Tiny Living from a Kid’s Perspective

Grown-ups love to rave about the benefits of tiny living. They can go on and on about the joys of building your own home, the freedoms that simple living provides, etc. More and more families are choosing to downsize into tiny houses. But how do the kids feel about it?

I sat down with my ten year old son, Garrett, to pick his brain about living tiny. He is a part-time resident of our traveling 130 square foot tiny house on wheels.

Helping with the build:

The walls that became our walls

Garrett: Helping with the salvage was really fun. At the time, there were some aspects of the process I was mad about, but tearing down the house actually helped me solve the things I was stressed about. Now, I’m proud of being part of the salvage process.

I think the salvage boards make our tiny house prettier. 

Mom's note: With a group of friends with tore down tongue and groove panels from an old farmhouse scheduled for demolition. This all-day process included some fun destruction, along with our careful removal of the paneling. 

Designing his loft:

Garrett: I wanted to be able to sit down and have a table to use for drawing or playing legos, and also I wanted to be able to put the table away. I wanted to be able to bring stuff, like toys and books, up into the loft without struggle, so that’s how I came up with the pulley toy box.

Mom's note: Garrett's loft his cantilevered over our porch. It features a folding foam bed, a fold down table, a toy basket, book storage, a toy box on a pulley, a railing and a heavy curtain that really makes the entire space feel like a fort. He accesses the loft with a sturdy ships ladder made from "tornado wood" (trees that fell in a tornado and were later milled). During the design process, Garrett who was eight at the time, was learning about simple machines at school.

Having friends over:

Garrett: I’ve been able to have a friend over, or even couple, and we can fit in my loft comfortably, if they don’t fight. We can hang out and play some simple games, like card games.

Mom's note: Probably the first things that comes up when a friend or cousin comes over is, can we get in the loft.

Garrett, age 8, helping to design his loft

Garrett enjoying his loft

Our original self-made composting toilet

Composting toilets: 

Garrett: Our original composting toilet was uncomfortable and hard to get in the right spot. The new toilet looks more like regular toilet, and it’s easier to use, like a regular toilet. I avoid going #2 in the compositing toilet because it can be as complicated as going to the airport.

Mom's note: Our original toilet was a self-made composting toilet. We later upgraded to a Nature's Head.  Garrett also struggled with self-made toilet, but after just one use of new model, he exclaimed "that's so much better!"

Living tiny:

Christmas time in Utah, parked in my sister's backyard

Garrett's floorplan sketch of his future tiny house

Garrett: I tell everyone this, at times its comfortable and other times it can feel crowded. When everyone is grumpy in the morning and wants to get to one spot in the house that’s one time when it can feel crowded. I like how everything in the house transforms, like at dinnertime or going to bed. It’s nice to move to other places but still feel at home. I like switching between living tiny and moving frequently, and staying in one area with a bigger living space. This helps avoid grumpiness in the morning.

Mom's note: One of my big goal with involving Garrett in the build process was for him to take ownership of the space and to ultimately feel at home. I knew I accomplished my goal when he said to me, "home is Raleigh or wherever the tiny house is." 

His future tiny house:

Garrett: I want live in a tiny house as a grown-up because its less expensive, and I don’t need much stuff. Also it’s easier to move, especially if I change jobs across the country or something like that.

My future tiny house is going to be gooseneck design. In my loft I will have a bed and table for my computer. Downstairs I will have couch and a wall-mounted TV, and I will have a kitchen and bathroom. The outside will be green with a black roof. I probably will have my house in one place most of the time, and I might move somewhere else if I want or need to.

Mom's note: Christian and I committed to help him build his future tiny house after high school or during college. Boy, I wish I had done that!

On being part of Tiny House Expedition's documentary & community outreach project:

Garrett, age 10, on our tiny house road trip stop in Oregon

Garrett: I like helping with the documentary sometimes when the stories are interesting or something cool is going in the background, like the guy with the model trains. Some events I enjoy. I like selling merch and like to listen to the conversations you have with people. Sometimes events can be annoying when there's not much for me to do, or I get tired of listening to you talk to people.

Mom's note: So like a kid to enjoy listening to grown-up conversations until mom goes on too long... Garrett is great helper and wonderful salesman. He's particularly charming at upselling customers; "for $20 more, you can also get this book about our tiny house adventures."  

Living tiny is really opening Garrett's eyes to the benefits that this lifestyle offers, from a very down-to-earth perspective. Traveling is expanding his world view by exposing him to new ideas, fascinating people and the not always fun side of hauling your home from one place to the next. 

This sweet kid of mine has a bright future ahead of him.

-Alexis, Tiny House Expedition

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Elisabeth in CT - July 9, 2017 Reply

Now THIS is good parenting at its finest! It’s heartening to see a child discover that dreams are the start of real possibilities…and that he has the support of the adults in his life. Garrett however, looks like he might become a pretty big guy and might be needing a bigger space than the front loft – and sooner rather than sometime after high school! Here’s hoping he gets to make a head start on his own place whenever he’s ready!

    Alexis Stephens - July 10, 2017 Reply

    Thank you very much Elisabeth! It’s been so heartwarming for me to see him genuinely embrace tiny living and see the benefits that it can bring his adult life. You are absolutely right on about needing more space. This kid is growing at a phenomenal rate! We have a plan to extend the size of his loft.

Erna - July 13, 2017 Reply

I love how you are raising your kids. I find it so important that they embrace the lifestyle they live. It’s such a big part of life especially when you have the opportunity to connect with nature and see the real world. My husband and I are at the point in life where we are questioning what we want out of a home. I’d love to live more off grid, grow our own food, etc here in Washington state. Living simple sounds grand!

    Alexis Stephens - July 15, 2017 Reply

    Thank you Erna! Our kids are the future, and I am so grateful that my son is getting such a wonderful perspective. Happy to hear about you and your husband’s shifting perspective and goals. If you’re near the Seattle area, come see us next Saturday at the NW SolarFest: https://www.facebook.com/events/812270675607119/ 🙂

Brian J Weimer - July 17, 2017 Reply

Really like your Tiny House Movement, especially since it offers the younger perspective of your son – never have seen that before – must be the first!!! I live in a regular house now, but plan on getting a Tiny House when I can afford it, and the vehicle to tow it. Or maybe a driveable house with a small car towed? Anyway, I Love seeing all the newest ideas around with Y’all and the other Tiny House Affitionadoes keeping all of us wannabes in the Loop till we are able go it on our own 2, or more wheels!!!!! <3 8~} <3

Pat Dunham - August 6, 2017 Reply

Loved hearing about how Garrett is enjoying and involved in your tiny house build. We lived on a 55 ft. tri cabin boat for several years with our 6 children. It brought us all much closer, having moved out of a 4400 square foot, two story, 5 bedroom house where we never knew where the children were at given time. the children loved it. Now my husband and I along with our 40 pound dog live in a 236 sq. ft. tiny house and still love tiny spaces.

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