Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

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Welcome To The Tiny Life

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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

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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.

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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?

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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?

Don’t Go Gentle Into That Night

I recently was listening to a podcast where a quote was given that struck me.  I have been thinking a lot recently about how predetermined and designed life can be for us unless we wake up and take charge.  The quote was:

It’s called the American dream because you

have to be asleep to believe it.

Wake from your slumber!

The scary thing is if we don’t wake up from this slumber of complacency, our lives are influenced to a point that defies common sense.  It may be extreme sounding, but to be a cog in the machine, to work long hours only to “buy, buy, buy!” it’s like we are merely an engine which we fuel consumerism.  That isn’t to say that to consume, buy or trade is inherently wrong, but to do it with such abandon that the average American has over $15,000 in credit card debt is insane. (source)

dulyposted-live-your-life_quote-610x610Being “awake” is an odd experience when people some call tiny housers crazy for living in a tiny house.  If I were to have no debt of any kind and $10 in my pocket, I’d have more wealth than 25% of Americans combined!  If I have no debt and $15,000, I’d have a higher net worth than about the bottom third of Americans… combined! (source)

We are told debt is normal, that credit cards are normal, that a home loan and a student loans are a “good investment” and people believe it.  I believed it for a time!  I have a Master’s degree and after crunching the numbers, it panned out financially, but that is quickly changing for many people. (source)  A home loan… no thank you.  I have friends who talk about buying a home, with no money down and all I can think of is “I want you to be happy, but I can’t but help question the wisdom of not being able to afford a down payment, but thinking you can afford a house”.

I don’t think it’s my place to say people can’t shop till they drop, have no debt of any kind or they should live in a tiny house.  But I struggle when I see people – particularly friends – taking this predetermined path without giving it serious consideration.  If someone were to be fully aware of things and still decided to proceed, I’d be okay with that, but blindly following the pattern is scary.

tumblr_mzzdbvaN5A1sk4myeo1_1280As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen more and more of my friends get into the grind of adulthood and be miserable in their jobs; luckily I think this is the minority of my friends/acquaintances.  I’ve had friends comment that they now drink more than they used to because it makes the work week a bit more bearable.

I see consumerism as a troublesome band-aid for many folks who are unhappy with some aspect of their life.  Again, I’m not saying no consuming, there are things we need in life, but it shouldn’t be a coping mechanism like it is used today for so many.  I was shocked to find out that I know several people who go to the mall and shop 2-3 times a week!  I think the city where I live, Charlotte, is on the extreme end of this, because I have 6 large malls within a 30 minute drive of my home; there is even tour bus companies here that bring people to our city just to shop!

To not just complain about it all, below are some things that might help determine your own path.

  1. Consider what your goals are in life, then look at why they are your goals, dig deep.
  2. Write a personal mission statement.
  3. Do the math on what debt really means for you.
  4. Ask yourself “if I could do anything right now, what would it be?”
  5. Identify the reason you cannot do number 4 right now… How can you eliminate that?
  6. Consider how resilient your currently are in your situation.  How can you be more resilient?
  7. Identify stressors and potential disrupts, guard against or change to eliminate.

 

To close I thought I’d share this poem, which I used part of in the title.  It’s by Dylan Thomas

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

Finally, I’d like to hear your thoughts about this topic. 

Your Turn!

  • How did you “wake up”?
  • How do you help people consider their path?
  • How can we awaken loved ones we care about?

Gratitude In The New Year

With New Years right around the corner, many folks are thinking about what will come in 2014.  Many people will also be making new years resolutions.  I’d like to propose something a little bit different this year.  Instead of looking forward to what will be, lets look back and what has been; more specifically, lets practice gratitude for all the good things that we enjoyed in 2013.

This looking back and practicing gratitude has been show to be more productive.  It is something that I have learned this year to be a huge boost to my happiness, there are moments where I am struck by how lucky I have been and what a great life I have been fortunate enough to live.  I have learned to appreciate the things we often take for granted.

This practice of expressing gratitude has been shown in studies to actually boost happiness.

2013 was an amazing year, lets be thankful for it.

5 Gifts For Tiny Housers

Out of all the things that comes up with tiny houses, the holidays might be the trickiest for tiny house folks.  Even after years of living tiny, people around me still feel the need to give gifts.  While it isn’t necessary, I appreciate gifts much more because people really have to think of a creative ways to gift without taking up space in my tiny house.

Today I wanted to share the top 5 gift ideas for tiny house folks.

If you are having trouble telling people what you want for the holidays, try sending them this post so they can get some ideas!

1. Experiences:

This is my absolute favorite gift to give and receive because it means that I can do something fun with that person that I care about.  It could be dinner out, tickets to an event or some other adventure.  I try to think of things that the person likes and often get two so that not only is it an awesome experience, but we can experience it together.

Gift idea: Use code  “tiny2013″ for $50 off tickets to the Tiny House Conference click here!

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2. Consumables

Next up is things that people can eat or use up.  Things that after a certain amount of use is are gone.  A perfect example of this is food items.  We are all busy and most of us like food, so making something or buying something that person likes is a great gift.  Think of things that are difficult to make or some other cause for it not being a regular thing.  Other things outside of food could be candles, eco friendly bath products, fire wood.

Gift Idea: a subscription to a CSA (community support agriculture).

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3. Help them pursue a dream

For those we care about, we want to see them succeed.  Find out some of things that the person is working towards in their goals.  Also learning about what is on people’s bucket list is another great way to get ideas of what you might be able to help them with their goals.  If people ask you for what you want, you can think of things that will help you achieve your goals.  The obvious thing here for this blog is how can you better achieve your goal of living in a tiny house?  Get a copy of your plans made up, get that resource you’ve been eying or what about getting some one on one coaching from us here?

Gift idea:  One on One coaching with the experts of The Tiny Life at our sister website – Tiny House Craftsman!

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4. Something you’re already going to buy anyway.

I do this a lot, since I don’t really need much, I don’t buy much either.  So when something comes up that I need to replace it or buy something new, I hold off and suggest it as a gift when others ask.  For example, I am in need of new shoes, have been for a month or so, but I’ve been holding off.  This way those who must have to give me a gift can and its something that I really need; Often something that will replace a worn out item.

Gift Idea: Shoes, socks, tires, etc.

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5. Digital or no tangible items.

Sometimes there are gifts that take up no space at all and can be used later on.   I’m thinking of gift cards, vouchers and digital downloads.  A gift card to your favorite restaurant takes up next to no space, but is a great way for you to still give or receive things when you are living tiny.  Other things could be itunes music, movies, or other media.

Gift Idea: Cracking The Code – Guide to building codes and zoning for tiny houses!

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