Email From a Stranger

Good morning guys!
This week, we got our first email from someone neither Erin or I knew personally, asking for advice on building her own cabin kit.  That means the website is getting around, which is super exciting for us!  She had some questions others might have as well, so I thought it might be a good idea to post here with our response.  


Good morning,
I was wondering if I could pick your brain on your cabin living. I am a single woman looking to downsize and simplify life. I am just curious I have the opportunity to have a cabin fully constructed for me or completed to lock up stage and myself finish the interior. I have read your blog regarding the set up and completion of your cabin and it appears to be quite the undertaking. I have been told by some that it is not that large of a project but I am beginning to think differently. The cabin I am looking at is pretty well the same size as yours, and I have even considered going smaller to a 16x24. How do you find living in the 20x24? Would you consider going smaller yet?
Thanks so much
(I've left her name out here because I didn't actually think to get her permission to post this!)

We responded;

Hi ________,

First off, thanks so much for checking out the blog and the website!  It's been so rewarding to see responses from people living all over the place.  :)

As for your questions, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind if you decide to move ahead with downsizing and building your own place:

-You really don't need much building experience.  Erin and I once literally MOVED out of a house in south Calgary because the fence was falling down and we didn't know how/want to fix it.  If you are a little worried about your ability to swing a hammer however, I found volunteering once a week with Habitat for Humanity to be a great resource.  Typically the volunteers there are retired carpenters and handymen so they're super helpful and it's a great environment to cut your teeth and get to know the ins and outs of construction.

-Understand what you can't do.  I found when we told people we were building our own place, I would get advice from friends like "well, you need to run your own electrical and plumbing" You don't.  Plumbing is poo related and messing up your electrical can burn your house down.  My advice is to hire professionals and get permits.  It costs a little more, but (for us anyway) the peace of mind is well worth it.

-There will be overwhelming times.  I can't count the number of times during our build that one of us would wake up in the middle of the night and say to the other "This is crazy.  We don't know how to build a house!  What are we doing??".  That happens.  Honestly, I think it's just a result of taking the path less traveled.  You CAN build your own place, but typically people DON'T.  Remember that only a couple generations ago, people who immigrated here were more or less dropped off on a chunk of land and had to figure it out on their own.  We are the generation lucky enough to be able to consult the internet for answers, which is a massive resource.  Also keep in mind that even though you'll have a rough schedule for what should be done when, the whole process is just one job at a time (insulation's done?  On to plastic sheeting.  Finished that?  Time to close up walls).

As for the size, 20x24 is comfortable for us being that we are two people and a dog.  We could probably have gone smaller but if it's going to be your full-time residence, it's a good idea to keep in mind the things you could do without, but really don't want to.  For us, that was a full-size bathroom with a tub.  Erin's way to relax has always been a tub and a book, so while we could have saved space and time using a stand-up shower, we decided not to.  Your downsizing process is about eliminating excess, not creating an uncomfortable lifestyle for yourself.

One other thing you may want to consider is a utility room.  Depending on your water situation, you could need a few filters.  That and the laundry machines can eat up space so you might want to build an external room separate from your living space.  

In any case, hopefully those answers help you in your decision.  I will say this about it though; this project and the lifestyle it's created have made me more proud than anything I've done in my life.  There is a tremendous satisfaction to be garnered by simplifying, de-cluttering, and living intentionally and I sincerely hope you move forward with it.

Thanks again for the email.  Please feel free to write again any time.


All the best,

Mike, Erin and Sam

That's all for this week.  Thanks again for visiting.  We'll be back with a new post next Sunday!