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15 Experts Share What Most People Get Wrong About Tiny Houses

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “What do most people get wrong about Tiny Houses?” The folks in this post have built tiny houses, live in tiny houses and teach folks from all over the world about tiny houses, so we are lucky to be able to tap into their brains on these questions.

alek-lisefski

It’s not about the house. It’s not about fitting all the amenities of your current house into a smaller package. What people don’t understand is that it’s about a very conscious self-reflection and simplification of life, to figure out what is it you really need to be happy and what might just be getting in your way. In my experience of actually living the tiny life, in the end it far more about the people in your life (partners, neighbors, etc) than what your house does and does not include.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

They seem to expect that every last convenience of a large home will come along with them, just in a tinier version. A big part of choosing to live tiny is choosing simplicity. This word often seems to be confused with the term convenient. You will not have every last little convenience gadget known to man, there simply isn’t space for that. You must choose a shorter list of what is most important to YOU.

ryan-mitchell

They don’t do the work on themselves first. The truth is that people need to understand themselves deeply before they can move into a tiny house. What ACTUALLY makes you happy? What is your purpose? How do I interact with a consumer culture?

deek-diedricksen

They jump into the build before they have a place to park it, don’t take the time to really design it to suit their actual needs and movements, and often don’t start downsizing before the build, which leaves them in a panic when push finally comes to shove. Downsizing is NOT easy and takes time.

ella-jenkins

The downsizing never ends. I feel like a lot of people assume you get rid of all your stuff and then move in and you’re good to go when in reality it is a constant, never ending challenge that some are more suited to than others.

ethan-waldman

Assuming that they have to live tiny in the same way that they see other people doing it. For example- not everyone NEEDS their house to be mobile (on wheels), but this is the norm because it’s what we all see all the time.

gabirella-morrisson

It’s not so much about the house. It’s about the lifestyle and making daily choices to be mindful that brings the greatest level of joy.

jenna-spesard

I don’t think there is a right way or a wrong way to live tiny. Just enjoy yourself and the process. Whatever positive element the lifestyle brings into your life, appreciate that.

laura-lavoie

I’m not completely sure that there is a wrong way to live tiny. Everyone comes at the lifestyle with different motivations. I do think some people get caught up in the house size rather than the philosophy of simple living that started the movement.

macy-miller

Most people tend to think it is mostly a financially driven decision, which may be true for some folks but I don’t think the majority of tiny house dwellers think of it that way.

kristie-wolfe

Most people have a stereotype of the kind of hipster, millennial tiny houser but really the people that choose to go tiny are a really diverse group.

vina-lustado

You don’t have to be a total minimalist to live tiny. The beauty of living in tiny houses is that it can be flexible to fit your needs. I have a separate office space in downtown and another shed on the property for outdoor gear storage. If I wanted more space, I can build another tiny house for additional members of the family.

steven-harrell

People focus on the actual square footage as apposed to their specific needs. If a home isn’t right for you and doesn’t suite your needs, the chance of your staying in your tiny house long-term is pretty low.

kent-griswold

It’s not the square footage that matters its the lifestyle that is the most important. 1. Getting rid of the excess and clutter in your life. 2. Living debt free and within you means. 3. Doing a job you love and having the freedom to do the things you enjoy doing.

andrew-odom

That it is about square feet. It is not.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What else do you think people don’t understand about tiny houses?
  • What tips have you learned from others?

What 15 Tiny House Experts Would Change About Their Tiny Houses

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “If you could go back and change one thing about your tiny house, what would it be?”  The folks in this post have built tiny houses, live in tiny houses and teach folks from all over the world about tiny houses, so we are lucky to be able to tap into their brains on these questions.

kristie-wolfe

I wish I would have bought land originally and built on a foundation instead of converting it a year later.

steven-harrell

I would make it even smaller. I currently live in a 590 square feet home and I see lots of opportunity to reduce space throughout the home.

alek-lisefski

Now that I’m in Texas with a hotter climate than I ever anticipated living in, I could really use a nice mini-split system instead of the window AC unit I am currently using.

ryan-mitchell

I would go from an 18 foot trailer to a 20 foot trailer. I think the extra length would be a real sweet spot for me.

andrew-odom

I could have made a more interesting and more useful house if I had explored a rising roof, dormers, or even a shed roof.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

The kitchen cabinets! We approached them the same way we approached building the shell of the house, which is overkill! We were facing a time crunch and didn’t take the time to review some basic cabinetry tutorials.

deek-diedricksen

I often wonder what a newer, better insulated, better laid-out, design would be like to live in. I wanted to be “Green” by saving an existing “beater” of a house though, and don’t really have any regrets.

ella-jenkins

I would use better quality windows. In my climate aluminum windows are a mistake, would use wood or aluminum clad in a do over. I would also vent my roof.

ethan-waldman

I’d incorporate a compact staircase with storage built in rather than a ladder.

gabirella-morrisson

Now that both of our teenage kids are living on our land with us full time, a larger dining room table would be great.

jenna-spesard

Choose a design with a full porch! I wish I had a covered place to sit outside with my coffee in the morning and a glass of wine at night.

laura-lavoie

I might raise the roof line (we’re on a foundation) or do bump-outs to have windows in the loft walls.

macy-miller

Anything I wanted to change I have, it’s a flexible thing. I suppose one thing that is harder to change is my window to wall ratio, I don’t really have room to hang a picture.

vina-lustado

I would make the horizontal window by the stove operable.  In retrospect, I would have been able to make it work with an awning window.

kent-griswold

I would try to have all the money saved to get the all the projects done before moving in. It is more fun to save then to pay off the debt after the fact.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What would you change about your tiny house?
  • What tips have you learned from others?

10 Posts Every Tiny House Person Should Read

Over the years I’ve written a lot about tiny houses, over 1,000 posts in fact, and I thought it would be good to share some of the best posts for you today.  These are our most popular “how to” posts from over the years

10-posts-every-tiny-house-person-should-read

1. Welcome To The Tiny Life

Ryan’s tiny house FAQ

2. Tiny House Plans Review page

Helping you choose the best tiny house for you

3. Setting Up Your Land For A Tiny House

All the things that you need to think about

4. Solar For A Tiny House

How I live 100% off the grid with solar power in a tiny house

5. Moving A Tiny House

My experience moving my tiny house for the first time

6. Tiny House Building Checklist

A master checklist of every building step

7. Tiny Houses For Families

A run down on options for families wanting to go tiny

8. Top 5 barriers To Tiny Houses

Also includes solutions

9. What Do We Really Need?

A post that asks the important questions

10. Three Tips To Finding Land

How to find land for a tiny house

Tiny House Composting Toilet Blues

composting toilet

I’ve been living in my tiny house now for a good while and the big challenge of composting toilet has been going well.  Initially I had wanted to have a flush toilet and my house is setup so I could drop a toilet let in quickly, but the quotes for a sewer line alone started at $50,000 so I begrudgingly went with the composting toilet.

I haven’t really read too much online about people’s experiences with composting toilets, the few I’ve read were just over the moon, glowing reviews.  So I thought I’d share my experience so far.  It has mostly been positive and easier than I thought, but with this recent incident it goes to show it isn’t all great.

more-than-dietThe other thing I don’t think people talk about in their composting toilet posts is diet.  I have learned that a good diet beyond good health, impacts how easy it is to use a composting toilet.  Good healthy foods, meals with salads, and less processed foods makes composting toilets easier to manage.

With a good diet your body functions better, it can extract more moisture and nutrients out of the what you eat and keeps things with composting toilets easier.  I also know the better one eats, the more regular one is; for my body, I usually need to visit the restroom at 10:30 am almost without fail, which 9 times out of 10 means I’m out and about, where there are toilets for me to use.  So diet is worth noting and was something I felt was missing from the discussion.

Currently it is illegal in my city have a composting toilet, as it is in most municipalities; plus I’m renting my land, so I wouldn’t want to be composting on land I don’t own.  What seems like the happy medium and it is what I do, is bagging the waste every week into a biodegradable “plastic” bag and then sending it along with the city trash; at that point its essentially like a diaper, but the plastic will breakdown in a landfill quickly.  There are other options out there for this too and I considered them, but for me this works.

I am currently using pine bedding (from the pets section) which has a nice scent, but I don’t think it absorbs as well as other options.  I’m thinking I’m going to switch to a mix of half pine bedding and half mix of peat moss which is very absorbent.  Peat moss is a pretty good option, but it isn’t a sustainable material, it’s harvesting is actually quite destructive to wet lands.  I know for gardening that coconut coir (husks) is the sustainable version of peat, but I don’t know how it performs in composting toilets.  I’ve ordered an 11 lb block of coconut coir for $16 to try out, which I’ll report back on later.

It has been pretty straight forward, but I still opt to keep my bucket setup outdoors.  I do keep my liquids and solids separate, which at this point means I go peep in the woods and then use the bucket.  Later on I hope add a urine diverter later on, but it isn’t a must at this time.  I have a mini deck space that I keep it on.  The smell isn’t anything to be concerned over, but I’m not sure having it inside with no moving air would be a good idea at this point.

luggable looMy bucket has a pretty tight seal on the lid, so it is pretty hard for things to crawl in, but it is possible.  The other day I went to use my setup and when I opened the lid, I was greeted by a swarm of fly larva.  A hundred wriggling maggots.  It was gross!    What was interesting was they were on the seat between the seat and the lid.  What I don’t know is if that was because the flies couldn’t get into the toilet or if they just preferred that narrow space.

Luckily it was very simple to take care of.  I easily popped off the lid, then hosed it off in a very sunny spot.  I figured the intense sun would kill the larvae so I didn’t have a ton of flies.  I double bag the bucket so I closed the first bag, then tied up the second bag that was still clean.  Job done, took all of two minutes, but I realized something is flawed in my system.

I did some googling to discover that this is a semi-common issue when the heat of summer comes on.  You’ll be going along in the winter, it gets warmer and then all a sudden the flies come out.  I learned about a product called Mosquito Dunk, which you crumble into a spray bottle, mix up with water and then when you use the toilet, you give it a few mists on the surface.

mosquito dunkMosquito Dunk as described by the maker  is a “larvaecide that kills mosquito larvae only. It is deemed organic by the USEPA.  Dunks are harmless to beneficial insects, pets, birds, fish or wildlife.  Kills within hours and lasts for up to 30 days.”

So I’m going to give this option a try and see how things pan out.  I will report back in a few months as I learn more,

Finding Land For A Tiny House

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for tiny houses is finding land to put your tiny house, it can be tough to find land that will be well suited for it.  I wrote a very detailed post that outlines all the things you need to consider when setting up your land for a tiny house, read it here.

In more rural locations this may not be as hard as land is pretty available and cheap; not to mention building codes and enforcement are often a bit laxer.  However, most people live in cities, like myself, and land is tricky to come by.

In my city, Charlotte, there is very few empty lots that aren’t in a planned neighborhood that is governed by a HOA.  Land can be very expensive and the remaining lots often are not being used for very good reasons.

In general I think it’s best to find a place where there is a house there already, then piggyback off their utilities.  This can be a really easy option if you’re in a place that doesn’t have HOAs.  In Charlotte, most of the housing is about 20 years old or less, so Home Owner Associations are pretty much everywhere here in my city.  It’s just a matter of meeting the right people who might consider allowing you to live in your tiny house in their back yard.

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