Origins of a self-build dream

3 min readMar 1, 2021


I want to build a house. I’ve known this since I was a kid, but then got distracted by college. I pushed aside this fantasy for years; people would laugh and I’d laugh with them. But then, something happened in September 2019. I quit my job in Boston (after paying off student loans) to go volunteer to build tiny houses in Oregon.

For two months, I framed, sheathed, and roofed with a nonprofit called SquareOne Villages and felt so. freaking. free.

I was in my element.

Sure, waking up early was hard, but nothing compared to seeing a whole house go up and think, “I did that! Me! With my weak weak arms!”. Carrying lumber was fun. Installing window was fun. Nailing in soffits was REALLY fun. Even sloshing through mud carrying a 50 pound board during a rain storm was fun. I was as care-free as a bee.

Look at that smile! Couldn’t fake it if I tried.

Of-course, the dream ended. I really missed being with family in northern California. So, I moved to my hometown and got a job, but the idea swam around in my head for months. Gradually, it would make daily appearances. The opportunity arose when I heard my parents complain about grandma hogging the kitchen and wishing for more space. I didn’t see the conundrum because we had a decent backyard!

Initially, I was interested in building a house on a trailer bed like every other millennial (our dreams are simple, we just want a cute affordable place to call home even if its 80 square feet). But after living in a cute affordable straw-bale tiny house about 200 square feet, I learned that it wasn’t enough space for spontaneous dancing. And that couldn’t fly. So, I scaled up. 300 square feet increased to 500 and then “why not add some space for grandma?” and then lo and behold, I discover the sparkling California ADU laws allowing up to 1,200 square feet.

Adorable tiny house rental in Redwood Valley, California

The idea still seemed lofty. Even with the support of family and friend, I was stuck in the what-if spiral. Wasting money, failing hard, and losing trust in myself were top of mind. Did I really want this? September came and went, then October, and November. I drew designs, consulted with architect friends, chatted with city officials, but just couldn’t come to a determination.

It was time for a break or “Covid-19 safe mini-vacay”. I grabbed some hot cheetos, isolated 14 days in my straw-bale tiny house, and then drove 9 hours to Portland, Oregon to meet a dear friend. We hiked waterfalls, baked cookies, cross-country skied, hot-tubbed, greeted 80 year old sturgeons, and shopped for fresh-made tofu. I was pampered and my mind relaxed. The most brilliant part of the trip was that I got to visit her dream, a land-healing project called Kasama Farm in Hood River, Oregon. A year after I left Boston, she had left the city as well to start her dream of becoming a farmer with her partner. Seeing the raised beds, smelling coffee husks littered in her car, and hearing her lists off seeds, I felt at ease. ‘This is what living is about”, I thought, “if I have the opportunity, motivation, and willpower, why not?”.

It was on the last day of my visit that I found my answer. I said my joyous goodbyes, turned on my tunes, and drove. After passing miles of redwood forests, I asked the question again, “Am I going to do this?”. With no thought in mind, a tear rolled down my face and another and then another. The tears flickered into a gasp and then a giggle.

I knew. I am going to do this.




I occasionally build things but get distracted by dancing. More at