California

Creating a Tiny House Floor Plan

Designing your perfect tiny home can be the most exciting part of starting your tiny home journey. As exciting as the design process is, it will still take a lot of planning and execution to make sure your space is functional for you and your family. Functionality can sometimes outweigh the actual design as living in half the square footage you once did requires lots of creativity. We have learned a lot and during the process we have learned to make adjustments and be quick on our toes! Our hope is to help you start the process of creating the layout for your future tiny house.

The beginning of any great tiny house design is to start with your tiny house floor plan. Creating your tiny house floor plan by hand can be a really rewarding and creative process. This will be  the stage when you get to finally transform all your wishes and dreams into an actual visual representation of your dream tiny house. You’ll need focus on creating a tiny house interior that really fits all your families needs.

The first step is to write down all your wants and needs, and sort through what you can live without. Tiny home living takes compromise, so you may decide a full size fridge is essential but you can live with a smaller bathroom. Take the list you made of must have items and or uses and group them together. For example, you may have designated a workspace and an eating area are important to you, and you may be able to utilize the same counter space to allow you to do both. Can your guest room and your lounge area use the same space for better functionality? Next draw out the layout of your tiny home, and on post its write down your grouped must haves together and place them within the layout. Start playing around with their location in relationship with each other. Are you comfortable with your kitchen next to your bathroom? Visualize yourself walking through each proposed scenario and focus on making the flow as efficient and comfortable as possible. Are you able to easily move from area to area? Once you feel comfortable with the overall layout of what area will go where, you’re ready to convert some of these findings into answering the question of what size is best for you. 

Before you can move forward with creating a tiny house floor plan design, you’ll need to figure out what dimensions you’ll  be working with. Keep in mind these dimensions can change so to be flexible here, but this is the time to choose a dimension and explore the functionality of the space. When deciding on what dimensions will work for you, there are some additional things to conder. Larger tiny houses cost more to build, are harder to tow, and require larger vehicles to pull them. It’s key to remember bigger is most certainly not better in a tiny house so we recommend it be thoughtfully designed to meet the needs of yourself and the people who will be living in the space.

Once you have an idea of your ideal layout, you can utilize online sites to gather dimensions and weights on all if your dream appliances. Places like Home Depot, and Ikea are great places to start. Keep in mind you’ll want to get the weight and dimensions of the cabinetry pieces, bathroom components, and possible furniture you may want to add into your tiny home.  Floor plans are meant to provide a visual representation of the interior of the house from a bird’s eye vantage point and should always be drawn to “scale” or as proportionally accurate as possible. The easiest way to produce a house interior design floor plan to scale is by using an “architectural scale” which is a specialized ruler. The most commonly used scale dimension in American architecture is 1/4” = 1’, meaning that every 1/4” on a line represents 1’ in the real world. Whatever scale you draw your tiny house floor plan to, be sure to note it down so that you use the same one during future edits. A high quality mechanical pencil is also recommended for creating a clean floor plan as well.

Your tiny house floor plan design will serve as the foundation for your entire tiny house interior design so the time you invest into this process will reward you with a reduction in headaches and questions down the line. Once it’s all done, if you want, you can hire someone to turn it into digital form or do it yourself with some of the software that’s out there. Take your time with this process and remember that the more detailed information you have before going into creating your interior design floor plan, the easier time you’ll have in creating your floor plan.

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.

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.