Don't do anything stupid for the first twelve months after your spouse dies.

That was the advice given to Gary Martens of Kleefeld. And if that also means waiting a year to move from your house of three thousand square feet into one barely the size of a two car garage, then Martens followed that advice to a T.

In January 2015, Martens' wife passed away. Thirteen months later, he began the adventure of constructing a tiny house. His journal entry for February 11, 2016, reads:

Went to see Kahlia Wiebe @ Grunthal Lumber to begin drawing the house. $250 deposit opened an account.

Martens then spent the next six months constructing a house that stands twenty feet by twenty-four feet. After putting in more than four hundred hours of labour, this tiny house is now his new home.

If you step inside the house, you will walk into an open area with only three real rooms. The largest of the rooms consists of a sitting area in the corner, sleeping quarters, kitchen and library. A hallway underneath a two hundred square foot loft takes you to his bathroom and then a multi-use room used as the mechanical room, laundry room, tool shed and walk-in closet.

"I like the idea of a multi-use house," explains Martens.

He says a bedroom in a traditional home is largely wasted space during the day, unless you enjoy an afternoon snooze, as Martens does on cold, cloudy days. So, instead of dedicating a room entirely to sleeping quarters, Martens uses a Murphy bed. The bed folds down out of the wall for the night and then during the day is folded back up and becomes a computer desk.

"It's a very simple operation, it's just so slick I don't even have to clean off my desk," says Martens. "It's a very good use of space I think."

According to Martens, the hardest part of purging was getting rid of his many books. An avid reader and writer, Martens says only books that fell into one of three categories were kept. The book had to be something he knew he would read again in the future, or it had to have sentimental value or be something he could use as a reference. Martens says ninety per cent of his library was brought to the MCC store.

The house has three potential heating sources. Martens says he has a soapstone wood stove on order, there is also an air source heat pump that supplies either cooling or heating driven by electricity and then worst case scenario he has an electric heater for backup.

He notes the plan is to install solar panels in spring. Martens says he is currently using about .6 kilowatts of power and therefore a two-kilowatt solar unit will be adequate for his electrical needs.

The house is largely complete and Martens says he likes his new digs.

"It's comfortable," he says. "I've only been in here for a bit over a month and so I don't yet know how the house is going to behave in different seasons, so that's going to be an interesting experience."

Martens has been documenting the different characteristics of the home, including what areas inside the house receive sunlight each day, the different humidity and temperature patterns, and how it reacts on cloudy days. He notes the actual living space is not much smaller than most people's living space inside their house and adds the high ceiling and large windows makes it feel more spacious.

"I haven't felt claustrophobic in here or cabin fever or anything like that," he says. "But I'm only in here for a month so far."

The whole project cost him about $100,000 to build. But that includes the $25,000 he spent on his septic field, digging a well and connecting hydro.

"Initially when people hear that I've built a tiny house the size of a two car garage, they shake their heads and they are worried that it's not going to be a good living space," says Martens. "But when they do come and see it, they are pleasantly surprised typically that they could live in a place like this."