When I was a kid I loved to find tiny corners of my house and make them my super secret special “office” spaces. Once I found a nook to call my own I would haul all of my books to the corner, alphabetize them, and bring a pile of notebooks and blankets. I cornered off my section of the house with knitted afghans, and made to-do lists in my newly private space. I thought about my new life in my fort and how it would be my office for my new “business”. I used different hovels as a home base to brainstorm from ages 5-15 and after I moved out of my parent’s house and began renting my own spaces, I still preferred them tiny and quiet. Although I love living with my partner, and I love the majority of the roommates I have had over the years, nothing has ever felt better to me than living alone in a small space.
I suppose it comes as no surprise that I am mildly obsessed with the Tiny House movement.
I have spent countless hours staring at pictures of those tiny homes on wheels and trying to figure out how in the hell I could afford to buy one. I’ve thought about selling stuff, I’ve thought about teaming up with other people, I’ve wished I didn’t blow my money-borrowing wad on student loan debt.
Almost exactly a year ago I had a really stupid idea that was very intriguing. I knew an official Tiny House-house was not in my immediate future, but some sort of backyard dwelling Tuff Shed seemed like it could be. I started combing Craigslist for Tuff Shed bargains and finally found one three hours away, for not-too-expensive considering. The seller was a man named Larry, and he wanted to get rid of that thing quick, and also just-so-happened to be a carpenter. He said he would deliver my new 10’ x 12’ x 8’ home and help me build it up. It seemed a perfect idea, despite how confused a lot of people around me were about the plan. (“Why is Lacy planning to live in a shed?” was a question my partner got probably more times than he could count.)
My Tuff Shed home construction had a few bumps in the road. First of all, it was not insulated and it was fucking cold in there, or hot depending on the time of day. Since I live in a place with an extremely mild climate I hadn’t thought insulation would be all that necessary, but wellllllll, it turns out I am a bit of a temperature baby, so we insulated the walls. (Have you ever insulated anything?! That cotton candy looking fluff is literally the devil. I would not wish it on my worst enemy). After that, Larry and I sheetrocked, mud and taped the cracks, and sanded. I left the ceiling open, because by Golly, that just seemed too hard and good ole’ Larry was REALLY not tryin’ to lift sheetrock over his head. He also left one day saying “I’ll be back next week” and I never heard from him again. I couldn’t blame him! Constructing that thing was a pain in the ass.
After a few days of chilling in my wall-but-not-ceiling sheetrocked home I knew it would still be too cold unless I finished the job. I recruited every person I knew to help me with that, because sheetrock + overhead = harder than any workout I wanted or needed to do. I found a tiny wood burning stove online (I think it was made for ice fishing?!) and tried to calm my shaking frame as my friend Leonard chiseled a hole in the ceiling for the chimney.
Once the foundation was up, I spent my nights priming and painting my shack walls, installing shelves, running electricity out to it, crying while trying to snap in hardwood floor by myself for hours before another friend came over and helped me get it all in in thirty minutes. I went through my stuff, combing my items for expendables and cried even more as I got rid of things that I loved but didn’t need and wouldn’t fit in my new tiny space. My clothing dwindled considerably and my new book situation became straight up sad.
I kept two crates of records, two typewriters, and a rack for my cheap earrings. I gave away my bed frame, my desk, chairs, a bookshelf. I installed a little motion sensor light and some window bars, because I discovered that living in the backyard made me disproportionately afraid of murderers. Last January I spent my first night in the shack and today the amount of money I have saved in rent has added up to it paying for itself.
I am not a person who takes on reasonable goals, and building my little home really demonstrated that. I bought the thing thinking “I don’t know how to use tools or anything but I’ll figure it out! Whatever!” and the subsequent months were full of frustration, irritation, power tool injuries that could have been a lot worse, and money frittering itself out of my bank account. I learned how to use a jigsaw, a table saw, a drill, Ikea snap in floor instructions, why it was important to level things, and how to take deep calming breaths. I figured out really quickly that some days I would have to skip my workouts if I really planned to do shack work all day, because the whole thing was extremely, incredibly physically and emotionally exhausting. I gave up my in-the-house room before the out-of-the-house room was really ready, and I figured it out as I went, ‘cause I’m Lacy Davis, and that’s kind of what I do.
Building my shack showed me big and amazing thing about feeling good in my body. In the process of building I spent my weekdays teaching and working out. On the weekends I got to put responsibility aside and just build. I listened to talk radio and focused for hours at a time without a single body image thought (positive or negative) entering my head. Some days I forgot to shower or brush my teeth and I went to bed paint spattered with aching knees. No matter how much I lifted or how fast I ran in the gym, I never felt as proud of my body as I did when I locked my little door, crawled up to my loft, and slept.
It feels good to be sheltered by my body’s accomplishments.
One more thing: The body part I used the most in the construction of my shed was my mouth. Time and time and time again I realized that I desperately needed help and that the only way to get it was to ask. I consider asking for help as big an accomplishment as the building itself. Thank you so much to the seriously countless people who got involved.