I thought today I’d do a post to introduce myself to all the new readers we have received. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, several years in fact, so I thought I’d say hello! In this post I’ll share a little bit about me, about my tiny house and how it’s all setup, what this website is all about and other things people have asked about. I have a FAQ at the bottom of this page too.
First off, my name is Ryan Mitchell, I run The Tiny Life. I’m a 30 year old guy from Charlotte, NC, but originally from New Hampshire. I never expected to be writing about tiny houses, but back in 2009 I started this website just to have a place to keep all my design ideas and musings. Over five years now, it has grown beyond my wildest dreams.
My journey started like this:
It started one Friday afternoon, my coworkers and I stood on the sidewalk outside our old office with the contents of our desks now residing in a cardboard box; the whole company had just been laid off and a million things were swirling around in our heads. How will I pay my bills? Rent is due next week! How am I going to find a job in a down economy?
I knew I needed a change, a drastic change, one where I could take control of my life and its destiny. I soon found tiny houses and realized the potential.
It took me 4 years of working, planning and saving to make my dream a reality. Those years were tough, with the recession in full swing and me trying to find my way into adulthood, I had a lot of ups and downs. I started with pretty much nothing, no savings, a bunch of debt, and a very low paying job. Over those 4 years I worked my way up, tackled my debt, sacrificed for my dream and in late 2012 I started building my tiny house.
This is my tiny house that I built with my own two hands, this is a photo of me the day I moved my house from where I built it to where I’d be living in it.
Once I built my tiny house I started to live the tiny life. It has been amazing! When I started this website I wanted to talk about more than just tiny houses. The truth is tiny houses are just a part of it, I may even go as far as saying a small part of it. What I’ve found is that changes in my life were the real impact. While the tiny house helped me with this, I see it as a beautiful place to live and as a tool that made the rest possible. So when I talk about the tiny life, I generally mean these topics:
Since moving into a tiny house I decided to leave my old job and start out on my own, I’ve been self employed for 1.5 years right now. This was a huge shift because not only did I have more control over my future, but I also designed my business to be location independent. That means I can work from anywhere. At the time of this post, I’m actually living in Croatia for 3 months because one of the things on my bucket list was to live in a foreign country.
Life in a tiny house has been great and really opened up a lot of possibilities for me like it has so many others. My financial situation has changed drastically, because my cost of living dropped so significantly. I then took that money and started paying off the rest of my debt. I’m almost there and hope to be debt free in a year.
Timewise I have a lot more of it and even better, I have more control over it. I now can spend more time with my friends and family. Right now I’m single, but I can’t help but think that having time to spend focusing on a relationship with a girlfriend would be rewarding. I think what I like most about my time is I can take long walks most days, take more vacations, and have lunches and dinners with family more often.
Peace of mind and lower stress has been another outcome of this journey. With less debt (and soon no debt), money for a rainy day fund, a house paid for powered by solar panels, and time to think, I feel that I can weather the ups and downs of life better. I can sleep better knowing I will always have a roof over my head.
The land that my tiny house is parked on is a 32 acre parcel only a few minutes from down town. I give some details about how I found it below. In order for me to setup my land I had to run a water line, fix up the road and have a gravel pad installed. In addition to my tiny house, I also have an enclosed trailer which I use for my camping gear, tools and some equipment for my job. I also keep some bulk items like toilet paper and the like in there. You can read more about how I setup my land and those details by clicking here.
Beyond my tiny working on The Tiny Life I also have a few other projects that you might have heard of. The Tiny House Conference is my favorite tiny house event of the year, I am the organizer of it and I love getting to spend time meeting and talking with other tiny house folks. I also wrote a book called Tiny House Living, which is a great book for those wanting to know more about and get started; it focuses more on the lifestyle and less on how to build. Writing a traditionally published book was on my bucket list and I’m so excited that achieving that dream can also help others live the tiny life. Finally I do a podcast with Macy Miller of Mini Motives, this is a great way to learn more and you can get the episodes for free over at www.TinyHouseChat.com
People always have lots of questions about my house, so I figured I’d share some answers here:
Q: How big is your tiny house?
A: 150 square feet, plus a sleeping loft. The house is built on an 18 foot trailer, but the house is 8.5 wide, 20 feet long and 13′ 4″ tall. Inside the house is 11.5 feet tall in the main room, in the kitchen which is under the loft, its about 6’4″. The loft is about 4.5 feet tall. My trailer from ground to top of deck is about 17 inches.
Q: Who made your trailer and was it new or used?
A: I purchased a brand new 18′ utility style trailer from Kaufman trailers, I strongly encourage folks to go the new trailer route. Read more here
Q: Did you build it all yourself or did you know how to build before?
A: I had never really built anything before my tiny house. I also didn’t know anyone that had these skills either. That said, I did build this house by myself with my own two hands. The exceptions would be I hired an electrician to wire it, I paid someone to do the roofing because I didn’t have the equipment to bend the metal for the roof, and I hired someone to help me hang my front door. Other than those three things, I did it all. You can see my build videos here
Q: What would you change if you had to do it all over again?
A: I think I’d opt for all casement windows, most of my windows are awning style. I’d also purchase a door instead of building on. The main reason I had to get some help hanging my door was because since I built the door from scratch, I also had to build a custom door jam and that was tricky to get the door just right. I think I’d also go from a 18 foot trailer to a 20 or 22 foot trailer. I think that two extra feet would be ideal for me.
Q: What appliances do you have? Heater? Water heater? Etc?
A: I have a gas stove top made by Suburban specifically a RV Camper Cooktop LP Propane Stove 2 Burner 2937A, it cost me $90 new. My water heater is an RV500 by PrecisionTemp it is a tankless model because I really love my showers, it cost me about $1,200. I choose it because it was tankless and also very very small (1 foot cubed) and the venting was simple.
My fridge is a basic bar fridge: specifically the Danby 4.4 cu. ft. Energy Star Compact Refrigerator because it was about the biggest fridge that came without a freezer section. My heating and cooling is handled by a mini split: the Fujitsu 9rls2 which is 9,000 btu’s max wattage of 800 watts on high heat that can handle a few hundred square feet. This was the most efficient mini split when I bought it with a seer rating of 27. It cost me $1,400 for the unit and another $400 for the install. I also use a standard toaster oven. I don’t have a microwave or standard oven as I just don’t have much use for them personally. I wish I had a washer and dryer, but don’t. Right now I just use a laundry service.
Q: Where do you get your power, water, sewage, internet?
A: Initially I was going to be grid tied, but the city wouldn’t allow it. So I had to at first rely on my generator, which is a Honda EB2000i. It’s an amazing generator, if you need one, I can’t recommend it enough. At $1,000 it’s very pricy but it’s super small and on eco-mode it can be running and I can’t hear it in my house at all.
Come January 2015 I will be installing a solar panel array. The array is 1.65 KWs, 9 solar panels and 8 batteries. The batteries are AGM, 740 watt/hours 6 volt. The system cost me $14,500 for parts and labor. The reason it is so high because I want to heat and cool with this. If I where to cut out heating and cooling with my mini split, I could drop down to a system that was about $6500.
My internet is standard cable internet. I have no cable TV. My cell phone is my only phone. My water is city tied. For sewage I have a composting toilet (following the humanure composting handbook). I also have a grey water system to hand water from my sink and shower.
Q: How did you deal with building codes?
A: For me, after several lengthy talks with the building code enforcement folks and going around and around with permits and inspects. The main code enforcement officer told me to “don’t ask, don’t tell”. That, combined with me trying to be a good neighbor and having my tiny house nestled out of sight in the woods, allows me to live in my tiny house. It is technically illegal. It is built to code, but not inspected.
Q: How did you find the land that you are parked on and do you lease or own?
A: I currently lease land from a friend. The property is in the city, but on a very large parcel of land, 32 acres to be exact. I found it because I was looking for a place to park and asked a friend who I thought might know of a place I could rent. Turns out he had an empty parcel that he wanted someone to keep an eye on. I pay $1 a month plus help him do some website work every now and then. I did a video about it here.
Q: How long did it take you to build your tiny house?
A: I typically say a year of nights and weekends. Technically on a calendar it was about a 1.75 years, but I took a 3 month break at a point and once I was held up for 4 months waiting on a window. In general, a professional could build a house in 2-3 months, an amateur 1-2 years of nights and weekends.