A little introduction: We are Gary and Bonnie, in North Carolina. We are excited about creating our own tiny home for ourselves! This is an adventure that will take a lot of planning, time and effort, but will result in our owning a mortgage-free rental or retirement house. In order to be livable for two of us, our two dogs and cat, as well as all our hobby equipment, we will need an additional outbuilding that we can use as an art studio. Until we want to live in it ourselves, it can be used as a rental. So for now, we are just putting one foot in front of the other, making well-considered decisions each step of the way.
Below is an article that sums up much of our feelings about why tiny homes matter.
Credit for this article, below, goes to GoldenTinyHouse.tumblr.com
Living in a tiny house may not be for everyone. In a country where the average house size is 2400 square feet, most people could not imagine being in 160 sq. ft. or less. It comes down to the basics. Everyone needs shelter, food and water. In the modern world that translates to four walls and a roof, somewhere to sleep, a way to cook your meals, clean running water, a place to wash yourself, and a method of disposing your waste. Everything else is a luxury, not a need. The beauty of a tiny house is that it provides all these things and can still have some of the creature comforts of a large house all while lowering your environmental impact and financial burden. And having less to worry about frees up your time to do the things you want to do.
Mortgage in French means “death contract.” Most people will spend thirty years paying off their house, usually spending twice the original cost because of interest. Your largest expense is always going to be housing, but does it have to be that way? Think of what you could do with your time and money if you didn’t have to pay for a mortgage. I honestly don’t want to slave away forty or more hours a week not including the time spent commuting and stuck in traffic. You only get one life. I think you should be spending more time with the ones you love and creating new experiences, not in a cubicle. My first reason for living in a tiny house is to drop out of the rat race.
Photo from Trex Global
So many resources are required to make a Mc-Mansion, not to mention all the electricity used for heating and cooling. Living in a tiny house dramatically reduces your environmental footprint. People are slowly beginning to realize the damage we have done to the planet and see that change is necessary. A path in the right direction is downsizing. Many tiny homes are built with recycled or reclaimed materials. And because of the size, the electricity demand can usually be handled by a few solar panels. My second reason is to be environmentally responsible.
There are obvious disadvantages to living tiny like lack of space. But in a way it can be a blessing. You are really limited to the things you can own. However because you don’t have a large space, tedious tasks such as cleaning become faster. You have control over your things rather than your things controlling you. You are forced to think about what you bring home. Even a simple fast food container or packaging from items can quickly make a mess. It is important to be responsible and recycle what you can. A hoarder could not live in a tiny house.
Photo from Molecule Tiny Homes
For me personally I will need a small studio in addition to the tiny house because it would be very difficult or impossible to also work in my tiny house. But since I own a home-based business, this allows for separation from work and leisure. It’s not easy doing your work in the same place you sleep and eat but I have already been doing it for a long time. You could say I am already predisposed to being a small space and making it work.
For a single person a tiny house would be a wonderful solution but for a family it could pose some challenges. For that reason, a tiny house won’t be an option for most people. I would not even recommend a tiny house for a couple. A tiny house lacks privacy but as long as you and your partner are on the same page it shouldn’t be an issue. My husband and I are used to living in our bedroom together and we get along. Most likely we will not be having children so that does not concern me either.
Photo from Tiny House Design
Some might argue that you could simply get a RV instead of a tiny home. Even though a RV is similar, a tiny home has many advantages over a RV. A tiny house is built with the same materials as typical houses ensuring that they will hold up over time. If you look at a RV that was made a decade ago, you can already see the rapid deterioration. RV’s are not meant to be lived in 24/7. Additionally, RV’s are typically not insulated well for winter. A clear advantage to a tiny home is that you can design it exactly how you want. And because you can use reclaimed materials a tiny home can be less expensive. A tiny house just feels more like home.
Some people say that since you have to use a gas guzzler to move the tiny house, the purpose of being environmentally friendly is defeated. It’s true that moving the house can use a lot of fuel. Even though it’s mobile, it is not meant for traveling like a RV. It is more like a “park model” or mobile home that stays in one place a majority of the time. But it does have the option of being moved if necessary.
The purpose of building the house on a trailer in the first place is the option of mobility and freedom in building. Any building that is on the ground is subject to building codes. A trailer is not subject to building codes and as long as it stays under a certain size it is not subject to mobile home codes. The building codes are there to enforce a standard of safety, but also limit creative and alternative styles. For instance if you built a house or cabin you would be required to have an expensive septic tank installed in most places. This isn’t to say that tiny houses are unsafe. On a trailer you have more freedom to build how you want.
Photo by Portland Alternative Dwellings
A big concern about a tiny house is where to park it. You have a few options: your own land, a trailer park, or someone’s backyard. Having your own land would be ideal but it’s not always affordable. Depending on what you find you may have to install your own electrical, water and sewage utilities. You could rent a lot in a trailer park. The advantage to that is you should already have the hook-ups you need. However, most parks that I know are not always the best areas to live in. You also have to pay rent which is money you will never have a return on investment on. You could try to park your tiny house in someone’s backyard but it depends largely on your city’s laws. I believe most cities or home owners associations would not allow this. Fortunately you could easily move to a place that does allow it.
You may be able to use the money you spent on your tiny house to buy a mobile home, but it is my experience that these homes are poor quality. They deteriorate quickly unless they are very well taken care of. You may also have to live in a trailer park. Some can be nice but most of the ones I see I would not want to live in. Your only other option is to rent an apartment but again that is money that you will never see again. Owning your own house is better than renting.
Your plumbing is also a concern. You can choose to have a RV flushing toilet or a composting toilet. The commercial composting toilets or incinerating toilets can be very expensive in the thousands of dollars. Or you can make your own composting toilet. I have read that if properly maintained these do not smell against popular belief. Many tiny home people use this method because you don’t have to deal with building a septic tank or having a sewage hook-up. The number one water user in the house is the toilet. So an advantage to composting toilets is that they use no water and are more environmentally friendly. It would take some getting used to.
I am not promoting the tiny house as a cure all for the world’s problems, but I think the message it sends is that you really don’t need much to have a comfortable life. Most people could not go this extreme but it may get them to think about downsizing. With the housing crisis a lot of people have lost their homes and have been forced to downsize. But perhaps we could consider an alternative where people own their homes and live within their means. You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses to be happy. Happiness is much more than the big house with the fancy car. Being happy is about spending your time with the people you love and doing the things you enjoy.