Communicating With Your Partner On Your Tiny House Build

When Boyfriend and I began our search for the perfect vehicle to call our tiny home, we seemed to be in agreement about everything. First we wanted a school bus, then we wanted a tiny house on wheels. Then, with a little research, the possibilities opened up, and we became aware of just how many options we had. School buses, transit buses, classic tour buses, 5th wheels, goosenecks, vintage campers, build from scratch, build with a kit, build with reclaimed materials. The world was our oyster. The only trouble was we were looking at different pearls and didn’t know it. Allow me to explain:

Last Sunday morning, at my insistence, the two of us made a two hour drive to see an especially cheap pull-behind camper discovered during a chance Craigslist perusal. When I saw the price ($400!) I leaped out of bed and ran to find my better half. He was mowing the yard, so I threw on something that wasn’t a nightgown (I didn’t want to give the neighbors a thrill teehee!), and ran out the door to tell him what I’d found. A couple of hours and one very light breakfast later, we were on our way to see the Budget Wonder. But during the trip, something strange happened. Boyfriend couldn’t understand my desire to see the camper. He kept asking me, “Do you actually want something like that?” in a tone that had me baffled and worried. Hadn’t we been on the same page in this endeavor since the beginning? Didn’t we always want the same things for our new life together? Then it dawned on both of us: somewhere along the way we’d started imagining completely different end goals. We both assumed that we wanted similar things without actually checking in with one another.

We arrived at our destination and, wouldn’t you know it, the Budget Wonder was more budget and less wonder. The axles were warping, the rust was plentiful, and the whole structure was collapsing under its own weight. Needless to say, we went home empty handed. On the ride back home, we talked for the first time in a long time about how we saw our someday abode. I introduced him to vintage campers (he thought they were all Airstreams), and he gave me a lot of good reasons for sticking with our original idea of a school bus. In the end, the trip was not a complete waste. I just wish it hadn’t taken a cumulative 4 hour drive to get us talking to one another again about our plans for the future.

After giving it some serious thought, I realized that there are (at least!) 3 great ways to avoid these kinds of communication mishaps during a tiny build:

  1. Call a weekly meeting. It sounds like something right out of the Brady Bunch, but it works. Sit down with your significant other every week for a family meeting (include the kids if you feel it’s a good idea). Use this time to keep focus on the project, present any new ideas, raise questions, and express doubts. Keep notes during the week to bring to the meeting so you don’t forget anything important.
  2. Create a budget together. Having different ideas about what you intend to spend on your project can halt work and lead to serious arguments. Use one of your weekly meetings to create a budget together. Decide what to spend on the vehicle itself, the flooring, electrical, plumbing, cabinetry, and anything else going into your new home. This may take more than one session, but everyone involved should commit to waiting on the finished budget before any money is spent. Make sure both you and your partner have a copy of your completed plan, and vow to stick to it. Most importantly, no one should make any unplanned purchases. Run everything by each other first.
  3. Say something immediately if you have a change of heart. This one can be disappointing, because it means that either you or your partner have decided that living the tiny, minimalist lifestyle just isn’t a good fit. This needs to be discussed promptly to minimize the loss of money and time. If you already hate small spaces and can’t imagine living without an army of kitchen appliances, don’t make the mistake of thinking that life on the road will somehow change that. If you don’t like it now, you definitely won’t like it in a bus. If you’re unsure, look online for people willing to rent out their tiny homes. Once you’ve secured a unit, try living in it for a week. By the end of the experience, you’ll be much more confident of your feelings.

Now that Boyfriend and I are back on the same page, we’re making sure to talk daily about where we see this whole enterprise going. Our experience reminded me of why we connected in the first place, how comfortably we converse with each other if we just take the trouble. It’s given me a renewed sense that our life on the road will be everything we both want it to be: adventurous, exciting, death-defying, transformative, and uncommonly full of good conversation.


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