My wife and I are two weeks into a six-week stay in a Tiny House. Our little cabin in the woods is located on a horse pasture in the interior of British Columbia, Canada.
After spending the past year traveling around the world and the USA visiting national parks (and living in a small tent, tiny motel room or hostel bunk) we were excited at the idea of plopping down in one spot for more than a few days.
We found this cute little cabin on AirBnB. We spend our days nordic skiing and practicing yoga (at the local Bikram Studio) and cooking awesome vegan meals.
What makes our experience even more unique, is that we are here in the dead of winter, where temperatures can drop to zero degrees (I’m talking fahrenheit not celsius!) and snow falls by the foot. So we spend a LOT of time indoors when we aren’t at the dog park or at the ski hill. This gives us a unique perspective on how livable the interior space is (or isn’t).
Our Tiny House is definitely “tiny” but it is not built on a chassis that can be moved around, as is typically implied by the term “Tiny House.” Instead, it is a renovated shed.
See the above pic? Yes, that is a miniature pony right outside! The Tiny House (~200 sq. ft.) is located on a horse pasture, with a couple of ponies. There are a dozen horses elsewhere on the property. The Tiny House is only half as wide as the picture shows…as a large portion of the right size of the building is a storage shed, not interior space.
The owners gutted it and rebuilt with tons of insulation and minimal yet sufficient and modern furnishing. There are tons of natural light through a few large windows and sliding doors, along with electric heat and a full bathroom with deep tub. The kitchen is minimal but complete, with a micro-fridge and a 2-burner electric hot plate and full sink. It is <200 square feet in size.
Tiny House living seems to be a hot trend, and there is even a show (I think it is on TLC?) about it. I think most people are enamored more with the idea of not having to deal with their stuff vs. the idea of cramming a bunch of full-grown humans (and in our case, two good-sized dogs + two full-grown humans!) into a home smaller than the size of a typical unused spare bedroom in most Mc.Mansions.
Can two full-grown humans and two full-sized dogs live in such a small space without going guts?
What benefits are there to Tiny House living?
What drawbacks are there to Tiny House living?
Overall, would we recommend Tiny House living to you?
I’ll address these questions one by one based on my experience living in a Tiny House for the past two weeks. I’m sure my opinions will shift a little as we stay plan to stay here a full 45 days, so I’ll post an updated blog with thoughts towards the end of our stay.
1. Can two full-grown humans and two full-sized dogs live in such a small space without going nuts?
Yes! It took us about two days to figure out how to not only fit our stuff into the Tiny House, but also to “convert” the layout for sleeping vs. daytime activity. We learned how to stack the kitchen stools on the counter and move tables around to make it possible to pull out the sofa-bed and still get around if we needed to.
Perhaps the biggest learning was how to work around the kitchen, as my wife and I LOVE TO COOK AND EAT GREAT VEGAN FOOD! With a 2-burner hot plate and limited counter space and storage, we had to experiment with ways to store our stuff.
We also discovered where our dogs like to sleep and hang-out, and positioned their dog beds accordingly.
After a few days, we found a system that works for us, and now we are able to cook, eat, sleep and hang out without any issues. We have everything we need.
You might be wondering how much stuff we have with us……we have quite a lot….since we are ski bums for the winter, we have multiple sets of skis, tons of winter clothing, and a ton of food/spices and some kitchen appliances (like our Vitamix and some cookware). Imagine a Subaru Outback with a back seat packed with stuff, and a rooftop box also packed with stuff…..that is what we got!
2. What benefits are there to living in such a small space?
We only carry what we need, and that is very liberating even though it seems like we brought everything but the kitchen sink with us. It’s still a small fraction of what we had in our large house last year. We buy groceries that we will consume within three days, and tend to buy lesser amounts of non-perishables. This results in less stuff going bad or just going unused. There is no doubt that living in the Tiny House has saved us money on groceries!
It is easy to find stuff. I can’t tell you how often I would need to go hunting for some piece of equipment in my house when we lived in a 3200 sq. ft. monster back in Seattle, WA. In our Tiny House, it is pretty obvious where stuff is!
Heating and cooling….it’s winter here so the “cool” part takes care of itself, but I’m amazed at how a single electric baseboard heat keeps the place toasty warm! Our Tiny House is very well insulated.
Perhaps the biggest benefit, is that my wife and I (and our dogs!) feel much closer together. I’m not just saying physically closer together (which we are as well!) I’m saying that we feel like we are spending a lot more quality time together. We talk more. We cook together more. Being a small space provides a sense of intimacy that you don’t get when one person is upstairs and the other is downstairs or in the kitchen or in the basement, etc. There is nowhere to hide out…I call this a benefit but can also be a drawback (see below).
3. What drawbacks are there to living in such a small space?
The main drawback right now is the fact that we have to deal with a sofa-bed. This means converting and moving stuff around in the morning and at night when it is time to sleep/wake-up. It only takes us 3 minutes to do…but it is annoying.
The other drawback is that there is no privacy. If you need to work on something in peace and quiet, or perhaps have a private phone call or attend an online class (which I’m doing right now); you can’t go to another room…because there is no other room!
Lastly, the space is small (duh!) which is fine, but if we lived full-time in a space this small we would need a storage unit equal in size to keep our other gear (summer/winter camping gear, bikes, extra clothes, tools). Living in a Tiny House is definitely doable….but if we were to ever do it for a longer stretch we would need a good-sized storage unit or shed on the property to keep our other stuff….stuff that we use on a seasonal basis, or just on the weekends.
4. Overall, would we recommend someone taking the plunge and moving into a Tiny House?
Yes! I think people would learn a lot about their habits and how much extra/useless stuff they carry around if they moved into a Tiny House for AT LEAST A WEEK. Doing such an experiment would go a long way in helping folks shake up some bad habits and streamline their lifestyle. Check out AirBNB…there are a lot of Tiny Houses posted there – this includes sailboats, RV’s, cabins and actual “Tiny Houses” build on a movable chassis.
However, I don’t necessarily think that Tiny House living is the right thing for a lot of people for the long-term. I think small houses (e.g. a 800 sq ft 2BR/1BA bungalow) NOT Tiny Houses are far more practical for most folks, as they have more storage and possibility for a private bedroom space. I think just going “Tiny” for Tiny sake doesn’t make that much sense. Unless you want to go Tiny to get around zoning rules….that is another story.