Ready? Set? Go Tiny!
August 20, 2014

Ready? Set? Go Tiny!


by MJ Boyle

The first step in living your tiny house dream is the dream itself…visualizing what you will need, and what you will want, and imaging all the benefits that a simpler lifestyle will bring.

The second step along your journey will involve planning and asking yourself a lot of questions. Where will you park or build it? What will it look like? How will you fit all your stuff into it?

Eventually, however, you’ll have to DO something and I think this is where a lot of tiny house enthusiasts get discouraged. Perhaps they/you think that if you don’t have all the answers for every question you have…you cannot begin building? Maybe it’s lack of money that is getting in your way. Maybe you don’t have the tools, or the expertise to build your own home.

Even if all of the above apply, in order to fulfill your tiny house dream, there will come a time to push yourself beyond your comfort zone and blaze that wonderful trail towards financial independence. And just think…someday you will fondly remember the day you finally decided to embrace your inner child, and be wildly optimistic, and move forward despite your trepidations.

OK…Ready? All Set?

My Trailer…ready and waiting for the build to start!

I started my Tiny House journey just a few months ago and I would have never imagined how far my vision would take me in such a short time. Now, that’s not to say that I haven’t hit a few bumps along the way, but my 24 foot trailer is paid for and in my driveway, the lumber is being delivered in a couple of weeks, I have all my appliances and most of the interior materials stacked around the house and garage, and my tiny house (aka “My Empty Nest”) should be dried in before the infamous Oregon Rains arrive.

Like many of you, I live paycheck to paycheck and I have debt. I don’t have any savings, and I don’t own a home. I don’t have a retirement account, and things like new tires, or car repairs, require careful planning. So, to put it mildly, the financial concept of me building a tiny house is just plain crazy. But, when I stumbled onto the concept of gaining sponsors for my build, it all clicked, and it was just the kick start I needed to get into gear.

So, even though I didn’t start with any money, I was able to move forward…,
…slowly…but forward nonetheless.

Also, like many of you, I didn’t know a lot about how to build a tiny house. I am familiar with the concepts and practices behind “normal” residential construction, but a tiny house is very different. So, I reached out via facebook, and have done hundreds of hours of internet research, and I attend monthly tiny house networking events. Now, I know the difference between a deck-over and a drop-axle trailer. I know the advantages and disadvantages of tiny houses with lofts, and those without. I have met a few movers and shakers in the tiny house world, and have a network of supportive and knowledgeable people.

I certainly don’t know it all, but I now know a lot more than I did when I started!


Selecting upholstery fabric for my tiny, custom, living room furniture. So many choices!!

The most fun part of all of this, however, has been “putting pencil to graph paper” and sketching my design. I didn’t start with a clear vision but today I have one. I have stacks and stacks of paper in my tiny holder folder where I keep all the copies of the designs I drew, and re-drew. I listed, beside each design idea, the things I liked best; as well as those attributes that the floor plan was lacking. (no wall space, not enough windows, too many hallways) And speaking of windows, I have a list of the windows I have collected so far with their dimensions. I then numbered them, and incorporated them into my designs, cross referencing their numbers so I know which ones I have left over. (Extra windows? Who’d thunk?) I also have another list with the appliance, loft, décor, and furniture dimensions. I then check, and re-check, and then triple check; to make sure they will all fit where I want them to. (and just discovered that I have to move my kitchen window up, as well as my loft, to accommodate my vintage drainboard-style kitchen sink…sigh…)

I didn’t have money, but I had time, which I invested in researching sponsors.

I didn’t know how to build my tiny house, but my ideas really started gaining momentum when I reached out to others.

I didn’t have a clear design vision, but I started with a pencil and a piece of paper and now it’s gettin’ REAL!


Ta Da! My color scheme is finally finished!

If you feel like you’re stuck in the planning stages, if you’re not able to easily answer all of the questions you have for yourself, and if you’re discouraged by seeing others move forward while you’re still visualizing…’s time to shake off the dust and take an active step (even if only a small one) in the right direction.

Now GO!

“Michelle is an outgoing single mom, published author, speaker, patented inventor, blogger, craigslist stalker, enthusiastic Glamper, and Northwest native. Her interest in all-things-tiny-and-old started when she was only 12 years old when she became fascinated with a tiny abandoned farm house near her parent’s home; and she’s been sketching floor plans ever since. With pencil and graph paper in hand she’s more than ready for the next phase of her life. Her Tiny House, aptly named “My Empty Nest”, is the culmination of a life spent dreaming of a tiny reclaimed space, all her own.”

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M - August 20, 2014 Reply

Good words of advice – it’s a dream in the long-term making, that’s for sure. Where did you get your base trailer ? tnx – M

    Michelle - August 20, 2014 Reply

    Eagle Trailer Manufacturing, Portland Oregon

Cheryl Olson - August 20, 2014 Reply

Way to go, Michelle! I’m in the middle stages of a garage-to-tiny-house conversion in Portland and I’l like to meet with you if you are somewhere near in Oregon. My outdoor scavanged tile shower from Pratt and Larsen is going in next. I’ll be here for 4
or 5 months before heading back to Honduras. Ring me at (971) 407-3433 if you want to get together and see each others’ tiny house creations. Cheryl

EPB - August 20, 2014 Reply

Sponsorship? How does this work? Are you seeking financial sponsors or materials?

Annie J - August 20, 2014 Reply

I ordered a display shed 120 sq from home depot -in my area that’s the largest without permits – not allowed rv on property – NY city law – so I thought a shed on outside and little house on inside – all I do is research on internet on how to do things -/ can’t wait to get started ????

Annie J - August 20, 2014 Reply

I ordered a display shed 120 sq from home depot -in my area that’s the largest without permits – not allowed rv on property – NY city law – so I thought a shed on outside and little house on inside – all I do is research on internet on how to do things -/ can’t wait to get started ????

David - August 20, 2014 Reply

See her blog for much more info on sponsorship, her design, etc

Thomas Giacomelli - August 20, 2014 Reply

Excellent advice! I was surprised at how fast we bought land and built our 256 sq ft house once we made the decision. We went from flat broke in 2009, to living in our own paid for home in 2012. We had to start somewhere though. We posted most of our belongings of craigslist, this paid the $9000 land price for 2 acres of flat ground with utilities in the first year. We then took every penny we could pinch every weekend, bought materials, and went out to our property, camped and built. Our house cost $7500 including all new appliances. We are 100% electric and pay an average electric bill of $55 per month. The savings bought us a new car this year, yeah 50 mpg! We are willing to answer any questions you might have, and never charge a fee. Good luck and God Bless!

    Michelle - August 20, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for the offer to help and advise! I appreciate your support.

Becca - August 20, 2014 Reply

Such an inspiration! Sometimes you just gotta go for it and worry about the details later 🙂

alice h - August 20, 2014 Reply

Nice trailer! I’m so glad for you, getting things going like that. Well done!

Lisa - August 21, 2014 Reply


I believe I was divinely directed to this blog post.

My husband & I lost our home to foreclosure last year after fighting with the bank for 6 long years. We are now renting for $1850 a month and barely scraping by…not very well I might add. I started reading about tiny houses late last year & was intrigued but not sold on the idea for ourselves. I had a eureka moment a few months ago when I finally realized we could build a tiny house & live it for WAY cheaper than what we pay in rent each month.

My husband is a carpenter with 30 years experience. His business tanked with the economy several years ago (hence the foreclosure) and we are barely surviving now. I have approached the tiny house subject with him–both as building one for us to live in AND him building them as a business. I actually think he could do very well building & selling them. But, he is resistant to the idea with the main reason being “How are we going to pay for it? We have NO money”. He’s right–we don’t have any money. But, I told him where there’s a will there’s a way and I DO have the will.

I considered a kickstarter type campaign but I think you have to give something back (a product?) in exchange for donations. Not sure what we could give. I also thought of a private investor. Although I know a few “financially gifted” people I don’t really have the nerve to walk up & ask them for a donation for our tiny house.

I’ve been saying prayers every day for a while to be shown the way to fund our tiny house. I think finding your article here was that prayer being answered. I am going to make my husband read your article and point out to him that there IS a way to get our tiny house built and free ourselves from the slavery of high rent. I know there is a better life for us than working 60-80 hours a week just so we can still be 2 months behind on our rent and have our power shut off because we couldn’t pay the bill. I believe the tiny house is that better way. Thank you, Michelle, for being the answer to my prayer and writing this article. Next prayer–the one where I ask for success in gathering sponsors! Blessings to you in your endeavor! 🙂

    Michelle - August 27, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for sharing your story and I’m so glad I had a part in helping you. If you’d like to read more “to do” steps in getting sponsors you can find two blogs posts on my blog (linked above) that gives you a bit more detail than I have covered here. The first one was posted in March. Good luck!

Kari - August 21, 2014 Reply

Hi Michelle!
You r my new favorite blog to read. Thanks for the inspiration, and the sponsorship idea fascinates me. Thanks again! K????

    Michelle - August 27, 2014 Reply

    What a high compliment! Thank you and welcome to my tiny, albeit crazy, world!

Amber - August 21, 2014 Reply

Hi! Can I ask how much you anticipate the build costing? I have done a LITTLE research and have seen numbers range from $10,000 to $20,000 + for build-it-yourself tiny houses. My biggest problem is convincing my partner-in-crime boyfriend to join me in my tiny house dreams!!

    Michelle - August 27, 2014 Reply

    My boyfriend does not share my dream either but slowly, but surely, he’s coming along to see the benefits. My budget is just shy of $30,000 but I am using some high end (sponsor provided) materials. So far, of that, over 40% of my costs are covered by sponsors.

Marla - August 26, 2014 Reply

My Fiance’ and I are wanting a tiny house built out in Rio Del Oro , New Mexico and We were wondering if there were any local people that did this sort of thing out there. We have 2 real estate properties ready to build on and May 2 we are planning on going out to see them . Ant help would be greatly appreciated ,thanks, Marla

    Michelle - August 27, 2014 Reply

    Good Luck to You!
    Go Tiny or Go Home!

Steve Pitchford - August 29, 2014 Reply

I would donate $10 to your cause. Are there any other Tiny House blog fans who would also donate. Start up an account and your own blog and lets find out!
Happy trails,

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