A couple built a 406-square-foot shipping container tiny home after a near-death experience, and they say it changed their lives

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The couple wanted to live debt- and mortgage-free so they built a tiny home. Jaimie and Dave Hinkcle
  • Jaimie and Dave Hinckle wanted a mortgage-free life, so they decided to build a shipping container tiny house.
  • A few months into the build, Dave suffered from a major brain bleed.
  • But the couple stayed positive, persevered, and finished their tiny home eight months later.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Jaimie and Dave Hinckle’s tiny house is more than 406-square-feet of living space.

The house is a triumph of the couple’s perseverance, strength, love, and ability to find joy in every situation.

After starting their tiny house build in 2016, Dave suffered from a debilitating brain bleed. But with the help of intensive therapy plans structured on building a tiny house, the couple managed to finish their home eight months later.

Now, it’s been five years of living in the home, and the couple is happy, healthy, and loving every moment spent in their shipping container tiny home.

“We make a conscious decision every single day to live the best life we can because it might be the only day we have left,” Jaimie told Insider.

A tiny home was this couple’s solution to a debt-free life

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The couple’s children often visit the five-acre property. Jaimie and Dave Hinckle

In the early 2010s, Jaimie said she and Dave started thinking about their future. They were stuck in a cycle of work that didn’t leave extra time or money for fun, Jaimie said.

They wanted to get out of the rut and into a life that was mortgage- and debt-free.

They figured one pathway to accomplishing that was through a tiny house.

So in 2014, the couple decided to sell their remodeled home in Vancouver, which gave them a nest egg to start building their dream tiny home.

With their savings, they purchased five acres of land in Kalama, Washington, on Craigslist for $US65,000 ($AU87,962).

The couple worked with the local government to get an occupancy permit and get connected to the grid so they’d have electricity and running water.

By June 2015, Jaimie and Dave were ready to start building a home out of two shipping containers.

The couple knew hard work and challenges were ahead, but they hadn’t prepared for the hurdles life was about to hand them.

Just a few months into the build and the couple was met with unimaginable obstacles

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The tiny home is 406-square-feet and took 10 months to complete. Jaimie and Dave Hinckle

Early into the build, the couple placed their two shipping containers on their property. They stacked a 20-feet (6.10m)-long container on a 40-feet (12.19m)-long container to create the home.

The couple was spending evenings and weekends working on their home, but one day in August 2015, Dave had an intracerebral hemorrhage, or a major brain bleed, which is a life-threatening type of stroke.

Jaimie rushed home from work, and Dave was airlifted off of their five-acre property. he spent five days in the ICU.

Jaimie said the moment Dave arrived at the ICU, his primary focus was getting back home and finishing their build.

“He’s literally laying in the hospital and he could barely talk. And he kept saying, ‘I can’t die. We have a house to build,'” Jaimie said.

When Dave was released from the hospital, the couple immediately got back to building their dream home.

The build played a key role in Dave’s recovery

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The interior is warm and cozy, Jaimie Hinckle said, Jaimie and Dave Hinckle

Jaimie said Dave had a long recovery ahead, but elements of their home were able to assist him throughout the process.

Dave worked with an occupational therapist, who designed therapy plans around building their tiny house.

Initially, Dave was unable to use the right side of his body, so tasks like laying the upstairs deck or using a nail gun became a part of Dave’s intensive therapy.

Accomplishing these tasks took time, but slowly Dave regained feeling and dexterity.

By April 2016, the home was completed and Dave had regained about 85% feeling in his right side, Jaimie said.

The 406-square foot home features two stacked shipping containers. The first floor has a living room, kitchen, bathroom, and a storage closet, which doubled as a kid’s room when the home was first completed.

A spiral staircase leads to the second floor, which is the couple’s master bedroom. This floor has a bed, little nightstands, and a reading area. It also leads out to a large balcony.

The total home cost about $US70,000 ($AU94,728), which is more than a conventional home of the same size. The shipping containers created unforeseen challenges with waterproofing, insulating, and cutting, which ended up costing more than the couple projected. But Jaimie said they love it and wouldn’t have done it another way.

Even today, stepping into the home evokes a flood of emotions for Jaimie.

“We poured everything into it,” Jaimie said about completing the build.

“We didn’t have anything left to give. We were out of money. We were out of energy. We were out of emotional and mental strength,” she told Insider.

But “the build was done right when we were done,” she said.

Now that their home is complete, the couple focuses on their dream projects

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Since finishing the home, Dave Hinckle build a suspension bridge. Jaimie and Dave Hinckle

Since finishing their home, Dave and Jaimie use their energy on other projects, like building greenhouses, chicken coops, and most recently, a suspension bridge.

Jaimie said Dave has always dreamed of having a home with two things: a suspension bridge and a zipline.

While Jaimie initially thought those were silly additions to a tiny home, she said she reevaluated after Dave’s hemorrhage.

“What happens if something happened to him and I hadn’t let him build this thing that was so important to him?” Jaimie said.

A post shared by Jaimie & Dave (@that_tiny_life_love)

So last July, Dave finally got to build his suspension bridge using reclaimed materials. The bridge sits 9 feet (2.74m) above the ground and took a month to complete.

The 50-foot (15.24m)-long bridge connects the tiny home’s balcony to a private deck, which overlooks the valley the couple lives on.

It also grants Dave easy access to his shop, which is where he works on other projects for the property.

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The couple has also added a chicken coop and greenhouse to their property. Jaimie and Dave Hinckle

Jamie said she believes Dave’s positive health is fueled by projects like the suspension bridge.

“I know it comes from the fact that he’s always getting to work on something exciting, always having something to look forward to,” Jaimie said.

With that in mind, the zipline is the next project to check off Dave’s list.

Jaimie said they hope to have it completed by next summer.

Through rain and sun, the couple said they’ve continued to find joy

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Jaimie Hinckle said the build has taught them to always search for joy. Jaimie and Dave Hinckle

This April, the couple will have lived in the home for five years.

They’ve encountered other road bumps, like ant infestations and a nonstop noisy woodpecker, but Jaimie said they’ve always managed to turn stressful incidents into an opportunity to laugh.

“Find joy in the little things,” she said. “Life’s not perfect, but choose to find joy.”

When Jaimie thinks about the future, she’s said she’s excited about projects like the zipline. Thinking ahead long-term, she and Dave plan to build another, more accessible home.

Their current staircases and steep steps work for now, but that won’t be the case forever, Jaimie said.

Eventually, the couple will start building again. But for now, the couple is enjoying their two-story tiny home.

“We feel really blessed,” Jaimie said. “It has been more than we ever dreamed it would be.”