The Mayday Experiment: A Tiny House and a Not-So-Tiny Christmas Wish List

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All I want for Christmas is...what, exactly?

The tiny house done, that's the big thing. Which, given my need to earn a living and function in the world, is happening much more slowly -- and expensively -- than my initial unrealistic expectations had predicted. Isn't that always the way? When I first made the decision to go with this project, almost a year ago now, I had envisioned that by this winter, I would be living in my tiny house off the grid, as opposed to paying Xcel Energy over $600 a month to heat a drafty warehouse. I figured, how hard could it be?

As with everything, the answer is always: pretty damned hard. But never, ever impossible.

See also: The Mayday Experiment Looks to the Future -- Through Windows

In the new year, fundraising will begin in earnest, and I need to get a handle on planning the route for my journey. I have a steep learning curve on the filmmaking aspect of this; despite my experience in making art videos, a film is a different matter and I badly need to update my limited equipment. And I need to get a little more realistic with my time...not just with the build and the fundraising, but dealing with how much I need to get rid of, how much I will put in storage, what stays and what goes, where all this art lives, planning all the visits to schools, where I will park, how I will pay for it all.

It's enough to make my head spin. And it does, daily. I've never taken on any project so big, and on some days, it feels like it swallows my life. It is my life, really.

In these updates, I've mostly focused on building of the tiny house because -- let's face it -- that's far more sexy and makes for better pictures. But there is also the administrative side: the planning, the writing, the hours and hours of research. And as all-consuming as the tiny house project is, I still have the urge to continue my other artwork, still have other projects nipping at the corners of my brain.

That's the thing about artists: We do what we do on top of all the things we must do to survive. We dance as fast as we can, doing a minimum of two jobs, usually: one for the money, and two for the show. And even then, swapping hats liberally - today I'm a writer, tomorrow I'm a graphic designer, next week I'm a teacher, and in between the cracks like water, I'm an artist, always. To make it work takes equal parts faith and delusion, with a high tolerance for risk and a dash of crazy.

But as much as choosing this life path initially was a calling (as any artist would tell you), so, too, is this tiny house project. So, inspired by Amanda Palmer's book, The Art of Asking, I figured I would put it out there: my truncated Christmas wish list for the Mayday Experiment, which constantly evolves and changes. As this is a tiny house, maybe there are even leftovers from home-renovation projects that could be of use, and so many people have already been not only willing, but eager to help me in this crazy endeavor.

The next step, after we are done with the windows, will be the roof, and though no one could possibly give me two guaranteed warm days in a row for installation, I have been gifted with some wonderful EPDM roofing from my friend Christiane White of Tutela Handbags . So the next immediate needs in tiny-house land are rubber roofing adhesive, EPDM seam tape and lap sealant, enough for 275 square feet (roughly) of area with the slope. We also need flashing, roof edge, gutters and PVC Pipe.

After that, the big need will be insulation. In an ideal world, someone could donate blow-in EcoFoam, but in lieu of that, any high R-value, 3.5 inch thick insulation would work - the more eco-friendly the better, though rigid foam is the easiest to work with.

Very soon, I will need the services of an electrician and a plumber: If you believe in my cause and could donate some time, please let me know! I will also need Romex, conduit, receptacles, fixtures, wire nuts, PVC pipe, drains, a tankless water heater, pumps and a water filtration system. Luckily, I have already purchased a 40-gallon fresh water and greywater tank, but I will still need conventional hookups for those times in dry areas or if I just need a bath. (Forty gallons isn't a lot - if you're curious, you can see how much you use in the average day in this handy chart.)

For the siding, I need ½" planks of lumber. I plan to burn them Shou Sugi Ban-style, and though cedar or beetle-kill pine would be best, anything would work -- including used lumber. Charring the wood is an ancient Japanese practice that provides a beautiful natural finish that repels rain, rot, fire and insects for eighty years. (So if anyone has a propane torch that I could borrow, that would also be helpful!)

But because I'm an artist, I'll be mixing it up with found materials: the panels from the mural on my old business, Capsule Art and Event Center, that were painted by Scot LeFever and Shitty Kitten, which will be cut up into planks, and some gorgeous old barnwood I was given when Djuna moved its warehouse.

Other upcoming needs include ¼" Luan or Baltic Birch for the interior walls (drywall, besides being too heavy, is too fragile in a moving building -- a lesson learned in my first mobile project, the Boom Nomadic Co-op), ½" to ¾" furniture-grade plywood for the built-in furniture, 200 square feet of bamboo or cork flooring, and yes, even the kitchen sink.

The biggest need for the tour, though, is going to be a different truck. I love Bertha, but the idea of taking her around the country is folly. But that's down the road...when I'll also need to get a composting toilet, a pellet stove, a DC refrigerator and an alcohol oven. I have one induction cooktop from my time living in the closet, but I'll need three more so it's like a real kitchen, given the fact that I cook a lot and hope to feed people often.

Thinking about all of this is daunting, but as with the whole project, I'm just taking it one day at a time. At one point, the idea of a table saw was daunting; eventually I had put together a wood shop. Step by step, this project is becoming a reality, and each step of the way friends have stepped up and helped: They've offered advice, encouragement and support, climbed ladders and driven screws. I feel blessed and grateful, and know that no matter how huge this tiny thing is, everything will continue to come together, one piece of hardware at a time.

You can support the tiny house through Patreon, and in the new year I will be launching a crowdfunding campaign after I have all my ducks neatly in a row. If you have access to anything that I listed here or want to volunteer to help, please contact me at L@Lynnxe.com!

Happy holidays.

Lauri Lynnxe Murphy, a 2005 Westword MasterMind winner, is blogging out her tiny house project, The Mayday Experiment, on Show and Tell. If you'd like to support her journey, you can pledge here. See more of her work at lynnxe.com.

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