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 alright 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 adds up quickly because the space is small that you’re living in. The other day I walked into my house, dropped my work bag, my gym bag and took off my shoes… it looked like a bomb had gone off. 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.

  1. I really like #1 and find it to be so true, so many people are caught up in buying the best Tiny house they can without really understanding why they are doing it. I think it’s more important to break away from that consumption pattern and only then should one consider Tiny living.

  2. I imagine that it is a lot like living on a boat. It is usually not what you originally envisioned but still it is wonderful and a world of its own.

  3. In spite of many people trying to make it a monolithic “movement” with some common manifesto, tiny house living is a very individual thing. There is a wide spectrum of reasons and results that may or may not overlap from one person to the next. The only thing that stays the same is that you should carefully examine why and how to do it so it works for you and you need to be honest with yourself as you go along. Theory is fine for getting started but reality can sure come as a surprise.

  4. After many years with a home (or two) of our own, and property managing for years, I am so ready to be done with large homes. We have already in this preparation process downsized from 2200 SF to 1100 SF and we realize that we only use about 500 of that space.

    In prep for financially being solvent – we just stopped spending. We actually went two weeks without buying anything except fresh veggies and bread. We basically ate through all the freezer items = and threw some away. Cleaned out fridge. Our goal is to live now as simply as we want be in the future in our tiny home.

    Our goal now if we do buy something is “useful and beautiful”…. not just one or the other (unless it is something maintenance related).

    And our other goal – if something comes in, something of equal mass or volume must go out! Keeps us from hoarding!

  5. hi everybody. I’m brenda. I have had something powerful come over me lately. It has been very emotional. I own a home. 2 story. I am on my own. The hydro, gas, insurance, taxes etc. are becoming too much ! I’m on a disability so the fixed income sucks. I have be a collector of stuff for years. I am only one person. I don’t need all this space. I want to unclutter my life and build a tiny off grid house. I plan to educate myself on Little houses and solar living . My friends think I’m crazy. Oh well. I would like to go to a work shop to learn more. I’m in Quinte west Ontario Canada.

  6. Ryan – you always manage to say just what I am thinking. This time is no exception. I also think I write that comment on a lot of your most insightful posts. All of these things are so very true. And I also agree that living in a tiny home is going to be so personal for everyone who chooses to do it.

  7. It’s interesting that Wright designed his homes with little storage space because he also thought about lifestyle after they were built. As he said ” many wealthy people are little more than janitors of their possessions.” It takes some getting used to said one owner but she was happy in the space.

    I bought small, not tiny and am quite pleased. I imagine I will retire into a smallish RV and also be satisfied.

  8. hi all tiny house lovers.i am.i am wanting atiny house for about 2years. i am 65. and alone. 2time home owener. am retired. want to live small. and enjoy the rest of my life enjoying people and having fun with them. i am areborn again christian. with a small inheratance. and do not know barely how to start my tiny house. may be it is just a dream now. i am only 4ft. 10inches. do ya think i can fit in one???? ha ha piece of cake. love ya ALL.KATHY FROM WISCONSIN. THANK YOU.

  9. So why don’t you just buy a used RV .There cheaper and lighter and made for the road. This tiny house stuff is just a fad. Give me a real house any day.

  10. It sounds more like you are growing into being an adult. (NO offense, I’m OLD) these types of realizations tend to come about anyway. People used to start out in efficiency apts and the like and then move up as they grew in earnings and savings. The super loose credit situation of the last 25 years has changed that for people coming into adulthood. However, most are so deeply into debt by the time they hit late 20’s that the loose credit is no gift…

    I’m glad you posted your valuable lessons learned.

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