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The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir

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Dee William’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific No Dee William’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific Northwest she had painstakingly restored—but, increasingly, it did not include the mortgage payments, constant repairs, and general time-suck of home ownership. A new sense of clarity began to take hold: Just what was all this stuff for? Multiple extra rooms, a kitchen stocked with rarely used appliances, were things that couldn’t compare with the financial freedom and the ultimate luxury—time—that would come with downsizing.             Deciding to build an eighty-four-square-foot house—on her own, from the ground up—was just the beginning of building a new life. Williams can now list everything she owns on one sheet of paper, her monthly housekeeping bills amount to about eight dollars, and it takes her approximately ten minutes to clean the entire house. It’s left her with more time to spend with family and friends, and given her freedom to head out for adventure at a moment’s notice, or watch the clouds and sunset while drinking a beer on her (yes, tiny) front porch.             The lessons Williams learned from her “aha” moment post-trauma apply to all of us, every day, regardless of whether or not we decide to discard all our worldly belongings. Part how-to, part personal memoir, The Big Tiny is an utterly seductive meditation on the benefits of slowing down, scaling back, and appreciating the truly important things in life.


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Dee William’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific No Dee William’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific Northwest she had painstakingly restored—but, increasingly, it did not include the mortgage payments, constant repairs, and general time-suck of home ownership. A new sense of clarity began to take hold: Just what was all this stuff for? Multiple extra rooms, a kitchen stocked with rarely used appliances, were things that couldn’t compare with the financial freedom and the ultimate luxury—time—that would come with downsizing.             Deciding to build an eighty-four-square-foot house—on her own, from the ground up—was just the beginning of building a new life. Williams can now list everything she owns on one sheet of paper, her monthly housekeeping bills amount to about eight dollars, and it takes her approximately ten minutes to clean the entire house. It’s left her with more time to spend with family and friends, and given her freedom to head out for adventure at a moment’s notice, or watch the clouds and sunset while drinking a beer on her (yes, tiny) front porch.             The lessons Williams learned from her “aha” moment post-trauma apply to all of us, every day, regardless of whether or not we decide to discard all our worldly belongings. Part how-to, part personal memoir, The Big Tiny is an utterly seductive meditation on the benefits of slowing down, scaling back, and appreciating the truly important things in life.

30 review for The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir

  1. 5 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This is the memoir of a middle aged single woman that would be an ordinary life except for the fact that she constructed her own tiny house. The story spans about ten years and includes her experiences living in the tiny house. The author's tiny house has a footprint of eighty-four square feet (per my memory which may be off a couple digits) with a loft for sleeping. It was constructed on a trailer but is not intended to be moved frequently. In this particular case it was moved after its constru This is the memoir of a middle aged single woman that would be an ordinary life except for the fact that she constructed her own tiny house. The story spans about ten years and includes her experiences living in the tiny house. The author's tiny house has a footprint of eighty-four square feet (per my memory which may be off a couple digits) with a loft for sleeping. It was constructed on a trailer but is not intended to be moved frequently. In this particular case it was moved after its construction to the back yard of a friend, and then remained there for many more years, and by the end of the book it has not been moved again. Tiny houses differ from RVs or campers in that they are better insulated and are generally equipped with solar panels to enable living off the grid (i.e. no utility bills). The house is equipped with composting toilet and water tank which needs to be filled. This not a how-to manual for tiny house construction. However, this book could serve as an enthusiasm booster for readers aspiring to build their own tiny house. The main goal for the author, and I presume also for most others who live in tiny houses, was to lower the cost of housing to an affordable level and get one's life priorities in order. The author expresses it as follows: I discovered a new way of looking at the sky, the winter rain, the neighbors, and myself; and a different way of spending my time. Most important, I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being comfortable (or having money and property), but instead is linked to a deeper sense of satisfaction--to a sense of humility and gratitude, and a better understanding of who I am in my heart.This book is well written so that the parts of the book that simply describe the more ordinary parts of the author's life are also interesting. I was inspired to read this book by a friend of mine who constructed and is living in a tiny house. I thought this book might help me understand the motivations that inspire some people to do this. My friend recommends this TED talk that provides a clear explanations of the merits of tiny house living. So if you have any interest in the subject I recommend this TED talk because it explains things better than I can.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Charty

    I liked this but I wasn't blown away by it. It seemed to me to have too little memoir and not enough details about the house building and practicalities of living in such a tiny space over the course of a long time. Dee definitely kept the reader at arm's length, which is fine but I found it frustrating that I had a very incomplete portrait of her. She talks a little about her medical condition but drops the info into the narrative in dribs and drabs, so I was confused. It sounded like originall I liked this but I wasn't blown away by it. It seemed to me to have too little memoir and not enough details about the house building and practicalities of living in such a tiny space over the course of a long time. Dee definitely kept the reader at arm's length, which is fine but I found it frustrating that I had a very incomplete portrait of her. She talks a little about her medical condition but drops the info into the narrative in dribs and drabs, so I was confused. It sounded like originally her prognosis was bad, but yet here she is so much later seemingly doing ok. I wanted to know more and that she really is doing alright. The other confusing thing is when the book starts she's an inspector for state(?) government but later it seems she's a teacher but the timeline never really makes clear what happened when. Maybe I'm too nosy but those questions and holes in the story bothered me. Certainly the minimalist-living movement that is gathering steam in the US makes this a timely read but I can see how this lifestyle is not really practical for the vast majority of the people. And issues like where do you take a shower and wash your cloths and get water are addressed but in a very privileged way. Not everyone is going to have awesome friends who will invite you to park your tiny house in their backyard and share their shower with you. Madison, WI is exploring using this tiny house model to address homeless issues, it will be interesting to see what comes of it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    KWinks

    Note: I read an advanced copy of this book. The finished product may be different that what I read. I finally finished this. I went into it gung-ho, as I am currently obsessed with the tiny home movement and mindfulness. Where this bogged down for me was in the day to day drama of hanging out with friends, injuries, and ...well, the "memoir" end of it. Dee is perpetually upbeat and the pollyanna-ness kind of wore on me after awhile. I did LOVE the descriptions of the house: building the house, l Note: I read an advanced copy of this book. The finished product may be different that what I read. I finally finished this. I went into it gung-ho, as I am currently obsessed with the tiny home movement and mindfulness. Where this bogged down for me was in the day to day drama of hanging out with friends, injuries, and ...well, the "memoir" end of it. Dee is perpetually upbeat and the pollyanna-ness kind of wore on me after awhile. I did LOVE the descriptions of the house: building the house, life in the house, parking the house. I just didn't care about anything else. The final chapter is, in my humble opinion, the strongest chapter because it really describes the "why" of Dee's philosophy. Is it wrong that I really wanted to know more about how the composting toilet worked and less about who was having dinner at who's house? Overall, I think it is an interesting read, but I would have liked smoother storytelling. There are some real inconsistencies. For example, Dee is injured in a book store(?) and helped by a librarian (?) in one of the early chapters. Another chapter talks about the dog's odd behavior, features an injury on the ladder, and then a death. And then another death.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Yodamom

    Dee Williams was living the American dream, she had a college education, a well paying job, a mortgage and friends. She thought she was happy she should be right, she had it all. When a health crises slams into her she is faced with a new reality and must find what really matters to her. Her house, her stuff, they are anchors with barbs. She has struggled for years to refurbish her home to mow the lawn to maintain the little things. The time it takes is her life times, her hour, minutes and secon Dee Williams was living the American dream, she had a college education, a well paying job, a mortgage and friends. She thought she was happy she should be right, she had it all. When a health crises slams into her she is faced with a new reality and must find what really matters to her. Her house, her stuff, they are anchors with barbs. She has struggled for years to refurbish her home to mow the lawn to maintain the little things. The time it takes is her life times, her hour, minutes and seconds. She misses having time to live, to just look up at the stars without the pressures of always having so much she needs to do. She has always believed in the magic of books, everything is there if you look. She is not afraid to pick up a wiring book and self teach electrical wiring or any other subject. So when she meets a man who lives simple in a tiny home she starts absorbing information, reading books and starting to believe. She could do this ! She jumps and places a down payment of the first piece of her amazing future. This book was so much more than I expected. I thought it would be about the nuts and bolts of small home building and living. It was, but it was more about a woman with a broken heart who roars like a lion at life. She has heartbreaking moments, moments that had me in tears. Her friends are the kind of people we should all be so lucky to have in our lives. After reading her tale I looked around at all my stuff, all the time I give to it and while I'm not ready to go to that extreme now I do want less time stolen by unloved things. I am so glad this book picked me while I was shelf surfing the library.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. While billed as a book about health scares and building a tiny house, it's not really about that. Yet it's totally about that. I know that makes no sense, just trust me on this one. We all ask the quesition of What If. What if I suddenly had health issues? What if I decided to sell all my stuff? What if I turned left instead of right? What if I hadn't stopped for coffee and got to that intersection where the accident was five minutes I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. While billed as a book about health scares and building a tiny house, it's not really about that. Yet it's totally about that. I know that makes no sense, just trust me on this one. We all ask the quesition of What If. What if I suddenly had health issues? What if I decided to sell all my stuff? What if I turned left instead of right? What if I hadn't stopped for coffee and got to that intersection where the accident was five minutes sooner? What if I decided to sell all my stuff, build a house on a trailer and park it in my friend's backyard and live there for a decade? So we don't all ask ourselves that last one but after reading an article in a doctor's waiting room, Dee Williams asked herself exactly that. Recently diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia with torsades (a heart condition that required a defibrillator to be installed in her chest to shock her heart back into working order when it decided to stop) and later congestive heart failure, Williams takes a look at her life and all the STUFF she's accumulated and wonders why it's that way. Why do we all want the big house with the big yard, filled with furniture and knick knacks and art and waste that accumulates in recycling bins and trash containers to be dumped in a landfill where we never think about it again? Is there another way? That article, the one she just so happened upon in a magazine about a man half a country away that packed his whole life into his new tiny house, found Dee at just the right time. So she asked what if. What if I decided to sell all my stuff, build a house on a trailer that's 84 square feet and park it in my friend's backyard and live there for a decade? “What would happen if I just … sort of … did that? What if I sold my my big house with its rats in the front yard, the mortgage, the hours of dusting, mopping, cleaning, vacuuming, painting, grass cutting, and yard pruning? How would it feel so live so light?” So that's what she did, using as many reclaimed goods as she could, Dee Williams set out to build herself a tiny house. How tiny? A whopping 84 square feet. Take a look at your area rug. Picture a utility trailer. That's the size of the footprint (mobile as it may be) of Dee's house. After months of work, building her home herself with rented power tools and occasionally the help of some friends, she completed her tiny little home on her tiny little trailer and set out to head about 100 miles north to Olympia, Washington. Cute, isn't it? The thing that Williams never directly addresses is that her lifestyle works because other people don't live that way. She lives in a friend's backyard (and the former government employee in me immediately screamed "zoning laws! How did she get away with that?" Short answer: Telling a small lie or two when the city told her it wasn't allowed.), she showers in their shower (because she opted not to include one in her house and save the space), she stores her frozen goods in their freezer, watches their tv, hides out in their house when there are storms ripping through the area. It's a great idea in theory, and has clearly worked well enough for Dee to live in her tiny house for the last decade, but it's because of her very giving friends and her willingness to run across a yard from the "big house" to her "tiny house" in nothing but a towel that allows her to live the way she does. Yes, there are these survivalist folks that live off the land and don't use indoor plumbing or want hot water. Dee's not necessarily one of those. She's a conservationist and environmentalist, certainly, but she's not exactly living completely independent in her tiny house. It's not a criticism or critique, just an observation that isn't really talked about. What really stands out in the book, between lists of belongings she gave away and discussion of a composting toilet (no thank you!), is Dee's spirit. She's an adventurer by nature, a risk taker, and has a sense of humor to carry her through all the ups and downs. She's sick, yes, but never asks for sympathy or even really talks much to the people in her life about her heart issues. She won't play the invalid. She'll climb on a ladder in flip flops holding a nail gun instead. The bigger lesson in The Big Tiny isn't building plans or getting rid of all of your possessions or living one day at a time. It's about community more than anything else. Her circle of friends, the life she carved out for herself, the family they created together on one lot with two big houses and one tiny one tucked into the back corner. It's about looking outside ourselves and outsides of our stuff. It's not about square footage or dishes or anything you can touch and own. In her own words, what's needed is a sense of community and "a sense of home that extends past our locked doors, past our neighbors’ padlocks, to the local food co-op and library, the sidewalks busted up by old trees." Dee seems to have achieved that, all while living her big life in her tiny house. 4 out 5 for me. DISCLAIMER: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for review via Netgalley.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Monika

    Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall: After being diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, Dee Williams started to re-examine her life, her possessions, and what matters most to her. She decided to build an 84-square-foot house on a flatbed trailer, from scratch, on her own. I'm fascinated by the idea of living in such a small space, especially one that can be moved from place to place. The author's introspection gave me a lot to reflect upon personally, and it wa Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall: After being diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, Dee Williams started to re-examine her life, her possessions, and what matters most to her. She decided to build an 84-square-foot house on a flatbed trailer, from scratch, on her own. I'm fascinated by the idea of living in such a small space, especially one that can be moved from place to place. The author's introspection gave me a lot to reflect upon personally, and it was fascinating to read about how she went about downsizing her life. However, Williams would often jump around in her narrative, following rabbit trails as she reminisced, skipping around in time, and that detracted from a sense of coherence. Scattered as it could be, I thoroughly enjoyed the content. I was never once bored while reading. Keep in mind that this isn't a do-it-yourself memoir. It's a built-it-myself memoir. A major life change such as Dee's forces a person into a great deal of internal reflection. That's what this memoir gives the reader: a human interest story. When I finished reading The Big Tiny, I felt like I'd really gotten to know Dee Williams. I would rate this closer to 3 1/2 stars. I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cher

    3 stars - It was good. Was less about minimalism and more about her personal life than I was expecting, but still an interesting and thought provoking read. Those interested in tiny house living will also find this one worthwhile. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: Most important, I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being 3 stars - It was good. Was less about minimalism and more about her personal life than I was expecting, but still an interesting and thought provoking read. Those interested in tiny house living will also find this one worthwhile. ------------------------------------------- Favorite Quote: Most important, I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being comfortable (or having money and property), but instead is linked to a deeper sense of satisfaction—to a sense of humility and gratitude, and a better understanding of who I am in my heart. First Sentence: For months now, I’ve been waking up at four in the morning.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joel

    I got this book because I have an interest on the Tiny House movement. I watch the tiny house blog on FB and my daughter is interested in TEDX talks. We watched Dee Williams on Youtube give her TED talk. Dee and I have alot in common. Wea re the same age, have lived similar lives in a lot of ways. I was (am) a kayaker, not a climber as Dee was but the living in houses with too many roommates without proper heat, or running water and then getting up at 3 am to drive hundreds of miles in a snowsto I got this book because I have an interest on the Tiny House movement. I watch the tiny house blog on FB and my daughter is interested in TEDX talks. We watched Dee Williams on Youtube give her TED talk. Dee and I have alot in common. Wea re the same age, have lived similar lives in a lot of ways. I was (am) a kayaker, not a climber as Dee was but the living in houses with too many roommates without proper heat, or running water and then getting up at 3 am to drive hundreds of miles in a snowstorm to paddle some frozen river. I get it. Then I read the book and was really blown away. I wonder if I could put my life into perspective the way Dee does. I hope she writes more and I wish her success in all she does. I truly enjoyed this book in so many ways. This book really spoke to me about life. Not in a preachy way that we are all over consuming Americans. It spoke to my heart about peeling way all the bullshit and really connecting with who we are. Thanks and praises to Dee.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Alex Owens

    In a time where budget are getting tighter and the need to trim budgets has made a lot of people take a harder look at what they waste their hard earned money on, this inspirational book had me ready to sell everything and build my own little tiny house. Seriously, I started a binder and everything. But I digress. It wasn't a how-to book about the tiny home revolution, but part Why you should consider it and part memoir. It was moving, well-written and well worth a read. In a time where budget are getting tighter and the need to trim budgets has made a lot of people take a harder look at what they waste their hard earned money on, this inspirational book had me ready to sell everything and build my own little tiny house. Seriously, I started a binder and everything. But I digress. It wasn't a how-to book about the tiny home revolution, but part Why you should consider it and part memoir. It was moving, well-written and well worth a read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    THIS IS NOT A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW I struggled with a lot of this one. There are moments of casual xenophobia (Russians are described as speaking “gibberish”) and classism (tell me again, woman who could afford to buy a house, how being a member of the owning class is meaningless). What I struggled with most was her internalized ablism that overshadowed most of the book. She frequently describes aspects of being chronically ill that she was desperately trying to avoid, that she saw as shameful an THIS IS NOT A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW I struggled with a lot of this one. There are moments of casual xenophobia (Russians are described as speaking “gibberish”) and classism (tell me again, woman who could afford to buy a house, how being a member of the owning class is meaningless). What I struggled with most was her internalized ablism that overshadowed most of the book. She frequently describes aspects of being chronically ill that she was desperately trying to avoid, that she saw as shameful and weak, and it was very hard in those moments not to look at my own life without being filled shame and despair. She imagined her future, presented in terms of her worst nightmare: living in a hospital bed set up in a friend’s house—a kind of makeshift hospice—lying there alone, staring at the ceiling while everyone else ate dinner in the next room, and I was filled with rage. It's taken me a bit to work through this and find the center of why I reacted so strongly to this. I was angry because of the implication that to be sick is to be burdensome, to be sick is to be living a pointless life, and that a future filled with sickness (a future I also face) is one to be feared beyond all else. More than that, I was upset by this image of lying alone while others went about their lives around her. I imagined myself in a similar future, living with friends because I couldn’t take care of myself, essentially waiting to die, while they ate in another room, despite my presence nearby, and let me tell you this: I couldn’t make it jibe with what I know of my friends. They would take me in, yes, of course they would, but I know with utter certainty that if I couldn’t join them at the table, they would join me by my bed unless I asked them to let me rest alone. I was (and am) angry because of the way most people think of and act around chronically ill people, even those who are their friends. She is not an inconvenience, and neither am I. Some of this gets better near the end. Once she gets the house in place, she begins to live in community in a way she never had before. The people who give her space in their backyard are the caretakers of an elderly woman and are raising a child, and Dee becomes part of that life. She participates in all the difficult, dirty, and intimate parts of caring for an older person, and she joins in the rearing of the kid. But it’s not quite enough. She tells the story of needing an oxygen generator for her heart condition. She ended up getting rid of it, not because she didn’t need it anymore, but because she was ashamed of it. She tells the story of a neighbour asking about it, and instead of explaining that she’s sick and needs it, she laughs it off. She tells us what she wanted to say, though: “…[I] am using an oxygen generator because that’s what sick people do, what weak and infirm people do as they try to string together longer, better days to spite shorter, more fucked-up expectations.” I felt like I had been slapped in the face. She is covered with shame at being sick, and it permeates everything in this book. I spent a lot of the book angry at the author. Now mostly I’m angry at a world that made her feel so much shame. Kendra CW: (view spoiler)[the dog dies. (hide spoiler)]

  11. 5 out of 5

    miteypen

    This book is fun to read: the author obviously has an upbeat and humorous approach to life and she is able to convey that in her writing. In fact, it was a lot more entertaining than I had expected of what I thought was going to be more a DIY manual than a memoir. This makes sense once you learn that the author owns and operates a company that gives workshops, sells blueprints and generally walks people through the building of their own tiny house. If you're looking for the how-to part, or just This book is fun to read: the author obviously has an upbeat and humorous approach to life and she is able to convey that in her writing. In fact, it was a lot more entertaining than I had expected of what I thought was going to be more a DIY manual than a memoir. This makes sense once you learn that the author owns and operates a company that gives workshops, sells blueprints and generally walks people through the building of their own tiny house. If you're looking for the how-to part, or just want to learn more about tiny houses, you need to check out her company's website at http://padtinyhouses.com/. There you'll find an downloadable ebook for $20 called "Go House Go." So this book is more about how Ms. Williams became a tiny-house builder, inhabitant and proponent. One question I had was, "What kind of person would do such a thing?" and this book answers that question very well. Another reviewer said that this book reminded her of Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail and I agree. Both women are adventurer types with nothing to lose (at the time that their stories take place) and a lot of grit and guts. I can't imagine doing what either of them did, but then I'm not remotely like them to start with. What really impressed me about Ms. Williams' story is that she tackled and met this challenge even though (because of?) a diagnosis she received when she was forty-one of congestive heart failure. I admire the way she absolutely refuses to play the invalid. I can't say whether she has played fast and loose with her health since I don't know her or her exact medical condition. But I will say this: I have no doubt that when she does die, she will have no regrets and will leave this life on her terms. Not all of us can say that. You can see more of Dee Williams and her house if you Google her: there are some videos of her giving a TED talk, giving a tour of her home and being interviewed, as well as numerous articles online and references to others in print magazines. You'll be glad you got to know her.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    Even though most of the audience for this book is likely to be those who live in a tiny house or are interested in doing so, The Big Tiny is very much NOT a how-to manual. Instead, it is much more the story of one very interesting woman's life and the huge journey she undertook which led her to new emotional depths and ultimately a more fulfilling life. Many of the tiny home proponents, at least the ones in my life, seem to talk about the prospect rather idealistically. What they don't talk about Even though most of the audience for this book is likely to be those who live in a tiny house or are interested in doing so, The Big Tiny is very much NOT a how-to manual. Instead, it is much more the story of one very interesting woman's life and the huge journey she undertook which led her to new emotional depths and ultimately a more fulfilling life. Many of the tiny home proponents, at least the ones in my life, seem to talk about the prospect rather idealistically. What they don't talk about, or even seem to want to acknowledge, are that there are any hardships. (I find many of these people think similarly about other things—perhaps they think they'll be more convincing to others if they pretend everything is rainbows and unicorns?) Personally, I'm less likely to believe that a tiny house is utopia for every person who chooses it, as these people seem to try and convince others. Instead, I want to know about the parts that weren't that great, and how one can rise to the challenge that your bold life choice has given you. Instead of using her 200-some page book to gush over and over about how great her house on wheels is, Dee takes the reader on a journey. A journey in a real world, where not everything is perfect. Dee buys a house at 34. Her journey starts with a bang several years later, in the form of a heart attack. As she steps along her path she encounters obstacles, from severely underestimating the amount of time her home will take to build to giving away all her stuff. About the latter, she is candid: giving away her stuff was much more emotional and (like everything else) took far more time than she had originally estimated. One poignant passage talks about the peculiar items that were so hard to let go of, but which would serve no purpose in her new house. She concludes: "Letting go of 'stuff' allowed the world to collapse behind me as I moved, so I became nothing more or less than who I simply was: Me." Dee confides in readers about things she really would rather not admit, like that she once glued her hair to the house during construction, or that she cried about giving away a popcorn popper. I can tell that we are very different people, but Dee writes about very human emotions that can reach someone whether or not they want to live in a house the size of an area rug. (Personally, I do not pine for a house that small, but have a wish to build one of the larger houses designed by Dee's colleague Jay Shafer.) Highly recommended!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gail Ofterdinger-Ledgister

    I was able to relate 100% to the author's upbringing, values, and quest to find contentment in the simple life. She tells us of trips to Mr Plywood with her father. For me and my dad it was father/daughter bonding at 84 Lumber. And if you ever misplaced Dad, you only had to cruise by the tool department of Sears and there he was, admiring some new what-have-you that he did not yet own. As a consequence, I also know my way around a toolbox and could function as a card-carrying member of the "flan I was able to relate 100% to the author's upbringing, values, and quest to find contentment in the simple life. She tells us of trips to Mr Plywood with her father. For me and my dad it was father/daughter bonding at 84 Lumber. And if you ever misplaced Dad, you only had to cruise by the tool department of Sears and there he was, admiring some new what-have-you that he did not yet own. As a consequence, I also know my way around a toolbox and could function as a card-carrying member of the "flannel shirt" club. I did not have a brother, who, having slept too crumpled one night, declared that his "ass crack was on backwards," but my dad did invent a new language that summer that we built a harpsichord from a kit. The blueprint for placement of drilling the hitch pins and bridge pins did not fit the cabinet! I did not glue my ponytail to the side of building which resulted in a frantic swashbucklerama of scissors and "Friar Tuck" hair-do. This caused my husband to rush into my office upon hearing bark of laughter number 32, to see if I had had a seizure. Her description of the comedy of errors involved in taking care of elderly relatives was right on. I have always suspected that most women wear an invisible Wonder Woman costume underneath their clothing. This author wears hers to bed. And forgets that she has them on... when the fire department shows up. When in the hospital due to failing heart drama, her friend tries to simulate a "happy place" by enthusiastically tap dancing with gusto till they both lighten up. It's real life folks, the ups and downs, the joy and sorrow, and it is universal. The writing style is admirable and entertaining. It will read like you are flying at warp 9. My thanks to the author and the Penguin Firsts to Read program for complimentary early release copy.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    The concept isn't all that novel: have a weird/quirky/alternative experience or lifestyle; write a slick, candid "memoir" (a term becoming more overused by the minute, it seems to me). Dee Williams has all the pieces in place for what could be a really engaging and provocative bit. She takes the easy and watered-down approach. Her big hook is her tiny house: for some reason, she spends less time on the house and more time ranting about personal trials. But there isn't anything particularly inter The concept isn't all that novel: have a weird/quirky/alternative experience or lifestyle; write a slick, candid "memoir" (a term becoming more overused by the minute, it seems to me). Dee Williams has all the pieces in place for what could be a really engaging and provocative bit. She takes the easy and watered-down approach. Her big hook is her tiny house: for some reason, she spends less time on the house and more time ranting about personal trials. But there isn't anything particularly interesting or unique about her. She's a regular person who lives in a tiny house; since her book focuses on the person and not the house, it becomes a rather self-indulgent and mundane read. Not helping is the fact that Williams isn't much of a writer. She has really strange, overly-inventive metaphors that completely break up what little narrative flow there is, and there isn't much of that: one minute she's breaking up with a boyfriend, next she's describing in minute detail the intricacies of electrical wiring, then she's worried about her health and now she's hanging out with her dog. Only the wiring and the dog add anything to the story. The tiny-house trend could use an introduction to a wider audience, but I personally wanted a more focused one. This is a memoir that can't decide if it wants to be a memoir or a manifesto. It's a disjointed sort of book, not entirely unpleasant, but rather haphazard and a little self-indulgent.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dorcas

    Not. One. Picture. *sigh * I feel like I'm giving a lot of negative reviews lately and I don't want to but I'm left with no choice. This book. Its sooooo higgeldy piggeldy. Its like you're reading the thoughts and musings that are bouncing around in the author's head. And I do mean bouncing. There's no form. No direction. Just higgeldy piggeldy. The author tries to be humorous but I just don't get it. She's also got a potty mouth. I don't know what to say. This book needs serious editing and the aut Not. One. Picture. *sigh * I feel like I'm giving a lot of negative reviews lately and I don't want to but I'm left with no choice. This book. Its sooooo higgeldy piggeldy. Its like you're reading the thoughts and musings that are bouncing around in the author's head. And I do mean bouncing. There's no form. No direction. Just higgeldy piggeldy. The author tries to be humorous but I just don't get it. She's also got a potty mouth. I don't know what to say. This book needs serious editing and the author needs her mouth washed out with soap. End of story. I received a free copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion. *UPDATE : It seems I received a 'bare bones', veeeery early, not quite done yet ARC. I am told that new editions are edited further and have pictures. So I would suggest you read the reviews of those who own new copies. I can only review the copy I was given.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lynda Schmidt

    I loved this book and the author. Have some connection as my sister lived in Olympia and knows the people in the story - she was the person who finally got me the book. Reading this made me think more deeply about general goals in life as well as what it takes to have the courage to live what you actually believe. It definitely made cringe, yet again: I have TOO MUCH STUFF and yearn, just a little, for a much simpler life on so many levels. Also love the idea of reading how others have that ah-h I loved this book and the author. Have some connection as my sister lived in Olympia and knows the people in the story - she was the person who finally got me the book. Reading this made me think more deeply about general goals in life as well as what it takes to have the courage to live what you actually believe. It definitely made cringe, yet again: I have TOO MUCH STUFF and yearn, just a little, for a much simpler life on so many levels. Also love the idea of reading how others have that ah-ha moment and then follow it through with action. Inspiring and entertaining. Highly recommended!

  17. 4 out of 5

    JZ

    Dee is a wonderfully inspiring person, and her book reflects her joy and transformation through illness and construction. I just fell in love with her, and was so glad she wrote about it all. She lives 'tiny-er' than any one else I know. Amazing. I'm surprised to see that her other book, "Go, House, Go: How to Build a Tiny House on Wheels" isn't listed on GR yet, although it was published some years ago. I'll see how to add it, because that one has more hands-on information, like Don Louche's boo Dee is a wonderfully inspiring person, and her book reflects her joy and transformation through illness and construction. I just fell in love with her, and was so glad she wrote about it all. She lives 'tiny-er' than any one else I know. Amazing. I'm surprised to see that her other book, "Go, House, Go: How to Build a Tiny House on Wheels" isn't listed on GR yet, although it was published some years ago. I'll see how to add it, because that one has more hands-on information, like Don Louche's book. With the two of those, you can build your own!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    I admit complete bias: I love the tiny house movement. For not being a writer by profession, Williams’ voice is vibrant, honest, and engaging. This is a fun, easy read stuffed with humor. I only wish she had shared more of her actual build experience.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicki Conroy

    This book is about so much more than living in a tiny house. Wonderful memoir!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Any story, about anyone, following through with a dream, is inspiring to me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jamie Cattanach

    Quick, simple read for a simple lifestyle. Lots of heart.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carolw

    This book is not so much about building a tiny house but about the author's life with less stuff, no debt, friends, and what is truly "home". This book is not so much about building a tiny house but about the author's life with less stuff, no debt, friends, and what is truly "home".

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Jane

    I laughed most of the way through The Big Tiny. Dee Williams, a superhero of the tiny house movement, is a very funny and big-hearted lady. While at the doctor’s office waiting for one of her many appointments for her recently-diagnosed congestive heart failure, forty-one year-old Dee finds a magazine article about tiny-house designer Jay Shafer, and she’s instantly hooked. She knows immediately that she not only wants to downsize to a tiny house, but that she wants to build it. She flies to Iow I laughed most of the way through The Big Tiny. Dee Williams, a superhero of the tiny house movement, is a very funny and big-hearted lady. While at the doctor’s office waiting for one of her many appointments for her recently-diagnosed congestive heart failure, forty-one year-old Dee finds a magazine article about tiny-house designer Jay Shafer, and she’s instantly hooked. She knows immediately that she not only wants to downsize to a tiny house, but that she wants to build it. She flies to Iowa to meet Tiny House Man, as she affectionately refers to him, and sets the plan into motion. This is so much more than a book about a tiny house and the woman who accidentally glues her hair to it during construction. This is about a woman who faints at the supermarket and wakes up in the hospital with the realization that she’s dying a bit faster than she thought. It’s also about the zany cast of lovable friends and family that her giant heart encompasses. And RooDee, her loyal, bed-stealing pooch, who faithfully follows Dee through her tiny house journey. If you’re a fan of self-help literature you are likely familiar with the idea that if you are unhappy as an adult you should think about what your eight-year-old self desired and do exactly that. Most recently Gretchen Rubin talks about this in The Happiness Project (great read!) And if you’ve ever tried this method - if you’ve ever found your adult self gleefully riding your bicycle through puddles - you know that it yields amazing results. Simply, it works. Dee takes one look at the tiny house photo, which ‘reminds [her] of everything [she] wanted as an eight-year old,’ and sets out to build the hidey-spot she always dreamed of. She is also feeling the effects of the rat race as well, and is hopeful that having a smaller house with smaller responsibilities will give her more time to enjoy life so that she’s not doing crazy crap like panicking if she ‘actually called [her] mother or simply wished [she] had.’ There are plenty of mishaps along the way, as well as a surprising amount of community building when Dee starts constructing the tiny house in a friend’s driveway. People can’t help but stop and ask questions, offer to lift heavy things or ask if she can repair their own roof in exchange for some cedar shingles. While building the tiny house and turning it into a home Dee is also learning to live with congestive heart failure. Rather than feeling sorry for her, however, you will be laughing wildly as she learns to sleep with a loud oxygen machine by first taking it outside and then leaving it in her friend’s garage with an extra-long tube attachment. And when a neighbor asks ‘what kind of machinery [Dee is] running so feverishly at night,’ and Dee doesn’t correct him when he guesses it‘s an air compressor for her nail gun, you will praise her strength. Dee’s clever word play is a bit over the top but so is her outlook on life. So when she writes ‘that the moonlight is poking through a giant sphincter of black clouds,’ or that her previous house looked like ‘a boozy, broken-down prizefighter’ that was ‘squinting at the street, growling, ‘I could have been a contender’ every time someone walked by” I do not roll my eyes. Instead I laugh uproariously. Dee’s corny gab and sitting-down-for-coffee-with-a-crazy-friend writing style is the gingerbread-cedar-shingles icing on this tiny house memoir. And the memoir itself, about Dee building a nest, plopping it down in a friend’s backyard, and embracing family and life is a perfect nod to asking your eight-year-old self what you most covet and going out there in your superhero undies and doing it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gremlin

    I'm obsessed with tiny houses. There, I said it. Now that you know, you'll understand why I was interested in this book - Dee Williams is pretty well known as one of the first embracers of the Tiny House lifestyle. This book is not a how to, but more of a "why-to" - and even then, it's really more of a "why she did." Some folks might find that frustrating. I however, enjoyed the ride because I tended to enjoy the author. She's is extremely capable but also self-deprecating. She tries very much to I'm obsessed with tiny houses. There, I said it. Now that you know, you'll understand why I was interested in this book - Dee Williams is pretty well known as one of the first embracers of the Tiny House lifestyle. This book is not a how to, but more of a "why-to" - and even then, it's really more of a "why she did." Some folks might find that frustrating. I however, enjoyed the ride because I tended to enjoy the author. She's is extremely capable but also self-deprecating. She tries very much to be her own island, while understanding how important people are in her life. She's totally wacky and totally normal (though her life path doesn't follow the popular college-marriage-house-kids track, obviously). I'm pretty sure that she and I would be friends, if we met. I really like understanding what goes on in the brains of other people, and I feel like she was very honest about herself (both the stuff that she presents, as well as the stuff she's actually grappling with). On top of that, she's just a good writer. At times, she's a bit repetitive thematically, but I suppose that's how life plays out - themes and motives present themselves again and again. I finished the book feeling like I had a better understanding of some of the complexities of tiny house living. I also felt inspired to keep focusing on what is important, stripping away the superfluous, and taking the time to marvel at what the world has to offer. So if you're the type of person who can spend some quiet time inhabiting someone else's world, I would recommend this book. It's thoughtful, honest, and wholly human.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Melinda

    Dee Williams, at the young age of forty-one was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After receiving her diagnosis she took stock of her life, reevaluating priorities, her possessions and what matters the most. She decides to embark on building an 84 square foot house mounted on a trailer, constructed by her own hands. After reading Dee's story I asked myself if I could live in 84 square feet of space. I believe I could, my biggest hurtle would be the lack of warm running water. I could forg Dee Williams, at the young age of forty-one was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After receiving her diagnosis she took stock of her life, reevaluating priorities, her possessions and what matters the most. She decides to embark on building an 84 square foot house mounted on a trailer, constructed by her own hands. After reading Dee's story I asked myself if I could live in 84 square feet of space. I believe I could, my biggest hurtle would be the lack of warm running water. I could forgo electricity but water...not so much, I live for showers. I'm a minimalist so paring down wouldn't pose an issue, for me less is truly best. I admire Dee's courage and rationale for her bold move. She lists a lot of arguments as to why this is such a great idea along side her difficult moments managing to take her by surprise. Granted this lifestyle isn't for everyone and the backbreaking work Dee put in was exhausting. I paused several times imagining what a simpler, less time consuming life a 'tiny' house would afford and I was ready to start building sooner than later. Location, location, location appears to be the biggest constraint, hopefully by now less of an issue for tiny house dwellers. A very interesting story in combination with an ever more interesting concept. Dee certainly provides a thought provoking lifestyle leaving the reader to evaluate their own way of living. I haven't scratched the tiny concept off my list of possibilities, if only the shower issue could be remedied I'd be all in, for now something to consider for the future.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Caren

    This is an interesting, well-written memoir of the author's epiphany after a serious health problem unexpectedly appeared. She saw that much in her conventional life just wasn't really that important. While waiting for one of her doctor appointments, she happened to read a magazine article about a guy in Iowa who built and lived in a tiny house. The author is a handy gal, having done most of the work on her own house herself. After she and her brother visited the tiny-house guy, she decided to b This is an interesting, well-written memoir of the author's epiphany after a serious health problem unexpectedly appeared. She saw that much in her conventional life just wasn't really that important. While waiting for one of her doctor appointments, she happened to read a magazine article about a guy in Iowa who built and lived in a tiny house. The author is a handy gal, having done most of the work on her own house herself. After she and her brother visited the tiny-house guy, she decided to build her own little house herself. Most of the book recounts her adventures in building that house, selling her conventional house, and then establishing herself with her tiny house in her friends' back yard. I gather from the fact that she had a number of friends offer their back yards to her that she is a really likeable person. Her only companion in her little house is her beloved dog. Being a dog person myself, I enjoyed reading about her life and adventures with RooDee. I admire anyone who can buck the prevailing consumer culture and restructure her life in such a way. By not having to maintain a larger house and the lifestyle (and expense) that entails, she has bought time for really close friendships and the freedom to slow down enough to appreciate the small beauties in life. I think there's a message for me in there somewhere.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Is it because I'm turning 40 this year? That's my thinking.... For some reason, I'm getting obsessed with tiny houses. I've always been slightly that way--there's a reason why I live in a home that's small by some people's standards. I don't like hoarding and I hate clutter--I get a thrill with every load I donate to Goodwill. So maybe the tiny house movement is a natural extension? I can't move to a tiny house yet--I know that. But the philosophy behind it is something I hope to apply to my own Is it because I'm turning 40 this year? That's my thinking.... For some reason, I'm getting obsessed with tiny houses. I've always been slightly that way--there's a reason why I live in a home that's small by some people's standards. I don't like hoarding and I hate clutter--I get a thrill with every load I donate to Goodwill. So maybe the tiny house movement is a natural extension? I can't move to a tiny house yet--I know that. But the philosophy behind it is something I hope to apply to my own life now. I have too much stuff that I don't need. And clutter in my house is clutter in my soul. Begone, stuff, begone! Dee Williams' memoir is about what inspired her to build her own tiny house (that I will never do!). She was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at a young age, and the glimpse of the future was something that enabled her to get happy--fast. And so she simplified. And designed. And built. And relied on her good friends to help her and guide her and support her. It's a feel-good story about a woman's decision to minimize her footprint. I won't go as far as her---um, I love real toilets and showers, but I appreciate her willingness to take a chance. I also watched the documentary Tiny: a Story about Living Small today and I highly recommend it! So many examples of cute houses and the people who live in them.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Carol Palmer

    I picked up this book thinking it was going to be about building a tiny house, paring down possessions and living a simpler life. No, it was more about the health changes in the author's life that lead her to build her tiny home and her life living in the tiny home. About 20% of the book was actually about building the tiny house and challenges of living in a tiny home and the the other 80% was just about her life and friends. During the parts about the tiny home, I felt like this book should be I picked up this book thinking it was going to be about building a tiny house, paring down possessions and living a simpler life. No, it was more about the health changes in the author's life that lead her to build her tiny home and her life living in the tiny home. About 20% of the book was actually about building the tiny house and challenges of living in a tiny home and the the other 80% was just about her life and friends. During the parts about the tiny home, I felt like this book should be listed under "Romance" as she goes on and on about the cedar shingles and knotty pine paneling the way a romance novel goes on about chiseled abs and muscular thighs. If you are interested in the tiny home movement, don't waste your time with this book. Instead stream or rent "Tiny: A Story about Living Small"

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dree

    A quick-to-read memoir Williams wrote after being diagnosed with a severe heart condition, deciding to live her life on her own terms, building a tiny house on a trailer, selling her traditional house and downsizing, moving to the yard of friends, and becoming a speaker on tiny house issues. Yes, she did all that. She also appears in a tiny house documentary currently on netflix. And yes she built it herself, and she does discuss many parts of the process--from ordering a trailer from Russian immi A quick-to-read memoir Williams wrote after being diagnosed with a severe heart condition, deciding to live her life on her own terms, building a tiny house on a trailer, selling her traditional house and downsizing, moving to the yard of friends, and becoming a speaker on tiny house issues. Yes, she did all that. She also appears in a tiny house documentary currently on netflix. And yes she built it herself, and she does discuss many parts of the process--from ordering a trailer from Russian immigrants who seem to find her a bit kooky, to carrying plywood alone, to adding trim. But really this book is about relationships—with her dog, her friends, her neighbors.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bibliovoracious

    I built and live in a tiny house, so I very much appreciated Dee's memoir of scrounging materials and learning how to build as she went: she did an excellent job of it, and became a self-taught carpenter on the way (she almost plays down this significant accomplishment). The book is much more than the practical story with the funny learning bloopers, it's a layered story of personal crises and grief, and an examination of why we tend to live the way we do, and a ride-along while she undertakes a I built and live in a tiny house, so I very much appreciated Dee's memoir of scrounging materials and learning how to build as she went: she did an excellent job of it, and became a self-taught carpenter on the way (she almost plays down this significant accomplishment). The book is much more than the practical story with the funny learning bloopers, it's a layered story of personal crises and grief, and an examination of why we tend to live the way we do, and a ride-along while she undertakes a total reinvention of her life.

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