we break fast.

Jimmy Catlin and Jorie Ohlson | Tiny House Part One.

Jimmy and Jorie.Brunswick, Maine. Bagels from Mister Bagel.

Jimmy and I had met a couple of times before he began ordering quadruple shots of espresso–black–at the café where I worked. It was at that point that I knew we’d be friends. And then he brought in his lady, Jorie, who makes jewelry and is a professional healer (aka nurse) and is awesome. At the time, they both worked (and lived) at Gould Academy in Bethel, Maine, where they both also went to school. They were adorable. Like, finishing each other’s sentences adorable. Now, they’re living in Brunswick, Maine and constructing a tiny house on Jimmy’s aunt and uncle’s farmland. Jorie is working nights at Riverview Psychiatric Recovery Center and Jimmy is working always on the tiny house. This is the first of two tiny breakfasts with Jimmy and Jorie; the before. We talked dimensions, diversions, and, naturally, tiny house horror stories over Mister Bagel bagels and enormous iced coffees in a wall-less tiny house. They’re still adorable. You’ll see.

So, you’re having a tiny house raising today.

Jimmy: Yep. So…

Jorie: The walls are over there.

Jimmy: The walls are over there. We still have to put Zip System sheeting on the outside of the two end walls. It’s 24 feet, two inches. Which is just horribly inconvenient, because everything–all of these sheets–are 8’ x 4’. So, it would take exactly six sheets to cover this deck, but instead it takes six sheets and a little smidge.

Why the extra? That’s just the size of the trailer?

Jimmy: It’s just the manufacturer. I assumed it was going to come at 8’ x 24’, but it came at 8’ x 24’2”. It is dead on eight feet wide, though, which is nice. And that’s important, because you can only be eight and a half feet wide to legally travel without a permit, so the outside of these axels is 8’6” wide. That gives us three inches on either side, and that three inches will get eaten up by our green Zip System plywood [and] the siding.

Are you planning to stay stationary or be a wandering tiny house?

Jorie: On the move.

Jimmy: Well, the state of Maine’s laws are pretty tough right now, so we’ll probably have to move it every six months or so. But we don’t know where we’re living in it yet.

Jorie: But for the winter, we’ll be hopefully in Brunswick somewhere. Because my job is in Augusta, so it’s like 40 minutes from here.

How did you guys come up with this… well, wait. How did you get together? First. And foremost.

Jimmy: Well, we went to high school together. And then I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming right after college. And then I moved back and we started hanging out. And…

Jorrie: That’s when we started dating. [Laughs.]

Jimmy: [Laughs.] That’s when we started dating.

Jorie: People are always like, “Oh my god, what’s the story?” I’m like, “There is really no exciting story.”

Did you date in high school?

Jorie: No dating in high school. Just friends. All of our friends from high school are still really close.

Jimmy: Mmhmm.

How long did you live in Jackson?

Jimmy: Just a winter. December to April.

Did you work at the resort?

Jimmy: Uh huh. Parking lot attendant.

And then did you come back and go to Sunday River?

Jimmy: Yep. So I lived in Bethel that winter. Jorie was living in Portland. And then the following year, we both got jobs at Gould [Academy]. Did that for two years. And we both didn’t pay rent at Gould, which was sweet, and…

Jorie: We decided we never wanted to pay rent again.

Jimmy: Yeah, we came up with this life goal of never paying rent again.

I like it. And you’re kind of used to living in small spaces or no?

Jimmy: Yeah, I’ve always been moving around and packing things up. I have a lot of stuff, but mostly toys.

Yeah. I was thinking about this on the drive down, actually. You must have a lot of gear for all of your adventures and that would be the hardest part, I would think.

Jorie: Yeah. That’s the only problem. We need a tiny shed. [Laughs.]

Jimmy: Skis and snowboards, you can fit in places. It’s really going to be…

Jorie and Jimmy: Bikes.

Jorie: I have three bikes. And I’m not going to get rid of any of them because I have a mountain bike, a road bike, and a “town” bike. I use all of them.

Jimmy: But we’ll figure it out.

Jorie: We could make a tiny shed that you could just tow behind your car. Or, you can buy one of those. People have them for snowmobiles and stuff.

Jimmy: Well, I have been thinking I could build just like a four-foot wide roof that pitches off the house, that would be detachable. There are a bunch of easy solutions. There’s room under the trailer. You could probably slide a Thule box underneath in the summer [with] all of the snowboards and skis. Get it in the winter.

Yeah, that’s true. Had you guys lived together before now?

Jimmy: No. We’d never lived together.

How do you decide, “Hey, we’ve never lived together. Let’s move into a tiny house?”

Jorie: Or let’s live with your mom! [Laughs.]

Jimmy: [Laughs.]

Jorie: Well, even though at Gould we weren’t living together, we lived in very close proximity and we were on the same schedule. And we know how tidy each other… is? Couldn’t live in a tiny house with a messy person. That would really be bad.

Jimmy: Yeah, I feel like regardless of not actually having lived together, just being together for three and a half years is enough to feel confident in that. It’s not like there are any surprises. And a tiny house just seems like a cool option.

I think it’s a very cool option.

Jimmy: And as someone who likes to build things and solve problems, and try to be creative, it’s just a fun project.

Yeah, that was another thing I was going to ask you. You have experience building things?

Jorie: Jimmy does.

Jimmy: I’ve built a lot of stuff. Darcy said to me, “Have you ever built a house before?” And I was like, “No, but I’ve done all of the components of building a house–minus plumbing.” Plumbing was the only thing that really intimidated me, but I watched a bunch of YouTube and talked to a bunch of plumbers and they were like, “It’s really not that hard.”

I mean, few people have actually built an entire house before–start to finish. But you will fall into that category very soon.

Jimmy: Yeah. Really, you do everything that would go into a full-sized house–except for a concrete foundation–but it’s just on a small scale. For instance, this Advantek flooring. The first one we put down was kind of dicey, but by the time you get to the end of it, they’re much more square and everything looks really good. And then… then you’re done. [Laughs.] Once you get the knack for it.

So, one of the really important things with building tiny houses is connecting the house to the trailer. Because think about it: If you’re driving down the highway, it’s not built to be aerodynamic at all. So, you’ve got this huge sail that’s just getting hammered on by the wind. If you’re driving 60 miles per hour, that’s, you know, 60 mile-per-hour wind. And so you want to make sure that everything is solid. If you hit a bump, that’s 10,000 pounds of house torqueing on the trailer. That’s a lot.

Is it going to be 10,000 pounds?

Jimmy: Yeah, probably around 10,000 pounds. It can’t be more than [that]. The trailer axles are rated for 14,000 pounds, and the trailer itself weighs 4,000 pounds, so. That’s the threshold. That’s the restrictions of our trailer is the weight, and then…

Jorie: The height.

Jimmy: The height restriction is 13’6”–off the ground. We have 11’6” feet to build on top of the trailer deck. Six inches of that 11 feet get eaten up by the floor, and then probably about six inches at the top for the rafters and the roof. I think I did all of that math right… that would suck.

I hope so.

Jorie: Yep. And it’s not a problem if you’re just out on the road, but if you go under an overpass… You’ll see people who have bigger [tiny houses], and they’re just obviously not going to take them somewhere where they’d hit the roof.

Jimmy: Yeah, you can build it larger. Some people will build them like 10 feet wide, and what you’d have to do is go to the town and get an oversized load permit, get the flagging, and get the car that drives in front of you that says, “Oversized Load.” But it seemed easier to try and build it within the restrictions. And I don’t think that Jorie feels this way, but I already feel like this one is big.

Jorie: Oh, I don’t think it’s going to feel big.

Jimmy: [Laughs.]

Jorie: We’ve been in a couple; we’ve met some people who have them. And the first one we saw, we were like, “Oh my God, what are we doing?” It was terrible. [Laughs.] They just spent a ton of money on it and it felt like they were camping. How long was it, 20 feet?

Jimmy: Yeah, 20 feet.

Jorie: So, shorter than ours. It was completely off the grid, with solar panels and stuff. But their water line froze in November and they carried water in all. winter. long. And I was like, “There is no way I’m doing that. I am not camping out all winter in this tiny house.”

Jimmy: Well, and, do you remember what Michael said at Ian’s birthday party?

Jorie: No.

Jimmy: We were talking to someone who helped them work on it, and he was like, “Oh, I guess that makes sense. I used to see her in the coffee shop at L.L.Bean all the time in the winter, like super late.”

Jorie: Oh yeah, just to stay warm.

Jimmy: They were telling us that they’d decide what to make for dinner based on whether they could reuse the water for dishes and then…

Jorie: Use it to wash themselves.

Jimmy: To wash off before they go to bed.

Jorie: That was like…

Jimmy: I’m not really concerned about the space, but the amenities. My previous apartment was huge and I didn’t use all of the space at all. But I used all of the things within the space. We’ll have a small washer and dryer unit.

Jorie: It both washes and dries.

Jimmy: That will be right there. [Points.]

Jorie: But we met another couple who has [a tiny house] and how long was theirs?

Jimmy: I think all of the ones we’ve been in have been 20 feet. Or was Kendrick’s 24 feet?

Jorie: I don’t know, I can’t remember.

Jimmy: This guy was–how tall was he? 6’8”?

Jorie: He was huge. We were buying windows on Craigslist, and the guy we were buying the windows from was a plumber and we told him what we were doing, so then we talked about how to keep our plumbing from freezing in the winter, basically. And he was like, “Oh, there’s a guy right down the street building one–you guys should go check it out.” So, we went down the street and, sure enough, this guy– he’s probably our age?

Jimmy: A little older, probably.

Jorie: He’s building one. He was actually sleeping in his. I don’t think he had any running water or electricity, or anything, but. We’re doing a shed-style roof, so just one angle. A lot of them are gabled, which are very cute, but also a lot less space, and this, he must have been at least 6’5”.

Jimmy: I think he was 6’8”.

Jorie: And he was living in the tiny house. His feet–I don’t know how he made his loft long enough that his feet wouldn’t hang off, but…

Jimmy: I’m 5’7” and Jorie’s a little taller than me [laughs], but that makes it so that underneath the lofts, in our kitchen area and our bathroom, you can make the ceiling just a little bit shorter.

Jorie: We’ll be able to stand.

Jimmy: It’ll be 6’2” under the loft. Which is also because the shower is 72 inches and that has to be able to fit.

How much can you play with the design?

Jimmy: The basic floor plan is, that wall down there will be the kitchen.

Jorie: So that’s the door right there. [Points.]

Jimmy: Yep, the door’s right here.

Jorie: We’ll have to build stairs [up to the door]. I think that would be the easiest part. [Laughs.]

Jimmy: There will be a sink in the middle with a fridge on one side and a stove on the other, and there will be an island in the middle on castors, so that you can push it against one wall if you need more room. That’ll be storage and where we eat.

Jorie: ‘Cause you’ll be able to move it around.

Jimmy: Right against that wall, there will be a small–well, not small–there will be a full-sized couch. That could also be a place for someone to sleep if they wanted to.

You have a guest space in your tiny house!

Jimmy: Yeah, so there are going to be two 7’ x 7’ lofts, and the primary reason for that was storage. But if we got to a place where we weren’t using all of that space, there could be another bed up there. And then right here, there’s going to be a big window, and where Jorie’s sitting will be a gas stove.

Jorie: It looks like a wood stove, but it is not.

That is so cool. I love that you guys are having a fireplace in your tiny house.

Jimmy: Well, a lot of people use these Dickinson Marine stoves.

Jorie: They look cool.

Jimmy: They look really cool. And they’re wall-mounted and super sleek. And they’re good if you’re building a pretty small tiny house, like 14 feet by eight feet, but the Dickinson Marine stoves just don’t have the BTU output. You would have to be running it full bore all the time. They’re really good at heating a boat; that’s what they’re made for. And I mean, the stove we’re getting is very small. It’s 20 inches by 15 inches deep, by maybe 22 inches high?

Jorie: In that first tiny house that we saw, they had [a Dickinson Marine stove] in there and said it didn’t really keep it warm enough.

Jimmy: Yeah, I’d rather have the ability to just crank the heat, and have it be really, really warm and not have to worry about it.

Well yeah, living in Maine, you don’t want to be worrying about whether you’re able to produce enough heat.

Jorie: That is my biggest fear, is that it’s going to freeze–the water line. The shower trap is what freezes, so we made a… Well, do you want to explain it?

Jimmy: Yeah. A shower trap, you know, if you’ve ever seen an S-trap under a sink? What that does is holds a little bit of water in the bottom that creates a seal in the pipe, so that gasses can’t come back up from your septic system, into your house. That standing water in a shower trap, because it’s so close to the bottom of the trailer… A lot of people do 2 x 4 subfloor, because you can do that with the strength of the trailer, but we did a 2 x 6 subfloor so that we could fit all of our plumbing in an insulated cavity. And what we did for the shower trap was got a sheet of radiant floor heating mat and cut it down, and then built a foamboard box–a super insulated box, basically–insulated the pipe… this pretty elaborate thing just for a shower trap. And then put a floor sensor into it, so that it has a digital thermometer. That’s hooked up to a thermostat, so we can just set a temperature that we don’t want it to go below.

That’s awesome. I feel like you’re probably loving that problem-solving.

Jimmy: Yeah, that’s a fun solution. Hopefully it works! [Laughs.]

I think you mentioned when we were having lunch or something that you had to buy a million hurricane straps? Because if you’re moving it, it’s like hurricane-force winds?

Jimmy: Yeah, they’re called Simpson Strong-Ties, they’re rafter ties. At each [connection] point, there’s a rafter tie. On the main floor joist, there are… 88 connection points? With Strong-Ties, which are each put in with five self-tapping, stainless steel screws in each side, so 10 total on each one. That’s 880 screws.

That’s cool.

You’re like, “Yeah. Awesome.” [Laughs.] Anyway, you grew up in Brunswick?

Jimmy: Yep.

What’s nice about being back in this area?

Jorie: The ocean! Actually, it’s funny that you ask that because Jimmy’s cousin is going to be here this winter–he’s been in Colorado for school and stuff, and he’s like, “What do you do here in the winter?” And we’re like, “Well, you ski… and… eat, pretty much.”

Where will you ski now?

Jorie: This will be the first year that I haven’t gotten a season pass in like, 12 or 13 years, I think. No, way longer. It’s like 12 or 13 years at Sunday River. I think that we are going to do a lot of backcountry, because Jimmy does the split board and I have an AT setup.

Jimmy: Yeah, when we actually had time to ski together, that’s what we were doing more often than not.

Jorie: We went over to Jay Peak a couple of times. [I’d like to go to] Sugarloaf more.

Jimmy: Saddleback.

Jorie: Saddleback, if they open. Or even if they don’t open.

They might not open?

Jimmy: Yeah, they’re having some funding issues.

Jorie: Hopefully, they’ll get the funding. Because that mountain is awesome. Have you skied there before?

I’ve never skied there!

Jorie: Oh, it’s really good. You’ve got to go. They have Maine Days when you can ski for, I don’t know, $35 or something. It’s a good deal. That was the best skiing, I think, all [last] year. Before Christmas. There had been a couple of huge storms and they hadn’t opened the top part of the mountain yet, and we went on Monday…?

Jimmy: It was a Tuesday, I think.

Jorie: Just a random day. And they had just opened the chairlift to the top of the mountain, and there was so much snow.

[I feel bad that] I don’t even know this–where are you from originally, Jorie?

Jorie: I’m from Conway, New Hampshire. So not too far [away]. But then I went to Gould, Bates, and UNE (University of New England), and I lived in Portland in between, so I’ve been in Maine for a long time.

I was just in Conway last weekend. I wanted to go hiking by myself, so I went to Hedgehog Mountain. It seemed like a reasonable place to go.

Jimmy: Hedgehog Mountain. I’ve never been there.

It’s really pretty. It’s the UNH trail, I think.

Jorie: Ohhh. Is it off the Kancamagus [Highway]?


Jorie: Oh oh oh, I know where it is. My family has a little camp [near there] It’s actually a camp, though. [You know] when people are like, “Oh, we’re going up to camp.” [With a] satellite dish, plumbing. This is like a shack in the woods.

Jimmy: The tiny house will be very plush compared to camp.

Jorie: Yeah. Well, that’s the whole point. I don’t want to be camping out in the tiny house.

How long do you guys think you’ll… is this indefinite tiny house living? Do you think you could do it forever?

Jimmy: I don’t know about forever, but at least for a while. Like I said, I never want to pay rent again. I’m not really interested in paying someone else’s mortgage… Mortgages themselves seem pretty crazy.

Jorie: That was another motivator to build a tiny house. We have friends who are buying houses right now, and are going to spend almost the value of the house in interest by the time they’re done paying for it, in like 40 years. I can’t imagine doing that.

Jimmy: Yeah. No interest.

Jorie: And [another] part of living in a tiny house is, you accumulate less things, you have less to take care of in terms of maintenance, cleaning… it’s just all-around easier.

Jimmy: Yeah, if you have no place to put something, you won’t buy it. And then instead of spending that money, you have it.

Jorie: And then everything you have, you really like, and if you don’t like it, get rid of it and get what you really want.

Jimmy: I think a perfect example is all of my snowboards. I have a ton of snowboards. And I maybe rode three of them this year, and one of them, when I rode it, I realized that I hated it. [Laughs.] And I have all of these snowboards that just sit there, and it’s because I have the space for them.

Jorie: I think it’s really hard [to get rid of stuff], but I’ve gotten really good at it. And the more I get rid of stuff, the more I want to get rid of stuff.

Jimmy: Yeah, you kind of thrive on it.

Jorie:I’ve got to get rid of more stuff!

[Laughs.] Pretty soon, you’re going to have nothing left.

Jimmy: There are all of these different “simplify your life” books and articles and things that we’ve read. One of them is the 365-day rule: If you can look at something and say, “I haven’t worn that/used that in a year,” you probably don’t need it.

Yeah. When I was traveling a lot, I would leave stuff at my parents’ house and be like, “Oh I’ll get it when I get back. Or whenever,” and I still have stuff at my parents’ house. I don’t need that stuff, clearly.

What are you most excited about with regards to the tiny house?

Jorie: Living in the tiny house! Living together. Without other roommates, for the first time. I think just being in the house and having all of our stuff, and being settled, will be really nice.


One comment

  1. Pingback: Jimmy Catlin and Jorie Ohlson | Tiny House Part Two. | we break fast.


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