David and Victoria Whitcher stand in the doorway of their “tiny home” with son David, Jr. The family plans to drive to Alaska and live off the grid later this summer. (Ashley Finethy) (click for larger version)
July 11, 2012BRISTOL—Imagine a life with no mortgage payments, no financial stress, no worries about rent, landlords or neighbors.
For David and Victoria Whitcher, the prospect of a low stress lifestyle with no attachment to one particular place was ideal.
The duo has been working for the past six weeks to create a "tiny home" in preparation to move to Alaska, where David is stationed.
"When we decided to go back to active duty, I said I don't want to rent a house because of the payments," said Victoria. "We got stationed in Alaska, and I started looking for apartments and houses, and to rent an apartment up there is $1,600, and that is not in the best neighborhood. We are country people – we have goats and chickens. The idea of having somebody right on top of us for $1,600 a month sounds like a living nightmare."
The Whitchers resolved to live in a portable house, and decided to live in an RV. It was affordable, practical, and could be moved to wherever they happened to be stationed.
"One day, I was watching the show 'Extreme RV's' on TV because I was trying to get ideas, and there was a special on Tumbleweed Tiny House, and I thought it was the greatest idea ever," said Victoria.
As they did more research, Victoria and David realized that more and more people were converting to a "tiny" lifestyle, and kept finding benefits to converting to the lifestyle themselves.
"We researched it, and I found out that there is a whole community of people who believe in no mortgage payment, living simple and living debt free," said Victoria. "I showed it to him (David), and he was on board with it."
With a recent degree from New Hampshire Technical Institute in Architectural Engineer Technology, David was confident that he could not only build a Tiny Home, but create a tiny home that would allow the family to live completely off the grid.
"We would like to be self sufficient," said David. "We would like to be able to go anywhere and live anywhere, and not have to rely on utilities."
Not relying on utilities took some ingenuity, but the duo seems to have it all figured out. The home, which is on wheels and has a collapsible roof, will be easily heated by a wood stove, and will generate its own heat through wind turbines David will be constructing. There will be water reservoirs attached to the house, providing the home with water to cook and shower with. To not have to rely on a septic system, the home will have a decomposition toilet.
"The toilet is a decomp toilet," said Victoria. "It's where you put sawdust on it. It is similar to an RV toilet, but it is so we don't need a septic, and it's completely legal."
To put their decomposition toilet to good use and to continue living off the grid, Victoria hopes to have a garden at large to feed the family both in the growing season and through canning in the cold winter months. Along with the garden, David plans to hunt to provide the family with meat.
"We hope to live off of the meat we kill, and unfortunately, we don't know if we can have chickens or goats yet," said Victoria.
Though the home is not very big in size, it will have all of the necessary amenities including a vent less washer/dryer, television, refrigerator and solar lanterns for lighting.
"You look at it on the outside and it looks really small, but it's pretty big on the inside," said Victoria. "I like the idea that it will take five minutes to clean the kitchen. I hate cleaning, but I like my house clean. I can't stand clutter all over the place."
Most recently, the Whitchers have been working on getting rid of clutter, reducing what they have to only what they need. They will keep only the basics and essentials to ensure their home isn't full of clutter.
"The hardest part is getting rid of all of my clothes," said Victoria. "I threw most of the dishes away the other day, and that wasn't bad, but I am a girl, and I have 30 pairs of shoes."
With less material "things" and more time to spend with son David, Jr., Victoria plans to home school him and teach him important life lessons.
"We see kids that have so many toys and things, but have no respect for anyone, even their parents," said Victoria. "They have no values, and they grow up wanting more stuff. There are people who hate their jobs, hate their stuff, hate their homes, hate their neighbors, and we don't want that."
The prospect of being able to spend more time as a family, and to instill values and morals in their son while providing him with a home and childhood that is as stable as possible for their situation, is important to the Whitchers.
"It builds character in the sense that we don't want our child to grow up and think that the most valuable things you have in life are stuff," said Victoria. "He'll grow up with a minimal amount of stuff, but we will have money to go on vacations, and we will have more time to spend together."
Though the family is excited for their move to Alaska, where they have wanted to reside for a long time, there are some parts of wilderness living that may be "unbearable."
"The only thing I am worried about are the grizzly bears," said Victoria. "I am not originally from New Hampshire, and I came up here terrified of bears, and bears keep coming around the chicken coop. In my mind, I know I am going to carry a gun around the yard for at least the first year, but that is the only thing I am terrified of."
The Whitchers are serious about their 4,000 mile journey to Alaska with their tiny home in tow, and already have a piece of land where their home will reside… for now.
"We have a lot already," said Victoria. "It is three acres with a well. It is in the middle of the woods, and on the street there are two other houses that are valued at $5 million, and our house is going to be driving down the road."
Though the Whitchers seem like a typical happy family, many friends, family and community members have been questioning their sanity.
"People really think we have lost our minds," said Victoria. "My parents even think I am crazy, but his parents think it's a great idea."
Though David's parents have been supportive, and his father has even lent a hand when needed, everyone else in David's family agrees that David and Victoria are crazy.
"My parents are supportive, but everyone else who comes through, my uncles and everyone thinks I'm nuts," said David.
To give people insight into their tiny home adventure, and to connect with people living or interested in living the same lifestyle, Victoria has started a blog to share ideas, give updates and pick up tips on tiny living.
"It is a change in our lifestyle, so we are getting rid of everything extra and looking forward to enjoying the wilderness," said David.
To keep updated on the Whitchers' progress and journey, read their blog at: http://tinyhomesteadfreedom.blogspot.com/.