Top 5 Tiny House Commonalities

Recently I have been interviewing a lot of tiny house folks about their lives in their tiny house.  While I knew the story of many of these tiny house folks, I had never had a discussion to the depth as these interviews.  It was helpful that I knew a lot about these folks, their houses, and tiny houses in general because it meant we could skip the basics and get into nitty gritty.

Over the course of the interviews I realized that there were some things that were so similar it was uncanny; to the point where people started saying the exact same words.  Now in some cases these people didn’t even know each other, so I realized weather it was tiny houses or the type of person that is attracted to them, they have a lot in common.  It’s kinda eerie.

1. DIY Tiny House Builders Unusually Have The Worst Car For Hauling Materials

No this isn't me.

No this isn’t me.

Almost without fail tiny house people couldn’t be less equipped to haul building materials than the car they have.  Almost every single person I talked to didn’t have a truck, they often had smaller cars.  This is the case with me.  I drive a Smart Car, which if you didn’t know, it is the smallest road legal car in mass production today.  I quickly realized when I needed to figure something out when my boards were the standard 8 feet long, but my car only was 6.5 feet long tip to tail.

Despite having the least suited cars, we make it work.

2. We Are Over Saying We Live In A Tiny House

After building and living in a tiny house, most people are tired of having to explain what a tiny house is, then having to explain why, then having to defend the choice.  As Ella from Little Yellow Door puts it “its just a house, it just happens to be very small”.  Luckily for me I have gotten through that process with most of my friends and family.  I now just say I am building a house, never mentioning that its tiny or I’m building it with my own two hands.  The only time I feel it really necessary to explain is when it comes up that my houses is tiny or on dates (I figure they should get the heads up).

3. Everything Has a Place And It Needs To Go Back There.

il_570xN_184465424We don’t have a lot of stuff, but the stuff we do have has its rightful place in our homes.  Every tiny house person I’ve talked to has said this to me, that they have a place for everything and they have to put it right back when they are done.  They don’t have room for clutter and if something is out of place, you can tell because its such a small space.

4.  Buy A New Trailer

I have now talked to about 40 people about this particular topic and almost every time, almost without fail, they say that if they bought a used trailer, they had wished they had took the leap for a new trailer.  I already know there will be some people that disagree with this, I can see the comments now, but I’m sticking to my guns on this one.

Most of the people who bought a used trailer ended up spending days cleaning up their trailer.  They also spent money on fixing and replacing most of the trailer.  About 80% of the people I spoke to ended up replacing tires and axles on their trailer, which meant a lot of those people spent the same or more than what they would have if they just bought new.

Macy Miller of Mini Motives also pointed out that in your first few months you have a lot of energy, excitement and drive, buying a used trailer sapped most of that energy as she toiled on getting her trailer to a point where she could then start building.  I think this is a really good point, its better to use this energy getting building done, not days with an angle grinder trying to root out rust.  The other aspect to this is that when you buy new, you know exactly what you are getting.

5. Tiny House People Are Grateful

Without exception tiny house people are very grateful for the lives that they live.  They know the value of everything they have, whether it is a possession, a relationship or an opportunity.  I recently was reading a study that one of the biggest factors in people who were happy was gratitude and expressing that gratitude.  I think this comes into play in a major way with tiny houses, because they understand the value of what they have.

  1. Depends on the skills of the builder. My $200 23ft travel trailer took 2 days to tear down to the bare frame and a few hours of welding a perimeter frame and $200 on trailer tires.The brakes(electric) were fine,the axles checked out. The over $3000 saved purchased,bartered,craigslisted all the new building material,wood,windows,siding,etc that built the Tiny Bungalow for under $5000.
    Nearing four years of full time bliss living debt free, able to travel whenever desired, leaves me very grateful.
    I don’t mind telling people I built and live in a Tiny House.I can usually explain what it is to my complete satisfaction!
    A Smart Car is just a few inches shy of 9ft long tip to tail.My 1971 MGB is only a bit longer and having a neighbors large pickup truck sure came in handy during the Tiny House build.
    Keep up the great work. We enjoy your tiny House enthusiasm

  2. Hehe.

    Me = 2 door Toyota echo.
    Best tank was just 47.3 mpg, ability to carry anything = almost none.
    Although there is a front seat dance you can do and get crazy big things in the back seat. I have had 6 windows in it once, and a table saw another time.

    My trailer I got in a trade and will need tons of work, but I am in this to save the green. Working often on vintage VWs teaches you patience is worth a lot of money!

  3. Points 2 & 3, I am totally on board with! I don’t live in a tiny house, yet… that’s coming though. I do live in a 22′ Motor home with 2 dogs, and it is tinier than a tinyhouse! Explaining the reasons for this to those that don’t understand is exhausting, so I typically do not disclose unless I feel really compelled to for whatever reason. I wintered with my adult daughter, her cat, and a fish too… it was crazy, but we had a good time.

    Putting things away is absolutely essential! I can drive myself nuts if I get lazy on this one aspect.

    I drive a Chevy HHR, and believe that it will be better than I anticipate when it comes to building. 🙂

    Excellent post.

    Ms. Minimal

  4. On the topic of small cars. While I’m not currently building a tiny house, my recent cross country move (from Chicago to Portland) opened my eyes to just how easy towing is and how capible even the smallest of cars are. A 5×8 U-Haul carried everything I needed (although not everything I own) and my little blue box had no difficulties with the trip what so ever. Even if you do have a small car, consider getting a towing hitch installed and getting access to a small flat trailer, that or a bolt on luggage rack can do wonders with the long stock.

  5. Did you mean to say: Builders Unusually Have The Worst Car

  6. You are so right on all counts. I drive a honda civic and continually have to find a friend with a truck or rent one. My used trailer was a deal, but it did take a lot of time to fix up. That is my biggest regret!

  7. I couldn’t believe it when I saw your car – it looks just like mine! I’ve been know to haul sheets of plywood out the top so it looks like my Smart has fins. I haven’t started building my house yet, but I know how tired I get answering questions about why I drive a Smart car, I can only imagine the questions about a tiny house. Enjoy you comments, Rebecca

  8. Oh, here I go again. The little guy on my right shoulder is saying shut up Ralph and other is saying go on fool. For years now I have ask the question of what is it with the attraction of putting these THs on trailers if you do not intend to tow it regularly? Robert on top here obviously has the skill and the ability to haul maintains and repairs these things, and he hauls it. The trailer is a practical thing for his application and it seems like 2nd nature for a guy like that to just keep the maintenance up on it. I can almost imagine he could walk up to the trailer and know exactly what needs to be fixed and when, I can with mine (trailer that is) but how many others do. Trailers are built be towed, not parked for any great length of time. You go out and hook on to my personal trailer and you can haul it across Canada right now with no problems, it is maintained to use. My buddy, a millwright, mechanic, welder, you name it but he doesn’t use his trailer, a beautiful to look at 26′ (I think) tilt deck. I just hauled that loaded to the gills from Alberta to Nova Scotia and the arrangement was, he fixes and I hotel it while he does. He did and I did. I am not even going into the problems with that trip but I stayed clean while he crawled in the dirt.
    Park a trailer, a new one, and in two years, that goes by fast, in a flash. The unskilled folks do not cover wheels; take weight off of axles, grease bearings, hitch points and a host of things. They let it sit in a tranquil spot where they think it may stay for a while and then move it, how often? Yep, by golly, a couple of years have gone by. Hook it up and oh yes, what happened to the jack, rusted out, (seriously, how many people grease a jack) damn, oh well gets a jack to jack the jack up. Plug it in, damn, what happened to the plug, how did that get so corroded, the thing hasn’t even been plugged in! Ok, wiggle it a bit; spray some wd40 on it that might make contact. You get contact and only half the lights work if that, lens covers are buggered or knocked off by some reason, oh the little gasket rotted, maybe someone should have thought of white lithium grease…the sun rots plastic, water buggers lights, mice and other little friends of nature build houses in the trailer works and chew on wires, what the attraction to wires they have is beyond me but guess what, the electric brakes don’t work either because of wiring problems. Oh joy, we get to play around for hours and incompetence causes more problems. And I can go on and on but some already know that. Tires, oh lords don’t get me going. Tires have to be maintained. I toss tires that many put on their vehicles.
    What is the problem with having the TH built as a skid shack and pay a professional to haul it on a deck truck or low boy trailer? I just had one moved not long ago and it cost $1500.00 from one province to another and two guesses what I had moved, a park model trailer that sat for over 5 years in one spot. I took one look and called the trucker. In a day and a half it was set up and lived in. Build as a skid shack you can leave the worries of many other things by the wayside such as weight distribution and a little heavier stronger construction if you choose, if you don’t, that’s fine to but you do alleviate many problems. The pro is coming with a way over kill trailer, generally with air ride worth more than most of us can afford and lots of liability insurance to pay for mishaps but seldom has any and your little house is a piece of cake for him, that’s gravy compared to what other things he hauls on a regular basis.
    I hope you get my point, I just think going the skid shack is the better option for at least first time home builders, who again, don’t intend on moving it all that often.
    Now, for the little trailer to go and fetch supplies, less than $800.00 at Home Depot and you can get just the ticket, you will use it a lot and you will not have problems like I mentioned often because you get familiar with the trailer and you will find a million uses for it. Yelpers, you will make a few more trips if you are pulling it with a smart car or something like a Sidekick but it will be your most favorite toy. I use an old tent trailer around town here and leave the camper on the pickup. I just hauled a hotdog cart and a bunch of other things from Calgary to Castlegar on it, went through a couple of small tires on the 2nd trip, had new ones with me but they are cheap enough for that mounted on rims (I had it loaded a little too heavy and axle might be a tad out of line) but I am not moving my home and all my possessions on it at one time. I never stop for anything without checking the tires, and can count the amount of my own tire problems I have had on one hand, ok maybe two but I’m old and always seem to have a trailer in tow.
    So back to my question, how many people really pull these things often enough to require it being build on its own trailer? And I have a barter bonus, I own a 35′ trailer sitting in Hanna Alberta with a good heavy duty frame under it, (an old park model) you want it, we go up, load it with a few more things, you, with your truck haul those things down to Castlegar, we unload it and you can have the trailer, 4 brand new heavy ply tires put on it last year, lights worked, I hauled it from Ottawa to Calgary then out to Hanna and parked it. My one ton pulled it but on the RV I hardly knew it was there. That RV has to stay out there and the one ton is no longer. The coach could be rebuilt but I won’t be doing it. It would be just the answer if you want to build a TH on such a thing, the frame could be cut shorter. If I needed another flat deck or car hauler it would be great for that with the coach taken off and is not stored in a field now but on a maintained storage compound. I had tons of problems on the first leg (quite a few truck problems tossed in) of that trip but fixed everything and in another year or so of sitting it will have problems again if not used. I was offered $3,000 for it but am using it to store things in at present and would rather have them down here than there, one way or the other.

  9. Hi Ralph,

    Forgive me if you’ve heard this reasoning before. I dunno about in Canada (beautiful country, BTW), but in many places in the States the trailer serves to exempt the structure from residential building permit and code requirements. A small square foot/meter measurement alone won’t do that if you add electricity, plumbing, etc.

    Having just replaced the axle ourselves on a 45-year-old Airstream, I certainly agree that a skid is a great idea if you don’t need either frequent portability or an end run around regulations.

    Ryan: Nice list, thanks!


    • Hi Liz, sorry for taking so long getting back to you. I have been up to my hooskow in a bunch of nothing. The compliment on country is returned. I love just about every place I have travelled in the US. I think it is about 90% of our population live within 100 miles N of the boarder so as Canadians we value the US as neighbors.

      Yep, we have some regulations, regulated to death and it is a task getting around many of them. My little building here, I pretty much have to get a permit to change a door knob (not quite but close) because its commercial residential zoned, The reasons other than what I generally go on about the trailer is the skid shack idea comes under the same description of the key word “Portability” so may go anyplace a trailer can go. With that said, that is the way it was a few but not many years ago, who knows what changes are made today.

      Here is a cute one for you. I wanted to put a kitchen in my building and use it for a café (take out only). The permits, just the permits are ludicrous and most of the work has to be completed and signed off by journeymen. I am capable of doing plumbing, put in a gas furnace, hot water tank, and replace the floor but require a permit for even the floor (it’s rotted out under the front windows). But, if I build the kitchen in a trailer as a mobile unit, I can build the entire thing myself, no permits, no journeymen, so you know the route I am taking. Fortunately there was a window on the side of the building so I can pass food from the trailer through that as I can use the front of the building as a waiting area with tables and chairs for takeout and that removes the requirements for public washrooms which would take up half the building to meet code and the better part of $20,000.00. Fortunately there are washrooms in the area customers could go to. Because I own the land they won’t refuse the mobile permit. I can tap into the buildings sewer for drainage, water supply and electric but have to permit those, not much, total maybe $2.500.00 and I can do the rough work to save some of that if journeymen do the hookups. That’s affordable.

      I wanted to live in the front of the building and put the operation in the back near an outside patio we can have without license or permit but the regulations say I can only live behind, above or below the commercial operation of the building.

      I do not try to mess with the bylaws in any way shape or form and will be in full compliance but you sure want to check out what you can and cannot do before you do it. I do understand because of health and safety issues but there was a time the building inspector could look at a job and say if it was done correctly or not. It seems today they are administrators of paper and as long as a Journeyman signs off then they are fine with that.

  10. TEST email to see if it posts.

  11. Dear, dear Ralph,

    Ah, such a pleasure to read and comment upon your well-thought out comments, again. I’m having MAJOR problems with one of my laptops allowing me to post at 99% of sites. I upgraded a security program I have and now I can’t post at Alex’s site, amazon, check my bank balance, etc. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! I have other laptops but THIS one I’m writing from is my work computer and I’m too lazy to queue up the other one’s, simply to add comments to Tiny House Postings. That’s what my test post was, above; I needed to see if THIS site was ‘allowed’.

    Well, you’ve touched on a subject about trailers that has puzzled me since I began reading Alex’s postings. Your run down of what happens to an unmaintained trailer is spot on. Being in the construction trade, I’m so used to being vigilant and hyper-proactive in taking care of ALL our tools, from the lowly screw driver and power cords to our most expensive equipment.

    But, as to the trailer “thing”–Liz is correct that many tiny house builders to it so they can get around codes. But, I feel (from reading blog postings) that a large proportion of the tiny builders also have this false reality of “I’m SO mobile!!!” and yet their tiny house is NEVER moved!

    Yeah, yeah…we all like to daydream. But, when I read about how “I built my tiny home on a trailer so I can move whenever I want” and it’s year FIVE and you haven’t budged an inch…give it up, folks!!! Face it, you’re as “rooted” to your surroundings as anyone living in a fixed home and if you still need to have that “daydream” of ‘moving whenever you want’, well, have at it!

    There’s a lot of puffery that goes with some tiny house owners that sets my teeth on edge: “Oh, we’re SO special!” “Oh, we’re SO unique!” “We can move any time we want to!” “Yes, we live in a tiny house until…the weather turns bad or we’re sick or blahblahblah.” To me, that’s like saying you’re a Vegetarian until you walk into a Steak House. I admire the deeply commited tiny housers like LaMar but too many of them just seem like hipster poser’s and this is the latest fad they’ve embraced. Pffffftttt…. If you’re living in a tiny home in someone else’s back yard and using their laundry, bathroom, cooking facilities, aren’t you just living in a detached bedroom? If you’re living in a tiny home only during ideal weather, isn’t that glamping? All I ask is that these people be HONEST: don’t tell the world you’re LIVING in a tiny home if it’s seasonal or you’re using resources from a fixed in place home to survive. Is that asking too much? You’ll have to excuse me now: my Vegetarian daughter wants to go to Outback for an All You Can Eat Steakfest. ~snort~

    • Cahow, you don’t know how nice it was to see you here. I have been legitimately concerned about your welfare so when I say I am pleased to see your absents was JUST computer problems then please take it in a good light. My friend, I do have a very good virus program you can download from the internet which I just renewed for 3 years, you are welcome to piggyback on mine if you choose, I buy it to cover 10 computers and only use it on 3, I will never probably have 10 (typical me, overkill) It is called Vipre if you want to look into it and only want to try it out, I can give it to you for the next 3 years on your personal computer, apparently they have an excellent business set up as well. We have never established another venue to see how each other are doing and that is why I am delighted with this contact. I even thought of you this morning when responding to a friend from the 60s I worked with on Radio CAE and remarked on time spent in Amsterdam.

      I will say it fast before we get eaten by something, Merry Christmas to you and your very lucky husband and family, tons of success with health, wealth and happiness in 2014. Wows me, I am on the move again and things once more will be delayed with this project, finances are calling me back to the big city 2 weeks out of the month. Doc will also get a kick out of the fact I may just end up living really tiny in a cube van totally stealth I have sitting doing nothing 128′, looks good on me right. Then again, I may always have the option of knocking on the people’s door I am parked out in front of and ask to use the Lu or do laundry. Something like, 2 am, hi, I am Ralph, how do you like me so far, you really should give me a key, knocking on your door is such an inconvenience.

      You know I boldly agree with your analogies on those living in what you described as detached bedroom and sympathize with those who allow it as my experience has shown in many cases, they really didn’t realize the disruption and expense this little favor would be to them (loved your ending). You’ll have to excuse me now: my Vegetarian daughter wants to go to Outback for an All You Can Eat Steakfest. ~snort~ (cute snort)

      I do not know about all different areas but a skid shack and a trailer come under the same more or less description of portability where I have been which a trailer will and that is the only reason I harp on about eliminating the fixed, attached, build on to or whatever with the trailer attached idea.

      • Ah, Ralph…as sweet as Pecan Pie, you are! I’ll gladly take you up on your offer, once I raise my fist against MSN and give them a call to see if THEY can figure out this mess on my work laptop! 🙁 I upgraded to I.E.#11 and that’s when all Hell Broke Lose! Can’t post on most websites, can’t shop on amazon (OH NO!), can’t check bank balance…it’s a real pain. Made sure Cookies were working, Java was working…but SOMETHING isn’t working, that’s for sure! I have zero time to do anything until after Christmas with all the adult kids and grandkids flying in this week and next so it’s on the back burner until after the 26th or maybe even Jan. 2nd. But, I deeply “Thank You” and will let you know, Sugar Bear. <3

        Today and all tomorrow is Cookie-Palooza! Been baking since 8:00 am; went through 16 pounds of butter and I.Am.Beat.!!!! Chillin' with hubby and a glass of bourbon in front of the fireplace; bed will be within the hour. LOL Oh, the joys of age!!!

        I have much more to say about "Posers" and "Wanna Be Walton's" but time escapes me. For YOUR laughter and others: at an Off Grid website I frequent, there was a 19 year old chick that was begging "well off older men" to finance her "off grid lifestyle on a deserted island." I am NOT kidding! As she wrote, "They have all this money and I'm a good investment."

        Pardon me, but isn't that called "Solicitation"? ~snort, again~ Oh, and Vegetarian daughter REALLY liked her Porterhouse steak and ribs. (insert sarcasm HERE)

        • LOL Cahow, what a hoot, I had a comment but to put it totally respectfully was a chore so left it alone, (your welcome Ryan) damn, where did this restraint come from. I go to bed at night and wake up a whole different person. Sure hope I change back tonight, I liked that damn fool. Spit spit… and one of your little “snorts” what I really get a kick out of is at 19 she feels she is a good investment, if only she knew the real value of a mature woman who she would classify a senior who truly has a lifetime of experience, then she would know what a good investment is.

  12. I LOVED my Smart car for hauling lumber. I once brought home a 28 foot extension ladder sticking out the top, and have brought home doors, all manner of furniture, lumber and the like. The tailgate/ lift-window design, combined with the forward-folding front passenger seat makes it EXTREMELY practical. The only limitation was sheets of 4×8 plywood and the like, but even most SUVs can’t fit 48″ wide lumber. For the money, fuel economy, safety, and parkability, the Smart car RULES.

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