Tiny houses. Campers. RVs. Yurts. Buses. Cob Houses. Extreme downsizing. Off-grid living. However you label it, people of every age and background are knocking big square footage off their list of must-haves for a new home. In fact, it may now be the fastest growing lifestyle movement in America, and not just for first-time buyers.
Why? Well, the loads of money you save each year are a pretty sweet reward. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We sat down with two new Yurt owners, Kevin Weidner and Annie Agnone, to find out.
So when did you decide the Yurt life was for you? I can’t really imagine thinking “living in Maine like Mongol nomads sounds cool” was a spur of the moment decision?
Our interest in yurts is fairly recent, though both Annie and I have had alternative living on our radar for a while. The bottom line is, we were tired of paying rent on a place we didn’t own and not being able to save very much at all. We wanted to be able to reduce our overall footprint, and we wanted to live more intentionally, more deliberately. We’re now off-grid, using propane for cooking and gas for driving, and growing more of our own food.
I feel like that really resonates with a lot of us. But how did you know you were ready for something like this?
What sealed the deal was when we spent a summer driving around the country a few years ago. Over three months we drove 15,000 miles, sleeping mostly in our car, from which we’d removed the back seats and built a sleeping platform. Living like that — with two sizeable dogs, too — proved to us that we could handle living together in a small space.
But I think in considering a move like this a person should be honest with themselves about the creature comforts they need and those they can live without. Really, I think so long as you’re not motivated to do it just for the “novelty” or something it’s a viable option. Hell, even if a person does just want to “try it for a year”, why not just go for it?
It’s definitely a big lifestyle change, when you’re downsizing that much – think yard sale and Craigslist and throwing things at our friends. I quit my full-time job. But now, Annie’s office is literally around the corner. And we’re just generally happier than we’ve ever been before.
Preparing is one thing, but actually doing it is another. How was the move?
Honestly, I think we’ve both been surprised by the apparent ease of transition, though this is probably because we’re both relatively easy-going, low-maintenance, and outdoorsy people. We both value and find rewarding the type of work that the new life requires — building, working with hands, gardening, etc.
The building company supplied the Yurt, but we were responsible for building the platform – a round deck that became our floor.
With the help of friends, we built it in a single weekend (literally two 12-hour days, so not “in a weekend” like “it was easy”). Then on “yurt raising” day, they delivered the yurt and helped us put it up. The raising process took about eight hours. It’s a lot of work, but it turns out building your home with your friends is a really rewarding experience.
Ok now we’re getting a little jealous. How has settling in been, and how does it all look?
The settling in has been smooth and so far hasn’t felt burdensome at all (knock on wood). Certainly there’s plenty of work to do — finishing the outhouse, building all the interior items (lofted bed, kitchen, hearth pad, etc.), cutting and splitting firewood for winter, and on and on, endlessly. It keeps us busy, sure, but in some regards this doesn’t feel like “work” in the traditional sense, since it’s tasks that we’ve assigned ourselves, and it’s rewarding to see our new home take shape.
Locally sourced saplings make up the structure – a sort of lattice, accordion-style wall – and then whole saplings serve as the rafters. There’s a skylight with chimney insert in the center of the sloped roof, and a waterproof, heavy-duty canvas covers the outside, with a thin insulation on the inside.
We use propane with a four-burner stove and small oven for cooking, we have strings of solar-powered LED lights strung around the inside and outside for ambient lighting, and we use Luci lights for the real deal (to cook by, read by, and generally live by). We even have a countertop water filter for drinking water hauled from a nearby brook.
To follow along with Kevin and Annie, check them out at www.thatyurt.com and on Insta: @thatyurt (@annieagnone + @weidnerkevin).