Catching up with Naj Haus

Tiny asked me to be a regular contributor and suggested I introduce myself by way of excerpts from my blog, Naj Haus – Art, nature & transformations: lessons of a tiny house. Here are some snippets from a few of my posts, starting at the very beginning of the journey (click on the title to go to the full post). ~ Kate

On camels and tiny houses

Jan 7, 2013

Travelling the road less traveled

I still have the original National Geographic magazine. Original photo: Rick Smolan

One day in May 1978, I had one of those transformative moments: the National Geographic arrived in the mail. I loved the articles in each issue – my first experiences with other cultures and countries – but only one story made a lasting impression. Robyn Davidson, 27, had walked 1700 miles across the Australian outback alone except for four camels and her dog, Diggety.

At 13, I was completely captivated. She was my first personal hero. I was in awe of her independence and courage but she was also someone I could relate to, who resonated with my tomboy side that loved digging in the dirt and exploring the woods.

Fast forward several decades to my present, pressing up against the half-century mark. I’ve worked at a state agency managing grants and environmental conservation projects for the last 24 years, albeit with a few tangents. Along the way I’ve worked on an organic farm in Washington, studied sandhill cranes in a 23,000-acre alpine marsh in Oregon, did archaeological survey work for the Forest Service in the Sierras, went to film school, worked as a database administrator in a software company, apprenticed with two jewelry makers, and spent three years promoting women musicians. There have been good times and bad times. I’ve had to grow into an adult. Gradually I’ve become locked into the high-speed craziness of urban life and the grayness of a desk job, which is not really part of my nature.

Me Pointing Credit: Naj Haus

Me Pointing Credit: Naj Haus

Hearing Dee Williams talk about her decision to build a tiny house on wheels, I experienced the same resonance I felt reading about Robyn and her trek so long ago. It touched something deep inside of me. It woke my inner camel explorer self, sending me back to my childhood where it felt like I could do and be anything.

I’ll be writing much more about why I decided to build my own tiny house, about how it brings together many loves and themes of my life, but the one truest answer is that the tiny house has shown me a path to get back to who I once was…

…and to become who I want to be.

Simple as that.

Skunks and a tiny house valentine
Feb 14, 2013

Whether you’re in an urban environment or the country, tiny houses let you feel more engaged with nature and the elements. Something about the metal roofs, the short distance to the outdoors on all sides, the windows from every vantage point, the slight rocking on the jacks. Even in the middle of the city, they let you experience the frisson of a dramatic storm, the soft new growths of spring, the tempo of the earth turning.

It’s not always pleasant, I’m sure. There is always the potential of spiders and sex-crazed skunks, of mice in the sock drawer. But isn’t that worth it to feel more connected?

valentine Be mine. Credit: Naj Haus

Be mine. Credit: Naj Haus

My tiny house is still just a twinkle in my eye but it’s already given me so much. I don’t doubt there will be much anguish and tearing out of hair along the way, but it’s made me more willing to take risks and to tune in to what’s me. It’s made me question how I define home and community. It’s reconnected me with my childhood and family and old friends. It’s given me some amazing new ones, including a whole new tribe stretching around the world. It’s teaching me new skills. It’s challenging me to throw off the tethers, walk more lightly on the earth, and offload things that no longer have meaning. It’s unleashing my inner camel explorer and allowing me to bring together my passions for art and nature. It’s taken down that fourth wall to reveal a future more aligned with my dreams.

So though my tiny house is nothing more than graphite and graph paper, it’s the most perfect of valentines:

…it whispers the promise of things to come.


On being not so still
Feb 23, 2013

There’s a delectable tension between being still and not so still. Each bear gifts and each have limits. Tiny houses on wheels embody a beautiful blending of the two.

Pietro Vesconte’s world map, 1321 Source: Wikipedia: Early World Maps

Pietro Vesconte’s world map, 1321 Source: Wikipedia: Early World Maps

I’ve learned over the years that you don’t need to necessarily own property to feel a part of a place. Once you’ve lived somewhere, it is always a part of you.

This has made me think about how we each possess our own internal cartography, our own unique inner map of our world. It’s made up of all the places where we’ve been, filtered through our experiences.

We each have a map within of what is important to us. As newborn babies, we have a very blank map with just one big fuzzy image of mom. Over time the details start to fill in. The lines start to connect, the relationships to make sense. It is a map of our memories and our spatial conceptions. Besides the places we’ve lived, it has radiant areas where we’ve been the most happy and dark clouds over places we’d rather forget. It has little drawings for rare animal sightings and exotic trips and passionate trysts.

The tiny house [on wheels] represents both groundedness and incredible freedom at the same time; a place for meditation and for creative abandon; a way to connect with my roots while creating fresh memories; the potential for adding new beacons and communities to my inner map while keeping in touch with my old ones. This is how a tiny house can blend the best parts of being still and not so still.


Doing justice to complexity: a love affair with a tiny house
June 27, 2013

During the twelve hour drive back to California, I had a lot of time to reflect back on my first month of construction. While tiny houses and simplicity are often uttered in the same breath, I learned there isn’t much that is simple about the building of a tiny house.

…I realized that building a house is a lot like growing a relationship:

hmmm... Credit: Naj Haus

hmmm… Credit: Naj Haus

An honorable human relationship — that is, one in which two people have the right to use
the word “love” — is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved,
a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in doing so we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us.

~ Adrienne Rich

There’s a certain intimacy in building a house. It stretches you to the point of exhaustion. You learn how you react to constant new challenges, to mind numbing tedious tasks, to things going awry. In the way of the best kind of relationships, it gently makes you question why you are the way you are, to understand what’s behind the immediate reaction, to help you peel down through the layers of your psyche, your childhood, until you find some answers, which you can maybe, just maybe, choose to change or else accept as part of your complexity. Either way, you’ve learned something about yourself.

As you shape your house, you realize it is shaping you. As you cut wood to shore up its walls, it’s tearing down your muscle fibers so they grow back stronger. I think I know my house inside and out, but each additional layer I add creates new aspects to understand; it’s ever growing, ever changing, constantly teaching me.  We are helping each other achieve our full potential.

At the same time, building a house strips you down to who you really are, no hiding. I switched over to taking showers at night to wash off the sweat and grime. I would usually fall asleep right after, waking to some very creative hair sculptures. After spending my life fighting my wavy, wayward hair, I began to look forward to how it would choose to express itself the next morning. This is who I am. l realized I liked this me. Who cares if I scare small, unsuspecting children and make the dog howl?

It’s not all about challenges and looking intensely inward. As with any good relationship, there is a deeply satisfying comfort and joy in being with each other. Each morning and evening I would sit in my house and soak it in. It made me giddy. It felt right. I felt at peace.

What I love about designing and building a house is that it uses both the left and right sides of your brain and all of your body. It pushes you in every direction. You connect emotionally, intellectually and physically with it; it’s completely gratifying. You feel very alive and full of passion. It’s a bit mystical…


Kate & Naj Haus.

Kate & Naj Haus.

Kate is a regular contributor to She is currently building, Naj Haus, a 16′ tiny house on a trailer. She became enamored with tiny houses and the people and paths that radiate from them, and blogs about her experiences at Naj Haus – Art, nature & transformations: lessons of a tiny houseKate is creating more space in her life to explore with her ethereal camels. 

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