I’m all too familiar with failure (and even wrote a short book about one of my failures). If you’ve ever reached for your dreams or tried something “different” you’ve probably experienced a difficult failure as well. At the very least, you’ve experienced some kind of failure on some kind of level during your lifetime.
Two of the problems with dreams can be that we set not just unrealistic expectations, but an unrealistic timeline for accomplishing those dreams.
Setting unrealistic expectations isn’t a massive problem if you subscribe to Norman Vincent Peale’s idea of shooting for the moon because even if you miss you’ll be among stars.
But doing that isn’t being intellectually honest. It’s likely one of the reasons so many New Year’s Resolutions fail. Not for lack of want or positive thinking, but for lack of structure and plan. Interestingly, Mr Peale’s ideas were never accepted by the mental health community. (For good reason. But let’s not focus on that today.)
How To Beat Unrealistic Expectations
What can you do instead of setting unrealistic expectations?
Well, break down the unrealistic expectation into chunks of easier-to-reach expectations. You might even go so far as to break them down to daily tasks.
Let’s say you want to build a tiny house and you know it’s going to cost you $36,000. Now let’s say you want to save this money in one year. This is your unrealistic expectation. To break it down means you need to save $3,000 per month. To break it down further it means you need to save just about $100 per day. Now let’s say your earnings, after taxes, are $120 per day. You’ve just learned this goal will end in failure. Even if you “shoot for the moon” and save 50% of your paycheck (difficult, but quite doable) you’ll be only 60% of the way there.
You have three options in this case. Earn more to save more. Cut expenses to save more. Or recognize that the best idea is to reset your expectations. If you save $60/day it will take you 600 days to save $36,000. It sounds like a lot of time, but it’s not even two years. And you’ll feel better about consistently reaching your savings goals (daily, weekly, monthly) instead of consistently failing due to unrealistic expectations.
What About Your Tiny House Build Timeline?
Another goal you need to set with your tiny house is not only how to afford it, but how to build it. If you’re building it yourself you need to find a place to do the build. Will you need to save all of your money, buy materials almost all at once, rent a build space, and spend a few months working hard to get it done? Or can you buy materials over time because you already have a free space to build so you can go as the budget allows? Or maybe you have some combination of both or something else entirely.
There is no right answer.
But there is a right answer for you.
And this is where I failed on my own tiny house build.
How I Failed Our Tiny House Build
I’ve been heading down the path to living tiny for years. All the way back in 2009 I sold almost everything I owned except what fit in a backpack and began traveling the world. I am a big fan of minimalism and I’m mindful of not owning things that end up owning me.
I originally had the plan to begin my own tiny house project after I watched the progress Tammy and Logan made on their tiny. The idea has stuck in my craw since then and I’ve been trying to figure out how to make it happen while also balancing a normal life.
Anyway, in 2012 I settled in Poland. If you’ve ever been to Europe — or most big cities in the US — you know that apartments are not large. My biggest apartment in Poland was 50m2 (~540 square feet) and the smallest I had was about 30m2 (~320 square feet).
That’s not quite tiny house size, but it proved to me that living small was not only doable, but preferable. The problem with a lot of small apartments is they are not designed well. A tiny house is designed with every space utilized.
You may know that I got married in Poland. (!!!) The process to moving with my wife back to the US was long and tiring since she is not a US citizen. (US Immigration was slow enough. I’m saddened and scared at how it will be with the new administration.)
Anyway, we finally got to the US in late June of 2016, and we had a few different ideas about how to live tiny right away. We started looking at buying a used RV. (At first I tried to get us an RV sponsorship so we could do a road trip just so we could see how we liked it. That didn’t work out.) After checking out RVs, and prices, and everything that goes into owning one we ultimately decided against it.
My original idea, before we ever moved to the US, was to buy a piece of land with friends and/or family and use that as our build space and home. This ended up being unrealistic for many reasons besides just the costs involved. Was I supposed to force my wife to drive an hour per day to get to work just because it’s cheaper to buy land outside of the city? (Right now she can walk to work and boy is that convenient.) And what about me? I love cities! Am I really going to enjoy living where I have to drive 20-30 minutes just to buy groceries?
Once I stopped lying to myself the answer to this whole dilemma became more clear. We need to live in a city, either in an RV/van or in a more “traditional” tiny house. Each has its own benefits, but for me there is something that I think is non-negotiable: I want to build it myself. (Even if that’s taking a box truck or Sprinter and turning it into a home.)
That presents other challenges. One being the housing code. Which is why I donated $100 when Andrew Morrison and others were working on the International Code Council’s Tiny House Appendix. It passed!
Great! I think the ICC Appendix will be a nice step for those of us who want to live in cities. But it’s only the first step. And it all begs the question …
Are We Still Building A Tiny House?
The short answer is, “yes, definitely!”
The intellectually honest answer is, “one step at a time.” We’re no longer setting unrealistic expectations about this and if it takes X amount of years then so be it. But we are doing two things to make this a reality:
- Saving money. I think it may end up that our best bet is to buy a house with a big enough piece of land to put a tiny house and then to rent out the main house. But whatever we eventually do we need to save money, so we’re saving money.
- We moved into an apartment (near Raleigh, NC for my wife’s job) and, in an effort to learn some of the skills I’ll need to build a tiny house, I’ve been learning woodworking. So far my work isn’t great, but I’ve built two small side tables, a little bookshelf, and I’m almost finished with our queen sized platform “pallet” bed. Learning to build and design with wood is going to suit me well in the future and it’s also really fun. (Although wood is expensive!) I’m hoping I’ll build up my skills enough to be able to sell the stuff I make. But, again, one step at a time.
There are a lot more details to this story, but I’m at over 1,300 words here so I think it’s best to save it for another day.
What about you? How are you tiny house goals coming along? Have you had to reset expectations?