Posts Tagged living

How to Embrace the Basics of Hygge (Even in a Small Space)

How to Embrace the Basics of Hygge (Even in a Small Space)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about the concept of hygge. The basics of hygge are about adopting a warm and cozy décor.

But for many people this means buying a lot of extra items—candles, blankets, or decorative items like pillows. If you prefer a minimalist lifestyle, and especially if you live in a tiny home, adopting the basics of hygge seems tough at first (but once you get started, it’s pretty easy).

embrace the basics of hygge

I was lucky to go on a spur of the moment trip to Stockholm in 2018. It was an amazing experience that really let me see just how prevalent the concept of hygge is in Nordic cultures. I was hanging out in Copenhagen and had a few days to explore, after spending Christmas with my family in Germany. Since it was my first time there, I had no idea what to expect.

Hygge was everywhere! There were charming Christmas markets, beautiful twinkling lights, churches, coffee shops, quaint stores, and museums (that managed to be both light and cozy at the same time). I really enjoyed the atmosphere and I couldn’t wait to implement some of the ideas I learned about the basics of hygge into my own home.

So, here’s what I learned during my visit to Sweden about hygge. This will help you add more warmth and comfort to your life without buying items you don’t need.

The Basics of Hygge

the basics of hygge in a small cozy space

Hygge is pronounced “hu-guh” and means warm and cozy in Swedish. It doesn’t only refer to furniture, blankets, or candles. Hygge is more of a concept or a lifestyle and it’s a big deal in Nordic countries.

The concept is quite popular in cold climates because, obviously, when the weather’s chilly, you want to stay comfortable. When you live in a small space or have limited resources, you may wonder how to still invoke a relaxing, calming feeling in your home.

To me, it’s even more important to make a small space relaxing. In a larger space, you may find more flexibility, but it can also be more difficult make larger spaces have that cozy feel. You can add lots of options. The light of a TV or overhead fluorescents aren’t as harsh in a big room. Small living, on the other hand, is all about embracing the cozy.

This may seem like a winter-only concept, but the truth is, you can implement the basics of hygge all year round. Apply the principles to your living space and you’ll find your home is more relaxing, comforting, and feels happier. It’s about a shift in mindset.

What I Learned About Hygge in Sweden

what i learned about hygge in sweden

As I said before, during my time in Copenhagen I was lucky to have a few days to explore. I really fell in love with the atmosphere and the overall vibe. When I was there, the concept of hygge really stood out to me. You’ll see the word pop up a lot in comments and reviews of different spots. Most places I went in were around 80-85 degrees (much warmer than the 75-78 degrees considered normal here in the U.S.). They really amped up the heat there.

People in Sweden also wore a lot of hats and winter accessories. They’d dress in layers with jackets, scarves, gloves, and more. So, even when people were indoors, they’d often wear several layers. In addition to wearing plenty of layers, people in Sweden love to wear sweaters.

With the long winters, there’s a lot of nesting going on, especially since the winter is so long and cold. The people of Sweden take hygge seriously, making a really cozy place to spend a good chunk of their time throughout the year.

hygge winter in sweden

There are other ways they accommodate the long winters as well. Coming from a building background, I couldn’t help noticing, that despite the really cold climate Swedish windows are typically very large. Usually houses in colder climates feature smaller, more efficient windows. But in Sweden, since the winters are long, many people have huge windows in their home to let in as much natural light as possible.

While this isn’t as efficient for heat retention, they’ve made the decision to prioritize natural light exposure. It keeps the people there feeling mentally healthy and happy during the winter months, keeping away seasonal depression disorders. This is especially key since they don’t spend a lot of time outside for at least the good part of the year.

Now, what does light have to do with coziness? A lot! Following the basics of hygge means keeping your space really bright, utilizing a lot of natural light. The décor is often quite minimal, with plenty of openness and texture. Again, hygge’s more of a feeling than anything else.

warm cabin interior

I saw lots of natural materials—wool and cotton. Textiles used in interior design are often natural and highly textured as well. I saw a lot of big fluffy blankets and soft pillows. The colors are often lighter and soft as well. This all contributes to a comfortable, relaxing atmosphere.

One of the biggest parts of hygge is the lighting. Lighting is a HUGE deal in Sweden. I saw candles and twinkle lights nearly everywhere I went. Almost every home has a really great focal fireplace in the center of the room (as opposed to the United States, where we often see TVs as the centerpiece). If a family has a TV in Sweden, it’s often hidden or set off to the side.

Softened edges, plenty of texture, neutral colors, warm wood tones, and earthy colors all contribute to the feeling of hygge along with the natural light. You see a lot of plants—succulents and leafy plants—because when you’re spending so much time indoors, plants help recycle the air and improve the air quality of the space.

candle lighting in sweden

There’s a lot of thought put into the vibe of each room when applying the basics of hygge. People think of the atmosphere and feeling more than the look or style of the place. The feeling of hygge is achieved alone or with family and friends. It’s found in a public space or in your home. What it really means is cozy, charming, light, warm, and relaxing.

Most importantly, you can’t buy hygge. It’s not about adding more stuff to your space. It’s really about clean, cozy, comfort. For this reason, you often see natural materials used in hygge design, rather than plastics, bright colors, or cold, metallic surfaces.

Adding the Essentials of Hygge to Your Home

the essentials of hygge

No matter the size of your home or the current style, adding hygge elements and accessories will create the feeling you desire. Remember, hygge is about ensuring most items serve a functional purpose. So, for example, a fireplace may serve as warmth, a cooking hearth, and a light source. Blankets are used for snuggling up on the couch, sleeping in your bed, or folded as cushions on the floor.
If you want to add the basics of hygge to your home, here are a few ways to create a soft, cozy feel.

1. Add and Use More Blankets

add blankets for warmth and a cozy factor

Warm, cozy, fluffy blankets are perfect for cuddling up and reading a book in front of the fire. Look for blankets in natural materials and light colors. You’ll see a lot of cotton blankets (especially helpful in the warmer months we see here in the United States), down comforters, and big, chunky knitted afghans. Oftentimes, blankets are used as seating, for padding a bench, or draped across the end of a bed to use as needed.

2. Layer Up in Warm Clothing

layer up for warmth

Now, if you’re like me and live in a warmer part of the United States, you may not need all kinds of layers. That said, a soft sweatshirt is practical and helpful, especially in the spring and fall when the weather gets chilly in the evening. I’ll admit I’m partial to hoodies when a chill comes into the air. Scarves, sweaters, gloves, and hats are a big part of the hygge “look” but obviously it’s all about being practical. If the weather’s warm, there’s no need. A pair of comfortable slippers or a nice warm set of socks may be plenty.

3. Embrace Mood Lighting

mood lighting in a hygge space makes it feel calm

The basics of hygge include making the most of lighting. Hygge focuses on natural, warm light and following the rhythms of the sun. So, during the day, bright sunshine through a window is nice. In the evening, warm, soft lighting from candles and strands of soft twinkling lights help you wind down and meet the time of day. Changing switches to dimmer switches is an easy DIY project and can tone down the mood of a space to the perfect Hygge lighting feel. This style of lighting is certainly practical for any lifestyle, especially the tiny life. I prefer to use natural light whenever possible.

4. Warm Up with a Fireplace

cozy fireplace for warmth on a cold winter night

It seems like everyone in Sweden has a fireplace. It’s a great way to invoke the feeling of hygge. However, if you live in a small house, you may have a wood burning stove, a firepit outside, or use another heating method. You can still get the feeling of hygge using candles and soft, dimmed lighting in the evenings. This helps prepare you for sleep and creates a toned down, relaxing atmosphere.

5. Enjoy Warm Drinks

enjoy warm drinks

Most of us enjoy coffee all year round. I like to drink mine out on the porch in the morning before I start my day. This helps me destress, prepare for the morning, and gather my thoughts. If you’re not a fan of coffee (or prefer hot drinks later in the day), how about a cup of hot chocolate or tea? Cozying up with reading material, a soft blanket, and a warm beverage is the ultimate way to unwind and get the hygge feeling (no matter the time of year).

6. Move Away from Technology

embrace simplicity

While we may not think of hygge as synonymous with minimalism, they do have similar values. With hygge, you embrace cozy simplicity. This means putting down your phone, turning off the TV, and taking time for more mindful activities. Reading, listening to music, and even journaling will help you get into the spirit of hygge. As I said, I barely noticed TVs in Sweden, and they certainly weren’t the focal point of the room. Taking a break from your phone will give you a chance to relax, feel less stressed, and get refreshed.

7. Declutter Your Home

declutter your home

Here’s the deal, many people own stuff just to, well, own stuff. They forget the purpose of owning stuff is to serve a function and enhance your life. The essentials of hygge living, include decluttering and letting go of stuff that weighs you down. Hygge should help you feel safe, cozy, and happy, not weighed down and stressed out. This means cutting out the clutter and parsing down to what really matters. Buy quality items that are built to last.

8. Avoid Hard Edges

avoid hard edges in hygge

With soft fabrics and fluffy textures, hygge is all about softness and comfort. This means natural materials without sharp, hard edges and lines. Furniture and room décor should fit with this comfort-focused approach as well. Plants and lights, wood, stone, cotton, wool and other natural components are important to creating the feeling of soft, fluffy hygge.

9. Create a Space to Gather

create gathering spaces

I typically prefer to entertain or gather outside when I have visitors, but this doesn’t mean an outdoor gathering can’t still invoke the basics of hygge. When your friends are enjoying themselves around a campfire in the yard, wrapped in blankets, enjoying conversation, it still fits with the idea behind hygge. When you live in a small space, entertaining is often a challenge, so organize the room around your kitchen table, your stove, or fireplace (rather than the TV). This helps people connect without distraction and enjoy each other’s company.

10. Enjoy Comfort Food

enjoy comfort food

One of the biggest ways to enjoy hygge all year round, in any space, is to embrace comfort food. The concept of hygge is all about being warm and welcoming. Mealtime should fit with this same philosophy. Think of a delicious bowl of soup, golden cornbread, or a yummy pot pie. Even in the summer months, a delicious bowl of chili is everyone’s favorite and there’s nothing better than pasta on a cold winter day, right? Focus on foods that are warming, rich, filling, and delicious for the ultimate comfort.

If you’re looking to make your home a more relaxing place of retreat and rest, embracing the basics of hygge are a great way to do it. Even if you live in a very small space, it’s not about adding more stuff to your home, but selecting functional, natural items that will bring you comfort.

Your turn!

  • What are your favorite ways to make your space comfortable?
  • How do you relax and create a cozy feeling?

Setting Up Your Land To Start A Homestead

When you’re just starting out and setting up your homestead there are a lot of things that you need to think about.  We all have big aspirations of what we want to do on our land, but there is a lot of work that needs to go into it all before we can really do anything.

land to homestead

In some cases we are coming into a piece of property, or our property that we already live on has certain elements, layouts or assets that we need to work with or around.  While I am always looking to capitalize on what I already have in place, I’m also not afraid to make changes or remove something if it doesn’t work in the way I need it to.

Get A Plan In Place

When it comes to setting up your land, I always ask myself a few key questions:

  • What is the land telling me?
  • What are the very specific things I want to do on the land?
  • What are the workflows that are going to happen on the land?
  • How can I reduce effort, improve ergonomics, and make it more efficient?
  • How can I design it to be flexible?

These are some really important questions to ask yourself because if we are just starting out, we can nail these few considerations and make our lives easier, our design will work for us, we will have less frustrations, and we can prevent burnout or injuries.

What Is The Land Telling Me?

take time to listen to the landWhen it comes to setting up land or starting on a new piece of property we need to make some observations before we begin.  If you have the chance, try to live on the land for a year before committing a lot of time or money.  It also gives us time to take a bunch of soil samples and get them analyzed.  That isn’t always possible, but if you can manage it, it’s well worth your time.

By taking the time to see how each season works with the land you’ll understand it’s character.  You’ll learn where the warm sunny spots are and where cold air settles in low spots. You’ll learn where water pools in the rainy season, where it soaks into the ground well and other areas that it just seems to sit on the surface for a long time.  All these things tell you how the land naturally behaves and it’s our job to work with that, not against it.

Two things I’ll do on a new property is in the cooler months, go walking in shorts despite the cold.  This let’s me sense with my legs what parts are warmer or colder than others.  If it starts to rain a whole lot, I’ll put on a rain jacket and go out walking; looking for how the water flows on the land, where it pools, where it gets boggy.  All these things are helpful in your planning.

What Are You Going To Do On The Land?

writing in notebookBefore we even begin to plan what our homestead is going to be like, we need to know what we are going to do on that land.  We can’t figure out a direction to walk if we don’t even know where we are going!  Take the time to be honest about you and your life.  If you’re going to homestead and work a full time job, what can you honestly dedicate to your farmstead when you’re pulling 40 or 50 hours a week?

Plan for your worst day, not your best day.  When you’re tired from work, it’s raining out and very cold in January, what do you want your life on that land to be like on that day where you want to do nothing?  If you plan for that, every other day will be a pleasure and it will make it viable for the long term.

When I was planning my future homestead I realized that a lot of what I thought I wanted to do just didn’t fit with my lifestyle.  I wanted to travel some, not have to wake up at the crack of dawn, and have a place that I could easily keep up so I could relax sometimes.  This meant certain things were ruled out and other things became more realistic.  What life do you want to lead on that land?

What Are The Workflows?

If we are planning to homestead, we are the kinds of people that don’t shy away from hard work, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be smart about our work either.  I started out with a list of everything I wanted to do on my homestead and then broke each one down into that activities and actions that needed to take place for those things to happen.

feeding chickens

We want to be super efficient and be smart about everything we do, because there is never enough time in the day and a little planning up front will pay off big on the back end.  So come up with your list and then start to envision in your mind how you’re going to do everything.  What are you doing, what do you need to do those things, where are you lifting, moving, pulling, pushing.  Play out these things in your mind to figure out how you’re going to do work on your stead.

Reduce Effort, Improve Ergonomics, and Make it More Efficient

We want to be smart about how we get things done on the farm. A really great primer to this way of thinking is 2 second lean principles, which we did a post on.  On our farm, we want to always be looking for ways to be better, work smart and reduce possibility of injury.

An example would be chickens.  Let’s say you want 5 birds in a chicken tractor, in my mind I’d play out a day in the life of taking care of them. I wake up at my normal time and get ready.  I walk out to the tractor, it’s raining outside so the ground is wet. I go to a bin in the garage to get their feed and fill their feeder which is clogged so I have to climb into the tractor, and I drag the hose across the yard to top of the waterer.  I reach into the nesting boxes to get any eggs and I move the tractor a few feet to fresh grass.

improvement on the land

So from this example I’d analyze what work happened and how I might make it better.  Starting out with it’s raining and the grass is wet (remember plan for your worst day) it would be really good if I had some farm boots to wear out to the coop so I don’t get my professional job shoes dirty and wet.  I needed to get some feed, where did that feed come from? Is there a way that I could back my truck right up to where I need to unload it?  Do I have to bend or lift things, is there a way I could reduce it or prevent injuries/strains?

Is there a way to locate the feed and water closer to the chickens?  I might consider if a mobile coop is worth it, or would a fixed coop allow me to run a water line to it and have a little storage area right there to keep feed in and back my truck bed right up to it?  If I have to get in the coop, maybe it’s better to make it 6 feet tall so I don’t have to stoop inside, and how can I set it up so I don’t have to go inside often and cleaning is a breeze?

golden comet chicken

Think through all these things, look for places where a tweak can save your from extra work, walking back and forth, repetitive tasks, or not having things right where you need them.  If we are starting from scratch, let’s make our lives easier!

A Flexible Design

When we are starting, out we are operating under a lot of assumptions and even with careful planning and experience, we may find that our plans need to change.  Being flexible is a huge part of being able to solve problems and as homesteaders at our core, we are good problem solvers.

If I’m spending time to build something, paying money to install something or other big decisions, I ask myself what if I had to move this, change it or expand it? If we ask these things we can think about the future and bring flexibility into our design.

be flexible with your plans

A real good example is running water lines for spigots.  When I ran mine I had the trencher rented for a day. That meant I could keep trenching to add more hydrants.  At that point adding 100 feet more of water line and putting in three more hydrants was very easy and pretty cheap.  Hydrants are $70 each and I can buy a 100 foot roll of pex for $40.  So I ran my water lines where I needed them, then added one in the back corner, one near where I could build another garden bed in the future, and one next to my driveway to wash my car.

Think about if you had to change things, move things and what happens if my plans don’t work.

Access Is Key

There are a few things I always look for when considering land and access is critical. The first step to getting the land to the point where you can live on it is simply being able to access it. This comes in the form of roads, driveways, turnarounds and parking pads.

Before you even think about laying down the road, you must first clear the way, remove trees, level the dirt and make your path to your new home. You have a couple of options: gravel, cement, and asphalt. Gravel is the most economical and I’ve found if you know how to build a gravel drive properly it can last for a long time.

road access to land is important

Always go bigger than you think you need. You want to make sure that you can easily fit a dump truck, cement truck or trailer and have good places to park and turn around for the bigger vehicles and trailers.  I would also clear 4 to 5 feet on either side of the driveway and grade it somewhat. When you open up the woods you’ll find that trees start to push into the opening as they make a bid for sunlight, this will give you a buffer so you don’t instantly need to start cutting it back.  I give myself this buffer so I can just run a bush hog down either side and make quick work of it.

If you can get your water, sewer, internet, phone and power installed before you put down your final grade of gravel, you’ll save yourself a lot of work in many cases.  I’ve had it where the power company came in and said they would put in the line for free, but they needed to trench right down the middle of the drive.  If you allow 4-5 feet on either side, you can give yourself room to trench utilities into the property without tearing up your road and make it easier when repairs are needed.  I always try to put my sewer on one side of the road and drinking water on the other. For power lines if buried, I try to put power on one side of the road and data/phone on the other so there is no EM interference.

Here is a video of the installation of my road, turnaround and parking pad. Note I had a much easier time because there used to be an old dirt road in this location, so it was simply a matter of cleaning it up and leveling it out. The whole process took about 6 hours of hard work.

Infrastructure

There are a few things that are critical to actually making a piece of land or a home viable, this all comes down to installing critical infrastructure right off the bat and doing it the right way.  This is one of those things that doing it half measured is not going to cut it.  The saying is “buy one, cry once” and when it comes to getting your infrastructure in, this couldn’t be truer.

Water

No matter what you’re going to do or how you’re doing it, you need to have a very reliable, high quality water source that brings it right to where you need it.  I have seen people who tried to save a few bucks, had a water truck deliver water to them, do water catchment, try something alternative or temporary and it never works out.  If you can get tied into a municipal water line or have a good well dug for you, I’d save up for it or skip that land.  Water is life and you can’t compromise on it, you’ll just end up frustrated, broke, and doing it the right way like you should have the first time.

water connection

For water I am connected to the city water. The meter and installation cost me $2,200 (city sets price), but that is only from the water main to the closest edge of your property. You then need to connect it from there to your house, which, for me, was $700 for materials, $800 for ditch witch rental, and $1500 for a plumber to do all the connections, fittings and other tasks.  For running water lines; once you have your main connections you can do most of the work yourself and it isn’t too difficult if you’re willing to work hard.  I used PEX water line and ring crimps, buried below the frost line and frost proof hydrants for hose connections.

While you have your trencher, go ahead and future proof your system, put in a few extra connections, make sure you bury everything below the frost line and I’d recommend not using PVC or Poly Tube; go with PEX, it’s much more durable and cheap too!

Power

Having power is another major consideration you need to make.  In some cases getting tied into grid power can be expensive. Other times they will run the power line for free.  This is one of those things that I’d save up for and do it right the first time.  I currently live off the grid with my power, getting it only from my solar panels, but there are times where a grid connection would be nice.

tiny house solar panels

Heating (air, stove/oven, water heater)  and cooling take around 60%-80% of a home’s power consumption, the rest is all pretty easy.  If you’re going more off grid, starting out smaller is better and making sure your system can scale.  Check out my post on how I set up solar for my home here.

Since we are on a homestead consider if you need certain special hook ups like a 220 volt outlet for a welder, a 50 amp plug for a tiny house or camper, or running power to different parts of the yard where you need it.  Again, when you’re trenching it’s often just a little extra work and a few hundred dollars to add extra hook ups.  When I trench for power I try to put it on the edges and go a little deeper so I don’t have to worry about hitting the line with a tiller.

Places to consider to run power are: to your outbuildings or workshops for tools, finding things in storage or for those late nights of work.  I’ll also make sure I have lighting to illuminate areas I have animals really well; in case a predator is lurking I can flip on some really bright lights to spot them quickly.  In some cases it’s good to have power near the pens and paddocks so you can power a waterer to stop from freezing, a power washer for cleaning or corded tools for repairs.

I’ll also light areas for my infrastructure: a well, septic pumps, driveways, and other areas that if something breaks down I can flip on a good light to see what I’m doing while I fix it. Additionally consider some motion detection lights so that if someone wanders on to your property it will light them up and keep thieves at bay.

All these things can be done more easily ahead of time with some planning and for a cheaper cost since you already have trenchers or trades people on site.

Sewage

There are a few ways to handle this, it mainly depends on your local laws, so be sure to check with your township on what the rules are.  For many it will either be a septic or city connection.  In some cases you may be using a composting toilet or even an outhouse; these are often subject to local laws so make sure you know what you can and cannot do.

Internet/Phone

internet on the homesteadWhile this may not be at the top of musts for most people I like to include it here because often when you’re setting up everything else, it’s a good time to get this setup as well.  Having a connection to the outside world will allow you to set up security cameras to keep an eye on things while you’re away, or may allow you to work from home or remotely for better job opportunities.  Your homestead may start selling things and online order, customer emails/call and website stuff are easier when you have a connection.  Finally in many rural areas cell phone signal isn’t great, so being able to watch a YouTube video or call for help is a consideration.

Outbuildings, Animal Shelters And Storage

With any property you’ll need a place to put things, store things, or covered areas to work on things that you don’t want inside your house.  For me I have a place to keep all my tools, gardening supplies, lumber and things I need to work the land.  If you have animals, they’ll need housing appropriate to them. You’ll need storage for feed and hay, and other things to raise those animals.

If you have equipment like lawn mowers, tractors, generators etc you want to make sure those can be kept out of the elements. These expensive pieces of equipment can be made to last a lot longer if they aren’t subjected to the rain or snow.

Fencing

One major cost that people don’t anticipate is fencing.  If you have a large property a good fence around the perimeter is a large cost even if you do it yourself.  I try to get my fencing setup so I can run a bush hog or mower on either side of it while still being on my property.  This will make maintenance easier, define your property line, and allow you to walk or ride along it regularly to make sure no breaks have happened.

fencing your land

So those are some things you need to consider when it comes to setting up your land for a farm, a homestead, or a tiny house.  Keep our basic tenants of learning from the land, having a solid plan, focusing on work flow and staying flexible and you’ll have a great piece of land that will work for you.

Your Turn!

  • What are you plans for starting a garden, farm, or homestead on some land?
  • What have you learned at tips and trick when setting up your land?

The Ultimate Guide To Finding Land for Your Tiny House or Homestead

It could be to build your tiny house on or to start a homestead, many of us want a little place to call our own.  Finding and buying land is a tricky thing, but there are some things we can do to help making finding land a little easier.

finding land

Before we start looking it’s really important to understand what we actually are looking for and to that we need to understand what we actually need our land to do. Many of us dream of a 100 beautiful acres with a nice river, great views and easy access, but the reality of managing that much land would be too much for most people.

Determining Your Needs

writing in notebook

In my own search for land I thought I wanted 20-30 acres, but after some careful examination all I really needs was 3 really good acres, anything beyond that was bonus in my mind.  It can be hard to figure out what we really figure out exactly how much you need, so start with understanding that an acre is a square that is 209 feet long and 209 feet wide.  That really helped me grasp the true size of an acre.

From there I sat down and listed all the things I wanted to do on that land.  For me it was the following:

  • 1 small home
  • 1 big workshop/outbuilding
  • 10 chickens
  • 2 pigs
  • 2 bee hives
  • 10 fruit trees
  • 1000 square feet of garden

It took me a while to really nail down what I wanted to do now and in the future, but those things were critical to do on the land I want to buy.  From there I was able to estimate how many square feet I need for each and any spacing requirements (like I wanted the shop and pigs to be hidden from the house).  From that I concluded I needed  three main areas: the house (1 acre), the animals/garden section (half acre) and the shop area (1 acre).  Adding in some buffer space I came up with my 3 acre target if all the land was totally usable.

gardening on land

The important part here is to figure out what you are actually going to do. Being realistic, too often people dream of a place with lots of cows, horses, and other animals or a little house miles away from their neighbors.  Be honest with yourself and realize that you most likely don’t need massive swaths of land unless you have a very specific need which you already have experience with (ie: you’ve raised cattle before and want your own ranch).

Determine the area

When it comes to land we all know the saying: “location, location, location”.  For me it all comes down to two main factors: proximity to employment and my willingness to drive a certain length of time on a daily basis.  For other people there will be other factors, but all I really care about is if I need a job, can I find one and how long do I want to be in car.

location location location

Don’t get caught up in the trendy areas or close to the city center because those places often have more rules, higher prices and more buyer competition.  Being open to more areas and being flexible will improve your likelihood of finding a great spot.

Figure Out Your Budget

Before you get into the search figure out how much you can afford and agree on a upper limit.   This may be the time you get pre-approved for a mortgage or land loan if you’re going that route.  If you don’t have much money, check out our post on how to buy land with no money.

Use Online Tools

At the time of writing this post, Zillow.com is my favorite tool to find land.  I’ve setup several saved searches that automatically find and highlight properties that meet my criteria.  The one major downside to this tool is there is no option to filter properties without restrictions or HOAs, that was a big one for me and will be for many of you.  Since I did my homework on what I wanted I knew that what I wanted to do on the land wasn’t going to be allowed in a community with restrictions.

Some people have had luck with Land Watch or Craigslist, I personally haven’t found much luck there and the usability of their sites is a deal breaker for me.

Check this video out below about how I search for land and evaluate listings.  I’ll dig into the tools, plus some awesome tricks.

Drive Around

rent to own signThere comes a point where you just need to get out there and driving around the area you want to be in can give you some good leads.  You’ll find “for sale by owner” signs which most likely aren’t listed online anywhere. You’ll see a property that you like that you could approach the owners about if they own a large parcel and you want to buy a part of it.  There is a lot to be gained by driving around even if you don’t find any leads, you learn more about the area you’re thinking of buying in.

Work Your Networks

People always discount the opportunities that might be sitting right in front of them the whole time.  Get clear on what you’re looking for, what you can afford and the areas you’re looking in and create a digital flyer.  Take that flyer and post it on all your social networks, email your friends asking them if they have any leads and if you know any old timers or farmers, reach out to them too.  All these people know other people and by getting the word out there, you might find some great options.

Use A Realtor

searching for landA Realtor is some that you can use to find land if you’re ready to buy.  Since you’re the buyer, there is no fee to use one since the seller will pay all the commissions.

It took me about a month to find someone that I liked working with, that was helpful, communicated well and we clicked pretty well.  I found that there are a lot of realtors that will just try to get a quick sale or only kind of listen, I weeded those out quickly if they kept bringing me poor listings.

Once you do find a good realtor, understand they are investing their time to help you find your land and they don’t get paid unless they close.  If you go this route, make sure you’re ready to buy and respect their time.  It is fine to end a working relationship if they aren’t delivering what you need, but if they’re doing a good job make sure you close with them as your agent so they can get their commission.

I found mine through doing inquiries through Zillow; there was one agent that stood out from the rest for me and I stuck with him.

Go Old School

If you’re in smaller towns, looking for farm land, or if you’re really scrapping for leads check out the newspaper or local print listings.  These are often a lot of older listings, duplicates of online, but you may be able to find some new leads.

Check out local shops and community centers for bulletin boards. While your at it, leave your flyer you made earlier to see if you stir up any new leads.  Again, we may not find a lot of options, but if you do get a call the person might be willing to strike a deal or know someone who is selling land.

Talk With Farmers

Land is a tool of the trade for farmers and they usually have more of it than most people.  I find that they are also very practical people, so if you’re a younger person with dreams of building a homestead or small farm, they might be willing to do owner financing.  In some cases you can also rent land for a while until you do find the right property.

talking with farmers

Farming folks are also really great to have as friends. They’re handy, they have a lot of local connections and they have equipment that they might be willing to lend you.  You might even hit it off with some of them and offer to help out on their farms for free at times to learn some particular skill.  I remember weeding strawberry beds with one farmer and while we were working I’d ask a bunch of questions.

Take A Break

Sometimes things just aren’t working for you or the market is over-valued.  It’s better to buy during low periods because you can find more options and better deals.  If we buy at the height of a market, we might end up paying too much for that property and will have to wait a long time, if ever, to get out from under a property we paid too much for.

So those are some of my suggestions on how to find land to purchase for your tiny house or homestead.  Let me know in the comments what you’ve learned in your own search!

Your Turn!

  • What tricks and tips have you learned to find land?

Three Years In My Tiny House!

I can’t believe that it has been three whole years since I first moved into my tiny house full time!  Life has flown by and so much has changed.  Let’s start with where I was three years ago and where I am now…

Where I Was

About four years ago I was still working full time at a job I didn’t love.  I didn’t hate it, but it was just okay.  Knowing that I was about to make the move into my tiny house, I took a chance, I left that job and went on to do my own thing, making the leap to self employment.

first dinner in my tiny house

It was kinda scary, but I had a lot of things to get done so I just buried myself into the work to the point that I didn’t have time to worry about it.  I moved out of my apartment and into my tiny house and my new life began.  It was odd in a way, I remember sitting in my chair and feeling very much at home.

One thing that I learned is that it is better to have your house 100% finished before you move in, I had several things I needed to get done and honestly it was years before I finished it all.

 

Where I Am Now

Today I’m still working on my own, having built two companies and sold one of them very recently.  During my tiny house journey I’ve landed two book deals, writing the number one selling tiny house book to date!

I’ve traveled to many countries: Croatia, Hungry, Bosnia, Belgium, France, and a few others.  I also have been able to take some extended trips here in the US: Pacific North West for 2 weeks, New England for 2 weeks, twice went to Portland for 6 weeks, St. Louis, New York, Grand Canyon and spent several weeks at the beach.

I’ve also had a chance to spend more time with my family and friends.  It’s been really nice to take time when friends or family have the odd day off.  My sister is a teacher, so its great to spend time when she has random vacation days.  I can take extra time to go see my brother or go spend time with my parents on a random Friday.

friends and free time

The funny thing about working on your own and living the tiny life is you have a lot of free time, but most people have normal schedules and spend a lot of time at their job.  The irony of it all is I end up keeping a semi normal social schedule because that’s when everyone else is free to hang out.

Some other ways that my life has improved is that I get to have a solid night’s sleep almost every day, between 8 and 9 hours.  Despite not having to be anywhere at any time, I still set my alarm to wake up at 9:30 am, I get up, shower, shave, get dressed and make breakfast.

There is something very important about that ritual, it helps me not laze around the house.  I will go somewhere to work: one of my favorite coffee shops, a coworking space, or other place to get my work done.  I do my work until I am done for the day; sometimes its a full day’s work, sometimes it’s 45 minutes of work.  After that I try to get out and do something.  Often I go for a walk, get groceries for that night’s dinner, or work on a fun project or hobby.

Lessons Learn

I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I like and what I need.  Below is a random stream of consciousness of things learned over my three years.

If it’s something you are going to use daily, don’t skimp, splurge.  Great examples are my sink, my stove, my pans, my couch, and my mattress.  For example, when I choose my stove, I was shocked to find the one I liked was close to $500 for a two burner, but now I’m so thankful that I spent that money.  My sink was $250 plus $200 for the faucet, they are super well built and work perfectly in the space.

Don’t park your tiny house near trees, I’ve had many trees almost hit my tiny house, if I could do it all over again I’d clear the trees before my house was brought in so if any fell, they couldn’t reach my house.

Spend the money on a cement pad to set the house up on.  Make it 2 feet bigger than you need it in both directions. Make sure it’s perfectly level and getting your house on blocks will be much easier and much safer.

When you’re leveling your house, spend the money to buy treated 2×12 boards, cut them into 12″ x 12″ squares, have at least 30 on hand to level your house.  Again, much safer.

tiny house solar panelsOn your solar panel system, figure out what you think you need and then oversize the system by at least 30%.  Make sure your system can scale several times its current size.  Also make sure you can put in a propane/natural gas generator that has auto start and an inverter that supports it.

Always keep 1 year’s worth of propane on hand.  Have both 20lb tanks and a dozen 1 lb tanks.

Have a back up for everything: a shower, cook top, generator, batter powered lantern and head lamps, Mr. Buddy Heater and a battery powered fan.  I talk about off grid living misconceptions here.

Make plans in your house to have a serious pantry.  I thought I had enough space, but I really didn’t until I added something in my bathroom.  I’d suggest a space that’s at least 3 feet wide, 1 foot deep and 6 feet tall for all your food items, toiletries, and other household stuff.

Having your toilet outside is great, there is rarely a time I’ve wished it was inside.  The lug-able loo toilet seat is great and for $12, well worth the money.

When it comes to flooring, hire someone that does it professionally.  It’s back breaking work and they will do a much better job, much quicker and it’s money worth spending.

Tile totally works in a tiny house, I love my bathroom floor.

Standing seam metal roofs are amazing.  They look great, they are bomb proof and I wouldn’t do it any other way.  This is another place to hire someone.

 

That’s all I have for now!

Your Turn!

  • What life changes do you want to make when you go tiny?

 

How Was Your Worst Day Your Best Day?

Today I was listening to a podcast when I heard a question that was radically profound in the way it looked at things.  The truth is that our happiness is often not what happens to us, but how we choose to perceive it and react to it.  The question was this…

in-what-was-was-your-worst-day,-your-best-day

It’s fascinating how re-framing something can change our world view.  I could go on, but I think for today, just spend some time thinking about how your worst day was actually your best day.