On living large, in a tiny house, for three years on Vashon

Living in a tiny house forces you to be deliberate about what you keep and what you let go of, which has been one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life.

Some people choose to live in a tiny home because they want to reduce their carbon impact and live a more sustainable lifestyle.

Others are drawn to the idea of living with less in order to free up time, energy, and money to explore their interests and experiences.

If like me, you require privacy and dislike entertaining guests, tiny living is perfect.

As soon as I talked with my landlord about their available rental near Vashon town, the idea of living a simpler, more intentional existence appealed to me.

Living in a tiny house forces you to be deliberate about what you keep and what you let go of, which has been one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my life.

On a recent morning, just before dawn, I yawned awake in the sleeping loft of my 200-square-foot Vashon tiny cabin rental, where I’ve had the wonderful fortune to reside since the early months of the pandemic.

The rain pattered rhythmically on the metal roof above my head. I felt a chill and adjusted my covers before reaching to turn on the space heater next to my bed.

There’s that scratching sound again, I thought — which I triangulated to the pitch of the roof or somewhere nearby.

I’d like to think it was that same barred owl that was always perched above the house. She’d come down from the trees before, and she was presumably preparing to end the life of another little field mouse who had strayed too far from the pig pen on my landlords’ five-acre farm.

I’ve seen her balancing on a nearby limb or powerline on occasion. As dusk approaches, she takes her position in the tallest trees, when I’m usually returning home after a long day to eat my own dinner and lie on the wood floor. There, I preside over a half-read book, a value pack of Oreos, and my video game collection.

I won’t speak for the owl, but I like it here. I like being by myself. I have a small kitchen with some counter space and a tiny four-burner electric oven that bakes a fantastic frozen pizza.

The large windows let in all of the waning light.

The bathroom has a shower stall, an airplane sink, and a compost toilet, but I don’t want to talk about that.

This would not be a viable living option for a family or someone with hobbies, but I’m just another millennial with refinanced student debt from an English degree.

To live tiny, you must decide what you need and what you can do without — and I’ve gotten plenty good at doing that.

This is my third dwelling on Vashon.

I started off in a slightly larger apartment in Burton that I had rented on a Beachcomber reporter’s income, until my landlord decided to sell it. From there, I moved to a house in town, when a couple advertised for a roommate.

I downsized again — this time to my tiny house — a few months later, when under the stress of lockdown, my two new roommates split up and broke our house lease.

You can’t rely on people, but I’ll tell you — when you live small, you become more appreciative of the allies you have.

Such as that owl. She is the Queen’s Guard of my tiny sanctuary of solitude, and she works tirelessly through the night at her station, eliminating nuisances before I am ever the wiser, until the rising sun relieves her of her duties.

My current landlords have also been my allies this winter, rushing to my aid in the cold to unfreeze my pipes with hair blowers. Another ally is Clarissa, the evil, haunted doll resting on the settee. She scared off that one guy who refused to leave after a date.

The lesson of tiny house life is to simplify everything. And men, in my opinion, are about as unnecessary as additional square footage. Send them on their way. Throw aside anything they give you; there’s nowhere to put it anyway.

Every square inch of the house must be used efficiently, and de-cluttering and finding space-saving solutions can be a fun and rewarding task.

I store pots and pans under the sink, and I also keep a bin of cleaning supplies there. There are drawers for spices and whatever else ends up in them. I hang clothes I don’t often wear from a string above the bathroom, so my nice shirts get steamed when I start my nightly bedtime ritual with a hot shower.

It might take you some time to adjust to living in a smaller space, and there may be moments when you feel cramped or claustrophobic.

However, if you’re in a position to make the transition, I believe you’ll sleep soundly knowing the benefits of living in a tiny house far outweigh any challenges that might arise.

For me — as I now prepare to leave Vashon and move to the wide-open spaces of Cleveland, Ohio — I’ll always have big memories of living in this tiny home.

Paul Rowley worked as a reporter for The Beachcomber from 2018 to 2021.