The Mayday Experiment: No Way Out but Through

Scrolling through Facebook a few weeks ago, I happened upon a post that got me excited, a listing on Craigslist for a gutted mobile boutique in a 1997 Ford e350 bus. Clicking through the pictures of the well-cared-for bus, with a hardwood floor and integrated lights, I found a familiar feeling stirring in my gut.

Being a dreamer, it has always been easy for the smallest thing to take me on a flight of fancy – it’s sort of how I wound up on this path in the first place. One wacky idea or new opportunity can make me spin out of control, mentally changing my entire life and fitting it within that dream. Of course, dreams are rarely reality — which, again, leads to crazy notions: “I will build a tiny house in three months for $25,000! Because the Internet says I can!” But as we now know: The Internet lies.

Or not so much lies as leaves out pertinent facts. Just as I did in making my plans: The idea that my life would ever afford me time to do nothing but build the house for months, even with help, was nothing but pure fantasy, as was my initial budget. Sure — people build tiny houses with dumpster-found parts and in a few months, but those tiny houses aren’t built to last, or to stand up to the vibration of being on the road.

But the familiar trap I find myself in is the same trap most of us are in: We work and work to keep a roof over our heads. Building that new roof — one that won’t require as many hours of work in the long run — is a struggle. Baby steps make it seem as if I will never get there, and in the meantime…gotta keep paying for both roofs. Which means working, and no time for building the tiny house, squeezing in a Saturday here and there while running from job to job all week.

When things feel daunting, it’s easy for other scenarios and flights of fancy to take hold. Before I knew it, I had constructed an entire new life based on this bus I hadn’t seen and couldn’t afford. Lucy and Ethel have nothing on me for crazy schemes. I would sell the tiny house and buy this bus, which could easily pull a tiny house, and then convert this bus into my living space since half the work was already done…and then I would buy a new trailer and START OVER. Building a new tiny house. While not paying rent. Parked…somewhere. I would spend less on the new one and know what I was doing…I would build in the upper deck and porch I wished I had designed…and I could devote all hours to it while living in my fantasy bus. Yeah – I know – CRAZY.

But at the time, for a minute, it didn’t sound crazy; it sounded logical, do-able, the answer to the problem of the time/money conundrum. The idea spun further and further out of control as I obsessively perused the pictures in the ad. I didn’t need a mobile boutique, but that was plenty of room to make a lovely living space…with intact windows and a lovely hardwood floor. Was it crazy?
My phone interrupted my musings, and soon my mother was listening to a spill of crazy words, thoughts, musings…none of them making any sense. “Why would you sell the tiny house to build another tiny house? That’s dumb!” But in my head, I could see it: one tinier house pulling another one day, in the future…a rosy future with a lot of missing details.

Exasperated, my mom stopped trying to talk sense to me and I decided to turn to the one person who will tell me the truth whether I want to hear it or not: my friend Sandra Renteria, who lives in Mexico City. Tough-minded and a brilliant business strategist, Sandra has built her brand, Casa Otomi, from a small Etsy shop into the home of the hottest must-have accessories, with beautifully embroidered, whimsical animals cavorting across Oaxacan textiles.

Usually, I call Sandra with love woes, because her life advice is often unparalleled; I almost always disagree with it, but I can’t argue that a good percentage of the time she turns out to be right. And she knows me, and my flights of fancy, and crazy dreams…because she has them herself. Only hers are tempered by business acumen and practicality, unlike my own.
She punched holes in my theoretical dream bus in two seconds flat: “You can’t get enough for the tiny house to do that at the stage it’s at,” she said flatly. “There’s no way."

A couple of quick Googles told me she was completely right, and that idea was forever put to bed. I wouldn’t be selling tiny, buying the bus and starting over. And just as instantly as the dream was deflated, I was relieved, and realized: Of COURSE it was a crazy idea.

I suppose you have to dream a crazy idea to get anywhere, and I’m already in the midst of one. I just have a short attention span and am easily distracted by shiny new buses. But I’m also frustrated with the time this is taking, understandably. The people building tiny homes in films and on TV shows are often fully devoted to this, though stories of people in my situation abound, too, people who struggle through, bit by bit.

In talking with my friends, each time, they express surprise that I am frustrated. My friend Bob’s dad built a cabin in the mountains, and even though he was retired and devoted every day to the project, it took him five years to do alone. Heather, my dear friend in southern Colorado, just finished a garage that will house her studio that she worked on with her husband for eight years. I’m not saying I’m going to take eight years, but…maybe I need to go easier on myself than I have been. Maybe deadlines aren’t a thing for this project.

This column has become its own thing and has a life of its own. I’m going to let it go where it takes me, and just do my best to push forward when I can, but I’m gonna stop feeling bad about it. The tiny house will take the time it takes…one Saturday at a time.  

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 or here. See more of her work at

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Lauri Lynnxe Murphy