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A Year in a Tiny House (real world pros and cons)

 
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So, what is life REALLY like in a Tiny House?

For the past year, we have found out. We are a family of (6) with (2) adults, and (4) daughters ages 6, 12,13, and 14. Katie and I are 40, and 45 years old respectively. This house was existing on our farm, and we figured it would take $16,000 to fix up good enough to move into. In the end we ended up moving in for $1,700. That included fully insulating this 1930 home, and rewiring it completely.

Pros:
It has brought our family together. Before, in a big house, we were really spread out, and very isolated, but now we are more close-knit because we cannot get away from each other.

It is energy efficient. Despite having the same electrical appliances, this house costs us half of what our other home cost. Heat is about 1/3 less, and we are not even fully insulated yet!

Renovating is cost effective. To refinish this house is very practical because it is so small. There is just so much less to buy. (Our house was built in 1930)

In order to move here, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff. This is a VERY good thing, and it means telling the grandparents not to buy more stuff for the kids. We do not have room for stuff, and we love that! Because of that presents are loftier: guitar lessons, summer camp…memory-making stuff, and not more material crap!

We are just as close-knit with our pets: a gold fish, rabbit, kitten and soon a full-grown Great Pyrenees! Because we are with them, we get to watch their antics.

There is no yelling. “Time for dinner” can get everyone to the table in a conversational tone.

House Cleaning is great. We can completely clean this house in 1-1/2 hours.

You are really forced to consolidate furniture. Things just have to work, or they are gone. “Cute” is not part of a Tiny House decor. And no getting unwanted knick-knacks from family memebers who do not know what else to buy you for Christmas.

Cons:
While we are close-knit because we cannot get away from one another, it also means Katie and I cannot get away. This is in terms of sex, but just talking in private conversation too. As a husband/wife, we just do not have alone time. Everyone can hear what we say even being quiet.

Because it is so small, sleep can be an issue due to the smallest noise; kids going to the bathroom, the rabbit drinking her water, the Kitten getting frisky at 2 AM, none can be canceled out by simply shutting a door.

It has one bathroom; and there are 5 girls in this house, two being teenagers…ENOUGH SAID!

Storage can be an issue. Just something as simple as a bag of trash can be a problem, where do you store trash until Trash Day? Katie and I do have a barn that we have some storage in, but if we did not, we would have to have a storage location somewhere which we would have to spend money for. My tools are scattered all over the place, in (3) different locations.

Love to cook? Then a Tiny Home is NOT for you. In our house everyone is kicked out of the kitchen when Katie makes meals…there is just no room for people.

Smells: Most things have smell, and most are not good. In a Tiny House you cannot get away from it. We have a fan for the bathroom of course, but just a few days of rain will make the house smell musty. Same with that cooked asparagus, and a teenage daughter’s perfume over-applied.

Heat: This is Maine, everyone heats with wood, but not in a Tiny House! Even a tiny woodstove would drive us out of here. A steadier heat is needed, for us a pellet stove. (We do have a woodstove in the basement though for really cold nights, but a woodstove in the basement will not heat the house fully).

Clothes: due to storage we have limited clothes too. (Katie did manage to keep all her shoes though…all 80 pairs, she LOVES shoes). But for the most part, we have limited clothing choices.

It gets messy quick. Just a few toys on the floor, and the house looks “cluttered”. And in a tiny house there is no getting away from that lurking lego; the most painful of toys to step on!


Wrap Up:
Overall…we love our Tiny House. The kids have adapted well, and like having their own rooms, even if they are super tiny. They are a little embarrassed of the size compared to their friends, but it is not much of an issue. For Katie and I, we miss the memories of our other home, but are not upset by small living. I do not see us living here a long time, but only because my parents and sisters (they have Down Syndrome) will soon need around the clock adult care. But if we did stay here forever, I think we would add on to the house. Kids today do not leave the house as quickly as they used to, and Katie and I really need a bedroom for sex and private conversation. I do not think we could wait four more years for the oldest to move out (if she even did move out). But it would be a minimal addition, not a doubling of the house or anything.

We would do that because this Tiny House really has brought our family together. I would say we are probably twice as close-knit as we used to be. That is priceless.
 
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So how tiny is tiny? How many square feet are we talking about?
 
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Thanks for the update Travis!  I occasionally see those Tiny Home Living shows on cable and I suspect the people don't last very long.  But since it's "reality" tv you never know how realistic it really is.  
 
Travis Johnson
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Mike Jay wrote:Thanks for the update Travis!  I occasionally see those Tiny Home Living shows on cable and I suspect the people don't last very long.  But since it's "reality" tv you never know how realistic it really is.  




This is my second Tiny House, I lived in one when I was 18 for awhile until we started building on. And we do plan on building another Tiny Home in the very near future, so I do have history, and enjoy some of their benefits.

I think there are different classes of Tiny Houses too though. Like the two I lived in were stand alone houses with foundations, and not mobile ones. Since I have lived in two tiny houses, and built on, or want to build on to this tiny house, for someone with a tiny house with a foundation, I would suggest when they start to plan for future expansion. That would save a lot of time and effort later.

For a person wanting mobility, I would have them serious consider an RV. It just makes more sense, and would be a lot cheaper than a Tiny House. I actually designed a really nice home that would be affordable to build, cheap in utilities, and comfortable using an RV as a starting point. The only reason I did not go with that design was because we had this existing Tiny House, and it was cheaper to fix this up, then go with a RV home. Sometime I will share that design though so that others who want low cost, convient, and comfortable living, could go with that design.

With our planned 3rd Tiny House, it has to be mobile because our house here had a former trailer pad for my Great Grandmother, so for Grandfathered Houselot reasons, it must be mobile. We want this for my inlaws who come in from out of state, and it would give them a place to stay. But I will admit, we could also have our oldest daughter stay there when she turns 18 as well, so Tiny Houses could be part of our me and Katie's privacy problem solution too.
 
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Travis, what are the dimensions of your Tiny House?  

Some relatives of mine raised four children in a two-bedroom house on a farm.  It wasn't tiny, but it was pretty small.  Three boys and a girl, all in one room.  As the two older boys reached their teens, they cleaned out and moved into small buildings on the property.  The oldest boy claimed the old chicken coop (we helped clean that out for him); the next boy took the original home that was on the property, which was about fourteen by twenty.  Having the kids move into small buildings on the property is a pretty good solution to the space problem.  Also, you could build yourself and Katy a separate building, either to sleep in, or just for a get-away/work area.  Houses don't all have to be inside the same four walls.  Although, in your climate, it's going to cost more to heat a bunch of small buildings than it would if they were all in one building.  
 
Travis Johnson
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Travis, what are the dimensions of your Tiny House?  

Some relatives of mine raised four children in a two-bedroom house on a farm.  It wasn't tiny, but it was pretty small.  Three boys and a girl, all in one room.  As the two older boys reached their teens, they cleaned out and moved into small buildings on the property.  The oldest boy claimed the old chicken coop (we helped clean that out for him); the next boy took the original home that was on the property, which was about fourteen by twenty.  Having the kids move into small buildings on the property is a pretty good solution to the space problem.  Also, you could build yourself and Katy a separate building, either to sleep in, or just for a get-away/work area.  Houses don't all have to be inside the same four walls.  Although, in your climate, it's going to cost more to heat a bunch of small buildings than it would if they were all in one building.  




Our current Tiny House is 18 x 22 feet.
While my first Tiny House in 1994 was 24 x 24 feet.
The Tiny House we intend to build is going to be 8 x 20 feet (we already have a trailer frame for that build)

Our current tiny home is an interesting home because the previous home burned down, so they just fit another home on the same stone foundation built as the original homestead. That was in THE YEAR 1800, as in, not the century, not 1799, or 1801, but 1800. I guess my ancestors hated shoveling and did not want to build another foundation! :-)
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Travis Johnson wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:Travis, what are the dimensions of your Tiny House?  

Some relatives of mine raised four children in a two-bedroom house on a farm.  It wasn't tiny, but it was pretty small.  Three boys and a girl, all in one room.  As the two older boys reached their teens, they cleaned out and moved into small buildings on the property.  The oldest boy claimed the old chicken coop (we helped clean that out for him); the next boy took the original home that was on the property, which was about fourteen by twenty.  Having the kids move into small buildings on the property is a pretty good solution to the space problem.  Also, you could build yourself and Katy a separate building, either to sleep in, or just for a get-away/work area.  Houses don't all have to be inside the same four walls.  Although, in your climate, it's going to cost more to heat a bunch of small buildings than it would if they were all in one building.  




Our current Tiny House is 18 x 22 feet.
While my first Tiny House in 1994 was 24 x 24 feet.
The Tiny House we intend to build is going to be 8 x 20 feet (we already have a trailer frame for that build)

Our current tiny home is an interesting home because the previous home burned down, so they just fit another home on the same stone foundation built as the original homestead. That was in THE YEAR 1800, as in, not the century, not 1799, or 1801, but 1800. I guess my ancestors hated shoveling and did not want to build another foundation! :-)



That makes sense -- conservation of energy!  

Living in a house that size is kind of like being on a long camping trip.  I think it will be nice for all of you to have a little more space when you get the one on the trailer frame finished.  
 
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Our house is about 260 square feet, including the loft. We do have some shed space for tools, etc.

The smell thing is a big drawback of tiny houses for me. I'm really sensitive to smells and my husband is sensitive to humidity, so we planned from the beginning not to have an inside bathroom or do any cooking inside. I'm glad we went that way.

Heating is a joke. We have leaky, secondhand windows (and A LOT of them) and we still haven't finished the exterior doors properly, so you can actually see light through some bits. We still use less than two cords of wood to keep the place hotter than most people would like. We like wearing minimal clothing year round, so it works for us. We'll probably light the stove for the first time this fall in the next couple days, just because it's been raining for a week and starting to feel damp. We run the stove for, let's say 7.5 months of the year. A month or so on either end is us just lighting the stove once or twice a day and letting it go out right away. Just taking the chill off. The other 5 or so months it's going all the time.

When someone wants to do a project, it kinda takes over the house until it's done or put away. If one of us has something going downstairs, the other person usually just hangs out in the loft.

Dirt gets tracked through the house really quickly, especially with a dog in and out multiple times a day, so we're always sweeping. Luckily, it only takes a few minutes in such a small space.

I think it's important to design for actual living, if you're building one yourself. So many of the tiny houses have convertible furniture or tables that fold out of the way. We knew we would never clear off the table to fold it away, so our design took into account that we'd have a full size, always there table. We knew we weren't going to do dishes multiple times a day, so we made sure to have enough counter space to have a spot to stack dirty dishes.

I like our house and could live this size forever. I'm a natural minimalist and like that it forces my husband to be one as well :D  We do plan on adding a greenhouse on, cause about a third of the downstairs is taken up with houseplants.
 
Jan White
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Travis Johnson wrote: Katie and I really need a bedroom for sex and private conversation.



Nothing will get your kids out of the house quicker than their parents having sex. My parents figured that one out early and, as a result, had the house to themselves pretty much every weekend while my brother and I were growing up.
 
Travis Johnson
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Jan White wrote:

Travis Johnson wrote: Katie and I really need a bedroom for sex and private conversation.



Nothing will get your kids out of the house quicker than their parents having sex. My parents figured that one out early and, as a result, had the house to themselves pretty much every weekend while my brother and I were growing up.




That is too funny...probably because it is true!

I did use the word sex, and not "intimacy" or some other word so that people knew exactly the impact a Tiny House can have on a relationship. I was not trying to be vulgar, but wanted to be sure I was being authentic. It even surprised Katie and I how much a Tiny House impacted our relationship.
 
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