The Paper-Free Way Of Planning Your Tiny House

Over a year ago I wrote about how you can build your tiny house. In it I outlined the planning, the organizing, selecting your builder, and even how to ask for help. A couple of years back I created a video on ‘The Inspiration Notebook’ which I consider to be the most instrumental part of a tiny house build.

But I am no dummy. I know times have changed. SketchUp and CAD have replaced napkin sketches and graph paper. Pinterest has replaced the ‘Inspiring Homes’ section of such a notebook. Paint samples can be kept online in a BEHR user account. Budgets can be created and edited on Google Sheets. Which is why I think it is time for a v.2.0 of ‘The Inspiration Notebook.’ That said, let’s talk about how you can plan your tiny house and remain paper-free!


Perhaps the easiest – yet most time intensive – way of managing your build online is with a project management tool. While a fair number of these online tools cost a subscription fee there are some good ones that can be obtained for free. My pick in this category is Trello.

Trello uses a method called Kanban, a project management system developed by a former Toyota vice president, Taiichi Ohno, which allows users to move cards—representative of tasks—to create a visual representation of where a project is in development. It is perhaps the most user intuitive project management platform out there. It offers unlimited users and projects, but only offers 10MB of storage on the free version.

The alignment of the cards lets users (think you, your partner, your contractor/builder, your electrician, etc) know how far along a project is—and what to work on next. While the front of the card has little more than a task label, the back can be filled with all kinds of information—like who’s working on the task, when it’s due, and what parts of the task have already been completed with a simple checklist.


Anyone who has enlisted the powerful (and almost entirely free) tools that Google has to offer, knows that project management could not possible be much easier with Google Apps and Plugins. The best place to start in this is probably with the creation of a master list. The master list (or agenda) is attached to every recurring calendar event. Like any agenda it links to project assets such as Calendar, Budget Sheet, Project Outline Doc, Attachments, Image Folders, etc.

A solid second step is to incorporate Google Keep. Not sure what Google Keep is? It’s very similar to Evernote or even a bit like Pinterest. It is a sort of screen filler that allows you to add notes, lists, photos, and audio to, well, keep!


The cool thing about Keep is that you can share a list with other team members so you can check off items as their completed! At this point it is good to create a sheet. If you love Gantt charts the way I do then Sheets is for you. You can make Gannt charts in Sheets without downloading any extra add-ons.

Lastly, adding a Google Calendar to create different project calendars is key. You can also schedule tasks this way and keep up with deadlines and completed tasks. And this doesn’t even take into account the use of:

Unlocking Google can truly be your one-stop shop for staying paper-free with your project planning.


If I had to label Evernote for project management I would more or less describe it as project LITE. Why? Evernote is designed to capture your notes and thoughts and then arrange them. It is not necessarily a project management tool in the sense that you can have multiple users, connect it to your calendar, etc. However, it does offer some unique features that may help in project management.

photo courtesy of Evernote blog

photo courtesy of Evernote blog

It is key to follow these steps though:

  1. Start a new note to capture phone conversation transcriptions, contract details, work orders, etc. Follow up with a robust to-do list, so as to stay on schedule with deadlines and project landmarks. This is made much simpler though with the Evernote app on your smart phone as you can type out a quick note or capture a photo. A true plus to this method is that you can keep practically any file in an Evernote note.
  2. Stay organized by making a project notebook to create a home for all your assets regarding the project. Collecting said assets in one place means you never have to hunt around your computer for files, and agendas.
  3. Follow all of this up with Work Chat so as to share your work in notes and notebooks to collaborate with your build team, get input from a friend or a professional, and let others pitch in on your project. Because you can the chat lives alongside your shared work, it’s easy to make sure everyone’s on the same page and moving the project forward.

How then, are you keeping track of your build and using paper-free project management? Do you have tools not covered above?

By Andrew M. Odom for the [Tiny House Blog]

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DwAnderson - August 29, 2016 Reply

Some really great ideas!
Thank you!

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