Is Tiny House Living actually a viable solution? Part 1

Last updated on May 16, 2024.

Log cabin sided tiny house on a beautiful landscape, sunset background, man standing on small porch.
Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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

For several 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 popular reality television shows about tiny houses, I 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 become somewhat 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, 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 would be. During the last five years, we’ve had multiple significant repairs. 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. We will have to make many additional repairs in the next few years.

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

The Pro’s

There are things we love about the house. My son has a 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 to play and garden. The mortgage is affordable, and we’ve never struggled to make our payments 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 in green grass, corner of brick house at top left.
My son playing in the yard of our new home several years ago. Photo by Marie Cullis.

Evolving Philosophies

Home repair expenses 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 house. 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 to tour tiny houses, see what they’re really like, and 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-foot 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 which seemed almost too large!

Tiny house exterior with a man and boy on the porch. Tan sided house with dark brown accents and windowpanes. Porch at front with metal staircase.
We toured several tiny homes. This one, called the Sea Breeze, was one of my favorites. Photo by Marie Cullis.
Sea Breeze interior showing the living area, full kitchen, and stairs to the loft. White, tan, and brown colors for trim, furnishings, and walls. Celing fan at top. Vase of yellow sunflowers on counter at right.
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, staring out the window. Carpeted floor, double window.
My son in the loft of the Sea Breeze. Photo by Marie Cullis.

Trying 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 house with 2 bedrooms plus a loft, which my son quickly claimed as his room!

Exterior of the Hawthorn, small wood sided home with a green metal room, surrounded by trees.
Exterior of the Hawthorn.
Kitchen, light wood cabinets and walls with black appliances, stainless steel sink with window above it, and gray and black mottled countertops.
The kitchen. Photo by Marie Cullis.
Livingroom with gray sectional couch in an 'L' configuration, wood walls, small round coffee table, plant paintings on wall, and windows at right.
The living area. Photo by Marie Cullis.
The loft area, featuring low wood ceilings with two twin beds with owl face pillows, a small bear lamp on a nightstand, and owl bookends with books.
The loft. Photo by Marie Cullis.

I love the homes River Ridge Escape offers and we 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 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 discovered it is extremely complicated. I’ll tell you all about it in my next article. Thank you for reading, and please subscribe!

 

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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