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The Tiny House Movement: How Jay Shafer & Dee Williams Built Tiny Houses by Hand and Started a Revolution

Updated on March 17, 2016
Dee Williams sitting on her front porch
Dee Williams sitting on her front porch | Source

The woman in the picture is named Dee Williams, and she lives in an 84 square foot house, anchored to a utility trailer. Her tiny house is mobile, compact, environmentally-friendly, and only cost her $9,000 to build by hand. She has no mortgage, no debt, and complete freedom to travel the country, towing her little house along with her.

She decided to build her tiny house about 4 years ago, at the genesis of what would become a passionate, compelling, "tiny house" movement that continues to spread across the country. Her starting point: she contacted the foremost "tiny house" expert and first person to really make the tiny house movement famous, Jay Shafer.

Jay Shafer had been living in a similarly small dwelling and now owned his own tiny-home building company, called Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. Jay has been featured on Oprah as well as countless media outlets, where he spreads his passion for downsizing, and his expertise for constructing quality dwellings that are cute, compact, energy efficient, and very environmentally-friendly. Some of his building plans (available for purchase on his website) show tiny houses, like Dee Williams', tiny enough to be perched on a trailer. Other houses are larger, containing anywhere from 100 to 800 square feet.

The reasons for building and inhabiting a tiny home are many, sometimes complicated, but usually very simple. These folks were concerned about how the average square-footage size of the typical American home kept steadily rising. They saw that many Americans live in large homes but only really "use" about 20% of the house! These tiny house folks think there is no good reason to pay a large mortgage to own a large home you only use 20% of the space in.

So, they decided to build homes for themselves, smaller than most peoples' closets and bathrooms, and use all the money they're saving for other things, like travel, retirement, giving back to their community, or having nicer things inside their tiny homes. And they will tell you, that they do save money! While a tiny home is actually more expensive per square foot than a larger house, they save money on utility bills, and most have no mortgages whatsoever. Talk about being debt-free!

What do you think? Are these folks insane? Are they brilliant? Perhaps a little of both?

I, for one, LOVE the idea of a tiny house! I love the idea of downsizing and only owning enough square footage to really "use" every single inch of the house. But, here's the crux of the issue: where would all my shoes fit?


Interested in perusing a site FULL of awesome tiny & small houses? Here's an awesome tiny-home viewing site called Tiny House Swoon.

Looking to buy or sell a tiny home? Here's a buying & selling site you MUST check out, called Tiny House Listings.

And there are many more such sites out there; just search! Enjoy!


*photo & some info credit: http://www.oregonlive.com/hg/index.ssf/2011/02/tiny_footprint_big_step_dee_wi.html#incart_mrt

Me waiting to tour a Tiny Home on a trailer, made by Seattle Tiny Homes.
Me waiting to tour a Tiny Home on a trailer, made by Seattle Tiny Homes.
Interior of Seattle Tiny Homes' showcase model home.
Interior of Seattle Tiny Homes' showcase model home.

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    • relawshe profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel L 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      WillStarr,

      I think a 26 foot RV definitely counts as a "tiny house". It may not be a typical house, but most "tiny houses" are not typical, either!

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 

      6 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      I lived in a 26' RV for years while working out of town. It may not qualify as a 'tiny house', but it lived the same way. I loved it!

    • profile image

      paralegalpro 

      6 years ago

      I'm a huge fan of compact living, whether in a condo or a tiny home like the one described in your hub. It has been a process to get to this space in my mind, though. If you can believe it, my first home had almost 4.000 square feet of space. Unfortunately, I became a slave to my home - cleaning, repairing, upgrading. Not to mention that it costs a fortune to pursue the big home dream. Now, I live with my partner in a four room, 700 square foot home and I love it. As does my partner. We spend less time taking care of our home and more time with each other, living the life we want to live. Great hub.

    • relawshe profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel L 

      6 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Hi Deborah-Diane!

      Yes, I think it would be too! My hubby & I want to have a small farm, and I think a tiny house sitting on a few acres of land is just the ticket to a simplified, sustainable life!

    • Deborah-Diane profile image

      Deborah-Diane 

      6 years ago from Orange County, California

      I love these little houses. Wouldn't it be fun to live in one?

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