Why Living Tiny is a Viable Long-term Solution for Families

By Hari Berzins

If you are interested in redesigning your lifestyle and achieving mortgage-freedom, check out Hari and Karl Berzins’ (tinyhousefamily.com) eCourse, Creating Mortgage-freedom. They are proof that families can successfully live tiny, and are excited to help other singles, couples and families realize their dreams of debt-free living. The winter session of the course is now open for enrollment and begins on January 24, 2015. Read about the course and register here.

Many folks question the long-term viability of tiny houses—especially for families. Can a family of four really sustain happiness in 168 sq. ft.?

family of four

There are many assumptions about tiny houses and the people who live in them. The curiosity abounds because we all have to live somewhere, and if we are going to live somewhere could it possibly be somewhere smaller? Or could we possibly live more efficiently in our current home? The underlying desire is a simpler, freer lifestyle.

I read a comment on this recent tiny house article; it’s a comment often made. “I’d love to visit these breadbox homes in three years and see if any of these people could stand it. I know I couldn’t.” So what does it look like in three years?

tiny house

I can tell you. We’ve lived in our tiny house with our two kiddos for almost four years. Our little bread box of a home looks pretty much the same as it did when we moved in, except for the couch. We had to re-upholster that, and it needs to be done again. But the rest of the house is in good shape. The hardwood walls and floors were a great idea because we do beat this place up just by living so intensely in the space. But that’s not what she meant. Maybe she meant could we stand it. Are we still standing? What do we look like? Is our hair standing on end? Do we have permanent scowls on our faces? Are we even still alive?

kids in tiny house

We do look different. The tiny house changed us. We’ve been transformed in the best way possible. But you probably can’t tell by looking at us. Well, except for the kids.

The idea that a family will outgrow a tiny house is true. When we embarked on our mortgage-free journey, we didn’t fully grasp the fact that our kids would get bigger. I mean double in size. It’s bound to happen, and yet, when those guys started taking up more of the couch, it caught us off guard. Now we still manage to watch family movies on the laptop, but it’s less comfortable than it used to be, but that’s okay; it just means our plan was a good one.

We knew we couldn’t (or didn’t want to) live in our tiny house with two teenagers, and our plan was to live tiny as long as it took to build a bigger mortgage-free house. It looks like four will be our magic number. (And it’s right on time since our daughter turns 12 this year.) Four years isn’t forever, but at the start of our second winter in the tiny house when we had just broken ground on the big house, it seemed like we would live in the tiny forever.

build 1

The slow and steady process of building dollar for dollar pushes us to the very edge of what we think we can handle. When Karl straddled the big house roof to put that last piece of metal on in an ice storm last winter, I couldn’t breathe. We finished work for the day and came back into the tiny house with our fear, frustration and worry. Would we have the money to finish the house? How in the world would we get the last rafter in place? Was this the dumbest idea we ever had? Ahhhh! Move over. I need a few more inches. Hang your coat up, honey. Why are these shoes always here!? I just need some quiet. Making it through the dark times together is character building and relationship strengthening. There’s a lot of joy in the pushing through and making it.

build two

Since living in a tiny house with a family is hard, does that mean a family shouldn’t live in one? Nope. Heck, it’s been the best housing decision we’ve ever made.
We built our tiny house for $12,000 in materials costs. (That’s with a lot of salvage and Craigslist finds. We didn’t pay labor since we built it ourselves.) Rent costs $600-$800/month in our area, so we would have spent around $33,600 in rent over the last four years. Instead, we put that money toward building our tiny house and a larger mortgage-free home that will sustain us through the changes ahead. (We own our land and that cost isn’t included in this example. We explain our whole process and plan in our course Budgeting is a huge part of the process—we’ll help you with that.)

build 3

Our tiny house is a viable long-term solution because it is sheltering us while we build a bigger home that will serve our lifelong needs.

Most importantly, it was/is the ticket to our freedom, a homestead that will withstand the ups and downs of our future. This place can’t be taken away due to our lack of ability to pay. We’ve already paid for it. Rather than mortgage our future, we’ve chosen to work hard and sacrifice for a few years for peace of mind and freedom. This simple shift in thinking changes everything.

build 4

Maybe people who make these comments about long-term mean that a tiny house isn’t a good solution because you can’t live in it for the rest of your life. But you could. For the right couple or single, this home could be just perfect to live out a simple and satisfying life. These families have ideas about how to continue living tiny when their kids reach the teenage years.

Our tiny house is a viable long-term solution for us because our tiny house’s role in our family will change as we grow. I don’t think of long-term as something stagnant. We won’t live in this house for the rest of our lives, but we are building it into the big picture of our homestead. Its function will change as our needs do.

537254_408722295897614_549906530_n

Once we finish the big house, our tiny house will become a bed and breakfast. We’ll meet people from around the world who are interested in alternative housing, mortgage-freedom, homesteading or just visiting the Blue Ridge Mountains. So we end up with two mortgage-free houses—one to live in and one to use as a teaching tool and income stream. It might even serve as a mother-in-law suite for part of the year. This little home just keeps offering possibility.

build 5

And we certainly can’t discount the education living tiny provides. Remember I said we’ve changed. Living tiny is a crash course in simple living. The lessons we’ve learned living in this little house will be with us until we die—it doesn’t get any more long-term than that.

Here are a few lessons:

  • We’ve developed our own way of moving through family issues. Because the issues come up more often than they might in a larger house, we’ve become quite good at quickly working through them.
  • We’ve learned to stay organized, put things away, clean as we go, deep clean often, sort, sift, and let go. This is part of our daily lives. I sorely needed these lessons, and we’re all much better housekeepers and homemakers thanks to the tiny house.
  • We wait a long time before buying things. There’s probably already something around here that can be repurposed for our needs. Living with less and making use of everything we have is quite satisfying.
  • We’ve learned to clean out the fridge weekly. Living with a dorm fridge might sound like a terrible punishment, but it’s actually been a great way to help us stay on top of what we have and eat it up before it goes bad which has made a great impact on our food budget.

Living tiny while designing and building a bigger house has been a great way to go. Since we stripped away the excess, and felt the joy of living with less, we wanted to only make room for what we love in our big house. What we love is making art, solitude and gathering with our friends. Our big house doesn’t have a lot of room for stuff. What we’ve designed is a home with just the right amount of space to create (artistic pursuits need space and solitude) and gather. Giant windows invite the outdoors in and allow less room for collections of stuff. Instead of collecting stuff, we’ll collect views of the changing trees and the sun’s path across the sky.

build 6

If you look at the slow and steady journey of building a mortgage-free homestead as one that will solidify who you are and make you a stronger, more resilient and compassionate person, then this road is for you. It’s hard and wonderful all at once. But when you are done, you get that freedom you long for.

So is a tiny house a viable solution for families? Absolutely! Do you have to live in it forever for it to be viable? No way. Life’s circumstances change and a tiny house is changeable, too. There’s no one way to live tiny. The key is staying in touch with your life and your changing needs. If you continue to honor them then you are walking your path with intentionality, and that’s a great way to live.

build 7

I’m deeply grateful for our tiny house even with all of the emotional and logistical challenges the last (almost) four years have provided. Building home is one of the most empowering things humans can do.

If you’d like to forge your own path to mortgage-freedom, we’d like to help you. Once you free yourself from a mortgage or rent, you free yourself to design life on your own terms. Who knows where it will lead you. But it will be a ride you won’t forget. Are you ready to start the walk? Check out our eCourse and enroll here.

house in the snow

ModHaus Adds Contemporary Flair to Tiny House Movement

Modhaus

Press Release

Jackson Hole, Wyo. – Whether you call them tiny houses, cabins on wheels, recreational park trailers, or park model homes, Wheelhaus designs, builds and delivers a great looking line of them. Now, the company is expanding its collection of innovative and sustainable designs with the introduction of the ultra-modern ModHaus. ModHaus is a one-bedroom unit with sleek exterior paneling and a contemporary architectural style. ModHaus is $89,500 with all appliances and hardware included. To see of all of the Wheelhaus designs and learn more visit, www.wheelhaus.com

ModHaus features a sliding side door entrance to each home with one bedroom, one bathroom, kitchen/living room and a private deck. The bedroom is sized to accommodate a king-size bed and includes a set of four drawers and an under-counter hanging closet that supports a counter-top which also serves as a desk.

The kitchen in the ModHaus includes a two-burner cooktop, under-counter refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, sink, granite counter tops, high-grade cabinetry with soft close doors and a breakfast bar. The bathroom maximizes space and function offering top-of-the-line glass showers and Kohler fixtures.

Other details include track lighting to properly light artwork, hardwood floors, wiring for cable and internet, and optional fireplace or air conditioner.

As with all Recreational Park Trailers, ModHaus is 400 square feet at 10’6”’ wide x 38’ feet long and can accommodate an additional 44 linear feet of outside deck. Wheelhaus cabins are literally built on wheels and can be delivered from coast-to-coast.

Modhaus floor plan

About Wheelhaus:

Wheelhaus designs and builds Park Model Homes with the highest standards of sustainable building and innovative design. Wheelhaus cabins are a blend of rustic and modern; combining the durability and quality craftsmanship of a log cabin with a modern focus on energy efficiency, innovative design, progressive space management, and top of the line building materials. Wheelhaus cabins exceed the requirements for the Gold standard with the U.S. Green Building Council. Wheelhaus offers several different designs with visually descriptive names like Wedge, Railcar, Caboose and ModHaus at base prices from $82,000 to $96,500 with delivery available from coast-to-coast. See all of the designs and floorplans at www.wheelhaus.com.

Downsizing is a Process, Not an Event

Mariah Coz

In the past year I’ve done a lot of experimentation with living with very few physical things. My journey into a small space looked a lot like this: (Someday I’ll have a cool illustration of this!)

  1. 1200 square feet of space stuffed to the brim with clutter.
  2. 112 square feet – my vintage trailer home has perfect storage and plenty of space for two, but I got rid of 90% of my stuff to fit into it.
  3. 35 square feet – my partner and I lived in our Honda Element (converted into a micro-camper) for 6 months in the past year while we traveled. All of our stuff fit under the sleeping platform, in bags, or over our heads strapped up to the ceiling.
  4. One medium sized bag – Since October I’ve been living out of just one bag, a duffel bag, while we live in a client’s home that we are renovating and restoring this winter.

So that’s 1200 square feet -> 112 square feet -> 35 square feet -> appx. 6 cubic feet of space for my stuff.

Needless to say, I’ve had quite a bit of experience with downsizing. My stuff no longer owns me, instead I have control over what physical items affect my day to day life.

I think my progression perfectly exemplifies the idea that downsizing is a process, “not an event”, as one of my students in the Tiny Transition and Downsizing e-Course has said. It has to happen in steps – not all at once. If you try to do too much at once, you’ll get frustrated, fed up, and overwhelmed. You’ll feel defeated. That’s why I designed the Tiny Transition course to give you step-by-step instructions on where and how to start, as well as how to fundamentally change your mindset and shift your relationship with stuff. The next session starts on January 4th, and you can learn more and register here.

Another thing I’ve learned after downsizing four major times in the past few years is that it never gets less scary, until you take the leap. I was freaking terrified of moving into the COMET Camper, my 112 square foot vintage trailer home. I played it cool of course, but I secretly wondered if I could do it. How would it feel? Would my partner and I get really frustrated with each other? Will I miss my stuff?

But when I actually made the transition, all of my worries and anxieties fell away. It only felt GOOD. I felt FREE and CONTENT for the first time, in this very basic and primal way. I’ve been following that feeling for years now, making decisions based on what makes me feel free, uncluttered, and relaxed. Having less stuff, spending time being creative, and meeting new people are all things that bring me happiness now that “stuff” doesn’t factor into how I operate.

IMG_20140522_191927

When we decided to move into the Honda Element for 6 months, I was again really nervous about the transition. I was anxious because unlike the COMET Camper, which has a composting toilet, the Element had no toilet. I thought (again) that my partner Matt and I would go crazy. I overpacked because I was so nervous – somehow I figured that bringing more sweaters would insulate me from anything bad or unexpected happening on our travels.

But it turns out, we LOVE living in that tiny little toaster of a car. It’s perfect for us. We love the ease of mobility, the good gas mileage, and the “just get up and ADVENTURE” that happens every day that we’re on the road.

The point is, even though I know more about downsizing than most, even I was sacred, nervous, and unsure at first. I didn’t have a community of supporters when I started this journey. I had to convince my partner that it wasn’t crazy or totally out of our reach. I had no guidance, or re-assurance. But in the end it was the BEST decision I have ever, ever made.

People who have let go of their stuff (and more than just the physical stuff: the emotional stuff, the real reasons behind the “stuff”, and the desire to have more and more) understand what I’m talking about. Before you take the leap it seems unattainable to be tiny (or even just small, clear, and de-cluttered). But it’s not a far-off dream. If you like to feel free, un-cluttered, stress-free, and lighter – it just takes some hard work and a little nudge and accountability.

I created the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course to give you the tools you need to let go of your stuff, let go of your emotional baggage and digital clutter, and create a new life with new habits and more happiness.

When you sign up for the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course, you get:

  • 8 weeks of downsizing lessons and challenges (it’s like Downsizing bootcamp!)
  • LIFETIME access to the private class forum
  • Accountability, support, motivation and camaraderie from me and your classmates
  • The tools you need to simplify your home, mind, and LIFE starting right now.

We go through everything from the WHY you have so much stuff and why it’s hard to downsize, HOW to happily get rid of your physical clutter and emotional baggage, how to downsize your expenses and digital life and more. All within a supportive group of other people on the same journey towards simplicity.

During the 8 weeks of the E-Course you will:

  • Clear your space and mind of clutter, making room for what’s important to you
  • Change your entire mindset and outlook on “stuff”, finally finding peace and focus
  • Meet a group of soon-to-be lifelong friends who share your outlook and values and are on your same path towards simple living

Get the motivation and support you need to make major life-changes for the better
Make real, tangible steps to getting into a tinier, happier life
The next session of Tiny Transition and Downsizing begins on January 4th. Register now to save your spot in the class. I hope to see you there, and I look forward to supporting you on this journey!

Register Here!

eatingintheelement