The tiny house movement is exactly as its name implies: people are building and buying homes that are less than 600 square feet in an effort to completely change their lifestyle. While the motivations behind such a move may vary, the result is the same: a simpler way of life that reduces financial and ecological stress.
History of the Movement
Although the “tiny” lifestyle has existed for decades, it wasn’t considered a mainstream concept until recently. The tiny house movement first gained true momentum during the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. In the recession, homeowners were drawn to the low-cost and low-maintenance nature of small homes. The landscape of American real estate ideals then shifted drastically. As homeowners caught on to the distinct financial advantages to living small, tiny became great.
Is The Tiny House Movement For You?
While it is understandably not suitable for everyone, it has attracted those with certain ideals or living situations:
One of the strongest aspects of simple living is the effect (or lack thereof) it has on the environment. When compared to most conventional homes, tiny homes require a fraction of the amount of energy and don’t impede nearly as much on their environment. Through a simplified lifestyle, homeowners are also able to greatly reduce their consumption of materials that may be harmful to their ecological surroundings.
With the rate of student loan debt at an all-time high, many young people are finding themselves struggling financially. Even while working full-time, many can’t afford to live on their own. The drastic reduction in the cost of living makes tiny homes incredibly attractive to this population.
One of the biggest highlights of owning a tiny home is the mobility. While some tiny home owners choose to build on foundation, others allow theirs to be completely mobile. For those who want nothing more than to travel, tiny living is the perfect solution. many young and older people are turning to tiny homes as a way to explore. A large number of small homes are designed to be mobile, meaning owners can take their homes with them when they travel. This eliminates the need to pay for lodging and broadens your potential destinations.
If you fit within any or all of these categories, tiny living may be the perfect life for you. The best way to know for sure is to actually spend time in small living spaces. Many small home owners are excited to share their lifestyles with others and will offer their homes for rent to those hoping to educate themselves. By getting a feel for what to expect in your prospective future tiny home, you can make an educated decision on whether it is right for you.
The most important aspect of small living is the deconstruction of your entire lifestyle. It’s not about cramming all your belongings into a small living space. It’s about downsizing your life so your basic needs are met (and not much else). By digging down to the foundation of your life and removing all unnecessary clutter, you learn things about yourself that otherwise may remain hidden. Move this paragraph? Delete?
Types of Tiny Homes
Tiny vs. Small
It is important to educate yourself about the varieties and classifications of small and tiny homes. Many within the tiny community consider a living space less than 400 square feet as “tiny” while anything between 400 and 1000 square feet as “small.” These classifications and logistics are important to know when it comes time to build, travel with and live in your new home.
Aside from square footage, it’s important to consider your goals and expectations for tiny living. This will determine what kind of small living space to look for.
Stationary / Foundational Tiny Homes
There are many types of tiny homes that are designed to stay in one place. Some families choose to downsize while maintaining proximity to an urban area and choose to live in a tiny apartment. Others build a tiny home on land they have purchased and want it to be built on a permanent foundation. One of the more interesting choices of a stationary tiny home is a tree house. This option is becoming more popular among homeowners who are looking for something unique.
Tiny houses on Wheels
A choice being made among many tiny home owners is to have their homes be mobile. Some choose to have their home built so it can fit in the bed of a truck, or a horse trailer, while others build their house inside a school bus. Tiny houseboats have also become a rising trend in the tiny living community. It all depends on what the owner’s goals are for their travel as well as their own personal style and taste.
Pros & Cons of Tiny Living
Aside from the glaring positives of downsizing your life (financial and environmental), those who make the switch often find a large amount of freedom in these changes. Aside from avoiding a mortgage and loan debt, homeowners can expect to feel freedom emotionally and physically. By stripping away the layers of your life that may be causing stress and unhappiness, you can completely change your outlook on life. This allows you the freedom to not only conceive but also pursue your biggest dreams.
The logistics surrounding small homes can be tricky to navigate. The land and travel restrictions are different depending on the size and type of tiny home you have. It’s important to educate yourself thoroughly before attempting to build or purchase a tiny home.
The decrease in living space can be tricky. If you are used to entertaining large amounts of people, the lack of living space can be overwhelming. This can also be true if you are used to have a large amount of privacy in your living space.
Financing Your Tiny Home
With the increase in popularity of tiny homes, more and more businesses are offering construction and financing services for small homes. Due to the incredibly low cost of purchasing a tiny home, many choose to save up and buy theirs upfront. This eliminates any potential monthly rent or loan payment and also lessens responsibilities.
If you’re not in a situation where buying a home upfront is viable, don’t worry. Many companies will work with you to finance your home and find a common ground that works for everyone involved. Research is key and be sure that any company you work with is up to date with all safety regulations.
How to Start
If you are in love with the idea of tiny living, you may be wondering how to even fathom such an endeavor.
First, you’ll want to decide what kind of home you want: small/tiny, mobile/stationary, cottage/apartment, etc. This decision should be based on what you want your life to be like while you’re living in the tiny home.
Secondly, you’ll need to educate yourself. Learn and absorb everything you can about tiny living. Learn about the true cost of tiny living and compare it to your budget. Remember: Knowledge is power.
Lastly, you’ll want to work out the logistics. You’ll need to map out your life (goals, expectations, necessities, etc.) as you see it unfolding over the next few years. You need to crunch numbers, weigh expectations and assess your consumption behaviors. You will have to be very honest with yourself about a few key aspects of your life and it’s important that you do so.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Do you want to travel the country or would you like to stay local?
- Will you be working during this time or are you going to rely on savings?
- How many people will be coming with you? If you’re going to be alone, how will you prepare yourself in case you’re faced with a difficult situation?
Once you have run through the first stages of preparing to begin your tiny life, you can start looking into companies that build or supply tiny homes. If you’re looking to build it yourself, figure out where to get materials and how much they will cost. Also make sure you have the knowledge to construct a safe and up-to-code home. If you aren’t sure you do, it’s better to hire a professional.
Most importantly, recognize and appreciate the magnitude of the journey you’re about to embark on. It’s so important to have fun during this process, though it may be stressful at times. It’s a brave and exciting prospect; treat it as such.
*photo credit: Escape Traveler