In Refinery29's Sweet Digs, we take a look inside the sometimes small, sometimes spacious homes of millennial women. Today, 25-year-old Chelsea Vien-Goetz shows off her tiny home in Saratoga County, New York, which she shares with her boyfriend.
When 25-year-old artist Chelsea Vien-Goetz realized she had the opportunity to buy a home, she took it. She had roughly £20,000 in her savings account, thanks to the sale of her grandmother's house, and decided to find stability in a place to sleep. The one catch: She would have to buy a truly tiny home. Like, an Incredible Tiny Home.
"The first time I saw a tiny home, they looked like little hobbit houses," Vien-Goetz says. She started designing her home with that in mind, with circular windows and a streamlined layout on graph paper. "I can't even remember how many of those I must have made," she says. "I thought I was drawing an 8 x 20 sized house, but I eventually realized I was drawing 8 x 18. So it was like, oh, okay, we’ll just go with that."
Her resulting lofted space is approximately 200 square feet, with a roof deck you can climb up to, and ceilings tall enough for her 6'5 boyfriend, David. Watch the video above to see her tiny home dream come true, and read on below to learn about her growing pains.
So where were you living before you moved into the tiny home?
For the last three years or so, my boyfriend and I were living at his parent’s house, which is not far from here. We basically just lived in his bedroom, so we were very happy to be able to get our own space finally.
Can you talk a little bit more about how you saved the funds to buy your home?
So I got the money from the sale of my childhood home, which is my grandparent’s house. I lived with my grandparents a lot growing up, especially in my teen years, and I was very close to them. My grandmother passed away in 2011, and my grandpa passed away in 2014, so then the house was put up for sale because my uncle didn’t want it, and I definitely couldn’t afford such a big house. So that’s where we got the funds from. I used a portion of what I got from the sale towards the tiny house. The funds were divided between me and then three other people, including my younger brother.
How much was the home?
In total, it was $26,210 (£19,810). And that’s including the addition of a special water system that we got. The water system was an extra $2,500 (£1,890). It's a totally off-grid system, a 500-gallon tank outside that’s hooked up to pipes on the side of the house, like PVC on the back of the house that does rainwater collection. It's really cool, but our water unfortunately froze in the winter because it was so cold. It was brutal. So we didn’t have running water for months.
What did you do?
Thankfully, the property we're on is owned by one of our friend's dad. So he let us use their shower and stuff anytime we wanted. It was either that or we had to drive about 15 to 20 minutes to my boyfriend’s parents’ house to take showers. But it was really stressful; we had to get a heat gun to try to melt ice and we got hay bales as temporary skirting around the house. There was a huge learning curve, especially with that.
For the next winter, I think we definitely have more experience on handling the home, but we’re looking forward to trying to escape winter next time. You know, maybe travelling down south.
What about your electricity?
We’re hoping to get solar panels in the future, but currently, we’re hooked up on grid. We’re connected to the house that’s on the property — we parked just far enough away from the electrical source so we're on two extension cords. It's not super efficient, but it's temporary.
What were some other learning curves when it came to living on your own?
It wasn’t a huge shock for me to move out because my whole life, I've been moving around from house to house. But we were definitely a little nervous at first. Are we gonna be able to handle the responsibility of home ownership? But honestly, I think we’ve been taking to it pretty naturally. We’re definitely being spoiled right now because we don't have to pay rent or anything to be on the property that we’re on, which is really nice.
What does it feel like to be a homeowner?
Personally, I feel relief every day, knowing that I have somewhere finally that’s more secure than most places I've ever lived in. So yeah, I feel a lot of relief being in the house, knowing that we won’t have to pay the kind of rent that other people unfortunately have to.
And it’s just so exciting, finally being able to actually be a homeowner, after so many years that I've dreamed of it and begged the universe for it.