AS WITH MOST MEMORABLE STORIES, OURS STARTS WITH A PROBLEM.
My husband, Justin, my son, Wyatt, and I lived in a beautiful 2,200 square foot home on a 5-acre property. We had chickens, 4 cats and a dog. We had a large organic garden I tended to after my daycare hours and a stunning view of the Minnesota sunsets each night.
It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Well, it was lovely, but we didn’t have time to enjoy our home and property because all we did was work in order to afford it!
I was running a daycare during the day and coaching gymnastics several evenings a week, while raising my one-year-old son. Justin was working full time and attending a graduate program.
When I would have rather spent time with my family, I had to instead clean the house, prepare home cooked organic meals for the daycare kiddos and my family, keep up with daycare paper work and parent communication, go through accounting and plan meals for the week or catch up on laundry and dishes.
THE TIPPING POINT WAS WHEN I STARTED TO HAVE THYROID ISSUES DUE TO THE STRESS AND LACK OF SLEEP. I KNEW THERE HAD TO BE A BETTER WAY, BUT I WASN’T SURE WHAT IT WAS.
It was no coincidence that right at my tipping point my sister in-law, Frances, introduced us to tiny houses. We were sitting around after a family dinner and she mentioned that the local news had featured a tiny house contractor in our area (Jim Wilkins with Tiny Green Cabins) and a family who lived in a tiny house on wheels.
I looked it up and by no accident I had worked with the gentleman who lived in the tiny house during my days as a licensed teacher. I asked him if we could visit their tiny house for a tour and they said “Of course!” As they say “the rest is history.”
I was hooked! Now to convince the family. When people step outside the norm, there is often some negative feedback. At first, everyone was skeptical, asking questions such as:
“How will you fit that many people and animals in such a small space?”
“How are you going to raise a child properly in 325 square feet?”
“Won’t you be ruining your equity?”
“How will you find a place to park it?”
“Won’t you get sick of being around each other all the time?”
“How will you have any privacy?”
And the list goes on and on…
LUCKILY, I HAD MY MIND SET AND I HAD DONE A LOT OF RESEARCH, SO THE ANSWERS CAME EASILY AND WITH CONFIDENCE. ONCE THE HOUSE WAS ALMOST FINISHED, EVERYONE’S SKEPTICISM TURNED INTO AWE!
They couldn’t believe how spacious it felt inside and how beautiful it was. “You have everything a regular house has!” A friend of mine stated after a tour. Which is exactly why we designed our tiny house on wheels the way we did. We wanted it to feel like a real home, but with our environmental impact in mind.
We have a ¾ size fridge with the freezer on the bottom to maximize energy efficiency.
We have a half dishwasher because studies show that by using a dishwasher you use less water than hand washing.
We have a washer/dryer combo, but decided to line dry our clothes due to the inefficiency of the no-vent dryer.
We have a Hobbit SE wood/pellet burning stove that provides us with plenty of heat and ideally we will be able to cut down our own wood to ensure our goal of a self-sustainable lifestyle.
We have a Klimaire mini split air conditioner and heater that enables us to stay warm when the fire goes out in the stove.
In the spring, summer and fall, we do our best to use cross breeze to cool down the house thanks to our abundance of windows.
We designed the house with water storage tanks, so we can be aware of our water usage and waste as little water as possible.
We used all non-toxic paints and stains and cork flooring to decrease our exposure to toxic chemicals.
Tiny house living has been a great way for us to live more sustainably and greatly decrease our negative impact on the environment.
WHEN YOU LOOK INTO TINY HOUSE BLOGS AND WEBSITES, YOU OFTEN SEE THE WORD FREEDOM AS A MAIN THEME. OUR FINANCIAL FREEDOM HAS GREATLY INCREASED, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, OUR TIME HAS INCREASED.
With less space to clean and maintain we have found ourselves with more time to do the things we love such as spending time as a family, traveling, exercising, reading and practicing self-care.
It takes me about 15 minutes to clean the tiny house. In our larger home, I spent at least two hours about three times a week cleaning. This was an average of six hours a week just vacuuming and mopping the house. Those six hours didn’t even include all the organization required for maintaining a home with kids, pets, and a business. The maintenance required for all these possessions such as toilets, water filter, furniture, air filters, light bulbs, appliances, etc. took up a lot of free time.
In our tiny house we of course still have several of these same items, but it’s the equivalent of maintaining the average size bedroom instead of an entire house.
Getting rid of all the knick-knacks and clutter has lifted a huge weight off our shoulders. It’s amazing how wonderful it feels to get rid of unnecessary stuff. It’s almost as if our minds are always thinking about where an item is, if it needs to be dusted or maintained or if it needs to be organized.
It is almost addicting to downsize, and we have even more we would like to get rid of as we sift through our possessions in the tiny house.
With all this extra time, we have been able to travel more, spend more time outside, and explore community resources such as museums, parks and libraries.
Our marriage has greatly improved due to increased communication and quality time that I usually spent cleaning, working or maintaining our property. Everyone asks how we can manage being around each other all the time, but we have a better balance now of alone time and time together than ever before. In our larger home we simply co-existed as we worked and did chores.
I’ve had time for yoga, meditation, gardening, and running, which allows me to be my best self and give my husband and son quality time instead of just being physically present and mentally absent.
“TIME IS FREE BUT IT’S PRICELESS. YOU CAN’T OWN IT, BUT YOU CAN USE IT. YOU CAN’T KEEP IT, BUT YOU CAN SPEND IT. ONCE YOU’VE LOST IT, YOU CAN NEVER GET IT BACK” ~HARVEY MACKAY.
Since living in a tiny house, we have been able to reclaim the priceless commodity of time and our time has been spent more wisely allowing us to feel great joy and fulfillment in our lives.
Another freedom we have gained is the freedom of location. By being on wheels we can follow our passions and desires. It’s almost like living in a portable home gave us permission to explore new career options, because we can pack and move within one day, instead of the three months it took to prepare our larger home for sale.
We don’t feel obligated or tied down by possessions and this gives us confidence to apply for any and every career choice that feeds our soul. By following our dreams, work doesn’t feel like work, it’s so refreshing to be able to fulfill our purpose and give back to the world.
We are conditioned to graduate college, get a job, get married, buy a house and have kids. All these things are not inherently bad, but they tend to drive people to look for a big paycheck instead of a big impact on humanity.
If we follow our greatest bliss, we will have a huge impact on the world, whether we mean to or not, because we will be doing what we love with a smile on our face and love in our heart. Others will see that and be inspired.
I loved what I was doing as an educator and coach, but just because I am good at it, doesn’t mean it meets all my needs.
Since living in the tiny house, I have followed my dreams of becoming an author, participating in organic farming and educating mothers on how to live a holistic lifestyle that honors their mind, body and soul. All of which I didn’t have the time to contemplate in our previous lifestyle, let alone take steps towards achieving those goals.
By being able to move quickly we can continue to follow our dreams, seek out climates, resources and communities of our choice as we evolve as individuals and as a family. With homeschooling/unschooling our son, we can move to places that best fit his needs and desires for mental and physical growth.
We purchased a 1988 camper with the plan to give it to our son when he is ready to travel the world and get to know himself as he learns from the world around him. By modeling a lifestyle that allows us to follow our own path, our son will have the tools to do the things he needs to do to be happy and create change in the world. Not everyone needs to move around the country to be happy. For us, the freedom to move gave us the push we needed to find our greater purpose.
FINANCIAL FREEDOM IS MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, A GOAL FOR THOSE CONTEMPLATING LIVING IN A TINY HOUSE.
We had the blessing of making enough money from selling our large house to fund our tiny house. This allowed us to work toward our goal of a debt free life.
I do have to say that there were more expenses than we expected. After watching all the tiny house shows, we were expecting to spend between $40,000 and $50,000, but after new appliances, a composting toilet, a quality trailer, insulation and paying our amazing contractor (Jim Wilkins with Tiny Green Cabins), we ended up at $80,000. We certainly could have purchased used appliances, salvaged woods and other building materials, but we wanted something that would last us a lifetime and a home that was as non-toxic as possible.
SO HOW DOES TINY HOUSE LIVING COMPARE FINANCIALLY TO A LARGER HOME?
We were house poor after purchasing our larger home for several reasons.
First, there was a lot of extra space that we didn’t have in our previous home. This meant we had to fill up the empty space with furniture, artwork and other visually pleasing knick-knacks, of course.
It was over $2,000 dollars to make the electric and plumbing up to code due to our home being built in the 1970’s. Extra expenses included a recliner set for the living room, a riding lawn mower to accommodate the large five-acre lawn, and a trailer to pull the lawn mower when it needed repairs.
We put in a whole house filtration system for the well water which was about $3,000 and we needed a new washer and dryer. We did a great job using family hand me downs for most of the furniture in the rooms but all the little stuff adds up quick such as rugs, night stands, lamps, etc.
After only four years in our house, we were due for a new roof and a new septic system. We knew if we put all this money into the house we would feel that we needed to stay until it was paid off. If we decided to stay in our larger home, it would eventually need remodeling. The bathroom, kitchen and upstairs bedrooms were especially desperate for updates. If we did remodel, we would then say, “Well, we might as well enjoy the newly remodeled features for a while before we sell.”
This would again tie us down both financially and to the location, thus inhibiting our opportunities to travel. Our tiny house will cost the same or less than updating an average bathroom in a larger home due to its size and simplicity.
Our utility costs are half of what they used to be. We didn’t have to buy any furniture or anything new for the tiny house besides appliances. Yes, we still need to pay for property if that’s the path we choose, but for now we have been care taking and harvesting for organic farmers, which allows us to work in return for a place to stay.
WE ARE SO BLESSED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO LIVE IN A TINY HOUSE.
We have more time as a family, financial freedom, and the freedom to explore and follow our dreams. Our relationships are full of love and joy because we are taking the time for self-care and reflection.
Whether you live in less than 500 square feet, or in a big house, it’s about giving yourself the permission to follow your bliss and live as sustainably as possible so our children and loved ones can enjoy this big beautiful world for generations to come. I hope our story inspires you to simplify your life, follow your dreams and no longer be tied down by your possessions.