Tips & Tricks

11 Things You Need to Know About Tiny House Living

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You’ve seen the TV shows. You’ve seen the Instagram posts. And now, you’re ready to find a tiny home of your own. The trend of tiny house living has grown exponentially over the past decade, and with the rise of minimalistic living and on-the-move lifestyles, it’s not hard to see why. But tiny house living isn’t all fun and games – and it’s not for everyone.

If you’re thinking of converting to tiny house living, here’s what you need to know about life in 400 square feet or less.

What Exactly Qualifies as a Tiny Home?

There’s no standard definition of what a “tiny home” is, but most folks who brand themselves as leaders of the tiny house living movement would say it’s living in a home between 100 and 400 square feet, which is about the size of a studio apartment or smaller. While many tiny homes are on wheels, it isn’t a requirement. But some spaces, like vans that have been repurposed into campers, aren’t always considered tiny homes – these are often considered camper vans or RVs (slightly different from tiny homes).

Tiny House Living is…Well, Tiny

A few hundred square feet sounds like a lot, but about a day of living in it is all you need to realize it’s nothing. Your bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen are all in one space. You’ll be taking a shower just feet from where you prepare your food, so if you require lots of separation between spaces, this may not be the life for you. On the contrary, tiny house living makes it easy for you to multitask without running from one room to another. In fact, running from room to room is pretty much impossible in a tiny home, considering there’s no room (or in most cases, work out at all) inside. Yep, it’s going to be close quarters in there.

In a Tiny House, There’s No Room for Clutter

If you’re trying tiny house living for the minimalist lifestyle, you’re going to go from hoarder to minimalist in a snap. In a home that’s under 400 square feet, there’s no room for anything non-essential. Knick-knacks take up the small shelf space you have (if you have any at all), decor occupies space that otherwise can work as wall storage, even extra clothing won’t have any place to go. Before moving into a tiny home, it’s best to put some strong thought into what you really need. Using a ditch-or-donate declutter method can help make the transition a bit easier (and get you used to living with less). But you’ll need to get used to the one-in, one-out rule: for every item you buy, you’ll have to get rid of something else. Time to get purging.

Tiny House Living Can Be Perfect for Living Mobile

While it’s not quite as simple as a camper that you can drive anywhere, many tiny homes are able to be towed from place to place with a pickup truck. It’s a much simpler option when moving than buying or renting a new house, though you still need land to place the tiny home on (more on that later). For those considering moving in the near future, this is a great option, and if you’re just thinking about it, tiny house living gives you the option that a traditional home won’t.

But do keep in mind that not every tiny home is so easy to move. While many can be hitched to a truck and towed (fairly) easily, others require a crane to lift them onto a tow platform. And some tiny homes aren’t even mobile: they require a foundation just like any other house. When reviewing tiny home options, make sure you’re clear about what kind of mobility you want to your home to have. This will narrow down your options and make it easier for you to decide on a model that works for you.

You Don’t Need to Own It, But Your Tiny Home Does Need Land

Some folks get so caught up in tiny house living that they forget about something very important: they need land for it, too. There are a few options for land for your tiny home:

  • Backyard tiny houses: known in legal terms as “accessory dwelling units,” you can build or place your tiny home in a backyard of someone looking to gain rent money out of their land, or a friend or family member.
  • Buying land: this can be difficult, because most land parcels are the right size for a full-size house, giving you a big backyard you might not have counted on. These parcels can also be rather expensive, and take away from the inexpensiveness you hoped to find with tiny house living. But this is a perfect solution for tiny homes that are permanent with foundations.
  • Renting land: you’ll run into the same sizing issues with buying land, but renting land gives you the option to opt-out if and when you want to move your tiny home. But it’s not the right option if you’re looking to permanently plant your tiny house with a foundation.
  • Joining a tiny house community: around the country, you’ll find communities of tiny house dwellers living together. Each has different rules around renting or buying space, but it’s a great option if you want to live among like-minded people.

No matter which option you choose, make sure your new land aligns with your commitment to staying in one place or traveling with your tiny home.

Tiny House Living is (Somewhat) Less Expensive

Sixty thousand dollars on a portable tiny home versus several hundred thousand on a fixed house? It’s easy to see why tiny home living is appealing to those looking to save some cash. But don’t be fooled by the upfront price, because there are lots of additional costs to consider, including:

  • Land rent/cost
  • Electricity and water costs
  • Upgrades to your tiny house (appliances, polished finishings, etc.)
  • Maintenance on your tiny home
  • Towing equipment & gas expenses (if you’ll be moving your tiny home)

These costs sound marginal, but they can add up. Make sure you budget for all expenses before deciding if tiny house living is right for you.

Not Every City is Tiny Home Friendly (Or Tiny Home Legal)

Zoning codes are a tough thing to navigate, but here’s the short version: not every state allows tiny homes. Some allow them only in certain zones, others allow them only in certain cities. Before committing to tiny house living, do some research on the area you’d like to situate your tiny house in (at least in the near future). It’s also worth searching for tiny house-friendly states, like Oregon and California, to see some future options.

Prepare for Cross-Functional Everything

In a tiny home, everything has to serve a few purposes: your kitchen table may become your bed. Your bathroom is your shower – no, your shower is not in your bathroom, your bathroom is your shower. Your kitchen cabinet is your dresser, your coat closet is your only closet, your stairs are your storage…you get the point. Everything serves multiple purposes (another reason why clutter clogs up tiny house living) – and that’s something that takes some getting used to. And don’t forget: almost all of your furniture is built-in, meaning no rearranging on a whim.

To Get Your Perfect Tiny Home, You Need to Build it From the Ground Up

It’s much cheaper to buy a tiny house that’s pre-built, but doing so often means skipping out on the upgrades and add-ons that customize the home to your needs. Double-duty furniture is common, but not always the case, and is important to have if you’re not an ultra minimalist. Other important choices also need to be considered: if you have a bad back, for example, you probably shouldn’t get a lofted bed. It’s easier to make these decisions and make a home you love if you buy a model that will be custom-built for you. You’ll also be able to make design choices that customize the tiny home to your style.

Climate Matters When it Comes to Tiny House Living

Let’s talk insulation. Which do you think has more, a full-size house or a tiny home? If you guessed a full-sized house, you’re correct. While most tiny homes are insulated (and heaters are an option), it’s worth keeping in mind whether your outdoor lifestyle aligns with where you want to park your tiny house. Alaska, for example, is probably not ideal during the cold winters – you’ll understand cabin fever far too well if it’s less than freezing. But extreme heat found in states like Texas may also be too much if it leads to you being locked into your tiny home without the option of going outside for long stretches. Make sure your new tiny home’s location will be outdoors-friendly.

Tiny House Living is a Lifestyle: Prepare for Change

It’s not just getting rid of stuff. It’s not just hauling your house around on the back of your truck. Tiny house living is a whole new way of life. You’ll be spending more time with the people you live with, doing more outdoor activities, becoming friendlier with your neighbors. It’s a whole new way of living – and while it’ll take some getting used to, you’ll eventually grow to love it.

Tiny home living is a great way to move towards a more minimalist lifestyle. If you’re ready to live with less and invest in a tiny home, get started on decluttering – and get help doing it with Dolly. Our Helpers are local pickup truck owners who are ready to help bring your old stuff to a donation center or dump, and they’re just as happy to bring home big items for you. Dolly is here for you after you start tiny house living, too – consider us your go-to for moving any big stuff. We’ll take care of the big stuff so you can keep up with tiny house living.

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