Arroyo Grande woman downsizes — into 166-square-foot home

Bette Presley stands on the porch of her 166-square-foot cabin.
Bette Presley stands on the porch of her 166-square-foot cabin. Special to The Tribune

Bette Presley got perhaps her best Christmas present ever three days after Christmas. Her Tumbleweed Tiny House cabin was delivered.

Bette is downsizing from her Grandmothers’ Club mobile home park in Arroyo Grande, where she has lived for 14 years. At 72, she wants to save her five adult children the arduous task of having to go through her belongings and take care of her if she becomes infirm.

In fact, by living in the 166-square-foot cabin and assuming a much simpler lifestyle, Bette hopes to avoid a nursing home altogether.

“How can I exist in my old age,” she asked herself. She knew she wanted to live closer to nature, to be with the deer and the squirrels, to get rid of the clutter, to live simply, to be “off the grid” as much as possible, and be closer to her kids.

“We are consumers. We buy too much. We don’t need all our belongings,” she said. “I just experienced the clutter, to live in excess, and I didn’t find it particularly satisfying.”

Living in a small house forces you to cut back, way back.

Over the course of 10 years, Bette researched tiny houses by reading up on them, taking a class, and talking with people. When she found Jay Shafer’s book, “The Small House Book,” and his Tumbleweed Tiny Houses, she started the process of deciding which features she wanted and ordering the house.

She was impressed with Shafer’s philosophy, as stated in the book: “The average American house consumes about three-quarters of an acre of forest and produces about seven tons of construction waste ... emits 18 tons of greenhouse gas annually,” and takes up more than 2,349 square feet.

The tiny house was built in Colorado Springs by Amish builders and then transferred to San Luis Obispo County to a temporary site, while Bette finishes clearing out her mobile home and getting rid of most of her belongings.

The process of downsizing has proved more difficult and time-consuming than she thought. But it is also freeing, as she decides to get rid of her TV, microwave, couch, beds, four large chairs (only a small stuffed chair will fit into the cabin), computer, printer, lamps, table, and more, much of it being donated.

And of course, greeting cards, books and papers accumulated in a lifetime must be scrutinized and mostly discarded. She will keep a laptop, cell phone and radio.

The little cabin has a small kitchenette with a built-in stove and oven, a sink, a small refrigerator, a bathroom with a tiny sink, a toilet, and a shower. It also has a heater/air conditioning unit on the ceiling.

It is 8 feet by 24 feet in size. There is a built-in platform twin bed, a loft with room for a queen-sized mattress for guests, built-in shelves, and space for a narrow table.

The cabin is very attractive, built with pine inside and out, and sports a small front porch. Since she wants to live “off the grid,” the cabin will be powered by solar. It is certified as a recreational vehicle (RV), built on wheels and can be moved.

Bette is enlisting her friends to help name her cabin.