Tiny Living in Portland, Oregon

by Kent Griswold on March 13th, 2013. 10 Comments
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By Alyse Nelson

While attending graduate school in Portland, Oregon, Lina Menard didn’t rent an apartment or live in a dorm. Instead, she lived in a tiny house. During her tiny home tenure, Lina has learned to live and love tiny spaces. Lina became a tiny-house advocate, organizing tours of small homes, learning about the regulatory barriers of tiny home acceptance, and interning at PAD and Orange Splot, where she helped build tiny houses.

Lina and her possessions

Lina Menard with her possessions, sitting outside a tiny home she lived in for 10 months. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

After spending almost a year in a 120-square-foot tiny home, Lina has a good idea of how to live well in a small space. “I think one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that I’m much happier when I live with just the things I like best. My relationship to stuff has shifted dramatically over the past year and a half. I’m much less materialistic than I used to be. But I really appreciate the little touches, too. It’s not about deprivation, but about intension,” Lina told me.

Lina's cat

Lina’s tiny home includes a sleeping loft that she shares with her cat, Raffi. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

When you’re measuring square inches rather than feet, every detail counts. Lina’s tiny home features a dining room table that expands to fit guests, a window seat that doubles as extra seating for big meals, and lots of windows to let in natural light. Every single possession Lina has in the home has to serve a purpose, but she doesn’t mind: “It’s liberating to not feel tied to stuff,” she told OR Magazine.

Embed video with Lina’s tiny house:

She recognizes that tiny-home living isn’t for everyone, but thinks there’s a way to broaden its appeal: the “cohousing” model, where tiny homes would be coupled with shared kitchens, laundry facilities, guest rooms, and even amenities like barbeques, workshops, and gardens. “Tiny cohousing would just push the envelope,” Lina writes in her blog. “People who lived in a tiny house community would have access to all these things, but they wouldn’t have to own all these things themselves,” she explains.

Lina and her cat

Lina’s tiny living room, shared with her cat Raffi. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

Lina’s tiny house was built in 2009 by Brittany Yunker. Brittany had graduated college, was working seasonally, and wanted to have a home of her own instead of returning to her parent’s place in between jobs. She purchased tiny home plans from Tumbleweed Tiny House Company and went to work. Despite having no construction experience, Brittany completed her tiny home after 5 work-filled months. The finished home rests on an 18-foot flatbed trailer. Now that Lina has moved on to new tiny-house experiences (like a yurt!), tiny-house fanciers can give it a try: it’s available for short-term rentals in Olympia, Washington.

moving Lina's tiny home

Moving Lina’s tiny home in to it’s backyard space. Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

Whether in a tiny home community or parked in a backyard, Lina thinks “people should have the right to a tiny house as long as it accommodates their needs and desires.” But for people to exercise that right, cities will have to rethink the zoning rules that stand in the way of tiny homes. Since Lina is getting her graduate degree in urban planning, she’ll be well suited to lead the way forward.

tiny house with hammock

Photo credit Lina Menard, used with permission from her blog, thisisthelittlelife.com.

Bio: Alyse Nelson is an urban planner for a small town in Kitsap County, Washington. She is a Writing Fellow for Sightline Institute. This post is adapted from a full article published here: http://daily.sightline.org/2012/12/20/tiny-homes/

10 Responses to “Tiny Living in Portland, Oregon”

  1. Philippe in Yukon says:

    Another great article on this blog. Wonderful!

    Thanks for posting.

  2. Christine says:

    We love tiny and small house plans at DFDHouseplans.com where we offer a diverse collection of tiny house plans, most of them clocking in at just under 1,000 square feet. For those looking for a slightly larger footprint there’s a great collection of small house plans. House plans in both these collections are economical, well planned and absolutely charming. Keep in mind building with less square footage means lower maintenance costs. Click here to view our most popular tiny house plan, the beautiful Astoria Cottage: http://www.dfdhouseplans.com/plan/3204/

  3. Oscia Wilson says:

    Very inspiring, but this article doesn’t talk about the obvious question: Who owns this land? How did she find a place to park her tiny house and get water & sewer hookup?

  4. Lisa says:

    Why did she stop living in her tiny house? Does anyone know the average length that people stay in their tiny houses? Other than Dee at PAD, it seems like many folks leave their tiny houses for larger homes…

    • dextertracy says:

      Hey, all! I second Lisa’s question about stats on time spent living in tiny houses full time, how many tiny houses are currently being utilized this way, and how many are serving roles as part-time or vacation homes. This place looks fabulous, and I am no nay-sayer, but as an urban planner, Lina may be able to offer up some numbers to help shape the picture of tiny house life in America.

  5. [...] on Living Large in Small Spaces article that Alyse Nelson wrote last December was picked up by the Tiny House Blog. All of the sudden This Is The Little Life had lots and lots of visitors! (Those of you who sent [...]

  6. [...] Tiny House Blog Tiny Living in Portland, Oregon [...]

  7. Robert Furlow says:

    Thanks Tiny House and all of you who do, live in tiny worlds. All of you are pioneers! You lead the way: Thank You. I live in a small beach town where even putting up a store bought storage shed (in a fenced in back yard)brings close scrutiny. A tiny home would be seen as a “trailer”, inhabitable for short term vacations only (and should be stored somewhere else- NIMBY syndrome once again.) And for someone to live in it; “that’s in-human”, they would say. I actually heard a quote one time, “why would you have so little respect for yourself by living that way.”
    How do we overcome this mind set? It is very entrenched. It’s like arguing with your father :)

  8. [...] I just love reading blogs and this ladies is great.  Imagine only having 200 items and recycling /upcycling etc.  Moving [...]

  9. Shell says:

    I live in Portland. I’m very interested in seeing the tiny houses. Does she still do tours and is there a site I can learn about them?

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