Tiny house hero Dee Williams on her book tour

tiny-house-tiny-homeBy Janet Eastman

Compliments: The Oregonian

Tiny house hero Dee Williams will talk about the benefits of living simply in a small, efficient space and read from her popular book, “The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir,” on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Vintage Books in Vancouver, Wash.

This stop – which includes a walk inside her 84-square-foot house on wheels – is one of many she has made crisscrossing the country on a book tour intertwined with her ongoing efforts to educate about building, living and enjoying tiny houses.

Tiny-house-hero-Dee-Williams-on-her-book-tour

The self-taught carpenter and founder of the respected resource center, Portland Alternative Dwellings, has lived in her solar-powered home for more than a decade. She cooks using a single propane burner and sleeps in a loft with a small window.

“The house looked gorgeous: just like an ad for pancake syrup or a painting called A Simpler Time,” she writes in her inspiring, funny memoir that resonates with anyone on a quest to downsize, de-stress, let go or feel at home.

People interested in green design and plans for an legal accessory dwelling unit can explore Williams’ tiny house, from 2 p.m.-3 p.m. Saturday in the parking lot of Vintage Books, 6613 E. Mill Plain Blvd. She will read from her book and answer questions from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. inside the bookstore.

The event is sponsored by Vintage Books and Clark County Environmental Services’ Green Neighbors program.

Dee-Williams-Tiny-House

Williams has been interviewed by networks and newspaper reporters and has addressed TED Conference audiences, telling her powerful story about selling her high-maintenance Craftsman house in Southeast Portland and gifting away most of her possessions after she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

We caught up with her days before she is to tug her tiny house to Vancouver.

Q: You’ve been on the road telling your story and reading from your book since April. What has been the biggest adjustment being on the book tour circuit?

Dee Williams: I think the largest adjustment has been traveling so much. I’m a homebody – a real “stick in the mud” is what my 20-something-year-old niece would say. But I’m perfectly happy to putter around in my garden, to scavenge wood out of the rubble pile down the street or to play firefighter in the backyard with the four-year-old boy who lives next door. I like being home and the book tour is a bit of a distraction from that normal, mundane, simple life.

The other adjustment occurred by seeing that the small house movement isn’t just people who want to build a tiny house (or already have), or people who like cute tiny houses; it’s not that simple. Instead, the tiny house movement seems to be a tapestry of openhearted people who are interested in community building; they’re interested in living more simply on the earth, investing in their neighbors (both human and natural); they’re rabble-rousers and non-conformists, and some of the most compassionate, inclusive thinkers that I’ve met in a long time. It was invigorating and humbling to meet so many awesome people.

The-Tiny-House-that-Dee-Williams-built

Q. What is the most common question you are asked and how do you answer it?

DW: “Is that legal?” has probably been the most common question. And I usually answer it by saying something like… “ah dang it, not that question!” And then I’ll wax on about how much I like rules; that I’m an enforcement officer with the State, and I once cried at a stoplight because the idea of civil law is so beautiful to me – the way we all learn how to stop on red and go on green, and thereby save ourselves from having to tow our cars away in a heap.

So, I’ll explain who I am and then launch into how most municipalities apply travel trailer restrictions to wheeled tiny houses. They might restrict where you can park (not on the front lawn, in front of a school, too close to the neighbor’s house, etc.) and how long you can recreate inside the unit. If you’re living in the space for longer than 30 days or six months, you might be asked to move along.

I’d also throw in that there are a lot of cities that are looking for ways to redefine codes to allow for longer stays in tiny houses on wheels. They’re looking at ways to create better urban infill, and to create more affordable, sustainable, safe housing and little houses are a part of that discussion.

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