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Viva La Tiny Revolution: Why We’re Building a Little House

“The more intentional you are in your choices, the more every change makes room for more changes … I just love that there’s this endless potential.” ~Dee Williams

3,000 square feet. 4 bedrooms. 3 bathrooms. A huge kitchen. Two garages. Two people.

I spent New Year’s Eve with family friends in Longview, Washington and what I described above is a small snapshot of their very big home. Even though the house was big, we spend most of our time together hanging out in the living room or the kitchen. The rest of the house wasn’t being actively used. And that begs the question: Why have such a big house if a majority of the space is empty, most of the time?

During my time in Longview, my friends and I had a lot of conversations about tiny homes. Specifically, they wanted to know why I was so obsessed with these little dwellings.

Building small comes down to two concepts: saving money and freedom.

1. Saving money.

Our little house will cost approximately $35,000 (on the high end). That’s about three years of rent. In the long-run we’ll be saving a lot of money and we can use those funds for other purposes, like travel and donating to charities.

In addition, I have no desire to spend $300,000 on a “starter house.” I don’t want to be tied to a traditional mortgage and building a house on a smaller scale suits our needs.

If we built the house ourselves, it would be less expensive. However, I want a professionally build and designed house and that cost will be reflected in the final price. Dee Williams and Katy Anderson have experience designing and building tiny spaces and I value their knowledge. I admire folks who can build little homes themselves, but I don’t have the desire to take on that kind of project.

In addition, Dee has lived in her little house for six years and has a wealth of information on what works and what doesn’t work for small space living. And if we’re going to live in a tiny space, it needs to fit us like a glove.

Creative design and building are important because we don’t want to pay for something that’s too big. We want just enough space.

2. Freedom.

Owning a little house is one path toward freedom. The freedom from cleaning. The freedom from renewing a lease. The freedom from excessive debt. And the freedom from being committed to one place. Since our little house will be on wheels, we can move it (and us) whenever we want.

What’s next?

Last weekend, we spoke with Katy, of Portland Alternative Dwellings, about the building details and the next steps. At the end of March we’re going to order our trailer and the windows. Construction will start in May or June. In the meantime, we’ll be working with the lovely Dee Williams to map out the design. (You can check out Logan’s rough sketch of our design. Just click on the image).

I feel like a little kid a Christmas. I’m so excited about the planning process, but I’m also a little freaked out. Why?

  • I’m scared that we won’t be able to fit all of our stuff in the little house.
  • I’m scared of running over our small budget.
  • I’m scared that we won’t be happy in the little house.

And then we still have a lot of questions to answer, like:

  • What if we can’t park the little house on our friends piece of land?
  • Will we be able to fit our bulk food in the little house?
  • How will our eating habits change?

Thinking about all of this stuff is overwhelming and scary. My concerns are valid and we’ve got to address these issues. But I’m not going to let my lizard brain stop us. We’ve been talking about building a little house for the last three years and we are finally at a place where we can afford to make this project a reality.

And it’s pretty amazing that two of our good friends will design and build this house for us. I know it will be built with love and that’s a beautiful thing.

Join the Revolution

Living small isn’t solely about counting up your stuff or living in a little house. It’s about making time for family, doing work you love, and building community. Getting active is key because creating any kind of social change requires working with your community.

And the thing is, helping others will make you happy. Positive psychologists (a.k.a. happiness researchers) have labeled this phenomena the “helper’s high.” Meaning you get more joy out of helping others than solely focusing on yourself.

Micro-action: Answer the following question: How are you making an impact in your community? If you aren’t doing anything, what small step can you take today to start helping others?

Now onto the Q & A:

Yesterday, I asked my Twitter followers and Facebook friends if they had questions about our little house. Below is a brief Q & A:

Question: How will you have any sense of privacy or personal space, or does that not concern you?

Answer: Honestly, that doesn’t concern me. If I need space I go outside or do yoga. As a writer, I already spend a lot of time alone and more time away from Logan than I would like. Logan is my best friend, partner, and I love him like crazy. So when he’s home, spending time with him is a joy. Also, we will have a buffer spaces in the house. There will be a loft (our bedroom) and the great room.

Question: How about what is storage space?

Answer: There will be plenty of storage space in the little house. Last weekend, we met with Dee and started hashing out design ideas, which includes storage space.

If you look at the rough sketch of the little house, you’ll see a bump out couch. Under the couch will be storage space. In addition, we’ll have a small closet, pantry, small kitchen cabinets, and storage space in the loft. And remember, we don’t have that much stuff. 🙂

Question: Will it be close to town so you can commute easily?

Answer: Right now we’re planning on parking the little house in North Portland. So the location will be close to town. However, if that falls through we’re considering a few other spots. One place is in Milwaukee (just outside Portland) and the other is in the Southeast part of town. Ideally, we’d prefer to stay within the city limits. However, we’re flexible.

Question: Where does your poop go?

Answer: Well, that’s an awfully personal question. 🙂

In all seriousness, we will be using a composting toilet. Composting poo is a huge topic. If you want to learn more, listen to The Pee & Poo Show and read the Humanure Handbook.

Question: Will the kitties have dedicated nooks?

Answer: I don’t know about dedicated nooks, but we are going to install a few KatWALLKs; that way both cats can get into the loft. Christie is very agile and theoretically could climb the loft latter. However, Elaina is overweight and isn’t a ninja kitten like Christie. So she’ll need extra help getting up to the loft.

Question: What about multipurpose rooms?

Answer: The whole space is multipurpose. For example, in the “great room” (the lower level of the house), we’ll have a fold out desk that will also be a small dinning room table.

Really it’s all about how you design a space and what suits your needs. For more design ideas, I highly recommend reading Little House on a Small Planet. The book contains a wealth of information about living and design small spaces. Plus the author profiles families who live in little homes.

If you want specific technical information on building a tiny house, read Go House Go by Dee Williams.

Question: What about water, electricity, and heat?

Answer: We have a few options for water, electricity, and heat.

Water: If we’re completely off grid, that means we’ll have to bring our own water in and store the water in containers. Or we can plug-into the grid.

Electricity: At this point, we’d like to purchase a small solar panel.

Heat: We are going to buy a tiny fireplace and it’s called the Sardine.

Question: Can you give us a cost break-down?

Answer: Yes, but not yet. The cost won’t be finalized until we get the design completed. Then our amazing builder, Katy, can give us more detail on the cost of all the materials, plus her labor. Like I said above, our tiny house budget is approximately $35,000 (on the high end).

Question: What about guests?

Answer: Guests can either stay in the loft or we’ll put them up at a lovely hotel.

Question: What about the building codes?

Answer: If you want to build a little house, check in with your local city planning department because building codes vary from city to city. Some cities are more flexible than others. Luckily, the City of Portland’s Planning Department has been supportive of building small, sustainable homes.

For more on Portland tiny homes, check out the post I wrote for Kent last year.

Question: Will you have a porch and room for something like a garden?

Answer: Yes, we will have a porch and a garden too! We’d love to have kitchen garden planters outside the windows and hopefully we’ll have permission to garden wherever we park. 🙂

Question: Are you planning on having children?

Answer: No, we aren’t having children. But keep in mind, it is possible to have kids and live in small spaces. If you need design ideas read Little House on a Small Planet and check out the resources listed at the bottom of the post.

Question: How many square feet is the little house?

Answer: About 150 square feet.


For more tiny house fun, check out these websites and interviews:

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Erika H. January 19, 2011, 7:59 am

    I’ve been looking into tiny stoves… the Sardine looks great! Thanks for the update!

  • Hillary January 19, 2011, 8:15 am

    Hey Tammy, I’m glad you’re letting us in on your process. I’m so excited for you both!

  • Chris O'Byrne January 19, 2011, 8:18 am

    I. Love. It.

  • Chris O'Byrne January 19, 2011, 8:19 am

    Especially the Sardine!

    • Tammy January 19, 2011, 8:33 am

      Me too! The Sardine is adorable. 🙂

  • Carole & Chewy January 19, 2011, 8:22 am

    I’m fascinated by this but couldn’t do it as part of a couple. I’m also wondering about the access to your loft -at some point in life climbing up a ladder is going to become problematic. Also – if your house is parked on your friends land, what happens when they decide to sell? If I was younger and single, I’d see this as a great way to have my own space and save money. But I also agree that the huge houses are a waste of money and space.

    • Tammy January 19, 2011, 8:32 am

      Hey Carole – thanks for leaving the comment. Yes, you are right at some point I might not be able to climb up the latter. But I’ll worry about that “if” that happens. There are always alternatives.

      My friend might sell her land and that’s perfectly okay. It’s her land. But we have plenty of friends who are willing to help us. And we help them in return. That’s the thing about living small. I’m actually getting to know my community, rather than isolating myself.

      “If” any of those situations arise I have no doubt that our friends and family will be there to help us. 🙂 It’s all a matter of thinking creatively and not constantly worrying about the “if” situations.

      • Tez Hill January 20, 2011, 6:52 am

        Sometimes the best solutions develop from perceived problems. Should they find themselves without land on which to park, Tammy and Logan might develop a Tiny Home neighborhood or some other useful solution that is even bigger than themselves. Never underestimate the power of gumption and resourcefulness! 🙂

        • Jan Pagel January 20, 2011, 9:31 am

          I’m totally interested in a Tiny Home neighborhood – complete with community gardens!

      • Caroline February 28, 2011, 6:02 pm

        I think Carole is trying to get at the concept of aging in place, and designing a home to be accessible as you age. Generally, those are things I’m in favor of, but the beauty of a tiny house on wheels is that it’s not location bound – I should think it will be much easier to sell than a standard-construction house. No mandatory inspections, no being bound to one location…if you need to transition to a different space as you age, you should be able to do it with less hassle. I think that by maintaining your focus on community, you’ll have plenty of resources and friends to help you out in a pinch! Friends and family are the best and most flexible catastrophe insurance on earth!

  • Katy @ The Non-Consumer Advocate January 19, 2011, 8:22 am

    I cannot wait until I can come hang out in your tiny house! We vacationed this summer in an A-frame cabin that was similar, (yet bigger) and I loved, loved, loved it! It lacked the deliberate storage that your tiny house will boast, but it was a wee bit like being in a fairy tale.

    Minus the evil step-mother, of course.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

    • Bethany January 19, 2011, 4:35 pm

      I LOVE A-frame houses <3

  • Katie January 19, 2011, 8:24 am

    This so appeals to my creative, change-loving, doll house obsessed brain. I’m so happy for you. You really do walk your talk. What a trail you’re blazing, Tammy. My sister designs boat interiors and it reminds me of this – using every available space wisely. I hope you document every step of your journey in a book. All the best.

  • Chelsea January 19, 2011, 8:31 am

    Yay! Great timing for me for your post. I just moved to Portland and am hoping to figure out soon if a tiny house is the right way for me. It is a very serious possibility that I will start down the tiny house building road soon so I’m sooo excited to follow your progress. I just sent PAD an e-mail with questions the other day as I think like you having someone build this for me is a better fit for my life skills.

    Are they helping you do the plans or are you designing your own plans or modifying one of the ones out there?

    Congratulations on your home journey!

    • Tammy January 19, 2011, 8:36 am

      Thanks Chelsea. As I said in the post, PAD is helping us design the little house and will build it for us as well. 🙂 In essence, the design will be tailored to our needs. I hope that helps.

  • Keia January 19, 2011, 8:38 am

    Love This. Congrats and best of luck…I’m book marking.

  • anotherkindofdrew January 19, 2011, 8:39 am

    I thought I would help you with a few of your “fears” as my wife and I have mulled over each of these and to some extent have figured out how they will work for us. We currently live in ‘the Bungalow’ while we build our Tiny House. In other words we are now in 215 sq. ft. and will be moving into 234 sq. ft.

    I’m scared that we won’t be able to fit all of our stuff in the little house.
    – No fears. Start with JUST what you need. Purge the rest in some fashion. Then things will begin to make sense in your Tiny House and you will add and subtract constantly.
    I’m scared of running over our small budget.
    – We are budgeting $10k total and I worry about this each day. However, you do what you can, when you can. No house is ever done so don’t feel like your Tiny House has to be 100% completed the first night you sleep there. If you can’t afford a nice heater, for instance, try and find a smaller one and pair it with quilts until you can save the money and purchase the one you truly want.
    I’m scared that we won’t be happy in the little house.
    – My folks live in a 3200 sq. ft. home and when they were building it they actually wondered if they would be happy in it. I think with every new construction this fears comes about. The trick though, we have found, is to find something each day to be thankful for even if it is the peel ‘n stick tiles on the bathroom floor or something trite like that. It will help you accept the blessing you have in a house. Not to mention when your colleagues complain about rent you can just smile from ear to ear!

    And then we still have a lot of questions to answer, like:

    What if we can’t park the little house on our friends piece of land?
    – I truly believe we are going to see some more communities really looking into Tiny Home parks and that some developers (read: folks with money to invest) will see the need for small communities that welcome “our kind.”
    Will we be able to fit our bulk food in the little house?
    – In short? No. But you can fit a lot just by examining every ounce of space. There is always room to be found in the most unlikely of places. There is room under your futon or couch or built-in bench. You can build a small storage compartment over the tongue of the trailer. This is where the creativity really comes in!
    How will our eating habits change?
    – We have found that leftovers are a thing of the past. We cook and prepare for two people/one meal. We just don’t have room in the fridge for leftovers and don’t have room in the cupboard for tupperware. We also tend to eat as fresh as possible so it is in and out, so to speak.

    I am so excited for y’all and I hope you enjoy each step of the process. It can be overwhelming, discouraging, exciting, manic, etc. But it is such a joy. Live it and love it, my friend!

    • Nim January 19, 2011, 10:38 am

      Re: the bulk food question. Don’t forget you can always store stuff in tamper-proof bins under your house/trailer. When you move, you can simply stack the bins in the living space, since you won’t be in there while you’re in motion. But no worries: you’ll make it work and be amazed at your creativity. How fun!

      (p.s. thinking of doing this in my back yard and renting out my whole house!)

  • Kylie January 19, 2011, 8:42 am

    Thanks so much for updating us, Tammy! Ever since I started reading your blog, I’ve been excited about the day when tiny house planning would begin. I’m enchanted by small spaces (and love my 350 foot apartment). I love the tree house feel of tiny houses. And thanks for addressing the issues of electricity, water and waste. Those are things I’ve always wondered about with tiny houses, and I’d love to hear more as you get more specifics.

    Congrats on the beginning stages of this!

  • Lynn Fang January 19, 2011, 8:47 am

    I love it and I’m so excited you’re sharing all the details with us! Thanks to you I want a little mid-size house of my own. I don’t know if I could go as tiny as you, but definitely no more huge suburban homes for me!

  • Barbara McGahey January 19, 2011, 8:54 am

    Hi Tammy, I love the idea of tiny houses, but every time I see them I wonder why not an RV or a modular home? Is it that the construction methods are higher quality or more environmentally sensitive?

    Love your blog 🙂 Barbara

  • Kristen Sloan January 19, 2011, 8:58 am

    I’m excited to hear about this process and hear about how the tiny space alters your life. I think grocery shopping would be a big change with less space to store food. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  • Jan Pagel January 19, 2011, 9:09 am

    I am taking both Dee’s and Jay’s workshops this summer in Olympia. I have been thinking about building one of these for a few years and am in the preliminary planning stages – probably about 3 years away. Thank you for all of this great information!

  • Laura January 19, 2011, 9:16 am

    I love it and I’m so thrilled for you both! For what it’s worth, I looked at your sketch and thought, ‘wow, that’s a lot of space!’. 🙂

  • Holly January 19, 2011, 9:17 am

    Tammy — what a wonderful plan for a tiny house!!! I love it.

    I also have a question/comment for you and your house designers: 12 years ago I left semi-urban living for a 100 y.o. frame farmhouse, 1,000 sq ft. downstairs and 600 sq. ft. of finished attic. It is WAY too big for me, but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. My dream would be to build a tiny house elsewhere on the property, but that isn’t possible money-wise. As is, I, and the three dogs, basically “live” in about 3 rooms, with the other areas closed off. Do you (or anyone) have any ideas about frugal, tiny living within a larger space? (BTW, the area is too isolated to find a roommate and I’ve decluttered enough so that the spare rooms are very sparse.)

    • Gena S January 19, 2011, 12:49 pm

      As an interior designer I have helped every kind of client you can think of usually to take a smaller place and make it live large, (love doing that!) The same principle apply in reverse. Be deliberate in closing off unused space, but consider renting it out to friends or family with too much of their own stuff. At the very least put draft guards at the doors and winterize the windows really well, even hanging heavy material at the windows will help cut down utility costs. Next, really examine the space you live in, if your living room is open enough consider creating a loft like feel, essentially an efficiency apartment within your home. Use a room divider of some kind and place the living room type furniture on one side and your bedroom furniture behind it; imagine a sofa or a couple of chairs with a screen or ceiling mounted curtains behind and the head of your bed backed up to the divider. By the time you add mobile storage of some kind (Ikea has great wardrobes) for a closet you’ll find yourself in a cozy nest, accessible to all the living areas you need and deliberate enough in your use that you should see a drop in utility bills. Hope this helps, just had to jump in, have fun with it too! Use your favorite colors in your little home within a home and you’ll love living in your gently modified space!

      • Lori March 12, 2011, 8:01 am

        That is a great idea in that I’m dealing with the same situation. I like the idea of renting the extra space to friends or family to store their stuff instead of them resorting to a storage facility. . .a plus to this that just hit me is that when they might need something out of storage it’s also a reason for a visit!
        Thanks Gena!

  • Heather January 19, 2011, 9:28 am

    I love seeing your plans come together! I’m not sure I could go THAT small, but our house is only 1000 sq. ft. and I can’t imagine ever needing any larger of a space!

  • David Damron January 19, 2011, 10:13 am

    What about a bathroom?

    • Tammy January 19, 2011, 3:10 pm

      @David – The bathroom will be right by the cat litter box (it’s labeled WC in the sketch – not sure why. I’ll have to ask Logan about that). 🙂

      However, we won’t have a shower. We’ll be showering at the gym.

      • Heather January 19, 2011, 3:57 pm

        Oooh, that would get me to the gym to exercise!

      • Tez Hill January 19, 2011, 4:08 pm

        WC= Water Closet (a small room with typically just a toilet. A European term)

      • Michelle January 20, 2011, 7:20 am

        I think WC stands for Water Closet. I used to work in construction and that’s what we usually saw.

  • Kristen » gezellig-girl.com January 19, 2011, 10:15 am

    I really love this post but at the same time… what about people with kids? or even just one kid? I realize the American standard for parents is suburban house + SUV, but it seems like parents who don’t want that are often doubly left out — by both other parents [who generally think their way is the best and/or only way] and by designers of small spaces.

    • Tammy January 19, 2011, 3:04 pm

      @Kristen – I highly recommend reading Little House on a Small Planet. The author profiles a number of families who live in very small spaces with children. The design ideas are fantastic.

      • Heather January 19, 2011, 3:51 pm

        This answers my question…what about kids. I think that having kids in a smaller space verse larger would certainly develop a close family. I am so excited to follow your small house journey and if you have kids later I bet it will be an eye opener on how well your children develop. I hope you have family willing to babysit because I’m certain you’ll be in need of an occasional date night.

        Thanks for the Little House on a small planet tip….heading there next. 🙂

      • Kristen » gezellig-girl.com January 19, 2011, 8:28 pm

        Thanks, Tammy — I’ll check it out.

  • TimeMachineExperiment January 19, 2011, 11:00 am

    Congratulations on having the courage to choose a life less ordinary. I love it! You will have so much fun and feel so much better about life doing this. For some ideas on small home living (vandwelling in my case) feel free to stop by my Facebook page. (for all the plug haters – I am not monetizing anything, just looking to participate in the movement in some meaningful way… I am walking the walk.) 🙂


  • Michelle January 19, 2011, 11:10 am

    Awesome! BTW, what do you use to store your bulk foods? I’d like to use glass but that’s much pricier than the wholesale plastic containers I’m finding online.

  • dawn January 19, 2011, 11:36 am

    Small houses: Our first house was just over 2200 square feet. We designed and partially built the log house ourselves. We sold that house 6 years ago and moved into a 780 square foot house. Yep – 780 sq. feet for three people and two dogs. Though 780 sq. ft. with one bathroom is the biggest challenge, I found the process of getting rid of “stuff” to be extremely cathartic. The amount of stuff that we were able to get rid of – and not miss was really amazing. Like most people, life in our home evolves around the kitchen – which is just where I want it to be!

  • Christine January 19, 2011, 12:12 pm

    This is totally prying, so ignore it if you don’t want to answer. I just can’t help but wonder about children in a tiny house. I can see how it would be possible to live in a very tiny house as a couple, but I’m not sure how this works if you plan to have even one child, much less more than one. I have two — a 14 year old & a 10 year old, and they both require their own personal space.

    Perhaps you have already decided that children aren’t for you, and that’s a perfectly valid decision. Again, totally prying, so sorry if I offend.

    • Tammy January 19, 2011, 3:07 pm

      @Christine & Jennifer – Logan and I aren’t going to have kids. 🙂 With that being said, there are families (with kids) who live in very small spaces. The important thing is to figure out what type of space works for you.

      • Michelle January 20, 2011, 7:21 am

        Would love to hear about why you’ve decided not to have children. Yes, it’s prying, but you’re already sharing a lot about yourself. So, some of us are interested if you ever feel like sharing!

  • Jennifer January 19, 2011, 12:14 pm

    What if you decide to have a child? Would the space be suitable and reworkable?

  • Alex January 19, 2011, 12:28 pm

    I love how you guys made the couch part stick out, sort of like a slide out feature in an RV. Awesome idea. I wasn’t sure that you would be planning to live there full time together. This is exciting you guys.

  • DJ January 19, 2011, 12:40 pm

    I find these tiny houses charming to look at, but personally feel that my husband and I would need a place closer to 500 sq. feet. His piano alone is a huge item.

    Is there any way for the two of you to live for a week or so in a model of a tiny home, just to be sure it’s right for you?

    I hope it works out as you want it to!

    • Janine January 19, 2011, 4:28 pm

      An excellent idea! If you try renting a tiny house for a few weeks or a month and you still love it, excellent. If you don’t love it as much as you thought you would, well, on to the next big (or small?) thing. 🙂

  • Tez Hill January 19, 2011, 12:50 pm

    So excited for you! Living in a Tiny House would, I imagine, be similar to living in an RV, which I’ve done for over a year with 3 teenagers in order to tour 29 countries. Trying to compare what you do in a traditional, larger space to your lifestyle in a totally different atmosphere might be like apples to oranges. For example, I suspect that in your Tiny House, as in a motorhome, your lifestyle will be more engaged with the world. Your house will still be your respite, but you’ll spend much of your time out and about. This is partly because you don’t have to worry so much over caring for your house, and partly because you can afford to be out engaged in life.

    As for the food, while you might not bulk-purchase as much food, you’ll likely not waste as much. We found that we tended to eat more European-like, such as shopping more often and actually eating what we bought- which was frequent and copious with 3 teenagers. So I think the *way* you do those things will be different. We had a very small RV fridge and frankly, it was fine. Not a big deal.

    Also, I wanted to share that when you build your small house, you won’t need everything that you typically have in a traditional house, just as people traveling in RV’s don’t *need* their entire condo with them in the form of a 40′ quad-slideout RV. The tiny vans with pop-ups used in Europe actually allow the most flexibility with 90% of the conveniences, for a fraction of the price. And yet, when people are new to RVing, they think they should just replace their house with a big rig. In reality, it’s like packing for a trip-it’s the sophistocated traveler who packs the least amount, not the person hauling their entire closet and bathroom with them.

    A house may just be the same way! What *you* find important is what the design will best focus on and the rest is unnecessary baggage. I hope that RV analogy makes sense and is helpful.

    Cannot wait to follow you on this exciting journey!

  • Dorota January 19, 2011, 12:53 pm

    Why not just get a trailer or a camper…. you could have all the above + you could travel in it as well.

    • Tammy January 20, 2011, 7:55 am

      We’ve looked at RVs, but they don’t meet our needs and most aren’t very cute. I love the look of tiny homes. Typically, RVs are built for 3 season camping in mind. So we wouldn’t be very warm in the winter. Also, when we travel across the country, we’ll be traveling via bike. 🙂

      • Beth January 20, 2011, 8:56 am

        Speaking of bikes — where will you keep your bikes?

        • Tammy January 20, 2011, 9:59 am

          @Beth – We’ll probably build a little shelter for the bikes. Dee had some fun idea for bike storage. We’re still working out the details.

      • Tez Hill January 24, 2011, 8:52 am

        You can do it!
        Here’s friends who went FL to OR on a triple:
        Looking forward to reading about your trip too!

  • Gena S January 19, 2011, 12:53 pm


    We are so excited for you and Logan. We’ve kept reducing our footprint in any space we live until we are convinced we would love to live in a tiny home. (Our brainstorm sketch looks strangely similar to Logan’s 🙂
    We are based in the islands now and we’ve been thinking alot about building a bamboo version of a tiny house, the material holds up great here and is super strong and light. We know of several beach areas we would actually be allowed to park, so now its down to materials available and working out our budget over the next couple of years (hopefully at most) We’re just tickled to see you start your process and know all of the details you are concerned about will work themselves out. We look forward to watching your journey!

  • Melyssa January 19, 2011, 1:13 pm

    OMG, I love reading about tiny homes. I finally went and saw one in Berkeley earlier this month. It was super cool. I’m actually looking for land to purchase. And eventually I plan to build a tiny house on it. I am slowly making the change to live with less, and eventually live ‘in’ less.

  • CMT January 19, 2011, 1:30 pm

    I see how you plan to create some alone time in your small house with your partner. However, that is already starting from a place where both partners agree on adopting the principles of a small lifestyle. One thing that still confuses me in general about minimalist living, in even small doses, is how to make changes when your partner has different priorities? Any ideas or people with such a dilema? Thanks.

  • Sarah January 19, 2011, 1:45 pm

    Tammy, you have nothing to be afraid of. You’ve been after this dream for several years. I think you guys are going to love it, and any adjustments along the way are just closer to something so anticipated. It’s an adventure!

    So excited for you guys!


  • heather w January 19, 2011, 1:52 pm

    I appreciated your feline details — litter box placement and the Katwalks link — I don’t know how close I am to living in a tiny house, but I think about it all the time and have worried about this issue specifically. My cat is definitely not a ladder-climber, and I hadn’t thought of trying a Cats’ House solution.

  • Michael Janzen January 19, 2011, 2:00 pm

    Congrats! Can’t wait to see the construction begin!

    • Logan January 20, 2011, 12:36 pm

      Thanks Michael! We’ll have to keep you apprised of our progress. We’ve really appreciated all of the tiny house designs that you have made, discussed, and put forward. Its really helped us with our design process so far. 🙂

  • Luinae January 19, 2011, 2:10 pm

    I’m obsessed with tiny houses as well- they’re just so damn cute, I love them! I can imagine myself going across Europe in my tiny house. It would be amazing.

  • Basia January 19, 2011, 4:36 pm

    Hey Tammy,
    I’m so excited for you! It’s great that your tiny house dreams are finally coming true! I have a question, though. With a little house, do you always have to rely on someone to allow you to park in their yard? How does that work?

  • Lorna January 19, 2011, 9:54 pm

    I would love to live in a tiny house, but are there any that don’t require stairs and a loft? I’m specifically asking if there are tiny homes that are only one level? Also, the tiny house movement seems to be stronger out West. I know there are some builders here in Texas, but I don’t see anyone in this area living in said homes. What can been done in this area to get more people motivated to scale down living quarters?

    • Logan January 20, 2011, 12:34 pm

      Hi Lorna,

      Bill Kastrinos of “Tortoise Shell Homes” has a wonderful design and layout for one story tiny houses that integrates a “murphy bed”.

      • Lorna January 20, 2011, 3:30 pm

        Thanks, Logan! I will look into what he has to offer. I just wish there were more people in my area who wanted to down-size. It seems the old “bigger is better” idea rings true for most. There are very few people in my region who share the same values as most on this blog. Thanks again for the info.

  • Brock Foreman January 20, 2011, 4:04 am

    It looks similar to living on a sailboat.

  • Kathleen Harris January 20, 2011, 4:16 am

    Hi Tammy! I so enjoy your blog. 🙂

    Back in ’94, my husband and I bought a house that is definitely small by most folks’ standards, but now, you make me feel like I’m livin’ large! It’s less than 800 square feet on the main floor, but we do have a basement and attic. It was based on what we could afford, and I’m so grateful that it turned out this way. I think most people would be surprised they could live happily in less square footage, and the end results of saving money and time are such a bonus.

    All the best to you as you go forward with your dream house!

  • Janine January 20, 2011, 4:39 am

    A few more questions/thoughts for you…

    Where will you store/secure your bikes? Especially in bad weather? You’ve invested a lot of money in the bikes and they’re your main form of transportation. It rains *a lot* in Portland. How will it feel to be in that tiny space with two people and two cats maybe for weeks on end?

    One reason to think about buying a traditional type of house (eventually) is that it’s not just a place to live, it’s an investment that contributes to your long-term financial independence. After doing a one-year study group for Your Money or Your Life many many moons ago, I decided to buy a house on my own. It was a stretch but also a decision I am grateful for on a daily basis. If you have 35K to invest in a tiny house, have you compared that to other types of dwellings you could invest that in, and what they’ll be worth 10, 20, 30 years from now?

    • Tammy January 20, 2011, 7:35 am

      Hey Janine – We’ll probably build a little shelter for the bikes. Don’t worry we’re not going to let them get rusty. 🙂 Dee had some fun idea for bike storage. We’re still working out the details.

      Yes, I’ve done the calculations and I’ve also read Your Money and Your Life and completed all the steps. While traditional homes are an option for some folks, I’m not interested in buying a traditional home. And I don’t believe homes will go up in value in 20 to 30 years. The mortgage crisis has shown me that you can’t count on “future” profits. And even if we decided to purchase a “traditional” house in Portland for $300,000 we would end up paying TWICE the purchase price (interest sucks). Personally, I have no interest in buying something that expensive. In addition, I wouldn’t be able to write for a living because I’d have to worry about paying off a huge mortgage.

      Also, I do know that it rains a lot in Portland. I live here. Even when it’s raining I go outside for long walks, hikes, and spend time volunteering, hanging out with friends, and writing in cafe’s. I have an extensive community of friends that I love to connect with. In essence, I don’t stay in my current apartment 24/7; that would drive me nuts.

      Best of luck and have a great day.

      Best of luck.

  • Tez Hill January 20, 2011, 7:06 am

    My husband saw his old family home (the one he grew up in) listed for sale. We were shocked that it was only listed for $2500 more than they sold it for 30 years ago. And as we’ve witnessed recently, there’s no guarantee in real estate, which historically has appreciated due to the availability of credit, likely more than real “value.”

    However, whatever money they don’t spend on housing (after their $35k), Tammy & Logan can invest and that is money in hand and liquid too. I too loved Joe Dominguez’s “Your Money or Your Life” and bet he would approve of this relatively small expenditure of Life Energy to cover their housing needs.

    Wasn’t it also Joe Dominguez who said something like: Inflation doesn’t increase faster than my resourcefulness. Another good point for the concerned. Tammy and Logan seem very resourceful.

    • Janine January 20, 2011, 1:14 pm

      Since finding a place to park the tiny house could be an issue, maybe it would be worth looking into buying a plot of land for it? The extra space could then be rented out in sub-plots to other tiny home dwellers, thusly creating an income stream AND the first official tiny home neighborhood. Or you could always plant a large organic garden and sell or donate the produce? There are many different ways to approach the tiny house thing… Plus, you’d have space to add on, *if* you ever started to feel cramped in there, changed your mind about having a family, or whatever…

      • JW March 26, 2011, 10:30 pm

        This is a fantastic idea! Perhaps this could be done down the track once you’ve sorted your finances with your tiny house, so you’re not too strained. Renting out the sub-plots may even exceed mortgage repayments, in which case you could invest into the community/donate to charity etc. Your land as an asset would be beneficial in terms of a long term investment and securing yourselves financially for later in life/retirement etc. I also love the idea of a large organic garden, if you rented out the subplots everyone could help tend the garden, as well as being able to nourish themselves with the delicious food. What a community! This would also help your food storage issues; there’s nothing better than raiding your veggie patch on a daily basis, just in time to make your next meal!

  • et January 20, 2011, 9:46 am

    I am seriously considering building a tiny house this spring and summer.
    Places where my design differs significantly from yours:
    no bump outs (keep it simple – space gained, cheaper)
    composting toilet – entry from outside of house
    no loft
    no sinks – will use ss bowls and tubs instead, these will nest under the counter. Makes a nice uncluttered counter.

    If you are going to make the tiny house road worthy check to see if you need safety glass windows or if (shuttered) regular windows will be ok.

  • Barbara January 20, 2011, 10:08 am

    A tiny home neighborhood! I love it. Especially for college students 🙂

  • DJ January 20, 2011, 11:51 am

    Also, it sounds like you have begun to investigate options for where to park your little home… I would recommend really getting those options nailed down before building the house. In many places, it’s illegal to have a tiny home in a back yard, in some places it’s just fine. But these are very much locally decided issues in general. It’s not fair that small homes are discriminated against, but unfortunately that is the current reality in many places.

    • D351 July 26, 2011, 9:48 am

      My girlfriend and I are looking in to building a tiny house and running up against a wall on this subject. We can’t find anywhere we want to live that will let us live in a tiny house. We’re somewhat shocked that no one in the tiny house community has organised a list of places yet (that I’ve found) and though I’ve heard good things about the “no building codes” book, I’ve heard conflicting opinions, especially from people in MI, which is where we really want to go.

  • Sophie January 20, 2011, 1:31 pm

    One of my friends, married to an abusive man, finally walked out with nothing. She said, “I left everything. I only took my jewels.” After moving several times, I have envied her leaving with only portable wealth. My daughter has another view, “Never own anything you can’t lift yourself.”

    • Logan January 20, 2011, 5:58 pm

      I love the wise quote from your daughter Sophie! 🙂

      • Kala/Embark-LovetheLIfeYouLive February 11, 2011, 4:43 pm

        Wow Sophie I was gonna comment anyway, but your daughters quote “Never own anything you can’t lift yourself!” That’s awesome. I too am so so attracted to the tiny home-it’s my dream, probably though 1,000 sqare feet as I plan to work and live there the way folks used ot work out of their homes ie. seamstress, or any type of craftsperson. I’m from Jamaica and what I notice most here in US suburbs are the BIG HOUSES that nobody spends time in because they are at work all the time! It ‘ makes so much sense to me to build a suitable home that one can work and play out of. And the land seems so much more important than the home in many ways…I”m not a minimalist by choice but am told its’ past life as a monastic, just a beggin bowl. Anyway. I blog about a maximalist minimalism???? how to manifest your dreams while honoring the earth and fellow beings. Am still looking for the right word or phrase…Namaste and good luck.

  • Natasha January 20, 2011, 1:51 pm

    That is really small! And we thought 1000sq ft was small (but perfect for us)! Most of our friends have much larger houses, and one in particular thinks we’re crazy to have “settled” for such a small place…

    But you are starting a wonderful adventure! And I love the idea that you are portable — so if you want to move to a National Park for a summer, it’s theoretically possible.

    For us, we’re just not ready to give up running water and sewer systems.

  • Emily H. January 20, 2011, 2:53 pm

    I’m sorry if this has been addressed somewhere else, but will you have a stove and oven?

    • Logan January 20, 2011, 5:57 pm

      Hi Emily,

      Right now we are planning on having an alcohol stove that can be disassembled (like a back packing stove). Our oven will be a solar oven so we may not be doing much baking in the winter. 😉

  • andrea January 20, 2011, 5:04 pm

    I think its great. If it fits your needs then what’s wrong with that!

  • Becky Lerner January 20, 2011, 5:10 pm


    Awesome post. Here’s my question: Did you consider a yurt? It feels so good to be inside a circular space, and it’s probably close to the same size. Why or why not?


    • Tammy January 21, 2011, 3:14 pm

      Hey Becky – We did consider a yurt. But we really like the style of little homes. Plus they are a whole lot easier to move. 🙂

  • Scout January 20, 2011, 5:27 pm

    We moved into an older motorhome 2 years ago to downsize and live more simply. We love it. The freedom and stress relief of living this way has been such a joy to us. Some of my thoughts about living in a smaller space: On the negative side, 1) Beware of the “small foxes”-little things that annoy. Finding a place for coats and boots inside during winter, narrow spaces that mean you are squeezing past each other too often, no place to put little things like the daily mail, bills, stamps, etc., not enough space to get ready for the day at the same time, where to hang damp towels and washcloths, where to put the minivac or broom, and other things we never thought about in a regular house. All of these are issues we had to find solutions for. 2) Ventilation. In such a small place, any type of odors-cooking or otherwise- permeate the whole space. (I’m just being realistic here. 3) For me, dealing with a very small refrigerator. Although we eat very simply, I find joy in preparing the food myself. I’ve had to learn to cook in a very small amount of space and usually only what will be consumed in one meal-no room for leftovers. 4) Storage for boxes and cans of food, staples like flour, salt, oils, etc. 5) We’re limited to about two adults being able to visit us before it’s too crowded. All overnight guests are put up in a motel. On the positive side-well, there’s too many to list! We are thankful we made a small investment first in an older RV to see if we could live this small. We bought what had been an upper end RV equipped for 4 season living-extra insulation, heated tanks, nice closet space, so living smaller has worked well for us. We have about 325 square feet. I can’t imagine going back to owning a large house again. One more thought. Think long and hard about not having a shower. Ever had the achy flu and all you want to do is stand in a hot shower? Or how good a cool shower feels after being outside on a sweltering day? Or the fun of being in the shower with your spouse? Having to pack up and go to the gym or run across the yard to the “main house” everytime those occasions come up seems very inconvenient.

    • Tammy January 21, 2011, 3:15 pm

      @Scout – Great points! Thanks for leaving such a detailed comment. I’ll have to rethink the shower option again. That’s one thing I’m really going to miss. 🙂

      • Ruth January 23, 2011, 4:16 pm

        Maybe you could rig up an outdoor shower for the warmer months at least?

      • Ryan May 12, 2011, 2:24 pm

        You can get a camping-type solar shower, something like this: http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___60632
        I’ve been using one of these for years to save money on my gas/electric bill. Just fill it and hang it outside when you leave in the morning, and take a nice hot shower in the evening. You can also hang it inside a west-facing window and, even in the winter, usually it will get fairly warm

  • Matt January 21, 2011, 11:20 am

    Very cool and interesting! I’m going to have to check out the resources on how to do something like this with a family. The idea of being confined with 2 kids in 150 sq feet intimidates me a bit. I’m sure my boys would love it though. I will say though that even as a family of 4 our 1100 sq. foot home is really larger than we need. If we were to get rid of more of the clutter we could go much smaller and still have plenty of space. I will be following this with great interest.

  • jenny January 21, 2011, 12:47 pm

    this is so exciting! MILLIONS of people across the globe live with this amount of space or smaller. it’s beyond doable….

  • Nicole January 21, 2011, 2:13 pm

    I’ve been reading for a few weeks now but finally commenting!

    I am so intrigued by your tiny house and the whole mentality that goes with it. I spent five years with my parents and younger sister in a trailer house (maybe I’ll call it a tiny house from now on!) and had a lovely time.

    Please keep sharing!


    • Tammy January 21, 2011, 3:10 pm

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment Nicole! 🙂

  • Teri Pittman January 21, 2011, 5:39 pm

    I used to own a house in Camas, WA, built in 1949. It had 600 sq ft downstairs. The roof had been finished inside and floored, giving another 200 sq ft. We talked to the daughter of the woman that built the house and learned that there were 4 people living in that house.

    The biggest trick is going to be managing clutter. Small spaces are sometimes difficult to clean, as you have to shift things around to do a good job (I used to live in a 24′ Airstream too). I’d consider creating a nice outdoors space, maybe even an outdoors kitchen, so that you can spend time outside when the weather is nice. But mostly, I’d bet that you’ll really enjoy your little house!

  • Kirstin January 21, 2011, 8:53 pm

    I have lived on a tugboat and a motorhome and now I live in a house. It seems like I just adapt. In smaller spaces I have less stuff than a bigger house. You work with what you have and the cool part is you are designing it to fit your life! How great is that? Happy designing!

  • et January 22, 2011, 9:00 pm

    Pouring rain, cold fall evening – you both come home with wet boots & rain coats. Where in this design do you put them to dry?

    • Tammy January 23, 2011, 8:23 am

      @ET – Don’t worry we’ll have a place to put our wet boots and rain coats. More than likely it will be right in front of the bathroom, across from the pantry. Remember Logan’s sketch is very rough. He’s not a professional designer. 🙂

  • Deek January 23, 2011, 6:26 am

    THis whole thing and process has to be so exciting for you guys! Congrats on moving forward, thanks for the link, and if you need any help, and design info, certainly let me know.

    Relaxshacks.com is also hosting its very first “2011 hands-on tiny-house/shelter building workshop” on July 9th this year in Massachusetts- can’t wait- Alex Pino of tinyhousetalk and Architect/tiny house author Mimi Zeiger will be speaking/demonstrating as well….So many people have emailed asking us to do this kind of thing, and with nothing like this in southern New England, we felt we just have to do it.
    Tammy, perhaps we can work you in some way- even with a video tour, etc.
    Hope you’re well!

    -Derek “Deek” Diedricksen

    • Tammy January 23, 2011, 8:20 am

      @Deek – Thanks! And yes, I’d love to help out. 🙂 A video tour would be fun! Let’s coordinate via email. Thanks for all your support. 🙂

  • Sally January 23, 2011, 10:52 am

    Fascinating article. I admire you for having two people living in 150 square feet; I know I could not do it! I’m clearing clutter and want to really clean out my space, but I can not imagine living in that small of a space. Good for you though!

  • Cherie @Technomadia January 23, 2011, 7:30 pm

    Congrats guys! It’s so good to see it all coming together for you.

    Prior to going mobile, we each had typical homes – me a 1600 sq ft house, and him a 1200 sq ft apartment.

    For the first year together, we shared a 45 sq ft travel trailer (T@b – mega cute!) with no plumbing (no bathroom or shower) as we traversed the country. It was entirely workable for our trial run.

    Then we upgraded to a much more spacious 80 sq ft home (Oliver Travel Trailer – a fiberglass egg). We lived in that for 2.5 years with great success. It even had a wet bath – occasional showers at last!

    As a full time house that you’re not actively traveling in, I would recommend reconsidering the option for a shower. Sometimes, just having a way to easily wash the rinse the mud off your feet goes a long way to keeping your tiny space clean. And some days, I just didn’t want to get up and haul myself to the nearest public shower.

    I’m actually pretty envious of your huge planned 125 sq ft with two separate living areas. That does seem quite thrivable for two people sharing the vision. Go you!

    Right now, we have the little RV parked and are subletting a mega-large 300 sq ft efficiency apartment in the Virgin Islands. I can like.. dance in the living room (we have a living room ‘area’!) It’s amazing how space feels after not having had much for so long.

  • John Hayden January 23, 2011, 10:14 pm

    I love it. Have to wonder about how hot that loft will be in summer. Ventilation seems minimal.

    The porch is so small, is it really usable? The porch space might be better used for inside space or storage space.

    The tiny house concept could vary a lot, depending on climate and season. In mild weather, a lot of life could be lived outdoors. I look forward to tiny house parks or communities, or tiny houses intentionally mixed in with slightly larger homes.

    A different minimalist concept, even more space efficient, might be small, single-room dormitory style living, with community cooking, dining, shower, and laundry facilities.

  • Tez Hill January 24, 2011, 8:46 am

    Tammy & Logan, these mobile shower options are from a European source, but I’m sure you could find them in the U.S. too (and avoid large shipping charges), particularly in camping stores:


    In particular, the solar showers and the mobile canisters with hand pumps might interest you.

    Tez in TX

  • Jackie Ireland January 26, 2011, 9:40 am
  • Sherri January 28, 2011, 8:31 am

    This is awesome! I love living in small spaces. I recently moved into a 1700 sq ft home (the largest I’ve lived in) and I do not like it! Thankfully I’m renting, and I look forward to moving into a smaller space again this year. Way to not get bogged down by convention. 🙂

    I wonder how a tiny house would withstand severe weather? I think of that only because I’m in Minnesota, and we have a fair amount of tornado activity in the Spring and then severely cold weather in the Winter. But maybe they’re not meant for all climates?

    Looking forward to hearing progress updates!

  • tordis January 29, 2011, 1:39 am

    i know, i know…
    but isn’t building many tiny houses into the landscape supporting urban sprawl? which means everyone needs a car because of the enormous distances?
    wouldn’t i be better to live in tiny apartments?

    (apart from that, i like the idea. but i would never build one, because of urban sprawl.)

    • Tammy January 29, 2011, 8:34 am

      @Tordis – Living in an apartment is a fantastic option. Like I said in the post, building a super small house isn’t for everyone.

      But I don’t agree with the comment about urban sprawl. We’re building a little house so that it can fit in someone’s backyard, in an urban area. Thus, they are good for urban infill projects. I won’t be buying a car anytime soon.

  • Ryan May 12, 2011, 11:38 am

    Tammy, reading your blog and talking with Logan about this has really encouraged me to rethink my own relationship to living space and to stuff (my first observation being that I have way too much of it…). It has also made me think of another tiny house possibility: I am toying with the idea of saving for one to give my son when he graduates from high school. I think that will have so many benefits. One, hopefully it will help him start out right, not aquiring so much junk to get rid of later like most of have had to. And more importantly, two, he would be able to live in it through college, never having to pay rent or dorm fees. And if he embraces the voluntary simple life, he could conceivably make it through life without ever paying rent or a mortgage! I hope I can give him that gift.

    Oh, and I want a tiny house for myself too. I have been in love with the idea since I first saw Dee’s in Yes! magazine some time ago.

  • Janet June 10, 2011, 3:27 pm

    The idea of living alone, or maybe with a small dog, in a cosy little house has been one I have been playing with for a long time. I’ve looked at RVs – way too expensive, plus the unknown maintenance costs of a rig with an engine and tires worries me. I thougt of planning a modular type home (everything should work like Legos, I think) which could be built to specs allowing it to be transported via freeway as a ‘wide load’ and set on a sledge-like base with levelers. That way one could build a living space of say, 13′ by 26′ all packed up – using dropdown porches which can be raised for moving and protect windows, outside walls, etc. and perhaps add later a separate office/storage/workshop of 13′ x 13′ in an L pattern. But the entire thing could be moved, if desired. If you want to travel a lot, I think an RV is a better choice. But if you would just like the option of perhaps relocating, why not a sledge base. Ideally, one would have a reinforced concrete slab on which to base the house, and which would allow the house to be connected to the slab by some form of anchor.

    So that would be all well and good – but how do you find a place to build it? If I had to spend $50K on a piece of land that would be a problem. As would some life-time lease fee. I do like the idea of a tiny home community. But not with houses all too close together.

    Any thoughts or comments, anyone?

  • kirstie July 19, 2011, 12:35 am

    We are finally moving out of our c. 600 square foot house with our 2 children. (We lived there before children and our eldest is now 7). The house we will move to will be about double that size. However, the thing that really forced the move was not so much the size of the house itself, but the lack of outdoor space.

    We have access to the 1901 census (The house is in London, and was built in the late 1800’s), and it certainly wasn’t uncommon for families of 4 to live in these houses. However, I doubt that many children spent much time inside the house back then.

  • Elaine August 19, 2011, 5:54 am

    Hi, I’m opening my tiny house to overnight guests. It’s a Lusby, designed by Jay of Tumbleweed Tiny House Company. You can see photos at indulgent restraint dot com

  • April Morris September 16, 2011, 9:39 am

    Hi Guys,
    Like you, we are preppers and building our tiny house starting this month! We’d love to find out what specific design/systems considerations (do you know if humanure toilets are kosher if parked in town at someone’s house?) you are incorporating into your house, in light of long term planning for energy decent and low-maintenance. We are struggling a bit with designing a water system that will work for both pressurized and non-pressurized situations. And what about your hot water? Have you tried your solar oven yet, and can you recommend a brand? There are so many considerations, maybe you can point out some that came up for you since your place is nearly finished? Thanks!!