Is Tiny House Living actually a viable solution? Part 1

Tiny house on a beautiful landscape
Image courtesy of Pixabay

“Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.” -Henry David Thoreau

For about 2 years now, I’ve been on a quest to figure out if tiny house living is a viable option for my family. After being introduced to the concept through the popular reality television shows about tiny houses, I first wondered why anyone would want to live in such a small space.

Through a series of circumstances, finances, and soul searching, my interest in tiny living developed gradually and organically. Let’s start at the beginning.

My Experience with Homeownership

I’ve personally become disenchanted with homeownership, at least in our current situation. When we bought our house 5 years ago, we had so many ideas about updates that we wanted to do, like new windows, new kitchen countertops, and ventilation installed in the bathroom. Maybe a pretty backsplash in the kitchen?

We bought a 1940s house that was not always well maintained and I believe we did not have a good inspection when we purchased it. We knew it would need some updates but didn’t know how much of a fixer-upper it was going to be. During the last five years, we’ve had multiple significant repairs, and when I say significant I don’t mean a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. I’m talking about several repairs between $5,000 and $10,000 each. On top of that, old houses have older, unsafe building materials such as lead and asbestos that require remediation. It often feels like we are working only to repair the house, and we struggle to keep up. There are many more repairs we will have to make in the next few years.

Needless to say, none of those desired repairs or cosmetic updates have happened and they are not even on the horizon at this point.

The Pro’s

There are things we love about the house. My son has his own big room and he loves the layout. It’s the house he’s grown up in. We have a large covered patio/carport and a big yard for us to play and spend time in as well as grow a garden. The mortgage is affordable, we’ve never had to struggle to make our payment regardless of job loss. But most of these qualities also align with tiny house living.

My son playing in the yard of our new home
My son playing in the yard of our new home several years ago. Photo by me

Evolving Philosophies

The expenses of home repair combined with our evolving life philosophies have led us to a place where we want to do things differently. First, we now live an environmentally conscious lifestyle and shape our behaviors around living sustainably. Second, we are inspired by minimalism and several years ago we started downsizing and paring down our belongings. Somewhere in the middle of this, we started watching Tiny House Hunters and Tiny House Nation out of curiosity and for fun. I think we thought we could never live that way. Eventually, my interest was peaked and I wondered: could we do this?

We want to spend less time cleaning and taking care of our possessions; we want to spend less money repairing and maintaining our home. Smaller houses take less time to clean and maintain. They have less plumbing, electrical, roofing, and other physical materials and hence cost less to repair in most cases. A smaller home requires less electricity for heating and cooling, which results in a lower electric bill and is more environmentally friendly.

It would be great to spend more time pursuing interests, relaxing, and experiencing life and less time taking care of the house we live in. We would most like to focus on raising our little boy and spending time with him!

“Our homes are not containers for stuff but rather a place for love and connection, By removing clutter from our homes, we make more physical space and create less distraction, allowing us to really live the way we want to live.” -Courtney Carver, Project 333

Visit to a Tiny House Community

Finally, I felt it was time we tour tiny houses, to see what they’re really like and to get a feel for their size. Last year, we toured a tiny house community called River Ridge Escape in Menlo, Georgia. We thought we’d find the sizes shockingly small like the people on the tv shows. But we didn’t, they were about what we expected. Even the smallest one at the time, around 170 square feet, did not shock us. Tiny homes are often designed with efficient use of space, so most offer everything people need. The 400 square feet homes were lovely and featured porches, upscale finishes, full kitchens, washer/dryer, and storage. Some even have bathtubs. The largest on their site was 700 square feet and we found that one almost too large!

Tiny house exterior
We toured several tiny homes. This one, called the Sea Breeze, was one of my favorites.
Sea Breeze interior
Sea Breeze interior showing the living area, full kitchen, and stairs to the loft. Photo by River Ridge Escape
My son in the loft of the Sea Breeze
My son in the loft of the Sea Breeze

Time to try one out

The tiny house community rents a few of the homes on Airbnb, so we decided to go back one weekend to try one out! We rented out a 500 square foot model called the Hawthorn, a home with 2 bedrooms plus a loft, which my son quickly claimed as his room!

Exterior of the Hawthorn
Exterior of the Hawthorn
Kitchen
The kitchen
Livingroom
The living area
The loft

I love the homes River Ridge Escape offers and we really enjoyed our stay there. Each house has utilities, water, septic, and garbage pick-up. The community has a pool, pool house, a small fitness building, a dog park, walking trails, water access for canoeing and kayaking, a community fire pit, and many other amenities. I really love the idea of these communities.

Next Steps

As much as we love the communities of River Ridge Escape, relocating there is not an option for my family. So what about putting a tiny house on a piece of land where we live now? I’ve pursued this for about a year and it has turned out to be extremely complicated. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post. Thank you for reading, and please subscribe!

All photos by me except where otherwise noted.

 

Additional Resource:

Article, “I spent 3 days living in a 350-square-foot house in a community of tiny homes — see what it was like,” by Frank Olito, Insider.com, October 1, 2019.

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