Tiny Living … But Not For Long?

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I have touched on tiny living on multiple occasions. In an early SavvyRecommendation, my first look at tiny living was A Juxtaposition in Choosing a Home where I looked at two different documentaries released in 2012, one about a super McMansion, The Queen of Versailles, and one about tiny living, We the Tiny House People

Tiny House - Trailer

Recently, when talking about minimalism in the blog post, Destination Minimalism, I noted, “It [minimalism] does not mean living in an impossibly small house. While I appreciate the advantages of living in a tiny home, occasionally watch – and find quite interesting – the show Tiny House Nation on the FYI network, and have even offered a couple tiny living documentaries as SavvyRecommendations, living in a tiny house – say less than 1,000 sq. ft. – just wouldn’t work for me, even though at this point in my life it is just me and the wife. We need a little more room to be comfortable and possess the things that are important to us.

The topic of tiny living and tiny homes was recently brought back into my consciousness because of something my wife said earlier today and a couple of my fellow bloggers. We’ll get back to my wife, but first my fellow bloggers.

I was recently reading a post over at Two Cup House, home to Claudia and Garrett, when I remembered they live in a tiny house, 536 sq. ft. to be exact. I had visited their site just after visiting Think Save Retire, where Steve was talking about the launch of a new blog, A Streamin Life. On the new blog’s home page he notes, “One week from today our family will move into our Airstream Charlie and begin our lives as Full Time RVers…well kinda. We’ll still own our home(s). The house we live in now will go on the market on April 4th. The other has renter’s until August and then it too will be sold. In the meantime we will be living in the Airstream at a local KOA learning the ins and outs of tiny living while still working our full-time jobs.”

Airstgream Park

Now, back to my wife. While stumbling through Pinterest, she came across a couple of articles that discussed the downside of Tiny Living. In fact, some of the people, for various reasons, had moved back into regular sized homes. She shared those links with me. There is Living In Tiny Homes Was Much Harder Than These People Realized and A Pint-Sized Nightmare: Five Couples Speak Out About Tiny Home Horrors

There are generally three things that always come to mind when I see a show or documentary about tiny homes and tiny living. First, compost toilets are out. Forget about it! Second, I don’t like the idea of the need to move something, reconfigure the furniture, every time I need to conduct a different activity in the house. As an example, repositioning chairs and lowering a table into place every time I wanted to eat would drive me crazy. Third, I see these couples with kids, more than I would have imagined, that move into tiny homes. That might work if there is only one and when they are young. But what about if there is more than one and as they grow older, they – heck, everyone – needs more room and privacy?

A quick read through the two articles revealed issues and concerns similar to mine, as well as many more. I plan to continue following Claudia and Garrett and I plan to check in periodically with Steve to see how the tiny living experience goes.

What are your thoughts on tiny living? Is it for you, why or why not?

Blogger-in-Chief here at RetirementSavvy and author of Sin City Greed, Cream City Hustle and RENDEZVOUS WITH RETIREMENT: A Guide to Getting Fiscally Fit.

13 Comments

  1. I’m really interested in the tiny home movement – but not for our situation. My husband’s home business takes up about a third of our main floor space, and we still have a child at home. Last night, we had 13 people over for an extended family Easter meal. So with a home business, a family, and an extended family . . . a tiny home just wouldn’t work for us. But when we’re older and off traveling a lot of the time? Maybe.

    • I know exactly what you mean. My mother and one of my brothers live in close proximity and the wife and I host a family dinner every Sunday and on the occasional on Tuesday. As ours is the largest home of the three in the area, whenever other family comes into town, we typically host.

      Combined with the other reasons I’ve noted previously, tiny living isn’t really in the cards for us in the near future.

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  2. If I remember correctly, my house is just above 1000 sq foot with a downstairs that’s not technically a basement as none of it is underground. Once I finish that area it’s about 1400 sq ft and a massive 3 car extra deep garage and an acre of land.
    I’ve thought about living in a tiny home last year, but only as a means to an end: retirement. But honestly I’m already on a 10 year plan, I’ve calculated I’d only cut off a couple years at most and while I enjoy what I do I decided not to worry about it.
    Been actually playing with the idea of buying a plot of land one town over where I really want to live and building a highly efficient bigger house the way I’d like it on a smaller land and smaller garage.
    My boss owns the land as part of the office I work at, but it’s residential use only. I already talked about possibly buying the plot in a couple years. Would it be weird to have your work in your back yard?

    • An efficient home is a great factor to consider, regardless of the size. Thanks for bringing that into the conversation.

      I don’t know that it would be ‘weird’ to work in your back yard, but it would definitely be different.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts, my friend.

  3. On Twitter, @YourMoneyPage notes, “It’s no different than living in a motorhome. Millions do that.”

  4. Everyone has posted many great points, all of which should be considered. For me, I’m looking forward to the adventure. I think it’ll be a challenge, of course, but if it were easy, everyone would do it and the world would be covered in RVs and tiny houses. As for sensational article titles, it makes for good clickbait. Will we live in a tiny house forever? Maybe. Maybe not. We’ll see. I’m just happy to have the opportunity to try something new, especially since 536 sq ft already seems too big. Ha! 🙂 Thanks for following along with us!

    • Indeed, there have been some good comments and there is certainly a lot to consider when choosing a tiny house … or electing to stay in a house more traditional in size. ” … especially since 536 sq. ft. already seems too big.” Love it! 🙂

  5. Uh oh…that Gawker article just got my blood boiling.

    To me, I think this issue isn’t all that different from any other issue that we deal with as human beings. Just like large homes aren’t for all of us, neither are tiny homes for others. Cities have laws against livable structures as small as some tiny homes. And campgrounds don’t necessarily consider these to be “RVs”, either, making it more difficult to find space (which is primarily why we chose an Airstream rather than a tiny home). Research into these matters is critical before undertaking such a project. If you don’t do your due diligence, or flat out ignore the law (as was the case in one of the examples), then you’re shooting yourself in the foot before you leave the starting gate. Can’t blame the tiny home for that.

    There are LOTS of people who travel for months, years and even live in a van *with kids*. Others do so in larger spaces like an RV (again, with kids). In fact, the more interested we became in the tiny house community, the more we learned about just how many families are making this a reality for themselves – and absolutely love it. I personally believe that if you want it bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. With all due respect to the couple mentioned in one of the articles who had a baby and decided the space was too small, a tiny home just wasn’t for them. They liked the IDEA of it, but they also didn’t want it bad enough. I saw this theme in the gawker.com article, too. Those people had no idea what they were getting into.

    And to those who feel like the tiny home just became something that they were hauling from place to place, that is more of an indictment on them than it is the tiny home. If you like the IDEA of living in a tiny house, but your heart isn’t truly in it, then it probably will feel like more of a chore than anything. It’s like buying a gigantic pickup truck and only using it to haul groceries home from the store. I wouldn’t “speak out” against gigantic pickup trucks if I wasn’t actually using mine for what it was designed for.

    And that’s okay. As a soon-to-be dweller in a tiny home (RV), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that it doesn’t work for everyone. Some people prefer a lot more space, and that’s cool. But like everything, there will be positives and negatives with tiny house living just like with larger home living.

    It’s awesome that some people aren’t comfortable with tiny homes. To each their own. But…

    Titles like the gawker.com article disappoint me. Speaking out against the “horrors” of tiny house living? Really? What I read in that article were people who wanted to live in a small house and then complained about that home being small. They “hoped for the best”, and when it didn’t happen, they “speak out” against tiny homes in general? Another guy gets a puppy and believes that living in a tiny house will keep that puppy small? Again, seriously? If you live in a fairytale world, as that person apparently does, then I’m not sure you’ll find yourself all that happy anywhere you live. I believe that article to be entirely disengenuous. Part of me thinks it belongs on the Onion. 🙂

    I wouldn’t take that article too seriously if you’re serious about the possibility of downsizing.

    We’ve tried the larger home thing and THAT definitely wasn’t for us. The maintenance. The costs. The inability to up-and-move. Those things are important to us, like they are many others who choose to live in smaller spaces.

    It will be fun to experience this first hand in about a week. We’re excited to move, and our hearts are definitely in it.

    Good article – one of the few that actually got my feels going! 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, Steve. So many great points. The most salient for me is, ” … there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the idea that it [tiny living] doesn’t work for everyone. Some people prefer a lot more space, and that’s cool. But like everything, there will be positives and negatives with tiny house living just like with larger home living.”

      Just like financial planning, or heck life planning, it takes reasoned thought to arrive at a solution that works for you once all factors are considered. The wife and I are not tiny living experts by any means. However, we have watched multiple documentaries and shows such as Tiny House Nation and have formed some opinions about what might work for us. After thinking about our own situation and the size of our current home (2,200 sq. ft.) we have settled on a few thoughts:

      – We could probably live comfortably in something in the 1,200 – 1,,300 sq. ft. range.
      – Mobile wouldn’t work for us, a solid foundation would.
      – Traditional utilities (e.g. no compost toilets) are a must.
      – I like the idea of multiple use of spaces and objects. However, too much reconfiguring/repositioning of things/space on a daily basis would drive me crazy.
      – Any move to a smaller space would not happen until after we retire. Our current house is definitely it for the next 10 years.

      Thanks again for stopping by, my friend and I look forward to checking you out at A Streamin Life to follow you experiences.

  6. Tiny House Nation is one of the few shows that I watch these days. However, we mostly watch it for some of the ingenious use of space. I think the key to the transforming furniture would be in the low traffic areas such as the bedroom. A built-in cabinet system that has a murphy bed may let my family gain an office out of the bed. I agree that many of the houses are simply too small for an extended period of time. Especially if one lives in a place where you can’t enjoy outdoor space year round such as our hometown of Chicago.

    I believe that two big financial considerations that people tend to overlook is the possibility of the house being stolen if it is mobile, and the generally poor resale value. Both of these can change this from a money saver to a big money loser.

    • Like you, we watch Tiny House Nation and marvel at the use – often multiple uses – for a given space. Quite ingenious at times. You make a great point about theft. In fact, that is one of the issues my wife had read about in a piece on tiny living. As I noted in my response to GO4ITUSA, we could go smaller than our current home, however, it would have to be a permanent structure. With respect to resell value, I would be interested to hear from readers than have gone the mobile tiny living to get their thoughts on that consideration.

      Thanks for adding your thoughts to the conversation, Larry.

  7. I see two goals with financial freedom: 1. Freedom; 2. Living well. I think one has to first come to grips with what #2 means to them. If one starts with the premise that one could be financially free by living in HUD housing in a crime ridden neighborhood then I think most rational people would question the premise. I’d argue that there is some point on the curve where we all reach a family/situation-dependent level of unacceptability. In my case, with a wife and two kids and 4 introverts living together a mini house would be an absolute non starter though I find the general concept of downsizing to have a ton of appeal. I think the right way to view it is optimization. What’s the optimal trade-off of size/operating costs/long-term viability/location. In 99% of the cases a McMansion won’t be optimizing and neither will a mini house. Somewhere in between those two is where optimization resides.

    • We certainly think along the same lines. At this point, it’s just me and the wife and we have talked about living in something slightly smaller than our current 2,200 sq. ft. in the future. If we were to go smaller, I don’t know that we would go smaller than 1,200 sq. ft. and it would have to be a permanent structure with traditional utility systems.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, my friend.

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