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'Tiny House Hunters': My Story

By TK Burton | TV | January 17, 2018 |

By TK Burton | TV | January 17, 2018 |


Well, this is it! Tiny House Hunters has signed us on to begin our dream trip towards downsizing and getting back to leaving less of an imprint on this world. It’s going to be a roller coaster, so I figured that in addition to everyone watching us on Tiny House Hunters, I’d keep this journal so you could get a glimpse of our behind-the-scenes lives. A little bit about us:

My name is Cole Van Waldt. I’m currently technically unemployed, but I’m actually a writer. I haven’t been published, but I’ve self-published several works of experimental wordless poetry on Amazon. A lot of people think that I’m spoiled because of the trust fund I receive income from, but they don’t understand that I’ve lived more in my 27 years than most people do in a lifetime! I’ve studied with yogis in India, traveled to South America, and lived in Indiana before moving to California. I’m really well-rounded.

My partner and co-life experiencer is Sarsaparilla “Sass” Barnes. Sometimes people judge her for going by her chosen name instead of her birth name, Jordynn, but I feel like it really speaks to her life experience. She’s a teacher, focusing on better living through organic water intake and gluten-free yoga. She’s also training to be a doula specializing in contaminant-free hot-air balloon birthing. We met at a TGIFriday’s in Ann Arbor, and soon realized we were soul mates, although we don’t necessarily subscribe to the Judeo-Christian definition of a soul and prefer to think of ourselves as earth-mates, born of the love the planet has for its living creatures, and doing our part through poetry, art, and information to give that love to all our friends and family.

Why are we looking into a tiny house? We’re trying to show the world that diversity isn’t just about skin color or religion, but also about how and where you live. Right now, we live in a condo outside LA. It’s only 3000 square feet, but it still feels too big for us. Plus, it’s a little too close to a pretty… urban area. It’s not that we don’t like the people there. But there’s a bit of crime and a lot of loud music… it’s not that I don’t like rap music — I’m super into early Childish Gambino, and Sass is a huge Macklemore fan — it’s just that we’re into the lighter side of the hip hop spectrum, you know? Anyway, we love travel and reading, but we decided that it was time to try to eschew some of our more material possessions to help show our friends a more righteous, healthy path to human understanding and earth-loving.

Day One: We had our first meeting with the producers. They seemed super enthusiastic about meeting with us, and we went through a lot of our expectations, budgets, what we wanted in finishes, stuff like that. It was great. We told them that we didn’t want to focus too much on material issues and were more concerned with just getting ourselves into a place where we felt like we were creating fewer impact points on the earth’s aura overall. We also emphasized marble counters, our preference for teak or mahogany, and that brass finishes were an absolute dealbreaker. Also, we prefer a queen size bed and a double fridge since Sass is doing a gluten-free purge diet right now, and I’ve diagnosed myself as being allergic to eggs, noodles, beef, potatoes, chocolate, cashews, orange juice, and any products derived from an animal that ever consumed non-raw water. I think they were initially kind of shocked at how deeply we’ve thought about our bodies and how we are affected by our environments, but once we reviewed our budget with them, they were suddenly super excited!

Day Five: We saw our first house today! It was OK. It was a total of 475 square feet, which was a little bigger than we planned. The finishes were lovely, and the composting toilet was a nice touch that brought us closer to off-the-grid living. Unfortunately, Sass didn’t love the lack of crown molding, and I felt like the lofted bed space lacked the proper sense of positivity. Still, it was a nice start and we did like that the plumbing system was made out of recycled electrical chairs from abandoned prisons in Belarus.

Day Eight: House number two! This one was a little bit more our speed, at 300 square feet. It even had a miniature yard that came with free range pygmy goats, so you never have to mow! Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to goat hooves so we may have to move the goats to a place where they’re more appreciated. There’s an active composting system and while I’m not super thrilled to have to deal with that, I do like that we’ll be using a natural byproduct like sawdust to reduce our waste. Too bad I’m pretty sure I’m allergic to wood shavings. I didn’t love the finishes inside the house, but the boiler being made out of repurposed Cambodian land mines was a nice touch. Also, the study nook that faces a natural estuary would be a great place for me to put the finishing touches that my screenplay must need before it gets accepted. 32nd try is a charm!

Day Twelve: Folks, we may have a winner. Coming in at 250 square feet, with drawer and cabinet handles retrieved from a Mississippi plantation manor (it’s like we’re freeing slaves every time we set the table!), and a low-maintenance incinerator toilet that will allow us to burn our human waste, sending the scent of our day’s experience into the air for the earth to reclaim, I feel like we’ve hit jackpot. Yes, the ceiling is only 18 inches above the lofted bed, but as long as we get in and out of bed in order, we’re fine! It’s a nice rustic setting, too, making it feel like living on a back-to-land type farm (I’d love to start a farm, but Sass is allergic to dirt).

Day Thirteen: That’s it, we’ve settled! We picked house number three. We made a couple minor changes — we had some custom made miniature Mission-style furniture installed instead of the stuff they’d found in an abandoned antique circus trailer, and of course we had to have wi-fi. Anyway, tomorrow is the big purge, and the day after we move our remaining belongings!

Day Fourteen: Purge Day was a bit of a challenge. Sass wasn’t a fan of my suggestion that we cut down on her collection of Indian demigod sculpture, and got pretty upset when I challenged her by noting that a lot of them came from Pier One. On the other hand, I didn’t feel like it was fair that I had to give up my collection of custom-woven hemp shirts, arguing that if down the road we felt they didn’t fit our lifestyle choices or we didn’t have space, we could use them as compost. Sass came back to argue that this would activate her dirt allergen, which I guess is valid. In the end, we both made some sacrifices and ended up leaving a bunch of stuff at the LA condo (we’re not selling it just yet).

Day Fifteen: Moving Day! This was a bear of a day, and pretty exhausting. It was hot, sweaty, tiring work, and I can’t even imagine how it was for the crew of Latino gentlemen that moved all our stuff. But thanks to my tireless directions, they seemed to be able to get in and out quickly. They were very nice (I think?) but didn’t appear interested in Sass’s offers of homemade unsweetened Jerusalem artichoke soda.

Day Sixteen: Our first official first day of tiny living! It was a dream come true. We really got a chance to relax and enjoy each other’s company. I really think this is going to work!

Day Eighteen: Minor hiccup — Sass and I decided to “break in” the new bed but our intimate moment had a slight mishap when I got a concussion from hitting my head on the ceiling. To make matters worse, when I passed out I hit my head on Sass’s face and she got a tiny bloody nose.

Day Twenty: Still going great, though working on my screenplay and poetry is a bit challenging when I have to listen to Sass’s Sino-Swahili meditative chanting. Maybe we can start doing this stuff in shifts.

Day Twenty Five: Everything’s great, although we’re adjusting to the limitations of our kitchen. I tried to make my famous no-carb kale-and-flax risotto, but I burned myself on the oven every time I opened the fridge. Thankfully, there’s a pretty good sushi place that delivers, though I had to promise to pay an extra fifty dollars, and weirdly they really didn’t appreciate me ordering in Japanese despite my learning through two weeks of immersion study when I was in Thailand.

Day Thirty: The toilet smells. I’ve tried to talk to Sass about maybe reducing the protein in her diet, but she gets super defensive. I know it’s not me because I haven’t pooped in ten days.

Day Thirty-Five: Sass and I just had a brief disagreement and she actually yelled at me. She said I wasn’t respecting her space because I was trying to do stretches in the living room while she was trying to read, and I accidentally kept elbowing her in the kidneys. I moved across the room but still ended up sitting on her hair. When I tried to talk to her about maybe trimming her dreads, she threw her book at me, missed, and broke a window. We made up that night, though. We tried to have some nice makeup sex, but while I was trying to, you know, go down there my ankle got stuck in a corner and I pulled a muscle in my neck.

Day Forty: I finally pooped. The incinerator toilet backed up and there was a fire in the house. Just a tiny one. Sass was not amused. She told me she was going to sleep outside tonight under the stars and hopefully she’d regain some balance by sleeping closer to the night sky.

Day Forty-One: I slept like a baby. Sass came in this morning even angrier, because she apparently got bitten by like a million mosquitoes. I mean how is that my fault?

Day Forty-Five: Sass slapped me. She actually fucking slapped me. Just because I said I was sick of her stupid asparagus soda because it made the whole house stink whenever one of us pees or poops, and then she said “at least I can poop, COLEMAN”. I shouldn’t have called her a bitch.


Day Fifty-Five: I’m worried about Sass. I went to the store today and came home to find her watching pornography. She wasn’t even masturbating. She was just… staring at the screen. Picking her teeth. With a chef knife.

Day Sixty: Sass won’t stop talking to me. She won’t stop following me around the house. Every room I’m in, she’s in. No one has done the dishes in days. Our sink can only hold four cups of water, so the kitchen looks like hell. I’ve given up on asparagus soda altogether, and it appears that I’ve gotten over my vodka allergy. I stopped shaving because I broke the bathroom mirror by accident while flossing last night.

Day Sixty-Five: Sass threatened to leave me. Then she told me to get out. Now she’s just staring outside, talking to a cat that I’m pretty sure isn’t there, trying to teach it vegan pilates.

Day Seventy: Sass woke up screaming at me, something about me rolling over too loudly. I told her that she farts in bed and it feels like dying. She shoved me out of the loft and I think I broke something in my leg, but she won’t listen to my screaming.

Day Seventy… one? I’m not sure. I’ve been lying on the floor with something broken in my leg. Sass… I don’t even know. Is she still here? I hear laughing, then crying, and then it sounds like more pornography? It hurts. It hurts.

Day… something. I think I see bone. Sass started yelling at me again, and then she hit me. Then… I think she got in a fight with a squirrel? Because she came inside all scratched up. I told her I needed a doctor, and she said she’d call a tiny fucking ambulance if I’d shut the fuck up. I’m worried that she might have rabies or something.

I don’t even know if it’s night or day anymore. I don’t know where Sass is. I hear… something… outside. Talking. Laughing. The windows shatter. Something stabbed into my belly while I was sleeping and when I woke up, I thought I heard coyotes?

I saw Sass. She looks like she’s… gone feral. Wild. She had no clothes on and was eating that cat. She hissed and ran away when I tried to crawl to her. There’s so much blood. The door is only three feet away but it feels like a mile.

I hear lights? Or see sirens. Or something. I don’t remember the last time I saw Sass. I think… I think I ate my foot? I couldn’t make it to the fridge to get a gluten-free wheat bar. Maybe I should’ve gotten a tinier house.

TK Burton is the Editorial Director. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.

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