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10 Reasons to Go Small

Friends and family always inquire about our tiny house obsession. Usually they ask: “Why a tiny house?” Living a tiny lifestyle appeals to us on a number of levels. Below are the top 10 reasons for choosing a tiny solution:

1. Exiting the Consumer Lifestyle

Living in a tiny house is one way for us to exit the consumer lifestyle and decrease our consumption of stuff. (Watching the The Story of Stuff drastically changed how I view my own consumption patterns).

For instance, there is no reason to go shopping for more stuff when you don’t have a place to put it. I don’t need 20 pairs of shoes or 50 different outfits to wear to the office. Earlier this year, I downsized my wardrobe and personal items. For me that meant donating an incredible amount of books and clothing to the thrift store.

My policy is 1 in, 1 out. Every time I buy something new, one of my personal things must go.

2. Saving Money

The cost estimate for our tiny house is about $25,000 (about 2 years worth of rent). The low cost of the tiny house will enable us to save money for future expenses and help friends and family members in need. Our tiny house will be about 200 square feet. Our heating and cooling bills will be so tiny! Right now we live in a 400 square foot apartment and our PG & E bill ranges from $4.00 to $25.00 a month. I can’t wait to see what our power bill will look like in a tiny house. 🙂

3. Freedom

Downscaling from a suburban, 2 bedroom apartment, and 2 car life to an urban, 1 bedroom apartment, and no car has given me a sense of freedom and lightness. Our stuff doesn’t own us anymore. As long as we have each other and our cats, we will be good to go. 🙂

4. More Free Time

Last summer one of our family members became suddenly ill and almost died. Since then, I’ve changed my life dramatically and have chosen a simpler lifestyle that allows me to spend more time with family.

Downsizing to a smaller apartment (and eventually a tiny home) enabled us to devote more time to outdoor activities, writing and the important things in life like friends and family.

5. Debt Free

Within the last year we sold our car, paid off our student loans and moved into a smaller apartment. These changes have allowed us more flexibility in our finances. If all goes according to plan we will either build or purchase our own tiny house in 2010.

6. Working Less

Eventually, I want to work part time. The United States is notorious for a workaholic culture. So owning a small home will enable us to work less and pursue career goals that didn’t seem possible a few years ago. Eventually, I want to get out of my cubicle and telecommute. Telecommuting is a feasible alternative to the cubicle forest because it allows people to do their job from any location.

7. Less Cleaning

A tiny house requires significantly less cleaning and maintenance and that make me very happy. I didn’t realize how much time we spent cleaning our large apartment until we moved to our new home in Sacramento. Instead of cleaning we spent more time riding our bikes outdoors. Yay for less scrubbing, vacuuming and sweeping!

8. Ease of Movement

Ease of movement to a new location is a great feature. Being tied down to a traditional home doesn’t appeal to me because they can’t be moved. But with a tiny home, if we decide to move we are free to bring our tiny house with us.

9. Going Off-Grid

We plan to take the tiny house off-grid. Hopefully, this will allow us to learn how to live more self sufficiently and insulate ourselves from a system we believe to be unsustainable. The looming peak oil energy crisis is scary.

10. Economic, Environmental and Social Merits of Compact Housing

Last year, I read a few books on tiny tiny homes. Two of my favorites were: The Small House Book and Little House on a Small Planet. After reading these books I realized there are enormous economic, environmental, and social merits of compact housing.

Here are some interesting facts from the books:

  • The average American house, which is about 2,200 square feet, emits more green house gases than the average American car;
  • The average American house, produces 7 tons of construction waste and;
  • The size of New Jersey is lost each decade as a result of urban sprawl.

I see over-sized homes as a debtors prison rather than a source of enjoyment. The average American has a 20 to 30 year mortgage. By going small, we will have our tiny tiny house paid off in less than 1 year.

For the sake of the environment and economic sanity (ex. sub-prime mortgage fiasco), it is clear that we must change our attitudes about house size, building codes and the basic home financing structure.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Janaia August 12, 2008, 10:40 pm

    In addition to the excellent reasons you give, which entail keeping more of your life energy for what you care about, and using less of the planet’s resources, tiny houses can enrich relationships. They can force you to learn to get along with another person, to learn patience and cooperation. They can also elicit resourcefulness.

    While we put in the utilities and added a room for batteries for our off-grid manufactured home (dug the trenches, laid in the conduit, put up the panels, installed a well pump and tanks), my partner Robyn and I lived for nine months in a 28 ft. travel trailer. It was very freeing not to have much stuff — no room for it! (note: the workplace was elsewhere. It’s now here at the house).

    We learned how to use a space in multiple, often ingenious ways: the toilet was also a backup chair. The dining booth was also another bed. The dishes had to get washed every night, or there weren’t dishes left to eat on or a place to cook.

    We learned how to work around each other in a small room, negotiate for places to do projects or to make noise (turn on the radio vs. wear headphones). It’s cozy and intimate. We loved the simplicity of that life.

    Robyn still grieves leaving it, rightly intuiting that she’d never again have that simplicity in “the big house” (which is about 1500 square feet). She’s right. Stuff accumulates to fill the space, and especially as we grow older, family memorabilia comes to us.

    And there’s a tradeoff with being supplied for resiliency: extra hoses if we do a garden. Tools for doing our own maintenance on the house. Those tools need to be stored somewhere. As well as the half-can of paint, which’ll be needed to touch up the porch in a few years.

    This journey is about tradeoffs. But I think tiny tiny houses are a wonderful and freeing approach to shelter that’s about appropriate scale, and low footprint. I think a little ecovillage of tiny houses is a marvelous idea.

    Follow your passion. As Mary Oliver writes, “What will you do with your one wild and precious life?”

    Journey well — Janaia
    (host, Peak Moment TV, peakmoment.tv)

    P.S. We taped a wonderful conversation with Shay Salomon, author of Little House on a Small Planet, episode 119 (www.peakmoment.tv/conversations/?p=191).

  • Mara Alexander March 18, 2009, 4:55 pm

    All *excellent* reasons. You make a very compelling argument (not that I needed convincing! lol).

    • RowdyKittens March 18, 2009, 5:06 pm

      Thanks for reading the post. I’d love to purchase our tiny house today, but I’ll have to wait. 🙂 We need to save more $$$.

  • Marte Kristine Lindseth March 26, 2009, 5:31 am

    Do you think living in a tiny house would work for a family with children?

    • RowdyKittens March 26, 2009, 8:10 am

      Hi Marte – thanks for leaving a comment. 🙂

      Yes I think a tiny house would work for a family with children. You might not be able to fit into 140 square feet. But there are so many other options. I’ve spoken with families who live in spaces ranging from 300 to 1000 square feet. If you have a chance read Little House on a Small Planet by Shay Salomon. She offers a variety of housing options for large a small families. It’s amazing what people can do with tiny spaces. 🙂

      Thanks for reading RowdyKittens! I appreciate it.

      • Kathleen D Parker August 2, 2010, 3:58 am

        LOL, I’m giggling because my husband’s parents, raised 12 children in less than 1000 feet. Of course they sat on almost two acres, so the children could spill outside to play. 🙂

      • Kathy Parker October 30, 2010, 3:44 am

        We ( my husband and I ) moved into 1200 sf ( from 3000 sf ) with not only our own grown child, but her college buddy too. Add to the mix two big dogs, a cat, and a friend from germany on an extended vacation. One bathroom and we all fit. it does take a little patience, especially on my part. ( Lots of dishes and I’m the washer ) lol but we’re loving it. If we need personal space, we leave. Go to a coffee house, take our mac, go hiking, biking, anything. It’s all about choices.

  • EnjoyLife June 19, 2009, 2:00 pm

    Hi,
    I really enjoyed this post. We bought our big house I think mostly folloing trend of our friends, but we are so desperate to downsize.
    I love the freedom reason you gave.

  • Gypsy March 14, 2010, 1:08 am

    Me again … on a commenting roll tonight as I devour your blog archives. I have my own ‘almost tiny house’ fantasy … We live in a 1200 square foot house, with 2 adults and two small children. There is plenty of space, and we could easily go much smaller … maybe about 800-900ft would be great. We are ‘at home’ a lot, and its nice to be able to have changes of scenery without having to pack up into the pushchair and head out all the time. So we play in the lounge, then go to the bedrooms, then have a bath in our (tiny!) bathroom. I love the idea of the earthsong ecovillage http://www.earthsong.org.nz .. tiny houses but in an intentional community with shared space. I think this is my ideal.

    • Tammy March 14, 2010, 6:12 pm

      @Gypsy – We’ve considered living in an ecovillage, but the timing hasn’t worked out yet. It will be interesting to see where we end up, once we build our little house. I’d love to find a place to park our little home in the city. I’m not ready to move to a rural area yet. So living in someone’s backyard or in an intentional community would be ideal.

      I work from home and it is nice to move from one room to another. However, I live so close to the library that I can always work there or at a local coffee house. Right now I feel like I have too much space.

      Thanks for reading the blog!

  • Joanne Wright August 1, 2010, 6:50 am

    Tammy what a beautiful house – I love the photo of it on a trailer! My eventual plan is to sell everything – once Kids are in university (or travelling the world!) – and then just own a camper van which will take us wherever, whenever.
    The Kid thing I know is used a lot as an excuse but we feel they need roots so for the time being here we stay – but I do have a plan to downsize significantly once out of the toddler stage and both in school – when their stuff/needs reduce.
    All the very best – totally inspiring! Jo (formerly SimplyJo)

    • Tammy August 2, 2010, 6:11 am

      Hey Jo – It’s great to hear from you! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment. It sounds like life is treating you well. Any hooray for little homes! 🙂

    • Kathleen D Parker August 9, 2010, 6:36 am

      Dear Joanne ( and Tammy ) ,
      My experience with children is that their “stuff” grows as they do. When they were infants, I could control the amount of items needed for their comfort. We lived small and their needs were small. As they grew, started school, their accruements grew with them!! I was not an extravagant person. As a stay at home mom, we shopped tag and garage sales a lot. But kids are kids and sometimes they need what the other kids have or face serious esteem issues. My two were pretty solid so I was lucky, but I experienced pangs of guilt several times, when I realized that I denied them something silly, that would have made a huge difference. They’re grown now, but my son still talks about the sneakers he so desperately wanted. My point is, that we can become fanatical in anything. What’s 200 sf, if you have children. Not much, if you can afford it. So the difference between 1000sf and 1200 is small, to be weighed against the comfort of your children and your lifestyle. I just downsized from 3000sf to 1200sf. Just my husband, myself, a grown daughter and occasional guests that have no where else to go. I like the stuff I kept, bought some furniture to fit the house, and swear I will never move again! lol For me, this is enough. Tammy love you post. Not sure how I would have handled all of this 30 years ago. Perhaps our first house ( very small ) would have been our last. We sure would have saved a lot of money!
      Blessings to all, Kathy

  • randy sue trujillo August 8, 2010, 4:27 pm

    Hi, a few years ago I moved from a 2700 sq foot house in the Tucson mountains to a 1486 solar house downtown. I used all the money I made on the house $275,000 and put it into the other home. I had a new mortage of $60,000 a lot less that the previous one of $175,000. Since then I have had to use the equity in my home to help out both my college age kids with some tuition, bad debts on their part and some fixing up of the home. Anyway, I had a debt of $137,000 which I just refinanced to a lower mortage rate of 3.625. I am not a saint, but a very conscious quality derived consumer; I love my Louis Vuitton handbags and fine jewelry. My rule however is , also, when I buy something new I must really want it and use it and I must SELL or donatesomething else. I decided that I would have few, inexsensive but good quality clothes, and a variety of shoes and belts that match my Louis Vuitton hadbags. it takes me very little time in the morning to get dressed because everything is color coordinated and I am constantly tweaking my wardrobe to be more functional ( I am an art teacher, yoga teacher and adjunct professor). I
    I also fixed up my home with quality furniture that is scaled down to my new small home and my own art works grace the walls. I do nto wast money on eating out lunches but I go out often on dates with a man who pays for my dinners becuase he knows I must spend my money on other things. I am single so it is a challenge for me to save money since both my college kids live with me and they do not contribute much to the house hold. I also spend money on looking good, hair appts, yoga and gym memberships and beauty treatments that I cannot do myself . Everything else I try to do with natural products. i even get many local vegetables free.
    The only thing missing in my life is travelling to far away places. I have 3 jobs just to maintain this kind of life because I cannot see any other way for now. I would love to rent out a room when my kids leave but that won’t be for a few years.
    I would like to sell my home and scale down even further but my lovely, small solar home has lost some value in this recession. Do you have any thoughts on my situation? Thanks randy

  • Margot August 20, 2010, 1:28 pm

    My husband and I lived off the grid for ten years on some family property. The first two years were spent in a 16 ft travel trailer with our 2 year old and a lean-to built on the outside. We have since moved on and “up”…to our own house on a town lot. Our house is an all electric…I hate typing that as much as I hate saying it….1600=/- sqft simple victorian that is over 100 years old. I have a dream that won’t go away of a. turning the house over to our two now grown boys, and building a tiny house in the back yard (our lot is 53 feet wide and about 180 feet long)….. or b. renting the house and building the tiny house….if our boys are not interested….or selling the whole thing and starting over with a solar tiny house on a little piece of land…we have to finish paying off our mortgage and getting out of debt and I am not sure my husband is as enamored of the idea as I am, but I believe that as we move to less stuff, less debt and more quality of life he will appreciate the benefits! There were parts of our off the grid, no running water, indoor plumbing etc that I did not enjoy….but as we would have the benefit of town water and doing this as we could afford it with what we have now I think they could be overcome….the idea of using what we have….a good sized lot in a town with a house that could be either rented or made into a living situation for either or both of our two children without the cost of them having to buy their own, and living in a town we like and making it into what we want are appealing.

    Thank you for sharing your journey.

  • Jane October 29, 2010, 6:36 pm

    Hello,

    I am new to reading your blog. this is a very interesting article. one question though, will your cats be happy in a 200 sq ft space?

    • Logan October 29, 2010, 8:46 pm

      Hi Jane,

      Of course our cats will be happy. They get into tiny boxes all the time so we know they love small spaces. Also our future tiny house will have some space to run outside so the cats won’t be confined indoors all day. 😉

  • janice June 30, 2011, 7:07 am

    I love the idea of this, how do you keep your tiny home safe when you aren’t home. :/

    • Logan July 2, 2011, 1:42 pm

      Hi Janice,

      Tammy is on a digital sabbatical so I’ll reply to your question. Security is a tricky thing. You can’t live in a space this small without accepting some vulnerability. We will likely be parked in a community setting where others can guard when we are away but we have a variety of ideas for keeping the tiny house immobile while we are way. They make hitch locks, wheel boots and a number of other clever deterrents so we aren’t too worried of someone hauling it off. 🙂

      Cheers!

  • Janice July 2, 2011, 3:06 pm

    Ah, great advice! Thanks for posting!!! 🙂

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