Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

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5 Things I Got Totally Wrong About Tiny Houses

Having been involved with tiny houses for over 6 years now, having built my own tiny house, and now living in it, I’ve realized something: I got a few things really wrong. Some were assumptions I made about living in them, some of them were about the lifestyle, and some of them were about building them. So here are 5 things I got totally wrong.


1. I thought it was about the house, it’s not

When I first started with tiny houses, I was in love with the house, the design, the materials, and all the appointments. Now that I’m living in my house I realize that was so wrong; it has absolutely nothing to do with the house. It has everything to do with the lifestyle. The truth is, a tiny house is just another thing you buy, under the guise of breaking away from consumerism. But the break is not from the diminutive dwelling, it is in the mental separation from conspicuous consumption.

2. I thought I couldn’t buy things

Long before I found myself in the tiny house realm I was a big consumer. I loved gadgets and tech. Once I started going down the path of tiny houses I thought that portion of my life – and somewhat, my identity as a nerd – needed to come to a close, but I was all right with that because the benefits outweighed the “costs”. But then I realized it wasn’t that I couldn’t have the things I wanted, I just needed to be more intentional about them; in reality, I’m able have the things I want more readily because I have the cash to buy them.

3. I thought money worries would be a thing of the past

I crunched the numbers, made spreadsheets, and had a budget, all things pointed to me not really having to worry about money. The truth is that my tolerance for how close I was running to zero just changed. Before a tiny house if I had less than $2,000 in the bank I’d be nervous. Now that I live in a tiny house that anxiety hasn’t gone away, it’s just at a different level.

These days I freak out when my bank account drops below $20,000. I know what some of you are thinking, “$20,000! that’s a ton of money, you have nothing to worry about!” and 3 years ago I’d be in the same place, but it somehow is still just as real, just as scary; I can’t quite explain why, but the truth is that angst will never go away.

4. I thought my tiny house would be perpetually neat and tidy, just like all the tiny house photos

AHAHAHAHHAA! Boy was I wrong! There are many times my house is very tidy, but there are times it gets way out of control. I always keep a clean house, it just isn’t always neat. The truth is your tiny house will go from tidy to way out of control in about 5 seconds flat because it’s so small. It’s not that you’re a messy or dirty person, but if you put a single thing down, it starts to add up quickly due to the small space you’re living in. The other day I walked into my house, dropped my work bag, my gym bag and took of my shoes… it looked like a bomb had gone off and I had to move stuff out of the way just to open my closet to drop my keys and wallet.

5. I thought I’d be done building

When you build a tiny house, you’ll never be done. There will always be a few things that you want to improve, to try, to fix, etc. That is not to say that your house won’t be livable, you’ll most likely move in and keep doing things. There will always be a board to fix, some more trim to add, or a new shelf to build into a nook. Another part of this is you’ve suddenly acquired a new skill set – woodworking – and even though most of us are still newbies to it, you don’t go out and build a whole house if you aren’t one who likes building things. I’m really excited about the prospect of starting some smaller woodworking projects that I get to flex my fine woodworking skills with.

Things That Will Happen To You Once You Move Into A Tiny House

It’s a funny thing. You work for a long time to make it to living in a tiny house and then, one day, you do. The big question that I had and many of you will have is…now what? While that will be different for each of you, there will be some things that will most definitely happen to you.

Things That Will Happen

1. You will forever be introduced as the guy/girl who “lives in a tiny house” in every social situation

2. Half of people will tell you that they could never live in such a small space

3. The other half will tell you that they totally could live in a tiny house, but you can tell they never really would

4. You’ll begin to ask bigger questions of yourself, your life and its meaning

5. You’ll become way more laid back and find yourself just enjoying the here and now

6. You’ll own a nail gun and aren’t afraid to use it

7. Everyone will compare your house to their bathroom or closet and all you can think is, “I get it, it’s small”

8. You’ll go to the grocery store or farmers market a lot. Tiny fridges only hold so much

9. People will email you telling you what’s wrong with your house and how you should fix it, without you asking

10. You’ll find dinner parties seem way more intimate and interesting in such a small space

11. You’ll notice that conversations with other tiny house people seem deeper, richer and more valuable

12. People will point blank ask you about how you poop or other intimate details

13. Your bank account will grow and it feels good!

14. After taking on building a tiny house, other things just seem easier

15. Trying new things won’t be as scary

16. You’ll still feel like you have too much stuff

17. You might just end up leaving your job to start your own thing

18. Living in a tiny house will feel normal and you might start to feel like your house seems big

19. There will be days you don’t like living tiny and that’s okay

20. Many days you’ll be grateful


Your Turn!

  • Which do you look forward to most?
  • What else would you add to the list?

Why Only You Can Make It Happen

kljlkI found this video recently that I really liked.  It struck a cord on many levels for me; as a tiny house person, as an entrepreneur, as a location independent / digital nomad.  The video introduces the concept of “learned helplessness” which standing on this side of tiny house (living The Tiny Life) is all too clear to me now.  I now wonder if there are other areas of my life that I just am assuming are the way they are, things that I’m blind to?

Welcome To The Tiny Life


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.

Ryan Mitchell Tiny houseFirst 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.


floor plan

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.

Time wise 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 have anyone I knew 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, 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 which is 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 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 the because I was looking for a place to park and I had 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 it.  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.



Tiny House Force Multipliers: Taking Life To The Next Level

I’ve been doing some thinking about tiny houses and my path to them.  A little bit ago I realized that there were some key things I did that I realized may have actually taken the good of my tiny house and brought it to the next level: They acted as a force multiplier.  What is a force multiplier?Untitled-1It’s crazy to think that things could get even better while living in a tiny house! But when we look at tiny house force multipliers we can really take tiny houses to the next level with some tweaks.  Here are five things I’ve come to realize will take your living in a tiny house – or even just those who are living tiny, but not yet in a tiny house – to the next level and change the trajectory of your life so profoundly it will amaze you.

1.  Become Totally Debt Free

This seems obvious and its easier said than done, but living debt free does a lot to for you in terms of financial freedom, reducing stress, and opening up opportunities for yourself.  What is more, when you’re not paying off debt, not only do you not have that money sink, but you can then leverage those funds in better ways.  The opportunity cost here is huge, check out this post.

I also feel the need to clarify that when I say debt free, I mean totally debt free; too often I hear people say “we’re debt free” only to later her about a car payment or student loan. No!  That’s not debt free!  All forms of debt are essentially shackles placed upon you and thus inhibit your ability to live life on your own terms.  For those of you who do have debt, of any kind, make a plan and get rid of it; the only thing that’s worse than debt is being convinced that there is “good debt” or doing nothing about it.

2. Shift To A Location Independent Career

Having a location independent career is essentially having a way to earn a living without having to be physically in one spot all the time.  Basically you can earn a living working remotely, not having to be cooped up in a cubical 9-5 five days a week.  This has been something that from day one I have always wanted to incorporate into my tiny life and since starting this journey have only recently (early 2013) been able to achieve.

Untitled-1I knew that not having to be in an office would make a huge difference, but now that I have been living this life (see this post), I am beginning to think that it actually has had a larger impact than even moving into a tiny house.

Earning a living in this manner has done two main things for me: 1) I can work from interesting places that best for me  2) Since I don’t have to be in an office, my income is not tied to time spent in a chair, but to how productive I am.  This means that I can travel and work from wherever and when I do work, I work as long as it takes to get my tasks done.  This often means that I can buckle down, be efficient, then be done and since I can work from awesome places I can then get up and go explore the places I travel to for the rest of the time.

3.  Built In Resiliency

Resiliency is the ability to respond to changes and shocks to your life and bounce back quickly.  Today in America we are very reliant upon external systems to handle a lot of what we need to do; Things like our food system, our power grid, how most people weather tough times via credit cards, etc.  I will try not to go too deep into this because how large of a topic it is, but read this post to learn more about it.  Suffice to say, I feel like its important for us to plan to stand on our own two feet and to be able to weather the ups and downs in life.  If we plan for those rainy days we extricate ourselves from putting out fires or living crisis to crisis and enter into a place of stability where we can be our best selves.


There is a good part of the world that lives crisis to crisis and for those who are well off, they typically live big purchase to big purchase. It is no wonder that things are like this because 75% of Americans live pay check to pay check.  Try to understand what that must do on your health, your relationships, your quality of life, your well being when most people barley can come up for air.

Some examples of this for me have been having money set aside for a rainy day.  Opting to have solar panels and a generator.  Having a garden and extra seeds.  Living in a tiny house that I can move to different locations easily.

4. Diversified Income

This is the next major step I’m trying to incorporate into my life.   It’s one that I think will help me boost my resiliency and bring a lot of positives into my life.  Basically my goal is to develop a way to earn a living in addition to the one I already make.  I want this income to be in a different sector, a different way of making money, and have its strong points be the weak points of my other income.  The idea here is if I can earn an additional income unique from my first, they are less likely to both fail or slump at the same time.  Basically when it comes to earning a living, I don’t want all my eggs in one basket.  I have some ideas on how I’m going to do this and am looking forward to pulling the trigger soon.

5. Building A Rainy Day Plan

Here’s the truth, in life, there are going to be bad days and even a few horrible days.  Some will be annoying, but a good night sleep will fix it, others will be catastrophic: illness, job loss, death of loved one, divorce, etc.  In either case you really only need two things: the support of loved ones and time to work through it.  So we know these things are going to happen, so why don’t we plan for it?


For me a rainy day plan means: have money in the bank so I can live without working for at least a year, have food tucked away for 3 months, have health insurance and I am moving quickly to being debt free.  What this means is if something really bad happens I can just take the time to work through it, do what is best for me at that moment.  I don’t have to worry about work, how I’m going to put food on the table, or pay my bills; I can just deal with that situation, with that grief, with that problem.  In these times you’re best hope is to minimize what you have to worry about and maintain or boost what is most comforting to you.


Your Turn!

  • How can you take the good in your life and take it up a notch?
  • What do you do to weather the bad times and not worry in the good times?
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