What Is The Tiny House Movement?

What are tiny houses? What is the tiny house movement? Why do people choose tiny homes and what does tiny living mean?

Simply put, the trend toward tiny houses has become a social movement. People are choosing to downsize the space they live in, simplify, and live with less. People are embracing the tiny life philosophy and the freedom that accompanies the tiny house lifestyle. The tiny house movement is about more than simply living in a small space (although, a small house is certainly part of it).

How Big is the Average Tiny House?

What is a tiny house? How big (or small, rather) is a tiny house anyway? Well, the typical American home is around 2,600 square feet, whereas the typical small or tiny house definition is a home with square footage is between 100 and 400 square feet. While of course there aren’t any rules to joining the tiny house movement, when people refer to “the tiny life,” their tiny house generally falls under the 400 square foot level.

Tiny homes may be rented or owned. You may choose a mini home on wheels or your small home may set on a foundation. Most tiny houses are independent structures—some are parked on land with other buildings or a larger home. Other tiny houses are parked on their own lot. Some tiny houses are designed and built by the owner themselves, while others are purchased, adapted from trailers, or built from a tiny house kit. Tiny houses come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, but they all enable simpler living in a smaller, more efficient space.

Why Join the Tiny House Movement?

To those who haven’t tried tiny house living, it may seem daunting. Why would someone choose to live in a small space? But “bigger is better,” right?

It turns out there are many merits to the tiny home movement and the tiny life philosophy. Of course, people may join the movement for any number of reasons, but the most popular reasons include environmental concerns, financial concerns, and the desire for more time and freedom.

The tiny life provides huge financial advantages and the ability to live a lifestyle filled with adventure. For most Americans, 1/3 to 1/2 of their income is dedicated to the roof over their heads! That means many people will spend a lot of time figuring out how to afford their homes. Buying a house often translates to at least 15 years of working over your lifetime to pay for it. Because of the high cost of owning a “typical-sized” home, as well as the associated expenses (and culture of “buy now, pay later”), 76% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck.

We work hard to afford bigger houses than we need. We continue to work, so we can fill our houses with more stuff…items we may not need but buy anyway. Many Americans are overwhelmed by their packed schedules and obligations. They’re tired of running in the rat race.

So, what’s the alternative to this high cost of living? One solution is to live smaller—and it’s that realization that brings many people into the tiny house movement. While small homes aren’t for everyone, tiny house costs are much lower than a full-size building.

In my own journey, I started out in an apartment that cost me $1000 per month once you added in utilities, insurance, etc.  Once I moved into my tiny house, my bills virtually disappeared, it now costs me $15 (yes you read that right, fifteen dollars!) per month.  The cost of building my own tiny house was recouped in under 2 years’ time, allowing me to bank a lot of savings.  Even if you’re not ready to take the plunge, there are lessons to learn and apply to escape the cycle of debt in which almost 70% of Americans are trapped.

The cost of buying an average-sized house over 30 years can be much higher than you think. The initial cost of a $290,000 home includes the purchase price, of course, but also includes the interest, taxes, insurance, maintenance, repairs and improvements. All of this can add up to a total cost of over a million dollars during the lifetime of your home.  This is the “true cost” of a home.

This chart shows the real cost of buying a house. These numbers show why the tiny house movement is growing with such popularity.

Why is the tiny home trend becoming so popular? Because the average cost of a tiny home is much lower than that of an average house. Once you’ve purchased your tiny home (current tiny house market trends show tiny houses cost between $10,000 and $40,000), the cost of upkeep is relatively low. Depending on where you park your tiny house, you may need to pay for land rental and insurance, but in the long run, the savings on a tiny house is huge.

The Small Living Movement and The Joy of Living with Less

As you see, it’s no wonder many people are overwhelmed by the cost of their homes.

The tiny life is a growing movement, for sure! With international attention on CNN, AP, Guardian, Huffington Post, NBC, Oprah, PBS, and so many more (find links at the end of this page), the tiny house movement has helped people learn about another way to live their lives. Every month thousands and thousands of readers come to my site hoping to learn how they too, can simplify, downsize, and learn how to live with less. I know many other tiny house owners who blog about their experience, and they report the same trend toward the small living movement.

My website focuses on tiny house living or living The Tiny Life. It’s where I like to share my journey. Since I began, I’ve been able to experience many adventures, travel to new places, and enjoy my freedom.

Tiny houses are the focal point in a broader system to address issues, concerns, and problems of the current day. They offer a path to a smaller environmental footprint, greater financial freedom, and ultimately a self-sufficient life. The tiny home movement enables you to live a life on your own terms.

So if you wonder who buys tiny houses? Anyone who is concerned about life simplification, environmental consciousness, self-sufficiency and sound fiscal plans. The tiny life allows for you to have more time and freedom to enjoy life adventures.

tiny living encompasses: tiny houses, life simplification, environmental consciousness, self sufficiency, sound fiscal plans and life adventures

What Tiny House Living Looks Like

Because the tiny life is lived on your own terms, it looks a little different for everyone. There are definitely commonalities amongst tiny house owners, though. There are also impressive savings many members of the tiny house movement experience. Here’s a great infographic to illustrate all the important tiny house statistics and tiny living by the numbers. Wondering what is a tiny home? This will help paint the picture.


Some of the tiny house info above may surprise you. 68% of tiny home owners have no mortgage (compared to 29.3% of all U.S. homeowners). It’s no surprise then, that more tiny home owners (78%) own their own home—plus, 55% of tiny home owners have more savings than the average American. 32% of tiny home owners have more than $10,000 tucked away for retirement.

A tiny home is easier to maintain because the average tiny home size is significantly smaller. Imagine the time you’ll save keeping up with the average tiny home square footage (just 186 square feet). The average “regular-sized” home in the U.S. is over 11 times larger! That’s much more time spent on upkeep.

Who buys tiny houses? More women than men (55% compared to 45%). Tiny house people are twice as likely to hold a Master’s degree and are on par with the average college graduation rates. 2 out of 5 tiny house owners are over 50. The average income is $42,038, which means that on average, tiny house owners are earning $478 more annually.

Why a Tiny House? Tiny Home Owners in their Own Words

There’s no better advocate for the tiny life movement than those who are living the tiny life themselves.

Below I’ve compiled a few tiny house videos explaining exactly why so many people choose to embrace the tiny house movement. These owners of tiny homes share the benefits they’ve seen from making the switch to a simpler lifestyle. Even if you don’t own a tiny home, per se, there are plenty of truths you can apply to start living the life of your dreams.

The Tiny Life: Tiny Houses, Simple Living

What is the tiny house movement all about? Here are many different perspectives from tiny home owners about why they chose to follow the small house trend. Simplifying, freedom, sustainability—the tiny house movement is about finding housing to fit your lifestyle. It’s about not only decluttering your home and space, but decluttering your obligations, your social life, and your stress. The tiny life is about financial freedom and living a more engaged life with the luxury of time to do what YOU want.

Special thanks to Dee Williams, Lina Menard, Macy Miller, Laura LaVoie, & Chris and Malissa Tack.

How to Start Designing a Tiny House

Thinking of joining the mini house movement, but don’t know where to begin? Here’s how to start designing a tiny home, including the steps you should take before you decide to buy. Gather as much tiny house information as you can before you take the plunge. Before you start finding tiny homes to live in, spend time in tiny homes, talk to other tiny home owners, and even consider renting a tiny home or apartment. Once you’re ready, learn how to use design and packing strategies to your advantage to make the most of your small space!

Special thanks to Lina Menard.

The Next Step in the Tiny Life

What happens after you move into a tiny house? So much is said about purchasing tiny house plans and learning how to build a tiny house. But once all the logistics are in place, what happens after you move in and start living the life you’ve always wanted? It brings up interesting questions to explore: with financial freedom and a simplified life, what are you going to do? Now that you have time, where will you set out for your next adventure? I made this video explaining how I faced this question and what I discovered about life after you join the small house movement.

Learn More About The Tiny House Movement

Since The Tiny Life began, we’ve been featured many times discussing the tiny house movement and what it means to live the tiny life. Here are more places you can go to read about the small home movement and lifestyle:

Tiny House Living: Ideas for living well in 400 square feet or less – The best selling tiny house book
What is the Tiny House Movement – Plans, Resources, Pros & Cons from Money Crashers
What is the Tiny House Movement from Neighbor, Inc.
Why Hasn’t the Tiny House Movement Become a Big Thing: A Look at 5 Big Barriers from TreeHugger
What is a Tiny House from Living Big in a Tiny House
Factors to Consider Before Joining the Tiny House Movement from U.S. News & World Report
Tiny Homes Offer Convenience, Affordability to Owners from CNBC
This Tiny Life: Ditch the Square Feet, Gain the World from Creative Loafing Charlotte

Your Turn!

  • What questions do you have about the tiny house movement?

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