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YOU CAN’T DO THAT IN A TINY HOME! CAN…

Can you do that (whatever that is; fill in the blank) in a Tiny Home? Well, probably. You just need to be a little creative about it. For instance:

You can live quite happily with a family of five in a Tiny Home.

You can have a sense of space in a Tiny Home.

You can fit the necessities for life in a Tiny Home.

You can have luxuries and hobbies in a Tiny Home.

You can create healthy meals shopping one and a half times a week (on average) and with only a 4 cubic foot refrigerator.

You can truly live in a Tiny Home.

So what is it that you really give up? Part of that answer depends on your perspective, and how attached you are to a “larger is better” mantra. We lived on the Nickerson Schoolhouse property on two acres for almost ten years. If you add the house and the garage and “game room” space behind the garage, we had around 3100 square feet of usable roofed space on that property. Now, we have around 300 square feet, including the two lofts. Our old house was 900% larger than our Tiny Home. So, those numbers aside, what are the differences in our lifestyle?

Somehow, I’m not seeing very much disadvantage to my Tiny Home here. I gave up my library, space to store things I didn’t actually need, and room to walk back and forth. I gave up a mortgage, an electric bill supporting three forced-air units, and the need for a two-income household. I gave up easily doing an early-morning workout video without waking the kids up. I gave up floor space for a truly epic indoor wooden railway setup (if I want to walk past it without tripping or tiptoeing to avoid stepping on it; I can still be epic with the floor space I have (but I don’t have any pictures of that)).

And I gained. I gained (because I am not required to provide a second income to support a mortgage)  time and opportunity to educate my children. To spend quality and quantity time with them. To snuggle on the couch with a book. To hold them when they are hurt or sick. To teach them to cook. To properly handle a knife to cut an apple or make a sandwich. To ride a bike. To visit people out of town on a weekday. To go places when they’re less crowded because school is in session. To leave on a Thursday for a weekend trip without having to make an excuse–because I can take school with us. To allow them time to run a little wild and develop their creativity and their own small societal rules. To write. To read. To dream about creating restaurants and coffee shops (I have mentioned an affinity for both cooking and hosting). To take family trips once a month for a few days. To start a garden (with mediocre success. I mean, I don’t know what it is. My grandfather was a gardener by trade. My aunt is a certified Master Gardener and works in the community garden benefitting the homeless in her city. My mom has an awesome yard. Why can’t I keep a rosemary bush alive in a half-barrel-sized pot? And who knew that a bush cucumber / lemon cucumber hybrid would be inedible? Next time I won’t mix varieties in the same large pot. They cross-pollinated. But the kids learned something about genetics!!) To support friends and family members who need someone with some flexible time. To dream about and take steps toward facilitating similar dreams for other people (Tiny Homes for Sale! Anyone?). To dare to live a life that differs from what is expected.

You can, too. If you have the courage and creativity.

Okay, random side note: They need to make a scanning feature for Kindles and other e-readers, so you can scan the UPC on your physical book, and acquire it on your Kindle. I get it. I know why they don’t. Someone could just go to a bookstore or library and scan whatever they want without paying for it. But they can program it with GPS so that it won’t scan books within a certain radius of school campuses, libraries, and bookstores. I know they have the technology to make that work. Seriously! That’s a large reason why I haven’t yet bought a Kindle or whatever, despite that I am addicted (yeah. Addicted. Could probably be charged with substance abuse. As long as that substance is a book. A story. Heck, a cereal box will do in a pinch. Biblio-abuse? It’s a step worse than being a bibliophile. I bet Jasper Fforde has an official charge and code number for it through SpecOps 27. Thursday Next would know.) to reading. I am also a cheapskate and don’t want to have to buy my favorites (which I already physically own) just to keep them in electronic format. Also, I really do like holding and feeling and smelling (and reading) real books. It’s a lovely experience. But the convenience of having an entire library in one little device!! And the fact that I have very very few real books in my Tiny Home. The Kindle concept does solve a lot of the space constrictions imposed by a Tiny Home. I want someone to figure this out, convince the bigwigs to do it, and make it happen. I would buy (and periodically upgrade to the latest and greatest) a Kindle if they had this feature.

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

I think that means I ought to address my opening list of affirmations.

1) Our family of five lives quite happily together in our Tiny Home. “How” is too large a question to simply answer (hence this blog). However, I can say that we have developed some good habits. The kids have two or three stuffies (Stuffed animals. Plushies. Stuffies is courtesy of our dear Canadian friends. I like it.) they each get to have up in their loft, and Beautiful (our daughter; she’s our eldest child) has her jewelry, a flashlight, and whichever book she happens to be reading up there as well. Other than that, there are no toys up in the kids’ loft. It wasn’t working as a sleeping and a play space ̶ there would be nights that they couldn’t find their beds because of the books and toys strewn about, and three beds in one loft is quite enough. They do have outside toys, which get put away in the playhouse (the Tiny Home’s baby…). They have a small selection of toys and books which take up a little below-couch space. Our couch is open underneath so the entire length of it is storage space. Otherwise, except in special circumstances, their toys and books are over in the Fort (which is what we call our outbuilding. We have all of the “living” space we need here in the Tiny Home. Laundry, kitchen, couch, dining table, bathroom, beds, clothing storage. The business of life can and does flow smoothly here. But contrary to the habit of many, we spend a lot of time outside. That’s where the running, bike riding, sword fighting, and digging (okay, so I guess digging happens outside for just about everyone. But we have two boys and a girl who isn’t afraid of being dirty. Digging happens.) occur.

We have learned to respect each other’s space. There isn’t a door on my loft.The loft walls only go halfway up. But the kids ask before they climb even the bottom stair. When someone needs a little quiet time, they can be alone in the loft, even though it belongs to all three kids. It’s about respect and love. Living in close quarters means we know each other well, because we spend a lot of time together. That will either make or break a relationship; it has made us stronger.

2) A sense of space in a Tiny Home is fairly simply accomplished. You need three things: a tall ceiling, a large expanse of windows, and the ability to keep (most) of the things you own organized and put in their places. We have kids (um. I know; that is something I’ve stated before. I won’t get over it. Having kids is a miraculously awesome thing.), and they are little tornadoes. I have a tendency to walk inside my home and drop whatever I’m carrying on the nearest flat surface. It tends to make flat surfaces clutter up fairly quickly. So I’ve made a point of purposefully finding homes for things and making sure they go there without much delay. There was one weekend, after having lived in our Tiny Home for about four months, that my husband and I discussed all the things that needed better homes, and figured out solutions for them. A three-tiered hanging fruit basket over the sink got the fruit and onions off the counter. A picnic caddy screwed into the wall next to the pan cupboard got the silverware out of a drawer, freeing up space for the requisite flotsam in life (envelopes, pens, stamps, flashlights…you know, the junk drawer). Magnetic strips under the pan cupboard and potholder cubby hold knives and the most-frequently needed utensils, making the utensil drawer more organized and keeping the knives sharper. Little things make a huge difference.

 

3) Fitting the necessities for life in a Tiny Home involves determining what really is a necessity for your life. Clothes, dishes, food, and toiletries are given. But how much of each? Are you going to minimalise your entire wardrobe, or will you have a seasonal wardrobe, and a place to store things not currently in use? You need to keep enough dishes to accommodate the maximum number of guests you hope to regularly have. Are you going to have a somewhat traditional bathroom setup, or are your toothbrushes (like mine) going to wind up next to the kitchen sink? I’m a very low-maintenance woman; my “makeup” consists of a tube of tinted lip balm I keep in my purse for special occasions. This makes the toiletries a smaller issue than some would have it be. Food and entertainment are also a consideration, but are addressed in the next two sections.

4) You can have luxuries and hobbies in a Tiny Home. You can’t have all of them, but I’m certainly not deprived. I kept my tea collection. Half a shelf in one of my larger cabinets is tea. But I only have one small teapot in the house, and rather than having both a kettle and a pitcher for serving ice water or juice, I have one enamelware pitcher that I can boil water in on the stovetop. We use that pitcher to heat water for our Chemex pour-over coffee maker, too. Things that have multiple uses are essential when living in a Tiny Home. The couch, which has storage underneath, is a case in point here. We have two laptops, a television screen and DVD player, and a tablet (in addition to our phones) in the house. If you count my husband’s work phone, that’s two more screens than people. My laptop, and my stationery collection (including India ink and a glass dip pen, for when the correspondence is extra special) are in a slim cabinet that also houses a few reference books, materials for my current novel, art supplies I don’t want the kids to find, and the paper for the printer. Our daughter wanted to learn to play piano, so we signed her up for lessons and bought a keyboard. My husband installed a shelf of sorts above the corner of the couch to store it when it’s not in use. The boys don’t have hobbies yet (besides dirt, sword fighting with whatever sticks are available, and “things that go”), but I’m sure we will figure out how to make them work when the time comes.

5) You can create healthy meals shopping one and a half times a week (on average) and with only a 4 cubic foot (dorm-sized) refrigerator. I have learned the glories of actually planning what we are to have for supper each night. It removes a tremendous amount of pressure from the afternoon. I made a list of main dishes, and another of sides, all of which my family likes. I have some that are simple; others are more complex, special occasion foods. I have some for summer, and some that are fall and winter comfort foods. It’s a fairly simple thing to mix and match meals for the week, consulting the calendar to remember which nights supper must be on the table by five so we can make our evening obligations, and which nights we will be having company. If my husband has to be out of town, I leave off a meal for the week, because I will undoubtedly have enough leftovers to feed the kids and not need to cook fresh. I consider which meals earlier in the week may segue into something else to help with later meals. Yes, it is a science, and like any science it takes practice. But for over a year, I have been doing this. Mondays, after the main market run of the week, the fridge is full. But after some trial and error, I developed a good feeling for how much food I can actually buy and preserve in my fridge. One of my two large cabinets is my pantry, and I store a few more things in the shed on the back of our Tiny Home. Many weeks, I need to go pick up more milk (a half gallon at a time and cereal for breakfast many days means you run out) or a special item or three that I had forgotten or something. Largely, though, I shop once a week, and we eat well.

Adaptability, Creativity, Humor, and Respect: if you don’t have these, this life may not be for you. But, I’m proof that this lifestyle works, and works well.

You can truly live in a Tiny Home.

 

-Katrina Jones

Katrina Jones is a: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Believer, Writer, and the Chief of Strategy for Tiny House Tool- a business that exists for the purpose of helping attain freedom through frugal living, tiny house dwelling, and smart decision making. To Learn more, take the Tiny House Survey Here.

California

MORE HISTORY, AND SOME DESIGN CONCEPTS

When last I wrote about how we wound up living in our Tiny Home, I left off when we had finally drawn up plans (my husband has always been good with plans) and begun building our Tiny Home. We decided we were building a prototype. We wanted to see if “normal” people could do this. I mean ̶ sure, our kids are cute (they get it from their dad; since I’m the one writing the blog, I get to steal and invert his line), but whenever I see the Tiny Home shows on TV, everyone seems so beautiful. They may be a little different from standard suburbia families, but they’re not me and my family. They don’t seem entirely real to me. But then, if we could successfully build and live in a Tiny Home, perhaps we could build them for others, and facilitate others’ entry into the Tiny Home lifestyle. Sure, there are other Tiny Home builders out there, and many of them do a good job. But I’m not certain how many of them began with someone who has production homebuilding experience. While we want to build custom Tiny Homes for people, we have a unique perspective of the ability to streamline and reduce the cost of some of the process because of my husband’s time spent in the homebuilding industry. 

And so we built. It took some time. When selling a unique property like Nickerson, you have to find just the right buyer; weactually wooed and entered negotiations with at least three before finally selling the property. We were both working full time. I was pregnant. We had two small children. We had other people working on my husband’s design for us, but they all had other jobs, too. We found a 1980 travel trailer for $100, stripped it down to the trailer bed, and welded the frame so it was a bit wider. The wall frames went up, the subfloor was laid down. Pretty soon, we had something that actually looked a little bit like a Tiny Home.

People suddenly realized we were serious about living in a Tiny Home. It was such a paradigm shift from the life we had been leading that it shocked some, and worried and angered others. There were many discussions. Some were a bit heated. Some were merely curious or confused. Eventually, as our house slowly took shape, both inside and out, people settled into uneasy acceptance of our choice. Because of my husband’s job (it’s harder to quickly build something when working elsewhere full time), a project house four and a half hours away (don’t do that if you can help it; it’s hard to get things done), and the nature of part-time employees who were also doing other work elsewhere, it took more than a year between moving out of Nickerson and moving into our beautiful new Tiny Home (during which time, people probably thought we were never going to get around to moving, and we would just settle into the house in town we had purchased with the intention of flipping). But we did flip that house. And when it sold, we were living in our Tiny Home. Our first dinner party in the Tiny Home was before it was quite livable. We didn’t have electricity, and we didn’t yet have our beautiful tables fashioned from slabs of a tree we took down in front of the flip house. But we had a folding table, some good friends, and some good food, and one of those friends was only in town for the night, since she lives out of state. So we christened our Tiny Home with a fabulous meal, and even better company. And everyone loved it. We had several other dinner parties shortly after actually moving into the Tiny Home, and I was content. We had accomplished what we had said: there were five of us living in a Tiny Home; we were able to have people over for supper; life was good. 

We began to speak more seriously of what other people might want if they were purchasing a Tiny Home. Well, I’m the words person (had you noticed?), and decided that if we were to have different models (all able to be customized from their basic design), they needed names. I came up with four models:

The Entertainer

Our Tiny Home we call the Entertainer because it is designed so that we can entertain (and partly because I’ve always liked that piece of music). In this model, the focus is on how many people can be comfortably seated and well fed. It has a lot of couch seating, enough table space that (with the proper application of small stools or folding chairs) at least twelve people may be seated, two sleeping lofts, space for both a full-sized washer and a full-sized dryer (stacked on each other), sufficient counter space to prepare food and lay out a buffet for the aforementioned twelve people, and (possibly) just enough room to swing a cat (though why anyone wants to swing a cat stymies me; we’ll get back to the hypothetical (non-swinging) cat later) in the shower. We have a composting toilet, so we don’t have to have a black-water tank (toilet options are numerous and varied; some people feel very strongly about their toilets). It’s built for a full family to really live in. At this point, our Tiny Home is not designed to be fully off-grid. We hook up to a water source with a food-grade hose, and we run a heavy-duty RV plug to an electrical outlet. It could be built to be more self-sufficient, but we didn’t need that right now.

The Explorer

The Explorer design is for the outdoor sports enthusiast. It has two sleeping lofts, but one of them is really just guest space, and probably a little smaller than the kid’s loft in my Tiny Home. It needs to be smaller, because the shed built onto the back of the Explorer has to be larger than mine. It needs space to store and transport a one-person kayak, a mountain bike, skis, backpacking and camping equipment, and the like. There will be an integrated outdoor shower, so you don’t have to take your dirt inside after an adventure. It has water tanks for storage (and probably collection and filtering), and solar panels. It may even have a small wind turbine to generate more electrical power; we haven’t worked out all the details yet. It will have indoor shower and laundry capability; those are standard to all models (people can choose smaller laundry machines if they like). But the Explorer is a bit more rugged than any of the other models. It isn’t designed to be moved extremely frequently, like an RV (the differences between a Tiny Home and an RV are more numerous than some people think), but is more easily mobile than some of the other models. It’s built to take out into the wilderness and live and play.

The Entrepreneur

The Entrepreneur is generally designed for one or two people, although it could certainly accommodate a small family. This design is for the student or businessperson that needs dedicated desk and work space. It could also be adapted for a fairly serious gamer needing an entertainment center. The Entrepreneur will not be able to seat as many people for meals, but would have enough space to eat or to have a few people over for a study session or business meeting. It may be a stretch to imagine purchasing a home in college, but for less than one would pay in rent (apartment, shared house, or dorm) in four years of college, a Tiny Home could be owned outright ̶ and you’d have a home to take with you wherever you decide to move afterward. If you are starting a business, and own a Tiny Home, you never have to worry about losing your home to the back if your business takes a little longer to become successful than initially planned ̶ and you have that built in office space! (Sorry. I’ve become a  little cynical in this description. I’m not sure why. Regardless, I really like the concept of this model. I think we’re planning on building one for Beautiful when she’s in high school, so she can have the freedom to explore her college and career options. Actually, she will build it herself, or at least have a major hand in doing so. Hands-on experience is a good thing to have, and knowing what goes into building something is probably worth more than the house’s weight in gold when it comes to practical solutions and repairs.)

The Existentialist

This model is where we get back to the (hypothetical) cat (As opposed to Schrödinger’s Cat, which is something entirely different, although also hypothetical). The Existentialist is designed to be a guest house or a home for either a single person or a contented duo. It has only one sleeping loft, which is largely designed to be a guest bedroom. There is a master bedroom downstairs, comfortable seating and television area, and a small but efficient kitchen. There’s a small desk space and extra cubby holes for storing or displaying treasures. The space where in most other models there is a second loft has a few tiers of shelving, high enough and wide enough to make a cat very happy (or hold the books one needs to contemplate existentialism). As with other models, the laundry and bathroom spaces are customizable according to preference, as are the water and power sources.

The Erudite Option

Each of these models has a fully defined Erudite Option; after building our Tiny Home and living in it for a short time, we began to miss our books. The Erudite Option provides a decent amount of bookshelf space so you don’t have to entirely dispense with your library (or shot glass collection, I suppose…although that would probably be rather less erudite than a library).

You probably noticed everything starts with the letter E. The only reason for that is because I’m a logophile ̶ a word lover. I like to play with words, and if I can come up with appropriate descriptors for my design concepts that all start with the same letter (making them easier for at least me to remember), I will certainly do so. It’s just something that makes me happy.

By the time we moved into our Tiny Home, my husband was working in sales; it’s another in an interesting and varied line of jobs that has led to his unique capacity to desire to build and sell Tiny Homes. He has been a production homebuilder, a property manager, a resort manager, a college professor, a property flipper, a small-business owner, middle-management and purported heir-apparent in a successful business (so successful, in fact, that a larger company bought it and his heir-apparent status fell by the wayside), and a mentor. I had been a full-time mom of three for just over a year. We took some time to settle in and determine what worked well and what needed improvement in our Tiny Home prototype before throwing the concept to the vagaries of the four winds and the even-more-varied internet to see if we could serve others with our designs and desires to provide affordable Tiny Homes for sale.

At last (It’s been almost three years since we (slowly) began building our Tiny Home; four since we decided we would), we have come to a place where we are able to begin marketing and building Tiny Homes. Our dream is to help others realize their dreams. It’s why this blog is called Tiny House Freedom; we are so much more free now to do what we desire than we were when we were tied to so much square footage. What will you do with your freedom? It’s why  we call the business Tiny House Tool: Our Tiny Home is a tool to facilitate our dreams, and maybe yours as well. 

And so I leave it to you: Have I covered the most likely concepts for Tiny Home living? What did I miss? Do I need to come up with another model or two? Do the model concepts make sense? Given the options of the Entertainer, Entrepreneur, Explorer, or Existentialist, which would you choose? Would you want yours to be Erudite? Why? What suits your fancy? What are your dreams? Will they be more easily realized if you had a Tiny Home to live in? Where will you put it? What kind of toilet suits your fancy (not to worry; I’ll talk all about toilets one of these days)? How did you wind up at this point on your journey? Talk to me, and I’ll see what we can do for you.

 

-Katrina Jones

Katrina Jones is a: Wife, Mother, Daughter, Believer, Writer, and the Chief of Strategy for Tiny House Tool- a business that exists for the purpose of helping attain freedom through frugal living, tiny house dwelling, and smart decision making. To Learn more, take the Tiny House Survey Here.