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Are we losing the Soul of the Tiny House Movement?

In a recent post entitled Tiny House Living: the Ultimate Un-Making Project? I outlined my deeper motivation for going tiny. I started to make the case for why tiny house living is more about the intention to live simply and with less reliance on external things for happiness than it is about the house itself. But that got me thinking: with all the newer (and bigger, more elaborate, feature-rich) tiny houses being built these day, as we losing the soul of the movement?

Our Founding Mother and Father

Dee Williams

Dee Williams - image source: Portland Alternative Dwellings

A LOT has changed in just the short 2.5 years since I started building my house. I look back at those who I feel are the mother and father of the modern tiny house concept, Dee Williams and Jay Shafer, and begin to wonder where we're headed as a movement. These two pioneers were faced with life circumstances that encouraged them to seek a simplified life where they could spend more time with the people they love or doing the meaningful work they are here to do. They recognized early on that the never ending time/money rat race required for home ownership in modern American society would not lead to the quality of life they wanted. They also knew that it was not at all sustainable and that many or most houses being built in America today did not ultimately serve the needs of population they were supposedly being built for.

Jay Shafer - image source: Tiny House Blog

Jay Shafer - image source: Tiny House Blog

But with all that, I believe there was something deeper. Why did Dee and Jay start their tiny house journeys building 12' homes (Dee still lives full-time in hers, now diminutive compared to nearly every other tiny house being built)? Couldn't they just have easily built 16', 20', 24' or 28'? Didn't they also want the comforts they were used to? Who wouldn't want a washing machine, full kitchen (or running water for that matter), a claw-foot tub, flat screen TV, etc, etc.?

Though the founding intentions that spurred this movement, their answers just years later may seem odd; They didn't want those things. They consciously chose to do without. That was the whole point. Sure, there were financial pressures and all that, but the choice was significant: Live with less, own less, maintain less, break free of the learned idea that happiness is depended on at least some level of material wealth. Funny -- it sounds like a lot like un-making to me!

Dee describes a similar concept as being self-contained but interdependent. Have what you need to to care for your basic needs, but leave as much space as possible (or even create the need, intentionally) for the healthy dependence on other people and for other people on you. The more we have in our house the less often we'll find ourselves out in the world, seeking connection and friendship. That's another long conversation in itself, but something to think about when you choose what to include and what to do without.

Does Size Matter?

A recent blog post from another tiny house pioneer, Derek "Deek" Diedreksen sparked a lively conversation on the Tiny House People Facebook Group. The discussion revolved around how the  "tiny house" concept, becoming co-opted by mainstream media (shaped by the need for drama and wow-factor), might be stretching and skewing into a something the Jay and Dee would have never seen coming.

"With tiny house tv shows spreading like wildfire, the media covering the subject more and more, and what with the newer 5067.8 tiny house blogs out there (forget the 430 twelve-page e-books), I've been noticing a trend in tiny housing in that the homes are getting bigger, fancier, more gadget-laden, and WAY more expensive. Television, a whole world of "you gotta wow-'em at every turn" is part of this newish direction in that networks spread, or create, a skewed vision of what is "the norm". But I feel its also due to the fact that when an idea starts going mainstream, you're going to find newly introduced folks who love tiny houses for their "cute factor", but who still yearn to squeeze the pool table and triple stack washer onto a quintuple-axle travel trailer. I call that approach "Ten gallons of shit, in a five gallon hat". It usually doesn't work so well, especially once you try it on."

I think Deek makes a great point. A REALLY important point. And I would even take it farther. The desire to pack everything we are accustomed to into a tiny house tends not only to create bigger, longer, heavier houses, but it leads me to question why one would then want a tiny house at all? With the mainstream media attention of late, more and more people are being introduced to the idea of a tiny house as an immediate answer to their housing woes. The "cute" factor, combined with relative affordability and the empowering DIY possibility appeals to a huge number of people, but I'd argue that a tiny house may not be the right fit for a majority of those people.

In another recent Facebook group discussion some prominent tiny house dwellers shared an interesting reflection: If they were to build a tiny house again, they'd build it smaller. What does this say about what we think we need vs. what we actually need? If stories like this from tiny house dwellers that have come before us are any indication, maybe it's worth taking the time to answer that question before even start dreaming or designing, so we have no regrets about the size or complexity of the tiny homes we end up building.

The Return to Simplicity

This subject brings up wide-ranging opinion on what tiny houses are or should be. Does moving in the direction of smaller and more simple count as "tiny", even if larger square footage? What's so different about a 30+' long tiny house compared to a 20' house? Shouldn't everyone be completely free to do what they want and build their dream house without the judgement of others? I think they should be (that's the appeal in part), but I believe these questions deserve a lot more thought. My goal is to hopefully help guide the tiny house movement in a direction that does not stray too far from what I believe to be very important founding intentions.

How can we reconcile the desire for complete freedom to include everything we deems necessary with a continued reflection on what we can do without (where happiness truly comes from)?

20' with everything needed for 2 people and a dog

The answer lies, I think, in making very conscious choices. In my 20' house I chose to include a combo washer/dryer. I did not assume I needed one. I made a calculation based on many factors: Cost, size, time spent doing laundry at home vs. a laundromat, etc. In the end I chose to include what some may view as a luxury because in my equation, the convenience and time savings won out over initial costs, space used, and the compromises I would have to make elsewhere to fit this choice in.

Did you notice that? Instead of just saying, "well I need that, so I guess I'll just make 4 feet longer so I can have it all" I made a compromise. Why? Because behind all the choices is the intention to -- if possible for me in that moment -- see what it would be like to live with less. Even if that meant a little discomfort, or fear of the unknown, or change in routine.

I would frame this by asking not "how can it all fit in?," but instead "what can I do without?" The absence of some items from the home might be just as important as the presence of others.

Right there you can see how my view differs from many others - maybe the majority. Some people don't care about living with less, and why would they? They just want an affordable place to live, maybe with their family or as a way to live well through their retirement years. They have far different motivations than me, and that's fine. Some what to live close to others in community, while others want to be off-grid, out in the woods, with open acres on all sides of them. There is certainly room for all of us, and yet, something must be consistent in our intention or in the forms our houses take.

Staying "Soulfully" Tiny

Building the coolest, most stunning, pinterest-friendly tiny house and having your photos spread far a and wide, giving you your 15 minutes of internet fame, can be fun for a short while. There's a temptation to see what others are doing and to "keep up with the Joneses" so to speak. It's funny that the tiny house movement grew, in part, out the desire for just the opposite, yet that same phenomenon now exists quite strongly within the movement itself.

Too small? The Salsa Box by Shelter Wise

Too small? The Salsa Box by Shelter Wise

I believe that for the tiny house movement to thrive the images people have in mind when they think "tiny house" need to remain at least somewhat true to Jay and Dee's concept of simpler living. Why? Because whether or not all who live in tiny houses believe in this, creating "human sized" dwellings, with an emphasis on decreased consumption and increased environmental care, is really the only way we can house our population in a sustainable way. The next generation of home owners need an option that is "tiny" as a counter-balance to chasing the more-is-better picture of success that modern society feeds them. If the tiny house concept slowly merges with the mainstream "slightly smaller" house, complete with "ten gallons of shit," as Deek says, then who's going to hold the other end of the spectrum and provide the example of simple, conscious living?

That may not be your goal, but it IS mine. Every purchase you and I make is a vote for that product or way of living, and the way we live works in a similar way: we're showing others and example of what's possible (hopefully not that you need more and MORE -- we have plenty of those examples). Can you forgo the bling and flash, the convenience or one-upmanship and make the choice to keep it simple? That's my challenge. I hope you take it to heart.

Do you find this controversial?

What's your opinion on what a tiny house (on wheels) should mean?

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145 comments on “Are we losing the Soul of the Tiny House Movement?”

      1. G'day, It isn't only in America, it is right here in the land of Oz, Australia. We are told to get a good education get a great paying job, buy the great Australian dream on your 1/4 acre block, raise a family,pay your house off, put money into superannuation, travel overseas work until your 75 and then retire on your amazing savings and superannuation. It is such a farce and it doesn't work. Generation Y sees that but we keep telling ourselves and them we need more crap and a huge house to put it in. I agree with you. What's going on. Most Aussies are over it. We have holidays we can't take because there is no one to cover for us. Nor can you take your long service leave because it is going to cost the company too much all at once. What happened to living simply. Appreciating what we have and be happy and not stressed.

        1. Although circumstances are very different here in the US, a similar narrative is being pushed her as well. In order to be successfulsuccessful and valuable, we must chase similar things you mentioned: education, job, money, property, children, wealth, and retirement. All in while a lifetime of distraction that in order for every citizen to have those things, someone somewhere in the world will be deprived of basic needs. Furthermore for all the things we are told we need to have to be valid, when we pursue them we leave a path of destruction, endless consumption, abuse, and pattern of green. Only a few win the race. The rest only have scars and debt to show for it. Meanwhile the earth is being destroyed, communities torn apart, and we teach the next generation to go harder to make up for our failurues. Which of course they won't be able to.
          I am so glad some of the youth are seeing it is a trap before stepping into the cage but we do need more people avoiding the distractions and focusing on problem solving the serious issues that face us. I'm glad tiny homes are a "small" part of that solution, no pun intended

    1. You can't expect everybody to have the same needs and wants. You have individuals, couples, families, young, and old. Each have their own set of needs.

      I'm 52 and have 4 children all grown up. I am looking forward to building my tiny house and this is MY HOUSE. I am far from the "planet people" who live one with the universe, although I want off-grid capability and I want time to build a garden, plans to install solar, and overall less stress about having work 7 days a week to pay a huge mortgage and RELIEF that I can save money for once.

      You're not going to find a composting toilet in my tiny house. You're going to see a flush-less toilet that bags everything. You're going to see a compact stackable washer/dryer, an air conditioner, and yes...I'll probably have a generator for backup.

      Everybody has their own ideas, their own needs. Judging people ...is not necessary.

      Five years ago when I first started seeing videos about tiny houses they were small and cheap. Now they range from cheap to ridiculously expensive. So I guess it just depends on what your definition of tiny is.

      1. Since when is having a tiny house a "movement?" It sounds as if there's more to this than just personal choice. It apparently has roots in some kind of ideology - maybe a political thing about the fears of global warming.

        Many of the "tiny" houses I see on the Tiny House website are really like 5th wheels, which is what campers call their units they pull with their truck. They, of course, were not homes in the traditional sense - they were vacation units they would put in a campground. The larger ones (400 sq. ft. - that was the maximum allowed by our State laws) were seldom moved from their camp site. For that purpose, they were ideal, however they didn't have a foundation - and were still considered a camper.

        One thing that seemed out of whack with the economy of having a tiny or small house built on a parcel of land, was that the economy of scale was completely ignored in making a building decision. Let's say some young couple is able to afford to build a 600 sq. ft. house on a piece of property they own. Because the house still needs a foundation, a roof, electrical, heat, a kitchen with appliances, a washer/dryer, etc. the cost per square foot is going to be exceedingly high. However, if they elected to build a 900 sq. foot house, the cost per square foot would be drastically reduced, meaning more bang for the buck.
        That might not be what these folks want if they are electing a life style that means trying to live in a tiny house with a kid or two. If you looks a pictures from those people who have built these houses, the places look awkward, messy (especially in the kitchen where storage is at a premium) - it's the kind of place that if you toss your coat on the couch, the place looks a mess.
        Personally, they have poor resale value - people want to have space to breathe and not have to live is such close proximity to another - even if it's just a couple tying to live there. Yes, tiny houses will be cheaper to heat - cheaper electric bills and such, but we're talking about "living there" not just "staying there."
        Is the tiny house all about our "carbon footprint" or something along those lines - and there are idealists who don't mind paying a whole lot more per sq. foot so they can live guilt free? I don't get it. Some of the photos of the tiny houses might be double the size of a prison cell.
        Personally, with some exceptions (when the pics show places 800 to say 1000 sq. ft) the tiny house "movement" offers cramped quarters for premium dollars - poor resale value (assuming it's on a foundation and not a glorified camper) - ignores the "economy of scale" when making a buying decision, and requires an idealistic person who is often times a reflection of the "hippie" days of the 1960's and 70's which was an era of peace, flower power and everything was groovy. Back then they had communes - today they have tiny houses. This is just my opinion of course. People are going to do what they want to do.

        1. The thing you leave out when you talk about the "economy of scale" is that it is essentially a gimmick devised be the building industry. You same logic could be used to say, "Why not build a 20,000 sf house rather than a 2,000 st house because your cost per sq ft is going to be much less." You see, that's NOT THE POINT when deciding on house size, or at least it shouldn't be. Also, you don't mention heating, cooling, and maintenance of the home. Given similar efficiency, the small house is ALWAYS going to be cheaper over the years. For me, it's about what I prefer, of course, but it is also about what I need. I don't need a huge house and I don't want one. On the other hand, super tiny is not what I want either. I loved the early designs by Jay Shafer--his Loring, Whidby, Enesti, etc. They were what typical homes used to be at one time, and to me, the most reasonable choice for my desires and need--they ranged from around 300 sf up to 800 sf. At one time, 800 sf was pretty typical (tract homes in the 30s and 40s were often somewhere in that range). Ultimately, though, do not give me the nonsense about "economy of scale." Folks who spout that are simply trying to justify living in a hotel, driving a school bus, and drinking from a 50 gal barrel. It's nonsense. It's your choice and you are free to do it, but I'm also free to call it nonsense... because for me it is total nonsense.

      2. The "Movement" to me was a call to reduce not eliminate. I too have been following Jay Shafer and Dee since 2006. While I agree, that building tiny, saves on your carbon footprint. I simply disagree that if you have any creature comforts you are a sell out. I did not work all my friggin life to be told how I should live my life, whether it be tiny or McMansion. I mean isn't that what we are trying to change? We bought into the McMansion idea because of societal pressures and the brainwashing.

        As every tiny house is built specifically for each home owner, so too are their needs and yes wants! I worked hard and long and I have wants. Going tiny ensures that I can meet my wants as well as my needs. Too many of the hard core tiny housers sit in judgement of anyone who doesn't hold the very same views of minimalist. Sure, I get a little miffy when I see a decked out tiny house selling for 70 to 90 thousand. I mean really , people with that kind of cash can do it. But, it seems as though those people have driven up the price of the houses. The only way to get one now is to do it yourself. Something I can't do right now.

        1. I have plenty of creature comforts in my house and never said they were bad. Take a closer look at my house. My point wasn't than any choice was bad (we should all have our dream home!), but that it's an important decision and we should try to take the time to think about including what we truly need to be happy but not including anything and everything just to have the biggest and best, or for 15 minutes of internet fame!

          1. Alek, I understand where you are coming from. My comment was not directed at yours, but, more so at those we have witnessed to be almost fanatically minimalistic. I apologise if you took it personally, because, I respect you.

          2. " it’s an important decision and we should try to take the time to think about including what we truly need to be happy but not including anything and everything"
            I think that was pretty clear from your article, Alek! Nicely done.
            (ps--def woulda gone smaller...) 🙂

      3. I agree. When any movement or idea become exclusionary because "we don't want those who don't think like us" it has lost the heart of freedom that it had at the beginning.

        There will always be those choosing tiny houses because they want to leave a smaller footprint. Then there will be those who choose tiny houses because they are finding the freedom of having less things and more time. Then there are those who choose a tiny house because they want to travel and the RV or on wheels version makes that more comfortably and inexpensively possible. Then there are those who go tiny because it's cute and fun. And then there are those who go tiny because they have no other option at the moment (my daughter is in that place right now, and learning the joy of owning even without a lot of things).

        Every single one of those motivations is legitimate to the human experience and the heart of the great freedom that tiny houses represent and anyone saying it's an Us vs Them movement doesn't seem to understand that.

        1. Been following this "movement" for several years. I'm 53 years old and make about a thousand dollars a month. Expect to do so until I die. The truth of the matter is that I can get a rent-to-own cabin from seven to ten thousand dollars. My buddy just retired after not being able to find a job and can't afford to fix up his 1972 trailer. I don't care about being a hippie...but being able to pay off between both of us in five years or less. Doing the work ourselves on the inside of the cabin for about $3500 or less. For another $3000 or so...should be able to get an acre of land and put our cabin on that land...even if means moving to a place where we can do this. Overall...have never been to afford a mortgage...but having our own place paid off before I am forced into retirement will mean the difference between this and dying homeless in a cardboard box. Freezing to death in that cardboard box isn't what I want to happen.

          1. I agree with you. The sad part is that the rents are so high nowadays that you can not afford a one bedroom apartment on minimum wage salaries. Then the city would rather let a lot become overgrown and house fall to the ground than let someone come in and build a tiny house/shed to live in and take care of the property. I understand not allowing that in the nicer neighborhoods but I am talking run down areas of town that could really be turned around and help the working poor. I am looking to build a tiny home and need a reasonable builder in the Houston, TX area. I think everyone has a right to build tiny for what ever reason they wish... we all have good reasons to compel us to go against the grain and go tiny. I just wish the builders would not take advantage of the trend/situation and charge so much. We will all be reduced to tents if this continues.

        2. Thankyou-thankyou-thankyou! I got interested in tiny houses not to be part of some "movement," but because I want a tiny structure to supplement the smallish house I already live in. Everybody's situation is unique; in my case, living in a tiny house would not work because I need room in my home to provide sanctuary for unwanted and neglected pet parrots, whose well-being is much more important to me than the idea of conforming to someone else's concept of "soul." (My tiny house would be a music studio.) I like good design but don't need all the bells-and-whistles to impress other people. At the same time, it's fine with me if others want that stuff. Can we just live our lives without being dissected? For whatever reason, we all like to "think small" --- can we just leave it at that? It's unfortunate that some insist on making this a movement and winnowing it down to the purest of the pure.

          1. Laura, good to here your reply. Why not build a bird sanctuary? I had an elderly aunt years ago that raise parakeets. She had wonderful housing in her back yard for the birds. They had room to fly around, roost, nest, separated in some instances for breeding purposes. As I child I had no concept of the reality of keeping many birds, but I was fascinated at their living quarters.

            On the other hand, a music studio sounds delicious to me. I attempt at being a "home" musician myself. I have played guitar and written songs for over 40 years, but these days arthritis limits my ability and time spent enjoying this pursuit. But to have a dedicated space for such endeavors and my own pleasure sounds wonderful.

            Follow YOUR arrow where it needs to go, and serve your own purpose with glee.

      4. Yes. Trying to please tiny house purists is just another false pursuit, a different type of keeping up with the Joneses. Do it your way.

        1. I'm late to the party... but ignore the purists at your own peril.

          What I mean by this is that the "purists", as found in Dee and Jay, are clear about one thing: "It's not about the box".

          Having talked with both of them, in their homes, it was clear to me that they didn't start with the box.

          They were addressing their emotional needs, and searching for ways to satisfy the conflicting needs of life. The "box" held within it the "solution".

          Now, as handy designers, they created objects of beauty, and from the outside, that's all people see. It is appealing. People LIKE doll houses! But the hardest thing to fit into these small spaces is the human mind. You have to start there... you have to build your mind into the space, as you build it. It is a process. You're re-tooling your mind... so that when the time comes to be in the space, you are prepared. In the end, it is making sure that you "feel right" in the space, moment by moment. Nothing else matters in the end (minus your physical safety).

          The purists (of the brand I refer to) know a thing or two about these issues.

          To be successful, I'm convinced that one has to have a well prepared perspective on changing ones self.

          Jay told me once that the cost per sq/ft of his tiny house was higher than about any home in Sonoma County... and part of that cost was making sure the space was *quality*. This helps the mind "fit" into the space.

          But watching Tiny House Nation... where so many people are basically saying "they're so cute and cheap! I want one!" representing the sum total of their mental homework... well, that's going to be an issue. Granted, some seem born with a constitution for Tiny living, and others never will... but for mere mortals, getting pure of mind and spirit... and crafting your own space, is the path to success.

      5. Completely agree! I also, as a retired person, want to downsize, live simpler and with less, but not devoid of things that make my life comfortable and enjoyable. No one has to adhere alltogether to the principles envisioned by the founder of the tiny house movement! People can pickup the idea of less and smaller and adapt it to their own needs and likes. After all, what is a NOT a necessity for one it IS for others!

    2. Just look at the vehicle pulling the new "tiny house" on FYI. It's a 18 wheeler truck pulling the new house over a bridge. The true start of smaller was that it is CHEAP. On wheels you don't pay property tax......and government won't catch on? Small houses are going to be the God sent to those college people owing $50,000.00 in loans. Tiny houses should have a top price of $35,000.00 to be called Tiny. Bob Clauss Lomita/Casita Tiny homes Albuquerque.

      1. I ADMIRE people like you who look at the details such as the "no big deal" towing vehicle - LOL. While it's true property taxes are a killer in some states such as TX and most east and west coast states, here in central MO where I live, I'm actually embarrassed over how much home and acreage we have yet pay a scant $440 per year. It's the county that decided to place us in the "farm" category, not us.

        Now regarding personal property taxes (vehicles), that's the one that's always killed us. I called it my 13th payment per year. If you're making a $350 a month car payment, even bet is that's the same amount you'll owe each year on that rapidly depreciating vehicle for the first 7 or 8 years. When the two of us worked like dogs, our personal property taxes (two cars, 27' sailboat, 23" RV) was well in excess of $1,000 a year and that was over a decade ago. Some states are honest and fair with vehicle/trailer taxes, but other places can tax items on wheels right through our axle.

    3. Jeeze, Alek! Deek's 5-gallon hat summation or Dee's words, alone, would have been worth this read, but your whole piece just reeks of unbridled genius. Well put. Thanks.

  1. Months back a commented on the fact that going small was becoming popular and how much I was sadden by that fact. The truth is we are a "catchie tune" nation the oh look isnt that cute kind of folks and with that we often lose the reasoning behind the oh cute, can you hum that tune's real reason for being. We have lost many things that started the core being of this nation all because others started humming a different tune! Great article and keep humming the original tiny tune, the one that marches to the beat of a "different drum" our own beat!

  2. I agree that the tiny houses we are starting to see now are getting bigger and bigger and more expensive and complicated to build and more costly to run. However everyone is entitled to what they want.
    However, I have always believed that the definition of a Tiny House is a house under 100 square feet. So maybe that is the solution to the problem, some basic definition of size, then everyone can be happy building/living in their Ultra Small, Tiny, Medium, Large, Extra Large 'tiny house'.
    Just my thoughts on the subject.
    Take Care
    Jim

  3. I have noticed, in the years I've followed the tiny house movement, that there are people who innovate and are able to comfortably put more into a smaller space. Just recently I saw a bathroom with the sink faucet doubling as the shower head. It was a beautifully elegant solution to space limitations. There are others who bastardize and enlarge to something much less elegant, useful and enduring.

    The bits of the movement I admire are those that truly do innovate and provide true comfort and convenience in a small space. It isn't the size, it's what is done with the space that makes some tiny homes truly remarkable.

  4. Definitely agree. I am pursuing a tiny house because (1) I feel that have found a home-buying option that can truly become a reality for me & others like me- working class + not the best credit, (2) I feel tiny house living will allow me to make a greater impact in my environmental-consciousness, (3) I feel, with the nature of the society we currently live in, tiny house living will allow me to live simply & increase my knowledge in living frugally with little modern invention
    & self-sufficiently in a way that gives me skills that would be helpful as a survivalist, & (4), ultimately, I feel it will encourage me to enjoy each moment of the life I have been given versus always hustling & bustling towards the next big thing, reduce my overall stress levels, & give me more freedom. I do think it is important to embrace the foundation of this movement & to stay cognizant of it through your journey. This entire movement will make for a better world if people can stay true to it.

  5. Im glad to read this. I was diagnosed wt a brain tumor and on my 40th bday single mother of three that was a bombshell. I had to sell my homes my fiance took the high road n I lost my job I had finally acquired from finishing school. Wt all my sons finally outta school and on their own 4 yrs later im picking up the pieces n starting over. I have to build myself a tiny hm...because in asheville nc the closest place theyre 100k.....its all about money. I need a tiny hm to have a home. But im searching the ads now for a trailer frame n Lord willing im gonna build my hm it wont be fancy but itll be my tiny hm. God bless!!!!

    1. Actually, Teal from Wishbone Tiny Homes can build you something beautiful for way less than that, and he's in Asheville. It is definitely worth at least a phone call. Plus, he is an amazing guy.

      Asheville is also home to Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet, and those two, along with some very active others, are working hard to build tiny house community (as in, a group of supportive people) in Asheville.

      Good luck to you!!

    2. Sherrill - we'd love to talk to you here in Asheville. I am a volunteer with Asheville Small Home Advocacy Committee here in town. There are several tiny home builders and while the prices vary, I would honestly say most are under $100K. Feel free to reach out to me through my blog - there is a link to my FB page where you can message me directly.

      1. The above three responses are what I love about the Tiny House Movement/community or what ever you want to call it. If we respond to the call for help we make our communities strong. If we take action to create legal communities it won't matter all the complaining about what kind or what size TH people choose. It's about helping, inspiring and stretching ourselves. I'm very proud of those in this movement for trying to do this for themselves and for others.

    3. Sherrill,
      My tiny house is in Candler. It's complete and really comfortable. I have been told by other Tiny builders that it's underpriced. It is for sale, but without financing.
      Having said that, I wonder why anyone who could have a secure and finished place would want to face a learning curve that will go on for years, not months unless they simply wanted to engage in the building process and actually had another place to live while doing it. Personally, I like building and have done related things (design, contracting, technical editing, etc.) for many years. I prefer tiny house design/building because it's pretty quick and you can see results, good or bad, and correct or enhance as you go. There are sad stories on the net of people hiring homebuilders to do their tiny house and the project going sour. They're always one-sided and usually told from the viewpoint of the mistreated client and the bad old builder. (Of course, those stories aren't limited to tiny houses and crooks are found on both sides of the contract, and often the story tellers have hidden agendas.) I think clients who are stepping into the marketplace for the first time have trepidation and often mistrust of their own decisions which they project to nit-pick experienced contractors. Conversely, there are skilled people with good intentions who make mistakes, and crooks, as well as unskilled people who try to manipulate and cheat builders. But by carefully reading the accounts, you learn how much effort is involved and how subtle some flaws can be. The novice owner/builder of a tiny house on a trailer is really jumping off into the deep end of the pool without a swim ring. With dedication and endurance, she/he will make it out at the end of the swim with spirit intact and use the lessons learned. But I think if a person is inexperienced, infirm, elderly, poor, or has no tools, it is a bad idea to undertake a self-built THOW.

    4. Check out Wishbone Tiny Homes in Asheville. Gerry and Teal Brown, a father and son team. They customize the tiny houses they build, so that you get what you want at a price that works for you. They also have their own trailer custom made for them. We bought one of their excellent tiny-house trailers, and are building our own tiny home on top of it. Last time I was there, they had a smaller one for sale - maybe 18' long if I remember right.

  6. I like to think that we get inspiration in many ways, from many different types of people and situations. I don't think there is any essential 'right' way to 'tiny house' our lives. I like to think that we each have a notion of what will satisfy us as tiny, comfortable, tolerable etc. For some of us 10 feet is enough, while for others, they will require more. I like to think I am in the middle, my chief complaint being that most tiny houses have no place to cuddle with a loved one, besides the loft bed. I like that there are options now to at least have a house that can accommodate a love seat. Why? Because I like to cuddle with my loved one without having to be in bed. I couldn't care less about laundry, or work tables, or things that others do make a priority. Exploring our options and identifying what is possible is what the growth of the movement is for me. TV shows and those wanting to capitalize of this is just a natural extension of anything that becomes niche enough to be monetized. That's the way we allow our society to roll. There also is no essentially right way to be motivated to live tiny. For some they have the privilege of choosing to live tiny. At times there is an almost morally superior tone to the narrative. For me it came down to not a choice, but a reality. I cannot and will never be able to afford a house of my own. I don't make enough money. I am not brilliant enough to do so. So, I accepted that this was the most viable option for me. Beggars can't be choosers. The city in which I live is now talking about how to tax tiny house occupants so there will be that to worry about too. Its never easy, but also, there is never just one way. I guess that was my main point. Sorry for being so long winded in making it. 🙂

    1. Please DON'T minimize your brain power. I found your posting logical and refreshing. It's also written by someone who actually thinks things through.

      With the cost of buying and owning a home constantly increasing, the logic behind smaller has got to be cheaper all around doesn't "alway" appear to hold true over the long haul. Be it the cost for property you'll buy or worse yet an RV park that's nothing more than residual income for the property owner, I do find myself asking if less home actually equals less cost? Think about a 15 year investment, not our cars that we're constantly replacing.

      As far as you being capable of earning enough money to buy a small yet normal type home, I think you need to reevaluate ALL the costs. Here in central MO, there's homes 2,200 square feet that are picture perfect yet with 20% down the total cost including taxes and insurance would still be less than $650 - 750 per month. My best friend has a 1,500 square foot home with 2 1/2 baths, 3 bedrooms and a huge entertainment room yet only cost around $78,000. When he bought his 23 years ago, he paid $54,900. With interest rates at 4.10% for a 30 year, that's around $450 a month including taxes & insurance. Don't assume ALL of these tiny home options will save you money.

      The charm and simplicity is what draws ALL of into this movement. Please remember though, there's been full-time RV'ers for over 60 years. I too lived in everything from 19 1/2 feet to 35 feet with two slide outs. I enjoyed EVERY single one of them. Oddly enough it was the higher maintenance costs (for example propane refrigerators) that made me realize houses aren't all bad. My first one was only 1,100 square feet and solid brick that withstood a tornado with ease.

      With tiny homes pushing the lifestyle envelope, my bet is we'll see more people opting the middle ground of 1,000 square foot homes as society evolves. Big enough for long term living, yet small enough for the fiscally responsible like YOU!

    2. Well said, Chris. I think that taking a moral high ground and trying to make the tiny house movement so exclusive serve to be detrimental in the long term. If the point is to get more people living in a sustainable way, there needs to be an understanding that there is a *right size* house for everyone. Criticizing someone for downsizing from a 3000 sq home to a 500 square foot home because it's not small enough? Really?
      Furthermore, I've considered a tiny/small house for our family of 3 but it seems virtually impossible due to laws/codes/zoning in our state. Having more people interested in the movement, even if just to be trendy, can help with making positive changes to building restrictions so that this can be a viable option for more people looking to live sustainably.

      1. Christine and Chris, I wish there was a "like" button. The whole point should be downsizing and doing with less, with having a smaller footprint. Not everyone could live comfortably long-term in 130 square feet. Is misery a requirement? How about hair shirts? Older people would have major issues with sleep lofts and ladders (and the bathroom down that ladder). But down-sizing from 3000 square feet to 900, that's a huge improvement that no one should criticize.

        1. Hi Guys -- I'm not sure where everyone got the idea that this article was bashing people with houses bigger than 130 sq.ft. It's not at all about the size of the house or even the house itself. I completely agree that "doing with less" is what it's all about, and the with that in mind, choosing the size of house that works best for you and/or your family. The point I was making is that "tiny" doesn't mean one thing other than making conscious choices about what to include so to ultimately bring you the most happiness in the future!

          1. To clarify, I didn't think you were bashing anyone. 🙂 With the talk of the movement "losing its soul" and others seeming to be unhappy with the fact that tiny homes are becoming popular, it feels an awful lot like hating on an indie band when they finally start getting radio play. But I thought you made some very good points about our homes being the result of conscious decision making.

      2. One idea that's been inadvertently left out was in how ANYONE can embrace smaller home living simply by modifying their existing home with items such as on-demand hot water systems, high efficiency appliances, zoned heating & cooling systems & great insulation throughout. We're creating a smaller footprint but without sacrificing livability.

        While tiny homes have plenty of charm, one area that constantly flusters me is in how poorly insulated even the most expensive units are. Look at the depth of walls and roof and you'll see what I'm talking about.

        While promoting responsible stewardship of our earth and checkbook, we need to look at homes as a long term investment that'll meet our needs not just today, but tomorrow. What would a person do if they became wheelchair bound such as me? Enjoy life today while keeping an eye on tomorrows needs has saved my bacon more than once.

        Before we get rid of 100 year old family heirlooms, maybe it's time we realize anyone can be or get excessive about anything, not just stuff. Between our ever cinched up economy and more people staying single or having less kids, my bet is we're about to see a new renaissance of downsizing back to that 1,100 - 1,600 square foot home we use to call the norm just 25 short years ago.

    3. Um, Chris ... if you're not making enough, you may be in the wrong job. You write better than many executives (and you make some good points). Don't underestimate yourself!

  7. Great article Alek! We approached our TH from two points of view: First, it had to be less than 400 square feet. From there, we examined what spaces we actually *used* in our 1br apartment, and trimmed out excess corners, furniture, etc until we condensed down into as efficient of a space as possible. Now, we are at a point where if space is removed, our spatial functionality would decrease, but if space were added, we would not gain any added benefit. Balance!

  8. I want tho live in a tiny house, however I don't have the property or money to venture there. So I'm converting to simple in my tiny apartment (apprx 600-700 sq ft) and making do. In fact, I can downsize even more, that's my goal. I go to the laundry mat. I haven't bought any new clothes or shoes in 3 years, except work uniforms. I have enough kitchen items for two, any guests, then it's paper plates. We filter our water in 2 water jugs and recycle water bottles from work. We go out to eat and bring home doggie bags for 1-2 more meals. Basic shopping as necessary... you can see thru our refrigerator shelves. Cabinets are half empty, only basic supplies.
    ...

  9. I saw this shift happening as soon as Tumbleweed sold out and became a marketing brand. I don't know how this could possibly affect those with true desire to live tiny unless they were in it purely for an ironic/hipster factor.

    1. I agree and I hope folks remember that this happened after Jay was no longer a part of the company. When he and a few others left, the company became exactly what you noted.

  10. Honestly, after I read so much of the beginning, I skimmed through the rest to grab the main points (article was a little too long).

    My opinion? I think we should never try to impose our own reasons for going small upon others. We all do not need to share your rational in order for the world to go 'round. I also felt the mark was missed a little and a bit judgmental. Just because someone, like myself, feels that a washer and dryer makes sense to the simplicity of life, does not mean that I am doing things wrong, I just don't get it, or that I am harming the universal flow of tiny house living. Tiny house living is what ever those who live in tiny houses create it to be. Your label or some "movement's" declaration does not make a religion. A lot of people choose tiny house living to get away from the oppression of big-house-mortgage-living and all of the "Jones'" way of life. It sounds to me, however, that you are trying to push what is just a whole other way of life upon those who wish to be free.

    Just something to consider

  11. Thought provoking article, thanks for taking the time to examine where the ideas originated and where they are possibly going. Like anything that catches fire with the public, there will be those who simply wish to be part of a trending activity and there will be those there to capitalize upon it as well.

    But underneath it all, whether one is inspired by Walden or by communal living or driven by the facts of current life, those that wish to minimize space, life, costs or all of the above, will continue on that path once the public brouhaha is over.

    If there is one positive potential outcome I'm hoping for, it is zoning/permitting accommodation growth and acceptance that allow for more legal use.

    Tiny on!

  12. I agree, the tiny concept is being taken over by the small home concept. There could be some sort of a size cut-off to separate the sizes. There could be micro houses, Tiny houses, then drop the word tiny and use small homes. There should be more re-purposing. Tiny house should not only mean small, but also small in cost. Larger, more expensive homes, with all the bells and whistles should be in a category of small homes. My 2 cents.

  13. Unfortunately, the mentality is to publicize, broadcast & ultimately, make money off ANYTHING...in this case, TV shows in particular. And those who like to be up on the latest 'fad' think it's cool! Then there are the rest of us...the TRULY 'tiny housers' who want to change their lifestyles, do with less, have more time in their lives to REALLY live!
    That's my intention & why I'm leaving friends, home & most of my possessions--the latter in a yard sale Saturday--to move from IL to NC, where I'll be living in community & moving toward my goal of having my very own tiny home & very little 'stuff.'

    1. Outstanding job Walt!..That same building purchased from a retailer like Lowes or Home Depot unfinished would cost as much as you spent including the finish work inside. My partner and I build a 10 x 12 storage shed along the same design for half the price they wanted (plus a delivery charge).

      Wonderful narrative also. I really liked the idea of drilling all the holes for electric wire on the drill press prior to assembly. I never thought of that one!

      God Bless You!

  14. I have been interested in the tiny house movement for over five years. I appreciate the improved design elements that some new tiny homes are using (aka. Actual staircases instead of ladders, different interiors instead of just wood, closed shelving instead of open shelving). I also have need of a bigger tiny house based on the number of people in my family...if one or two people can leave comfortably in 100-200 square feet then what do you do if you have three kids? Can you possibly say that if you give 100 square feet for one person then a family of five gets 500 square feet? Realizing that number might shrink a little because of shared space. Can tiny be a multiple of square space x people....instead of a hard number like 100 square feet? I have a tiny house soul with a bigger family. 🙂

    1. Of course! It's not about any exact number of square footage. My point was to think carefully about what you really need to be happy and not to include more and build bigger just because you can. Sounds like you are already on the perfect path!

  15. I wonder if some haven’t gotten hung up on size (square footage) vs simplicity? I think the value of the tiny house movement is to help people re-imagine how they live.

    It’s a starting point for a conversation that, for many, has evolved to meet their goals for more simplistic living. It’s not necessarily a new idea, but a new label. Prior to labeling this lifestyle as the tiny house movement, how often did we hear of people who were “downsizing”? They were widowed or their children had grown or they were on their own later in life and didn’t want the work and expense of the traditional geographic footprint occupied by a most North Americans.

    ‘Downsizers’ generally are in the second half of their life. The idea of a tiny house, advances the thinking to show people they don’t have to wait to live better with less. To me the tiny house movement is a variation of the back-to-the-land movement of the 1970s. In the 70s people bought a piece of land and, with their own hands, built something small on the land. This time around many houses are on wheels.

    Wheeled accommodation doesn’t work in all climates. I live in Canada. We have just come through two very bitter winters. I know most people think Canada is covered in snow all year. Our climate is pretty much like New York or Boston’s. In one six-week period we had seven blizzards. The winds blowing under a wheeled tiny house would make it too cold to be comfortable. There is the risk of being blown over if you have any height to the structure. And then there’s the cabin-fever factor.

    One of the challenges for my contemporaries and I are the sleeping lofts we see in most tiny homes. Climbing a ladder or steep steps isn’t practical or safe. And as we age, there is no guarantee our physical stamina would allow it.

    Those of us on the back half of life have to be practical about our future. Most of us have no one to run to as a fall back if this turns out not to fit us. There is no parental home keeping a room for us. So rather than dropping from a typical 2,400 sq ft to 200, we need something less shocking. In climate change a variation of one degree is massively significant, so is building an inventory of affordable, energy efficient 500-750 sq ft housing.

    For those of us who are older I think it would be more practical to pool resources by clustering several small homes together on common land, like a housing co-operative. We would be our own micro-community within the larger community.

    I like the idea of living a simplified life, but that can be accomplished in all footprints. The first step starts, not with accommodation, but consumption. Inventory what you have, see what you can sell, junk or give away and use the rest. Think about what you consume and the packaging. Where I live we separate paper, glass and plastic and garbage. Every two weeks I put out half of a carrier bag of garbage. The rest are recyclables. Being required by our government to do this has cut down on packaging, made shoppers conscious of recycling so the bulk of people carry reusable shopping bags and reduced material going to landfills by 80%.

    The tiny house movement can be the spark which contributes to a massive rethink of how individuals live. Like any successful movement it must not become too purist, too entrenched to evolve and remain relevant.

    1. Thank you! I wish I could have included some of this as eloquently as you said it! Very true. In my mind it's far more about taking a look at ourselves and rethinking (or re-learning even) what we want and need. The house itself is secondary -- It will always come in different shapes, sizes and colors!

    2. Now this was what I'd call a GREAT comment. In a TH blog over in Great Britain I found the exact situation you spoke about in your comment. To me that's that brilliant! The TH designs were actually practical, livable yet surprisingly affordable. There are shared resources such as laundry and their lovely park like setting that proves TH living can work. While I think it's all but impossible to create a 200 square foot unit for the handicapped or older adult who can't crawl in a loft style bed, once you hit the 500 - 750 total square foot range, these can be fully wheelchair/walker accessible. I know, I'm right now in the process of designing one that'll be built by my contractor this fall on our five acres next to our 115 year old farmhouse.

      We're building an old barn style two car garage (handicap van accessible even from the inside) with the main living area downstairs and the bedroom upstairs that'll be accessible by a chairlift ($2,000). Once I'm no longer around, my wife will have the little cottage and then let her caregiver live in the main home for their family. I'm referring to this as our future symbiotic relationship that'll help everyone while their lives gently blend together. It'll help my wife maintain her independence for a much cheaper price than those independent or assisted living complexes that costs $2,300 - $5,000 per month in our area. With my health rapidly deteriorating, the need to create a situation that's within our budget is urgent. It's people such as you that's my reminder, there's more than one way to look at smaller living as a solution for not only the young, but the mature. Thank you for topping off my propane tank.

      1. Outstanding idea Bob, this is what I've been talking about from the beginning of this specific article. Lofts just don't work for us older folks having to crawl around on knee replacements, etc. The chair lift is a good idea also. God bless you and your wife.

        1. Your comment brought both smiles to my wife and me. Only those who're living our medically infused lifestyle can appreciate just how different our lifestyle can change without ANY warning whatsoever.

          Be it your delightful comment about the soft hardwood flooring or the paractical yet considerably less expensive solutions for tasks such as using the restroom, YOU'RE ON POINT!

          Just in case you're curious, the reason we're building the cottage (that'll actually have duel handicap van garages on both sides of our "L" shaped building. One garage will point north and south, and the other east and west. In the middle is where we'll pop in the cottage.

          Our hope is that during the early stage post construction, we can use our cottage as a rehab facility where we'll actually teach both the disabled and the caregiver just how much more they can do, if only they'll reassess their theory/approach. We've got counselors on every corner that charge insane prices for lots of talk, yet there's no REAL practicum involved. Down the road if/when the need arises, we'll then either move in our helper (that'll know just how much they're appreciated by living VERY well) or we'll instead let them move into the main house once I pass into heavenly bliss.

          With the cost of rentals going through the roof, my hope is that by offering both super comfy accommodations plus some fair income as a kicker, we might just avoid the current independent or assisted living scam that's multiplying faster than bunnies nationwide. Those who fail to plan ahead are usually left with considerably less options that always costs more. Maybe there's a better option? Of course it's also going to take a minor nervous breakdown while I borrow the money for our new project yet it's this TH movement that actually got my brain wired in this direction. I'll be forever thankful:)

          You're a delight and may your flowers continue to bloom and the sun shine bright. Most respectfully yours, Bob.

          1. Thank you Bob for your follow-up comment. I must admit he TV show Tiny House Nation is what got my brain started down this path, which is the main reason I have only good to say about the so called "commercialization" of the TH movement! Since then I have been racking my brain about the possibilities of the future and needing to downsize. I know,I won't physically be able to keep up the size of house we are now living in, let alone the upkeep of the yard and farm surrounding it. I keep looking at all these builds, getting ideas, and questioning what I already have on site that could be converted to decent living quarters with out having to spend and arm and a leg (or selling one of my kidneys! Ha! Ha!) My partner and I have built every building on this place. We did all the work except for the concrete floor for the woodworking shop! We built the barn and all its additions, the shop, and a storage building (for half what Lowes wanted for one). It was the only way we could afford to do so, besides loving to build things. Anyway, I think the best thing for me (at this time) would be to clean out and modify the room on the back of the woodshop. It is approximately 20 x 20 with a 20 x 12 screened in area on the south. It already has electricity and and water, so that part is done. It is insulated, so it would not take much to keep cool during our hot Texas summers, or keep warm during the winter. I already have a freezer and frig in the screened area for eggs (I have a bunch of chickens and sell farm fresh eggs), and we just built a small green house along half of the south wall of the screened area (porch!?) So few modifications would be necessary. I already rent out the old family farm house next door. I did that after moving my elderly Mom in our big house and then my elderly Sister-in-law) which is why it is so big in the first place. But now that they are both gone, this large house, though comfortable, is expensive to operate and it isn't paid off either.

            Between the taxes on the farm land and the big house, with monthly bills, there Is nothing extra anymore. It is already a struggle to make ends meet. Luckily, the state doesn't have a personal property tax on vehicles (like Colorado did when I lived up there for 20 some years.), but school taxes are killing us. And everything else just keeps going up and up.

            Your ideas of garages, on both sides of the living quarters and using one for rehab therapy is wonderful. Actually, a screened in or windowed 4 season breezeway dog-run style in between each would also give comfortable lounging areas to give more access to "outside living" spaces without necessarily being outside. I don't know your location, but at least a 3 season area would be good to contemplate.

            I'm beginning to really like this forum. It not only gives people a place to comment on things, it also gives people the opportunity to acquire new ideas.

          2. You're brilliant! Now catch this - while I keep messing with how to create this crazy new project of ours, the concept of an enclosed breezeway that can double-duty as a sunroom keeps popping up as the one design aspect that might just bring the whole nutty project together.

            If there's ANYTHING I admired about your post, it's your work ethics. I also couldn't help but laugh over how identical our lifestyles are other than we we're full blown gimps. I'm in my Permobile class III wheelchair and my wife has eight vertebrae double-poled. Taking care of this place just keeps getting rougher and of course more expensive.

            Do you ever feel like you live on a mower? We've had more rider mowers than I can count but last year I finally upgraded to a commercial grade zero-turn mower. The only glitch is there's zero traction when our hilly property is plagued with excess rain. I'm trying to get the place smoothed out by a commercial excavator, but after three plus months, they still haven't even come back with an estimate yet alone a design that'll meet our unique needs.

            You two are lovely people and it's an honor meeting you:)

          3. Bob, good to hear from you again!

            Hey, get someone to change out the back tires on that zero-turn mower to like size ATV tires that have tractor like tread on them. That will give you more traction on the hills. I don't know that they can replace the front tires, but surely you can find some tires/ wheels that are interchangeable for the rears.

            I have always been fascinated with dog-run style cabins and houses from the old days. I drew out plans for one when I was in Jr High/High School (bedroom in one half, kitchen and living room in the other), anyway a hell of a long time ago. Ha! Ha!

            Yes, it seems that most of the year we live on the lawn mower, weed eaters, and tractor with the shredder! Of course here in Texas, grass and weeds of some type grow almost year round. We have goats, and keep a solar hot-wire on the inside of the fences. Those fence lines have to be mowed and sprayed (unfortunately, I hate chemicals! Hell of a note for an Agriculture trained person, but that's another story!) quite frequently. Every time I mow the fence lines on the riding mower I wind up having to go to the Chiropractor withing a couple of days! Just no suspension at all.

            But the alternative of living in a town or city leaves a vary putrid taste in my mouth. Been there, done that, don't want to go back! I would rather die of heat stroke mowing my fence line any day!

  16. Even Dee doesn't just live small in her tiny house ... she has a separate storage facility for her tools and things, to do workshops and build things. If I acquire all these tools to build a tiny home ... then what happens to my investment when it is built? What if I want to build something else? Do I start all over again investing in a new set of tools? Do I maintain a separate trailer as an eating room for when our daughter and her kids come over to visit each month for the evening? ... Because we certainly all can't sit down and eat at the same time in our tiny place. Standing up shoulder-to-shoulder isn't ideal. Using the "outdoors" isn't ideal when it is 95°F with 90% humidity (no rain and lots of mosquitoes). Those are some of the problems that we have noticed ... and we don't even live in a "tiny house". We live larger, in a 356 sq. foot cabin. The only Lavanderia (laundromat) in a 12-mile radius, shut down due to mechanical problems. So the "pantry" now has a washing machine in it ... and the "clothes closet" now has a dryer in it. I'm not making a 25 - 30 mile roundtrip ride on my bicycle pulling a trailer, just to do laundry. That's a lot of physical effort and a whole day. Imagine doing that if you were 65, instead of 25 or 35? All of that is do-able when you are young. But what happens when you get old? Climbing up to the loft bed becomes a major challenge ... maybe not even possible. Do you add on a downstairs bedroom to your no longer "tiny house"? And I don't think that Jay "sold-out" ... it feels more like he was forced-out of his own company by others and had to start over again. A "tiny house" with amenities nearby to take up the slack, is great for one or two people max. And then there is the issue of growing kids ... with an adobe home, they would just start adding rooms around the "courtyard". Building lean-to's or rooms onto a cabin. Throw up another tipi or tent for the kids when it gets too crowded. Eventually the kids take over the larger place and the aging parents move into a tiny place of their own ... close enough that the kids can keep an eye on then when they get old. It's a circle of life adapted to the needs.

    1. SPOT ON! Isn't this the way society worked 100 plus years ago? What I'd give to just turn back the clock and replace selfishness with selflessness. The timeframe you're referring too is when people actually found greater joy in giving than receiving yet it's now a gone-bye era.

  17. My husband and I are looking into building a tinyish house...he could go smaller than I feel I am willing, but I do love the idea have having less financial burden and being more sustainable....we built our current house to house us plus my mom, dad and mentally handicapped brother. Now my parents have passed and we need to find another situation for my brother...we don't need and can't afford all of this house, but I think I and not quite ready to go super tiny. Our side is 1400sft plus an unfinished basement...we have a lot we can get rid of and down size...I think it would be very theraputic for me, but I am thinking more like 700sf...we have 3 dogs and I 2 are older, and I don't think we can do a loft bedroom, because they would not be able to sleep with us...and that is important to us...I would love to figure out how to keep it mobileish....like maybe be able to move it a few times in life, not like every month or anything but just as we decide we would like to be and experience someplace else. I hope that we can find out how to do this and that it doesn't end up costing more now that it's cool....because cost is important to us.

    1. Wendy, might I suggest a couple of things? One, you could rent or borrow an RV the size of which you are looking to build. Just for a month maybe, move in it and see how things go. Two, finish the garage and move in there, and check out the space. If all else fails, it could be rented out later to recoup the cost of reno. Just a couple of ideas.

  18. I believe what has happened is as Tiny Homes has become noteworthy and popular, builders build to that demand. As many of us are unable to build homes ourselves those builders are meeting the demand with increased prices. When you see for sale ads for Tiny Homes the prices are starting in $35K and above. It is the old supply and demand. It may not be the desire to have so many features but that the only Tiny Homes available for sale are those with skyrocketing prices. I wish the Tiny Home concept was available when I was young enough to build one.

  19. For any "LIfe of Brian" fans out there, doesn't this sound to you like the People's Front of Judea versus the Judean People's Front? Down this "ideological purity" road, I can see a day coming when someone says,"You can't live in our tiny house colony because your effort is just a hat full of shit." May I have a chorus of: "Na, nany poo poo, I'm purer than you-ou."

    Can't we choose a road instead that, besides the general embrace of personal choice that I applaud in these comments, acknowledges that 100 sq ft more or less isn't the equivalent of a McMansion versus True Grit, and that folks who can get a little more amenity into their designs REALLY aren't the enemy?

    And, excuse me, what is all this masculinist lip curling about "cute"? There's nothing wrong with cute. Cute (and amenity) can add charm and delight to life. I think people need to pull in their claws and make friends in a wider circle rather than split hairs and make factions. You don't have to like everyone in a movement in order to work together for positive change.

  20. I have built a 12x20 (240 sq ft) cabin on my parents' property. I use it basically for when I (or other relatives) come to visit them. I have lived in it for 3 weeks, by myself. But not having any running water or a proper toilet is a bitch! I have down-sized from a 4,800 sq ft home to a 1,500 sq ft home and within 18 months, I am preparing to down-size once again to a 500 sq ft home. I will NOT go smaller, mainly because I have 3 dogs that live inside. The smaller/tiny house movement is still alive, but some people can't separate themselves from their possessions and I can't separate myself from my furkids.

  21. I will tell you that the only "tiny house" articles that catch my eyes are ones made for less than $25,000, are less than 300 square feet, or are self-contained or off-grid. My son recently sent me a series of photos of a rather popular "tiny home" with stairs and at the bottom was a picture of Walter White holding wads of money he made selling "meth." The caption was something like: "I'll give you all my money, just give me one." I had to console my son that surely I would put him through college before buying an overly expensive luxurious "tiny home." In other words, "we," as a community that first wanted simplicity and to live simply so that others may simply live, are being mocked by Satan himself. Sucks, don't it?

  22. I'm actually somewhat troubled by the "soul" of the tiny house movement. Sherrill up above said, "I need a tiny hm to have a home." That's my concern--that the tanking economy and the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people mean that the middle class may be permanently over. So, we have the fabulously, ridiculously (IMHO) wealthy living in enormous mansions--and then the peons who can no longer afford a "regular" home and have no CHOICE but to live in something the size of a trailer.

    Tiny home BY CHOICE may be soulful. But, if you DON'T have a choice and are stuck living in something barely bigger than a refrigerator box to make ends meet, that's not soul--it's poverty.

    1. Agreed. There are lots of reasons people live tiny and if it's because they can no longer afford what they really want or need, then that is sad. In no way was I suggesting that people should be forced to live in something smaller than comfortable. Mt hope is that for those that do choose this, they take a close look at what they truly need to be happy and consider, even for a moment, what they might be happier living without.

  23. Can anyone define "the soul" of a movement, any movement? It's made up of individuals, all with our own perceptions. And like everything else, it evolves, grows, goes off in unexpected directions. Some things wither and then rise again from the compost. Some transition. Some things endure. Some people need one, some the other--but I can't imagine an idea, a concept that has endured through the ages is going to actually die.

  24. Love this commentary. I was also saddened to read how you can have a tiny house, and then go ahead and build an out-building for the hot tub, and another one for the motorcycles, and another one for the …
    I live in a large home, but I live 'tiny' - no clothes dryer - all solar powered - composting toilets - grow the majority of what we eat.
    I think when most people define tiny, they aren't really talking square feet (although this is important); they are talking about sustainability and what we are teaching the next generation about what is important in life.
    For me that happens to be up-cycling rags and factory waste, so I have big floor looms, and they must be protected from the elements - thus a large home. I will never be able to go 'tiny' in square footage, but I can leave a small footprint on Mother Earth. And, I think, that's what is tied to getting out of the rat race, living mortgage-free, and having time for friends and family - it's all interconnected. How we live here affects how people are able to live on the opposite side of our globe. We are, after all, just a speck in the universe.

    1. I agree! Live simply, that others may simply live. That's my mantra 🙂 A person can live small in a larger house, or do a form of homesteading in the city. Use less, spend less, live more. Blessings.

  25. Great article. Yes, I see luxury mini condos being built by some that I would have to take out a substantial mortgage to afford. That is not what its about to me. I am in process of downsizing so I can fit my life into a small dwelling. I am looking at retirement in a few years. On my bucket list is learning to sail. So, I am traveling to meet up with a friend who offered to help me get a derelict boat and fix it up. I considered my base needs and to fit some things in I would need a bigger boat than I can handle by myself so I am assessing needs vs wants. What works in such a small space and damp environment.What my friends and family get blessed with and what can temporarily stay in storage until its used and what gets donated or sold. I have to return to a minimalist lifestyle. I am a fiber artist and how much and what depends on the actual boat and storage. Some have more than others due to design and since I must get what I can afford on a tight budget and do all the repairs piecemeal it will be some time before I can sell it and upgrade to one that fits me better if the one I get is not the best fit. The reason I can get one cheap to fix up is because the market is so glutted. So, my tiny home will be on water. Doing some research now and will be leaning heavily on friends experiences in making the same move and choices somewhat.

  26. I agree with Jim, above, who said that perhaps its a matter of terminology. While the article captures what I think of as the essence of a true tiny home, it can only be helpful to the earth if people who can't see their way clear to 100 sq. feet, instead look for or build "small" homes rather than McMansions. I already know that instead of retiring to a tiny home, as I'd envisioned, I will end up living in a small home built by my grandparents 50 years ago. That doesn't mean that I won't continue to simplify and minimalize my stuff or my ecological footprint, it just means that I'll use what already exists rather than building something new. It won't be tiny, but yet I still feel very much part of the "soul" of the movement.

    1. Perfect! It's the mentality that counts, not the square footage. The fact that you are conscious about what you want and what you feel is important for yourself and the earth is what matters. It sounds like you are already pretty clear on that. You can choose any size you want and still be a part of the movement.

  27. You never want to criticize, but the pioneering tiny house folks seemed to be missing the point a little when they lived in Mamma's back yard. I got over that because the esthetics were so nice, but making a camp in the yard is not the same as having a simple life, if the toilet, laundry, kitchen, etc., are being kept for you by Mamma!

    1. In 1968, I was in high school and owned several Isettas. At this time, this was considered to be a micro sized vehicle. Others made fun of me but I didn't care. Earlier, as I grew up, I built numerous forts and tree houses. So, from the beginning, my life revolved around small things. I have a lot of appreciation for our TH forefathers and foremothers.....that's a new word. However, earlier, as the original TH's tended to be small and TH components such as windows and doors were proportioned to fit the designs, something was left out of the equation. Today, in the 20th century, TH people and people in general are not so tiny. Every doesn't eat Lean Cuisine and shoot wheat grass shots. Technically, earlier TH's we just one step in size above the average backyard playhouse. In theory, the perfect size for an occupant in a smaller TH is a midget......I don't mean to discriminate. Our TH forefathers forgot about the average overweight person in America, the wounded veterans, the people with disabilities ranging from minor to major, the fact that two people of the opposite sex may have offspring, therefore, kids would be on the way. Also, let's not forget the aging of America, baby boomers, and those approaching those golden years. You know, there are actually people who plan for their future. Those who are feeling the stiffness and early indications of growing older. They, with anticipation, are wondering if they should make provisions in their design for the inevitable. Perhaps I need stairs instead of a ladder. What is my spouse with a disability needs more space to accommodate a walker or wheel chair? I guess what I'm trying to say is that THOW's appeal to a more broader audience that originally anticipated. Don't predetermine what other will want. My surveys and communication with the TH community will bear this out. Food for thought Jay

  28. The up side of the Tiny House movement going mainstream is that it also helps building codes and local ordinances evolve to meet the needs of the Tiny House community. RV parks are becoming more open minded to these units and communities are reevaluating their policies on accessory dwellings. These are all good things for the movement. And everything in life comes with a trade off. Many people think they can live tiny until they actually try it. I would guess that if you are not ready to buy a tiny house right now just wait a couple of years and all those people who jumped on the bandwagon because it was trendy and looked fun will be selling their tiny homes at a discounted rate as they flood the market.

    I do agree it is sad that the original inspiration for the movement has been lost on those who are sucked in by the commercialization. It seems our entire planet has been cooped by the world of marketing and profiteering. We as a society cannot seem to embrace the concept of needing experiences and people, not material things, to fill our lives and make us whole. We have been brainwashed into thinking we can buy happiness by having things. It really is very sad.

    1. Very true! I never said there were no upsides. There are a lot of really amazing positive things happening. I was just making one specific point - not to paint a bleak picture of the future at all!

      1. Don't worry Alek, its all good. Just look at all the discussion this one article created! WOW!

        The first two sentences of what Erika had to say were very important. The changes that are taking place all across this country with zoning, etc. ARE the positive results of the pioneers. As with any pioneer movement, the beginning is always the roughest, and the later the reapers of the benefits of those beginning struggles.

        As far as commercialization of the TH movement, because it has been exposed to millions by the various TV shows,Blogs, Newsletters, etc. more people are becoming aware it and options within it. Not only does the exposure bring about need change (zoning, etc.) , it enlarges the movement by bringing knowledge to a larger growing audience.

        In short: information, information, information!

  29. I am thrilled that Jay and Dee did the backbreaking "trailblazing" work of returning some of the simple living opportunites to us that our grandparents took for granted. My grandmother was born in 1897 and married in 1920. There were no subsidies or insurance for disasters They had to live simply in order to survive and recover from tragedies. Somewhere along the way toward our convenience driven existence, simple living was almost outlawed.
    Jay and Dee regained some of our choices that had been criminalized. How people choose to use those hard-fought opportunities is up to them, but I certainly hope we as a leisure seeking civilization manage to maintain the liberty to live simply. I applaud the modern pioneers who dealt with the legal authorities to reclaim a long lost freedom of living within one's limited means especially among a modern people of consumption.

  30. From 1985 to 2000, my tiny house fit into my backpack. Then my aging body sent me a message that it was time to consider a slightly larger, more comfortable alternative, so I acquired a solar powered Airstream trailer. As a residential architect, I found a solution that fit my needs and have been living full time in 212 SF since.

    Thank you for this writing about returning to the roots. I am currently involved in creating a community of tiny houses because I feel that going smaller and simpler requires the opportunity to share core resources. As far as the additions of common comforts, my criticism of most ultra tiny designs is that they do not accommodate the requirements of aging in place. Loft sleeping is not a sustainable design feature for the elderly.

    Right now, we are focusing on getting local planning and building codes changed so that all these tiny houses can find a legal home. We welcome support in this quest from all across the country.

    Let's keep our thoughts on the topic of simplicity and the Zen space, and release more and more of our cultural and personal baggage.

    1. I live in Houston, TX and our codes are not friendly towards the tiny houses. Any information you have that could help us get codes changed would be greatly appreciated. We have people here looking to go tiny. I small community would be wonderful.

  31. I think the tiny house movement is a novelty trendy-cutesy thing, and not practical (nor affordable in many cases) for the average person. I searched in my state for a tiny house community - none exists. Found one elsewhere to "buy into for 200K" - REALLY??? I'm one that really does live without all the junk in a 500 sqft cabin; plenty big enough even when there were two of us. Before that we lived in 600 sqft. Unless folks are willing to commit to a more minimalist lifestyle - and the majority simply won't - it will just be a passing thing. The concept always existed with those who've been living in small mobile homes, campers, cabins, one bed apartments etc. Granted, houses in general need to get smaller, and we had that back in the 60's, 70s. I see us reverting back gradually to that type of construction. Trends, attitudes, lifestyles are slow to evolve. People will have to LIVE the "less is more", and believe that conviction down in their souls, and not just talk about it for the "wow" factor.

  32. I have followed the movement since it first started, being from Portland, Oregon originally. I love the original voluntary simplicity idea behind it. Then it got bigger and more expensive. We use recycled items and building materials items in our home, garage and coop- doors, sinks, etc., and we're in 1,200 sq. ft. Since I do a lot of gardening, have an urban coop, and do food preservation I could never go that small. I have always actually worried about people in those really tiny homes if the crap really hits the fan, nationally or regionally. Where would they buy their food, water, fuel, survive unusually terrible weather, etc? They don't store anything. Maybe that's just me, but it doesn't plan for the unforeseen emergencies. It's too vulnerable. I also have personal safety issues with those, in a more remote area. Not much between you and the bear or armed, crazy person. While I like the idea, (I could go smaller, maybe someday), I need more kitchen, garden, storage and a sense of self sufficiency. What's the point otherwise, or is that just me? Voluntary simplicity but relying on others for short term food, water and supplies??? Not for me...

  33. Tiny homes aren't suitable for everyone and I think they do often require you to be able-bodied. I would love one but my husband is becoming increasingly disabled and anything with a loft bed or ladder access wouldn't work for him. He can't lift or bend and finds it difficult to manoeuvre around things. We currently live in a large house in rural France, but - like most people here - we still try to live simply within this space, heating with wood, growing our own food etc. Tiny and simple are not the same.

  34. I think there's room for everyone's interpretation. Learning about the tiny house movement inspired me to downsize and semi retire. I live where building a true tiny house would not be allowed, and there are many small existing houses that can be purchased. I bought a small house (660 square feet) and I love it. I have adult children with families of their own, and I am the one who stores all the communally used camping equipment, canoes, etc. I have no desire to climb up to a loft bed, so being spread out more on one level makes sense. I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff and continue to pare down. I appreciate all that I have learned about living with less. In any social trend, such as the tiny house movement, there will be a range of people (like me) who can benefit from adopting some of the ideas without adopting all of them. Are we pure tiny house people? No. But we are improving our lives and in my case I am re-using existing housing which conserves natural resources. I am looking into having solar installed, too. It is not necessary for every person to run a marathon in order to benefit from exercise. He or she who simply increases their activity level also benefits. I believe that the popularity of the tiny house movement leads to more partial adopters, and that is good for society and good for our planet.

  35. I started looking at tiny/small houses as a building option after Hurricane Rita washed our house away in 2005. The bottom line was that I simply could not afford to build, elevate and insure even a 1100 sq ft house. I would have to own it outright. I thought I'd nailed one down (ha!) in May 2011, having set up a meeting with Brad Kittel to purchase one of his little houses -- but he stood me up, and my physical ability as well as my fortunes have dwindled since then. In that time I've seen tiny houses become a "thing", and I've decided I don't want to live in a shed. I still believe smaller is better and more manageable, but coming up with the d'argent or the sweat to do it is a really high hurdle for me now. I'm still working on this problem of how and where to live. Just my two bits.

  36. I have thought about this for a while. I first noticed the TinyHouse idea a couple of years ago and half joked about buying one to be a travel nurse some day... Now out of nursing school and a new widow, I have taken a REAL look and will be building my own TH soon.

    As many have mentioned, the desire to go "Tiny" is as individualized as the people opting to go that route. For me, I'm a new widow, my teenagers will be grown and gone soon. What do I need a "big" house for? Jim and I had planned to travel. Finally having some "US" time, Jim was going to retire early and I would be a travel nurse.

    When I lost him at the ripe old age of 46, it seemed I .... had lost my zest for life. Now, I am thinking there is really nothing left for me "here." My boys will soon be gone and I want to travel - so TH it is .... yet for now I have 2 teenage boys and 5 dogs! Yikes you say?

    Hence my thoughts... I am planning a 24' (McMansion) TH. I worry 24' will be too much house for me someday. Then laugh at how absurd that sounds. My 24' McMansion TH literally fits in my living room. I have taped it off to get a feel for the size. Which helped tremendously, btw, I have since "remodeled" - or moved the tape around. lol.

    I try to think about what I will need then verses now. My first thought was to build two and connect them, but can I tow two trailers? I need driving lessons! I've never even towed a small u-Haul trailer! A todo! I plan on renting a u-Haul trailer just for the practice in pulling one. lol. Seems like a cheap option to "get a feel" for towing without the risk of damaging my TH.

    Anyway, I do believe we must think about what our changing needs will be. I was revisiting the thought of the two trailers instead of one big one. But as I age, will I be able to climb the ladder comfortably? My McMansion has a full height room in the back (boys') and a fully equipped "Dog Pound" =) As I age, I guess I can migrate down to their room and will have a guest loft.

    This will work for us. It will be a McMansion by TH standards. And a far cry from the "original vision" .... it will also be a far cry from the future my husband and I had planned... but it's doable. And I will be able to travel, my pack in tow. ... now to build it....

  37. It was inevitable! The Needs of one person are not the Needs of another, Mix in Creativity,Funds available,Freedom, All add up to BIGGER- The exact opposite of the small house idea OF downsizing. What needs to change is the individuals concept of Basic needs Or Not? Perhaps there May need to be a New Mid-size downsizing & Large downsizing, Luxury downsizing, Techno downsizing, and the list goes on and ON. I hear you it lost its small dreams, In the land of Excess

  38. Two points.

    First, if you're interested in sustainability and improving the environment, then the adoption of tiny house techniques for larger homes should be something you advocate. Sure, a 1200 square foot house with lots of gadgets has a bigger footprint than a 60 foot house, but if the people living in it were inspired to rightgrade from a 3500 ft. energy inefficient McMansion - win for the environment. If someone renovates a 100 year old cottage using tiny house principles instead of building new - win for the environment.

    Second point. Movements where the desires of the founders are more important than the desires of the members are just cults of personality.

  39. Great post, Alek - and obviously it is something we need to talk about.
    In the movie Small is Beautiful Dee Williams herself says, "its not about the house." I firmly believe that you can be a part of the "tiny house movement" without building or living in a tiny home. It is all about a change in mindset.
    When Matt and I started our build in 2009 the only people who were really public about it were Dee and Jay and we talked with both of them. We wanted to build our house for a lot of reasons but not the least of which was to prove to ourselves that we could do it. It changed our lives 100%.
    Our house is very simple. We don't have running water or a full kitchen. It works for us. But for others, these would never work. I firmly believe that there is no one right way to live in a tiny home.

  40. I guess I have become so self reliant, that I do not want to live in a tiny house, where by I have to rely on others to provide a place to park it or to provide me with things like showering, bathing etc. Does anyone have any ideas of how to solve this dilemma besides becoming wealthy enough to own some land or be able to have a full bath? Thanks in advance for any feedback.

  41. I hear what you're saying and truthfully agree for the most part but I acknowledge that the movement has to shift with the broader expanse of people interested in this way of living. Let me explain, we are a family of 4 and we have 1 dog. Going tiny is a drastic decision for us simply because of the size of our growing family. When we decided to take the leap from 3400 to 340 we had a lot to consider. With 4 of us and having one boy and one girl we had to consider sleeping arrangements that are appropriate for them. Having 2 year old we had to rethink the ladder. We had to add in more convertible spaces so we could eat together, we live in the north so we have horrible winters, we live in the country so no laundromat, and so on. For all of these variable we went with a 32ft and are trying to maximize every inch. Anything smaller would end up being likely to compact for the size of our family especially since the kids are homeschooled as well. 32ft might seem huge to many tiny house folks but I know many tiny home at 20-24ft that only 2 folks live in so in the grand scheme and for sake of longevity 32ft while not tiny is realistic. I suppose it's about perspective and actual need based on the situation you are in. We chose building ours on a trailer simply because our lifestyle causes us to move often. Our 5yr old has lived in 3 different houses, two of which we owned. So the consistency of having the same house no matter where we move makes sense, on top of the fact that we have insane amounts of college loans. You're right mainstream can easily make it boutique to have a tiny house but mainstream may also help people to consider making a tangible life change. Most tiny house owners realize we need to change the way we do things in the US in terms of housing. I suppose that we can never throw the baby out with the bathwater but should honor those who take the leap no matter how they take it. Everyone's on a journey which means the path they take may be the right one for them in that particular season. If the journey requires (at least initially a flat screen tv, ikea design and a brand new f350 at the very least I applaud their step in the approximate direction. Perhaps time will change their thinking, maybe it won't. The core vision of the tiny house movement can't be lost or hijacked as long as there is a cohort of folks that get it and live it. Even if that cohort is 10 people it still exists. Again, I hear and appreciate what you're saying but wanted to throw my two cents in.

  42. From the movement's Founding Father, Jay Shafer:

    "Small house living doesn’t necessarily entail living in a house the size of a Ford Ranger. In fact, I don’t think most lives would fit into a single parking space. In its original and I believe its truest form, the Small House Movement was created not so much as a showcase for living, *'… tinier than thou, but rather people making their own choices toward simpler and smaller living however they feel best fits their life'." *Jay quotes Greg Johnson, co-founder and president of the Small House Society, 2002.

  43. I loved this article! I believe the mainstreaming of the tiny house has flushed out 2 categories of tiny house enthusiasts: those who want to find a cheaper and more free way of life, and those who want to effect positive change for their environment and soul. Both very worthy causes, just different goals.

  44. It was controversial, but necessary. I have been thinking the same things. The tiny movement isn't about stuffing more in, but choosing to live without and live a simplier more basic life. I love to bake and cook, but I certainly do not need every "specialty tool" I have collected over the years. I am choosing to live with less because I feel less encumbered and free to experience life differently; more vivid.

  45. Have you seen TinyHouseUK lately? Gross. They are making a tv show on tiny home enthusiasts and are looking for couples only and are ok if you fake being a couple. Totally bogus and misrepresenting tiny home builders and owners. No soul in that, only tv ratings. They even likened their choice of restricting participants to a model being turned down for a job because she has imperfections and flaws. OMFingG.

    1. oh my gosh that was my experience with the American show Tiny House Hunters. They wanted me to pretend to go look at Tiny Houses to buy (including my own TH) and eventually pick my house. Pretty fake. Even Tiny House Nation is irritating because so many of the people are shown to be so clueless about what it takes to live simple and small. Not to mention there just isn't a lot of drama in these shows so they seem to manufacture something silly every show. I like to watch but it's really not the experience most people have I don't think.

      1. Wow, that's sad!! And so fake. My girl is 16 and she has to grow up having to discern what is fake, staged, or real. Super sad. Did u build your tiny? I haven't started yet.

      2. I liked the first episodes of Tiny House Nation when they were really showing tiny houses. Now it's morphed into $300,000 "tiny houses" which I thought defeated the entire purpose of tiny houses to begin with. Maybe they are trying to widen their audience..I don't know. But I think they should focus more on the cheaper, REAL tiny houses that got me interested in them to begin with. I'm having to scramble and scrape to get a $30,000 TH and even then I am going to have to scour the antique shops and scrap yards to finish it. If you have $300K to spend on a TH you are NOT typical.

        1. I have to agree about the lack of reality in the shows, but I watch them for the building ideas and multipurpose functionality of the furnishings, cabinets, furniture, staircases, bathtubs, etc.

          But I do agree on the exorbitant price tags. I don't have 30 or 40 K to spend on one!

  46. I feel there's a sort of relativity dynamic involved in this discussion. There are thousands of marginalized people who live in shacks in the Mexico City dumps. The first time they saw a 160 square-foot Tiny House, it would probably look like a mansion to them. From the first time I saw a tiny house in a Tiny House article, it was Jay Shafer's first one, the Airstream, and I thought it was a most appealing idea. Since then I have followed the Tiny House blog religiously. I have seen that some of them have shown signs of growing larger. And from there, there is a continuum of sizes up to mansions and palaces, which I'm glad I don't have to keep clean.

    Other comments have already addressed the fact that one's choice of house is as unique as the one making the choice. I know that I would need more than the average Tiny House I've noticed most--under 200 square feet, roughly speaking. I study/research certain subjects a lot, and they requires a shelf or two of books, in addition to the books I read for pleasure. I also have a range of different cameras and their accessories, which I use regularly. I would probably need more than 200 square feet.

    I feel that "Tiny House" is in the eye and the needs of the builder, and so her/his "Tiny" might look like Grandiose House" to me, as might my 'Tiny House" look like "Grandiose House" to a Mexico City Dump dweller. It's all relative.

  47. Alek, thank you for your bold, insightful post on this topic. My husband and I are just about to start building our own tiny house, a decision that came about from our desire to simplify our life, learn that we can live with much less, and spend less time working and more time in our community.

    As we have been planning our house, though, I have been looking at countless examples of other people's tiny houses ... and I have been sizing up how ours will compare. Will our house be as Pinterest-worthy? Are our materials as "cool"? Are our features as clever? What are we missing that will really push our house over the top?

    Just this week, I have been feeling the weight of trying to keep up with the (tiny!) Joneses. I am realizing that going tiny does NOT make me immune to materialism, and that no matter the size of my house, I need to do the hard soul work of trying to let go of my perception that my belongings define my happiness, success, and cool factor.

    So, THANK YOU for this great reminder of why I started on this path in the first place!

  48. Passing judgement on those who think differently is typical of a lot of groups of people.
    I currently live in a 2300 sq.ft. double-wide mobile home on my family owned farm. it was necessary to buy such a larger house to facilitate the care for two elderly hospice family members and their requirements. I have been researching "The Tiny House" movement and options, as well as the mainstream TV show, mainly for knowledge and different ideas of efficient use of space. I find it fascinating, and being almost 63, and needing less cash outflow, I am seriously working toward "my" concept of going tiny. Yeas there will be creature comforts. I live far away from any available laundry mat, so I have to have a washer/dryer, I live in Texas (where it gets pretty darn hot in the summer time) so I require an air conditioner. Conveniences for one individual are necessities for another just due to circumstances. If that makes me non-compliant to the etiology of the tiny house pioneers, then so be it; "Frankly Scarlet I don]'t give a dmn!" Live with it, one shoe does not fit everyone!

    No, I don't need a McMansion, never have. No, I don't have to keep up with the Jones, never have. And, last but not least, no, I don't care what the neighbors (that live a mile away) think, never have. As long as I am able to sleep comfortably, cook and clean, and clean myself and my clothes reasonably, and pay the bills I need to pay, the rest of the world and their opinions can take a flying leap of the high side.
    Tiny house of my choosing in my future, you bet!

    You people, keep up the good work!

      1. Some people leave very angry, hate-filled comments. So I must moderate to remove those truly unwelcome ones. In all other cases, I'm more than happy to allow comments representing each and every point of view, including yours!

        1. I appreciate your candidness. While I agreed with a lot you said, I am appalled at the cost of a lot of the tiny houses I see being built or presented in the mainstream media as well as Blogs such as yours.! Having built many buildings in the past I do recognize the cost of building materials, and I can appreciate the craftsmanship and finish work (which is very tedious and costly), but the cost and elaborateness of a lot of the new tiny homes is outrageous! A lot of these very nice tiny homes at less than 200 square feet, cost just as much or more than my 2300 sq. ft. mobile home. That, I do not see. Yes the bathroom and the kitchen are the two most expensive rooms in any house, no matter what is built around them, but a lot of these prices are really way to high.

          As for my sounding off at the criticism of people adverse to the original etiology, or criticism of the group with the original etiology about others that don't do things within their minimalistic guidelines, it irritates me. People do what they need to do. All any of us in the tiny house world, or moving into the tiny house world are trying to do is get out from under huge mortgages and live a little simpler. (At least that is my take on the movement.)

          I hope that every one involved, or planning to become involved by buying or building the tiny way can have the common decency to accept each others individual needs.

          Finally, with all that being said, do we really need tiny McMansions? I don't know for I don't walk tin the shoes of the individuals buying or building those!

          Thanks for your time.
          joan

          1. It does seem ridiculous to spend $100K for a tiny house. Why not just get one of those big fancy bus type mobile homes?

          2. Scott, yes 100K is atrocious for not just a TH, but I think for ANY house. After all, it is suppose to be a home, not a show palace.

            I have checked a lot of prices for the the smaller appliances that are needed in these THOWs, most of them range from 1K to 2K in price, so by the time they are acquired you have about 7K, the trailers are running around 10K, high efficiency windows are expensive also, so the rest is labor and materials. A lot of these THOWs are finished in very high end pricey choice materials. Any time you build something yourself, you can usually do it for half the price. So half of any project is going to be labor. But you are paying for that expertise, And with high end finished you have a lot of intense finish work. Really good finish work is expensive.

            I'm not trying to defend 100K price tag for a TH, but just trying to let you know where the $$ are going. Personally, I think 30-40K is too much, but every thing costs more these days.

    1. Please let me express my thanks for your common sense response about there being people with other needs out there such as older adults & the disabled. Having lived in a class III wheelchair for 16 years, and with a wife who has more metal in her back than an Edsel, there's plenty of situations where extra space is not a luxury - it's a necessity. That doesn't mean we can't embrace tiny house concepts such as energy efficient appliances such as on-demand hot water systems. While there's NO doubt about the charm of tiny living, I can't help but wonder what these same people will do later in life just in case there's medical misfortunes? With many tiny homes actually costing more per square foot to build than a typical home, where's ALL the savings these people are touting? I also know that once we part with family heirlooms 100 years or older that connects us with something more than ourselves, we'll NEVER again enjoy them. This might be anything from handmade linens to the beloved grand piano.

      We're currently in the process of designing and then building a fully handicap accessible cottage that'll end up with around 1,000 square feet but still feel large enough for normal day to day living. Isn't there some sort of middle ground out there?

      1. Yes, I know what what an Edsel is or was! As a matter of fact, my neighbor (out in the country was a mile away) had a grey and green Studebaker. Those old cars did have some metal in them!

        Your idea is spot on to what I'm thinking. I've had both knees replaced, and even though I find lofts appealing, there is no way I can crawl around on my knees. It just can't happen. Not only do you need to make sure it is handicap accessible, don't forget EMS accessible. I worked and managed a volunteer rural ambulance service for several years and it is horrible how many homes are not accessible to ambulance stretchers! And where I live we get a lot of wind. I'm afraid some of these tiny houses on narrow trailers would be more susceptable to cross winds. Not a pretty picture in my mind.

        Of course, most of these young folks don't think about things like that, and neither did we at that age.

        Actually, I would like to see more posts on the internet dealing with converting larger storage buildings into moderate cottages. I personally think this is a good way to go. If you need more room, get two or three of them and join them with dog run style covered porches in between.

        It always bothers me how the smell of cooking permeates the whole house. If the kitchen was in its own building, the bedrooms and living area would not get smelly.

        Middle ground! Do what you need to do and just take ideas from the rest of it. That is my take on a lot of the really tiny houses. I like to absorb the ingenious use of space and multipurpose furnishings.

        With a little ingenuity you can install a lot of things in your small cottage that will make your life a lot easier. Things to help you transition from wheelchair to the bed, shower, potty, etc. They don't have to be expensive commercial aperatices.

        I would suggest to go with post and beam construction instead of concrete. It is easier on joints and is a little more foregiving when you fall on it. Even with titanium/stainless steel knees, walking on concrete still kills me. Caused an early retirement, along with the Oesteoarthritis. These new engineered floating hardwood floors have a little cushion to them.

        I could go on, but probably should not. I've rambled too much already. Thanks for your comments.

        Good luck to you and your new cottage.

      2. Scott wrote SUCH a practical comment!

        If a person already owns their property with all the necessary utilities already on site, average cost for building is around $100 - 125 per SF for an average home. Add some sweat equity such as painting the interior or living without designer soaking tubs and that $100 per SF is easily attainable.

        It's the finding a location for TH's that pushes me over the edge. For those who're forced into monthly renting of a parking space, these days you're lucky if you find anything decent for under $350 per month. Just in case you're curious, that'll buy you an extra $75,000 more in house on a 30 year mortgage.

        Joan's comment about the cost for smaller appliances is the same killer issue RV owners have always dealt with. Be it heating/cooling, stoves, or a fridge, the tinier things are, the more they costs. It also negates our deluded economic value, smaller must be better.

        Forever a believer less can equal more, I wish there was more discussion about actual costs and depreciation expenses just in case a person changes their mind down the road. Today fully equipped normal homes in the 1,500 - 3,000 SF range are considered solid values so long as they HOLD their value over the long haul. The era of homes always increasing in value is a thing of the past. So is the notion we'll recover our $30,000 or MORE investment for a TH that's actually titled as a vehicle per DMV. If it flies, floats, or rolls - it depreciates.

        Keeping our heads on straight while using common sense for more than the moment is where we'll find long term contentment and easing of our financial burdens. TH living is still experiencing its growing pains, but my bet is it'll grow up just like the rest of us old dogs who ride merrily along in the back of our pickup truck.

        1. If you have to figure in depreciation it will always kill the moment. You drive a brand new car with 7 miles on the OD. and its value drops at least 5-10K when you exit the lot. Mobile Home, the same. Wheels? Yes.
          But the 250k-350K and up standard house building craze is not sustainable!. I've seen so much good farm land swallowed up around here with housing developments its sickening! I can not figure out where the job market is around here to support such building either. It floors me all the time. As far as RV type rental spaces being high, yes they are but you have to figure in the costs paid by the owners of those properties. Sure there are gougers out there (they are a fact in every aspect of our lives), but they do have utilities to pay for, all the development costs for water, sewer, electric, internet (wifi, sometimes), streets, parking areas, not to mention the insurance racket that has to be adhered to. The list goes on and on. I've thought about that option for additional income several times, but with my age, and the cost for water meters, electric meters, etc. it just isn't feasible.
          In the 'old' days smaller things were cheaper. Smaller TV, smaller stove, etc. But that is not always the case these days as we discussed earlier.
          I don't know all the cost figures, but there are several mfgs. of Park Model Homes that look really comfortable. Not exactly tiny houses, more like 1 bedroom mobile homes. But a lot of them sure look sharp.

  49. What about people that have accessibility needs? Some of us need more room for mobility. Are we not in the spirit of the Tiny house movement.

    1. Sarah, I don't know if you can follow the replies that Bob and I have discussed, but that is the direction our discussions have lead us. He and his wife both have limited mobility, and I have my own infirmities to deal with. We both have struggled with that very same question.

      When we read the original post by Alek, he was trying to provoke thought, at which he was highly successful. You also have to realize the age bracket in which most Tiny House folk belong. So those of us that are older and less agile must adapt things to our own needs. We must be a little more creative and allow ourselves just a little more space to insure access of walkers, wheelchairs, EMS stretchers, beds on the main floor instead of lofts not suitable to crawling around on stainless steal knee replacements.

      But we ARE a part of the Tiny House "movement", or we would not be entertaining the ideas of such a lifestyle. Whether we adhere to some people's etiology matters not. It is what is in you own heart and your own needs that matters. There is nothing in this world that will ever satisfy everyone in it. So take the ideas, the pieces that fit into your world, the bits and pieces that you can make work for you and go forth proudly knowing that your concept of living tiny fits your needs and comfort zone.

      May God Bless You.

    2. You're just SO darn endearing - oh, and wonderfully practical too. Since my wife and me were both 911 dispatchers during our careers, your comments about how ANY type of home design should consider more than just that front door appeal syndrome really hit home (ouch, double entendre). All domiciles need to earn their productivity just in case there's a broken leg after loosing your grip while lowering yourself from that star-lit bed loft.

      There's NO doubt we're a bunch of TH junkies that's feeding our creativity cravings, we're also noticing how many people jump ship after going just a bit to small during their under-board lifestyle transition. How many people want a hotel room that's only 200 square feet or less? Now imagine living in it. The plethora of super tiny houses hitting the resale market can't be ignored. Neither are their asking prices - LOL.

      The other day I noticed a listing of a 500 square foot home near a college that actually made sense, even for owners with limited mobility. Call it my reminder the TH movement is more than a passing phase. It just makes good sense be it economically, physically, and even emotionally as life becomes easier to handle, but necessarily less.

      This entire group discussion is one I'll treasure for years. What I'd give if only you were my neighbors. Take care one and all. You're ALL a special breed.

      1. Bob, I was a volunteer EMT for 10 years in SE rural Colorado, ran the squad for 8 yrs. Very rewarding even if it did produce a few night mares along the way. I've tried to get those stretchers in small doors and down narrow hallways into back bedrooms. It would be a nightmare for any of these THOWs.

        I too have notices a lot of these builds for sale, and at astronomical prices! And a lot of them were on one or the other of the TV shows! Figure that!

        But if you've noticed, today's world is not like we grew up. Our parents put down roots and stayed there until they passed from this world. Today, if someone lives in one spot longer than 2 years it is a miracle! They move around more than migratory birds. I had to move enough when I worked for Uncle Sam. I hate moving. Maybe that IS what appeals to a lot of the THOW people, All they have to do is hitch up and take off with their house in tow!

        I live in the country on our family farm that Mom and Dad bought with Dad's GI Bill when he came home from WWII. The original family house was 800 sq. ft. They eventually added 2 rooms when us kids were almost grown. Doubled the footage. But they raised us 3 kids in 800 sf. with one bathroom. We made out just fine. Anyway,I don't really care about curb appeal anymore, because I don't have to live in a town or city, worrying about what neighbors think or resale value. We keep things nice, mowed, painted, etc. but that is just self pride in where we live.

        I think a lot of these people were enamored with dreams, and have found out they are trying to do too much with too little. Some are just jumping up the scale with a few extra sq. ft. i.e. bigger TH (96 sf to 200 sf) etc.

        My niece and her husband lived in a 32 ft 5th wheel for a few years with 2 kids, then a new baby, but they were trying to pay off student loans. He is a Veterinarian, she is education qualified and home schools the kids. He got a better job offer, they moved to the coast and now live in a real house. I don't know what size it is, doesn't matter. But they made the TH thing work for them for awhile to pay off debt. It worked !

        I have seen several designs that would work for limited mobility people, but they are few and far between. Like I told a lady yesterday, you have to pick and choose ideas and designs and do what fits your needs.
        Wonderful to hear from you, God Bless you both.

        1. Your niece and hubby living in 32 feet with a young child while paying off college debt was what I'd call responsible:) If we could clone their common sense, I don't think we see near as many social problems we now consider the norm in our country. When I lived in RV's (that I loved with all my heart), I too was being careful economically. If my wife and me hadn't turned into gimps, I'd give 80% odds we'd right now be living in something similar since we always loved RV'ing and that hidden away treasure just around the corner.

          Thanks for sharing the way you were brought up in your perfect sized home that was added onto as needed but that still met every single need. I keep hanging on to the hope that people will realize less often equals more, but at the rate people are still acquiring debt - NOT!

          Growing older isn't near as bad as I expected. When I was younger I had to have new cars (what a waste!) and deluded myself over image. Then we grow older and instead learn it's people and hopefully what we share with others that brings us the greatest joy. Ego use to be my greatest enemy, but thank goodness I finally found the light. Give the credit to my wife who was eternally patient. I also found greater joy in what others have created hence I'm not quite willing to part with irreplaceable heirlooms even though my family wants us to just turn everything into cash and party.

          Liberace once said, "We really don't own anything. We just pay for the privilege of momentarily enjoying a few lovely things." I took that wisdom to heart and you know what - the guy was right!

          Living in our 115 year old farmhouse is my constant reminder we're just a part of the big picture. Now the question is if we want to be a giver or a taker? After getting to know you SO much better, I already know who and what your values are. You're that example I'll be shooting for to my final breath:)

          1. My ego problem is not with fancy houses (never has been) or fancy new cars ( I've always been a pick-up gal, I love trucks!) As long as it looks decent, runs good, and is functional and dependible, that's what counts to me. My ego weak point if you will is guitars and guns. Not a bad some people I know, but still a weeak point.

            I do have a few heirlooms, mainly Mom's paintings that I could never part with. Luckily, I have nieces and nephews that will be recipients of those. I guess my biggest weakness is the land, and striving to improve it, and keep it intact for the next generations.

            Had not heard that quote from Liberace, but it is good, and makes a lot of sense.

            Thanks for the compliment, but I never thought I would be an example for anyone. I just try to live my life in its own logical practicality. I always had a problem with that in school; if I could not see the practical useage of a subject I had extreme difficulty in learning it. If there was a practical use for information, I drank it in.

            I don't really know what you mean by being a giver or taker? We are all a little bit of both, I think. Everyone seems to try to look at things in black or white, but most of life is found in the gray areas of the spectrum; a modge podge of things, with no clear defining lines.
            Ya'll take care now you hear!

          2. The reason you're a fine example of who I'm still striving to become is not just because of your practical values such as taking care of things v/s replacing them once you're bored or its no longer vogue. It's your background and how much you've done and do for others.

            Over and over again I read about people who care more about everything from how much water and energy they're using to the trappings of being nonstop shoppers. I'd refer to most of these individuals as givers since they constantly caring about long term effects upon others down the road. That's what I enjoy most about this community. "Kindred spirits stick together," - Anne of Green Gables.

  50. I have some land and I have been looking to "tiny" or even "small" houses that would have green features but sparsely accessorized. It is appalling that the cost of constructing "tiny" or "small" houses are comparable to building a home twice or more the size for the same cost. It's as if the builders have conspired in their design to get the same remuneration no matter the size of the home.

    dismayed.

    1. Marc, don't be dismayed. If you look closely at a lot of the tiny houses (trailer or not) most of them are finished with high-end products and finishes. You can re-source a lot of materials that will reduce the cost. There are also examples of people building their own for less than 10K. It all depends on what you want to work with and how much of the work you want to do yourself. My best example is a project my partner and I did about 5-6 years ago. We wanted a storage building, went to Lowes , etc. and priced the ones of the size we had chosen. They wanted $2500.00 for the one we wanted, well we went out and measured the one on the lot, went back in and ordered the materials, and built it ourselves from the ground up for $1100.00. Also, many of these tiny houses shown to us (e-mail, blog, TV) have very high-end finishes. Personally I think many A/C plywoods have beautiful grains and would make lovely finished walls for a lot less cost than the tongue and groove 1x planks they use in a lot of these houses.

      Bottom line, you CAN do it for less if you do your homework and put in a lot of sweat equity!
      Good luck to you and your future project.

  51. Why does the tiny house movement have to be a movement? Why can't it just be something you do for personal reasons. A movement suggests some crazy left agenda is at play.

    1. Can we keep hot button comments like "Crazy Left" out of this? There's no need for it other than to troll someone who might have views different than yourself!

  52. I always thought that tiny houses were cute but was for financial freedom. but I see more and more tiny houses that cost more than a traditional home. I live in a mobile home and love it. It is small for my family of 6 because we make it work. People give mobile homes a bad rep. When mobile home was introduces and it is a home on wheels everyone love it and it had it time of glory. Now people believe that you are poor and on welfare if you live in a mobile home. Now we have tiny homes that is the same as a mobile home just smaller but is still a house on wheels. I wonder if in the future when tiny homes get approved to be a dwelling everywhere. There will be tiny home park like mobile home parks and will tiny home but stereotyped like mobile homes as poor and welfare tiny home parks.

    1. Rina, you are spot on! The original THOW's were in fact 8', 10', and then 12' wide mobile homes grown into the 15'and 20' wide two and three wide homes we see today. But the original ones were just 8' wide like today's THOWS. The primary difference is materials used for construction and thus cost.

      I live in a double-wide myself that we purchased when caring for two elderly invalid family members, so we needed the larger house. Fortunately, the family owns a small farm so I don't have to worry about "trailer parks". Life in a mobile home is practically the same as life in a regular stick built home. Actually it is better on the knees than a concrete slab!

      I am quite sure a large percentage of the population looks at THOWS the way they do mobile homes. But you are quite right about paying $60 to $80 thousand for an 8'x18'-24' THOW. Those prices are ridiculous. There are a few stories out there where people built one themselves for $10-$15 K and that makes more sense, at least to me.

  53. Oh my G-d!!! thank you soooo much for this. i so needed to read this today. I have found myself being subtly carried into "the movement" of cute and bling. I live in an 18' long 190 sq ft THOW. i've had to stand up to all the scoffers in my life. and now i find so many things being put out there as THOW that are bigger than the condo I moved out of. and they're full of bling and sparkle. i shake my head and wonder what happened to the intention behind tiny living??!! Yes, everyone has the right to live however they want to live, in whatever size they want. but it's not fair to say that a used honda civic is the same as a 2016 model jaguar. for me moving into a THOW has as much, if not more, to do with a LIFESTYLE change. and i still want to be part of a community of like minded people - who are excited about living simply, and living "without", not coming up with clever ideas to cram more stuff into less space. i'm tacking this article on my wall!!!

  54. Hi Alek, what a great article! I especially loved reading the feedback in the comment section-- it definitely got my wheels turning about what "tiny living" means to me.
    I was wondering if you could provide more info on the picture of the yellow tiny house with the dog (the 20' one)? I've been drawing up plans for a tiny house with a similar design and am always looking for more inspiration. Thanks again and I'm looking forward to reading more rich, thought-provoking articles!

  55. I have been a tiny house devotee since before the "movement" began. My youngest is still in high school and when she was little and her older brother was a kid I tried desperately for someone to take me seriously and help me find a way to build a tiny house from all reclaimed materials. We have lived in tiny apartments as a trio and never had an issue with small spaces, just terribly chopped up houses that landlords called apartments. None were well laid out or energy efficient.
    Fast forward 12+ years and I am almost to where I can get my house. My youngest is almost graduated and refuses to entertain living in a tiny house with me and dreams of a McMansion of her own. Next week to go to visit a man who makes the houses I have dreamed of all my adult life and hope to build MY FOREVER HOME - tiny, reclaimed, magical and energy efficient in less than 3 years - FINALLY!
    The soul will never leave for those committed, its just too bad there are those side tracking the real movement.