Tag Archives: lifestyle experiment

Design 1 – My Dream Yurt

The 1st of three Dream Tiny Homes I’m designing and may build one day.

My Dream Yurt aims to be:

  • Comfortably liveable
  • Affordable (both to buy/build and to run)
  • Efficient in its use of interior space
  • Low maintenance (both time and cost wise)

The yurt used to live in had its flaws. It was damp. I kept my electrical gear in a cupboard in a house and barely got to use it. It had no power for the first few months and limited solar power after that. Because my setup was temporary it wasn’t possible to install plumbing or a toilet. But let’s imagine for the purposes of this design that we have a nice double skinned yurt or bell tent, on a platform, with no damp problems and good access to electricity, water from an outside tank and an outdoor composting toilet/bathroom.

Outdoor view of Dream Yurt, before I decided the woodburner should be to one side.

Outdoor view of Dream Yurt, before I decided the woodburner should be to one side.

These are my needs for a living space:

  • A small double bed (smaller is better for warmth, but I wouldn’t want to rule out the possibility of having 2 people in the bed by choosing a single bed).
  • A minimal kitchen with running water
  • A space to use my computer (likely a fold out standing desk) and recording studio, including speakers.
  • Storage for clothes, guitars and instruments, music books.
  • A source of heat (woodburners are best for canvas dwellings as they keep them dry).

Other considerations

No matter what, I’d keep my possessions minimal. Even if I had lots of space, I like the simplicity of not having to deal with lots of stuff. Digital stuff isn’t so bad because it automatically files itself and is searchable, removing both the headache of having to find things and then tidy them away. The less I have, the smaller the space I can live in, which I find cosy. The smaller the yurt the cheaper it is to heat and the quicker it warms up when the fire’s lit.

I’ve decided on a 13ft diameter yurt, which is 132sqft inside. My previous yurt was 12ft and was a little small. There was enough room for everything, but it was hard to have guests or a rehearsal. However, they usually only come in 12ft and 14ft…if I had to choose I’d go for the smaller option.

For This Design You Will Need:

09 Yurt Ad Ever Wanted Your Own Hermit

My 2012 advert seeking a pitch – Click to read

A pitch (which may also provide a toilet, washing machine, water source, rubbish collection etc.)

  • A 13ft Yurt (if they even exist) – my last 12ft single skinned yurt cost me £1500 2nd hand, and was a great deal. New, a double skinned yurt would have been £3.5k
  • A Yurt platform – I built my last with a carpenter for £300 using a combination of new and skipped wood.
  • The resources and skills to build furniture from new or found/recycled materials (Even so, you’d need to pay for glue and screws, and probably have to buy some materials for the kitchen etc –  estimate £500)
  • A woodburner – I used Parp Industries (http://www.woodlandyurts.co.uk/Woodland_Yurts/yurt_stove.html) in Totnes and got everything I needed to install the burner myself, for under £400.
  • Access to electricity run from a nearby building, or solar (it’s hard in the UK to run totally off solar energy without it costing thousands). Estimate £150-200 per month for ground rent(?) bills (including wood), council tax contribution etc…)

Total budget esimate: £4700 initial outlay plus £150-200 per month running costs


Building a yurt platform with Steve

Yurt before assembly, and the building of the platform

My old yurt before assembly


Click on the pics to read the annotations.

Bird's eye view

Dream Yurt – Bird’s eye view – Click to read annotations


My old yurt's bed and collection of bedside tables.

My old yurt’s bed and collection of bedside tables.

It seemed best to design purpose built storage around the bed. It would act as a thick layer of insulation for cold nights after the fire had died. In my last yurt, I pulled a curtain across the bed and the thermometer showed it kept the area 3 degrees C warmer – great for sleeping and for getting dressed in the mornings. Imagine how much warmer it would be in the Dream Yurt bed area!

I'd advise against a complete overhead curtain unless it's winter, since it means missing out on this view from the bed!

View of roof from bed in old single skinned yurt.

The last time I lived in a yurt I furnished it with bed-side tables, because they were often free. I also made some furniture – kitchen units and tables. I didn’t know how long I’d live that way, so wanted to keep my costs low, and not spend too much time on it. However, this is the Dream Yurt, assuming I have the resources to build bespoke furniture for a permanent dwelling.

The deepness of the storage units would mean that some stuff would be pushed to the back and be less accessible. I could use this for camping kit or other stuff that would normally be kept in a loft, but here it would still be useful, doubling as more insulation.

Dream Yurt Bedroom Area - Click to read annotations

Dream Yurt Bedroom Area – Click to read annotations


Part of my last yurt's kitchen, which I made from skip wood.

Part of my last yurt’s kitchen, which I made from skip wood.

I’ve always been fine with just one gas ring and a woodburner. Other people might bemoan the lack of oven. The kitchen is deliberately minimal and probably has more crockery pictured than I’d use in reality. Hot water for washing up would be provided by the wood burner.

Experience has taught me that it’s best if the fridge is outside. Sometimes I’ve used a cool box rather than a fridge, which works for everything but meat. Even veg doesn’t last as long, but it can be the best solution for setups such where access to electricity is limited. A cool box can however be easily picked up and brought inside every time you cook.

Having a sink with a tap would be a step up from my last yurt, but it’s still good to be economical with water if you have to bother to refill your water butt yourself. There are probably rainwater collection solutions too but this article doesn’t deal with water sources. I used to pour water from 5ltr bottles, which was a drag. These days I still catch myself cleaning a bowl with a hot teabag out of habit, even when I’m in a house.

Dream Yurt Main Area - Click to read annotations

Dream Yurt Main Area – Click to read annotations

The Woodburner

Someone’s fed-back that it would be better to include a wider and strategically angled area of aluminium behind the woodburner than is pictured in my design. They are probably right.

My previous yurt was always stacked high with damp wood I desperately drying, but this design includes an outdoor wood store which should be water tight, meaning I’d only need to bring enough wood inside for a day at a time.

A facility for drying clothes over the fire is vital, but it’s important not to store your whole wardrobe there permanently, because it would all end up smelling of cooking. The coat and shoe rack are also near the fire for faster drying. I’ve balanced shoes on the hearth for quick drying in a pinch, keeping a close eye in case they ignite. Once I had the bright idea of toasting my PJs for 10 seconds on the burner before getting changed for bed. They melted after 8 seconds, so don’t try that one yourself!

Door Area

No porch, just an ineffective tarp and no wood shelter - disaster.

No porch, just an ineffective tarp and no wood shelter – disaster.

You may have noticed that I’ve written VITAL next to the doormat. This is because there’s nothing like living in a one room dwelling to show you what hallways are for. It’s amazing how easy it is to tread mud through your entire living area in seconds. My last yurt had 1 doormat inside and a path of 3 outside. It also had no porch, which meant that as soon as you opened the door, rain poured into your home whilst you tried to get over the threshold.

It’s vitally important to remove shoes whilst still standing on the doormat and put them straight onto the shoe rack.


Having a double skinned yurt means opaque(ish) walls, so windows are necessary to let light in. They don’t need to open however, because you can just open the door.

Main Area/Living Room

The main area should be easy to transform for both work and play. Since there’s only one room in this house, it should be possible to fill it and clear it quickly so it can act as a study, practice area, gym, dining/entertaining area and more. At 132sqft, this dwelling can serve all these functions, unlike a 40sqft van which leaves me exercising outside, practicing guitar in the park and meeting friends in a cafe.

I’ve not included a standing-desk in my drawings but this is what I usually use to work on. There are a few reasons – it’s healthier, it saves space and it keeps you warmer (since you move more and more of your body is higher than woodburner level). A heavy duty music stand supports a laptop fine and then folds away. There are fold out chairs to create a social area (not my preference, but a compromise for the small space) and I’d consider a fold out table if I often had guests. It’s strange for me to think about this since I’ve not lived in spaces that have allowed me to have guests for some years, but I can imagine doing it often if I had the premises to. Floor cushions are another space saving idea but they are simply not an option because almost no heat from the woodburner reaches floor level. This is why I knitted extra thick guest socks for my last yurt.

As you can see from the diagram, the speakers are on casters so I can put them in the optimum position when I’m working on music. I’ve learned during my travels that I simply can’t mix on headphones, so if I had a permanent dwelling/workspace it would need to accommodate studio monitors.

What I’ve NOT included/addressed and why

Toilet: I’m assuming an outside toilet would be available. It’s best not to shit in the one room you live in, if you can help it. You may be pitched on land which is attached to a building, in which case you’d have access to a bathroom, washing machine and possibly even kitchen. If not, solutions may be specific to the limitations of your pitch, which is why they’re not detailed in this design.

Washing yourself: With a stove that can keep 3 pans/kettles warm at once, it would be quite easy to wash in a tin bath or basin. I tried this in my old yurt and it was lovely even in winter, since you have to stoke the fire to boil the water and can end up bathing in a body temperature room. I haven’t included this, but it would be easy to store a tin bath or basin hanging from the lattice.

Lighting: Assuming there’s electricity you could chose whatever lighting you wanted, but I haven’t drawn any in. Lightbulbs are cheapest and greenest, but candles are romantic. Candle lanterns suspended from the lattice are traditional.

Making tea lights in a tuna tin with string and a block of wax

Making tea lights in a tuna tin with string and a block of wax

Four long candles and a carefully placed mirror used to light up my old yurt, although once I stumbled in late at night and grabbed the pull-cord for the lights… only to remember that I didn’t HAVE any lights and was just pulling on the rope that had been tied in to tension the roof!

Washing machine: To wash clothes, I’d assume that it would be better to find other facilities than to clutter up such a small space with a washing machine. If you had to have one however, I’d recommend building an outside cupboard for it, similar to the wood store.

Hoovering: I’d carpet my yurt for warmth for warmth, but any dwelling with a woodburner gets ashy and needs hoovering. Unless I had a decent electricity supply and could borrow a hoover from a main building on a regular basis, I’d get a small battery powered hoover, even if it took longer to do the job each time. A lot can be achieved with a dustpan and brush first of all.

Household Running Tasks

  • Chop firewood and light fire daily if possible in order to keep yurt nice and dry (This is partly why I turned out not to be suitable for yurt living – I travel too much. In the end, I wasn’t able to light the fire enough and bits of the canvas went green and the new owner had to have it cleaned).
  • Re-fill water tank (if you don’t have a rainwater collection system or pipes)
  • Food shop more often if you don’t have a full sized electric fridge
  • Clear woodburner of ash when needed
  • Check yurt ropes at least once a week
  • Only 132sqft worth of general cleaning and tidying

Maintainance Tasks

  • Yurt, naked without it's canvas, being maintained.

    Yurt, naked without its canvas, being maintained.

    Oil yurt wood once a year – 1 day’s work

  • Treat the wooden platform every summer – 1 day’s work
  • Replace ropes as needed.
  • Waterproof the canvas every few years as needed. A big task which involves taking the yurt down fully and essentially moving out temporarily.

So there you have it. I know I won’t be building this design any time soon, but I’m bound to some day. Basically, I wouldn’t be able to do it till I was ready to settle in one place for a few years at a stretch. Hope it’s helped you dream up your own design based on what you need. Alternatively, write to me with your needs and I could always draw you a design.





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I’m Taking The £0 Challenge

As a self-employed musician, I have always been afraid of running out of money and having no work booked. I plan to face my fear and overcome it, by deliberately letting my money run out. Essentially, it’s about going to £0 and then trying to make it back to a healthy living from that point.

So what are the rules of the experiment? Well, they are dictated by what I’m trying to learn through this experience. I’m trying overcome a fear that many self-employed people harbour: what will happen if my work dries up? I don’t actually fear that I’ll starve, but my fear of running out of money is totally out of proportion. It almost feels as though I might die if I run out of money, even though I know that isn’t true. That’s how I know I have to overcome this fear.

The rules mimic what would happen if I simply ran out of work:

  1. To stop seeking any type of paid work until my bank account runs to £0.
  2. Once £0 has been reached, I can start taking steps to make my living through self employment.
  3. No begging, borrowing or stealing.
  4. No relying on handouts or state benefits.
  5. The accepting of gifts is permitted, as long as the giver is not influenced by this challenge.
Me, as a student, following an experiment where I busked with a watercooler I found in the street until I could afford to buy a djembe with the takings. I wanted to find out if it was possible to work up from having no money, to buying and instrument.

Me, as a student, following an experiment where I busked with a watercooler I found in the street until I could afford to buy a djembe with the takings. I wanted to find out if it was possible to work up from having no money, to buying an instrument.

When does the challenge end?

To face my fear, I don’t think that I need to carry out this experiment for very long – 1 or 2 months at most. That’s all I’d need in order to establish whether or not I can work up from £0. If I feel that my income is steadily increasing and that £0 no longer holds fear for me, I could end the challenge in order to, for example, borrow some money to invest in some music gear that helps me to make more money. Borrowing would be ok if I finally felt confident in my ability to make money, because I’d be confident that I could pay it back.

Another reason I might end this experiment is because of an extreme life event. Someone suggested that the challenge would be workable until an emergency happened to me or a friend or relative. This is a good point. What if my only remaining Grandparent fell ill and I missed out on valuable time with her because I couldn’t afford to travel to see her? I’d see that as going too far and would end the challenge in order to see her, if it meant breaking one of the rules to do so.


To answer a few questions:

A few people have asked me why the challenge I’ve chosen is so extreme. Others are saying it’s not extreme enough. I don’t think I’m doing a radical thing, when you consider that most self-employed people go to £0 sooner or later when work dries up. I’m simply creating that situation on purpose in order to face it now.

Keep in mind that the situation I’m creating must mimic what would happen if I ran out of freelance work. That principle shapes the rules that I’m giving myself. There’s no need to go to absolute zero with no money, no possessions, no food and be standing in the street naked. As with any challenge to do with conquering fear, its about going to the situation that I myself am afraid of. For me that’s about having £0 in the bank, with no job and no work booked. I’ve been in debt before, like many people, but each time I had work booked for the next week or so. Not this time.


Would I use the NHS and other taxpayers services?

I wouldn’t draw jobseeker’s allowance, because I have chosen to give up my job and so should face the consequences. I also wouldn’t feel comfortable taking state benefits if my business failed, because that would be my responsibility, not the state’s. However, I would still use the NHS and other taxpayers services unless I truly went moneyless and therefore stopped being a taxpayer. I’ve always declared all my income and paid tax when relevant and that wouldn’t change upon taking up this challenge.


Why not beg, borrow, steal or accept handouts?

The point of the challenge is to try and “earn” my way back from £0. That’s what I want to learn. I’m not aiming to learn how to apply for a bank loan, or how to persuade my friends into helping me out. I’d rather learn to catch my own fish. Once I’ve finished the £0 challenge, and am convinced of my own ability to make my way back from zero, I might be more comfortable with the idea of borrowing or even accepting gifts of money. Why? Because I’d know that I could pay borrowed money back. If someone really wanted to give me a gift of money I could accept their kindness because I could guarantee that their money wouldn’t be “wasted”. It’s like the parable of the careless man who loses all his money and asks his rich friend for help. His friend is very rich, but refuses to give him any money at all unless he can tend a flock of sheep successfully for a year without losing a single one. The rich man wants to be sure that the money he gives his friend won’t be carelessly frittered away.


If that’s the case, how can you justify accepting gifts?

One of the rules is: The accepting of gifts is permitted, as long as the giver is not influenced by this challenge. I don’t wish to stop people being kind or generous as normal. I might be more generous if I wasn’t so afraid of running out of money, so part of spirit of the challenge concerns encouraging generosity. So, if I went to stay with my Dad for a few days and he bought all the food, that’s ok because he normally does that when I visit. But if my Dad suddenly invited me to stay for a month, or sent me money because of this £0 challenge, then that wouldn’t be ok.


Would I break any of my rules if I was starving?

I don’t know. Let’s find out.

Footnote: I’m sure people will challenge or ask me to clarify EVERYTHING I’ve written as time goes on, so this post may be subject to additions and footnotes in the future as the fundamentals of the matter are bashed out.



Listen to Kimwei’s original acoustic music at reverbnation.com/kimwei , watch at youtube.com/kimweidotcom , interact at facebook.com/kimweidotcom , everything at kimwei.com








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Facing Fears Surrounding Money By Going To £0?

So what would happen if I ran out of money, with no job and no freelance work booked? It’s something I’m afraid of but it’s never happened to me. What would happen if I went to that point on purpose to conquer my fear of going to zero? It would be a lifestyle experiment.


Stuff that I may have absolutely none of soon.


In my last post, I asked myself why I gave up a steady job as a University Lecturer in order to live in a van, with no current income planned? Let’s be clear about this – I also refuse to draw benefits. What right do I have to ask for state benefits when I can work, but have chosen not to? This leaves me in a very insecure position, with a van to run and only a couple of hundred left in the bank.

One reason that I quit my job is that even though it was only part time, it still didn’t leave me enough time to spend being creative as a singer songwriter. I had spent 5 years working on the same album in fits and starts, but after giving up my teaching job in March, I finished the album within the space of a month by working on it full time. Soon, I’ll start the process of promoting and releasing it by working full time at that… but first, a lifestyle experiment.

Here are some lifestyles I could have:

  1. Being employed part time = have enough money but not enough time for creativity (I already gave up this lifestyle at the end of March 2014)
  2. Having no job = have enough time for creativity, but where will the money come from? (this is where I am now)
  3. Doing freelance work = likely to be the same as option 1. In my experience, being self-employed takes up more time than a part time teaching job. (done this before)
  4. Being picked up by a record company or publisher = Being paid to be a singer-songwriter – but only if the deal is right! (If it’s going to come along, it will come along in it’s own time.)

I’m currently living in option 2 and wondering if a better version of option 3 is possible. Is it possible to make a good living from freelance work and have enough time to be a singer-songwriter? It would have to be done by either living on less money, or earning more per self-employed-hour.

But all 4 ideas are about earning enough MONEY to live on. There is another option – go Moneyless.

The Moneyless Man (Mark Boyle) lives without money and has devoted his life to helping others do the same. He lives an modest life and has everything he needs, but he gets what he needs without using money.

At first, I couldn’t see what the difference was between getting what you need with money or without it. Then I took a closer look and realised that money encourages a lot of negative tendencies in people that don’t exist with trade. Money can be hoarded (it’s called “saving”), an obsession with profit or gaining status through money is likely. People are constantly afraid of running out of money.

I am constantly afraid of running out of money.

I’m not planning to go moneyless, but what would happen if I let my money run out on purpose? Once my bank account reached zero I could begin to seek sources of freelance income, but not until then. The rule would be that even if I was struggling, I could neither borrow, beg nor steal, neither could I start living on hand-outs. I would have to earn, trade, or womble (to womble: to make good use of the things that the everyday folks leave behind) in order to make a living and work upwards from there.

The purpose of the challenge would be to try and dismantle the fears that I have around money. I can’t decide if I want to go moneyless or not, but if I AM to keep using money, I must stop being afraid of it. I could start trying to build a freelance business for myself right now, whilst I’ve still got money in the bank, but if I did, I’d always be afraid of going to £0. If I take this opportunity to go to £0 now and find that I can work up from there, then I can stop being afraid.

Just to be clear, this is not about some middle class kid irresponsibly running out of cash, having a hard time for a month or two and then thinking they know all about what it is to be poor. I would never presume to understand how poverty affects people just because I’d carried out a brief lifestyle experiment. This challenge would be solely about facing my own personal fears and issues surrounding money.

So what do you think? Should I do it? Comments welcome.






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