1. Be patient. Although your undoing may seem to have occurred almost overnight, it was, in reality, a lot longer than that in the making. Likewise, months and years of effort may be required for you to come out on top. As you practice patience, be somehow employed so you have money coming in to live on in the interim, and live frugally so you have funds for your project. Your diligence in both areas will pay off.
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2. Be willing to let go. Our possessions can become so numerous that they own us instead of our owning them. They take time, effort and funds to maintain, they require costly space in our home, and they burden our minds. Letting go of all but the necessary is freeing. What you have left will fit nicely in your small home without cluttering it.
3. Keep building costs down. Try to gather as many of the building materials you can find at little or no cost before you start sketching. Choose materials with the most value per dollar when you have to buy at or near full price. The shape and style of your small house may depend on making the best use of available materials.
4. Always have a plan for tomorrow. You’ve found yourself in a difficult situation, but look beyond today. As you design your new small home, plan to incorporate features that will keep your month-by-month living expenses low once you do move in.
5. Think small, but plan long term. You may at first be willing to live in an 8-foot-wide, 12-foot-long crate, but shortly after you’ve invested in its construction and electrical, plumbing and mechanical systems, its romanticism will have worn off. Just how small of a house will you really be willing to live in over the long haul?
6. Plan big, but build small. You’ll want to incorporate all the basic amenities in your home so that life isn’t burdensome, even if you aren’t able to afford all of them initially. Plan places for eating, relaxing and sleeping, along with bathroom facilities and laundering.
7. Design it for DIY. This may mean the difference between going ahead with the project or not.
8. Be reasonable. Although the initial years of getting back on your feet in your small, off-grid home may be a little like roughing it, plan improvements so that life gets easier and, actually, quite enjoyable as trial and error turns into success. Likewise, don’t immediately go hog wild on the most elaborate of alternative energy systems and burden yourself with those high upfront costs.
9. Limit multiple-use features. Converting features in your home from one use to another is fine for the occasional weekend when grown children come home, but setting up and taking down on a daily basis gets old fast.
10. Be committed. Single or married, building—and living in—your small, off-grid home will require commitment on the part of all who dwell within. Soon you’ll wish it hadn’t taken a crisis to move you into a lifestyle that’s better than before.
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This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Spring 2016 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.
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