How Much Does A Tiny House Cost: From Someone Who’s Done It

How Much Does A Tiny House Cost: From Someone Who's Done It

how much does a tiny house cost

If you were like me when I first started I have one big question: how much does a tiny house cost to build?  Now that I’ve actually built my own tiny house and come out the other side, I wanted to do the full tiny house cost breakdown for others that want to live in a tiny house on wheels.

How Much Does A Tiny House Cost?

the average price of tiny house

The average tiny house costs between $10,000 and $30,000 to build yourself, double those numbers if you hire a builder to build it for you.  But that is only part of the picture and depending on options, the price can vary a lot.  Many people are hoping to build their tiny house at a certain price point because of budget constraints or other factor, so the real question becomes, what’s the difference between a $10,000 tiny house and a $50,000 tiny house?

Tiny House Cost Breakdown

tiny house cost breakdown

What’s great about tiny houses is they’re really an approachable size, so it’s pretty easy to think through a cost breakdown for each part of a tiny house.

  • Trailer: $3,500 to $5,500
  • Windows: $500-$$6,000
  • Metal roofing: $500 to $2,000
  • Insulation: $500 to $3000
  • Siding: $1,000 to $2,500
  • Lumber: $1,000 to $5,000
  • Interior finishes: $500-$4,000
  • Electrical: $750 to $3,000
  • Shower: $400 to $1,000
  • Water heater: $500 to $1000
  • HVAC: $500 to $1,500
  • Toilet: $20-$800
  • Fixtures: $1,000-$5,000
  • Appliances: $400 to $4,000
  • Interior wall: $500 to $1000
  • Flooring: $300 to $1,000
  • Fasteners/Adhesives: $1,500
  • Paint: $50 to $200

Tiny House Building Materials List:

tiny house materials list

When it comes to getting a true sense of a tiny house cost, you need to understand the different materials that go into your tiny house.  When I first started my build, I had never done anything like it before, but what I realized is if I break down the house into different parts, I could make it even more manageable, that’s how we’ll figure out costs.

The big thing to know is most of your budget will be dedicated to your trailer, doors/windows, roof, and mechanical.  These are things that I wouldn’t skimp on at all, I’d buy the best I could afford.  This will account for 80% of your costs.  For an example my trailer cost me $3,600, my doors and windows were $6,000, roof was $2,600, and HVAC was $1,800.

Trailer

tiny house trailer

The trailer for your tiny house is one of those places you don’t want to skip and you don’t want to mess around.  I’ve see it now a hundred time, someone trying to save money by getting a used trailer.  Unless you are already handy with metal working and have some experience, you won’t save any money going the used route because fixes, repairs, reinforcements, a new paint job and new tires and wheels will leave you broke.

I have personally watch over 100 people try it and fail to save a dime.  What’s worse, they worry about their trailer not being good enough, which is a nightmare when you home is relying on it.

The next thing I see is people overspending for “tiny house trailers” that are purpose built.  The differences are minor and all you’re really paying for their markup.  None of the tiny house trailer sellers actually make them, so go to the source: Big Tex Trailers, Kaufman Trailers, etc.

Estimated Costs:  20 foot trailer: $2,800, 24 foot trailer: $3,000, 30 foot trailer $4,500

Windows For A Tiny House

tiny house windows

I spent a lot on my windows because they were all custom, but if you buy standard window sides and don’t mind white vinyl windows you can save a ton.  My windows cost me around $6,500 for double pane, argon filled, low-e glass that was tempered glass.  You definitely want tempered glass that are high quality and good efficiency.

Windows are one of those things that it can be tempting to try to save money on by going low quality, but you’ll pay for it in your electric bill month after month for the rest of your life.

Estimated Costs: $120 per window for stock sizes, $250 per window for custom options

Doors For A Tiny House

tiny house doors

I wanted to try my hand at building my own door and this was one thing that I struggled with immensely.  Even with the help of my Grandfather who is quite a skilled woodworker, we had a tough time building the door.  If I had to do it all over again I’d go with a metal or composite door bought from a manufacturer.

The problem you face with doors is they have to be exceedingly accurate and that is compounded by how wood moves, warps, and twists.  We employed a lot of techniques to stabilized the wood within the door, but in the end my door is still far from perfect.  Do yourself a favor, have a door manufacturer build your door for you.

Estimated Costs: $500 for self built door, $800 for basic manufactured door $1,500 good to high-end manufactured door

Roofing Options For A THOW

tiny house roofing options

The roof is a critical part of a tiny house, it keeps your investment safe from water.  It’s not something to do casually, you need to really nail it or it can spell disaster for you.  For a tiny house on wheels that you might want to move, metal roofing is the only practical option.  I opted for standing seam metal, which is amazing, but a ribbed metal or corrugated metal roof can work too.

The tricky parts of doing a metal roof is in bending all the custom bits to fit your edges, valleys, drip edges, and skylights.  That last one, skylights, are notorious for leaks on any roof, so make sure you follow the manufacture directions, most of them sell kits that cost an arm and a leg, but I’d just bite the bullet on that, it’s that important.

If you’re thinking of asphalt shingles, don’t bother.  They are too heavy and they get torn off while driving down the road.

Estimated Costs: $1,000 for ribbed metal, $2,000 for standing seam

Insulating Your Tiny House

tiny house insulation

Much like windows, insulation is one of those things that you spend a little more and you save each month for years.  The return on your investment is huge, so don’t skimp here.

In the early days I’d suggest a few options like standard fiberglass bats, foam board, and even sheep’s wool.  Now that I’ve been working with tiny houses for over a decade, I see how those options have their failings.  I now unilaterally recommend closed cell spray foam.

The benefits of spray foam are many, but ability to seal your thermal envelope, it’s water resistance, and its ability to prevent condensation issues are leaps ahead of any other option.  Not only that, but it has the highest R value per inch out of any other practical option.

So this is an easy one, go with closed cell spray foam.  If you have a contractor that recommends open cell, send them packing.

Estimated Costs: $3 per square foot for 3 inches thick (R 21)

Lumber To Build Your House

tiny house lumber

This can have a wide range of prices depending on what finish quality you go after, but for your standard framing pieces it’s all about the same.  There are two real buckets of lumber that you’ll need: framing and finish.

Framing for a tiny house will be very affordable, a few hundred dollar, up to about $1000 for the whole house depending on it’s size and any specialized beams like Glue-Lams.  There isn’t much price difference here, with the exception of treated vs untreated lumber.

Finish woods are where you can spend some real money, from a few hundred to a few thousand.  At it’s simplest you could build out your interior cabinets and built ins with MDF which runs about $35 a sheet.  My preference is Birch Ply which runs about $50 a sheet because I can stain it or paint it, it’s a much nicer project.  The only non sheet good products you’ll use is timber beams for your accents and loft framing.  For that I spent about $80 per beam and had 5 of them.

Estimated Cost: $500-$4,000

Flooring Options For Your Tiny House

tiny house flooring

Flooring is one area that you can look for savings on. You can find reclaimed flooring, you can buy short lots of flooring, and you can even go with a cheap option now and upgrade later.  I’ve even seen people do a finished floor with plywood.

So when it comes to flooring you can really run the gamut depending on the price you want to spend.  For me I went with a solid hardwood maple floor that was about $4 a square foot.

Estimated Cost: $0.50-$8 per square foot

Electrical/Plumbing In A Tiny House

tiny house electric and plumbing

Wiring and plumbing your tiny house can be done pretty affordably if you want to do it yourself, if you need to hire a trades person, then it’s going to cost you.  it’s important to note that by law in many places you need a permit and the work needs to be done by a licensed electrician or plumber.

In my area an electrician costs between $75 and $150 an hour, plumbers are about the same.  For me, what I did was have the electrician do the main breaker panel connection and setup, then I did the rest of the work.  For the plumber, I had everything done and just had him come in and do all my crimps for me and check over my work.

The thing with electrical and plumbing most of the money and the variability in the price is in the labor, the parts are what they are, you’re not going to be able to shop for better prices because they are such a commoditization type of goods.  The copper, brass, etc that makes up the raw materials are what they are.  Figure about $300-$500 in electrical stuff and $300-$500 in plumbing items.  This doesn’t include finished stuff like faucet, shower, etc, just the actual connections.

Estimated Cost: $750-$3,000

Fixtures

tiny house fixtures

I’m lumping in things like your lights, bathtubs, shower stalls, sinks, mounted fans, etc.  You can do this very cheaply outside of the shower, I’ve found that you can only get so low with a simple 32″x32″ shower stall for around $400.  You could technically do it cheaper, but I’ve found they often fail and lead to massive water damage.

Sinks can cost $50 or cost $500, my sink cost me about $225 for a nice stainless steel under mounted sink.  My light fixtures were pretty cheap, a bunch of $10 puck lights and a $80 ceiling fan.

Estimated Cost: $1,000-$5,000

Fasteners And Adhesives

tiny house fasteners and adhesives

This is one category that people always forget to budget for and it’s something you can’t reuse or find second hand.  You need quality fasteners and glues that are new because you need to know exactly what you’re getting for safety sake.  Code also has very specific rules around this.

For me I spend around $1500 for all my nails, screws, metal strapping, glues, and various metal ties.

Estimated Cost: $1,500

 

Tiny House Costs: Build Vs. Buying From A Builder

Here’s the truth, if you want someone to build you a tiny house, it’s going to cost you big time.  Tiny houses came into being because you could save yourself so much money because of two things:  They’re smaller in sized and you could build it yourself.  There is no way around it, having a tiny house builder build you a tiny house will cost more money.

The rule of thumb I tell people is take the cost of the materials and then double it.  About 50%-60% of the cost of a home (tiny or traditional) is in the labor.  So a tiny house that costs $10,000 in materials, will cost about $20,000-$25,000 from a builder.  A tiny house that is $30k in materials, will cost around $60,000-$75,000 for a builder to build it for you.  If you use a builder, make sure to get a contract!

This leads me to the big take away, tiny houses only really make sense if you can build it yourself and the really good news is that I believe literally anyone can build their own tiny house, even if you’ve never build something before.  It’s totally doable and if you want to live in a tiny house, you shouldn’t pay a builder in my opinion, you should build it yourself.

You’ll save a ton of money, learn valuable skills and you know your house will be built right because you did it, not some builder who’s trying to turn out a house each month to earn a profit.

The good news is anyone, yes even you, can build a tiny house.  If you’ve never used a tool in your life, never built anything, if you aren’t that strong or don’t know how… You can build a tiny house.  I put all the info together for you in my book:  How To Build A Tiny House.

Tiny Houses Cost Money, But It’s Worth It

are tiny houses worth the effort

When I made the leap to living in a tiny house I was concerned due to how much it was costing me.  But I knew if I could live in my tiny house for 2 years, it would be the same amount as me having paid rent in an apartment in my city.  Now looking back, it’s been over 5 years of living in my tiny house full time and I couldn’t be happier.  With more money in the bank than ever while working less hours, it’s a winning combination.

Since going tiny, I’ve left my corporate job for a better self employment path, I work way less hours, make more money and spend more time with friends, family and traveling.  It’s an amazing lifestyle and it all starts by taking charge of your life and going tiny.

Your Turn!

  • What costs are you considering when it comes to your tiny house?
  • What budget are you working with for a tiny house?

How to Destress Your Life

How to Destress Your Life

how to destress your lifeI get asked for advice by a lot of readers. One of the most common is how to destress your life and live a simpler, calmer existence.

Now, I’ll admit, paring down and living a life with less stuff has helped address the root cause of my stress quite a bit. The simpler your lifestyle, the less chaos you need to worry about. Minimalism lends itself to a calm, orderly way to focus on what matters.

But, of course, there are plenty of times when I get stressed out about money, too many commitments, or social drama. Even though I’ve managed to cut way back on the typical stressors, there are times when I still have to step back and destress. So, if you’re wondering how to destress your life, here are the practical steps I take to cut out the chaos.

1. Recognize Your Stress

recognizing stress

Many people don’t know how to recognize stress or figure out when they’re feeling it. Yes, there are obvious signs of anxiety or distress, but with “normal” stressors, many people don’t even realize how much they’re feeling.

Sometimes, small stressors will eat at you. You won’t realize it until you’re completely stressed out, seeing effects on your sleep, eating habits, and happiness. This is especially common when people are very busy. You may look back on periods of your life and think, “Woah, my stress was way out of control and I didn’t even know it at the time.”

Personally, when I get stressed, I clean. Suddenly it’s a Wednesday afternoon and I’m scrubbing down my kitchen and I’ll stop and realize there’s something weighing on my mind. I don’t normally grab a broom and start cleaning just because. It’s typically a sign I’m really feeling pressure and I need to figure out how to destress my life.

recognize what gives you stress

Maybe cleaning isn’t your coping mechanism. Some people eat sweets, some people run, some people sleep, others stop sleeping, while others lose themselves in a TV show or video game. Whatever your coping method is, it’s important to recognize it.

If you recognize the signs of a stressful time, it will better help you know how to destress your life by taking the right approach to mitigate the problem. From there, strategize ways to address the root cause of your distress.

Some people experience common signs of stress, while others show very minor symptoms that go unnoticed (but still ultimately take their toll. A friend of mine told me she really only notices she’s stressed when every little thing gets under her skin—an offhanded comment, traffic, minor inconveniences. Another friend grinds his teeth in his sleep.

Discover your signs of stress and learn to recognize them right away. This will help you start to plan your approach to address the stressors.

2. Cancel One Appointment

cancel one appointment to reduce your stress level

If you want to know how to destress your life, take a look at your calendar first. How packed is your agenda? How much free time do you have scheduled? Is your calendar full and your to-do list long?

The first action I take when I’m feeling stressed is to look at my schedule for the week and find something I can cancel. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fun social outing with a friend, an activity I had planned, or a show I have tickets for. I write it off.

Now, a lot of people push back on this idea. There’s a lot of guilt tied up in our commitments. People are convinced they can’t possibly cancel anything.  It would be laughable how predictable humans are on this point if it weren’t for the fact their health was taking a hit by being so stressed. So, put aside your excuses, your reasons, just choose something, and cancel it.

cancel appointment to make life easier

Even if you live a minimalist lifestyle and simplify your routine as much as possible, chances are, your calendar still gets booked now and then. Be mindful of how you schedule your time.

The counterfoil to stress is time to step back, catch your breath and collect your thoughts. What helps you destress? Is it exercise? Cooking? Reading a book? Whatever your hobbies are, take that chunk of (now free) time and enjoy yourself.

Going forward, learning to say “no” is one of the most empowering actions you can take. Avoid scheduling or committing when you know it will cause you undue stress. Learn to say no to perceived obligations and let go of feeling guilty. Remember, when your schedule is less stressful and packed, your work will improve, you’ll feel happier, and you’ll get more enjoyment out of the activities remaining on your calendar.

3. Fix the Actual Problem to Destress Your Life

fix the problem to fix stress

Many people attempt to fill up a leaky bucket by adding more water instead of stopping the hole. When it comes to stress, people feel like they should pour more time, energy, and effort into the problem, rather than addressing it at the root. This is a vicious cycle, one that will run you into the ground, leaving you sick, tired, and worse off than before.

The next time you’re wondering how to destress your life, step back and ask, “Why am I stressed about this? How did I get in this situation in the first place?”

Money is a good example of this. People often stress about their finances and debt without addressing the root cause. How do you minimize your spending and figure out a way to stop living a lifestyle you can’t afford? I’ll admit, when I decided to shift into tiny space living, it was mainly out of financial necessity. I realized I simply couldn’t afford to live otherwise. Once I made the choice to address the problem, money became much less stressful. I could afford the way I was living and that was freeing.

I still push myself to address the money stress often. I’ve been on a buying freeze for the last year (buying only consumables and necessities), which has gone very well. I’m surprised at how much it’s helped me really focus on my needs and prioritize.

what bothers you, fix that

There’s not enough credence given to creatively fixing problems, either. For example, if your house is always a mess, instead of stressing out over cleaning (or not having enough time to clean), why not look into how much a housekeeper costs? Is it worth it to you to hire a housekeeper and eliminate the root cause of your stress? Another example: I hate doing laundry. I pay $15 per week for someone to do my laundry. Is it an extra expense? Yes, but it’s 100% worth it. One of the most stressful jobs on my plate is gone.

We can often fix problems simply and cheaply for good if we think about new ways to address our stress. Can you afford to outsource the problem? What could you do preemptively to avoid the problem in the future?

If you have financial issues, could you schedule time to review your budget each week or month? If you hate doing dishes, could you commit to rinsing them each night before they pile up too much? Could you schedule laundry time twice a week to avoid falling behind?

4. Set Up Rituals and Routines

setup routines to help with the chaos in life

Ritual and routine are the secret way to destress your life. When we face chaos and uncertainty, it adds to our stress. Even deciding what to wear each day, what to eat, or how to plan your workday all become additional stressors.

Minimizing your lifestyle helps to reduce these extraneous stressors immensely. For example, dressing in a sort of uniform style takes the stress out of deciding what to wear to work each day. You don’t have to eat the same food for lunch every day, but packing your lunch routinely each night will help you prepare without hassle in the morning.

When you wake up every morning, aim for a similar time. Set up a regular morning routine (especially since mornings are notoriously stressful for many people). Wake up, take a shower, make breakfast, sip coffee. Personally, I like to drink my coffee on the front porch while I figure out my plan for the day.

set up routines to help with every day stress

These rituals become anchors for us in times of chaos. The idea is, even if your life is a mess over there, you know what to expect over here because you have a ritual and a routine. It helps to create more balance.

Be sure to build in something you really love in your daily routine. Take a short walk, listen to music, check out a podcast. Whatever it is, that calms you down, build it in. Take time for those little rewards so you feel refreshed and recharged.

On the same note, don’t let your ritual or routine become an obsession. Stress often stems from fighting against the flow and trying to keep up with everything in our lives. If your routine breaks for a day, no big deal. You may forget, may not have time, or may simply want to do something else. That’s totally fine. Don’t beat yourself up about it.

Staying on a routine even offers health benefits like better sleep and less anxiety. So yes, it may seem a bit boring to stick to a routine but in the long run, it will help you figure out how to destress your life and keep up with whatever life throws your way.

5. Schedule Time for Nothing

schedule nothing to make life eaiser and happier

When I had a big corporate job, there were times when I had to create pockets on my schedule to destress (and to keep my boss and coworkers from requesting my attention). I would put a webinar or another “away” note on my calendar, giving me a little uninterrupted time to finish up my projects, think creatively, and problem solve.

If your schedule is back-to-back all day, you may need to sign yourself out of your email, put an away message on your office Slack channel, or simply block out “busy” time on your calendar. These little breaks give you a chance to breathe, collect your thoughts, and will honestly enhance your performance.

schedule nothing to relax and enjoy life

If you can’t afford to take time out of your workday, be sure you’re at least taking full advantage of your breaks and lunchtime. Employers should give you time to get in a walk, eat your food away from your desk, and recharge. There’s a tendency in today’s corporate culture to see if employees can out-do each other by taking on more and more work. This tendency leads to burnout and stress.

When you’re out of the office or outside working hours, take time for yourself at home as well. Allow yourself time to do the activities that refresh you and recharge your batteries. Block out time on your calendar to simply think or if you like, meditate. No matter what you do, don’t feel guilty about it—this free time is helping you perform better at your job and life!

6. Put Away Your Phone

put away your phone and enjoy life

Phones are a real problem for many people. Try as we might, most of us can’t get rid of (or put down) our phones. There’s a constant barrage of messages, notifications, emails, and activities pulling at our attention and eating away at our time.

Unless you’re a doctor, a heart surgeon, nurse, or EMT, most telephone communications aren’t critical. Typically speaking, you can wait 20-30 minutes to return a phone call and even more time to return an email. (After all, if it was really all that urgent, wouldn’t they call?) Put down your phone and give yourself a chance to focus on what’s going on around you. The more you give yourself permission to stop being at the literal beck and call of everyone around you, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Cutting back on your phone (and internet) use is one simple minimalist habit that will make your life better. Remember, you don’t need to be there emotionally or mentally for everyone right away. It will only add to your stress.

Similarly, don’t answer work-related correspondence outside of work hours. Whenever you reply to an email or take a phone call, it sets the expectation with your boss and coworkers (or clients) you’re readily available all the time. Give it a break when you aren’t on the clock. No career, no matter how critical, should expect you to stay on-call 24 hours a day. Even doctors know they can burn out and make mistakes under stress.

put away your phone and talk to people

Recognize how social media may stress you out as well. If you want to know how to destress your life, stop comparing your life to others online. Don’t get involved in the drama we often see in online conversations. If you find yourself stressing about something someone said on social media, it’s probably time to take a break.

Stress is a natural part of life. There are many people who tell us adding more “stuff” to our lives—from lavender scented candles to white noise machines—will help us destress. There are others who encourage building in more time at the gym, more yoga lessons, or classes on stress reduction. While some of those suggestions may help in the long run, most people simply need a fast way to destress now.

Think of ways to remove stressors from your life. Spend less money on stuff you don’t need. Cut back on social obligations you don’t enjoy. Say no to commitments that rob you of your free time. Destressing your life is doable, especially if you cut back and learn to live with less.

Your turn:

  • How do you destress?
  • What do you do to make time for yourself?

How to Find Products You Only Need to Buy Once in a Lifetime

Choosing products you buy once in a lifetime
Living a (close to) zero-waste lifestyle means only buying what’s really necessary, and when you do need to purchase, finding products you only need to buy once. There are times when I’ve found items I needed to buy or replace only to be disappointed when the new product breaks down. So, how do you find products you only need to buy once?

You see, everything’s built to last a finite amount of time. A rule of manufacturing is to never invent the perfect lightbulb. Back when lightbulbs were first made, they were practically indestructible. Lightbulb makers quickly realized their business wouldn’t last long if they made lightbulbs you only need to buy once. Thus, lightbulbs were made with filaments to burn out after a few years. Occasionally you’ll see one of these very old lightbulbs that keeps shining, but as we know, lightbulbs, like many other products, aren’t built to last a lifetime.

There are, however, certain items you only need to buy once. Either they’re guaranteed to last or they’re built with such high-quality workmanship, they keep working for years. Here are the rules you should use to find practical products you only need to buy once in a lifetime.

How to Find Quality Products You Only Need to Buy Once

find quality products
For the last year, I’ve tried to maintain a zero (or close to zero) waste lifestyle. The biggest step I’ve taken toward doing this is that I’ve largely stopped buying anything other than consumables (like food, toilet paper, and toiletries). Not only does this cut back on the amount of waste and trash I produce, but it’s also great for saving money.

When I do need to buy or replace an item due to wear and tear, this is how I go about finding quality products I only need to buy once (or at least won’t need to buy again for a very long time).

Research the Life of the Product

research product life

I’m a big proponent of researching before I ever spend money on an item. This was especially true as I built and outfitted my tiny house. Of course, there are certain cases when I haven’t had time for extensive research, but usually I follow a rule to check reviews and thoroughly compare options before I buy.

At the very least, I always read the reviews on any product I plan to purchase. I look for independent reviews and unbiased sources whenever possible (and I post my own product reviews for others). Of course, most manufacturers put glowing reviews of their own products on their website, so it’s usually not the best source for honest product comparisons or learning the pros and cons. Look for independent sources. For example, when looking into solar ovens, I tested several brands against each other and posted my solar oven reviews online as a helpful resource.

Solar Oven Review and Guide

I look for review forums that I trust. If I’m looking for tiny house supplies, like a power generator or solar panel gear, I go to other tiny house forums and websites. Someone with a large cabin or a residential home will offer a very different perspective on these types of items because chances are their needs are different from mine. As a blogger, I also think it’s very important to share my own experience to help others navigate issues like how to find the best tiny house plans.

When I’m buying a larger item like an appliance or electronic, I’ll also check Consumer Reports (when possible). Most of their product reviews are only accessible with a paid membership, but many public libraries carry issues of the printed reports. It may also be worth the cost to access a report before a major purchase.

consumer reports for product reviews

Reviews on Amazon and Google are also helpful for products, but because they aren’t as carefully regulated, be wary of bias and false reviews. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people give items a poor review for strange reasons like, “It didn’t fit on my counter” or “the color didn’t match my house.” Read with discretion, paying close attention to mentions about the life of the product, common problems, and customer support offered by the manufacturer.

One tip is to read the 3-star reviews. People selling the product are only going to give themselves 4- or 5-star reviews. Competitors might try to fake bad reviews with 1- or 2-star reviews. Three-star reviews are the sweet spot; no one is going to pay for a fake 3-star review, so you can usually get a good view on what the product is really like.

There are also sites like Buy Me Once and Buy This Once that offer full listings of products built to last. Many of these items either feature a lifetime guarantee or are so highly durable, they’re proven to last years, so you only need to buy once. Reddit’s sub r/buyitforlife is a great source to learn what will last and get advice.

Budget to Spend Extra

budget to spend extra on quality goods

Personally, I tend to live on the frugal side. However, I’m willing to spend extra if it’s an investment in quality. I’m a firm believer of avoiding a “pennywise and pound foolish” mentality. This is especially true if you’re seeking items you only need to buy once. As a general rule, if I use something every day, I give myself the permission to spend big if I find the perfect item.

For example, I ordinarily wouldn’t spend $20 on a pair of socks, but these Darn Tough Wool Socks feature multiple excellent reviews, promising they’re durable. Better yet, the company offers a lifetime unconditional warranty. So, if you stick to a uniform wardrobe like I do, then a few pairs of tough, long-lasting socks may be the last sock purchase you ever need to make. In that case, the price seems worth it.

darn tough socks

Of course, there are other times when the price isn’t justified. For example, buying certain brand name cast iron cookware is more expensive than a second-hand, generic, or cheaper brand cast iron skillet. Yet, the life of cast iron is proven across the board. So, in this case, paying extra for a fancy brand at a culinary supply store isn’t worth your investment.

For the most part, quality items require more workmanship, design, and high-quality materials. The reality is quality is often more expensive. If you research the product thoroughly before purchasing, you’ll get a good idea if the price tag is justified.

lodge cast iron skillet

The other area to look at is the planned use of the product. If you’d like to find a product you only need to buy once but plan to use every day, a high price is easier to defend. A pair of dress shoes that cost $100 that you wear once or twice a year means you’ll pay $10-25 per wear over the next few years. On the other hand, a quality pair of sneakers that cost $100 but you plan to wear every day may cost much less than $1 per wear over their lifetime.

Test the Return Policy

test return policy on products you buy

Does the product come with a lifetime guarantee? Does the store offer a “no hassle” return policy?

Don’t feel afraid to test the limits of warranties, guarantees, and return policies. Typically, when a guarantee is offered it’s because the manufacturer believes the product is built to last. The other reason is company owners know returns are a hassle, so they bet on the fact most people won’t take them up on the promise. They may also require complicated documentation in the hope customers will give up.

It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, keep receipts, (typically a scan or photograph is acceptable, but read the fine print) and send back warranty cards, especially on major purchases. If you’re already minimizing the number of items you buy, then chances are you won’t have many receipts and warranties to keep track of anyway. Certain credit card companies also offer purchase protection and extended warranties on major purchases.credit card

Many retail stores—like grocery stores—guarantee the quality of their products as well. This means when you find produce that goes bad too fast, or mold on a block of recently purchased cheese before the expiration date, return the item to the store for an exchange or refund. While consumables aren’t meant to last a lifetime, it’s still worth it to ensure you get what you pay for. Stores with great return policies include Nordstrom, Costco, and Eddie Bauer. Both Aldi and Trader Joe’s offer satisfaction guaranteed, easy returns.

Ask Around Before You Buy

ask around before buying

Another way to find products you only need to buy once is to ask around! Talk to your friends and see what they’ve found reliable and trustworthy. Check with product experts and repair people to find out what products will really stand the test of time. See if someone will let you test, borrow, or check out the product so you can see it in use.

worn red wing bootsIt’s amazing how experience changes your impression of a product. Many of us feel gung ho about a purchase at first, but then once we’ve tried it for a while, we may change our perspective. I like to check with friends who’ve used a product for a long time before I go out and purchase it for myself. Everyone loves a new set of pots and pans, a great kitchen knife, or new power tools. The real question is, how do they feel about those same products 3, 5, even 10 years down the road?

Again, this type of information sharing is so important, especially in the tiny house world. When you have a minimal amount of space and are living a minimalist lifestyle, each purchase should be deliberate and long-lasting. This is, again, one of the main reasons why I like to share reviews as much as possible with my readers. I also like to do follow up reviews, like my three year review on the Luggable Loo composting toilet.

When you ask someone you trust for their opinion, you know you’re getting the full, unbiased picture of how the product will work. I’ve found maintenance and repair guys often offer a lot of insight on products like power tools, small machines, and appliances because they’re the ones who get called in when something goes wrong. So, listen to the advice of friends and those with experience!

Seek Quality Materials and Simple Designs

quality-materials

Call it the Occam’s razor theory of finding items you only need to buy once: the simplest choice is often the best. Typically, products that last will feature simple, straightforward design and are made from the highest quality materials. Truth be told, a simple design is loaded with nuances and details you have to get perfect.

When it comes to design, the reason simple products are the best is well…simple. When there are a lot of bells and whistles, there’s more pieces to break. There are more areas where something will go wrong. Unnecessary complexity leads to bigger complications and concerns. Think of all the different “cutting-edge” technology and gadgets that flopped after consumers got their hands on them. When something breaks on a complicated machine, it’s often the “extras” that cause a problem.

surefire flashlight

While it’s tempting to seek the latest and greatest product with the most modern conveniences and digitization, at the end of the day, simplicity and function win out. Think about what you really want the product to do, then seek a trusted brand with quality materials and manufacturing.

For example, Stanley Thermos has been around for hundreds of years. The simple, insulated design works time and time again, even as new versions of water bottles, coffee mugs, and thermos-type containers come out on the market every day. It seems the more complex the designs, the more likely imitation brands are to leak, spill, or lose heat. Many reviewers report they’re still using Stanley thermoses for 25, even 40 years (that said, there are reports the quality declined in recent years). Stanley also offers a lifetime warranty.

mason jars

Another example is DeWALT tools. The simple designs and quality materials have been used for decades and they’ve become a household name and standard. They also offer a lifetime warranty and have stood strongly behind their products.

I’m a big fan of using mason jars for storage as well. They work much better than plastic products, seal tighter, and are usable again and again. When you’re looking for a solution to a household problem, the tried and true answer is often the best. Look at what your parents or grandparents did. While modern conveniences and technological advances have improved many areas of life, there are also places where it’s unnecessarily complicated life too.

Ryan’s Top Ten Lifetime Products (for Everyone)

top ten lifetime products

I’m not a proponent of going out to buy items you don’t need simply because they’re recommended. Use what you have on hand first and wait until you’re ready to replace it. Once you are ready to buy a new item, here are my top ten items you only need to buy once (or will at least last for years).

1. Cast Iron Skillet

lodge cast iron skillet

2. Mason Jars (for storage, cooking, drinking)

mason jar

3. Vitamix 5200 Blender

vitamix blender

4. Stanley Classic Vacuum Bottle thermos

stanley thermos

5. Chef Knife

chef knife

6. KitchenAid Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer

kitchenaid-mixer

7. Pendleton Wool Blanket

pendleton blanket

8. Yeti Cooler

yeti cooler

9. SureFire LED Flashlights

surefire flashlight

10. Le Creuset Dutch Oven

lecreuset-dutch-oven

Hopefully this gives you a few ideas of how to buy smart, so you only need to buy once or twice in the future. Choose high quality items, read reviews, and do your research before you spend your hard-earned money on products that won’t last.

Your turn!

  • What quality products have you found that are built to last?
  • What stores and retailers offer superior warranties and customer care?

Simple Greywater Systems For Your Home

Simple Greywater Systems For Your Home

What are grey water systems and how can you set up a system for your home?  Most people living in the average American household have no reason to contemplate disposal of the water that enters and leaves their homes, but more and more people are looking for a simple way to do a greywater system for their home.

simple grey water system for your home

What Is A Greywater System Used For?

A greywater system is used to take water that has already been used from places like your laundry, shower and sink and divert it to use in another purpose like watering gardens or landscaping instead of flushing it down into the sewer. Greywater is different from blackwater (aka sewage) because while it may have some residuals like dirt, hair, grease, etc from it’s first use, they aren’t toxic to the environment and the water can be reused in some applications.

what is grey water and how to recycle water

With greywater systems you are careful about what you put down your drain when diverting it to your garden or flower beds, but I’ve found that after your figure out some cleaning products that work for you, it’s quite simple.

How Do Grey Water Systems Work?

The concept is simple in principal: you want capture all the water from your sinks, showers and other drains into one place called a “surge tank” which is a fancy way of saying a tank that can take a lot of water at once and then slow down the flow. From there you want to allow the water to slow down just enough so any solids can settle out to the bottom and then let the cleaner water move on.

Grey Water System Diagram

In the below diagram you can see the basics of a system. You’ll see how the washer can be switched with a branched valve to either go to the sewer or the outside irrigation. The water then travels outside, into the garden and finally into drip points above mulch beds.

system diagram of a grey water system

Our Simple Greywater Setup For Our Tiny House

I certainly had never considered such things until Cedric and I went volunteering on organic farms. In the south of Spain a small olive farm where water is scarce and they were watering their flower garden with the water from their sinks and showers. It was the first time I’d ever seen a greywater system in action. As aquifers run dry and water becomes a scarcer resource, I see the proper recycling of it essential to transitioning our treatment of water to a more sustainable system and tiny house dwellers are on the front lines of this transition.

grey water in my garden

Living in a tiny house we have had to face the challenge of disposing our water safely since we weren’t hooked up to the city’s system. Our initial introduction at that farm inspired us to try a simple, DIY system that would use our greywater to irrigate a small garden.

We took 1 1/2″ pvc pipe, attached it to the plumbing of the house and buried it in the garden. Since we didn’t put in a filter we did not put any solids of any kind down the drain. We also carefully chose our bath soaps, used homemade shampoos and biodegradable dish soap so as not to damage the soil, plants or watershed. The PVC pipe was placed in a 2 foot deep ditch that had been lined with gravel and landscape fabric. Along the pipe we drilled many little holes to allow the water to escape. This technique is very similar to a french drain.

Are Grey Water Systems Legal?

is greywater legal

Depending on your city, county and state you’ll have different rules that govern the use of greywater systems. Building codes, zoning laws and the public health department all come into play here, so develop a rough idea of what kind of greywater system you want to build and then have a conversation with your local city hall. Alternatively you can do this under the radar, but understand you assume all risk.

In some cases you’ll need to install a branched drain system so you can turn the greywater on and off based on what your use is.

How Much Does A Greywater System Cost To Install?

grey water system install cost

Installing a greywater system depends on your needs, how your plumping is setup in your house and how much of the work you’re going to do yourself. For a rough estimate you can plan on spending $500 to $2,500 to install a greywater system in your home. Most of the cost will be labor as the materials are cheap, but the labor can be expensive. Often it requires a plumber which can run between $50-$150 per hour and then someone to run ditches to your beds which can cost between $20-$75 per hour.

Common materials are PVC pipes, gravel, landscape fabric, a capture tank and plumbing fittings.

How To Design Your Grey Water System

grey water system design

Here are some of the key steps to consider for your grey water system design:

  1. Locate all your main drain points and plan how you will tap into each
  2. Determine where you’re going to drain your system to
  3. Check that your drains are at least 5 feet higher than your destination
  4. Mark where you are going to bury your drain lines with spray paint
  5. Install a valve at each drain sources or at the main drain pipe
  6. Pipe from valves to exterior of home
  7. Dig ditches below your frost line
  8. Fill bottom with 6 inches of loose gravel
  9. Place your drain lines and perforated lines and check all connections
  10. Cover pipes with another 4 inches of loose gravel
  11. Cover gravel with landscape fabric to prevent dirt clogging lines.
  12. Replace dirt or carry the gravel all the way to surface (best method)

Best Filtering Options For Grey Water

grey water filter options

In some cases people will put a basic filter to screen out particles like food or hair mainly to prevent clogs in the rest of the system.Once the water is free of most of the larger debris, you can then pipe it underground to where you want to deposit it, making sure you spread out the volume of water over a large enough area to allow the soil to soak up the water quickly enough that it doesn’t get water logged.

You have a filter options:

  • Filter bag before it enters into surge tank
  • In line water filter
  • Settling tank
  • Constructed wetland or reed bed
  • Setting pond or bog

Here are my two favorite ways to filter out grey water

filter options for a grey water system

Tips For Your DIY Grey Water System

diy grey water systems

The biggest challenge people have when making their own system is getting your drain pipes clogged with food particles and hair from your drains. To combat that you want to employ two features in your system: a surge tank to settle out particles and a simple filter.

When the water from your drains comes from your house it’s carrying a lot of stuff like dirt, hair, skin cells, food particles and it’s moving pretty fast. We want to slow that water down and allow those things to settle out before moving on in the process. We don’t want that water to sit too long, no more than 24 hrs, but it’s a critical step.

From there we want to use a basic filter to grab any left over things that might be floating along. These don’t need to be a high grade filter that cleans the water, just enough to catch the particles big enough to clog things down the line.

The last tip I’ll give is make sure you consider how your drain lines will work in the winter. Freezing pipes can lead to major problems, so make sure your lines are draining to pipes buried below the frost line. You can consider putting in a valve at your branched piping inside so you can turn off this during the winter.

Grey Water Systems For Off Grid Living

grey water system for a off grid cabin

Grey water is the perfect solution for dealing with waste water at your off grid home, cabin or tiny house. I use this on my off grid tiny home into a modified french drain system since I don’t produce much water waste to begin with. Don’t forget to pair your system with a rain catchment system to collect more water for your garden.

The biggest tips I can give you is to make sure your soil drains well, you can do this by doing a simple perk test (a water infiltration test) on your soil. If you soil drains well, figure out about how many gallons of grey water you will produce in a given day and design the system to handle that plus a 25% margin.

Make sure you plan it so your drain lines are down hill from your point of use, digging ditches deeper and deeper if you need to get a steep slope for proper drainage. Having the water move away from your house is critical, so make plans to drain at least 30 feet away to avoid moisture issues.

I wouldn’t spend time trying to figure out how to treat the grey water or how to make it drinkable, it’s better to use it effciently at the source, then repurpose it into your gardens for food production.

My Favorite Grey Water Friendly Products

When you make the switch to grey water, you’ll need to control what goes down your drain and that includes things like soaps, shampoo, cleaners and more. Anything that goes down the drain needs to be environmentally safe when it hits your garden.

Aubrey Men’s Stock Shampoo

grey water shampoo

This was the hardest item to find for me, a lot of shampoos that are grey water friendly don’t clean that well. Many shampoos left my hair looking greasy, but this one cleaned well and didn’t smell too “earthy”. The smell is pretty neutral, a minty smell that could easily be used by men or women. It’s a little pricey, but it’s the only thing that I found that actually works.

Amazon is the only place I’ve been able to find this Aubrey Men’s Stock Shampoo.

 

Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

Dr. Bronner's Pure-Castile Liquid Soap

This is an obvious and very popular option for those who want soap that is easy on the environment and just works well. Dr. Bronners is great for washing your hands, doing dishes, cleaning around the house, etc.

You can even bath with it and I found it to be good for body wash, but as I noted above, while it works for hair, it left my hair looking greasy. A lot of people use it as shampoo and it works well for them, so it’s worth a try. It’s also not terribly expensive and a little goes a long way.

This is where I get mine, click here.

Final Thoughts On Grey Water Systems

The majority of folks don’t think twice about these things and it’s wonderfully convenient to not have to. However, I’ve learned a lot about sustainable water practices by living with this system and I prefer it to sending this precious resource to a facility with black water where it becomes much more polluted and takes a lot of energy to introduce safely back in to the water cycle. It’s also a major plus for dry environments that see little rainfall and who at times must rely on their aquifers for water, as we experienced in Spain.

grey water system installed

To sustain and maintain these deep fonts of water we need to replenish them. Allowing greywater to be filtered by plants back in to the ground recharges the aquifers and keeps them from drying out. The beauty of greywater systems is they can be incredible simple to construct, use and maintain. The collaborative group Greywater Action For A Sustainable Water Culture is an incredible resource not only for learning to construct and maint these systems, they also have a wealth of information on composting toilets, rainwater catchment and pedal-powered washing machines!

As we prepare to move La Casita once again, we plan to build a more elaborate system that can withstand the Vermont winters. The Greywater Action website also has great reviews of projects and useful tips for winterizing these systems. In the South it was much easier to manage it and although it will be more of a challenge it is another opportunity to learn and create a regenerative system. I’ll be posting details of our next greywater project so check-in with the tiny life over the next few weeks to see the details of construction!

Your Turn!

  • Have any tips on water disposal in a tiny house?
  • How do you feel about the current disposal and treatment of water?
  • Do you think greywater systems are viable project towards changing how we think about water disposal?

How to Embrace the Zero Waste Lifestyle, Realistically

How to Embrace the Zero Waste Lifestyle, Realistically

The zero waste lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but everyone in the world benefits when we create less trash and cut back on waste. Not only does our trash take up room in our homes, but there are plenty of concerns about the environment as well.

how to start zero waste lIfestyle

Cutting back on trash is also important if you don’t get regular pick up of trash or recycling. Save yourself the time and energy of hauling garbage to the dump when you could simply make a few adjustments.

In my own life, I’m not yet 100% zero trash, but I’ve cut back significantly in the last few years. This what I’ve learned and how I’ve made a zero waste lifestyle (or close to zero waste) work for me.

Getting Started with the Zero Waste Lifestyle

getting started with a zero waste lifestyle

If you’re ready to get started with a zero waste lifestyle, there are a few steps to mentally and physically set yourself up for success. There are many zero waste products out there to help with waste free living. Items like bags, bottles, and food containers can be reused over and over. Storage containers can even be created from items you already own.

Here are my tips on how to go zero waste easily.

1. Be Realistic

be realistic when starting with the zero waste movement

Get yourself in the right mindset to before you even start exploring how to go zero waste. Focus on how you will make a zero waste lifestyle work and how you will deal with any anticipated roadblocks.

Most importantly, stay realistic. Don’t expect yourself to go completely zero waste overnight. We all see people in the news and on YouTube who commit to going zero waste 100% right away. While this works for a few people, most of us need to simply take steps over time to cut back on trash and waste. We’ve been living with our wasteful habits our entire so it will take some time to reverse that.

2. Do an Anthropological Study on Your Trash

study your trash to see what you throw away

If you’re ready to start, my first recommendation will sound a bit odd, but stick with me here. Go through your trash! Take your most recent bag of garbage and go through the items in the bag piece by piece. Approach it like an anthropologist—what will you learn from your garbage?

Your garbage will probably tell you a lot about what you eat. Many people find the majority of their trash comes from the kitchen. Food containers, drink containers, straws, bottles, bags…all these items add up quickly. As you separate out your trash, look at the items to recycle (typically, recycling isn’t counted as “waste”). Sometimes cutting back on your trash means recommitting to recycling as well.

Keep an eye out for items you could have repurposed. This isn’t to say you should hoard empty containers and jars to the extreme. A cupboard full of repurposed containers still takes up space in your home. Simply see what is recyclable and how you could minimize your current trash footprint.

Understanding what you actually throw out will let you guard against those things in your zero waste future.

3. Focus on Small, Meaningful Changes

focus on small changes to acheive the zero waste life

Once you’re ready to start the transition to a zero waste lifestyle, check out zero waste resources. Read zero waste blogs and books about the zero trash lifestyle. Find small waste reducing adjustments to implement without changing your routine too much.

Something as simple as carrying your own water bottle or reusable coffee mug makes a big difference without much effort. When you went through your garbage, did you notice many of the same items, like Styrofoam coffee cups or takeout containers? That indicates a good place to start.

Would your favorite takeout place let you bring your own container for food? Could you carry your coffee mug with you each morning?

Beyond your convenience food purchases, look at your shopping habits. Is your grocery store zero waste friendly? Some stores allow you to bring your own bags or jars, offering ways to minimize your food containers (more on creating a zero waste kitchen below).

4. Purchase Zero Waste Products to Set Yourself Up for Success

purchase zero waste products: water bottles, resuable bags, reuseable straws etc

There are many products available to help those who want to live a zero waste lifestyle. Metal and silicone straws are a great example of now-common zero waste products. Bags and food containers are also widely available.

You may also want to look at products with minimal or recyclable packaging. Some health and beauty companies sell products like “bar shampoo” without a bottle. For example, the company Lush promotes that 35% of their products are sold “naked” without package. Look for minimal waste or recyclable options for items like toothbrushes, deodorant, and more.

If you buy items like candles, look for ways to reuse the jars. If you read magazines, exchange or recycle them, use them for crafts, or donate them to a local school or library when you’re done reading them (better yet, switch to an e-reader). Whenever you make a purchase, ask yourself if there’s a less-wasteful alternative.

5. Find Simple Swaps

find simple zero waste swaps, there are lots of products to reduce trash

There are many simple swaps to help set you up for success with your zero waste lifestyle. On the blog The Greener Girl, she outlines many easy zero waste swaps. Straws and bags are two of the easiest switches.

Other items to swap for zero waste (aka reusable) items include fountain pens, razors, feminine products, and laundry soap. Change your kitchen sponge for a microfiber towel. Rather than using napkins and tissues, switch to washable handkerchiefs and cloth napkins. Once you explore the zero waste swaps out there, you may be surprised at all the areas where you can implement a simple change. In the long run going, zero trash will save you money.

How to Create a Zero Waste Kitchen

create a zero waste kitchen

Hands down, the biggest area of waste is usually the kitchen. When I studied my trash, almost everything I was throwing out on a regular basis had to do with food. Many convenience food products come in plastic bags, bottles, boxes, and containers. What we’re saving in convenience, we’re making up for in garbage.

If you’re wondering how to create a zero waste kitchen, there are a few easy areas of focus to start to cut back on waste.

1. Bulk Buying

bulk buying to reduce trash from food waste

Many stores offer the option of bulk buying, especially natural groceries and health food stores. People might feel a little intimidated at first but buying items in bulk is simple. Best of all, bulk buying creates zero trash.

When people plan to buy bulk, often they bring containers with them to the store. Purchase simple mesh bags made to hold all sorts of items like rice, nuts, oats, and coffee beans. Bring a paper bag with you for items like flour. Jars are typically used for deli meats, cheese, and other items requiring a sealable container.

Get your containers weighed at the service counter before you start shopping. The grocery clerk will give you a printout or write down the weight of each container so it’s deducted from the purchase weight at checkout. Then all you need to do is fill up your containers. Shopping this way doesn’t take much extra time and you often save money because bulk buys are typically cheaper.

2. Store Items in Jars

store items in jars to reduce on trash

Rather than storing items in plastic containers, use glass or metal jars to hold the ingredients in your kitchen. If you live in a tiny house, this tip is useful anyway—often glass or metal containers take up less space than commercial packaging. Uniform containers help you maximize your storage space and look great too on open shelves.

If you cook meals ahead to freeze, use glass container to store your food. Leave extra room in the top of each container because food expands when frozen. Store your leftovers in glass jars and reuse them over and over—you can even heat mason jars and eat out of them. This makes food storage simple and there are no worries about chemical compounds in the plastic leaching into your food.

Even microbreweries get in on the trend of reusable containers. You can purchase a “growler” from many breweries and get your beer refilled over and over. This is a fun way to eliminate the need to recycle beer bottles or aluminum cans.

3. Compost

compost bin to handle kitchen waste

Composting is part of a zero waste lifestyle, and for good reason: so many of us throw out food we could instead compost. Gardeners know compost creates a rich, nutrient-dense soil for plants to thrive in. Even if you aren’t a huge vegetable gardener, compost is a welcome addition to any flower bed.

Now, all organic matter can be composted—including human waste. If you’re interested in setting up a composting toilet, it isn’t hard (but of course it isn’t for everyone).

Food composting on the other hand is SO simple, everyone can do it. There are great containers with charcoal filters to eliminate any smell. These bins are stored right on your countertop. Add food scraps, vegetables, coffee grounds, and even paper products to your compost. Most people prefer to avoid adding meat and dairy waste to their compost as it takes longer to breakdown and attracts pests.

When you’ve filled up your compost container, you move it outdoors to a larger composter, where it is mixed with grass, leaves and other organic waste. Vermicomposting uses worms (typically red wiggler worms) to break down the decomposing matter and turn it into harmless vermicast. This rich compost is excellent for gardens. Vermicomposting is an easy composting method for anyone and my personal favorite composting method.

4. Cut Out Bags

cut out bags by using reusable shopping bags

Plastic shopping bags are one area where nearly everyone can cut back on waste. Whether you make your own (make a no sew shopping bag from an old tee shirt) or purchase ready-made bags, fabric trumps plastic every time.

If you buy fresh produce at the store, did you know you don’t need to put it in the bags they provide? Add loose fruits and veggies to your cart and checkout without using plastic. The mesh bags used for bulk buying are also used to store fruits and vegetables, or you could use a paper sack if you prefer. No matter your choice, it’s easy to BYOB (bring your own bag).

5. Plant a Garden

plant a garden to grow your own food which means less trash from food packaging

One of the best ways to cut back on food waste is to grow your own food as much as possible. Now, gardening and homestead farming aren’t for everyone, but even planting a few herbs and salad greens will cut back on containers and waste. Put your new compost to good use by planting easy vegetables like squash in recycled containers.

If you’re ready to take farming further, chickens are often a great place to start. Not only will you get eggs aplenty, but chickens minimize bugs and even help you till the soil in your garden. As you start to grow your own food supply, you’ll see a huge reduction in the amount of waste your produce. Gardening and homestead farming are a great step toward the zero waste lifestyle.

6.Buy Local

buy local food

Another important tip for minimizing your kitchen waste is to buy local whenever possible. Farmers markets and fruit stands naturally produce less waste. Food doesn’t need transportation—there’s minimal packaging and you often pick up right at the farm. Check into your local CSA or farm-share program as well. You could get a bushel container of packaging-free organic vegetables every week!

Buying local also extends to meat, dairy, and baked goods as well. A loaf of bread at the bakery will need less packaging (and require less wasted energy to create and transport) than a commercial bakery. When you purchase from local purveyors, you build relationships and connections with your community. Choose your prime cuts, waste less, and request minimal packaging. Many commercial grocery stores won’t let you bring in your own containers for meat and deli products, but smaller natural food stores often will accommodate a zero waste lifestyle.

The same goes for joining a local co-op. Often, co-ops specialize in bulk foods and minimally packaged items. If your city or town has a co-op, consider becoming an owner. For a small fee, you’ll get access to a wide variety of foods and products, usually locally produced and minimally packaged.

7. Pack a Zero Waste Lunch

pack a zero waste lunchbox

Brown-bagging your lunch with zero waste is simple! There are so many products out there to help you pack a lunch and transport your food, it’s almost a no-brainer. I use a stainless steel box by a company called LunchBots. These containers are beautiful, simple, and so easy to transport. Your lunch is laid out in small compartments and it’s really appetizing.

bento box by lunchbots - a stainless steel lunch containerBento-style lunches have become very popular and for good reason. Not only are they a zero waste lunch option, but they’re aesthetically pleasing as well. In fact, a simple search on Pinterest will yield tons of ideas for making appetizing bento lunches your entire family will love to eat.

Plastic bags and utensils are really easy to cut out of your lifestyle because there are so many alternatives. Get rid of plastic wrap too. With beeswax wraps, you cover food airtight, wash the wrap, and reuse it over and over.

If all else fails, take a cue from your local deli and wrap your lunch in recyclable butcher paper. It keeps food covered and will help you maintain your zero waste lifestyle when you eat on the go.

8. Learn to Creatively Repurpose

creatively repurpose items that would otherwise go in the trash

Embracing a zero waste lifestyle means learning to creatively repurpose items whenever possible. Nowhere is this truer than in the kitchen. So many packages can be reused again and again. Spaghetti sauce jars are used as storage containers. Cans are reused to organize or as pots for plants.

A simple cutting tool will turn plastic bottles into strong rope to use in many different applications. You can recycle many plastic items into craft projects and gifts too. A simple search for repurposed or recycled crafts will yield hundreds of ideas.

Use your old toothbrushes as cleaning brushes. Reuse clothing as cleaning rags. The idea behind a zero waste lifestyle is to use up items as completely as possible. When you think an item has completed its purpose, ask yourself how to reuse it in another way.

FAQs About Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle

zero waste faqs

When considering the zero waste lifestyle, people often have a lot of questions. Like living the tiny life, there are no set rules you need to follow. The main idea behind zero waste is to find what works for you and do your best. There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to a zero waste lifestyle, but really, it’s pretty simple.

Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions I get about zero waste.

Where should I start?

Start by going through your trash to see your biggest area of waste. Then set small goals to help you tackle each area. If you see a lot of kitchen waste, for example, focus your zero waste efforts there. If you seem to throw out a lot of toiletries and beauty products, then that may be a good area to focus on.

simple clothing to wearYou may want to focus on a zero waste wardrobe as well. Having a capsule or minimalist wardrobe is a great start. Pare down to the necessities and simplify. As you clean out and get rid of items, find ways to recycle, donate, or reuse them whenever possible.
For most people, a zero waste lifestyle begins in the kitchen. Tackle that area and chances are you’ll take a huge step toward become completely zero waste.

Is it hard to do?

It depends on the situation. It requires effort, yes, but if you already recycle and minimize your purchases, then zero waste is the next step. If you plant a garden and grow your own food, then you may find it even easier to transition to a zero waste lifestyle.

My biggest piece of advice is to take it slow. Move in small steps. Tackle one area of your life at a time, like implementing a zero waste kitchen first. Then move to the next area. Like all lifestyle changes, baby steps make it much easier.

Does it cost money?

It seems counter intuitive to spend money on more “stuff” to embrace a zero waste lifestyle, doesn’t it? I recommend using what you already own as much as possible. That said, there are items in the zero waste products section below to help you on your journey.

A one-time purchase like a reusable straw will cut out many future purchases down the road. Buying beeswax wraps or mesh bags might mean making an investment up front, but it’s a trade off when you never need to buy plastic wrap or Ziploc baggies again.

Does it mean giving up “normal life”?

People may raise an eyebrow at any type of lifestyle change. When I moved into my tiny house, people asked me if living in a tiny house meant giving up a normal life. When I’ve advocated for homesteading or minimalism, people ask if it means giving up their normal routine.

Anytime you change, it will mean giving up the conveniences and norms you’re used to. That said, there are zero waste options for almost any product you can think of. You don’t necessarily need to go without something, you just need to adjust your approach.

For example, while I don’t know much about cosmetics, I’ve been told there are beauty companies who allow you to bring your own containers and fill up your own products. There are also minimal packaging beauty products to fit with a zero waste lifestyle.

For clothing, you will find almost any item of clothing you need at a second-hand store. Check Craigslist, Freecycle, and other exchange networks. Borrow what you need and find creative ways to reuse and repurpose items to keep them out of the landfill.

What if I mess up?

Again, like living the tiny life, there are no hard and fast rules you need to follow if you want to live the zero waste lifestyle. There are people who minimize their waste to a mason jar while there are others who simply try their best to cut back on garbage. Join online forums to get ideas and support about living zero waste.

Just keep in mind, no one is perfect. Sometimes there are items that wear out or need replacement (for example, I had to buy a bathmat even though I was attempting a no spend challenge). If a zero waste lifestyle is right for you, do your best. Even making an effort toward reducing your waste is a step in the right direction.

Resources & Zero Waste Products to Help You Start a Zero Waste Lifestyle

zero waste resources - websites, articles, posts, and videos

There are many zero waste blogs and ideas out there for living a zero waste lifestyle. Check out Pinterest and Google for resources to help you navigate. There are also many social media groups for zero waste.

A few popular zero waste blogs are:

Trash is for Tossers
Going Zero Waste
Zero Waste Home
Litterless

The items I’ve found really helpful for a zero waste lifestyle are:

LunchBots Bento Containers
Klean Kanteen Mugs and Water Bottles
CamelBak Water Bottles
Epica Countertop Compost Bin
Flip & Tumble Bags
Flip & Tumble Reusable Mesh Produce Bags
ECOSIP Reusable Straws
Glass Food Containers
Handkerchiefs
Microfiber Towels
Safety Razor
Biodegradable Toothbrushes
Bee’s Wrap Food Wrap
Wool Dryer Balls
Bar Shampoo

There are a plethora of reusable and zero waste products out there. Research and purchase items as you go along to help you embrace the zero waste lifestyle. It’s a great challenge to take on and really makes you think about what you’re buying (and the container it comes in). While we aren’t all ready to go completely zero waste, we can all take steps toward minimizing our waste and cutting back on trash.