ECOURSE DAY 1:
MAKING THE MOVE TO A SANER LIFE
The decision to live in a tiny house goes beyond simply decreasing the square footage that you inhabit. In fact, the process of down sizing and the choice to live tiny will impact all areas of your life. From personal relationships, to how much you need to work, how many belongings you own, to how much peace of mind you experience. Choosing this path is a lifestyle choice and one with many benefits. It’s truly a move to a saner life.
Having started our own tiny living journey in 2011, my family has experienced all of the changes and benefits listed above. Over the last few years we have gone through the process of deciding to leave our 2,500SF+ beautiful, “dream” home, to eliminating more than 90% of our worldly belongings, to living in a pop up tent trailer on the beach in Baja for 5 months with our 11 year old daughter, to building our own 221SF home (which we lovingly call hOMe) using our own hands.
Our aim with this ecourse is to share our process and to give you some primer tools and resources to help you on our way to making the move to tiny. Of course no two journeys are ever the same, however, it is our hope that our own personal path can help guide and inspire your own.
The benefits and joys of living tiny are bountiful. The most common denominator shared with those that value living tiny is the potential for saving money. Ryan Mitchell from TheTinyLife.com created an infographic crunching over 120,000 data points comparing various qualifications between tiny house owners and traditional house owners.
His results showed that 68% of tiny house owners have no mortgage (vs. 29% for traditional housing), that the average cost of a self built tiny house is $23k (vs. $272k for traditional), and that 89% of tiny house owners have less credit card debt than the average American (with 65% tiny house folks having no credit card debt at all).
By making the move to tiny, you too can create the potential of building your home for a 1/10th the cost of a traditionally sized house. Really think about that. What if you could have a home that totally met your needs where you could thrive which cost you a mere 1/10th of what you would normally spend building a traditionally sized house?: a home that you loved that you didn’t have to pay a mortgage/rent to live in? What would you spend that extra money on?
For us, our extra income now goes towards buying the best quality food we can, traveling, taking family and friends out, and investing into our future. We feel that we are able to say “Yes!” to so many more new experiences now than we could before.
Financial savings continue long after the house construction process is complete. The costs to heat, cool, and generally maintain a tiny home are far (and I mean FAR) less than a conventionally sized abode. The obvious reason is that the structure is much smaller and therefore requires less climate control; however, there is another angle to this equation as well. If you build a tiny house on a movable trailer, you have the distinct advantage of being able to align your home with the natural cooling and heating cycles of the seasons. In the winter, you can move your tiny house into an open area with no trees for maximum solar gain and in the summer, you can park it under the shade of trees or another structure.
Depending on your location, you can potentially regulate the climate in your tiny house with nothing but passive solar heating and cooling. There is another phenomena that occurs when you make the move to tiny; any habit you currently have of spending money on superfluous items will come to an end. We have become extremely conscious consumers and that has translated into welcome financial savings each month.
RECLAIMING YOUR TIME AND PEACE OF MIND
Do you ever have the experience that you don’t have enough time? That there are other things that you would rather be doing? Let’s look at a few ways that living in a tiny home can help you create time in your life.
How many hours of your work week are going towards your housing costs? If you are like the average person working 40 hours per week, nearly 2 eight hour days are going straight into rent/mortgage costs according to a 2003 survey by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Do you feel like those two full days could be better spent? If yes, then making the move to tiny may be a great solution for you.
How many hours does it currently take you to clean your home? It used to take us 8 hours per week in our larger houses. Now it takes us 30 minutes. In a tiny house there just isn’t that much floor space to clean. Further, it simply isn’t possible to leave clutter around. Clothes get put away, dishes are cleaned after each use, office “messes” are not left on the desk. These “minute tidying” sessions take place throughout the day and mean that when it comes time to really clean the house, we can get right to it. Living tiny demands a type of mindfulness and attention to one’s surroundings. This has been an incredibly rewarding benefit for us.
When building tiny, there is the benefit of decreased time and effort required to build small. Because everything is built at a smaller scale, the construction process is relatively easy when compared to building a large home. This has allowed so many with no previous building experience to hand craft their own tiny dream homes. Further, because the house is tiny, no single stage of construction will last that long, so what bothers you today will be gone tomorrow (or in a few days at most!).
PERSONAL FREEDOM/IMPROVED FAMILY DYNAMICS
When we began our downsizing process in earnest, we came across an interesting personal observation. The more we got rid of, the freer we felt. This epiphany fueled a 6 month exploration in which we questioned our relationship with every single item that we owned. And when I say every item, I mean literally every single item down to the paperclips. In order to be kept, a material possession had to satisfy one question: was it a necessity for our well being and happiness? The results were amazing because we saw how much we owned did not make that cut.
As we donated, sold, recycled or threw away the unnecessary items in our lives, a weight was released physically and emotionally and the space for freedom expanded. In the end, we ended up with just 10% of what we had originally started with. The photo on the right is just a small sampling of the extra stuff we didn’t actually need and that we got rid of.
There is one main area that I think holds value beyond anything else I have discussed here: family communication/relationships. Because tiny house spaces are small, there is a potential of closeness that is harder to achieve in a larger house. Just like it’s not possible to hide clutter in a small space, it’s not possible to hide how you feel. If there is an upset, there is a natural invitation to deal with the issue right away.
Our family dynamic made an amazing and permanent shift when we lived 5 months in a pop up tent trailer on the beach in Baja. Our at the time 11 year old daughter couldn’t retreat into a room to prolong the inevitable conversation that would eventually ensue. This was true for my wife and myself as well. We learned that what works for us is honesty and dealing with things as they come up. We wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world and we now have an incredibly fun, open, and loving relationship with each other. Who knew that a house could bring such depth to our relationships?
No matter what experiences you have on your own journey, I know they will be positive. Because the process of downsizing is so life changing and full of introspection, anyone that embarks on this adventure is sure to grow and to adjust their perspective on how they relate to material possessions. Living tiny is about living at human scale. From there, so much more is possible. I hope you will continue your journey into living tiny and I hope you will share your experiences along the way with us at www.TinyHouseBuild.com.
Keep learning and be sure to look for Day 2’s lesson tomorrow: Codes and Zoning!