container home
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
December 22, 2023 ·  5 min read

Couple Build Amazing Shipping Container Home For Debt-Free Living

Chances are, the majority of you reading this article have a mortgage. Most of you work nine to five every day so you can afford that mortgage, food, and your other regular expenses. Whatever is left over you use either for fun money or put into a savings account for when you can no longer work.

This is the treadmill of life we’re all told early on that we need to get on, run like heck, and then get off. We’re told the faster we run, the sooner we can hit the proverbial stop button – or at least, the easier life will be when we’re eventually forced to.

After running in this so-called rat race of life for years, this couple decided that they’d had enough. They swapped big for small, and now live larger – and debt-free – in their own, DIY tiny shipping container home. (1, 2)

Related: 40 ft. Shipping Containers Transformed into a Spectacular Off-Grid Home

The Tiny Home of Their Dreams

Three years ago, after re-modeling and selling their Vancouver home where they raised their children, Jaimie and David were living in a condo in Kalama, Washington. Tired of the daily grind with no signs of getting ahead, they thought about how liberating it would be to be mortgage-free. But, the question was, how? (1, 2)

The answer? Building their own tiny home out of shipping containers. Dave was in metalwork and had most of the rudimentary skills for the job, and they had a nest egg of $50,000 from the sale of the Vancouver house. How hard could it be? (1, 2)

DIY Difficulties

As it turns out, much harder than they ever imagined it to be. While they had plenty of support from their county, and attaining the occupancy permit was easy, the rest was much more challenging. They did everything themselves (1, 2):

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Substructure
  • Welding
  • Design
  • Installations

You name it, they did it, and for good reason. That $50,000 nest egg was eaten up quite quickly.

“We didn’t realize to turn on the water is $10,000, to turn on electricity is $9,000, to put in a septic (system) is $12,000, and (the cost) to purchase our containers. We were almost out of money before we even started,” Jaimie said. “You can’t just get a conventional loan on these kinds of builds. We went to work every day and worked on this project Friday, Saturday, Sunday every day for 10 months.” (2)

Their hard work paid off, and now they are living in a gorgeous 406 square-foot homemade of a 40-foot shipping container on the bottom and a 20-foot container stacked on top. (2)

When they started the project, Jaimie and David never could have imagined that the hardest part of the build wouldn’t have to do with the house at all. Instead, it had to do with David’s health. (2)

Read: How to Make A DIY Rustic Live Edge Countertop

A Life-Threatening Health Scare

One day a few months into the project, David called Jaimie at work.

“He told me ‘something’s wrong, I can’t feel my arm.’”. (2)

Jaimie went straight home where David met her in the driveway and collapsed in her arms. He told her he was waiting for her so that he could go to sleep. Terrified, Jaimie rushed her husband to the hospital. (2)

Upon arrival, the diagnosis was grim: David had an intracranial hemorrhage and was having a stroke. The bleed was so deep that surgery was very risky, to the point where the doctors weren’t sure if it was advisable at all. (2)

David was in the hospital for five days, during which Jaimie never left his side. She even slept in the bed next to him at night. She had to laugh, recalling one of David’s comments before having a procedure done. (2)

“I don’t have time for this, we’re building a house!” (2)

Thankfully, David survived. He spent the next three months in five different types of therapy, including speech and physical. With confirmation from his therapists, he was still able to work on the house. Though progress was slower, it continued, and the couple finished the house in 10 months. (2)

The stroke reminded them how precious life is, and how important it is to appreciate every minute and live in the moment. It also reminded them why they started their tiny house project in the first place. (2)

Read: These Self-Sufficient Island Cabins Have All the Comforts of Home

Jaimie and David’s Dream Home

The home is gorgeous, inside and out. The downstairs has a sitting room, kitchen and dining area, bathroom, and a storage room and closet. All appliances are full size, with beautiful wood flooring, granite countertops, and plenty of space to entertain. (2)

The upstairs has a queen-sized bed, lounge area, TV, and a large deck with a panoramic view of the wooded area they live in. They have a large garden, a separate outdoor deck space, and plenty of room for all of their kids to come to visit. (2)

Really, their tiny house has all the comforts of a regular home, without all of the extras.

“We’re living off the treadmill,” says David. “We don’t need more stuff, we got rid of our stuff to make this happen.” (2)

The couple finished the project with a final budget of $80,000, and yes – they are debt-free. (2)

A Learning Experience

From start to finish, Jaimie and David learned a lot – about building a home, of course, but also about themselves, both individually and as a couple.

“We learned we can do things that are really, really hard. If we do them together, we can do it.” Jaimie says. “Life throws you curveballs, but just go with it. Find joy in every moment. Adventure awaits around every corner. Choose joy. Think outside the box, colour outside the lines. Be positive. Be a little sassy. Be different, it’s okay to be a little different.” (2)

Jaimie and David have made this shipping container their home and can’t imagine their lives any other way. You, too, can move your life more or less off the grid, if you really want to. With so many tiny home options to choose from, a simpler life could be closer than you think.

If you want to see their home inside and out, check out the video below.