Tiny homes are on the rise as an environmentally conscious population’s response to diminishing resources and blatant consumerism.
People want to live simple, frugal lives with less Stuff.They want lower building and energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint. Some want to build a tiny home themselves and practice self-reliance, and some include the challenge of living with all they need in a small space.
The appeal of tiny house living
What is so appealing about a tiny home? What’s with the popularity of living spaces that seem abnormally small, cramped and uncomfortable?
Some tiny homes are built on trailer frames so they can be moved for traveling. Was the metal travel trailer the first tiny home? Pretty much! Today’s tiny homes are built with regular building materials and look similar to a traditional home. They are even more eco-friendly if built with recycled materials.
Portable tiny homes can be off-grid with solar panels, wind turbines, water catchment and/or composting toilets. You can tow one to a secluded spot and live in peace and quiet without sacrificing convenience. You can also go to an RV park and hook up to utilities, if that suits you.
My tiny house
My first house was an 8’x22’ travel trailer with an 18’x22’ living room added on to the south side. It had been a summer camp for a retired couple, who spent their winters in Florida. They sold the camp when the back-and-forth trips began to wear on them.
A kitchen spanned one end of the trailer and held a tiny stove, fridge, sink and dish drainer. The adjacent bathroom had only a shower and toilet. A dining table with built-in seating converted to a bed, and across from it, a bench with storage beneath it doubled as a bed. There was an actual bedroom in the far end. It had two built-in twin beds, but I flopped my box spring and mattress across them. My bed filled the room.
Living room furniture went in the addition. I didn’t spend much time in there, except to curl up by the wood stove in winter. I am not a living room type person. I spend most of my time at the kitchen table when I’m inside.
I could have lived in the trailer itself, which was 176 square feet. The addition was 396 square feet, bringing the total living area to 572 square feet. This was more than enough room for just me.
Smaller spaces post-kids
More recently, I discovered half a duplex a friend owns. It is 665 square feet with a full bath, bedroom with an ample closet and a full yet compact kitchen, which is open to the living room. As a buffer and for more space, between the two units there is a storage room with shelves and a washer and dryer. This might bring the total area to maybe 750 square feet.
The first time I walked into this unit, I knew I could live here once my kids were grown up. It was more than enough room for just me. The key to its functionality and aesthetics is proper scale of furniture and appliances. You do not feel overwhelmed or cramped, because there is plenty of room for living and moving around.
My friends and their tiny house living
My friend, Bill, built a portable tiny home, bought a pick-up truck to tow it, rented out his house and spent the winter in the Arizona desert. He is free to move north as the weather warms. He has a small solar panel for electricity, hauls water and cooks outside, even though the house has a kitchen.
My friend, Drew, is building a tiny home on his land to simplify his life and live lightly on the earth. He also wants to spend quality time with his family, instead of working all the time to pay off a big mortgage. They have a big garden to round out their frugal, self-sufficient lifestyle.
Preparing for tiny house living
Getting rid of Stuff is the first and most important thing to do before living in a tiny home. This is essential! Simplicity is the basis of this lifestyle. There are so many things we have that we never use. Why have them? Get rid of them! If you need an item later, you can borrow it.
Create simple storage for the few belongings you have left. Built-in furniture with storage below is a good option. Think of surfaces where you wouldn’t normally store things, too, like the ceiling. Some items can hang and be out of the way yet handy. Small-scale furniture and appliances give a sense of roominess without sacrifice.
Where to start looking for a tiny house
You can build new, buy used or purchase a kit. Tiny House Listings and craigslist are good places to shop. If you are building, investigate Michael Janzen’s Tiny House Design and Jay Shafer’s Tumbleweed Houses for inspiration and information. My friend, Derek, aka The Natural Papa, has six years of tiny house living behind him, and he offers up a wonderful list of resources.
Could you live in a tiny house?
This lifestyle is not for everyone! If you are so inclined to try it, figure out your needs for sleeping, cleaning, eating, living and storage, and find what works. There are as many ways to live tiny as there are eco-conscious people, so do what’s right for your particular needs. Sleep well in your tiny house knowing your carbon footprint is pretty small!