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The Big Tiny: A Built-It-Myself Memoir

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  3,009 ratings  ·  557 reviews
Dee William’s life changed in an instant, with a near-death experience in the aisle of her local grocery store. Diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, she was all too suddenly reminded that life is short, time is precious, and she wanted to be spending hers with the people and things she truly loved. That included the beautiful sprawling house in the Pacific No ...more
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 22nd 2014 by Blue Rider Press (first published January 1st 2014)
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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Clif Hostetler
Feb 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This is the memoir of a middle aged single woman that would be an ordinary life except for the fact that she constructed her own tiny house. The story spans about ten years and includes her experiences living in the tiny house. The author's tiny house has a footprint of eighty-four square feet (per my memory which may be off a couple digits) with a loft for sleeping.

It was constructed on a trailer but is not intended to be moved frequently. In this particular case it was moved after its constru
Jun 04, 2014 rated it liked it
I liked this but I wasn't blown away by it. It seemed to me to have too little memoir and not enough details about the house building and practicalities of living in such a tiny space over the course of a long time. Dee definitely kept the reader at arm's length, which is fine but I found it frustrating that I had a very incomplete portrait of her. She talks a little about her medical condition but drops the info into the narrative in dribs and drabs, so I was confused. It sounded like originall ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Note: I read an advanced copy of this book. The finished product may be different that what I read. I finally finished this. I went into it gung-ho, as I am currently obsessed with the tiny home movement and mindfulness. Where this bogged down for me was in the day to day drama of hanging out with friends, injuries, and ...well, the "memoir" end of it. Dee is perpetually upbeat and the pollyanna-ness kind of wore on me after awhile. I did LOVE the descriptions of the house: building the house, l ...more
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dee Williams was living the American dream, she had a college education, a well paying job, a mortgage and friends. She thought she was happy she should be right, she had it all. When a health crises slams into her she is faced with a new reality and must find what really matters to her.
Her house, her stuff, they are anchors with barbs. She has struggled for years to refurbish her home to mow the lawn to maintain the little things. The time it takes is her life times, her hour, minutes and secon
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. While billed as a book about health scares and building a tiny house, it's not really about that. Yet it's totally about that. I know that makes no sense, just trust me on this one.

We all ask the quesition of What If.

What if I suddenly had health issues?

What if I decided to sell all my stuff?

What if I turned left instead of right?

What if I hadn't stopped for coffee and got to that intersection where the accident was five minutes
Mar 04, 2014 rated it really liked it
Originally posted on my blog, A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall:

After being diagnosed with a heart condition at age forty-one, Dee Williams started to re-examine her life, her possessions, and what matters most to her. She decided to build an 84-square-foot house on a flatbed trailer, from scratch, on her own.

I'm fascinated by the idea of living in such a small space, especially one that can be moved from place to place. The author's introspection gave me a lot to reflect upon personally, and it wa
Jan 08, 2016 rated it liked it
3 stars - It was good.

Was less about minimalism and more about her personal life than I was expecting, but still an interesting and thought provoking read. Those interested in tiny house living will also find this one worthwhile.
Favorite Quote: Most important, I stumbled into a new sort of “happiness,” one that didn’t hinge on always getting what I want, but rather, on wanting what I have. It’s the kind of happiness that isn’t tied so tightly to being
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I got this book because I have an interest on the Tiny House movement. I watch the tiny house blog on FB and my daughter is interested in TEDX talks. We watched Dee Williams on Youtube give her TED talk. Dee and I have alot in common. Wea re the same age, have lived similar lives in a lot of ways. I was (am) a kayaker, not a climber as Dee was but the living in houses with too many roommates without proper heat, or running water and then getting up at 3 am to drive hundreds of miles in a snowsto ...more
Alex Owens
Mar 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley-arcs
In a time where budget are getting tighter and the need to trim budgets has made a lot of people take a harder look at what they waste their hard earned money on, this inspirational book had me ready to sell everything and build my own little tiny house.

Seriously, I started a binder and everything. But I digress.

It wasn't a how-to book about the tiny home revolution, but part Why you should consider it and part memoir. It was moving, well-written and well worth a read.
Apr 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is fun to read: the author obviously has an upbeat and humorous approach to life and she is able to convey that in her writing. In fact, it was a lot more entertaining than I had expected of what I thought was going to be more a DIY manual than a memoir. This makes sense once you learn that the author owns and operates a company that gives workshops, sells blueprints and generally walks people through the building of their own tiny house. If you're looking for the how-to part, or just ...more
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Even though most of the audience for this book is likely to be those who live in a tiny house or are interested in doing so, The Big Tiny is very much NOT a how-to manual. Instead, it is much more the story of one very interesting woman's life and the huge journey she undertook which led her to new emotional depths and ultimately a more fulfilling life.

Many of the tiny home proponents, at least the ones in my life, seem to talk about the prospect rather idealistically. What they don't talk about
Gail Ofterdinger-Ledgister
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was able to relate 100% to the author's upbringing, values, and quest to find contentment in the simple life. She tells us of trips to Mr Plywood with her father. For me and my dad it was father/daughter bonding at 84 Lumber. And if you ever misplaced Dad, you only had to cruise by the tool department of Sears and there he was, admiring some new what-have-you that he did not yet own. As a consequence, I also know my way around a toolbox and could function as a card-carrying member of the "flan ...more
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: franklin-library
The concept isn't all that novel: have a weird/quirky/alternative experience or lifestyle; write a slick, candid "memoir" (a term becoming more overused by the minute, it seems to me). Dee Williams has all the pieces in place for what could be a really engaging and provocative bit. She takes the easy and watered-down approach.
Her big hook is her tiny house: for some reason, she spends less time on the house and more time ranting about personal trials. But there isn't anything particularly inter
Feb 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Not. One. Picture.
*sigh *

I feel like I'm giving a lot of negative reviews lately and I don't want to but I'm left with no choice.

This book. Its sooooo higgeldy piggeldy. Its like you're reading the thoughts and musings that are bouncing around in the author's head. And I do mean bouncing. There's no form. No direction. Just higgeldy piggeldy. The author tries to be humorous but I just don't get it. She's also got a potty mouth.

I don't know what to say.

This book needs serious editing and the aut
Lynda Schmidt
Apr 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and the author. Have some connection as my sister lived in Olympia and knows the people in the story - she was the person who finally got me the book. Reading this made me think more deeply about general goals in life as well as what it takes to have the courage to live what you actually believe. It definitely made cringe, yet again: I have TOO MUCH STUFF and yearn, just a little, for a much simpler life on so many levels.

Also love the idea of reading how others have that ah-h
Dee is a wonderfully inspiring person, and her book reflects her joy and transformation through illness and construction. I just fell in love with her, and was so glad she wrote about it all. She lives 'tiny-er' than any one else I know. Amazing.

I'm surprised to see that her other book, "Go, House, Go: How to Build a Tiny House on Wheels" isn't listed on GR yet, although it was published some years ago. I'll see how to add it, because that one has more hands-on information, like Don Louche's boo
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I admit complete bias: I love the tiny house movement.

For not being a writer by profession, Williams’ voice is vibrant, honest, and engaging. This is a fun, easy read stuffed with humor.

I only wish she had shared more of her actual build experience.
Nicki Conroy
Apr 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book is about so much more than living in a tiny house. Wonderful memoir!
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Any story, about anyone, following through with a dream, is inspiring to me.
Jamie Cattanach
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quick, simple read for a simple lifestyle. Lots of heart.
Oct 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is not so much about building a tiny house but about the author's life with less stuff, no debt, friends, and what is truly "home". ...more
Hannah Jane
I laughed most of the way through The Big Tiny. Dee Williams, a superhero of the tiny house movement, is a very funny and big-hearted lady. While at the doctor’s office waiting for one of her many appointments for her recently-diagnosed congestive heart failure, forty-one year-old Dee finds a magazine article about tiny-house designer Jay Shafer, and she’s instantly hooked. She knows immediately that she not only wants to downsize to a tiny house, but that she wants to build it. She flies to Iow ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
I'm obsessed with tiny houses. There, I said it. Now that you know, you'll understand why I was interested in this book - Dee Williams is pretty well known as one of the first embracers of the Tiny House lifestyle.

This book is not a how to, but more of a "why-to" - and even then, it's really more of a "why she did." Some folks might find that frustrating. I however, enjoyed the ride because I tended to enjoy the author. She's is extremely capable but also self-deprecating. She tries very much to
Nov 15, 2014 rated it liked it
Dee Williams, at the young age of forty-one was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After receiving her diagnosis she took stock of her life, reevaluating priorities, her possessions and what matters the most. She decides to embark on building an 84 square foot house mounted on a trailer, constructed by her own hands.

After reading Dee's story I asked myself if I could live in 84 square feet of space. I believe I could, my biggest hurtle would be the lack of warm running water. I could forg
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
This is an interesting, well-written memoir of the author's epiphany after a serious health problem unexpectedly appeared. She saw that much in her conventional life just wasn't really that important. While waiting for one of her doctor appointments, she happened to read a magazine article about a guy in Iowa who built and lived in a tiny house. The author is a handy gal, having done most of the work on her own house herself. After she and her brother visited the tiny-house guy, she decided to b ...more
Feb 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult, adventure, memoirs
Is it because I'm turning 40 this year? That's my thinking....

For some reason, I'm getting obsessed with tiny houses. I've always been slightly that way--there's a reason why I live in a home that's small by some people's standards. I don't like hoarding and I hate clutter--I get a thrill with every load I donate to Goodwill. So maybe the tiny house movement is a natural extension? I can't move to a tiny house yet--I know that. But the philosophy behind it is something I hope to apply to my own
Carol Palmer
Sep 11, 2015 rated it did not like it
I picked up this book thinking it was going to be about building a tiny house, paring down possessions and living a simpler life. No, it was more about the health changes in the author's life that lead her to build her tiny home and her life living in the tiny home. About 20% of the book was actually about building the tiny house and challenges of living in a tiny home and the the other 80% was just about her life and friends. During the parts about the tiny home, I felt like this book should be ...more
A quick-to-read memoir Williams wrote after being diagnosed with a severe heart condition, deciding to live her life on her own terms, building a tiny house on a trailer, selling her traditional house and downsizing, moving to the yard of friends, and becoming a speaker on tiny house issues.

Yes, she did all that. She also appears in a tiny house documentary currently on netflix.

And yes she built it herself, and she does discuss many parts of the process--from ordering a trailer from Russian immi
Jul 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I built and live in a tiny house, so I very much appreciated Dee's memoir of scrounging materials and learning how to build as she went: she did an excellent job of it, and became a self-taught carpenter on the way (she almost plays down this significant accomplishment). The book is much more than the practical story with the funny learning bloopers, it's a layered story of personal crises and grief, and an examination of why we tend to live the way we do, and a ride-along while she undertakes a ...more
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People thinking of living in a tiny house
Recommended to James by: Carolyn
Shelves: non-fiction, housing
This does remind me a bit of Thoreau's Walden, Williams had a heart attack at age 41 and decided to downsize her life dramatically. What follows is a touching story of friendships and learning what's really important in life. Her tiny house is very spartan, there's a composting toilet, a one burner stove and a cooler. There's also a simple propane heater, though she doesn't like letting it run when she's sleeping. It doesn't get much simpler than this, though I think it might be a bit too tiny f ...more
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Dee Williams is a teacher and sustainability advocate. She is the co-owner of Portland Alternative Dwellings (, where she leads workshops focused on tiny houses, green building, and community design. Her story has been featured on Good Morning America and NBC Nightly News, and on NPR, PBS, MSNBC, CNN, and CBC. She has also been profiled or featured in hundreds of online blogs ...more

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