Posts Tagged Tiny House

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?


5 Things You Should Do Before The Tiny House Conference

The Tiny House Conference is coming up and we’re getting very excited.  This year we are going to be in Portland, OR April 8th and 9th for two amazing days of tiny houses tours, talking with people who have built and live in tiny houses.  It’s always a blast and the one time a year we all get together and connect in person.

tiny house conference

Before you come to the Conference, there are a few things you might want to do:

1. Read up on all our amazing speakers!

Every single one of our speakers live in a tiny house full time and have for years.  Almost all of them have also built, at least, one house.  This means our speakers have personal hands on experience which you can tap into. They all have their own websites you can see where they live and lessons they learned. Check out our speaker page here.

2. Start sketching your floor plan ideas

We have some amazing tiny house designers and builders going to the conference, plus you’re going to be able to tour several tiny houses in person.  Start refining your ideas now so you can get feedback from experts and see how different builders approach design challenges you might be facing.

3. Save $100 on your hotel

From now until March 23rd, we arranged a discount that works out to about $100 off for the weekend if you use the code “THC” when you book at the Holiday Inn – Portland Airport.  The Conference happens right there, so if you’re about to register, also make sure you book your rooms so you can be right where the action is.

4. Mark your calendars: Free Tiny House Mixer


Friday night we open the doors to everyone for our Tiny House mixer!  Basically come hang out with amazing people who love tiny houses, all for free.  Not attending the Conference?  It’s cool, you’re welcome too!  Who doesn’t like to grab a drink with fellow tiny housers? Details and RSVP here

5. Write down your burning questions


When you start thinking about tiny houses, you’ll have a lot of questions.  Take the time now to write down your questions so you can make sure you can pick the brains of our speakers, all our speakers live in a tiny house full time and most have built at least one.


Check out the Tiny House Conference

My New On Demand Hot Water Heater

So last week I talked about how I was ditching the RV-500 from Precision Temp and moving to a whole new system.  Today I thought I’d share a bit about what I decided to go with instead.

After looking around I had narrowed my options to a propane outdoor on demand hot water heater.  This did a few things for me:

  • It allowed me to regain my under skin storage space
  • Choosing an outdoor version keeps venting very simple, indoor versions require bulky venting
  • I almost tripled my BTU’s from 55k to 150k that meant I could have hot showers on very cold days

There were two major downsides to this option however.  The first was that I was going to have to redo most of my plumbing and gas lines, that meant that it would most likely require a plumber (I don’t like messing with gas lines), which is expensive.  Having to hire a plumber isn’t too bad, but the next downside was the real kicker.  Because the unit was going to be outdoors, if it drops below 32 degrees, most units have a heater.  Heaters are great, because they keep it from freezing, but it’s not great for off grid solar setups.

Winter is a challenging time for solar because the sun is a lower angle, plus its often overcast on many days.  Heating also takes up around 20% more power than cooling, so there are times I need to break out the generator.

What sealed the deal for me was when I talked with one plumber that Rinnai (a tankless manufacturer) had a power failure dump valve kit they could add on.  Basically what this is two solenoid valves that would close the feed line and open a drain valve to drain the water out of the unit.

This meant that if I knew it was going to freeze that night, I could flip a switch to drain the whole unit after I finished cooking for the evening.  If for some reason I forgot or was away, if the power went out, it would automatically drain since the heater couldn’t keep it warm enough.

In total, the unit, the solen0id kit, installation, other parts, and removal of the old water heater came to $2900, which is a lot of money, but after I saw how much work they put into it and how complex the additional solenoid kit install was, I think it was money well spent.  I believe it also meets requirements for a 30% federal tax credit, which is $860 off what I will owe to the IRS.

Initial Impressions:

The unit I got was the Rinnai V53e, which is their value line.  It’s frankly more than I need in terms of capacity, but it’s the smallest in the line.  So far I’m very happy with the unit.  I’ve been using it for 3 weeks now and the biggest change I’ve noticed is that I can take very hot showers, even when it’s very cold out.  Just today it was in the high 20’s and the water was hot enough I had to turn it down a fair bit.  With the RV-500, at temperatures like today, I’d be taking a cold shower even when it was working full steam.

The unit’s pump and vent make more noise that I expected, but it’s not too loud.  In a normal sized house I doubt you’d hear it.  For me it’s mounted on the other side of the wall from my shower so you hear it’s thrumming.

The biggest win is that I get my under sink storage back and the dump valve kit is amazing.  If I’m worried about the heater unit wearing down my batteries.  I just flip a switch and the water is instantly dumped on the ground, problem solved.


Your Turn!

  • How do you plan to heat water in your tiny house?

What Is The Number One Indicator Of Someone Actually Going Tiny?

Having covered tiny houses for eight years now, I see many people who want to live in a tiny house, but only a fraction actually take the leap.  So I thought it would be interesting to ask what some of the experts thought about what separates the people who actually make the leap to tiny house living.


I think they aren’t afraid in the unknown. People that are okay with not knowing everything but confident that they’ll figure it out.


The only commonality really is just the ability to trust their own common sense. But I also think it takes a bit of a rebel and change-maker. It really is a subtle act of civil disobedience. Most tiny housers are not afraid to buck the trend and take tangible steps to live in manner that is more affordable and sustainable in the face of a massive culture of consumerism.


They don’t make excuses. People who want to live in a tiny house will stop at nothing to live in their house.  They don’t want to live in a tiny house because they think they’re cute, they realize the life changing potential they afford and pursue their goals with zeal.


An irrefutable desire to get back to the most basic and fruitful things in life, connections with family and friends, connection with nature, and freedom to live life outside the chains of debt.


They often hold the hammer upside-down. No, there are like 4507 of ’em, but I frequently see terrible window placement on many of the tiny houses of today- that being window placement without regard to airflow, privacy, aesthetics, and rigidity/safety (while in transit for wheeled homes).


Faith in things working out. If you wait until you have every possible component and have thought of every possible thing before you start you’ll be waiting a long time. Risk takers and ‘build it and they will come’ types seem to have a much greater likelihood of taking the leap.


Unyielding determination to live the way that you want to live. And creativity- so many tiny house dwellers are amazingly creative people.


Making a decision to bring the dream to fruition. We often see people amass a ton of information, line up their ducks. figure out their finances, but nothing can move forward unless a decision is actually made to take the first step.


Happiness. Living in a Tiny House is a challenge, yet the challenge is extremely fulfilling. If you make that leap, you will be proud of your achievement.


Someone who is a risk taker. I see it again and again. If you’re willing to take risks in other aspects of your life, you are far more likely to go follow through with going tiny. This isn’t a movement for someone who wants to play it safe.


Persistence. It has nothing to do with talent, or expertise, you have to be patient and persistent. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.


Commitment to make the changes to downsize and follow through with the steps it takes to make a dream become a reality.


Dwellers IMHO seem to be decision makers. Some folks see something and decide its right for them, tossing excuses aside. Others decide something it right for them but never move the needle from “wanting” to “doing.”


A very special thanks to the folks who participated:

Your Turn!

  • What are the biggest barriers to you making the leap?
  • What have you learned that might make your journey more likely to succeed?

My Tiny House Saved Me From Financial Disaster


I’ve been back and forth on writing this post for a long time, 5 months in fact.  Baked into this story is a fair bit of embarrassment. But in the end, I know that many people out there have been put in similarly compromising positions and this might be helpful.

This is the story of the worst financial disaster of my life.  The story starts with me working with an accountant for the first time in my life.  I’ve always done my own taxes, but things have gotten very complicated now with owning multiple businesses, a small army of contractors, etc.  I earn very little from this website – it’s my other ventures that bring in most of my income.

Tragedy Strikes:

I had submitted everything to my accountant way ahead of time and he had informed me that my taxes for the year would be around $3,000.  Not great, but as a self-employed person you usually get pretty slammed with taxes.  From there, I made a lot of decisions about spending, planning and budgeting for the next year.  I was feeling really good.

Then I got the bad news in a phone call….   “Ryan I’m so sorry, we made a mistake with your taxes, you don’t owe $3,000, you actually owe, $30,000 in taxes.  We made a decimal mistake.”

I was at a total loss for words.  I was sick to my stomach. I felt hopeless.

I eventually calmed down and started to think.  This was a problem, a problem that had a solution.  It was a budget that needed to tighten the belt in a way that I had never done before.  So I broke out my computer and started a spreadsheet that allowed me to fully understand what I owed and when.

Identifying two important facts:

1. I needed to come up with a lot of cash, which I now had a real world number for.

2. I also understood that timing was going to be a huge factor.

The name of the game for me was to earn more income while I timed very precisely spending to meet all my commitments.  Certain bills weren’t due for several months and my taxes weren’t due for about two months because I had done them so early.  Each time I paid a bill I had to quickly ramp my account back up in a perfect way so that I could be on point for the next bill.  This meant that there were times I’d be close to zero, but it would be part of the plan.

The ripple effect… of Death

The real chaos came from the fact that I had some other big bills coming up and having to pay $30k in taxes all of sudden was creating a ripple effect that left unchecked, would spell disaster.  A lot of my planning deals with working with cash flow. I don’t get a steady paycheck since I’m self employed.  This means I earn money and have to make it last until the next time I get paid.  Timing is so critical and a shock to the system of this magnitude was devastating, despite me having a solid emergency fund.

The main considerations to my budgeting:

  1. Understand my expenses down to the dollar.
  2. Understand my income, but operate under the worst case scenario
  3. Develop a strategy to increase income, assumed most would fail
  4. Remove costs that weren’t critical, go as lean as possible
  5. Stick to my budget no matter what

The big thing here was understand expenses and income, but operate in the worst case scenario when it came to my income projections.  For expenses, I used my real fixed costs and projected variable costs with 6 months past data.

I then needed to come with a strategy to earn more income fast.  What this meant was I needed to get two big projects I had been casually working on out the door, I had to hustle a second income from somewhere and I had to make this happen quick.  This lead me to my first lesson:

Lesson Number One:

I’ve learned that sometimes it comes down to income, not expenditures.  This is a particularly tough pill to swallow at times because when we talk about budgeting, debt and savings its often a discussion of what we can cut out.  The truth is we can cut out all the fluff, go very lean and still not have enough; that is what happened here for me.  What this means is that we need to work on the other side of the equation: income.  I realized that was the case with me, cutting lattes would get me nowhere.  I need to earn more to make this equation work.

How I Boosted My Income:

As I mentioned, I was able to get two projects out the door, but I didn’t stop there.  I operated under the assumption that most of my efforts would fail.  With that mindset, I knew I needed to move on a lot of ways to earn income to find a success.  So from there I looked at my skills and sent some emails to connections offering my services.  I was able to land a business coaching gig and a marketing strategy coaching session.  I did a few other things, but you get the idea.

Lesson Number Two:

One thing I realized at this point was I’m pretty good at a lot of marketable skills .  This brings us to the second lesson: be valuable.  Whatever this means for you is the correct answer as long as you can do some thing and people are actually willing to pay you for it.  For me I realized I have experience in building businesses and marketing.  I can do these things and the outcome of that activity is I can earn other people money.  Hence, I’m valuable in my own way.  Think about how you are valuable, because everyone is. The trick is identifying that talent and who you’ll sell it to.

How My Tiny House Saved Me:

Through out all of this it struck me how different this time in my life would have been if I been in a traditional housing option, namely renting.  Right now the average rent in my city is around $1000 a month with utilities.  What compounds this fact is that if I had been renting, I would have not be able to pay off my student loans earlier… so in addition to rent and utilities, I’d also have to content with a $250 student loan payment.  This all would add up to me needing to come up with additional $5,000 on top of the $30,000!

Beyond money considerations living in a tiny house meant one thing that was extremely comforting: I would always have a place to live.  That comfort of knowing that let me take a deep breath and know I was going to be okay.  To top it off, my utilities are $15 a month with my tiny house and push comes to shove, I could work any job part-time and make it if I had to.

Lesson Number Three:

Tiny Houses buy you security, peace of mind and a place to lay your head.  More importantly, it let me say “I’ll be fine” and move from trying to survive to finding a solution.

Once I realized that I would always have a place to stay, I could focus on executing my plan.  The plan gave me confidence, it let me put aside the knot in my stomach and get down to the work at hand.

Lesson Number Four:

With a budget in place, I found that I could move past fear and act with confidence.  Simple things like grocery shopping became empowering experiences because I could buy the food I needed AND it was a positive reinforcement because I knew the money was there for me, that it was part of the plan.

The Results

After all the worry and hard work, it came time to start paying the bills.  I think the daunting thing about the entire process was that I knew the entire plan was going to take 4 months to execute.  This essentially meant that I was holding my proverbial breath for that entire time.  Even though I had a place to live and a budget to rely on, I found it very difficult to keep pushing.

Part of this journey was trying to keep myself above water emotionally.  I knew I was on the edge of slipping into depression, teetering there in a very precarious way.  I felt a knot in my stomach, knowing that the stress wouldn’t end for months at which I’d either make it out bare;y or crash horrifically.  I carried this with me and it weighed heavily on me.

As I moved through the critical execution phase of my plan, I had to trust the plan.  ‘In the budget I trust.’  At one point, the plan called for me to have a whopping $256 in my account for a period of 48 hours; after which a payment would hit and I’d ramp up for the next bill.  The whole thing hinged on me hitting things perfectly, paying bills and crushing income strategy to face the next big bill.

In the end, I was able to earn enough and then some.  Along the way I got hit with some unexpected bills and needed to up my game, to keep pushing and never stop.  At the end of this I have started to rebuild my rainy day fund, which I hope to expand to $30,000 with enough time.

I’m also cognizant that even though I paid those bills, it’s a double edge sword, I now have to pay taxes on the money that I earned to pay them.  A lot of this can be offset with business write offs, but not all.

Your Turn!

  • What tips have you learned from your own tough times?
  • How has budgeting saved you?
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