Jay Shafer Is Leaving Tumbleweed And It Might Be A Good Thing

For those of you who don’t know, Jay Shaffer the founder of Tumbleweed Tiny Homes is going to be leaving the business to his partner and starting a new venture.   Jay clued me into this past summer when I saw him in Raleigh, but he didn’t make it public at the time.  He has now gone on the record through Tiny House Design’s Facebook Page (brought to my attention by Tiny House Talk).

Before people get all up in arms about my title, hear me out.  What Jay had done for the Tiny House Movement, is huge, in fact many would argue he created the movement.  In my mind his major contribution was developing a vernacular of living in small sensible housing and then bringing it to the public.  His house designs are very aesthetically appealing, combined that with the cookie cutter homes of today that lack any character, his designs instantly have wide spread appeal, even if we aren’t going to live in one.  Finally he started a larger conversation, one that questions values, goals, priorities and the way we live life all in a approachable way.

So why am I saying that Jay leaving Tumbleweed is a good thing?  Well first I need to point out that it might be a good thing, it might not though, but the potential is there.

One thing I have come to learn about people is that they do their best work when they follow their passions; that pursing what you feel  in your heart and what excites your mind is a very powerful force.  With Jay moving to his next venture, he has the potential to bring his creativity and charisma to a whole new area.  I wish him the best of luck and look forward to what will come of it.

The main point of today’s post is that for a long time Tiny Houses have been synonymous with Jay’s name.  This will continue, but it also allows others to enter into the space.   There are many advantages to have a single point of representation for a movement, but I also know that for the movement to grow and mature, it must grow beyond that single person.

To have a single person means there is a lot of pressure and demand placed on one person.   Jay has represented us extremely well and I am sure he will continue to, but we need to grow and find our own footing.  This will allow, as a group, for the best ideas to rise to the top, for our group to become more organized as a movement, to have more tiny houses in all forms, and to have more people building Tiny Houses.  Laws need to be changed, codes need to be re-written and research / publications need to be done; these lofty goals that cannot be accomplished by a single person alone.

So we here at The Tiny Life wish the best to Jay and we look forward to what will come, but we firmly believe that this is simply a step in maturation of the movement!

  1. Excellent post! I wish you well Jay, I will be sure to follow along!

  2. Well said. Well said.

    Excellent big picture, with a lot of honesty in it.

  3. Jay will do well no matter what, I have no doubt of it. The guys is passionate as all hell about what he does, and is just an all around good guy too. I wish him luck, but he won’t need it.

  4. Ryan,

    It doesn’t get any better then that. Very well said.


  5. I agree that Jay should do well and this may be good for the community. For a long time now I have noticed that people seem to mention Jay and tiny homes in the same breath without going deeper to look for other great ideas. Many people have built this community with grand ideas and the spreading of the word. I have some 50 bookmarks dedicated to different tiny house ideas, designs, and companies. 1 is Tumbleweed but I would argue that variety is the spice of life.

  6. I absolutely agree. This will also allow more people to feel free to offer building workshops. There aren’t many out there, especially ones that are financially affordable to a larger population. I will be very pleased to see more names than the top two associated with Tiny Homes. Thank you Jay, for all that you’ve done to show people that a small footprint can be classy!

  7. That’s a real surprise! Thanks for sharing. It is a sad thing because Jay is a poster child for the Tiny House movement, but I do agree that the movement has to move forward beyond one person as the poster child.

    I’m currently building my own Tiny House, just finishing the foundation, so I’m glad to share in this process with you! Thanks for your helpful videos!

  8. First I would say I am grateful to Jay and the people he has worked with to get the small house movement up and running. I bought my Fencl plans from Tumbleweed and attended one of the small house workshops in DC. I have a lot of respect for Jay and his peers have been able to accomplish.

    That being said, I’m glad to see Jay has thought about succession planing. It seems to me that Tumbleweed has been coasting on it’s original plans and ideas for some time. The tiny house book is great but the new DYI Book largely has the same pictures, most of which are the pictures that have appeared on the Tumbleweed website for years. I think Jay has put so much of his time into creating the site, getting the business going and being a spokesperson for the movement, that he’s simply exhausted. Again, he’s accomplished a lot and he deserves a huge amount of respect.

    What I would most like to see from Tumblweed going forward is to improve the designs of the Fencl and other popular models. Specifically, add in some optional plans for solar panels. Update the materials list to include a broader variety of windows. Include where to mount an AC unit and recommend a specific model or btu’s etc. Move away from the propane boat heater. Include designs for a working plumbing system. As long as people are expected to poop in a bucket, tiny houses are a non-starter with too many people.

    Most importantly, I’d like some more detailed instructions for construction. Granted, building a tiny house requires a certain amount of expertise, but at least a list of common mistakes would be beneficial. The workbook I was given at the DC workshop actually had a lot of great information.

    • Happy to help out with detailed construction ideas.

      I upgraded mine in slight width and length increments to gain almost a foot in width and two in length.

      Used SIP’s for shell – I can heat the thing with a birthday cake (I’m 56).

      I have GREAT windows, Nice metal roof, no roof pentrations, very cute outside, and LOVE the boat furnace. In one fair sized blizzard, two small ones, and an average cold NE winter, I spent $78 in propane.

      As for ‘pooping in a bucket ‘ – I’m with you on that, but the toilet I got was a GREAT compromise,
      pee in the front, poo in compost/peat, twirl it and fan it out, and dump 2-4 times a year, and I’m good. Plumbing traditionally – no biggie, but the point was to not HAVE to do the septic routine.
      Tough when you are occasionally mobile. I’ve got the best of both worlds.

      Going into my third year in my super-FENCL and loving it. Saving money, micro-carbon footprint, VERY small material ownership and simpler life. Plus flexibility if need be – best of all, it lets me remain a teacher with an 80% smaller salary than most, but in a GREAT teaching setting so I don’t have to do a deal with the devil in the public school meat grinder – trading pension and “security” (debatable) for herding cattle (or cats) and putting up with state/Fed nonsense and paperwork.

      Give us a bell if ya wanna talk about details. I’ve photographed most of my work from trailer up, and am happy to talk.

      Been to some Tumbly weekends and talked with folks there.
      LOVE the movement, and LOVE Jay’s growth and expansion…Go Jay !


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