This has been my morning routine for almost three years now, ever since we found ourselves unexpectedly transplanted to the Forgotten Coast of Florida.
Home Sweet Home
We arrived home Friday afternoon after a fabulous four-and-a-half month trip to the Great Lakes. We slipped easily back into our lives here…a gorgeous sunset off the dock, fresh local snapper for dinner, and the comfort and beauty of this place that has become home.
Magnolia is thrilled! She gallops wildly through the house, enticing us into her favorite game of “Chase the Kitty.” At the moment, she’s on “her” screened porch enjoying the wildlife that hops and flutters by. Eric left early to go birding on the island, his favorite morning pastime. We’re reconnecting with local friends.
We are all happy to be home.
But in about 10 days, we’re putting our house on the market. Just when we were feeling settled…
We’re Moving To North Carolina
If all goes as planned, come June we’ll be living in a tiny house in the mountains.
Just kidding! Not that tiny! But we really did buy a tiny house, in a sweet tiny house community in Flat Rock, North Carolina.
We did not make this decision lightly. The last few weeks have been mentally challenging and emotionally exhausting.
Why We’re Moving Now
For several anxiety-provoking days in late September, our home was in the crosshairs of Hurricane Ian. We were fortunate, and the storm veered away from us. But seeing photos of the devastation of places we love in Florida—including Sanibel Island, where we’ve stayed several times to enjoy the birding and biking—is surreal and distressing.
Honestly, we don’t know where to live that isn’t subject to drought, wildfires, and smoke. Or hurricanes. Or floods. Or earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, or blizzards. No place is perfect, we know that. But there are definitely places that are less risky than others.
I spent the first 29 years of my life in Florida, and hurricanes never particularly worried me. Mostly, they meant a lot of yard cleanup. But storms have gotten bigger, more destructive, and more frequent. With every storm, insurance is getting more expensive and more difficult to obtain. We’ve made the decision to leave now, not because of the risk of a hurricane, but because of the insanity of the Florida insurance market.
In the next few months, Florida is going to be scrambling to figure out a way to keep everything afloat. If the insurance industry collapses, the housing market goes with it. (If you’re interested, this podcast by the New York Times explains it well.) As much as we love this place, we’re not willing to risk significant financial loss.
How We Decided On North Carolina
We discovered the tiny house community in Flat Rock during our summer in North Carolina in 2021. We were intrigued enough that we visited twice, thinking that perhaps at some point in the future, we might relocate.
That “some point in the future” suddenly became “NOW” after Hurricane Ian. We rerouted our trip plans and spent a week in Flat Rock. The weather was gorgeous, the autumn leaves were in full glory, and we did not take advantage at all of the myriad hiking trails, interesting little towns, great restaurants, or cultural events that surrounded us. This was not a week of travel adventures. This was a week of focused information-gathering.
We are painfully aware of all that we’re giving up in leaving Florida—our beautiful home that my parents built, the incredible views, the wildlife that surrounds us. Most of all, we’re sad to be moving away from the good friends we’ve made. We’re tired of moving away from friends. If we’re moving away, we both agree that it has to be somewhere that really feels “right.”
Why A Tiny House?
We looked at other real estate in North Carolina. But we didn’t find anything that appealed to us. Sure, there are some gorgeous big homes being built. And there are lots of funky fixer-uppers to be had. But we want to simplify our lives. We don’t want a big house to take care of. We are not at all interested in renovating yet another house. We don’t want a big yard to take care of. We want a garden, but a small garden. We want to do more traveling, and we want to be able to lock the door and walk away without worrying. A tiny house in a tiny house community seems just right for right now.
In our favor is that we have a lot of practice living in small spaces. We lived in our 27-foot travel trailer for eight years, which is approximately 214 square feet. And we were comfortable. Our home in Oregon was only 1375 square feet, with one bathroom. (We never fought about the bathroom.)
In our home now, which is somewhere around 1600 square feet of living space, we feel like we’re rattling around. We tend to use one bathroom, the master bedroom is way too big, and we have one bedroom out of three that we haven’t even furnished. We sit together on the same sofa in a living room full of furniture. We use a fraction of the space in the enormous closets. We don’t use the garage.
It’s not that we’re minimalists—we both have many interests, and we enjoy surrounding ourselves with objects that are meaningful to us. But it doesn’t take a lot of space to have the lifestyle we want.
Imagining Tiny House Living
We spent every day in Flat Rock walking the streets of the neighborhood, meeting residents, talking with carpenters, and inspecting the homes under construction. We asked a million questions. We spent hours in the various models, measuring and imagining how we would feel living in 500 square feet (plus a 10×10 screened front porch and a 10×10 back deck).
As we wandered the streets, our future neighbors greeted us warmly. Several invited us into their homes, sharing their experience of what it’s like to live in a tiny house. Every home was beautifully and creatively decorated, and we got a good idea of how livable the tiny homes are. Everyone we met was welcoming and interesting, and it became immediately clear that we were among like-minded, liberal leaning folks.
It feels like a real, old-fashioned neighborhood—with lots of cool activities. There are yoga classes, a workout studio, a beautiful pool and clubhouse, walking trails, a community vegetable garden, and a community fire pit. If you want to be social, you can be social. If you tend to prefer a more private lifestyle, that’s fine, too. We’re somewhere in between, and we came away feeling like we’re going to fit in just fine.
It’s Going To Be A Busy Few Months
So! That’s our big news. Now all we have to do is get our house on the market, sell it, put whatever we’re keeping in storage, find someplace to spend the winter in our trailer (we’re not in the mood to travel), and get back to North Carolina in the spring to oversee our house build. All while trying our best to stay present and to fully enjoy this moment. Wish us luck!
Oh, and during the next few months, I’m going to catch up on writing about our summer of Great Lakes adventures. We hope you all are doing well. ❤️