THTB: Please introduce yourself to our audience. Where are you located? We are Bradley Serenity Farms in Commerce, GA. I am John Bradley and my wife is Dr. Molette Bradley along with our one child, John Bradley II who is 16 yrs old.
THTB: What inspired you to build your home? Is this lifestyle more of a dream or necessity for you and your family? We were inspired by the thought of building an energy efficient home off the grid. Container home living is both a dream and a necessity with the rising cost of living and retirement, in our view this was the only way to go.
THTB: Is there anything from your youth growing up/family experience that may have also played a role in your decision to live this lifestyle? John – Yes being raised by my grandmother who lived a very simplistic live, being frugal about everything down to saving the grease from cooking to be reused.
Molette – Because my husband thought it was a good idea, I just followed his lead on this. But now that we’ve done it I see the benefit and am totally happy with the decision.
THTB: Describe your previous home. Our previous home was a 4000 sq. foot ranch on a basement sitting on 5 acres. We had 4 bedrooms/ 3 bathrooms with a full open concept upstairs and downstairs.
THTB: What concerns, if any, did you have in your decision to go tiny? John – Initially I was concerned with storage space, but as we downsized it became less of a concern. I built in lots of storage, using every inch I had.
Molette – None for me. I was immediately excited about not having such a large house to clean and how we could get rid of a lot of “stuff” we had accumulated over the years. I knew John would make sure there was enough storage for what we needed and he did.
THTB: How did your family and friends receive your decision? They were very confused and concerned. They didn’t understand how we could live in a “train car”or why we would leave our big beautiful home to go to such a small living space.
THTB: Did anyone make any comments or express any specific concerns? After the build we were told by a retired person from the building and planning office that our neighbors did complain about the containers and that we’d bring down their property values, but we were never approached.
THTB: Who designed your home and how did you determine the design for your home? John designed our home based on previous home layouts.
THTB: How long did it take to begin to build once you’d made the decision? It took one year of research and two years to build. The extended period was due to weather and unforeseen problems ranging from clearing the land to it just being a small crew of two building most of the house.
THTB: What was involved in building it- DIY/Partial DIY/Builder? How long did the entire project take? This was a DIY project. First we had to find containers that were in good condition i.e. no holes, leaks or excessive rust….basically they had to be sea worthy. Then once the land was cleared, we prepared the foundation, rented a crane to place the containers on the foundation, we modified the containers for the windows and doors, then put on the roof and then all the interior work was done.
THTB: What, if any, challenges did you run into? The first challenge was convincing the planning and zoning commissioners about shipping container homes, then finding dependable help to do various aspects within the build such as framing, decking, electrical, etc.
THTB: What was your process for simplifying your life and getting rid of your excess possessions? How’d the process feel and do you consider yourself a minimalist? We decided which items wouldn’t go into the new smaller space; we sold most of it on Let Go, Offer Up or at local consignment shops and after a year we are still downsizing. We quickly realized that all the “things” we had, we didn’t need!!! This was VERY liberating…the more we sold the more we wanted to sell and unload. We would like to consider ourselves minimalists, but we still have a ways to go to simplify.
THTB: Are all of your belongings in your container home, do you have storage elsewhere? Yes, we do have a trailer and upstairs area we use for storage. Our goal is to decrease that and continue to purge as much as possible.
THTB: Has moving into a smaller home been a big adjustment? What did you learn from doing this? What would you advise those who are thinking of downsizing? It has been an adjustment. We’ve learned to stay organized and keep things in their place, that creative storage is KING!!! That smaller spaces are homier and cozier and that closer quarters produce closer families.
THTB: What do you love most about your new home? What are some specific touches you decided on, aspects of the interior and exterior that make this home a true expression of who you are and your personality? Any special features? John – What I love most about the house is that it’s all mine and not mortgaged by the bank. The special touches for me was to put in my sauna and a gym.
Molette – What I love the most about the house is the tranquility, especially our bedroom which is very cozy. Special touches for me was the deep bathtub in both of our bathrooms and an outdoor private garden area off of our bedroom.
THTB: Any regrets about your decision, anything you’d do differently? No regrets, the only thing we would do differently would be to have kicked off our project with better quality people to clear the land.
THTB: Did you use salvaged or reclaimed materials in your build? If so, how’d you go about sourcing those materials? We did use salvaged materials such as the containers themselves and our baseboards.
THTB: Is your home on or off grid, eco-friendly, green in any way? Yes, we have 18 solar panels that will be connected to our home in the near future taking us totally off the grid. Currently it is super energy efficient making our utility and water costs very low. We are in the process of redoing the farm’s aquaponic/greenhouse system and are setting up an 80 foot one now.
THTB: So much of society focuses on having more and making more to have more, success looks like bigger, more, better. Often people of color are focused on having more when they begin to make more because they haven’t had, somewhat like the Jeffersons’ “Moving on Up” lifestyle. Why have you chosen this path instead? Because we have “been there and done that” and it does not work. We want peace on earth and you can’t get that if the almighty dollar is your god. We often quote Booker T. Washington when he said, “drop your bucket where you’re at”, meaning live within your means. We built a home that we could pay for and own. We believe in watering the grass on our side of the fence instead of looking over at others wanting what they have. Our community needs to learn this motto and build within their means and not be house poor. Living within your means allows you to enjoy life and appreciate the simple things God gave YOU and stop worrying about things other people have!!!!
THTB: Do you plan to live in your home long term or is it a temporary solution for a bigger plan? This is our retirement home. We plan to die on the porch sitting in the rocker listening to the outdoor sounds!!!
THTB: Where do you see this movement going? Where do you see the movement going for people of color? With the economy getting worse, we think more and more people will come to their senses and realize bigger is not better and that we need much less than you think. For PoC it’s a slower movement in this direction, but still along the same lines. We still have the Jefferson’s mentality and we need to get over the meaning for “moving on up” and redefine that.
THTB: Why do you think more POC haven’t joined and/or are reluctant to join the TH/tiny living movement? They have misconceptions of “getting a piece of the pie” and because we have never had a lot we tend to hold on to stuff and accumulate things producing a materialistic people seeking happiness in things, the big house, the high dollar car, etc. But what that does is produce more stress often causing early death in the community. We need to simplify….this is what we are doing!!! Live longer, stress free and happy.
THTB: Do you have any advice for future home owners/builders or dreamers? Think outside of the box….created for YOU by THEM….if we stay in the box you keep the cycle going. “You keep doing what you doing and you keep getting what you getting”. Basically the definition of insanity.
THTB: Any thoughts or comments specifically for PoC? We have to be the change we want to see….we need to learn to take care of ourselves and learn about self sustainability.
Bradley Serenity Farms will host their grand opening in the summer of 2018 and will offer daily tours of the farm’s aquaponic/greenhouse system, their container home and they will also host talks about off grid living. They are looking forward to teaching any and all who want to learn and/or volunteer. We’ll keep you posted on specific dates and the launch of their website!
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