Once upon a time in 1981, I had built a tiny house on wheels inside a 66 passenger school bus that I lived in for 3 1/2 years. It took me around the country where I lived for various periods after graduating college in Florida, to Alabama, then across to Seattle Washington area, before dropping down to Las Vegas, where I spent 6 months rebuilding and repairing the motor. Then my home took me down the road to Oklahoma, and finally my home settled in the Heart of Texas. I arrived on July 4th, 1984, with expired tags on the bus, no insurance, expired inspection, and pulling a Dodge pickup truck with a motorcycle in the back of it. Oh yes, I also had $640 in savings but no friends or promise of a job, just sunshine. I had a simple goal… to make a million dollars so I could self publish and market the book I was working on after college.
I sold both the bus and the motorcycle within two years after my son Adam was born, and due to a then family, my scale of housing changed after that. I moved up the American Dream ladder to a 650 sf house but it was in the bad parts of East Austin in the 1980’s. Soon after we bought a 1,000 sf. I spent the next decade growing my inner city real estate business as a real estate broker and redeveloper. I focused on buying and fixing up the worst of the houses in the rough low income area I had moved into and set about to clean it up and provide first time homebuyer priced homes. I did well and a five years later, moved in to a 2,500 sf house. Over the years I won a number of Revitalization awards for creative rehabs and cleaning up neighborhoods now known as the French Place area in East Austin, Texas.
At one point I even opened the biggest Cybercafe in Texas just before the dot.com boom hit. Soon after, in 1996, I semi retired to Gonzales to spend more time with my 11 year old son as my 80-100 hour workweeks for that decade had left me without time to enjoy his childhood and it was nearly past. This time we moved up to a 2,800 square foot house, then later we added on to the house pushing it up to 4,500 sf over time, with the add ons closets. Likewise in that decade, I had created Discovery Architectural Antiques which was the largest store of its kind at 137,000 sf of warehouses and store fronts in Gonzales, Texas. We had a sawmill, wood shop, and cabinet/door shop at its zenith but then I moved on to create Tiny Texas Houses.
We filled the warehouses with wood and windows, doors, floors, and so much more. We were given house after house to take down for free, and still are offered houses more than we can hope to take down.
Seems like every decade I had a new passion that everyone thought was crazy to pursue. I wanted to build Tiny Texas Houses out of 95% Pure Salvage to show how we could use all the massive inventories I have to create solutions for sustainable living at the not just negative energy costs, but enough banked / saved energy to literally power the house for 100 years or more. When I set out on that trek by starting Tiny Texas Houses, life was changing in so many ways. Little did I know how long it would take and down which roads I would travel to get to where we are today.
The Tiny House industry has many definitions at this point and most include wheels due to the popularization of the TV shows, but I chose a path with one focus, that they be able to be transportable with a big trailer that leaves once the house gets to the homestead. If one wants to move it again one day they can. I like using a giant crane to ease the process of setting it in place and if that can be available, getting it back out will be just as easy as putting it in to place. That said, my houses have been as big as 12’ x 32’ and all wood with fold down porch roofs, front and back in many cases. They have shipped to the Badlands up north, Oklahoma, Ohio, and all over Texas so we know this process works.
There is the ethos on which this vision has been manifested and the hope that many others will find answers and solutions as they apply this salve to our society, this salvage mining and salvage building ideology that creates healthy houses that will last for much longer than we who build them will if cared for properly. We can unleash billions of dollars in resources that can not be duplicated or matched anywhere in the world to use for our next generation of houses in a tinier form that will benefit both the people and the planet. The healthy toxin free, sustainable resources we can bring back to life are far greater than what we have left on the planet to strip off. My objective is to show people this before the incredible wealth is all gone, thrown into the landfills while the homeless and veterans, women and children, wonder how they will survive through a winter, or life for that matter, without homes.
I have a way for this to all turn into an industry that rewards the people who participate, empowers small businesses to grow with little to no capital, and gives families a way to join together and solve their problems and make a good living. I have shown it works and hope you will enjoy a few pictures and the imagination that follows for your expansion in this great new industry I call the Pure Salvage Living Renaissance.
I now live in a tiny house again, and love it more than any I have owned.
This Tiny House and simplified life path is not just my own desire but apparently that of many others who are following the downsizing movement. There is a desire to be free of debt and assets that fuels a fire in the Baby Boomer Generation which has grown in size to what few can barely imagine. As an aging generation retires, most have no choice but to accept the challenge of downsizing. For some it will be painful, but others consider it being freed of our anchors that could leave us drowning in possessions we can no longer afford to house or maintain. 72,000,000 Baby Boomers are rapidly learning they will not be living in the style they are accustomed to once they retire, if they can. Having been through the full cycle of tiny house to big house and back, I gained a valuable foundation for realizing the benefits of living simply again. Overall, my house does not have much more floor space than my first house in a bus did long ago.
Ten years ago, when I started Tiny Texas Houses, I foresaw tiny houses becoming an industry that could create a path out of the matrix of taxes, insurance, home owners fees, maintenance and the expenses that will otherwise keep many enslaved until death. It has been good to see others agree, not just the older folks, but thankfully the kids 25-35 years old who seem to be getting past the American Dream Candy that the older generation ate 50 years ago and now has exchanged for anti-depressants. Many are escaping the media ingrained desires implanted through TV and thus awakening to a new style of living focused on being with the ones you love rather than working most of ones life hours only to have more things. Distractions are being left behind in favor of living life instead of watching others act out living on some seasonal show. It is not just about the house, it is about our lifestyles in America and how they will be changing in the years to come.
There comes a time when the big house shown in the American Dream is no longer a great desire or investment, and the once crazy idea of moving into a much smaller space is growing in popularity instead, fed by the social upheaval going on. Organic living grows in popularity which includes simplifying one’s life and reducing the stress if possible. It is the time when creative thought is going to provide solutions to problems yet raging, such as how do we build new houses without taking more resources from the planet, and creating more toxins in the world as a result of incessant consumerism. I believe it is time to focus on “how much energy can we save before we finish building the house that will in turn save resources, like trees, energy to make glass, hardware, sinks, and more” rather than how much we save after we build the house.
This is the true test of sustainability, of how little energy can you take from the planet to build a home, live a life, and be happy with a meaningful passion that gives you work you enjoy. It is not a dream, just a change in the paradigm for the Pure Salvage Living Renaissance to take hold and begin to create solutions that millions can benefit from, as well as our planet. Using both the incredible energy our ancestors put into forming the rich resources like giant trees into lumber, or iron ore into hardware that will last for centuries, and hand blown glass that has hundreds of years of life left in it. We save not just the trees and spent heat to make glass, hardware and parts we can still use to build new houses, but we also extend the value of the coal drug out of mines by 12 year olds over 100 years ago.
We have a rich history that is full of hidden treasure which I have chosen as my medium for creating Art Houses built from 95% Pure Salvage. These are one of a kind houses manifested solely to inspire the masses to build millions of organic cottages and tiny houses, each unique and personal, as I believe homes should be. This concept I envision growing national is a unique path for home ownership that empowers many people who can not buy a home through normal channels due to credit issues. This creates ways to barter their time and talents, helping to work on salvaging homes, and contributing human energy in return for getting the parts they need to build a tiny house.
The Pure Salvage Outposts are intended to be co-ops which I envision will create the spaces, shared tools, and materials for people to get together and build themselves houses to live in for the rest of their lives. My vision includes villages where groups of like minded people are creating supportive communities where tiny houses are the norm, not the prohibited.
The concept of using salvage to do this is part of what I call the Grave to Cradle cycle. It is a philosophy in action and is designed to create sustainable housing that will last for centuries, be portable, and toxin free. If taught and implemented, the ideology shows how to get most of the required materials for nothing more than human energy. The only modern materials are domestically manufactured since we do need to add new products that make the organic cottages energy efficient and last longer. This ideology saves the most valuable building materials from our past, most of which can not be matched or created again, and puts them back in service for the next century with very little more than a few gallons of gasoline in energy costs to create a house.
I have created houses as small as 63 sf and as big as 350 sf on the main floor, and up to 550 sf of livable space in a portable Tiny Texas House. They have not been light weight nor intended to be pulled with a common truck but instead a semi and special trailer. My houses are a way of showing what extremes we can take sustainable living through salvaging the best pieces left to us by our ancestors. The largest standing virgin forest int he world is sitting in America, slowly being thrown away into landfills, burned, or left to rot. This incredible Virgin Forest is disguised in the form of giant barns, buildings, and houses across much of our country. We can harvest this to create sustainable houses, businesses, and much more without any big corporate company doing it, or the government either, for it is all around people waiting to be harvested and nearly any group of people can do it if they set their minds to it.
I have spent the last decade proving what is possible for people from all ages and walks of life who helped salvage a house, many in 8 days or less, with men and women who had no experience. My houses are intended to inspire people to build their own, and then others if they are good enough once they learn how to do it. Some people will prefer to salvage the houses the most, others to build with the parts, some just to hunt down and find the greatest houses to save, then get them under contract for others to take down. This is a chance to see your hands and mind make a difference when you take down a house and then build two from it that will last for a century or more instead of going to a landfill. There is little more gratifying than saving the materials from the Grave to form new houses, thus the Cradle our imagination and human energy represent, manifested, passion becomes the action that creates beautiful new homes that will take care of people for the rest of their lives as reward.
This method of building minimizes the contaminants, toxins, and use of most plastics, vinyls, and manufactured parts, or imports for the entire house building process. 20 gallons of gas used during the salvaging of a house is often enough to not only power the compressor for the nail Kicker, but also fuel the truck to haul the material to the work space where the new houses will be built. The building process for the two houses to be created from one will amount to less than the equivalent energy of another 20 gallons of diesel for saws and a compressor for nail guns to shoot into wood. When you look at the savings, it would take more than that much fuel to create the glass for the windows alone in a new house, thus the energy cost for the materials to build based on the Pure Salvage Building process itself, consumes a minuscule amount of energy in comparison to the cost of new construction with all modern manufactured materials.
I created Tiny Texas Houses to prove this was the right thing to do, and getting others to see the logic of doing it this way has turned out to be the hardest task instead.
I began this escapade with the commitment to create 100 different styles of sustainable Tiny Texas Houses that would be organic in nature, as toxin free as possible, import free, and built from at least 95% Pure Salvage. I did not expect others to match that realizing it is the extreme example of what can be done, but intended to create the examples so that others could see that it could be done. My hope was then to create a metric in Salvage Materials to rate construction with, inspiring others to shoot for at least 50% or better and thus show they are truly sincere about making a difference in the future. This standard and ethos in construction could save enormous valuable resources spent on housing each year and make longevity and salvage materials a higher priority in housing construction. So far, I have created over 75 examples of what we can do if we set our minds to this ethos and new standard of sustainable organic housing that utilizes the incredible reserves of salvage we have stashed across this country awaiting a new life.
I believe we have an obligation to create housing that is clean and healthy, but better still, a testimony to what we can personally do to make the world a better place, particularly for those who will inherit it when we leave. Tiny houses grouped together as villages of likeminded people are a path I see us moving toward voluntarily, and I see it as a good thing to view communes as a path to community instead of fearing or making fun of them. We have the potential to build millions of Tiny Houses for the kids who want to live an alternative lifestyle that breaks free from the McMansion as the American dream. It also frees the elders who are beginning to see the folly of owning giant houses we don’t utilize that drain what savings we have stashed away for our old age. We can do better than we have in the last 50 years when it comes to creating housing that will serve us well.
The movement to downsize is growing rapidly but the means, credit lines, and locations to put them at is still hard to find. Tiny Houses and Organic Cottages such as I build are a path that many will gravitate toward in my opinion, based on the growing knowledge that it is possible. This is much easier to manifest than growing new trees and resources of similar quality and this yet abundant treasure will be lost forever otherwise. I can easily imagine warehouses popping up that become Pure Salvage Outposts to serve as Co-ops for their members to build, store salvage, learn how to become part of the Renaissance, and thus help others get housing with little more than human energy as well. My houses are the seedlings I plant into the public mindset that allow for dialogue to grow from a narrative based on living in cubicles and working but never finding happiness in life.
Climbing out of a McMansion minded box to climb into a Tiny Texas House mentality is a pure path to freedom in form, to independence through community and a respect for all of the work that our ancestors have done before we came along. If we treat it with proper respect, save all we can of it, and build something that the next 7 generations will be proud of too, then we will have lived a good life. That is the purpose of creating Tiny Texas Houses, to create examples of what can be done by millions of others once they set their minds to it and believe it is possible.
I have spent 10 years freely giving away the pictures, training, and means for others to do this. We have done teaching through seminars, and encouraging others to consider this path to their tiny houses. Salvage Building seems to be catching on now. Hopefully the growing fascination with this perspective will continue and many builders will consider it as the future decades of salvage depend upon moving quickly so we slow the mindless demolition presently running rampant. We can start now to preserve the billions of dollars in treasure before it is lost forever. I predict that more millionaires will be made from the salvage industry than any other small business adventure in the next decade as the tiny houses trend grows organic in design, with unique one of a kind houses built for longevity, good health, and sustainability as primary goals people seek in a home, rather than just square footage.
The reason I refer to Salvage Mining and Salvage Building as an industry is because millions will be employed by it, billions will be unleashed in assets, and many families will create businesses from what was once considered trash, but it has not materialized yet. You get a glimpse of the future, as it could be, with hundreds of income streams from the sourcing, salvaging, the warehousing, ultimately leading to the creation of millions of organic cottages or houses in the end. The myriad of occupations that will dovetail into this are perfect for the retraining of so many who’s occupational specialties have become obsolete, outdated, or they are simply bored of drone-dom. This puts the work back into Americans hands, those who live here, not in other countries will get to reap the benefits, from the resourcing to the creation of the houses, it all happens here.
Salvage Mining and Salvage Building are fundamental building blocks that can be used to cure cultural disorders thus they are effectively a sociological salve to use for empowering the people and giving them opportunities instead of jobs. It is not just good for the planet, the Pure Salvage Living Renaissance opens the path to healing our society through providing opportunity that nearly anyone tap into if they want to join the movement that changes our world through individual action and choices. Everyone wins in this scenario as you save the best of our past generations work and expand upon the source energy that created the treasure, the Love entrapped in all the things we handle, vital unseen energy that was put in with great hopes and dreams, by ancestors who’s lives are long spent, who devoted themselves to materializing those dreams into a family home for a lifetime.
My “Grave to Cradle philosophy” fuels a transformation of our society using our human energy, literally our hands and minds, our soul’s energy to creatively transform trash to new treasures we will call homes, that will be loved and lived in for generations yet to be born. It is through these newly born homes that our society will return to respecting our planets gifts, and the reward will be that love expressed in the form of a house that provides protection from the elements, a home for families, and a castle created from trash that will last for centuries.
It is the trees, hundreds of years old, that still appreciate what we are doing by giving their cells another century of existence where the spiritual energy still remains, encased in the RNA, DNA, and Mitochondria of the trees, where they still feel and generate that same energy of soul they did when they were alive, for like us, their spirit lives on and stays connected to this plane until every last cell or memory is gone. Okay, guess that is far enough out there to be crazy talk to some.
I believe there has got to be a way to see this vision I nurture materialize as a way of thinking about Mother Earth in personalized spiritual terms, but the challenge to get our society on board is daunting. I imagined it would happen faster and been disappointed it has not, but having gotten this close and seeing others wake up to this opportunity daily means there is no turning back now. I must maintain the faith that this Pure Salvage Living Renaissance will come to pass if I can just keep believing and working toward it, in spite of the slow progress, this collection of 95% Pure Salvage houses create the evidence people need to see and believe it is possible.
People are finally catching on and discovering the world of salvaged materials to build with and create a myriad of things, as well as the healthy houses. This is what I dream of and foresee as one of the paths we can take from consumerism to responsible living as caretakers of a planet that is in danger of being destroyed by those who do not believe there is an end to the resources, or a consequence to the pollution our endless destruction causes. Please consider this and join me in saving as much of the past treasures as we can and then building a new future we can be proud of from the parts our ancestors left for us as treasure.
Thanks for your time and energy invested into this vision and your help in manifesting a new generation of housing in a form that will keep us healthy and survive us to be a home to others when we are gone. May trash become your treasure as you see the benefits that come from turning it into healthy homes and occupations that let you live free and enjoy less stressful lives.
If you want to be a part of the next step, possibly even live in Salvage, Texas and help create the model for future generations to build from, please get in touch and perhaps even be one of those to get all the materials to build a house here for free if you decide to become a part of this vision. Thanks for sharing and helping grow alternative perspectives on what living in downsized organic houses can mean for your health, the planet, and our future.