Archive for the Essentials Category

How to Homestead: Tackling the Challenges of Going Off-Grid

Living off the land, growing your own food and taking life back to simpler times—for many this sounds like the ultimate dream. In the hustle-bustle craziness of modern life, it’s no wonder people are ready to forget their commute, stop shopping, turn off their TV and learn how to homestead.

living off grid

Homesteading takes us back to simpler times. The idea of self-sufficiency, independence and forging your own way? Well, that’s the very fabric of the American dream. But the reality of homesteading—living off the grid, growing your own food supply, being self-reliant—is a lot to take on, especially all at once. Before you quit your day job and buy a brood of chickens, you’ll want to be certain you’ve planned for the many challenges of going off-grid.

If you’re hoping to learn the logistics of how to homestead, these are the challenges you’ll need to tackle.

1. Setup

The biggest conundrum when going off-grid is the cost. Living truly off-grid is romanticized and when you combine it with setting up a homestead, expectations may further exceed reality. I’ll be honest, with enough money anything’s possible of course, but realistically I would say choose one or the other to start.

inverter, charge controller, panel

I hear from off-grid newbies (grid muggles, as I like to call them) they think they’re going to go into the woods, build a cabin and live off the land. For most of us, it’s not so simple. To feed a family of four, you’d need at least two acres of land for food. You would also need roughly 25 average-sized solar panels to sustain enough electricity for four people, possibly more (you can read about my solar panel setup here). That’s not even considering the additional concerns of water, sewer, shelter, animal husbandry, gardening, food storage and more.

After living off the grid for the last few years, I can say there are quite a few considerations without growing my own food. The best method for living out your homesteading dreams is to take your setup in steps and plan on a decent upfront investment.

2. Electricity

Solar electricity is the biggest component of going off the grid. After all, that’s literally what the “grid” refers to. Homesteaders and anyone who plans to live off the grid will need to research exactly what sort of electric wiring and solar panel system you’ll require for your particular situation. I have a great guide: Shockingly Simple Electric if you’re looking for a resource to get started.
solar panels for homestead

I have 15 solar panels installed, which is enough to run everything I need in my place. My setup cost around $20,000. However, if you plan to run an electric water heater, a microwave, washer or other large appliance—or if you have a larger home—you’re going to need more than just a basic solar panel system. Forget those systems you see at home improvement stores—these small solar panel systems offer only enough power to charge your phone and laptop.

As I said above, for a family of four, expect at least 25 solar panels. You’ll also need a generator or two if you expect less than 8 hours per day of southern sun. This is especially important in the winter. Calculate your electricity needs based on the times when you get the least amount of sun. In the summer, you may generate more electricity than you require, but in the winter, you’ll be prepared.

3. Finding Land

Back in the day, true homesteading involved laying your claim to land by setting up a sustainable farm plot. In 1976, the federal government ended homesteading in the continental United States. Homesteading continued in Alaska for ten more years—but since 1986, if you want to live on a plot of land, you’ll need to purchase it.

The biggest challenge of homesteading involves the initial cost of land and setting it up, but there are also costs to maintain your homestead. Even with the smallest home possible, there are plenty of expenses involved. How will you access the land, install your well and septic, and clear land or setting up planting beds?

Minimally, if you plan to house livestock such as chickens or goats, you’ll have several things to consider.  They will need a shelter for to protect them from the elements, a place to store feed and bedding, as well as fencing to keep them in and predators out.

For your garden you’ll also need seeds, seedlings and basic gardening supplies. The easiest route is to purchase land and set up your small house. Slowly adjust to off-the-grid living and take baby steps as you start to get into homesteading.

4. Legality

I’ve written before about the laws involved with living off the grid. The habitable structure definitions included in most municipal ordinances will exclude several factors of off-the-grid living. Many tiny house dwellers skirt this issue by putting their house on a trailer, but this only gets you out of some of the legal requirements. When you involve livestock, you’re also looking at additional legal concerns.

tiny house planning

Again, my big disclaimer is to do your research before you start. Look into all the laws involved and restrictions in your living area. (You can check Municode here for a guide for most but not all municipal coding and government sites.) Going against the rules may result in fines or worse, so make your choices wisely. This is again where baby-steps come into play (you may be sensing a theme here). Thinking you’ll build an off-the-grid hobby farm tomorrow just isn’t realistic.

However, most of us can start a garden on our plot of land, grow a few vegetables and possibly keep chickens. Bite off what you can chew and always study local restrictions first. Don’t underestimate the power of a friendly appeal to your zoning board and code enforcement. You may also need the expertise of a contractor as well as a lawyer.

5. Shelter

cabin in woodsIf your plot of land already contains a shelter, taking it off-grid may be a matter of adapting by installing solar, heating and on-site water solutions. Honestly, it’s often easier to get around the legal issues if your plot already has a dwelling on-site. Many ordinances require an on-site dwelling of a certain size. So, in theory you could turn an existing structure into a barn or storage, while heating and powering a smaller, more sustainable house on the same plot of land.

If you have a family to consider, you may need more space than I (a single guy) requires. Then again, the extra help with your homestead may be welcome. If you plan to raise animals, you’ll also need shelter considerations for your livestock.

The shelter requirements are obviously very different depending on your climate. A desert yurt in California may not require a heat source like a cabin in Montana. If you plan to homestead, the climate is a huge factor as well. Growing seasons and weather are vital factors for producing enough food.

6. Water & Sewer

catchment tanksMany grid muggles think living off the grid applies to power. Throw up a few solar panels and you’re set, right? Living off the grid also applies to water and sewer as well. When it comes to the issue of water, this is one of the other big logistical challenges.

If you live near a water source, you may be able to carry in enough water for daily use. But you need to realize that water is 8.5 lbs. per gallon, so huffing buckets of water will get old really fast.  My suggestion is always spend the money to build out a high quality water system– one that brings clean drinking water to your home and the other areas of your farmstead. If you’re also hoping to grow your own food, water is more of a concern. For hundreds of years, farmers have worked with well water and irrigation systems. After the initial cost of setup, these are viable options and fairly easy to maintain.  Water is one thing not to skimp on.

Your shower and sink drains can be made to be “grey water”, but it requires the use of sustainable soaps that won’t harm crops or the land with runoff. Your sewerage or “black water” may require a more in-depth system (like septic). There’s also the possibility of incineration or using humanure but there are many restrictions, so certainly explore what’s allowed in your area. While you can conserve your water usage, chances are you’ll need a system and longer-term plan, especially for a homestead.

7. Heat

wood stovePart of the homesteading mystique is the idea you’ll chop enough wood to heat your home. If this is your plan, be sure you really, REALLY enjoy chopping wood, because you’re about to spend a large portion of your day doing it. You should also plan on having a fairly endless supply of forest.

Alternatively, you could do what I do, which is rely on some propane for heating. Let me tell you, although it may seem like “cheating,” investing in propane and gas is well worth your time. You can use propane for your stove and water heater as well which will save you a lot of money.

Unless you have an extra $50,000 to invest in solar panels or a robust hydropower turbine (flowing water and a drop on your land), you’re going to need to rely on fossil fuels. Fortunately, propane is relatively inexpensive.

8. Food

When people dream of making the leap to homesteading, they’re most likely referring to food and farming. This is an area where homesteading is fun, satisfying and really shines. If you’re on the grid and in a temperate climate, growing some of your fruits and vegetables for the year is a realistic endeavor.

If you’re off the grid or live in a less-temperate climate, then you’ll probably need to supplement some of your food supply with trade or purchase. Using storage solutions such as a root cellar (much cheaper than refrigeration), canning and preservation will make sure your family eats healthy and saves money in the process.

Growing a garden requires less land and fewer resources than livestock, so carefully measure your costs and expectations. For example, to raise chickens, your coop may require an initial investment of $500-$1,000 and around $15/month to feed. So, measure it against the cost and your need for eggs before you jump in.

9. Health

A homesteader I know lives about four hours away from town in Montana. While working on clearing her property, she dropped a rock on her hand, slicing off a finger. After weighing her driving distance from the hospital, she realized she wouldn’t make it in time to save her digit and now lives with nine fingers.

first aid medical kit

This story isn’t to scare you off from homesteading, but just a reminder, the further off-grid you go, the less access you will have to necessities in case of an emergency. Because I still live relatively close to the city, I can get what I need any time. This may not be the case in rural areas.

Homesteaders benefit from basic first-aid training and from stocking up on medical supplies. While you don’t need a whole pharmacy on-hand, be prepared to deal with stings, scrapes, burns, cuts and contusions. When you live far off from the city, an ambulance might be hours away, so think worst-case scenario and take precautions.

10. Neighbors

As homesteaders we need to consider our neighbors, because not everyone thinks this life is as great as we do.  In the country we may have enough land that we don’t have to worry much, but if we are homesteading on an urban or suburban lot, we need to consider the people around us.

Obviously, making sure you’re respectful and adhering to your zoning laws and ordinances will help you keep the peace. Not every neighbor is thrilled when a beekeeper moves in next door, smoke from your wood stove drifts over to their yard, or your loud generator is running at 3am.

neighbors meeting

A benefit of living in a small home or relying on your land to grow your own food is that your life is simplified. No longer are you tied to the social constraints and obligations of society. You may choose to live in a rural area where you’re more isolated from others. As long as you’re happy with solace, this setup works great. However, there’s no shooting the breeze with your buddy across the fence or knocking on the door for a cup of sugar. Self-sufficiency has positives and drawbacks.

Ultimately, if your sights are set on homesteading, it’s certainly possible. Be realistic about your expectations when you begin. The first step is planning, doing your research and setting a realistic budget. I’ve found it best to take the homesteading setup process one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be living the life you dream of!

Your Turn!

  • What do you see as your biggest challenge?

How to Embrace a Minimalist Wardrobe

I’m a pretty low-maintenance guy, obviously. This translates to my approach across a lot of stuff—living space, cooking and my clothes.

I’m casual in general—and living in a small space doesn’t offer room for a walk-in closet or a giant sneaker collection. In fact, about a year ago I realized I’d inadvertently started wearing a basic “uniform” of sorts: white undershirt, charcoal grey t-shirt, shorts, underwear, socks, sneakers. I was tired of having to think about what to wear. I was looking for something I could throw on and go. For most occasions, this fit the bill.

It turns out a lot of people have embraced a minimalist philosophy when it comes to getting dressed. With so many decisions to make and so much noise going on around us, having a basic, minimalist wardrobe just works. It’s one less piece of the puzzle to worry about. No more stress in the morning when you get dressed. You don’t even have to think!

Now, maybe you don’t live in a rural tiny house, but an apartment in the city (just try to find a spacious closet in DC, New York or Chicago—you won’t). Even if you work a 9-to-5 office job, you can still make a minimalist wardrobe work. For guys, it’s as simple as changing out your ties and dress shirts. Even women can get by with a minimalist wardrobe. No matter what your job or lifestyle, there’s a way to embrace fewer clothes while still looking good.

So, how do you apply a minimalist philosophy to your own wardrobe? Should you throw out your clothes and start from scratch? Swear off shopping forever? Or should you buy every piece on a capsule wardrobe list?

A Minimalist Wardrobe Starts in Your Shrinking Closet

When someone mentions minimalist style, visions of stark white outfits come to mind or maybe rows of black turtlenecks. In truth, there’s no style rule to embracing a minimalist wardrobe, but it does begin with paring down your closet.

hanging clothes in a closetIf you went through your closet right now, how many pieces have you worn in the last week? Month? Six months? Most of us would come up with around 20 pieces of clothing, maybe fewer. According to a study from clothing credit company (Alliance Data), the average American estimates their closet is worth around $2,500 with 25-49 tops and over 25 pair of shoes.

That’s a lot of clothes.

Most people’s closets benefit from refinement and simplification. When I realized that without even thinking about it I’d come up with my default wardrobe, it was actually a relief. Cross that one off the list—I went the way of Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg and others who’ve embraced a uniform approach to dressing. I realize this approach isn’t for everyone—you may want a little more variety. There are still plenty of options for a minimalist wardrobe without sticking to the same outfit every day.

But many people have closets full of clothes they never wear. In fact, most people only wear about 20% of their clothes. But, they hold on to clothes they don’t love, items that don’t flatter and outfits with sentimental attachment rather than function. If you’ve got a closet full of clothes, but still feel like you’ve got nothing to wear first step is to do a hard inventory.

Remove all the clothes from your closet and review each piece. Ask yourself the following:

  1. Favor: Do I really like this?
  2. Fit: Does it fit me right now, today?
  3. Function: Is this piece functional?
  4. Flatter: Do I feel great when I wear this?
  5. Form: Is this item in good shape and condition?

Ask yourself if each item in your closet meets these criteria. Once you’ve refined your wardrobe, consign or donate any items that don’t fit the bill. It feels tough to part with items you’re holding onto for sentimental reasons but remind yourself—you can still hold onto to memories and let go of stuff that’s no longer useful. There’s no reason to weigh yourself down.

When you’ve cleaned out your closet to the basics, here the steps to take as you move forward.

Choose a Color Scheme That Speaks to You

For me, charcoal grey looks presentable enough for most occasions. Black gets dirty too easily and white obviously is a no-go. Khaki or denim shorts and pants are tough enough to withstand almost any task. Yet they still look nice enough to grab dinner with friends. Women, you may find a different combination works for you—like jeans or black pants with knit tops. The point is to keep it simple and go with a color scheme you like.

clothes on hanger simple colors

You may find there’s a color that really speaks to you or forms the foundation of most of your outfits. If this is the case, make it your default color. This doesn’t mean rows of black or sticking to neutral colors. If you love shades of blue, green or red, embrace it!

The idea with a color scheme is most of your pieces become interchangeable. Choosing pieces that look great with brown and earth tones, or going for high-contrast colors that look great against black, is a method to ensure plenty of wearability.  If patterns are your jam, go for it! You can have patterned ties or shirts that will still fit with the overall color scheme you’ve selected. You aren’t limited to solids, unless they fit your personal style.

If you still want to show personality with your style, it’s easy with shoes, a cool belt or watch. Pick something you love as your “signature piece.” I’ve found having a go-to favorite pair of sneakers feels like “me.” For you, maybe it’s a watch or another functional-yet-fashionable item.  Don’t shy away from buying a select few high-quality accessories that you love.

When you work within a color scheme everything goes. Remember:

  • Pick a color you like
  • Build your wardrobe around it
  • Shop within your color scheme for new items to add
  • Mix and match for variety

Basics Provide the Foundation of a Minimalist Wardrobe

simple clothing to wearAt the foundation of a minimalist wardrobe are basic pieces. For that reason, a capsule wardrobe goes hand-and-hand with minimalism. Still, you aren’t limited to following an exact capsule wardrobe list. After all, suits, blazers and trench coats are great for city-dwelling professionals, but I can’t imagine sweeping the snow off my solar panels while wearing a suit. For me, a suit would be ridiculous and impractical. At the same time, showing up for a banking job wearing a t-shirt might get you fired.

There’s no one-size-fits-all for your wardrobe. A fitness instructor may need yoga and gym gear. A construction worker may need Carhart overalls and quality t-shirts. If you work in a casual, creative office, a black t-shirt and jeans might be fine. Keep in mind, for formal occasions you can always rent a tux or for you ladies they have several dress rental options. (This works well for me personally, so I recommend giving it a try.)

Create a list of what you consider “basics.” For most of us that’s something on the bottom and something on the top. Imagine what you’d need for a two-week period (the maximum time most of us go between laundry cycles), assuming you wear bottoms and outer-layers, multiple times. Plan for the occasions your regularly face (work, school, the gym). This forms the base of your wardrobe.

Truly, there’s no hard-and-fast rule to tell you exactly what clothing you will need. Depending on your location, the weather may also play a huge factor in your choices too. In Minnesota, you may need extra winter layers. In California, light easy t-shirts could be enough. Plan for clothes that fit your lifestyle.

  • Consider all the activities you need to dress for: work, home, hanging out
  • Write up your basic list: tops and bottoms needed for two weeks
  • Remember seasonal items like jackets, long underwear, sweaters or tanks
  • Include items for work or other activities

Functional Footwear

Shoes take up a lot of space—space you might not have. The best way to get around the shoe issue is to buy the most functional shoes possible. For you, this could mean a pair of basic black sneakers to go from the office to the gym to weekends. Others might prefer boots. If you live in a rainy area, you might need GORE-TEX or waterproof footwear.

looking down at shoes

Having a pair of sandals in the summer won’t take up too much space or derail your wardrobe choices, but keep in mind—sandals aren’t always the best choice for doing work outside. If you’re hauling brush, working on repairs or even on a hike, you’ll need a pair of shoes that’s a bit sturdier. So, if space is a premium, skip the sandals.

For me, a couple pairs of shoes are all I need. When you consider your list of activities, you might also want to consider what sort of footwear you’re going to need in each occasion—work, gym, weekends and more.

Choose shoes in dark colors (unless you love white sneakers). They’re easier to keep clean and will go with more outfits and fit more occasions. When it comes to shoes if you’re only going to own a pair or two, go ahead and invest in something descent that will last.

  • Look for functional footwear
  • Choose only the number of pairs you really need
  • Don’t choose sandals if you don’t have space—pick a more functional shoe
  • Invest in quality

Buy Less and Buy Quality

Going forward, commit to buying fewer clothes and shopping for quality first. When you need a piece of clothing, shop for items that are well-made, functional and fashionable. Quality natural fabrics such as wool, cotton, hemp, bamboo and linen, often outlast man-made fabrics like polyester, rayon, acrylic and nylon.

quality over quantity

Look for craftsmanship and detail when it comes to clothing. There’s a reason vintage coats from the 50s are still found in thrift stores—they were built to last. Often, they had features like linings, hand-stitching and other details you can’t find in mass-production.

Even if you’re buying t-shirts and jeans, it’s wise to look for quality and durability. I like pieces that will stand up to quite a bit of activity and many washings. A great aspect of a minimalist wardrobe is it often consists of one or two colors. This makes laundry much simpler than sorting each piece. Laundry is especially a challenge in small spaces, so look for clothes you can wear multiple times and line-dry.

When you’re shopping for clothes look for care-needed, quality of materials and guarantees. Yes, quality clothing is often pricier, but the number of wears will soon mean the piece pays for itself.

  • Buy quality built-to-last clothing
  • Look for natural clothes in cotton, hemp, etc.
  • Find clothes in one color scheme to make laundry simple

Repair, Alter and Care

One way to preserve your investment is to learn to do minor repairs, alterations, proper storage and care. If you take the time to iron a hem or polish a shoe it has a huge impact on your look. Clean, pressed and well-kept clothing will help you feel put-together, even if it’s an outfit on heavy rotation.

fix clothes with a patchNow, admittedly, I don’t iron. I hate folding and sorting laundry, so using a laundry service is well-worth the investment for me. For most situations, I don’t need to show up in starched and pressed shirts and ties—but perhaps you do, so plan accordingly.

Take a lesson from previous generations who knew the value of careful handwashing, line-drying and separating laundry. When you have fewer clothes to care for, the laundry and clothing care because less stressful. Check over items before you hang them—look for loose buttons, hems and threads. Take the time to properly store your clothes and patch or sew up if needed—you can find basic tutorials on YouTube.

If you find a great, well-made item of clothing that doesn’t quite fit, invest in tailoring. This is even worth it for items like bib overalls, if they’re too long. Having pants hemmed so they don’t drag or taking them in at the waistline is worth it. They’ll be more comfortable and last much longer. Often minor alterations are all it takes to help an item fit like a glove and look like a million bucks. These small touches will greatly extend the life of your investments.

  • Learn to do basic repairs and touch up your clothes
  • Look over clothes for issues before you hang
  • For nicer clothes like jackets, tailoring is worthwhile

Clean Your Closet Frequently

Remember the five “Fs” of closet sorting: favor, fit, function, flatter and form. Apply them to your wardrobe frequently—at least a couple of times a year. When something isn’t needed anymore, don’t feel bad about saying goodbye.

closet cleaning for clothes

Clothes often build up over time. At one point everything fit in your closet perfectly and then one day you realize you’re holding on to more socks than fit in your drawer. Adopt a “one-in, one-out” mentality when it comes to buying clothing. If you need a new pair of running shoes, it’s time to let go of your old broken-down pair and start fresh.

Let go of stuff you don’t need rather than letting it weigh you down. Sometimes getting rid of clothes can help you clear your mental roadblocks as well. Consider the person who holds on to a pair of “skinny jeans” or the outfit from high school they still wish they fit into. Just let it go.

Instead, free yourself from the excess and complications of too many clothes. You’ll never again stress about what to wear.

  • Remember the five F’s of closet sorting and clean regularly
  • Adopt a one-in, one-out policy
  • Let go of clothes you’re hanging onto for emotional reasons

Simplicity and freedom is yours, today. It’s right inside your closet!

Your Turn!

  • How many pieces are in your closet right now?
  • Are you holding on to clothes you should let go?

 

To Build Or Buy A Tiny House – Experts Share Their Advice

I sat down with the top tiny house experts to ask them a bunch of questions, today I am sharing their responses to the question: “What advice would you give to someone trying to figure out weather to build a tiny house or buy from a builder?” The question weather to strap on a tool belt and build your own tiny house or hire a tiny house builder is a tough one. Hopefully thoughts from those who’ve been there can help.

kristie-wolfe

Can you afford to buy? If not I’m certain you can acquire the skills to build!

steven-harrell

Focus your due diligence around money and time. Building yourself will cost less money and LOTS of time. Having one built for you will cost more money and much less time. Which is more important to you? Where does your gumption lean towards, spending time or money, saving time or money?

alek-lisefski

If building, ask for help and hire help for stuff like the electrical work at the very least. If buying, really do your homework on the builder you choose. There are so many new builders popping up each day and many are in it for the money and nothing else. Make sure you really get to know your builder and talk to people who they have built for in the past. If there are any red flags, find someone else.

ryan-mitchell

It really functions on budget and time.  I’m convinced that almost anyone can build a tiny house themselves with enough time and hard work.  A tiny house that is built by someone else is going to cost 2 to 3 times more than a DIY tiny house. Understand that when you hire a builder, they have to pay the wages of staff, tools, overhead, insurance etc.  If you do go with a builder, make sure you have a very solid contract in place.

dan-and-jess-sullivan

I would say, look at your reasons for doing this, and what kind of tiny house market is in your area. If it’s about simplifying your life and reconnecting, it could go either way, you could build or buy. If you are in a location like NC, where several tiny house companies provide some pretty great options, and you have the budget, then buy. If it’s about financial freedom, independence, self-reliance…I absolutely recommend you take on the build!

deek-diedricksen

IF you have the time, the space, and the knowledge that you WILL make mistakes along the way, and that the build will take AT LEAST twice as long as you think it will, do the DIY route- you’ll then have a chance to craft the house to your specific needs, and will addition know you home inside and out, when it comes to future fixes, tweaks, or needs.

ella-jenkins

Building one takes FOREVER. Like way longer than you think. And then longer than that. No, really (mine took me 13 months). But it is also extremely gratifying. Buying is of course more expensive and you typically get less opportunity to make changes along the way if you come up with new ideas, but it is faster and the logistics are someone else’s responsibility. If you’re physically unable (or unwilling), don’t have the time, or are the kind of person who has trouble finishing projects, buying is a great option.

ethan-waldman

Decide if you have 800+ hours to devote to building your own tiny house, and also decide whether your body can handle 800 hours of hard labor.

gabirella-morrisson

Time is money. If you don’t currently have employment and have a lot of free time and the desire to DYI, then a self build is a no-brainer. The decision becomes murkier if you do have a paying job because your time away from your work will obviously mean a decrease in pay assuming all other aspects remain the same.

jenna-spesard

Consider the time, money and resources it takes to build a Tiny House versus buy one. It’s a commitment, and you need to be passionate.

laura-lavoie

Make sure everyone is on board before you start. If you have a partner who is uncertain about tiny living, you need to have a longer conversation about it. If you think you can “convince” someone to live tiny, you can’t.

macy-miller

DIY, you are capable even though you may not feel that way. You can learn the things you don’t know. You don’t have to know how to do everything, just know how to find answers.

kent-griswold

Take a class or work with someone to get an idea of what construction is all about. This is a house and it needs to be built correctly and if you don’t have the skills it is better to hire someone who has them.

andrew-odom

Would you put your mom in a house that you built? Would it be safe enough for even your mother? If not, buy one that is.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What tipped you in favor or building or buying?

15 Experts Share What Most People Get Wrong About Tiny Houses

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

alek-lisefski

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

dan-and-jess-sullivan

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

ryan-mitchell

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

deek-diedricksen

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

ella-jenkins

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

ethan-waldman

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

gabirella-morrisson

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

jenna-spesard

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

laura-lavoie

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

macy-miller

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

kristie-wolfe

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

vina-lustado

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

steven-harrell

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

kent-griswold

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

andrew-odom

That it is about square feet. It is not.

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

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

What 15 Tiny House Experts Would Change About Their Tiny Houses

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

kristie-wolfe

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

steven-harrell

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

alek-lisefski

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

ryan-mitchell

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

andrew-odom

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

dan-and-jess-sullivan

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

deek-diedricksen

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

ella-jenkins

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

 

gabirella-morrisson

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

jenna-spesard

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

laura-lavoie

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

macy-miller

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

vina-lustado

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

kent-griswold

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

 

A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

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