I want to introduce you to an extraordinary family that contacted us recently. We feel their story is important to share because they are role models for finding grace and beauty in even the most challenging situations. We also think you will find great interest in hearing that they are making the move to tiny with 5 kids 16 and under! We often hear from readers wondering about tiny houses for large families and if it’s possible, so world, we present to you the Thompson family:
Please introduce yourselves as well as everyone’s ages. What are some fun/interesting things about your family?
As far as fun and interesting facts about our family… it is a fun and interesting scene when we are all together under one roof. We have the kids pickin and singing. Music is a huge part of our lives. We are simple talented smart asses. We have the knack of taking nothing and making something. All of our kids have their very own talent. All of the kids are outgoing and witty. We have all been raised on the river and the kids are awesome in their kayaks on the river! We have instilled in our kids the importance of originality and being true to oneself.
Stephanie is left handed and TJ is right handed so it makes it really easy to eat beside each other if we sit the right way… or it could be a disaster if we sit in the wrong places. Another fun fact: TJ and Stephanie met in a tattoo parlor. Broke up a few weeks later and then ran into each other in a liquor store. Then got married in a bar.
We have raised all kinds of exotic birds… hatched baby birds, handfed them and weaned them. TJ is a fabricator and has had amazing opportunities to show off his talent. Built and designed a key to the city, entry gates, arches, etc. Stephanie is very talented; she loves to paint, sew, draw, cooking and can.
Describe your current living situation.
We are currently living in over 2000 square feet home and all of our money is going to space that we do not use. We are also renting this home and it is costing us at least $1,500 per month just to live. With the extra room and space; we feel like we need to fill that extra space with “stuff.” This “stuff” is unneeded materials.
What inspired you guys to go tiny? What is it about tiny house living that draws you guys in?
We were initially inspired by the financial freedom it allows. But as we got into the downsizing process and started letting go of material stuff… it gave us a different kind of freedom. You have to understand… this isn’t something that happened overnight and this is something that still changes daily.
What do your kids think of the idea of moving into a tiny house? What does your family/friends think? What do you say to them?
First of all, our kids are all that matter. They are very supportive, excited, and have a million questions daily. When we decided to order the building for our tiny house, we went to the manufacturer’s shop where they have a smaller demo version on site. We took the kids and let them climb into the lofts and get a feel for what it is like and how “tiny” this will actually be. Our family and friends have been very supportive also. We have not told “everyone” about our adventure. The main reason: we don’t want any negative vibes or degrading opinions. The close family and friends that we have opened up to and shared our adventure with have all been so nice and respectful. They are all keeping their eyes out for building materials, appliances, electrical and plumbing materials, etc. We started the blog a few weeks ago in order to help share our story and the reasoning behind this decision. We have had a really rough last 8 months and to make this decision with 5 kids…. It’s scary. It is exciting but scary!
You both have gone through incredible challenges recently. Are you willing to share some of your trials and tribulations?
Where should we start? TJ bought a house when he was 18. When he was 32 he gave it to his ex-wife in order for her to move back with Jasmine and Jessaka from two states away. TJ has went through 2 divorces, severe depression, substance abuse and back surgery. The substance abuse was self-medication for the back pain and depression. The severe depression resulted in substance abuse which landed him in a crisis center for a short period of time. Not a few months later we underwent back surgery. Through all of this, we were broke and poor! Stephanie was working 3 jobs and going to school full time. This was the only way we could keep our heads above the water and pay our bills to live. Fast forward a year later: We get married. November 11, 2011 (11-11-11). By this time, TJ started to regain strength in his back and we were financially stable going through everyday life. Fast forward a year later again: Stephanie turned 31 on October 25, 2013. This was a bitter sweet birthday… She was having migraines and trouble walking. On the 29th, Stephanie left work early and went to the ER. Her legs and arms were numb and tingling; she knew something was wrong. After an MRI and a CT Scan; the doctor told us that we needed to see a Neurology Surgeon immediately. The very next morning we found ourselves in the surgeons office being told that we needed to make peace with what she needed to and spend time with the ones she loved. Stephanie had a brain tumor in her 4th ventricle, right behind the cerebellum and sitting on top of the spinal cord and cutting off the spinal fluid flow from the brain and body. The tumor was putting pressure on her central nervous system and causing a lot of her problems. The emergency surgery was imperative. Monday morning November 4th, 2013, she underwent brain surgery. The surgeons were able to remove the whole tumor. Today 8 months later; she is alive. This will be a long road to recovery. Long story short…. The emergency surgery was essential but the surgeon was “out of network” under our insurance, meaning we owe a lot of money for this life saving surgery. It is easy for us to get upset and down on ourselves due to the cards that have been dealt but instead of “poor us” we are taking this positively and considering ourselves to be very lucky. Very lucky that all this has happened to us at such a young age, in order for us to know what is important in life and make the wiser decisions to down size and simplify our life and lifestyle. These are just the highlights over the past few years… keep in mind that we went through all of this along with 5 children and all the “ex’s” and everyday struggles. So, this is the reason our little home will be named “The house of Atlas” Atlas carried the weight of the world on his shoulders… as a family we can and we have.
How do you stay so positive given the challenges you are facing both medically and financially? How does the dream of tiny house living keep you guys going?
We are a family of kayakers. We were raised on the river. In kayaking you have to maneuver around obstacles and cannot get hung up on them because if you do… you go nowhere. The same is true in life: we cannot get hung up on the negative situations. The events we faced were events that changed our lives and changed our outlook. The tiny house living is an adventure for us. The feeling of freedom has given us hope and a strong desire to make this work and to keep us going.
Describe your dream tiny house. A LOT of people want to live the tiny life but don’t know how to make that happen with a family with more than 1 child.
Our dream tiny house is what we can afford and this is what determines the outcome. Our tiny house is 16×40 with two open lofts. Our layout is subject to change of course. We have designed a floor plan that consists of a full size kitchen and washroom with full size washer, dryer, hot water heater, toilet, sink and stand up shower. The floor plan also includes an open living room, master bedroom with on suite bathroom. The two lofts are 15×15 and will be for the kids. Everything and everyone has a place in our tiny house. We have given the kids the loft floor space to design and to layout the way they want. This has given the kids the power and the feeling of importance. We NEED them! We NEED their input and ideas. This is their space and we want them to design it. We believe the best outcome for everyone is to keep an open mind and allow room for change.
In closing is there anything else you want to add?
We are going to include some pictures of us and of our family. Along with a link to our blog that we have started and our facebook page. We are country folks… we were raised in the hills of the Ozarks and this adventure is not breaking the mold. Our parents and grandparent grew up with 5-10 siblings in a 2 room home, sometimes without running water, electricity, and indoor bathroom. Some people may think this is crazy but all we are doing is going back to our roots. We have all heard it a million times but we are taking it to heart: “Don’t live above your means”.
Thank you SO much for taking the time to do this interview with us Stephanie and TJ! We will be following your story via your blog and Facebook and can’t wait to hear how it all goes for you all!
Tumblr blog: http://journeyof2oldsouls.tumblr.com/