nearly 38 years to really learn that myself. Hopefully my kids can grasp that lesson sooner than I did.

Four more weeks of this view from our SF front door.

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

When I met Isaac he was living out of a carry-on suitcase and a surfboard bag. I lived in a 200-square-foot cottage at the time, existing joyfully without much “stuff”. Isaac’s own minimalism is one of the things that brought us together (and allowed us to eventually live in that teeny cottage together for two years). When we moved to our 800-square-foot apartment and had kids, we reluctantly bought the few necessities we needed. Then one kid turned into two, and we had a toddler on our hands. Pretty quickly our small space was overrun with kid stuff – toys, various cups and dishes, step-stools, high chairs, booster seats, and bath accessories, not to mention the strollers and scooters and bikes in our garage. Despite always wanting less, we can’t seem to avoid having so much.

And here we are, about to go build and live in a tiny house. Can we do it with kids? All of this stuff is on my mind right now – logistically and theoretically – as we get ready to pack up.

I questioned our tiny-house path last week on a trip to see my older sister and her kids. Their family of four lives the American dream in a sprawling four-story house on a tree-lined suburban street with room after room of playthings. Our toddler was over the moon, bursting out of bed each morning to say “let’s go upstairs and play with the toys!” Just before we left home he had told me he was tired of his toys and wanted new ones, and as we headed back to our boring little apartment in SF I turned to Isaac and said, “Are we sure our kids will be happy living even smaller than we do now? Maybe they need more.” In his perfect way he looked me in the eye and said, “Live your values, Lindsay.” It was all I needed to hear.

We have odd values compared to most American families, and living by them means our kids won’t have a massive playroom or a huge collection of toys. We won’t ever buy a TV. But downsizing means we’ll get a lot of time together as a family (we won’t have to work), and being rural means room to roam out in the playrooms nature has to offer. “Plus,” Isaac added, “Our kids will get tired of their own toys no matter how many they have.”

Logistically, we are going to move all our “stuff” to New Zealand. It’s cost-effective to pack our bikes, couch, bed, the kids’ beds and dresser, and the dining room table Isaac made into a shipping container with our clothes and dishes and send it across the Pacific. We get the added bonus of purchasing the shipping container so we can use it on the island as a bike and surfboard storage shed. Movers will come to our house at the end of July, load up the container, and 8 - 12 weeks later it’ll be dropped off at the bottom of our New Zealand driveway.

This means that for 8 - 12 weeks after we leave SF we’ll be making do with whatever clothes and toys we can pack with us on the plane. It’ll be an exercise in creativity. And hopefully it will be a confirmation of what I already know for myself – that living with less stuff makes more room for everything else in my life. Perhaps I’ll find out that this can be true for our kids too.

Delighted to be knee-deep in Duplo blocks

Last week we headed out of the city for the first time in far too long. Our destination was Forest View Ranch, a farm an hour and a half north in the redwoods with rustic guest cabins and cottages. Several of our closest friends and their kids joined us, making it a celebratory and bittersweet goodbye trip for us before our move. Having energetic young kids in a big city like SF is exhausting, and I was excited to be someplace for a week where we could let them run wild. Isaac and I both grew up with lots of room to roam in nature – one of the reasons we want to move is to get that for our kids, and this proved to be a bit of a test run for our future in remote New Zealand. As soon as we pulled up on the crunchy gravel of the driveway, it reminded me of Isaac's parents property where we're moving. Everywhere were blossoming gardens, fruit trees, stone-lined paths leading to a fire pit or an outdoor soaking sub, and trees to climb. The kids ran to the giant tire swing arching over the creek, chased the chickens, and climbed on the rusted old farm equipment with minimal supervision and it felt so safe compared to the city.

It took just a few hours for us to realize how absolutely done with living in the city we are. "The kids are going to love the island," we both said to each other as Ari crawled across the grass and Jude collected sticks. While it's easy to focus on the parts of our move I'm excited for, there's plenty I'm apprehensive about. Friendships most of all. Having lived in San Francisco for the majority of my 20s and 30s, the friends I've collected here are like family at this point. They've known me through various apartments, phases, and jobs over the years, and most were even there when I met Isaac at Burning Man.

My experience of friendships has been that the number of close ones you've got dwindles slowly as you age, then shrinks even more when you have kids. So the folks who have stuck around this long are precious gems. While our kids were chasing balls around the lawn one evening we imagined how odd it will be for me to come back for a visit and their child will be seven, or our kid will be four, or that baby will be walking and talking. Losing such regular contact with this family will break my heart. But perhaps we'll form a new one in New Zealand. I imagine meeting parents at playgrounds, or deepening the relationships I have with my extended family of in-laws there. We'll seek out community and find it somehow, all without losing any love for this one we've built in SF.

It may be lonely for a while, but all of that sounds worth it when I imagine hanging up a tire swing of our own, or hooking up the hot water to an outdoor soaking tub we designed, or looking my rambunctious child in the eye and saying, joyfully, "go outside!"

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