A somewhat more common occurrence in recent decades, tiny homes are growing in popularity. You might already be quite familiar with tiny homes and are here, hoping to learn more. Maybe you are considering building or buying a tiny home yourself? Either as your main place to live or as somewhere to get away from it all on occasion.
Tiny homes are fascinating. Through a combination of complexity and minimalism, people can get the most out of these spaces, living a cozy lifestyle with minimal maintenance concerns. They are better for the environment, some say better for mental health, and might be a perfect living arrangement for one or two people. They are tough yet easy to build, and there are so many variations you just cannot keep track of them all (though we will do our best).
Image source: Ben Chun, CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Tiny homes often change in styles, and while there is no wrong home if you want to live in it, there is much to keep track of and consider. Therefore, you might need help keeping up with them or learning everything there is to know. Therefore, here is a guide to get you started:
The Benefits of a Tiny Home
If plenty of people are moving into tiny homes and embracing tiny home living, there must be something to it, right? Why else would some people choose to spend their time living in such a place, sometimes traveling across the country and bringing their tiny home with them? What makes the occasional odd look and lack of space worth it? What benefits do tiny homes offer?
It turns out there are quite a few, though some indeed are trade-offs (more on those later). While not every benefit is listed below, here are some of the common benefits you will find people bragging about:
Simpler and Cheaper Living
By buying or building a tiny home, you will not need to spend so much on building materials or housing. Similarly, with such a small home, you presumably would not need a large property to build it on, saving on land costs (and sometimes property taxes, depending on how they are calculated in your state).
Additionally, you can expect a lower electric or heating bill, other maintenance bills to be smaller, and general maintenance costs to be less. While the exact costs will vary depending on building materials, temperature control methods, insulation, and more, you can absolutely plan on lower bills compared to wherever you were living before.
The home also forces you to cut back a bit on consumer goods. How much idle shopping do you think you could do when you live in a tiny home? How much food do you think will go to waste? You probably will not bring anything home unless you genuinely want it.
The cost of the home itself will also be lower than the rest of the housing market, though even tiny homes are currently going up in price rapidly due to recent economic developments. Even the costs of building a home can increase due to demand and rapidly rising building material prices.
All of this adds up to a simpler life for people, and there are lots of ways this change can mean better health, less stress, and more time to focus on the things that matter most.
A More Mobile Home
We’ll discuss this a bit more later, but many tiny homes have wheels on them. They can be built-in or added on later. This is for easier transport, much like a trailer, should the owner want to move. While tiny homes are by no means easy to move (they are still buildings, after all), they are movable, and many tiny home owners do relocate. They want to keep their personalized, customized homes, and they are willing to put in the work to do so. Keeping the same home can also lessen the sting of a major move across the country, maintaining a sense of continuity for someone or a small family.
More Outdoor Space
Many people use the outdoor space of their tiny home more extensively, sometimes building a larger deck or more elaborate garden than one might expect. While someone living in a tiny home is unlikely to have a paved paradise in their backyard, outdoor decorations might be more thoughtful, and outdoor furniture might be more abundant to host guests or simply do more outside. While you will want to take the weather into account, people who love the outdoors and nature will often have a better time with a tiny home.
And there is a reason for this: many tiny home owners love the outdoors and want to take advantage of it. Many tiny homes might be out in the relative wilderness away from people, and others might still be only on the edges of the suburbs, with large plots of land to explore and use. Even on a typical lot, a tiny home can make a yard seem huge in comparison.
Minimal Ecological Impact
A larger home, no matter what you do, will have more impact on the environment. You will use more materials if you are building it from scratch, climate control will take more energy, more land is being modified or used for the building, and you might use more hazardous materials. No matter how friendly you try to be, less is always better when building, and a tiny home is designed for just that. Simply put, the research is there that a tiny home is better for the planet.
If you care enough about the environment that you are willing to change your lifestyle to set an example, a tiny home is an excellent step towards sustainable living. The minimal space and material usage combined with the increased outdoor space (perhaps you might want to grow a sustainable garden) can make an impact, especially if more people catch on to the trend.
Having less home space to maintain means that you will have an easier time maintaining your space than with a traditional home. This is not so much from a cost perspective (though that is a big factor) as it is from everything else. There is not so much to clean, so you will spend less time cleaning. There will be less expansive systems and fewer appliances to worry about, so you will spend less time on those. You might need to spend a bit more time on organization, but only if you try to put too many things in your tiny home in the first place.
All this amounts to some of the advantages mentioned before, including a more stress-free life and more free time to do with what you would like or what you need. In addition, the jobs that you do need to do or get help with will be easier or smaller in scale.
Disadvantages to Tiny Homes
Not everything about living in a tiny home will be perfect. It requires a certain kind of person to really take advantage of them, and it is perfectly understandable to conclude that they are not for you. The last thing you want is to regret your tiny home and not know what to do with it. Here are some of the main downsides you should seriously consider:
Zoning Considerations and Rules
Sometimes tiny homes are too tiny according to local zoning and building laws. This can make it harder to build a tiny home in some areas or move your tiny home to specific neighborhoods or even states. It may instead limit the type of tiny home you can build or where you can build it. It might require you to build it as an accessory home. The variations are too many to go over.
However, there are places where building a tiny home will not be an issue at all. You will want to check local laws about this as well, and there will likely be some regulations that you will have to follow regardless.
If you are building your tiny home, you will have to comply with local and federal building codes as well, lest you make it uninhabitable or run into legal trouble. Whether your home is on a foundation or wheels, this will likely be the case. Therefore, when building (or even buying) a home, you should consult professional resources to this end to make sure your design and hopes are possible.
While most of this is for the best and the protection of you and the people around you, it can mean that building or buying a tiny home is more complex, or you will be limited in where you can live. If you have an area in mind, make sure to look up the regulations in advance.
You might already be quite familiar with tiny homes and are here, hoping to learn more. Maybe you are considering building or buying a tiny home yourself? Either as your main place to live or as somewhere to get away from it all on occasion.
Tiny homes, or at least their interiors, are not meant for those who like to have large groups of people over. While there are tiny homes that can certainly accommodate a few guests in a nice living room setup, extended stays or many overnight guests might not be the best idea. Also, consider that other people might not be as amenable to the restricted space as you are.
Most tiny homes are not designed with privacy in mind. If you plan to live in your tiny home alone (or alone with your furry friend), this isn’t a problem. Still, a couple used to having their own spaces in the home might be in for a rude awakening, and tiny homes are not meant for families of more than three people. While smaller and simpler living is a virtue, people do need their own space.
You can mitigate this downside by using more outdoor spaces and preparing in advance for it, but there will be only so much you can do. Your tiny home will certainly not be the favored meeting spot.
Less Indoor Room to Move around In
Tiny homes are not for the claustrophobic. While you can and should be able to move around fine in them, by design, they simply do not have much space, and you probably will not be able to get much of a workout or stretching done in your tiny home. Tall individuals might have additional difficulties and will want to keep ceiling heights in mind.
Think deeply about how much room you need to move around and what you are looking for. While you might be OK with downsizing your life, a tiny home might not be for you.
The Weather Means More
If you live in a tiny home, you will likely be taking more advantage of the outdoors than you would otherwise. While this is mostly a good thing, it’s not so great if you happen to be dealing with a blizzard or heavy storm outside. In a smaller home, you might feel less protected from the elements. While there is something to be said about a cozy space, being cooped up in a tiny home for too long in a bad season can be less than ideal, and you never want to feel stuck.
Minimal Storage Space
As to be expected, with a tiny home, you will not have much space to store extra goods, food, and other things. You might opt for a mini-fridge and freezer in a tiny home and make similar concessions to ensure that you have enough space in other ways. Costco trips will likely be a thing of the past in a tiny home. While you certainly will have room for something like a dresser, you will not have the closet space you had before, or even necessarily a closet anywhere.
While you will not need most of these things or space depending on your lifestyle, you might be concerned if you like to stock up and will not have a shed or other storage space such as a smaller repurposed shipping container or small basement (which is possible with a tiny home). Such a thing might be helpful in an emergency as you will need a place to store supplies.
Every Item Becomes a Decision
On a related note, with a tiny home, you cannot simply buy something on a whim and bring it home. You will have to think about where it will go and how you will use it. You will not have much room for gifts, souvenirs larger than a postcard, or the latest gadget. If you want something, you will probably need to get rid of or store something else. This can be exhausting for people used to living a different lifestyle and can be even more difficult for couples who can feel friction over the limited amount of storage space (couples need to be on the same wavelength about buying a tiny home).
Just note that you have to choose this lifestyle, and you cannot simply force minimalism on yourself. It will not lead to a happy life.
Options for Your Tiny Home
Tiny homes do not come in many sizes (they are tiny by definition), but they do come in many shapes and options. While the typical tiny home might not appeal to you, perhaps something else you see will.
While there might be other options available, and you can certainly build your own (something we will go into later), here are some of the most common options for your tiny home:
We very much want to point out that a converted shipping container can make for a perfect tiny home, being just the right size for one and highly customizable. So many people use them for field offices and extra space for their homes already that you can even get one refurbished and nearly ready to live in. Of course, you will want to make additional modifications to make the perfect tiny home, but it is a strong head start.
If you are not sure how to do it, companies can make a shipping container tiny home for you, and they look amazing. If you are worried about your tiny home looking like a box of metal at the end of the process, rest assured that this does not need to be the case. Of course, instead of hiring a company, you can get a container and start from scratch yourself, so long as you know what you are doing.
If starting from a base shipping container is your plan, they are easy to get. You can buy a used container without issue (though you should inspect it first or get a guarantee if you are getting it used), and even if you are getting a brand new one, you should not be paying more than $5000 for it. You also will need to consider how you will get it to you (though often delivery options are available), but it is also wise to have a space prepared for the container to be worked on. There will be renovation costs on top of this, though these are minimal compared to other potential options. Just plan ahead and consult.
Additionally, you can adjust the size of the shipping container if you do not want the tiniest home but still want to minimize your environmental impact and want something manageable. Shipping containers truly are one of the easiest ways to make a tiny home and are an excellent option for many people.
Building from Scratch
Just like every other home, you can build your tiny home from scratch and make it exactly how you would like it, incorporating elements you read about in this article and ignoring others.
If you are building from scratch, that does not mean that you cannot consult materials, outlines, blueprints, and more. There are materials and even complete setups online that you can consult or copy and then make your own. You can also hire professionals to design a tiny home for you, some having more experience than others.
We suggest that if you build your tiny home from scratch, you think about the process carefully and plan it all out. Sometimes things look great in a design document but might not turn out perfectly in practice, and some complications can occur. Unfortunately, we cannot go into everything here, so be sure to consult as many resources as possible.
Rvs and Mobile Homes
We were slightly hesitant to include RVs and mobile homes in this article. Still, we found that upon further inspection that there were simply too many similarities to ignore, and there is a lot of overlap between RV living and tiny home living. If you are uncertain about a tiny home or want to live a more nomadic life, these options might be best for you.
Wheeled Tiny Homes
A common feature that you will see on a tiny home is some larger wheels on one side or the other, making it mobile. This can turn tiny home owners into cross-country travelers, something far more possible in this age of remote work and widespread internet access. The entire country might not be perfect for your tiny home, but there are plenty of places that will be just right to set up for a while.
Note that with this design, there is more to it than simply adding wheels. The home must be designed to withstand travel on the roads well enough to remain undamaged, and there should be enough clearance that a bump in the road won’t scrape the bottom of the home. A tiny bit of elevation should do the trick, and there are many resources on the subject so that you know what you need to build or buy when it comes to this issue. It will be different, but it can add another dimension to your lifestyle.
Tiny homes come in all shapes and sizes. While there must be reasonable space for a human being to get around in, there really are not many limits if you think about it. Architecture and construction can be easier (or much harder, depending on what you want) when these smaller sizes are involved, and therefore more possibilities open up.
While you can make your tiny home more traditional in design, remember that ultimately it will be where you live, and you should have the final say in its looks.
Sometimes a tiny home is more like a tiny apartment, and no, we aren’t talking about renting the smallest place you can find in the big city. Instead, we are talking about micro-apartments. These are tiny apartments lined up for rent yet still designed with your lifestyle in mind.
Also, note there is a difference between a micro-apartment and just a horrible landlord overcharging for a little apartment. A micro-apartment should still accommodate all the tenant’s needs, be reasonably priced, and ideally have a nice community surrounding it.
A Luxury Tiny Home
Just because you live in a tiny home does not mean you cannot have the good things in life. As a balance between minimalism and living in an expensive, modern home, people are getting or building luxury tiny homes, complete with the latest technologies and systems.
Naturally, some of these things can be expensive. Still, they can also raise the value of your tiny home and increase its longevity, making ecological and financial disadvantages more trade-offs than anything else. In some cases, the systems make logical sense if you can afford them. It is better only to need to replace parts thirty years down the line instead of ten or twenty.
Tips When Building Your Tiny Home
Building a home of any sort is no easy feat and requires a lot of planning and investment. And while creating a tiny home (or heavily modifying an existing structure into one) is easier on the wallet and easier with logistics in some ways, there are plenty of things to consider.
Try One Out First
Before devoting yourself and your family to an entirely new lifestyle, perhaps it might be best to live in that lifestyle a little bit, without the major commitment and expenditure.
We would recommend that you give yourself at least a few good weeks in the tiny home, so that your impression isn’t tarnished by novelty and that you do not necessarily think of it as a vacation but as a different type of living. Perhaps find one for rent or see if you can housesit for someone with a tiny home for an extended time.
Use Salvaged or Recycled Materials
Many people will use salvaged or recycled materials in line with many of the ecological goals of living in a tiny home. These are widely available, often cheaper (or even free if you are lucky), and with some creativity, you can really give your tiny home a unique charm.
You will, of course, want to make sure they are safe, but a careful inspection can help with this.
Know When to DIY and When to Get Help
Many people who build tiny homes are also those who want to do everything themselves, but you might not have the same skillsets. Construction is serious and challenging work, no matter what you are building, and you want it all done right.
Getting professionals and companies to help you might seem expensive, but you also need to value your time. Finding one with a good reputation and experience with tiny homes can save you a lot of pain and money in the long run if they do their job right.
Have Your Priorities Clear
When building or buying a home, you should try to make sure that you know what you want. Every tiny home is a bit different and can have a different setup. However, you likely cannot have everything you want in a tiny home, so know what is most important.
We recommend creating a simple document where you list what you want from your tiny home and number your priorities. At the same time, note any conflicts that might arise, whether due to space concerns or competing resources. This will help you make easier decisions and avoid some stress.
You might already be quite familiar with tiny homes and are here, hoping to learn more. Maybe you are considering building or buying a tiny home yourself? Either as your main place to live or as somewhere to get away from it all on occasion.
You may wish to make sure that there are good furnishings in your home. They will likely need to have multiple functions, be perfectly measured for your space (no sprawling couches unless you make great sacrifices for them), and still provide the comfort and structure you desire.
There are no clear tips or rules for this except for using common sense and taking measurements ahead of time. You also may want to consider finishing building the home entirely before even thinking of adding the furniture.
What Can Be Collapsible, Should Be
So many different pieces of furniture and general tools are foldable and collapsible these days. You can likely make most of your tiny home furniture collapsible in some way to make the most of your limited space. Try to shop for or even build shelving and furniture that fits in perfectly into the home and can collapse to take up less space. You will thank yourself for it later, even if it costs more or is not initially to your liking.
Be Careful about Wiring and Plumbing
When working with a tiny home, wiring and plumbing are still essential but might be harder to manage. There are fewer walls to store everything in, and there might be less room to work with. It will be slightly different with every home. Therefore, we recommend the use of professionals when it comes to both these topics.
Lighting Is Everything
Lighting will make the difference between feeling like you are living in a closet and feeling like you are living at a small resort all for yourself. If you live in a place that gets a lot of sunlight, use it to your advantage. Natural lighting can make your tiny home feel and look like a paradise.
You may wish to install shades or curtains for your privacy, of course. Still, we’re confident that with the proper modifications, you will keep them open far more than you do closed, especially if you have a beautiful natural view.
Be Sure to Protect It from the Elements
For the most part, insulation and weather protection for your tiny home will follow the same general guidelines as you would for a larger home. There are specific tips to follow for tiny homes, and preparation can give you peace of mind.
If you are using a shipping container, there are ways to protect it from potential corrosion and rust, so be sure to give it the special treatment it deserves.
Where to Place Your Tiny Home
So, you want a tiny home, but where do you want to place it? You might have a lot all lined up or a community to bring it to, but if you are getting a new home, you probably need to find a new neighborhood as well. Some places will be more welcoming than others, so we recommend considering the following:
A Tiny Home Community
A tiny home community lets you live in an area with (presumably) like-minded people who also live in tiny homes. Tiny home communities also tend to embrace communal living just a bit more and will have a close-knit group of people that you might be able to make friends with.
Each community is different, so you should look up some and see if they would be a good fit for you.
Out in Nature
Have you ever wanted to live at one with nature, able to access the great outdoors with a few footsteps with minimal thoughts? Then tiny home life might be perfect for you. Many people already live in a tiny home close to nature and spend most of their time taking in the peace of the outdoors.
Depending on your career and other factors, this may or may not be perfect for you, but it is an option.
Wherever You’d Like
Take your tiny home and bring it to the neighborhood of your choice, so long as there is a lot. There are plenty of examples that showcase this philosophy.
While you might get funny looks from the neighbors about living in a tiny home in the middle of an average suburban community, as long as it follows local laws, there is not much anyone can do about it.
Making the Most of Your Tiny Home
If you are set on building or buying a tiny home, you want to consider the lifestyle you will live as well. We cannot stress enough that this will be a change for you, and you will need to rethink your life.
You should absolutely live how you want to in your home, but these adjustments can help a great deal:
The sooner you let go of the extra possessions you have when considering a tiny home, the better. Minimalism is the philosophy or lifestyle surrounding the idea that one shouldn’t have too many extra possessions. If you are considering a tiny home, you might want to get to know more about it.
If you are building your tiny home from scratch, you can also think vertically when getting your home together. Sure, a tiny home is by definition small in the square footage, but you can absolutely add a second floor if you want just a bit more space. Just thinking about how you can use ceilings and all of the walls can give you a new perspective on things.
Many tiny homes will have a loft for the bedroom or general living space, and it works surprisingly well. Some people will have ladders instead of stairs, though some codes and potential risks may not make this solution workable for everyone.
Multifunctionality Is Key
The more things you can get one object to do, the fewer objects in general you need. It is a simple thing and potentially expensive. A few kitchen devices can easily take the place of a full kitchen, and you do not need many electronics when you have a great device that can do everything. Think about what you have and what could be combined.
Focus on Your Daily Life
With this, we aren’t telling you to ignore tiny home possibilities, but you should focus on the practical.
Think about the daily life or routine you have currently. What are the things you do every day that you consider essential? What is the makeup of your life, but in terms of time and your possessions? While you may have dreams of changing your life with a tiny home, and you can certainly do that to an extent, you will fall into some older habits. Make sure you have a home that supports those habits, especially if they are good ones.
Not Everything Will Work as Intended
While we do not include this to dissuade you from changing to a tiny home lifestyle, you should know that not everything will go as expected. You will need to adjust, and this is OK. As long as you can adapt to the odd or the challenging, you will do just fine. It might be prudent, however, to have a few backup plans when setting up your home.
Borrow or Rent, Not Buy
It’s usually best to have items and tools you need to have and use every day or week on hand. Other things you only need once or a few times a year, and with the limited space of a tiny home, ask yourself whether you want to keep them around the house for just those few times.
Depending on where you live and who else lives in your area, you might be able to get more from your neighbors or close-by friends. Of course, you should not be selfish about this, but you might only need one lawnmower in your area and one snowblower, for example.
Libraries can also be great if you love reading, allowing you to focus on a few books at a time. If you still want to own books, you can dedicate a special shelf to your absolute favorites. Libraries also lend out more than just books, so most physical media can stay outside the tiny home.
Consider Tech Solutions
Simple living, even simple living close to nature, does not mean giving up technology. In fact, the opposite might be best, and embracing technology can help us save space and live our best lives.
For example, a projector can be an excellent investment instead of a TV, taking up far less space. You can either use a wall or space in your tiny home as the screen or invest in a screen you can fold or hang up when you are not using (a well-ironed sheet can even do the trick).
Similarly, cutting down on physical media and focusing on a few devices can also make things much more manageable. While there is a charm with physical books, they are heavy and take up space.
There are plenty of examples, so always be on the lookout for such conveniences that would be a good fit for your tiny home.
Tiny homes are not just a passing fad; they are here to stay. Yet, they are also not something to move into or create on a whim. There are many ways to make the most of them and the lifestyle they bring. There is so much to explore with tiny homes that we understand all the above can be overwhelming, and we understand if you can’t take it all in at once. Please return to this article as necessary, and try to look further into the topic as you feel the need.
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