Welcome To The Tiny Life

ryan tiny house and the tools he used to build itHi, I’m Ryan
I’m often asked about my tiny house and what it’s like to live in a tiny home. Having lived in a tiny home for close to a decade now, I’ve learned a few things.  I’ve also been sharing my story and teaching others for 10+ years, having helped build over 3,000 tiny houses.  So here is a bit about my house, the lifestyle, and what it takes to live The Tiny Life.

I thought today I’d do a post to introduce myself to all the new readers we have received.  It’s been a while since I’ve done this, several years in fact, so I thought I’d say hello!  In this post I’ll share a little bit about me, about my tiny house and how it’s all setup, what this website is all about and other things people have asked about.  I have a FAQ at the bottom of this page too.

First off, my name is Ryan Mitchell, I run The Tiny Life.  I’m a 37 year old guy from Charlotte, NC, but originally from New Hampshire.  I never expected to be writing about tiny houses, but back in 2009 I started this website just to have a place to keep all my design ideas and musings.  Over five years now, it has grown beyond my wildest dreams.

My Tiny House Journey Started Like This:

One Friday afternoon, my coworkers and I stood on the sidewalk outside our old office with the contents of our desks now residing in a cardboard box; the whole company had just been laid off and a million things were swirling around in our heads. How will I pay my bills? Rent is due next week! How am I going to find a job in a down economy?

I knew I needed a change, a drastic change, one where I could take control of my life and its destiny.  I soon found tiny houses and realized the potential.

It took me 4 years of working, planning and saving to make my dream a reality.  Those years were tough, with the recession in full swing and me trying to find my way into adulthood, I had a lot of ups and downs.  I started with pretty much nothing, no savings, a bunch of debt, and a very low paying job.  Over those 4 years I worked my way up, tackled my debt, sacrificed for my dream and in late 2012 I started building my tiny house.

This is my tiny house that I built with my own two hands, this is a photo of me the day I moved my house from where I built it to where I’d be living in it.

ryan mitchells tiny house
floor plan

Simple Living

Once I built my tiny house I started to live the tiny life.  It has been amazing! When I started this website I wanted to talk about more than just tiny houses.  The truth is tiny houses are just a part of it, I may even go as far as saying a small part of it.  What I’ve found is that changes in my life were the real impact.  While the tiny house helped me with this, I see it as a beautiful place to live and as a tool that made the rest possible.  So when I talk about the tiny life, I generally mean these topics:

What It’s Like Living In A Tiny House

Since moving into a tiny house I decided to leave my old job and start out on my own, I’ve been self employed for 11+ years right now.  This was a huge shift because not only did I have more control over my future, but I also designed my business to be location independent.  That means I can work from anywhere.  At the time of this post, I’m actually living in Croatia for 3 months because one of the things on my bucket list was to live in a foreign country.

Life in a tiny house has been great and really opened up a lot of possibilities for me like it has so many others.  My financial situation has changed drastically, because my cost of living dropped so significantly. My rent, utilities, insurances, etc used to cost me $1,500 a month, now my cost of living is $15 (not a typo)!  I then took that money and started paying off the rest of my debt.  I’m almost there and hope to be debt free in a year.

Time wise I have a lot more of it and even better, I have more control over it.  I now can spend more time with my friends and family.  Right now I’m single, but I can’t help but think that having time to spend focusing on a relationship with a girlfriend would be rewarding.  I think what I like most about my time is I can take long walks most days, take more vacations, and have lunches and dinners with family more often.

Peace of mind and lower stress has been another outcome of this journey.  With less debt (and soon no debt), money for a rainy day fund, a house paid for powered by solar panels, and time to think, I feel that I can weather the ups and downs of life better.  I can sleep better knowing I will always have a roof over my head.

The land that my tiny house is parked on is a 32 acre parcel only a few minutes from down town.  I give some details about how I found it below.  In order for me to setup my land I had to run a water line, fix up the road and have a gravel pad installed.  In addition to my tiny house, I also have an enclosed trailer which I use for my camping gear, tools and some equipment for my job.  I also keep some bulk items like toilet paper and the like in there.  You can read more about how I setup my land for a tiny house.


Frequently Asked Questions About Ryan’s Tiny Home

Q: How big is your tiny house?

A: 150 square feet, plus a sleeping loft.  The house is built on an 18 foot trailer, but the house is 8.5 wide, 20 feet long and 13′ 4″ tall.  Inside the house is 11.5 feet tall in the main room, in the kitchen which is under the loft, its about 6’4″.  The loft is about 4.5 feet tall.  My trailer from ground to top of deck is about 17 inches.

Q: Who made your trailer and was it new or used?

A: I purchased a brand new 18′ utility style trailer from Kaufman trailers, I strongly encourage folks to go the new trailer route.  Read more here

Q: Did you build it all yourself or did you know how to build before?

A: I had never really built anything before my tiny house. I also didn’t know anyone that had these skills either.  That said, I did build this house by myself with my own two hands.  The exceptions would be I hired an electrician to wire it, I paid someone to do the roofing because I didn’t have the equipment to bend the metal for the roof, and I hired someone to help me hang my front door.  Other than those three things, I did it all.  Check out my tiny house building checklist, it has a ton of info

Q: What would you change if you had to do it all over again?

A: I think I’d opt for all casement windows,  most of my windows are awning style.  I’d also purchase a door instead of building on.  The main reason I had to get some help hanging my door was because since I built the door from scratch, I also had to build a custom door jam and that was tricky to get the door just right.  I think I’d also go from a 18 foot trailer to a 20 or 22 foot trailer.  I think that two extra feet would be ideal for me.

Q: What appliances do you have? Heater? Water heater? Etc?

A: I have a lot of posts on this:

My fridge is a basic bar fridge: specifically the Danby 4.4 cu. ft. Energy Star Compact Refrigerator because it was about the biggest fridge that came without a freezer section.  My heating and cooling is handled by a mini split: the Fujitsu 9rls2 which is 9,000 btu’s max wattage of 800 watts on high heat that can handle a few hundred square feet.  This was the most efficient mini split when I bought it with a seer rating of 27. It cost me $1,400 for the unit and another $400 for the install.  I also use a standard toaster oven.  I don’t have a microwave or standard oven as I just don’t have much use for them personally.  I wish I had a washer and dryer, but don’t. Right now I just use a laundry service.

Q: Where do you get your power, water, sewage, internet?

A: Initially I was going to be grid tied, but the city wouldn’t allow it.  So I had to at first rely on my generator, which is a Honda EB2000i. It’s an amazing generator, if you need one, I can’t recommend it enough.  At $1,000 it’s very pricy but it’s super small and on eco-mode it can be running and I can’t hear it in my house at all.

Come January 2015 I will be installing a solar panel array.  The array is 1.65 KWs, 9 solar panels and 8 batteries.  The batteries are AGM, 740 watt/hours 6 volt.  The system cost me $14,500 for parts and labor.  The reason it is so high because I want to heat and cool with this.  If I where to cut out heating and cooling with my mini split, I could drop down to a system that was about $6500.

My internet is standard cable internet.  I have no cable TV. My cell phone is my only phone.  My water is city tied.  For sewage I have a composting toilet (following the humanure composting handbook).  I also have a grey water system to hand water from my sink and shower.

Q: How did you deal with building codes?

A: For me, after several lengthy talks with the building code enforcement folks and going around and around with permits and inspects.  The main code enforcement officer told me to “don’t ask, don’t tell”.  That, combined with me trying to be a good neighbor and having my tiny house nestled out of sight in the woods, allows me to live in my tiny house.  It is technically illegal.  It is built to code, but not inspected.  I written an ebook on this exact topic, so make sure to learn about tiny house building codes.

Q: How did you find the land that you are parked on and do you lease or own?

A: I currently lease land from a friend.  The property is in the city, but on a very large parcel of land, 32 acres to be exact.  I found it because I was looking for a place to park and asked a friend who I thought might know of a place I could rent.  Turns out he had an empty parcel that he wanted someone to keep an eye on.  I pay $1 a month plus help him do some website work every now and then.

Q: How long did it take you to build your tiny house?

A: I typically say a year of nights and weekends.  Technically on a calendar it was about a 1.75 years, but I took a 3 month break at a point and once I was held up for 4 months waiting on a window.  In general, a professional could build a house in 2-3 months, an amateur 1-2 years of nights and weekends.



  1. re:”water heater is an RV500 by PrecisionTemp […] it cost me about $12,000. ”

    should be $1,200?

  2. Thanks for sharing all this info, Ryan. Your podcasts and other info are great influences and inspiration. Wishing you the best with all your efforts. If you ever want to discuss SIPs for tiny houses and cozy cottages, gimme a call. Until then…

    Live Large — Go Tiny! – Thom @ TimberTrail.TV

    • Thank you for sharing…this is a dream to me.I’m on a fixed income, due to permanent loss of vision of the right eye, a victim or should I say a survivor.of a brutal crime.has changed my life forever..I love the ideal of being able to own my own home..having peaceful days and cozy night’s..simple life, garden.being close to nature…such a beautiful dream.any advise as to how to begin..very welcomed

  3. Thanks for all the specifics. We’re ready for the next stage of putting in solar panels when we re-roof the 16×20 shed we’ve renovated as our tiny house, and neither of us knows much about how to wire something for solar. I lok forward to a blog post about nothing but a sloar install.

    Also thanks for the info on the water tank. We do have one question, though: would it work with a propane system?

  4. (and I promise to proofread better next time, lol. Sorry. . . .)

  5. Hi Ryan!
    Just read the article in UNC Asheville Fall 2014! I’m so proud of you for sticking to your dream and making it a reality!!
    I’m looking for land right now in the Asheville/Hendersonville area and as soon as that’s a done deal I can start building.
    Like you, I’ve never built anything, not even a birdhouse! And I plan to contract out the concrete slab the house will sit on, as well as the electrical. I’ll be off grid for black water with an incinerating toilet, with the grey water for use in the garden. I think I will tie into the electricity, with propane as a back up and go with a tankless water heater like yours. It will be 220 sq ft…all one floor, with a screened in porch across the front. My brother will act as contractor and get me started with the frame and roof but I plant to do the finish work by myself (yikes).
    Thanks for The Tiny Life website, and for all the support and encouragement for those of us who are still in the planning stages.


  7. hi. we love the tiny houses and we are planning to build one.
    in our country, tiny houses are start up investments only.. but i found out that it is not just a simple start up living.. it can be a good simple living lifestyle that can be good for lifetime..

  8. Just wondering with all of the storage sheds that are very unique looking popping up everywhere why wouldn’t they do for a start, they are very inexpensive,, then Insulate , would that have been an option or was it the portability, (wheels) just asking, I have been pondering this too! Tankless water heater a must and solar also. But the few I have looked at have been able to have a bed down, thinking about a Murphy bed!

  9. Great info. I am seriously thinking of downsizing to a tiny house and look forward to the project. As stated in a prior post, the idea of a storage shed came to mind as basic framework. Does anyone know why this wouldn’t work?

    • I am a custom builder studying engineering currently. I would say that it would be accurate to simplify the ‘storage shed’ format being acceptable for the basic framework. However, that is to be understood that ‘storage shed’ has many different realities. I would not recommend going any more than 24″OC for exterior wall stud spacing (unless you use 2″ CCSPF as a structural stud stabilizer–and this is only intended in a particular design I invented, so probably shouldn’t list it as a viable method yet…), and no less than 24″OC for trusses or rafters. I have seen ‘storage sheds’ made with a perimeter frame of 2x4s and OSB as the shell with no middle studs whatsoever; this is not a good basis to go by. Admittedly, there are a lot of ways to make something happen, but if you’re not well versed in the ins and outs of general construction methods, I would recommend you follow the layout schedules given in the IRC. Those will keep you safe (with a large factor of safety in most cases). To reduce weight you can always play games, but that should be done with consulting with an expert. Guessing games are not recommended.

      • I grew up in a family of carpenters who built huge structures and my husband is a carpenter. He knew what to request for the storage shed construction.

  10. We are using a storage shed for the basic framework. We have 436 sq feet. Electric, well water and septic. the entire house is basically open except for the bathroom which has shower, sink, toilet, washer and dryer.

  11. Hello!
    Well this is quite a long think to say but, I´m gonna graduated from college(degree in hotel management) soon and i was requested to do a thesis but i have to think in a outstanding theme for my work, i was searching what to do so i decided to do propose “flats to go” you know like a trailer but this could be an actual house that you can move all over the country (i´m from Panama by the way) considering is pretty small and you can see a lot of touristic places in a couple of days and don´t have to pay a lot of money in hotels and restaurants. It would be so relaxing and exciting for me to talk to someone that already made a tiny house and have experience in everything about it. Could you help me please? is a big deal and a huge theme to talk about in my graduation work.

  12. my biggest concern is tornadoes! I live in TN and we have our fair share of these! Your thoughts about weather?

  13. As a 15 year old thinking ahead for my future, I have been completely taken by the tiny house movement! The whole idea just amazes me; the traveling, the money factor, and all of the freedom! I love your website and your story. It’s all very inspirational!

  14. My house is considered small 1200 sq ft 1942 home, but it is a mansion compared to these… i would like to subscribe.

  15. Help! My friend has had her heart set on a tiny home for two years and now that she is financially ready to have one built she can not get companies to call her back. Can you suggest one?

  16. Kudos to all the tiny house pioneers! What a spectaculat movement towards a life not only void of the chains of our current state of existence,but also propelling that existence to one that does not destroy the only planet that currently supports the ability to exist. My name is Todd, my wife and I have been considering the idea for a year now and what I have found is that the hardest part of going “off the grid” is being out of the grid. At 40ish retirement is far away and finding a place to “park” for a few years has become a tumultuous task. Here in Knoxville TN, any place to “park/reside” is far from town and mostly resembles a concept tiny house lovers want to avoid, a “trailer park”. Many mobile homes packed on top of each other and frankly due to the past deems many as trailer trash. I want change that! Pairing renewable energy resources and tiny living into a community of “Renewals”, who arent removing themselves from society but instead changing our society to a more balanced existence. So, if any “Renewals” out there wanna discuss how to make this happen send me an email. steinketodd@gmail.com Thank you to all the innovators out there tired of the promise of change, held back by how we exist in society today. No more ripples of excessive behavior! Together we can do this

  17. do you have a physical address for your tiny house? or do you use a PO box? was wondering about drivers license and such when you need an address. thanks! Tracy

  18. Keep up the good work. Your articles are very interesting indeed.
    Make sure to check out


    to list your tiny house as a vacation rental with us, in order to get bookinigs from Europe.
    Best Regards

  19. Hello group My Name is Shana and I am student at Clayton State University. I am working on a final semester project that involves the Tiny home industry. It is a business plan for a TINY Warehouse that specializes in products for tiny homes. I need a lot of input on my questions from the market to derive my plan. If you could please answer a few questions.

    Would you benefit from a place (a workshop) where you could build and store your tiny home?

    Would you benefit from a warehouse that specialized in carrying a variety of tiny appliances that you could purchase onsite. If so what appliances and brands would you like to see?

    Would you benefit from a place where you could purchase building materials from other demolitions to use on your tiny home?

    Any suggestions?

  20. hi , for indian climate what type of materials and plans required please let me know

  21. write your comment here…
    I like to be a part of tiny movement.

  22. Great blog Ryan! Do you know of anything similar in the UK?

    Am just starting out on the tiny lifestyle adventure and new website which I hope to incorporate my ideas and way of living into.

    Will you be doing something more up-to-date?

  23. I’m looking for someone to build me a tiny home in Helfin Al. I need cost rent to own etc. Could you please send information

Leave a Reply