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Tiny Home: Living in a Really Small House

Updated on April 6, 2013

A few years ago, I discovered the phenomenon of Tiny Houses. Whether on wheels or on a foundation, tiny houses aren't just small family homes, they are VERY small spaces, usually under 300 square feet. I was intrigued by the idea of living in a space smaller than most living rooms...and even, in fact (gulp) smaller than my own bedroom.

Over the past decade, there has been a growing cultural desire in North America and Europe for a simpler lifestyle and a more peaceful way of living. Magazine articles advise you to simplify and reduce the stress in your life by getting rid of "stuff" for a more peaceful living space. Small cabin kits can be purchased online or even at some hardware stores. The combination of the aging baby boomers and cultural creatives who are looking to downsize as children move out, a spiritual desire for simplicity, and the frank economic reality of the recession are proving to be the perfect blend to fuel the tiny house movement. From Tumbleweed Tiny Houses in California, to companies in Western Canada, Japan, Sweden, and the UK the tiny home movement is really taking off.

As a child, I was always fascinated by people who living in motorhomes, criss-crossing the country, having adventures and meeting new people without worrying about leaky roofs and utility bills. Stories of gypsies living in caravans in Europe held the same allure. As an adult, reading about the tiny house movement I discovered that tiny houses today are not just of the wheeled variety but that they also crop up more frequently as permanent dwellings.

If you are interested in living in a tiny house, it is important to take a good hard look at yourself, your lifestyle, your budget, and your goals. Downsizing to one of these homes is much more drastic than moving from a comfortable large family home in the suburbs to a townhouse or condo. It is also quite different than living in a one or two bedroom apartment in the city. Before you make any financial commitments, study the questions and concerns below, and answer them honestly.


A tiny house
A tiny house | Source
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Dee Williams' Tiny House

Jay Schaeffer of Tumbleweed Tiny Homes
Jay Schaeffer of Tumbleweed Tiny Homes

A Tiny House Might Fit Your Purse...but Does it Fit Your Personality and Lifestyle?

Prior to rushing into the decision to purchase small home building plans or small cabin kits, think very carefully about your personality and your family situation. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do I get claustrophic?
  • Do my hobbies/interests need a lot of storage space? If you are a craftsperson or a sports enthusiast with a variety of equipment, where will you store it? What about books, magazines, clothes, jewellery, shoes, artwork, cds, dvds?
  • Do my hobbies require a large workspace? You won't have one indoors in your tiny house. Unless, of course, that is all you plan to use it for.
  • Do I spend a lot of time indoors? Cabin fever is a real possibility if you are cooped up in a small space.
  • Do I like to entertain? If so, be prepared to move your entertaining outside for picnics and grilling, or keep your head count to a maximum of 2 or 3 guests.
  • Do I have pets? If so, consider how they will fit into their new living space. If you have a sleeping loft accessible only by a ladder, your dog won't be sleeping on the end of your bed.
  • Do I have a partner? If so, do I REALLY like him or her? Notice I didn't say love. This is a situation where "like" is extremely important. As spouses who camp or sail together can attest, being together in tight quarters can put a strain on the strongest of marriages. My grandparents were married for fifty two years, three of which were spent living on their 26 foot Contessa sailboat. "I almost left Grandad once," my grandmother told me last year. "But the only place to go was overboard."

Sourcing Your Own Materials? Look to the Sea!

Here is a tip if you are searching for tiny stoves, vanities, showers, toilets, and heaters for your tiny space.  Take a look at boat supply shops, online and otherwise.  While buying new will be expensive, there are second hand materials available, and some good quality items to be had which will save money on outfitting your new place.

An Ikea Tiny House

Does a Tiny House Cost Tiny Dollars?

One of the big influences on the current boom in tiny house sales in the economic recession and housing bust that has been gripping North America for the past few years. While there are many factors that will affect your total cost, if you are building it yourself you will likely spend at least $15,000 USD for materials, and costs can increase rapidly to the $55,000 range if you prefer to have it built and shipped. Your costs will also be determined by your choices of fixtures, flooring, furnishings, etc. If you are considering a tiny home, start a list of the costs involved. Begin by answering the following questions.

Do I want to buy a small portable home?

  • If so, how will I transport it? A full-size pick up truck is the usual choice.
  • If you need to buy a new or used truck, how much will it cost?
  • Where will you park it? If you plan to move from place to place, you will have to factor in the campsite or trailer park fees for parking.

If your home will be stationary, where will it be?

  • Will you buy rent or buy land? Many of the proponents of the tiny house movement are attracted to it precisely because it is an economical and environmentally friendly option for shelter in rural or isolated areas.
  • How much will your rent be? WilI you have plumbing and electrical in your tiny home?
  • If you are buying land (or if you already own a suitable piece of real estate), what do your local by-laws state as to property taxes? Check the definition of permanent dwelling carefully as you may have to pay significantly more in property tax if your home is deemed a permanent residence as opposed to a temporary shelter/trailer.

How will I build my tiny house?

This decision will have a great impact on the overall cost. Depending on your experience, budget, and willingness to roll up your sleeves and wield a hammer and saw, you can spend upwards of $15,000 for materials, including $5000 for an 18 foot flat trailer (for a portable tiny home). You have a myriad of options available to you. You can buy tiny house plans or small cabin kits online and then source the building materials and do the construction on your own. You can attend a series of workshops that teach you how to build. Or, if your budget allows, you can buy a house that will be built to order and have it shipped to the destination of your choice.

What do I want in my tiny kitchen and bathroom?

Kitchens and baths are the most expensive and the most fun-to-design rooms of any house, small or large, and a tiny one is no different. Think carefully the size of appliances. Can you live with a microwave and a hotplate only? Will a bar fridge suffice? Are you comfortable having a showerhead directly over the toilet? (This is a common bathroom plan for small spaces). What about countertop materials? If your tiny home will be portable, keep in mind that weight is an issue...so the granite or marble is out!

How Will I Finance My Tiny Home?

If you are downsizing from a suburban home, you may very well have proceeds from the sale of your traditional house, or from selling off all of your worldly possessions, or from both. If so, great. If not, make sure to talk to your bank or financial institution about financing. Important: you may NOT be able to mortgage your tiny home if it is on wheels. In that case your options for financing are a line of credit or secured collateral loan.

Jay's Tiny House Tour

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    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Interesting hub. We have nine cats, and they can be a lot of work even in a big house. GBY. Great hub.

    • Avamum profile image
      Author

      Sarita Harbour 4 years ago from Yellowknife, Canada

      Glad you enjoyed the article! And good point about "stuff". When I was thinking about buying a tiny house several years ago, the first thing my kids asked was which one of them would get my 52 inch flat screen TV!

    • tipstoretireearly profile image

      tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

      Such an intriguing idea! Seems like a wonderful way to live a simpler life. After all, how much stuff can you accumulate in a house like this?

    • innerspin profile image

      innerspin 4 years ago from uk

      I love the tiny house you featured, sadly it would drive me nuts to live in one. It's well designed and so cute, though the owner looked like he was having to shuffle around in the living room. Very interesting read, thanks, I'd not heard of these homes before.

    • Avamum profile image
      Author

      Sarita Harbour 5 years ago from Yellowknife, Canada

      Thanks so much, relawshe. I am fascinated by Tiny houses and the people who live in them.

    • relawshe profile image

      Rachel L 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Great hub about the tiny house movement! I have a similar hub myself! Dee Williams is one of my heroes!

    • Avamum profile image
      Author

      Sarita Harbour 6 years ago from Yellowknife, Canada

      Hi there, and thanks for the comment! You know, I don't see your love for the internet as a vice, but rather as an efficient (and simpler) channel for your reading, writing, visiting, and tv or movie watching. You don't need to have books, pens and paper, dinner parties, or a big-screen television. So think of it as your own personal way of downsizing. :)

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 6 years ago from A small southern town

      I am so into this personal downsizing,

      and return to basic needs!

      Everyone has a vice and something

      we do not want to give up, for me

      it is the internet.....I can read,

      write, visit, watch with one instrument.