Over the past couple weeks I’ve been collecting stuff and on the lookout for the right trailer. The trailer will be the foundation for the tiny free house and I expect to spend a little money on it (that will be recaptured from selling good free stuff found on craigslist of course).
The final design will be determined by the trailer I finally choose. I suspect the 6′ by 15′ size will probably end up closer to 7′ by 12′ or even smaller like 5′ by 10′. I also think I need two axles but if I find a good one with one axle and heavy duty springs I may settle for that. In any event I hope to have the trailer challenge solved by the end of the month (July 2008) so I can start putting all the pieces together.
As I’ve been diving into the world of scavenging on craigslist.org I’ve learned 6 important lessons I thought I’d share with you.
1. Move Fast
Stuff goes really fast, especially the good stuff. Keep a close eye on craigslist or even setup an RSS reader with your favorite searches bookmarked. Be ready to jump in the truck at a moments notice. Be prepared to let good stuff go if you can’t get there quickly.
2. Good Stuff Gets Flagged
It seems the professional scavengers flag the things they want to prevent other people from getting to it before they do. I’m not going to stoop to this dirty trick but knowing that it’s happening is keeping me more on my toes.
3. The Is No ‘DIBBS’
Nobody giving stuff away free will hold it for you. Hey man it’s free and on the curb. First come first serve. Survival of the quickest.
4. Some Stuff Isn’t Even Worth Free
There is a lot of really strange and truly worthless stuff on craigslist. Actually it’s kind of funny to browse the photos and see what people are giving away. Sometimes they include little stories about the stuff which makes the reading all the funnier. My wife Julia ran across one ad for a bunch of almost new pottery barn furniture with a description that went something like this… “My girlfriend dumped me and moved out, the furniture is in the driveway, I’d like it all gone quick.” Sad but funny.
5. Avoid Pee
Avoid anything that absorbs pee like mattresses, sofas, and chairs. If it’s free and it absorbs pee it probably has been peed on. We grabbed a very nice free sofa off a curb a couple blocks away, put it in the garage overnight, and guess what our garage smelled like the next morning? Luckily I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know about rule number 5. I posted it on craigslist and three hours later it was gone.
6. Bring A Free Sign With You
I learned this little trick from the people at Gomi Style. The free sign is handy for any dumpster diver trying to explain themselves to anyone that inquires about what you’re up to . I’m not sure I have the gonads to pickup stuff wthout permission but keeping the free sign in the truck makes me feel better.
In a disaster situation survival is the primary need, speed to build trumps all other requirements. These little houses are a wonderful example of how a little design and care can result in a very usable and aesthetic house while still being extremely quick to build with easily available materials. It’s much more than a box or shed. It’s a well thought out design and construction method. Kudos to the people behind this project!
I have considered building with unmodified pallets but a speedy build times are not a requirement for me. Quality of end result is far more important because I see tiny free homes like the one I’m building to be occupied permanently and not only used for disaster situations. I also want to show how a very livable home can be built with free materials. Breaking down pallets and rebuilding with the wood seems to be a valuable use of time since it should yield a stronger and longer lasting home.
What are your thoughts?