Have you ever had an ah-ha moment where you look at something ordinary and suddenly you are struck to your core with revelation and realize there is a bigger story to tell?
This tree is what I looked at when my dreams of owning a Tiny Home construction company for the past 3+ years hit a harsh reality last summer. I was hurriedly driving down Interstate 5 to fix a leaking toilet on a Tiny Home that I had just delivered 3 hours away—on a tight deadline, of course—when I was forced to pull over. Even though I didn’t have the time to stop. I was a mess with a racing heart, blurred vision, a stomach doing flips and a nagging in my soul. All the while my right hand man was on paternity leave, we were in the height of construction season with multiple Tiny Homes and our second ADU underway, my wife (the other half of our business) was suffering from debilitating chronic illness, our son had special needs and we were chasing our future. I realized we needed to make a change for myself, for my family, for those we worked with and start practicing what we were preaching.
I’ve been trying to write this blog post for 8 months. 8 months! I’ve been feeling compelled to share my story in hopes of helping our would-be customers understand—and hopefully inspiring others. During the time since my roadside breakdown I’ve tended to some highly neglected areas in my personal life, mended relationships, exercised (isn’t it amazing how much that clears your head?), taken many deep breaths, done some soul-searching and got to spend an epic couple of weeks with some dear friends in rural Northern Uganda. In fact, it is they who inspired me to build Tiny Homes in the first place after an extended trip there in 2008 (see the 12′ diameter Tukal below). During my time there I witnessed suffering and hardship like nothing I’d ever experienced. I also witnessed love and community like never before. More on this experience in a future blog post for sure!
As I’m sure you are aware, the Tiny House Movement has taken on a life of it’s own and Shelter Wise was beginning to get swept up in the tidal wave. When we started we were only 1 of less than a handful of Tiny House builders in the U.S. Now there seems to be a new one popping up daily. We had an unlimited amount of work coming in without any signs of slowing. You’d think that is a good thing, right? Well, the thing is, we never intended to become a large company. The whole premise behind starting this business was to use our passion and skills to run a small business that helped others achieve their goals in Tiny Living. I love building, creating, working with people and my wife has the business background so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to mix them all. Naturally, maybe like many of you, we started building our first Tiny Home in our driveway in the summer of 2012 (The Miter Box, pictured below).
We witnessed the balance, affordability, sustainability and simplicity that Tiny Living afforded and we wanted to share that. To practice being present. We wanted to hold onto the awe and inspiration from walking through Dee Williams’ 84 sq. ft. Tiny House as a family 5 years ago (who continues to inspire us, in friendship too).
But, things were anything but simple and balanced on my end. In fact, the past 4 years since starting this company my life has looked like a seismograph of extreme highs and lows. Stress was high, sleep was minimal, and time with my son, family and friends was next to none. Beer and ping-pong therapy can only go so far in times like this… Somehow I could still put on the “chill” Derin face in front of customers and tiny house enthusiasts. In reality, I felt like I was one-third of a tower of Jenga pieces—and you know what happens if you pull out that many pieces from a tower at the same time? Things get shaky, real fast. I wanted to do it all. You know, raise a family, live simply, create, own a business, and take my passion in a variety of directions.
So, you might be thinking, “Well, that sounds rough, but you are still here…so what is Shelter Wise doing going forward?”
You may also wonder, “Do you have any wisdom to share from your experience?”
Well, here are a few things to start with (and likely more blog posts to follow-up with)…
Although we can’t currently meet all of your Tiny Home needs we encourage you to dig deep, explore your own motivations and goals, examine your situation and take matters into your own hands with the many amazing resources available! One way is to acquire your own set of plans, attend a workshop and build it yourself or share them with someone who can build it for you. Use them to dream, build, live. Join us as we keep dreaming, keep the creative fire burning and keep the vision of simplicity alive.
What do YOU need to do to simplify your life and realize your dreams?
Peace to you on this Tiny Living journey!
PO Box 18179
Portland, OR 97218