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Answering all those burning questions you didn’t know you had about home ownership.

Tiny Houses: Yay or Nay?

Picture of Jessica Dabkowski

Jessica Dabkowski

Helping you with all things homeownership!

Today’s article was suggested by one of my loyal readers, we’ll call her D. D requested an article on “tiny homes or how to downsize”. Overwhelmed by the stuff that accumulates, she told me “I want out of the scam.”

Hold the phone, guys, I am trying on a Dear Abby jacket, and I LIKE the way this jacket fits.

This Dear Abby scarf looks so good on me.

Now, there’s some stuff to unpack here with D. D’s tiny house dreams are probably going to stay dreams for awhile. While tiny homes may be workable for singletons or couples, the situation gets real dicey when you throw two kids into the mix.

Sorry, D! If you want we could go halvsies on a “tiny house mom retreat” which is decorated in light colors that never have stains or fingerprints, has a fridge full of beverages and is perpetually clean. (Think about it; this idea could be huge.)

Tiny House Living

But I love the dreamers, so let’s take a quick look at tiny homes. Tiny homes are small homes that are less then 500 square feet. They can be stationary or mobile depending on the owner’s preference. Like “regular” homes, the price can run the gamut depending how Gucci you want your space. They can range from $20k (DIY 🙌) to $100k+ (custom order 🤑). In any case, they generally cost less than a residential home.

What are some issues you need to consider with tiny home living? (And I am already assuming your partner or family is on board with this plan . . . which assumes quite a bit.)

#1. Where will you locate it?

This decision is trickier than it seems because locating these units is going to be subject to the rules of your locality. Some local governments regulate tiny houses specifically; some don’t. Some may consider them more like campers; some consider them residential homes. Regardless, you’re probably going to have to tango with the local government when you pick a location and follow the rules.

In the movie Scream, the rules are sacred.

Are you going to buy a plot land? Or will you find something to rent?

Also, are you going to move to a warmer climate? (I would miss you, but also I would envy you.) Because it seems like winter might be a smidge difficult when it’s freezing outside and you have to spend most of your time indoors.

#2. Is running water really necessary?

Uh, yeah, probably. What about electricity? When considering the design of your tiny home and where to place it, you need to think about which utilities you need and how to access them.

Maybe you’re cool with a composting toilet, maybe you aren’t. Maybe you can install some solar panels and a battery. You’ll need to do some research and make decisions about your utility requirements.

On the plus side, you’re going to use way less utilities than you would use with a traditional house!

#3. Are you big on privacy?

If you’re sharing this tiny home with one or more people, those people are going to be up in your grill ALL THE TIME. There’s no getting around it. Two or more people in 500 sq ft or less means you are in close quarters.

Do you like to send your upset child to her room so you can breath for a minute? I do, but it’s not happening in a tiny house. It would be more like, “go pull down your bunk and sit on it while not looking at me.” 🤨 Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

#4. Can you downsize that much stuff?

When you downsize into a tiny house, you are really thinning your posessions. Can you live with one pot and one frying pan? Can you get clothes into a few drawers? What about your bathtub??

Frank Gallagher would have to drink his beer in the shower.

These decisions need to be carefully considered because you probably don’t realize how much of your own stuff you interact with on a daily basis. I don’t even think I could fit all my hair products in a tiny house shower. (Well, I probably could, but The Mathematician is going to be smelling like almonds and vanilla because his stuff got the boot.)

#5. Do you like to host events?

Unless your events only include 1-3 people, you’re going to be hosting at restaurants or other public spaces. What about holidays, birthdays and other celebrations? How will you handle those?

In Summary

I couldn’t quite sum up in words the dream vs. the reality, so here’s what I came up with:

Your Tiny House dream.
Your Tiny House reality.

Tiny houses just aren’t going to be for most people, but I’ll be keeping an eye on D because she seems pretty serious that in the war against “stuff” she’s going to triumph.

Downsizing Minus the Tiny House

Maybe you don’t need to go to the extreme to downsize. Do you need an 1100 square foot ranch? Maybe its a condo or luxury town home. Or is it your own home . . . just with less stuff. You’ve got to find the downsizing option that works for you.

Not sure? I’d recommend a try before you buy. You can get creative on how you execute this plan. What about a test run in a borrowed or rented RV? Could you rent a smaller home or apartment for one year and rent out your current home? Could you empty out a few rooms and pretend they don’t exist? Heck, Airbnb something for a week and just get a feel for how a smaller space would function for you. Go to work, cook dinner, live your life. How does it feel?

Just put a rattling sign on the door. The kids will stay away.

In any case, I have more resources on thinning out your stuff in these earlier articles: A Mindset Shift and Tackle the Excess. Take a look if you need some inspiration to downsize, even if you’re staying put.

As always, thanks for joining me! I’m here to help with all your home ownership questions and concerns, so send me those article requests.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Jon B.

    This article does a great job calling out those important things in life that tiny houses just don’t support. While I could have been a minimalist from the beginning of my adult independence I think trying to change my ways this late in life might be a challenge.

    1. I consider myself minimalist-leaning, but even as a singleton I don’t think I could do it. I mean, you would max out at 3 pairs of shoes…not happening!

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