FARMVILLE — As a child, Sophie Szymeczek thought it would be exciting to live in a tree house — a compact area with just the necessities. She is making her childhood dream a reality with a decision to live in a tiny home.
Szymeczek once lived in a 2,400-square-foot home with a husband and three kids. At the end of the month it will be her in 288 square feet.
"Now it is just me," she told a group of Coffee & History series guests June 8 at the May Museum & Park.
Szymeczek's mother suggested she close off the upstairs of her big home and just live downstairs, but she did not think that was the solution.
"I thought this is nuts," she said of one person living in a huge house. "I decided I didn't want to do it anymore."
A nurse for 33 years, Szymeczek knew she would soon be retiring, and her income would decrease by two-thirds. Moving into a tiny house was "intentionally done," she said.
Szymeczek purchased a vacant lot on Pine Street in Farmville and found an architect and builder.
She designed her home with Jay Winslow Design, an architecture firm, and Evans Custom Builders. Since she loves to cook, her tiny home kitchen features a full-sized refrigerator and stove. "I gave up a tub for a stove," she said.
The home features cathedral ceilings, a living/dining area, the kitchen featuring several cabinets and counter space, a bathroom that will house an European-style washer and dryer and a staircase to a 96-square-foot loft.
"I have a real human-people shower, and a toilet that flushes. I'm not living off the grid," Szymeczek said, explaining her tiny home will be hooked into the town of Farmville's water and sewer system. "I will sleep in the loft or downstairs on a couch — the only piece of furniture I have to buy."
The staircase is dual-purpose, serving both as a way to the loft and providing storage. Three of the steps lift up to store items in, while the first three steps detach from the wall featuring another storage area.
The toughest part about the process was securing a loan for a mortgage — banks are not fans of loaning small amounts of money, Szymeczek said. She only needed $56,000.
"It would have been a whole lot easier to borrow more money," she said.
She sold her home in January 2016 and rented a tiny house in Greenville off of N.C. 43 to test the tight living space.
"It was a cabin. I had 15 inches of space. In the tiny home I'm building, I do not have a closet," she said. "I have a specific number of outfits, and when I replace something, something else has to go. I am living intentionally."
With her home sold and her future home being built, she had to start to condense.
"I had to get rid of all my stuff. I purged and donated. Some of it was hard to let go of ... like my piano," she said, sharing when she was eight years old she asked Santa for a piano. "I told my mom, 'If Santa brings me one, I'll never ask for anything again.'"
She kept her sterling flatware and six China plates that were her grandmother’s. These items are now her everyday plates and silverware. She owns two glasses.
"I think it is cool that I don't have stuff," she said.
Other items were easy to throw away or donate.
"I pitched my high school yearbooks and high school diploma in a dumpster. I realized no one cares. I kept my college diploma. I will probably hang it up at my work," she said.
Szymeczek owns and operates Happy Girls, a brassieres store located in Greenville. She has operated the business for five years, and still works part-time as a nurse.
"I am tired of being a vagabond. This last move will be into my tiny home," she said with a huge smile. "All of my stuff now fits in my Fiat."
Aside from her kitchen, Szymeczek is most excited about her 96-square-foot screened-in porch.
Her yard also features a garage, which was previously on the lot.
"Yes, it is bigger than my house," she said, followed by laughter from the audience.
She plans to paint the garage, add a barn door and use it as a shed.
Szymeczek, originally from Indiana, moved to Farmville in 1983. She is an East Carolina University graduate who secured a job with then-Pitt County Memorial Hospital.
She will move into her tiny home with two dogs, two birds and a cat at the end of the month.
The Farmville Public Library and the May Museum & Park host the Coffee & History series at 10:30 a.m. on the second and third Thursday of each month. The location rotates between the museum and library.
The series began a year ago, and attendance continues to grow, according to museum director Deb Higgins.
The next series is at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the library featuring Bert Smith, the former owner of Plank Road Steak House, who will discuss the history of tobacco in eastern North Carolina.
The Enterprise Serves western Pitt County including the towns of Falkland, Farmville and Fountain.