Where have I been? What’s going on?

Where have I been?
It’s a good question! I’ve been really busy the past two months, but haven’t made a ton of progress on the COMET. Other vintage camper people out there, have you ever tried polishing the pitted, foggy aluminum back up to a mirror finish? It takes forever! It also requires a large angle grinder, which I’m embarrassed to say I can’t really lift up in the first place (so it becomes Matt’s job). We’ve been working on it little by little, but it takes many hours and is a crappy job. It’s the one thing standing in between me and a beautiful exterior paint job (also Matt’s forte because he used to do fancy pin striping and decals on cars).

The reason I have been so busy is because I really need money to complete the COMET and I had to put a lot of time and energy into my Etsy shop, where I sell awesome vintage clothing. My shop is called Planet Queen Vintage (based on the T Rex song but also referencing awesome ladies that do cool stuff to positively impact the planet) and I would be so grateful if you guys took a minute to check out all the new stuff and hard work I’ve been putting into the shop the past few months. I added 100+ new items, took better photographs, and increased the overall awesomeness content. Bet you guys didn’t know I run a business on the side in addition to the COMET?! Vintage fashion is my secret weakness ( and vintage furniture, and sunglasses, and campers). All of the profits from the shop right now go DIRECTLY (like, every penny) into finishing the COMET. If you see something you like and decide to buy it, you will be helping me buy some non-toxic exterior paint, some photovoltaic components, and some other little things needed to complete this project. Take a look even if it’s just to give me a critique on the shop, I’d appreciate that too! If you see stuff you like, you can check back often because I add multiple new items every morning. Thank you nice readers!

Over the summer, after the Tiny House Fair, I found myself really struggling to figure out where I fit in (me and the COMET both). What am I doing with this? Am I making a difference? I wasn’t really sure if I fit in with tiny house movement, after getting those discouraging comments (yes, I know the COMET isn’t a cedar sided 6-12 pitch roof home on wheels – who said it had to be? and yes, I know there are not yet solar panels on the top, its’ not finished!). I started getting frustrated and questioning my work and my whole life really (uh oh). Am I just another over privileged college kid doling out sermons about things I can’t possibly be know all the answers to (life lessons, how to be greener, how to be happy)? Do my blog posts and carefully curated photographs add to the fetishization of simple lifestyles that I’m finding make me more and more uncomfortable? Are tiny houses just becoming another commodity for consumers to purchase and own in addition to their “big” homes? It sounds kind of negative, but I just had to reflect on what I was doing and why, and how to be more honest with you guys and myself, and accept the limits to what myself and the COMET can accomplish. We’re not perfect, and that’s a hard thing to admit. I have to tow the camper with a gas guzzling truck, so is that trade off worth it? I want to educate people about sustainability in a fun, hands-on way with the COMET, but at the same time in order to spread the word and talk to all of these wonderful people I have to use a fossil fuel burning machine. There are lots of contradictions, I just have to be able to articulate them and then wait to see if a reconciliation can ever be reached.
On another note, I have been receiving lots of nice notes / messages from all of you, and I want to say that if I haven’t responded yet it is truthfully only because I want to give each and every response the time and energy it deserves. Sometimes that means it takes me a while to get back to your messages and emails, but I honestly appreciate and love each and every time someone takes a moment to email me. Let me know what you’re up to, ask a question, give me some feedback. I will respond, I just want to be able to give my full attention to all of your awesome inquiries. Keep ’em coming! Thank you everyone for reading along with this journey that is WAY longer and WAY more complex than I thought it would be!! You all keep me going with every comment and email message I receive. You remind me why I have to stick out the difficult parts (angle grinding / polishing) so that I can do the awesome parts (meeting you all on the road, talking to you, and sharing camper stories!).

I also watched “Chasing Ice” the other day, and it filled me with urgency and purpose. It’s a very good documentary.

The past few months Matt’s been getting excited about survival techniques and survivalist skills – which is really awesome because we’ve been making lots of fires from scratch and improving our fire cooking cast-iron skillet skills. We’ve been talking a bit about the similarities and differences between “Survivalist” an “Sustainability” movements. I think after living out of the Honda Element car for two months in the spring we both just got into “survivalist” mode, and even though we’re back in the city currently we still like to do all the stuff we do when we’re camping for a long period of time.

I want to share some cool links with you all that I’ve been collecting the last few weeks, check them out if you have a moment:

This first one is a really awesome interview from the Etsy blog from a while ago. The interviewee is Frankie Moore Lappe, author of “Diet for a Small Planet”. She hits the nail on the head in talking about the problem with how we currently frame sustainability with language and diction like “reduce”, “avoid”, “limits”, “minimalize”. I’ll let you guys read the article then maybe I’ll post the essay I wrote two years ago about the problematic language of the sustainability movement so you can see the similarities + differences.


The next link is to a video of a guy’s conversion van (Sprinter) that I think is pretty neat. The one thing I don’t understand is having a toilet. I lived out of a car for months and I never once missed a toilet (THANK YOU P-STYLE FEMININE DIVERTER!) and I think it would make your living space more unpleasant than pleasant. Other than that, it has some neat ideas. Theoretically, I am sort of getting over the “squeeze as much into the tiny mobile thing as you possibly can” idea, but it’s cool nonetheless. I’m really into the mint green paint job.


Also, the amazing Robin Hayes from Build Tiny (http://build-tiny.com/) is hosting a workshop soon (October 10-13) in VA and you all should check it out. Robin is a really inspiring lady who I have met at multiple workshops all over the place. She is a carpenter, plumber, doer, maker, and all around amazing person to learn from. Everyone loves her and her skill and energy are sure to give you the start you need to get your tiny house or other building project on track. Also, dear friends Dee Williams and Lee Pera (Boneyard Studios) will be there helping out, and you need to meet these incredible, smart, (dare I day gorgeous?!) ladies. You won’t regret it!

http://build-tiny.com/ for more details.

Last thing:
I’m writing a book.
There. I said it out loud. Now I really have to do it.

I seriously wanted to steal this sign from Steve Harrell's house (tiny house listings, tiny house vacations). I'll have to paint one myself!

I seriously wanted to steal this sign from Steve Harrell’s house (tiny house listings, tiny house vacations). I’ll have to paint one myself!

love you all, keep me updated with your cool projects and thank you for reading as always

❤ Mariah

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10 thoughts on “Where have I been? What’s going on?

  1. Brenden Murphy says:

    You’ve captured a lot of what’s been bothering me about the tiny house thing of late – competitive, conspicuous consumption and moral superiority of the fetish. I’ve also noticed class playing a big role – like yeah, “it’s on a trailer, but it isn’t one of *those* trailers that *those* people live in, it’s a proper house for respectable people.” As if lack of affordable and sustainable housing isn’t a huge issue for poor and rural people!
    I’m increasingly headed towards just staying critical about the tendency to accumulate crap and complicate life and letting the tinyhouse cards lay where they fall. We’re making it in our small house and we’ll just keep taking inspiration where we find it.
    I love the Comet project because it isn’t a Shafer clone (as I love his stuff for being original) and because it has such great style. I’m happy to hear about the book and will definitely pick up a copy when it’s done!

    • Brenden, your comment is SPOT ON. Thank you for your thoughts. Class, race, and even gender are all issues that intersect with housing, and it’s awesome to hear from others who can see through the Pinterest-worthy house porn. Housing is a huge issue, and so few tiny houses are inhabited by people who could really benefit from shelter. Thank you for your compliment on the COMET – it means so much to me! Also THANK YOU for your support on the book – love those words of encouragement! You are right to be critical / skeptical – thank you for your thoughtful comment. I was so nervous about sort of “shitting on my own sermon” or being hypocritical, but I’m glad I expressed my frustrations. Thanks again!

  2. Hi! I tried to post a comment supporting you and your endeavors right around the Tiny House Fair, but it never appeared. So I’ll try again. 🙂

    The Comet, in my opinion, fits nicely with the TH community. It fits with the intent and spirit, no matter what prejudiced, snooty comments you might get from a few detractors. Heck, you will never get a large group of people to agree on everything. Try reading through comments left on other TH sites and you’ll see disagreement over everything from the number of items you are “supposed” to own to if it’s OK to raise children in one.

    There’s no shortage of people who want to step on others dreams – you just need to hang on anyway and let them sputter.


    • Parker, thank you so much. I’m sorry your first comment didn’t get through – must have been a bug with wordpress? Thanks for trying again I really appreciate your kind words! You’re absolutely right – not everyone is going to like it. I just have to do what I want! Also, I was supposed to be named Parker, but instead I’m a Mariah Pastell and Parker got passed on to my sister!

  3. Hee, I renamed myself – Maria is a beautiful name too. Parker is somewhat unusual for women.

    I’m glad this later comment got through. I don’t really care for the prejudiced folks showing up lately, but it isn’t surprising. I do think it’s a bad idea to let them run you off! Please don’t let the Nasties (my new nickname for them) undermine you.

    I also think that no matter what motivates people to “go Tiny”, or simplify, or start using fewer resources, the end result will be a positive thing. After the 1%-ERS get tired of their trendy play houses, they will sell them and make them available to the people who really want/need them, Plus, they have the clout to get zoning laws and housing regulations changed. Let them play – and you and I can keep on living a conscientious life.

    • Parker, you are so right. I actually just went back and dug up your original comment! Reading it made me so happy, so thank you for taking the time to write it all out. I’m so glad I found it 🙂
      I agree – no matter how or why people make changes, it’s a good thing. That’s why I don’t want to discourage anyone – every little change is important. And that’s a really good point about those people being able to persuade regulations and laws! Let’s hope they use that power for good!
      Thanks for all your thoughts and conversation 🙂

      • You are so welcome!
        I have a little blog about my Tiny Home (see what I did there?:-) ) at coffeewitholiver on WordPress, if you want to cruise over there. Embarrassingly, the poor thing has been sitting under tarps for a year now, as I wait to accumulate enough money to hire help with the heavy and awkward stuff. Hopefully, next year.


      • I can’t wait to check it out! Don’t feel bad – the COMET goes through phases like that more often than not…either trying to raise money to do the next step, or figuring out HOW to do something, or a million other reasons. I’ve been working on it for 2 years! It will get done 🙂

  4. Maureen says:

    We all have these questions of self-doubt (why am i here? what am I doing? Am I making a difference?) Everyone wants to ‘change the world’ but, we can’t (usually). I know it sounds trite but, even reaching afew people is great! You aredoing agreat job showing people what to dotolive sustainably. Our culture pushes living in a large area with lots of stuff – you are showing that that isn’t necessary. Saying it is one thing, showing people is another. Youare doing a great job of that.

    Good luck on the book!! Take care. Peace, maureen

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