Marie's Tiny House Revisited

Marie's Tiny House Revisited

"And I feel like this little skill of having a tiny house and being off-grid and self-sufficient is my way of like having a conversation with someone and maybe I can prove to people that it's not necessarily easy but it's doable, and everyone can do a little bit."
Giveaway 2023 - Sarah and Tim Reading Marie's Tiny House Revisited 22 minutes Next Pete's Converted Shed in Raglan

Marie: I wasn't your first video was I?
Rachel (Host): You were, yeah!
Marie: I was your first tiny house video! Well I'm pretty proud! I should have said that, I'm proud to be back on!
Marie: Bonjour Rachel!
Rachel: Bonjour Marie, how are you?
Marie: I'm good and you?
Rachel: Yeah so good, it's been what 3 years now?
Marie: I know, it's been such a long time.
Rachel: Your place is looking amazing though!
Marie: Thank you, let me show you around.
Rachel: Let's go!

Rachel: Three years ago I had the pleasure of coming out to see this tiny house and talk to Marie for our very first GridFree Living episode, and today we're lucky enough to have been invited back to see all the awesome progress she's made at her new place. Let's go take a look!

(See how much her place has changed, watch the original video.)

Hi, I'm Marie and this is my Tiny House. I currently live in Auckland and I've been living in it for 4 years now. When I was about 25 I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. I was working in a lab I just had my um environmental science 
degree and I saw um on a YouTube channel that someone was building their own tiny house and it just blew my mind that someone could just build their own house. I started doing a lot of research and saving money and then because of my background in environmental science I made it a mission to be off-grid or as self-sufficient as I could be. 

If you go on YouTube you see those people that are nailing it they're like 'yeah, I'm like self-sufficient, off grid - I've got my garden and I'm good at everything' and I'm like, it's just a journey of like failing and having to redo it all the time or just learning from your mistake cos no one is here to teach me so I just have to make those mistakes myself. Obviously I study environmental science I really love it and I feel like this is part of my life every day, trying to decrease my footprint and just have an impact on the world I guess and be conscious of what I do. It is really 
fun to live this way but it is a lot of work, it feels like being in school every day I like learn new stuff. So that's where it came from like I guess my upbringing of like wanting to help wanting to do better and then um just thinking that you can actually do anything you want but it is a lot of work, but it's fun! 

Rachel: So this is a brand new place compared to last time I saw you, are you still renting?
Marie: I am. I found a bigger place and also have a shed as well.
Rachel: That's that over there, right?
Marie: Yes, I've got all my tools it works really well for me. I've got like a beautiful space, an orchard, my tiny house, and the shed.
Rachel: That's awesome, everything you need ay?
Marie: Yeah, pretty much! 

If you build your tiny house and there's no way you can afford land, you're just going to have to talk about it a lot to everyone, just be the most obnoxious person you can, and um eventually you find a place. So there's different ways of doing it you can either again talk to people um or you can put some flyers in letter box of the area you want to be in which I did as well, and I went on um Facebook Community groups and I put like a little post post with a picture of my tiny house saying that I was looking for a piece of land to put my tiny house on and um I found a lovely couple that had this land. 

So to plug my tiny house in, because I'm renting the shed as well, there's power inside the shed so I just run a very long extension cord to the shed. Also because I'm off-grid with water the shed has a bigger roof so I get all of my water from the roof and I've got a water tank at the back and I've got a water pump as well that's like plugged to the shed, so that's my entire setup. 

Financially when I was building my tiny house I was renting with flatmates so I had to pay that and I was working shifts for hospitality company so I could pick the days I wanted to work or the shifts I wanted to work so I was really flexible. So I would have heaps of time to build. For the place one of my work colleague knew someone who had like a big shed he was just happy to rent it to me for like $50 a week which is nothing. So definitely be very vocal about it and hopefully people will help you. 

Rachel: So what are you growing here in the orchard? 

Marie: So there's multiple stuff we've got orange tree, pears, apples, lemon, a little bit of everything but to be honest the birds usually get to it before I do. We've got like a plum tree, during the season we've got two wood pigeon coming and they like stuff themselves in like a week it's all gone and those trees are huge. But yeah it's really fun to have them around but if you want fruit you have to get it really quick. 

Rachel: It's a big trouble having your own patch of land, it's a lot of maintenance. 

Marie: Yeah it's more than what I thought, like I don't have a passion for mowing the lawn, but yeah it is it's a bit of work but still fun, ride on, hat on, and I'm good to go! 

Rachel: You've made quite a bit of progress over there, there's a whole deck? 

Marie: Yes, yeah it is so much work but um yeah it takes a bit of time to do and hopefully I can enjoy it for a few more years on this beautiful land.

Rachel: Yeah, exciting, I would love to get a closer look at the deck and the tiny house again. 

Marie: So off grid living, for me, meant um you kind of, you are in control of what goes inside your house and what comes out of your house. I don't know, for some reason in my head it was pretty straightforward: you've got your systems going on and then during the weekend you do some gardening and then you can be self-sufficient and off grid. I thought it was easy.

Now that I'm in, it's just so much work and maintenance and maybe not a full-time job but close if you want to do things properly. It is a lot harder than what I thought it would be but very rewarding, I don't think I could live any other way now cuz I don't know I feel very responsible for my impact, I guess. I don't want anyone to be in charge of like my water or my electricity if if I can do it myself or my waste. I'm very stubborn so I like to do stuff myself and make my own mistakes but I it would be actually so nice to have like family or friends around have the same kind of idea. I feel like maybe an advice for someone who would want to start in that journey is try to find a good community of people that have the same values as you and are not too far away.

So my day-to-day routine in my tiny house would be; I wake up just looking everywhere and be like I build this, just living my best life! I wake up and go straight to work I'm a carpenter so my day-to-day routine looks pretty much like everyone else except when I get home there's always something to fix or something to build. So for a holiday I usually go to my friend's house for a couple of days and I can just actually chill but when I'm here I'm always doing something or if I'm not I'm just thinking about it if I'm trying to relax on my bed I'm like I need to fix this and that but but it is fun and you feel like you've got a purpose it's not like work to just work, so yeah. Boring, boring day-to-day life like a normal person except you feel really good about yourself. 

Rachel: So you've got a few more trees growing in here? 

Marie: Yeah, that's my latest edition so I just planted a few trees. They were in pots for like literally a year before I decided to plant them and hopefully they grow a bit bigger and um give me a little bit more privacy. Like, I'm pretty pretty isolated or pretty sheltered here but I can still see the road a little bit so just extra privacy and I didn't want to build a fence too much I did plant a few trees and hopefully they do the job. 

Rachel: And I see you've had a couple of chickens floating around? 

Marie: Yes, yes they like free range, they live their own life, they are -I've got three rescue chickens it's just nice to have them around they always follow you hoping for food. I would advise anyone, everywhere, just rescue some chickens, they're fun! It would be awesome to have a couple of raised garden beds at the back of the house to have some vegetables. I will eventually get to it. 

Rachel: All in the 5 year plan?

Marie: Yeah, exactly!

From the beginning I started this journey, I stick to that way of thinking that I'm just only going to do what feels right. If I wake up and I throw myself into a project there's that feeling like it's just meant to be and it just has to happen and it just feels right. 

Any big decision I take, like starting an apprenticeship at like 30 years old, um when you could just you know get a better job, be paid more, and it's another way of you know buying a tiny house, like instead of building it you could just have a better job just climb the ladder and um and do it this way, but it just didn't feel right and when I was like 'you know what I want to build every day' and it's going to be shit to start from scratch again and just go back to uni after you passed 30, and be very uncomfortable with starting something new.

Because you going to suck at this start, anything you start you're just going to be terrible at it and past 30 you're just like 'I just want to be good at what I do, I don't want life to be difficult anymore,' so even starting my apprenticeship, knowing all of this it just felt right it felt like the right decision. So I have never been happier than when I have a purpose. Having a life that align with your value and your purpose is something that like is probably the best thing you can do for yourself.

Rachel: So what have we got going on here so here?

Marie: So here is my grey water system so I'm trying to reuse the water that 
I use for my sink and my shower. So (for my future garden!), so the water is 
going to go from my house to like a worm farm and then I've got a little grease 
trap, and then it gets filter into that bath there. There's a bath with a lot of like 
different types of gravel - filters the water, there's sand as well, and then it gets 
into like a little container with a pump and pumps it back into this first container 
and then when it's filled up the part that is clarified is going to overflow into this one and then from there I can use it on my garden.

Rachel: That's so cool! So that handles your grey water, what are you doing with your black water?

Marie: So I've got two systems, I've got my digester that's just there. So I've got all of my food waste that goes into my insinkerator that is pumped to that digester and my toilet as well. If I don't want to use that system during the winter I've got a composting toilet outside as well. But yes so it's going to treat my waste, I'm going to get fertiliser from that, that I have to dilute with water. I can use it on my orchard, cos you don't want to use straight it on uh straight on vegetables, and I also get gas from it um to cook. 

Rachel: That's very cool.

Marie: It is in theory, it's really cool but because I was away for a few months and 
I came back um cos it's a system that's alive, I have to re-start it which means 10 buckets of horse or cow manure just mixing it, it's fun it's fun, I'm going to have a fun Sunday this week, yeah for sure! So that's my system sorted.

Rachel: Oh that's very cool so you're really getting close to that self-sufficiency that you were talking about last time we met?

Marie: Exactly, yes it took a while and a few more tweaks and I should should get there.

So building a house is straightforward it's just uh just steps after another, after another, just feels really daunting at the start. But but the rest of all of those things you have to learn to be self-sufficient and off grid. It's a bit trickier cos there's not like a book that tells you how to do that. The best advice I could give to people is 
literally to just start, cos once you take that decision things are just going to fall into place and it's not going to be necessarily easy.

What allowed me to build everything and not go crazy with the amount of work that was ahead of me was is to divide everything into three. So every day I had three goals, every week I had three goals that were a bit bigger, every month  three goals, and every 3 months three goals. So you don't have like a huge to-do list you always have three so it's more manageable. That rule of three really like helped me a lot to feel like 'okay three things are not too much' - they can be big they can be small but don't go overboard. Starting is hardest, the middle is okay, finishing is also pretty hard cos you're never finished. Just uh say bye to your free time, and you're going to build a lot of resilience and a lot of patience as well. 

Rachel: It's very good to be back here.

Marie: It's been like bit of a change around here but not too much, actually. Inside is pretty pretty similar to last time.

Rachel: Yeah, I'm still blown away by how beautiful it is in here, you've done an amazing job. 

Marie: Thank you, thank you I'm still like - now that I'm a real builder and I just see everything that I built like the first time obviously I'm like 'I should redo this or that'. Things that you can't really see but I'm like a this is revolting now but from a professional perspective. But I was very stubborn on the fact that I didn't want anyone to help me so I wanted to figure out the inside of the house. The only thing I've redone is the kitchen cos after the interview I worked for a few months for a cabinet maker. So I was like now I know how to do it, so I just redid a few drawers and stuff, but pretty much everything is the same.

Rachel: Yeah it's really cool in here. But one big change - This was a couch before? 

Marie: It was, it was but I'm like I know you now I'm just going leave the bed I didn't want to make the couch up. Actually it's just nice to hang out like this cos, you probably know this, when you've got small spaces it's actually super annoying to have to change things around and like modify things and I'm getting a bit lazier 
about that, I just want the bed to stay the bed, but still love the couch though.

Rachel: Yeah fair enough, cos it has a big chunk that you take out of it right?

Marie: Yeah, yeah that's that part like I can just um pull it out and I just never know what to do with that box though, I usually just leave it outside the house.

Rachel: Why did you choose to make your tiny house sort of this orientation?

Marie: I didn't have that much option for a kitchen area and I wanted like usually you would have maybe the kitchen and then the bifold but I was I didn't want the tiny house to be too long so I was like either you have like a nice opening on the outside or like a spacious kitchen and I went with that but yeah I'm not regretting it. The only thing I regret is having that window that doesn't open, it would have been so nice I would have had that like inside outside flow. But it was cheaper at the time so I just went without that, thought I would be okay but yeah if I could change that I would.

Rachel: So what's your favourite part of the interior? 

Marie: I'd say the view from this window like when I wake up in the morning and I put my blinds up and I see the view I'm like this is the best.

Rachel: And I noticed the plant wall behind me is had a bit of an upgrade? Yes, so um I think last time you came here I wanted to have like a green wall which I did I had like those felt pockets and you watered the top and it just like goes to the bottom and I just couldn't keep anything alive to be honest.

Rachel: Yeah it definitely seems like you learn a lot living in this place?

Marie: Yeah made a lot of mistakes, killed a lot of plants but yeah we're getting there.

I have the Tiny House Kit from GridFree with the hybrid inverter. It's been performing great for the past four years. I've got the chance to connect to the grid in winter. Cos I picked a location that I wasn't the best, I've got a great view but I've got big trees around so and if I've got a bad season like a lot of rain and not a lot of sun I can just plug into the grid and when summer is good again I can just rely on the solar um panels. So really really happy with it, I am not someone that understands um electricity really well, I did my homework when I had to purchase 
the kit but the team made it extra easy for me to understand everything. They were just nice, available, very helpful, and they still here actually and just knowing 
that it's not a company that doesn't really care just want to sell you stuff it just changes everything, yeah I would definitely recommend it.

My life hasn't changed too much since I'm on solar cos again the system is so well done that you feel like you're just on the grid all the time there's not too much maintenance to do, you just have to be a bit more aware of what you use. But it's just not an inconvenience in general. What I love though is when there's a power outage in the street I'm now the only one with power.

So this is the outdoor area.

Rachel: This is a beautiful space that you've built, has it just completely changed how you use the area?

Marie: Yes, yes, I used to just come outside my house, just having to walk in the grass or in the mud depending on the weather. But yeah, it just changes completely, it's like I've got like a huge house now and I also feel like I can have my friends over, like before I was like 'oh you know it's so small maybe I can have like three people, that's it, max,' and now just trying to compensate for like not being able to have people inside now I'm like 'okay I need a couch I need 
like a big table I need another table outside,' I'm going all out.

I remember when I showed the size to my mom like I was just telling her I'm planning to build a deck outside and I sent her a picture cos I drew it with lines and she's like 'what why do you need this like huge like outdoor area like this, like your house is small it's going to look so stupid.' Thanks, mum! As I was building it I was like 'this is too big like I don't need such a big area' but now that it's here I'm like actually I'm pretty happy with it. I honestly thought it would be a two weekend project, I don't know why I was so delusional about it, but it took me like three months like as I was working as well. But I didn't think it would take me so long but I'm happy it's done now. 

Rachel: Well you've come out with something really beautiful and I think having a  bigger deck it's something that you always seem to want, it's just more outdoor space.

Marie: Yeah for some reason! So if you have friends coming over then there is space for everybody.

Rachel: Yeah, absolutely! And so what's going on with this bit up here?

Marie: So I thought it would be a good idea to have like a transparent roof in and it was really hot in here really hot like and like and I was like okay I need to do something about it! So I've got this it's kind of like a tent vibe.

Rachel: Yeah I like it it makes it really cozy.

Marie: Yeah it does, it does, you're right. 

Rachel: It feels like a big lounge with all these soft spaces.

Marie: Yeah, yeah, yeah and as I was building it and I'm living in it I just see more 
problems so obviously I knew that but as soon as it rains I've got rain coming both sides, this side as well. Um so I had those I have those blinds on each side that are protecting me from the rain might add some more here but I'm just as I', going I'm just analysing all the problems and solving them as they arise. But yeah, so far so good but I'm really really enjoying this space.

Rachel: Yeah, oh you should it's awesome!

Marie: My setup is is really one of my favourite feature, cos people always ask me about it and I can just be like yeah I'm just saying I'm off-grid, I'm off-grid and I'm trying to be self-sufficient is my favourite thing to say I don't know it's like a big flex for me. What I love most about living like this is I always have a good story to tell people, it became my identity like now I'm the tiny house person. So when people ask me what I do I say I'm a carpenter I live in a tiny house and like we've got like a conversation starter straight away and everyone is really interested. 

If I meet a young woman she usually is talking to me about she wants to build stuff as well like I feel like I can relate to so many people. I did environmental science because I wanted to save the planet, I guess like most of us when we study environmental science we're like 'oh I want to make a difference'. And I feel like this little skill of having a tiny house and being off-grid and self-sufficient is my way of like having a conversation with someone and maybe I can prove to people that it's not necessarily easy but it's doable, and everyone can do a little bit.

I wouldn't change anything cos it's my journey. Life in general is always like throwing curve balls at you so if you have to start over it's okay. (Speaking French:) On ne peut pas se reposer sur se lauriers - You can't rest on your laurels. I'm going to be happy no matter what just go for it, and everything is going to fall into place!