I was in the San Francisco area a few months back (a long, fun, haul for an East Coaster like me- what a town!), to shoot a few tiny housetours/episodes for my youtube show "Tiny Yellow House" and for content photos on a new book I've been working on, when I saw this! Its a Tumbleweed Fencl, RIGHT outside the gates of Muir Woods, at the parks maintenance and ranger station- how cool! The area was fenced in, and I couldn't get any closer, but I stopped my car, turned around, and snapped this photo:
Tiny Ranger House!
A lot of the photos I've taken on these trips are not only going to be in my follow-up book to "Humble Homes, Simple Shacks" but are being incorporated into a slide-show of inspirational tiny houses that is one facet of my presentations for the Tumbleweed Workshops that I teach around the country. This slide show presents some of the dos and don't of tiny house construction, and design approach, while also showing off some exceptional, clever, and bizarre deviations people have taken on the Tumbleweed plan designs- and beyond. Domes, Tree houses, Floating Homes, Tiny Houses built from Recycled Materials....they're all in there!
Recently, I wrote about my plans to live in a tiny house for my last semester of college. In a week's time, my Fencl will finally be arriving on my campus! You could say I'm excited- I've gained some serious calf muscles jumping
through hoops for the last two
months to make this happen. For those who are curious, especially
college students who are interested in trying something similar, here's what my
process looked like:
It began with a fairly lengthy proposal that I drafted at
home in early December. I outlined all of the reasons why my school would
benefit from the presence of a tiny house, given our emphasis on sustainability
and alternative lifestyles. I emphasized that I would not need the school's
money or resources, just their permission and support.
My beautiful view-to-be
I sent this proposal to my college's president. I never
heard back from him! Luckily, someone else in the office intercepted my
proposal and directed me towards a newfangled student project approval system.
Through this system, I was able to communicate with all of the individual staff
members on campus that would need to personally approve my project
We had a lengthy back-and-forth regarding zoning, utilities, placement, and
everything else imaginable. The staff members were interested and supportive,
but still committed to doing a very thorough job- naturally, I found this
frustrating. Even when it seemed like everyone was on board, there was no clear
sense of approval. I wanted a giant stamp of my proposal that said
I made a chart of my proposed off-grid utility usage plans,
including back-up solutions and alternate ideas. The biggest issue was, big
surprise, dealing with my own waste. Turns out this is tricky territory on a college campus.
I'd originally hoped to use a composting toilet, but health people gave that a
My generous friend- thanks Hazel!
I'm going to start the semester using a nearby friend's toilet (above), and work with
interested students throughout the semester to develop an alternative that
everyone can feel comfortable with.
Scouting it Out
Last week, I met with the guys who run facilities and
grounds. We discussed some potential solutions to my utility woes, and took a
field trip to some potential house sites. Finally, we found the perfect site- I can hook up to the school's electricity while I work on getting solar panel donations. I
did a little dance on it to mark my territory.
Waiting (Is the Hardest Part)
Squatting in the living room
Now, I'm waiting patiently. I've been squatting with three
of my friends in their bachelor pad. I thought I packed light this time around, but my possessions seem to be traveling around the apartment a bit. My scruffy friends have mentioned that they're growing tired of me. I think they'll make it one more week, as long as I do some dishes.
Stay tuned, folks in the Western Mass area- I'll be having a housewarming gathering/open house late next week!
Ryan Mitchell of The Tiny Life website has been keeping us posted about his exciting plans for a modified Fencl. In addition for guest writing for Tumbleweed, Ryan has been blogging about simple living, tiny houses, and environmentally responsible lifestyles on his website: we think he's awesome!
Like many of you, I have a lot on my plate. So when it came time to build my tiny house,
I started to wonder when I’d fit it time in to actually finish my house. Right now I am juggling three jobs, running
my blog over at The Tiny Life, writing a book and on top of it, building this
Tiny House. For many of you, children
are part of the equation, but there are plenty of people building homes with
kids. So the question in your mind right
now might be: how can I juggle everything in my life and build a tiny
The answer is actually part of what I call The Tiny Life;
building a tiny house isn’t fix-all cure that some wish to believe. In fact, in some regards building a tiny
house is the simple part. In a way it
plays into our consumer culture, why go out and buy something in an attempt to
fix something. It is the lifestyle that
many find difficult to adopt. We all
know you have to reduce the amount of stuff we have, but along with the small
house and the sparse possessions we must bring focus to the life we wish to
live in that house.
It was at the point where I had decided to build my house
that I sat down and wrote what was truly important to me, these were things
that I felt were worthy of my time. From
there I ordered them in terms of importance.
It was this list that I then took and considered where I spend my energy
Through this process I realized that some things simply
couldn’t be achieved right now because other things were more important to me;
it meant that I had to say no to some things, which isn’t a word often in our
vocabulary in modern society. It was
surprising to see how things that were a lower priority for me seemed to sneak
into time that would be better used for more important things.
So take a few moments, even if it is on the back of a
napkin on a coffee break, to write down your top 10 things that are most
important to you and then consider how a shift if your time and energy might be
needed. With this you will have to learn
to say no to various activities. In this
list you can begin to see where building your Tiny House will fit in and what
things have to go in order to make the time.
You might find that building your house is lower on the list, which
means it will take a few years to complete, and that is okay because you are
intentional about it. In the long run
you are able to focus on what is truly important in your life and begin living
The Tiny Life.
Greg Johnson of the Small House Society published a video on how city housing codes influence tiny house living. In a 4 minute video he covers a viewers question, “where can you legally put a tiny house on wheels?” Greg does a great job of explaining the problems we face in addition to different ways you can get around them. He also briefly discusses cities that are beginning to allow this type of housing as completely legal accessory dwelling units. Greg talks about the challenges faced by code enforcement to catch folks sleeping in recreational vehicles, campers, and tiny houses.
I’ll let him do the talking, Hope you enjoy and be sure to visit the Small House Society for more information related to the tiny house movement.
If you want to listen to Greg’s tips on how to get around building codes and city zoning, I encourage you to watch his 4-minute video below:
Alex Pino promotes tiny houses and other small spaces through Tiny House Talk. He currently lives in a 600 square foot apartment and has been downsizing since 2007. In the summer of 2012, he’s going to be traveling through the United States after paring down to what fits in a backpack
This post is going to show you 13 ways that you can save $378 or more by living in a tiny house. And that’s just the beginning because some families are saving much more than that but for now, let’s get right into it.
1. Little to no mortgage
Making the decision to build a tiny house on a trailer so that you can live in means you most likely won’t have a mortgage. Actually, banks don’t normally finance little homes like this even though they will help you with an RV most of the time. We’ll see if someday we can easily finance our tiny houses on trailers. Even if you could somehow manage to get a 30 year mortgage on a tiny house, it would only cost you $366 a month if you had to pay 7% interest, had no money to put down, and you paid $55,000 for it. This would obviously mean that you did not do any of the labor yourself. Not too bad, right? It gets better...
2. Miniscule heating and cooling bills
I’m not sure what you currently pay for your utilities but I think you’ll be impressed with how efficient a little home is. Most people having to heat or cool their tiny homes pay just $10 to $35 a month for all of their utilities. Most people that I know pay an average of $120 a month for utilities, but it can easily be much more.
3. Easy and relatively cheap to build
Costs for materials for the average tiny house on a trailer that’s less than 200 square feet is about $21,000 if you buy everything new through a retail store like Home Depot or Lowe’s. This, of course, does not include labor for anything you don’t feel comfortable doing. You can always attend a Tumbleweed workshop to prepare yourself for your first project. Later, we’ll talk about how much you can save using reclaimed materials.
4. You don’t have to buy your own land
It turns out that most people who’ve built and now live in their own tiny house end up working something out with someone who already owns land. In these situations you can either pay a little bit of rent (as little as $100 a month) or exchange a service for your stay. You can provide care for an elderly person or labor for a small farm. Or you can simply park in a friend or family members rural backyard. And when the time comes to move, you don’t have to worry about land ownership.
5. Park it in your backyard and rent out your big house
If you’re lucky enough to already live in a location where you can park a tiny house on a trailer or an RV- or maybe you can build on a foundation as a shed, pool house, cabana, guest house, or accessory structure- you can start your project right away, or look for the right property to buy.
6. No more high rent or mortgage payments
I don’t know about you, but I pay about $900 every month in rent as I write this. That’s $32,400 every three years. I wouldn’t mind parting with that, or at least turning it into something I can own free and clear someday. Some of you pay less, and some of you pay more but either way it’s one of our largest expenses. If you’re paying a mortgage do you think you could rent your house out and cover all of your costs, if you wanted to? This way you’d turn your current home into an asset that pays itself off while you live mortgage-free in a tiny house. Now that would be smart, wouldn’t it?
7. You can use reclaimed materials to build your tiny home for cheap
I’ve talked to people who have built their own tiny house on a trailer for as little as $3,500 because they took the time to find free or cheap reclaimed materials like doors, wood, windows, siding, and more. It can save you a lot of money up front to dedicate an extra two or three months just for finding the right materials to suit your design. It also helps to be open to changing your design as you find cool stuff to use for your build. Whether you end up spending $16,000, $7,200, or just $5,700, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind home that’s fully paid for!
8. You can do the labor yourself
There are now several stories out there of everyday people, like you and me, with no previous carpentry experience, building their own tiny houses. Many of them end up recruiting the help of friends and family and others hire help when they need it (like for plumbing and wiring, for example). If you’re new to construction or just the idea of building tiny and/or on a trailer, you might want to consider one of Tumbleweed’s tiny house workshops.
9. No space for oversized and overpriced furniture
In a tiny or small house, there’s only so much room for furniture. Most people who are living tiny just have a couch (usually built in), a bed, entertainment center, and a table. That’s about it. There’s also built in bookshelves, closets, and other storage. That means you’ll never really see that Rooms to Go bill again just to fill all of that space in an oversized house, condo, or apartment. You won’t need a huge dining set, side tables, and an enormous desk, either.
10. No space for constant new clothes
Living small usually means cutting down on your wardrobe. In a tiny house, studio, or even in most apartments there’s just not that much closet space. Especially if you share the place with someone else. In a tiny house, there’s only room for what you love and personally, I like that. If you love your clothes, you can always adjust your design or choose one of Tumbleweed’s tiny house plans that includes the right amount of closet and storage space for you. But the point is that in a tiny home you’re less likely to go buy new clothes every forty days or whatever. Instead, you’ll probably buy a few really nice, high quality outfits that you really love wearing (you know, your favorites). That’s what I do to stay happy with less clothes (but I’m a guy, so what do I know).
11. Less repair and maintenance costs over time
Owning less means dealing with less. Isn’t that nice? So over time you’re going to save on all kinds of repair costs in money, time, and stress. Need to paint the house again? No big deal. Time for a new roof? No problem. Need to fix something? That should be pretty simple (especially if you were the one who built it, right?).
12. Less room for children
This is my least favorite money saving benefit because I love children. And when I’m older, I probably won’t be able to live in a tiny house anymore for this reason alone. But for those of you who don’t want kids, or already have them, it’ll save you money either way which leads us to the next, and last, money saving benefit for living in a smaller home.
13. Less storage space for excessive children’s toys and gadgets
Most kids who live in small spaces end up find creative ways to meet their needs instead of depending on the latest and trendiest toys and gadgets which can get really expensive for parents. These kids tend to play outside more and interact with other kids. But maybe with all of the money you save on everything else, you can afford to buy the family an iPad for everyone to play with! My niece and nephews love this thing more than most of their toys because of all the available interactive games you can play on it and it hardly takes up any space in your house.
If all of the above adds up to a savings of just $378 a month for you, you would end up with an extra $13,608 in your pocket after only three years. But I believe that most of you would get to save a lot more than just $378 a month by moving into a tiny house. The main challenge is coming up with the money to build it or buy it up front or getting financing for it. But if you look around, you might find that you can come up with enough money to start by letting go of some of the possessions you have around you. Just maybe, because not all of us have that option. But if you wanted to, could you? Would it be fair to your family? If not, then don’t. Your family is more important than saving money. Maybe you can ease them into the idea over time instead.
But the fact is that most of you can save a lot more than $378 a month by downsizing in some way. One young family, who I won’t name, is getting to save an entire full-time salary by moving from their big house to a tiny one that they built mortgage-free. They’re getting to put away at least $1,745 a month, but probably more.
Can you imagine that? That equals to $62,820 after just three years time. Wouldn’t you agree that that could be very powerful for an individual as well as a young family? That’s how to get ahead relatively fast. With that kind of money, you can buy a more comfortable home for a growing family, start your own business, pay for an education, or pay off your debt completely in just a few years.
Alex Pino promotes tiny houses and other small spaces through Tiny House Talk. He currently lives in a 600 square foot apartment and has been downsizing since 2007. In the summer of 2012, he’s going to be traveling through the United States after pairing down to what fits in a backpack.