California

Tiny Home Costs: DIY vs. Builders.

We have all seen the pre-built tiny homes, and a lot of people wonder why the cost of a prebuilt house is so much more than a DIY’er house. In some area’s a normal single family home can cost $300-400k, with most tiny homes coming in at less than $70k dollars. In other more rural areas some can purchase a single family home for $70k dollars. That making those living in more rural areas amazed by the costs of building a tiny home.

Location is key to deciding whether a tiny home is right for you, but budget is the driving factor in deciding whether hiring a builder or doing the build yourself is going to be necessary. Let’s take a moment to compare the two to give you an idea how these cost breakdowns will affect your budget.

Just to give you a glimpse into the cost of building a Tiny House, let me provide some quick stats for a “normal” build from a builder.

  • $3000-8000 Cost of a real good trailer
  • $2800 Windows
  • $400 Single Entry Door
  • $1200 French Doors
  • $3000 Custom Archtop Door!
  • $1000-5000  appliances
  • $800 roofing
  • $3000 lumber, sheathing, etc.
  • $2800 insulation
  • $400 Shower
  • $500 electrical bits
  • $500 plumbing bits
  • $500 lights/fans
  • $1000 Composting Toilet
  • $600 flooring
  • $2000-$5000 interior materials
  • $500 finishes
  • $800 cabinets
  • $6 box of screws. Doesn’t sound like much until you have to buy like 30 of them
  • $45/hr typ. rate for a rough or finish carpenter
  • $20/hr typ. rate for helpers
  • $60/hr typ. rate for a plumber or electrician
  • $30/hr general labor, finish work, trim, etc.

These are but a few of the costs associated with building a Tiny House. In addition a builder is typically going to have associated cost from labor, business expenses, and other overhead expenses. A typical tiny home build usually takes 2-3 months if your build is being worked on roughly 40 hours per week in the process.

Here is an idea of some costs you may be incurring if you’re looking to build yourself.

  • $300 research (Tiny house design and construction guide, layout & plans)
  • $5,000-$8,000 Trailer
  • $350-500 Doors & Windows
  • $2,500 Kitchen cabinets, corner seating and storage stairs.
  • $4,000.00 Roofing + cladding
  • $670.00 Insulation

While costs between a builder and DIY’ing it aren’t much different, you have to take into consideration that you’ll be responsible for all the labor. If you’re not a skilled contractor you may end up spending twice the amount of time than a builder would on the project. While it could take longer, you may be able to control costs if you are to complete the build yourself.

While only you can make the decision that’s right for you, it’s a great idea to so as much research as you can to make sure you’re making the best decision for your project and you pocketbook!

Tiny House Tool strives to accomplish the cost of a DIY with the accuracy and planning of a builder.

California

Tiny House Moving & Storage Tips

First and foremost moving into a tiny home requires a lot of downsizing. The things most people focus on when downsizing are furniture, clothing, and kitchen supplies because those are often the things people struggle with when it comes to downsizing. The downsizing however is inevitable and after time, you may even begin to realize you didn’t need those things a much as you thought. 
 
When it comes to furniture this is where you’ll do the most downsizing, and while some furniture may have sentimental value the reality is bringing it all with you is just not possible. If you really want to incorporate your furniture into your new tiny home, try picking pieces that are multifunctional. Can your table function as a desk and an eating area?
 
Our clothes are often thought to be a big piece of who we are and often reflect our personalities and unique traits. What are you supposed to do when you cannot bring all those items with you on your new journey? If you’ve already decided to go tiny, then you have already come to terms with downsizing in some capacity. Just like with everything else you’re going to have to decide what matters the most to you. A lot of time we don’t even realize how little we use something because we easily get attached to tangible items. So first ask yourself, “How often do i wear this?” If you had some time before your tiny home journey, try taking all of your clothes and turn your hangers in the opposite direction with the hanger looping to the rear of your closet. If after the season is completed you haven’t worn an item, you probably won’t. It is said we can get by with only having 14 pieces of clothing. (not including undergarments) That list is said to include:
 
two jackets (one blazer, one casual)
eight tops (a mix of t-shirts, polos, button-ups, and dress shirts)
two pants (one pair of dress pants, one pair of dark wash denim)
one pair of boots
one pair of  sneakers or tennis shoes
Could you get by with only utilizing 14 items in your closet?
 
When it comes to kitchen supplies we have been taught that there is a tool or gadget for everything, and in reality we hardly use 20% of the items we hold on to in our kitchen. If you’re struggling with pairing down get a shoe box and place it in your kitchen, for a week straight every time you use a utensil put it in the shoe box. After a week you’ll know what utensils you actually use, versus those that are not worth joining you on your new adventure. If there are larger kitchen appliances you cannot part with a try to find ones that have multiple purposes to make the most of your space.
At the end of the day, whatever you don’t take with you can be sold in a yard sale or online. While you may not have the item to take with you, you might have a little extra cash in your pocket, and isn’t that what tiny living is really all about?
Central Valley

Tiny Home Heritage: Experience Life

Okay. So I admit I’m a terrible blogger; I can’t write regular posts, or even semi-regular ones. I get an itch to write something, and maybe I make a note of it on my phone, and then I never open my computer and actually write. It’s the reason why it took me ten years to finish my first novel, and why I’ve been working on my second for three years, and have a chapter or so to show for it. I usually get distracted until the words can no longer be contained. My phone, random pieces of paper, and a few dedicated notebooks get poetry, snippets of the novel, and occasionally paragraphs of other prose, but at this point I certainly cannot even claim to be trying to make any sort of living with my words (though that has been an aspiration of mine. Right now, I still can’t commit to any sort of publication of my book, despite people I trust telling me it is in fact publishable.).

Thus, I sit here rambling, at long last. I am perched on a patio chair, with the laptop on another, because the patio table is too far away from the outlet, and my battery was dying. My youngest child is wrapped in a beach towel and nestled on my lap. The string lights wending between our Tiny Home and the Fort illuminate my keyboard, as do the occasional random illegal fireworks–it’s a week after Independence Day, but if you’ve got it, flaunt it, I suppose. He is sleepy, my three-year-old son; I should summon his older siblings from the not-hot-tub (it was a nearly-free acquisition, but doesn’t heat or pump. It holds water, and that’s more than good enough on a hot summer day) and send them to bed. I have a tendency to lose track of bedtime when the sun doesn’t go down until eight o’ clock. But he is snuggly, and keeps commenting on the amount of “numbers” I’m putting on the screen.  He doesn’t know the difference between numbers and letters. He did just tell me where “A” is on the keyboard, though, so that’s certainly something.

Tiny House Tool

What has kept me busy lately, in my “Tiny” life? We’ve been out of town nearly every weekend since the middle of May, when we kicked off the crazy with a trip to Oregon. We put a shell on the back of the pickup, stuck a backpacking stove and coffee pot, a futon mattress, and some pillows and such in the bed, and began a journey up the less-quick route from here to there. Basically, we went from 300 square feet to 30 for several days. We traveled through some parts of California we hadn’t traversed before, and some we had (but hadn’t taken the time to enjoy recently), and showed the kids some places important to us (like the Benbow Inn in Garberville; we spent a few nights of our honeymoon there, and so stopped there for a few hours to look at the fancy old building and the lovely grounds. While there, we struck up a conversation with the head gardener, and offered to build her and her husband a Tiny Home for their retirement. (It was a far more involved conversation than my simple summary, but that was part of it.)). We also saw (in three different places) goslings, shamrocks, and lily pads–which were far more interesting to the kids than the Avenue of the Giants, the Benbow, the fact that their Daddy and Mama were taking them on a very special trip to show them what we had loved before, and the miles of beautiful scenery along Highway 101 in Northern California. In any case, we worked our way through the topmost part of the state and then up the Oregon coastline until we turned inland and spent a few days with my family, near Salem.

Tiny House Tool

The kids each acquired a new squished penny on the trip, at the Albany Carousel. Squished pennies are my favorite souvenir ever. They are customised to help you remember a particular place, and the occasion that brought you there. They don’t break, wear out, or become outgrown. They cost fifty-one cents apiece (fifty cents for processing, plus the penny that gets squished and imprinted with the design), so if they get lost, we do miss out on that particular penny, but it’s really not a big deal or a big loss of investment. We have all of ours in a squished penny display wallet that is smaller than a paperback book. If we get to the point that we fill it, I’ll make sure each child gets their own display wallet. We’re not there yet. I think there should be more squished penny machines (especially the crank kind, which are much more fun than the automated ones).

Tiny House Tool

Since then (in addition to regular life, which is gardening and school, and at-home stuff), we have been to our local mountains (the ones we call home) five times, down to Southern California to the house we were flipping twice (Forrest has gone more than that, for the escrow inspections–we are hoping it closes soon, and all looks well on that front so far),to visit cousins in the foothills for a sleepover (and alpaca shearing! With scissors!), had three kid birthdays, and gone to Morro Bay for a camping trip once. That was an adventure. It was an attempt to get a bunch of family together for a few days just to hang out, while it wasn’t a holiday. We wound up with 21 people–eleven of them were between the ages of three and fourteen–and two dogs. Another fifteen or so people would have meant all of our “close” family on that side had made it, but while they were missed, we had a grand time anyhow. There were sandcastles. There was body surfing. There were sunburns. Children were frequently heard in the bushes–on one side, there was the “jungle” and on the other side was the “stick fort”.  There was a somewhat epic tie-dying session. There were protracted games of Battleship (side-note: I think that guessing “C-4” in Battleship should automatically be a bonus hit, even if it’s a miss.). There were campfires, s’mores, and glowsticks. There was a very brief game of frisbee–it was a cheap frisbee; it snapped in half. There was the requisite comedy of errors when one brand-new tent was being erected (this included me standing inside, holding it up, while my cousin used her phone flashlight to try to read the directions and direct traffic on the outside). There was even a long piece of seaweed that was used as a jump-rope. And–there was a lot of food (I’m not the only foodie in my family).

It is this: trips hither and yon, time with extended family, honorary family, and just our nuclear family, that we are trying to give our kids with this life we have chosen. It’s a heritage of memories, experiences, creativity, problem solving, and simple pleasures that transcend the economies of stuff and media. It helps that in our Tiny Home, we don’t have space for a lot. We’ve had to distill our belongings down to what is most important. Granted, we have the Fort, and there are a lot of toys and other things there. But it is not a bedroom for everyone, and a playroom, and a bunch of other spaces filled with things. I don’t wish to disparage traditional American living; I just choose to say it is not for me.

I still have lots of things, but as I addressed in previous post, they are much more carefully curated than they used to be. A few weekends ago, sitting on the deck of a friend’s cabin (and basking in the clean 7000′ air and peaceful sunshine), I had my ridiculous unicorn notebook (it was a carefully considered acquisition; since it highlights an inside joke between Forrest and I, it was necessary. Besides–I write.) out as I sat and watched the kids play. Those ten minutes (among many other instances) cemented my belief that we are doing the right thing. I wound up writing a poem about what the kids were playing, as I quietly observed. Yes, I am going to subject you to my poetry, but it’s not very hi-faulting, so I think you’ll survive.

Playing

A gate
becomes a train door—
“All aboard!” she calls.

“We can’t,” he cries,
holding the screen open
between them.
“There’s a huge pile of rocks.”

Several minutes pass.

The rocks dug and blasted away,
they run to their control panels
on the train

but technical difficulties abound!
The train is abandoned for a
spaceship, to obliterate their enemies.

Suddenly they are parachuting—
or hang-gliding—down
from an escape pod

to begin
the next adventure.

I absolutely adore that my three children–who were using no toys in this instance–can have such wonderful games together. There are five years (almost exactly; my eldest turned five one week to the day after her youngest brother was born) between them, and they play happily and imaginatively together. Granted, there are always going to be moments of discord throughout the day, but more often it’s like the poem, or this instance: eleven children, playing in the sand dunes while camping. Two mama’s are nearby, nominally watching, but mostly just having adult sister conversation time. We note there are two distinct camps, there is howling, and there is crawling–even the 14-year-olds are crawling about. Suddenly, they meet in the middle space between their encampments. One crawls up to us. “We are sand dogs, which are kind of like wolves,” we are told. “And each group has an Alpha!” Okay then. It isn’t long before we observe that the two groups are in a friendly sort of war, with people switching sides (or being held hostage?), and invasions and such. More observation reveals that the youngest child among them (my three-year-old) is the Alpha of one side. The next youngest (a cousin, about age five), complains to his older brother that they need to have a re-election, because the Alpha can’t lead. The older brother (who is later identified as the Beta of the pack) replies, “No! He’s a natural-born-planner. He stays Alpha.” And the game continued.

Central Valley

THE CONCEPT OF MINIMALISM

Minimalism is a popular concept. This is not the first time it has been, but in a world of extremes and excesses, the sheer relief minimalism brings to the eyes and the mind is gladly welcomed. Dare I even say that minimalism is extremely welcome? That it is sometimes taken to excess? Some people can turn anything into an oxymoron. The Tiny Home Movement is a natural conclusion in the progression of minimalism. It does not only satisfy the hearts of minimalists, but conservationists, extremists, and cheapskates as well. A Tiny Home is a haven for philosophers, students, extreme sports enthusiasts, minimalists, entrepreneurs, and families. I’m pretty sure Thoreau would have approved of a Tiny Home on the shores of Walden Pond. I’m not going to continue waxing philosophical at you for an entire blog post, however. That’s a bit much. My impetus for starting this way is to talk about some of the differences between living in a “regular” house versus a Tiny Home.

One of the main differences is the amount of stuff you can cram into the building, of course, which is why the minimalism came up. Am I a minimalist? No. I have always been a collector. I collect books, of course. When I was younger, I collected elephant figurines (I had several hundred, at one point). I collect cast iron cookware; it’s awesome to cook with, if a bit heavy. I have amassed a collection of aprons. I also collect quotes, recipes, high-quality tea, and people my children call grandparents. I am decidedly in favor of good amounts of quality food. I was raised in a family that did not have very much money, and am thus in the habit of squirreling away things that “could be useful someday.” Very little of this is conducive to living in a Tiny Home.

So how do I manage? Why did we choose this? What did I do with all of my things? Is it worth it (Why??)?

I’ll start with the easiest question first. What did I do with all of my things? I was seven and a half months pregnant and working full time when we entered into an escrow agreement to sell Nickerson, our 2600 square foot red brick school house. It was not the easiest time to sort through an entire home’s worth of belongings. We had friends come help, and I sorted. I think we probably gave away (I didn’t have the energy for a yard sale) about a third of our things. Blankets, dishes, couches, our bed, books, decorative items, appliances…anything was fair game. It got to the point that people would hold something up in my direction, and I would point to trash, donate, or pack. A year later, I went through all of the things we had kept, and dispensed with another third, color-coding boxes for donation, storage, or moving into our Tiny Home (and when we did eventually move in, I wasn’t able to keep all of the things I had hoped to put in it). It was a definite paradigm shift. Even now, I have trouble keeping my home clutter-free. It’s a process. But what about the things that we have that cannot just be gotten rid of? I have furniture from my grandmother. My husband has a dresser someone made for him, and a desk that had belonged to his grandfather. The little antique school desk my mother-in-law bought us when we moved into the schoolhouse isn’t something I’m willing to give up; Nickerson is a good memory, worthy of a few tangible memories. My children all have baby quilts made specifically for them, and a few special baby clothes that I want to save for them. The chairs my husband had restored for our fifth anniversary are non-negotiable. I’m keeping them. I dispensed with a lot of my kitchen things, but certainly not all of it. My husband has a very healthy collection of well-used tools. We camp and backpack, and have all the paraphernalia that goes with that. The list continues, but I won’t bore you with it. I’m sure you have your own list of items that you would be very hard-pressed to get rid of. We kept those things. They don’t fit in our Tiny Home, but we do have a building we keep them in. That building was always part of our Tiny Home dreams.

But, isn’t that cheating????

No.

Rule number one (don’t hold me to that. I may give you a different rule number one another time) when it comes to Tiny Homes: You do it the way that works for you. for us, that means we need a space in addition to our home that houses project space, homeschool space, and all of the things that we couldn’t get rid of. I did spend a year nowhere near this extra building, and we’d shuttle things back and forth as they were needed. We also kept all the homeschool stuff (including the keyboard so our eldest could practice piano) in our Tiny Home, and made do with the space we had. I often held school out on the front deck. It was less convenient, but it worked. I have a lot fewer things than I did when we lived in the big schoolhouse. But I love that I am burdened with less stuff. I don’t have to dust so many things. I have less to put away when the kids decide the day’s game is to get everything they own out. After two rounds of refining my belongings, I’m still not a minimalist, but I enjoy the peace provided by less excess.

I began to answer the “how do I manage?” question within the last answer. How do I manage? One simple answer is: rather well, most of the time. Another is: I’ve always been a fairly level-headed, adaptable individual, and this is just another situation to adapt to. An answer with more relevance to those desiring practical information regarding the purchasing of or living in a Tiny Home is by necessity more complex. My absolute minimum kitchen consists of the following:

a large cast-iron frying pan with lid

a spatula

a saucepan with lid or a soup pot with lid (go with the soup pot if you can’t have both)

a serving spoon

a wine-bottle opener

a can opener

a pair of tongs

a cutting board

a bread knife

a 10-inch chef knife

a paring knife

a spreading knife (optional, but very nice)

a 2- or 4-cup Pyrex measuring cup

a mixing bowl (also optional; you can use the soup pot for this)

a casserole dish

a cookie sheet with sides (jelly-roll pan)

silverware, plates, bowls, and cups / glasses /mugs (mugs are the most versatile, and can replace bowls if necessary)

Of course, there are a bunch of other things that are very nice to have (and I didn’t mention useful things such as Ziploc baggies and aluminum foil and that ilk), and you only need the casserole dish and cookie sheets if you have a functional oven (I spent about five months without one, but that’s another story, and is pre-Tiny Home. You may get that story eventually anyhow.). It’s important to be versatile. I deliberately chose to give away my (off-brand) tupperware collection when we went Tiny. I instead bought a nice set of Pyrex Snapware from Costco. Not only does it store my leftovers and not emit any potential nasties when microwaved, but it doesn’t stain, and I can bake in it. I’ve made some rather nice cakes in my four-cup Pyrex Snapware (four four-cup containers holds one standard two-layer cake recipe. Use two round ones, then split and stack them for an awesome four-layer cake to use for the party, and save the two square ones in the containers for later; they even have lids.). I do have a lot more than the absolute minimum list I mentioned above. I love to cook and bake, and while I can go minimal in the kitchen (and still come up with some rather fine meals), I prefer to have more options ̶ and so I do. The kitchen was one place I knew I wouldn’t go minimalist in just for the sake of living in a Tiny Home.

That’s something important, by the way: Know where you’re willing to compromise, and where you’re not.

I was certainly willing to compromise with my linen closet. Each of our beds has two sets of sheets; one is cotton for summer, and the other is flannel for winter. They get washed and put back on, and I don’t have to store a lot of extra fabric around the house. We each own one towel. I have half-a dozen hand towels in the kitchen, and a few totally awesome Norwex towels (an enviro cloth, a window cloth, and a dust mitt ̶ I may want more things to replace some of the other linens I have, but it’s a good start). My husband likes to wash dishes with a sponge, so we have some of those, but the bacteria that breeds in them and makes them stink makes me cringe and wrinkle my nose in disgust, so I have a silicon wash-thing with a bunch of little silicon cilia on it. Our linens went extremely minimal.

Each of us has between four and six large shoe-box sized bins to store our clothing in (I will admit to utilising the Kon-Mari (or whatever) method for folding clothes to ensure things fit neatly). I have a larger bin in the storage building that I use to rotate clothing in and out with the seasons. I don’t let the children accumulate too much clothing in any case. Our hanging clothes are on the closet rod up in our loft. Clothes have never been something I’ve felt the need to accumulate.

The kid’s toys were a little more difficult. We have some things that I feel are high-quality, imagination expanding toys, and I wasn’t willing to get rid of them. There are some others that I haven’t been able to “disappear” from under their watchful little noses yet. Also, in a word: children. Did you know that they are “stuff” magnets? Everything is a treasure, including the random nondescript rock from out in the yard, and the broken piece of curly ribbon from a gift given to someone else. And people like to give them things. It’s terribly hard to curate their things and keep the minimum, quality toys and games. I’m a little better with their books. I have very few qualms about ruthlessly weeding through children’s books and dispensing of those without adequate plot or artwork, or those that are really only commercials for some random toys. I’m picky about those, and largely successful with keeping that collection cleaned up, except when someone they love gives them a book that would otherwise not survive. That’s a lot more difficult ̶ so, we have some of those. I do love books, and believe children need a good variety of them, which means even before we were on the same property as our storage building (The Fort, we call it), we had more kids’ books than toys in our Tiny Home.

Management of the “things” is a continuous process of consideration, curation, and creativity. It becomes second nature to consider whether something is really going to be useful, or if it just looks that way. There is a learning curve.

The last two questions posed above are: Why did we choose this? and Is it worth it? I think I’m going to have to table those for a different post. Here’s the spoiler: we chose the Tiny Home lifestyle because we wanted to be deliberate about our life choices, and choose our path, rather than letting the standard American suburban life choose us. And yes ̶ it is worth it. I’ll get into the whys and (more) hows and wherefores another day. Meanwhile, a few questions for you to consider (and I’d love to hear what you think down in the comments):

Why do tiny tomes intrigue you?

Are you interested enough to look into purchasing a tiny home?

What part of your life are you unwilling to compromise on to live in a tiny home?

Can’t wait to hear from you, and I’ll talk to you all another time!!

 

-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

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION [ON CHOOSING YOUR NEIGHBORS, YOUR SCENERY,…

The old real estate joke that location is everything takes a slightly different twist when one owns a Tiny Home. We are living in our third location since moving in about a year and a half ago (an average of six months per location, though that isn’t actually accurate). Each has presented a unique set of advantages and disadvantages, but a glory of the Tiny Home is that one can fairly easily switch up locations if something isn’t working  ̶  or if the opportunity and desire manifests. Each time we’ve moved, it has taken my husband a fairly minimal amount of time to prep the new space: ensuring there is water and power nearby, and flat ground. It takes me an hour or two to pack the things that are breakable, and put them in secure locations, and another hour to put them back on the cupboards. Moving is easy.

Our first location was in the generous back yard of the house we were flipping. It was on the corner of a residential street and a busy thoroughfare. The busy thoroughfare was a bit of a deal breaker, to me. I didn’t like the traffic noise (though you can get used to anything), and the lack of safe spaces for going on walks or bike rides made it a less comfortable location for me. I like to be able to take a walk without cars next to me going fifty miles an hour or more. The lot fronted north, and we faced our Tiny Home north as well. We were tucked underneath a huge fruitless mulberry that provided excellent shade, which was a plus since we moved in in July. We live in the Central Valley of California, where 100 degrees and up is normal in the summer. We were very glad our Tiny Home’s large front windows faced north, avoiding the worst of both sunrise and sunset heat. The tree was a serious boon. I think the layers and layers of cool green leaves reduced the heat -loading on our roof by untold amounts. Our closest neighbors were friends of ours  ̶  empty nesters  ̶  who had recently sold their home and were looking for something smaller. They needed a place to reside while they looked, since their home sold faster than expected, and we had a just-remodeled home that had a lot of space. My washer and dryer were still in the laundry room inside “the big house” and we shared them with our friends, establishing that she liked to do her laundry on Mondays. I’m not that organized. I (still, fifteen years of marriage and three children in) do laundry when the mood strikes (or the clean things run low). I did laundry any day but Monday; we shared the space well. We shared the back yard, too. They brought in patio furniture, and occasionally borrowed our barbecue. I watered the grass (there wasn’t grass everywhere. There was a lot of dirt. After about two weeks of living in our Tiny Home, I asked for the deck which was subsequently built. Having a deck or patio keeps more of the dirt outside than not having one. Having children, though, means there will be dirt. At least I have a limited amount of floor to clean.). The kids rode their bikes on the patio. We sometimes would have a meal outside together, or spend time visiting. It was a taste of choosing one’s neighbors  ̶  and we liked it. It was a good space to make the transition from traditional home living to Tiny Home living. We only stayed there five months, because (as I said earlier) the property was purpose-bought to be flipped, and we sold it.

During escrow, we entered into very serious discussions with another set of very dear friends. These discussions resulted in our moving our Tiny Home to their property. They have a large lot  ̶  a “country property” surrounded by the city in which we lived. It’s actually part of what is known as an island: an area of land still belonging to the county, unincorporated into the city though surrounded by it. Our friends lived in a neighborhood that is one of these islands, which means they have city trash service, but their own well. The immediate neighbors are somewhat rural, with horse across the street, cows down the block, and a strawberry stand on its field around the corner. Surrounding all of these are housing developments and a very nice elementary school with accompanying community pocket park. It’s an interesting composite. It’s also an incredibly nice location in which to live. We lived there for ten months. Our house was set at a right angle to their house; our front windows looked at their back yard (and across it to their barn). It made a cozy little compound  ̶  back fence, barn, big house, Tiny Home in a nice rectangle. Their property is on a corner, and is only fenced on the two sides where neighbors are, so we drove in and parked behind our Tiny Home on one of the street sides, letting our friends have their driveway to themselves. It was a lot easier than sharing a driveway between two families, as we had done at our first location. (Oh! If you’re curious about trash can limitations, our family spent more than a year sharing trash cans with other families. It may say something about our ingrained cultural consciousness of recycling, but we only ever filled the recycle bin. Even with two families sharing (and two children in diapers  ̶  one of ours and one of theirs), the trash bin never was entirely full. Also, it’s very good form to take over moving the bins back and forth from where they are kept to the street for trash day when one shares a property. It never was a spoken requirement, but we tried to take care of it anyhow, to help care for the place. I suppose that’s one tip if you and your Tiny Home are going to choose where to park based on neighbors.)

Living with good friends was a delight, most of the time. We had a regular night where we would eat together, at their place, ours, or the back yard (which was relatively communal territory). On New Year’s Eve, we were all able to put our children to bed in their own beds and still have an adult gathering without worrying about childcare. Upon moving in, I walked my (very friendly) children around the yard and pointed out those places that were within their boundaries, and what was not. I asked them very pointed questions about whether our friends’ house belonged to us, and whether or not they could enter without an invitation. I spoke with my friend about my general obliviousness in certain areas, and informed her in no uncertain terms that that obliviousness meant that I would take no offense if she had to tell me that I or my children were doing something that didn’t mesh with their sensibilities. It would be a welcome notice so I could address the problem. We took many morning walks  ̶  two mamas, four children (two bikes, two strollers), and one dog (theirs; we haven’t decided a dog is necessary  ̶  partly because I don’t want to train it, and refuse to have an untrained one) to the park, and some evening ones, sometimes adding the daddies to the mix. We occasionally swapped babysitting duties when something came up. We fed the dog when they were out of town. They watered our garden when we were gone. The kids (theirs is three months older than our youngest) played all day long in the yard, if we weren’t doing something else. Both of us mamas could be in our kitchens working on lunch or supper or laundry and keep an eye on the playing children, who also took care of amusing and (sometimes) policing each other. Whichever of us noticed an issue first would take care of it. Multiple adult eyes were on the children, but they had the freedom to play without feeling like they were being stared at. Having neighbors with very similar beliefs and ideals was a comforting relief.

There were a few negatives to that location. First, the house faced mostly west, though it canted slightly south. It was HOT. The greenhouse effect of glass is largely documented. Well, we roasted in the afternoons and evenings. Trying to get my (then) one-year-old to nap with bright sun beating in was difficult. Contrary to our first location, we didn’t have a nice tree under which to tuck our house. We wound up draping a shade cloth over the entire house, with wooden contraptions on the roof to give a little airspace between the cloth and the house, trying to get any airflow we could, while reducing the direct glare of the sun. It made a few degrees of difference. Even in winter  ̶  and it was mid-November when we moved there  ̶  it was annoying. I had to wear a hat to cook supper, because the sun was actively setting in my eyes when I was trying to cook. Don’t get me wrong  ̶  I really like my hats. I enjoy wearing them and feel they flatter me. But wearing a hat and still trying to shield your eyes from the glare reflecting off your countertops as you try to mince garlic is rarely fun. The only other disadvantage to the location was also one of the advantages  ̶  proximity. While the proximity benefitted the supervision of children, it also put some strain on moments when families prefer privacy. I don’t have curtains on my windows because I like the light and space of that aesthetic, and I prefer not dressing in my bathroom after a shower (too wet when the entire bathroom is your shower!). Trying to stay decent while climbing the stairs to my loft was a learned skill. At various times, all families experience the need for serious conversations, or have a bit of strife. Being close enough to inadvertently overhear intense conversations (while something that happens in apartment buildings and cities) is something I prefer to avoid. It usually makes all parties more comfortable. Overall, though, we were quite happy there. Our initial agreement had been for six months of cohabiting on the property, and we wound up staying ten (to the satisfaction and enjoyment of all parties). Our largest impetus in moving was that our friends were having a second child, and we wanted to give them space to adjust to having the baby and being a family without a second family intruding on their space.

Our third (and current) location is in yet another part of town. Our current neighborhood is a mix of commercial properties (not storefronts) and (mostly lower-income) rentals. There’s an apartment complex behind us, a couple duplexes on one side, and individual homes filling in around. Our property is a half acre on which there is a building. Okay, two buildings, now that we live here. Some of our neighbors are very nice, good people. Others  ̶  well, suffice it to say that there are a few factors influencing the others. There is such a thing as a renter’s mentality, which does not affect every renter by any means; it does affect some. We also live in the neighborhood of the town’s rescue mission. I was a little nervous about moving to this neighborhood, to be honest. It’s not one everyone is comfortable in. But we have a fence and a gate, and our Tiny Home is tucked neatly behind our building (the Fort, which we use for homeschool, tool (and other) storage and project space, and extra seating for larger gatherings when it’s not pleasant to be outside: this was previously addressed as NOT cheating the Tiny Home lifestyle), largely out of sight of the street. Being in the back lot of a property like this also increases our privacy. There are no neighbors nearby that are situated such that they can see through our windows. Here, we are facing east, again slightly canted to the south. I think I really like facing east. I get to see the sunrise through my big windows, and yes; I do need to wear my hat through breakfast, but that tends to be less prep time than supper. Also, sunrise as a whole tends to be less intense than sunset. Right now it’s wintertime, and I enjoy having my Tiny Home warmed by the morning sun  ̶  again with the greenhouse effect of sun through glass, but this time it’s a good thing rather than an annoying one. We will see how I feel about it this summer. Another cool thing about our neighborhood is that it is only a few blocks from downtown, with its restaurants and shops. The Children’s Museum is also downtown, and all of these are now within a decent walking distance of home. My husband, after a few trips downtown, went on craigslist and bought us some used bikes (the kids already had bikes. We adults didn’t.) so we can ride our bikes downtown. For the recent downtown Christmas parade, we had friends over to our house for supper, and then we bundled up and walked to the parade. We probably wound up walking about the same distance as many of the people who drove downtown to see the parade, parking for such things being what it is  ̶  and we didn’t have to stress about finding parking! It was nice.

Another difference with this location is the feeling of permanence (while still having the knowledge tucked up our sleeves that we can easily move without much stress, if circumstance requires or opportunities arise) and ownership. At the flip house, it was just that  ̶  a place we were trying to leave. On our friends’ property, it was awesome, but not ours, and we were always aware of that. Here, we have a patio (a concrete pad that came with the Fort)which we have enclosed with decorative fencing, with some bark and plants. It’s a place we are comfortable altering and turning into what we want. We may wind up with chickens! And a garden that’s more than just a couple of pots on the deck. Customizing the space surrounding our Tiny Home makes it even more home than it was before.

So, thus far we have lived in three different locations, each facing a different compass point, each in a very different part of town. Once we experienced how nice a well-established shade tree is for shelter. Twice we have chosen our neighbors. We learned valuable lessons in each place. The main point is this, though: Once you have a Tiny Home (or beforehand if you have the ability to plan in advance), it is very important to consider where you are going to park your home to live. Once you have hooked up your water and power, it isn’t as easy to change the orientation of the house (without really long hoses and cords). If you have a choice, I recommend parking under a tree, and choosing your neighbors. If you’re lucky enough to choose them and own your own space, that’s even better. Curating good relationships is a habit worthy of great value.

These are all things to consider along your journey.

-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.

financial freedom

HAVE YOU PUT DIRT IN THE TOILET LATELY? (AND…

If you read any Tiny Home blog, you will eventually run into the all-important toilet question. It’s quite valid, and worthy of serious research and consideration. What kind of toilet are you going to have? Are you going to have a black water tank and one of those low-water RV toilets? Are you going to attempt a standard toilet? How about a composting toilet? Or one of those fancy incinerating ones? Or a dehydrating toilet? After picking a method, you have to pick a model (composting toilets range from approximately $720 ̶ $2000 (unless you build your own for the cost of a five-gallon bucket, a toilet seat, and some wood chips. There are numerous tutorials for that as well. But the efficacy vs. cost ratio may be a worthy debate.)). Some toilets work fairly passively; others need electricity or water to process. Did you know there were so many options for the place all your waste is deposited?

After some discussion of our own, we settled on the Boon Jon. My first requirement was that it needed to look relatively like a toilet ̶ I didn’t want to have to obviously sit on a five-gallon bucket, toilet seat or no toilet seat. If we were to have a bucket-based toilet, I wanted it camouflaged. I had also done a sufficiency of reading other people’s blogs to pick up on the concept of separating liquids and solids if one is going to have an alternate toilet, so that was my second requirement. Here’s the deal: everyone thinks poop stinks. They’re right. However, unless you have changed enough diapers (and actually analyzed it), you may not realize this little tidbit: stale urine is the true Sultan of Stench. Change a soggy toddler diaper after a long night of sound sleep and you’ll know. The longer urine sits, the stinkier it gets. The longer poop sits… the drier and less stinky it gets. If you have a method to dehydrate the poop more rapidly, your toilet won’t stink as long. 

Our toilet fulfills both of my requirements. It has a standard toilet seat on top, and then a secondary lid beneath that. Under the lid there is a funnel-type setup right at the front, and a hole behind that which opens into the five-gallon bucket underneath. The bucket lid was modified to have a churn-type setup inside the bucket, and a handle was included to make the churn turn. The whole thing is encased in wood, making it less obvious that our toilet is a bucket. When we empty and clean our toilet, we put about two quarts of peat moss in the bottom, and then use the toilet. Solid waste and toilet paper go in the bucket, and the urine gets caught by the funnel in the front, then carried through a shunt into our grey water. Every couple of uses, we add a scoop or so of peat moss and use the handle to stir what is in the bucket. The peat draws the moisture from the poop, and covers what scent there is until it dries. About once a week, we empty and wash it. Keep in mind we are a family of five, and the same toilet with fewer people wouldn’t have to be emptied quite as often. The waste from the toilet can be emptied into a compost pit. (I’m not going to go into the time and methodology for composting the waste until it is sufficient for reuse; I’m not an expert there, and there are a lot of places you can find that discuss that.)

All of this brings me to my titular question. Have you put dirt in the toilet lately? It’s a very valid question at my house. If there’s an insufficiency of dirt (or no one stirs the toilet to make things get covered in said dirt), the toilet becomes somewhat rank. Even if no one has pooped recently, too much toilet paper (used to wipe urine (and urine stinks!!)) makes the whole toilet scent go awry. 

The toilet was a learning curve. We moved into our house in the hot summertime, and didn’t realize just how much dirt was necessary to keep the process in line. We wound up with maggots. it was terribly gross. The toilet really didn’t stink, but between the heat of the summer and the dehydration happening too slowly, the toilet became a cycle of humidity and a breeding ground of pestilence. It took a little while to clear it all up, but we did. Now, our relationship with our toilet is a good one, and we don’t worry about bugs and excessively humid buckets; they haven’t troubled us since the beginning (we’ve had another hot summer since, too). My only minor beef with the toilet is that between the funnel and the bucket opening is shallower than I would prefer for wiping purposes. That is something I’ve had to get used to. But it all works just fine. 

Of course, in order to ensure I haven’t brought you here with false promises and that there is in fact truth in advertising, I need to remember that my title wasn’t just about the toilet, but about things you hear when living in a Tiny Home that would be an anomaly to hear in a “normal” house. And I was going to do that. But, I started analyzing things and came up with a couple of scenarios:

Me, looking at some awesome kitchen gadget: Oooh, Shiny! I want that! It’s genius… But it won’t fit in my kitchen storage space.

Okay, so that’s true. But for how many people living in “normal” houses is it also true? Probably a majority of them, if we are all honest. Back when I had an entire walk-in pantry (with a spare oven, a secondary sink, counter space, and a chest freezer) that had shelves to the ten-foot ceiling, I filled that sucker up. I didn’t necessarily have room for a new fun gadget. We expand to fill the space we are given, so that scenario applies to everyone.

Kid, in the toy section at Target: Mama! Can we get _____________? Please? 

Me: Nope. You have plenty of things you don’t play with already, and they’re always strewn about. I’m not getting you more things when you can’t take care of the ones you have. 

So that sounds like all parents, everywhere. Doesn’t have anything to do with Tiny Home living. 

Grandparent, arriving with very thoughtful gift of clothing article for the children:  Look how pretty! 

Me, smiling and being truly appreciative: Thank you so much. That was thoughtful. I know the kid will enjoy wearing that. And now I need to get rid of something so our clothing storage spaces aren’t too full…

This, too, is a scenario that can happen anywhere, in any size home. I think the only statement I came up with that isn’t heard in a “normal” home (besides discussions regarding the toilet and the dirtiness thereof) was a very sleepy little voice asking, “Daddy, why is the house shaking?” (The which prompted a sudden cessation of activity and wide eyes, followed by, “Don’t worry about it, love. Go back to sleep,” and a collapse into a fit of fairly silent giggles.)

After all the analysis, the conclusion is that living in a Tiny Home really isn’t that different from living in a home that is not tiny. It still needs cleaning. The parade of stuff still needs curation so you aren’t buried in it. Cooking, sleeping, bathing, livingstill happens just the same. But the mindset, the opportunities which can be chased, and the eventual effect on finances do make the lifestyle we have chosen one that, for us, is worthy of a few minor inconveniences like putting dirt in our toilet. 

 

-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.

financial freedom

COOKING BACON ON THE BBQ: WHY I DON’T USE…

If you’re any sort of follower of food blogs or (gasp!) magazines (Do those even exist any longer? Full disclosure: I still have one magazine subscription, but I’ve been disappointed in it of late, and shan’t be renewing it.), you know that they usually feature comfort foods–stews, roasts, root vegetables, and the like during the colder months; and lighter fare–salads, lightly-sauced pastas, fresh vegetables, and cold meats in the summer. It makes sense. When it’s one hundred degrees outside, we don’t necessarily want a hearty beef stew or a steaming pot of, well, anything. Not only does it make you even hotter to eat such things, but the cooking is more arduous and heat-intensive. No one wants that in the summer. Likewise, while you certainly can (and I do!) eat salads in the colder months, we very often want something that at least makes us think it’s warming us up. I’m a big fan of what has been dubbed “Holy Grains (& Sausage) Soup.” We call it that because the wild rice blend I buy specifically to throw in there has to have the H*## boiled out of it before it’s tender enough to eat. With that much boiling, the logic goes, it must be holy. Whether my facetious logic holds or not, the soup certainly does warm us up in the winter.

Tiny House Freedom

Living in a Tiny Home makes the dilemma regarding what to cook (and when) more immediate. I have been known to get up on a chilly morning (we keep our home in the low 60’s overnight in winter; cozy flannel sheets, down comforters, and snuggly husbands are fabulous things), and make a big pot of oatmeal for the kids and me. I do it not just to fill us up and warm our bellies, but because ten minutes of having the stove on warms up my 300 square feet rather nicely. Think about that, though: if cooking a pot of oatmeal makes the house cozy on a winter morning, how much more will cooking supper in August make the house unbearable? I think I may have used my stove to cook supper a dozen times between June and September last year.

So what do you do? You get creative. Stick your bratwurst, garlic, and onions (and beer, of course) in the crock pot, and plug it into the outdoor outlet. Use the side burner on the barbecue to sauté your veggies. Put the barbecue burners on low, and cook your sophisticated pigs in blankets (good sausages, mustard, and cheese in biscuit dough) on a pan with the lid closed, as though the barbecue is an oven. Put bacon on the top rack (and keep an eye on it!) while you cook eggs on the side burner. Plug the induction burner in outside and cook on it. It’s great for everything (not just fried potatoes–those particular potatoes frying in avocado oil (higher smoke point; healthier for frying than olive oil) got the generous SPG (Salt, Pepper, and Garlic) treatment, a good amount of basil, and balsamic vinegar glaze by the time they were done.). Of course, it’s still stinkin’ hot outside, but you’re not turning your home into an oven in its own right. So barbecue those roasted garlic and gorgonzola burgers, and serve them with greens fresh from the garden (I’m sure you’ll hear more about the garden soon. I’m a bit excited about having a real garden this year.) and sautéed onions, mushrooms, and garlic (I cook that often enough–because it’s delicious!!–that it needs an acronym. I think Onion, Mushroom, and Garlic is a far better use for OMG than the current one, don’t you?) We barbecued that asparagus, too. Outdoor cooking isn’t just for special occasions or parties. It’s a way of life.

Last summer, we were facing nearly full west. We had a shade sail out front, but no other protection from the sun. There was a tree that usually managed to cast some shade on the deck by the time I needed to cook supper. The occasional vague breeze and partial shade outside while cooking on my deck was vastly preferable to the sun pounding through the double-pane windows (which only magnify the heat), and then exacerbating the problem by turning the stove or oven on. While the same is true in any traditional house–cooking will only make your kitchen and house hotter–in a Tiny Home, the issue is bigger because the space into which the heat has to dissipate is smaller. Before the summer was over, Forrest had acquired a big piece of shade cloth–the kind farmers use to shade crops. We spread that over the entire Tiny House, with wooden stands on the roof to provide an insulative air gap between the cloth and the roof. It helped, by a few degrees. We will see if we need it again this year, since we are facing east by southeast now.

 Temperature control and maintenance is a somewhat different animal for me than for many people. Temperature swings much more quickly in my Tiny Home than in larger spaces with more air to cool (or heat). Last week, I left all the windows open, shut the door, and turned the air conditioner on. I know. “You’re cooling the outside!” But not entirely. With the airflow in this house, I needed to still have circulation while I tried to cool the place. Granted, it’s true spring right now, and not super hot–but it was stuffy inside, and using the air conditioner rather than just the fan feature was quicker. I used less power because of the smaller amount of time needed to make an air exchange in the house that way. There’s also the issue that the air conditioner wasn’t installed in the most efficient spot in the house for properly circulating the air. It was installed in perhaps the most convenient and aesthetic place it could have been installed, but in the case of hot summer, I will err on the side of efficiency rather than aesthetics. These are things you learn when you build your first Tiny Home. Yes. You heard me. I said first. We have discussion and vague plans in the works for another iteration. Don’t get me wrong–I love my home. However, there are things that could be improved, and after almost two years now of living in our Tiny Home, we have some definite ideas for improvement. You can’t figure those things out until you try them, and while our home was very well-thought out and built, there is room (yes, there is room for something in a Tiny Home. Hush.) for improvement. So… we may have a new and improved version of our Tiny Home at some point. I’ll let you know about it if and when it happens.


In the winter, especially a wet winter, we have a different issue. This winter wasn’t as problematic as last year, but last year our area was considerably rainier than usual. We had moisture issues. It is not as though our house was leaky; it wasn’t. The problem was this: it was cold outside, and warm inside. Our wheel wells are uninsulated sheet metal. They intrude on the interior of our house, providing a bridge of metal between cold and warm. It’s a prime spot–even more so than windows–for condensation.  We had five people living and breathing in a small space. Exhaling produces moist air, not dry air. With our small space, there was simply not enough dry air in the house to absorb the moisture we produced, especially with the amount of wet outside. We resorted to silica beads (the same stuff that comes in shoe boxes and other random packaged things that absorb the moisture and say, “do not eat” on their little packages). We bought a gallon of the ones that start blue and turn pinkish-orange when they are full of moisture. We borrowed our friend’s oven to slow-bake the moisture out of them and start over (we didn’t want to bake them in our own oven and re-release the moisture back into our air; we figured that would be counter-productive). The picture is of our bedroom window this March, just after sunrise. You can see the condensation all over the left-hand window; this only happened a few times this winter–I think it’s going to be a dry summer. Last year, we dealt with this moisture all over the house for about two months. We wound up with some bits of mildew, because we hadn’t realised it was happening until it was upon us. Now, however, we have a plan and a solution. We know that if we have a wet winter again, we can expect some interior moisture, and be able to combat it as soon as we see it.

 

Transitioning from a traditional home to a Tiny Home has a definite learning curve. Overall, life is simple here. But some things become more extreme. Heat fluctuation is definitely one of those things. There are some others–some that I’ve mentioned, and some not yet. They’ll come up. In fact, one of my future posts (spoiler alert!) is about thinking outside the box that is your home (Tiny or not). That’s definitely a learning curve that can involve extremes. And so, until next time, happy cooking (more of my own food pictures upon request. I’m happy to talk about my food…), and may your temperatures avoid extremes.

California

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.