On Tiny Homes and the Question of Forever

Logan on the tiny house

Guest post by Tammy Strobel

Since we moved into our tiny house, I’ve tried to be honest about the benefits and challenges of living in such a wee abode on wheels. However, I become concerned when I receive emails and comments from folks who assume my life is perfect or that buying a tiny house has solved all my problems. Both are false assumptions. My life isn’t perfect and buying a little house didn’t magically make my worries disappear. As I’ve said in my book, and in prior blog posts, our tiny house is an experiment in living simply.

The ability to voluntarily simplify my life and choose what type of home I reside in is a privilege. Most people around the world don’t have that kind of opportunity. Housing is a basic need and it’s extremely important.

However, a house won’t reassure you when you feel alone, a house won’t take care of your injured body or help you heal fromgrief, and a house certainly won’t protect you from a wildfire. Those needs can be met through your core relationships, your larger community, and the relationship you have with yourself.

If you are thinking of buying a tiny house on wheels, do your research. Contact a respected tiny house designer and builder, talk to your local planning department, discuss your options with trusted friends and family members, and finally don’t purchase a house — of any size — on impulse.

Living in our tiny house has been a wonderful adventure and I’m happy we bought our wee abode. We don’t have immediate plans to upsize, but I don’t know if we will live in the space forever. Life is uncertain and it is never static. Regardless of how my life will change in the future, I will continue to experiment with living simply. I’ve learned that there are many ways to live simply, even without a tiny house on wheels.

Be well,
Tammy Strobel

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Cheri Morris - August 27, 2014 Reply

I would love to have a tiny house !!!

Becca - August 27, 2014 Reply

Amen, as someone who doesn’t live in a tiny home… they seem more like a way to help focus on the meaningful aspects of your life: not the solution to all your problems.

bonnie hill - August 27, 2014 Reply

Tammy, thank you for posting your article. I am 69, widowed and have been studying the tiny house life and buiding for about 10 years, I went to a wonderul Tiny HOuse workshop in April (Deek dedricksen; Tennessee Tiny House; Kent Griswold; sorry that I cannot remember all the names of the notables..they were all there). ANYWAY, the closer I get, the more I realize that it is not going to work for me. I need walls and a back room! I need to escape from my self sometimes. SO, I AM GLAD YOU POSTED YOUR ARTICLE… because it is a process which requires a lot of thought. thanks

    Jay Olstead - September 5, 2014 Reply

    Perhaps you could consider a Tiny Wheeled Estate instead of a tiny house on wheels. Same size trailer, however, 50@% more square footage with space to spare. How about 380 square feet on one floor with not lofts. Gourmet kitchen, full size appliances, counters, no ladders, Private office? Textile sewing room? artist easel for drawing? His/Her side by side desk with two office chairs? Or check out our new ADA plan for those with disabilities. Ciao,

      Donna McFarland - September 13, 2014 Reply

      “Tiny house wheeled estate” now There ya go Jay!! wow…that’s the first I’ve heard of it. sounds AWESOME and a true answer to many older folks like myself who would love to have an option like exactly what you describe! When you have a chronic health condition as i do, as MANY do (i’m 57) we look for ease, comfort, a bit more space…gotta store meds, etc. Somewhere! Please expound more on this as there is a huuuge and growing group whose needs could really be fit with something you describe! Thank you!!

Dominick Bundy - August 27, 2014 Reply

Thanks Tammy , Very well said and inspirational. Life itself is a changing phenomena, that may take you places unexpected. What I’ve found with people like you and this tiny house movement , The key is to simplify and try to live with less clutter, with organization/ Hence one will achieve less stress. No matter what size dwelling you live in. Less really can be more, in more ways than one.. Cheers, Dominick .

Cathy Johnson (Kate) - August 27, 2014 Reply

Tammy, I run into that same perception, that my life is perfect. No, but we are positive and we cope and survive.

Good post!

gar - August 27, 2014 Reply

Even in small towns or rural areas there are places that rent storage space or bins of different sizes. Not everyone wants to downsize their possessions which might include family heirlooms and photos, etc to the size that fits in a tiny house.

If you need to move there’s U-haul trucks that can pull the house and contain everything that was in storage.

Rebecca - August 27, 2014 Reply

I think simplifying your life and reducing your consumption is more about reducing financial stress over those things that are unimportant to you and living into your own desires as opposed to a generic one-size-fits-all consumer society.

It should make you a bit more relaxed and contented. If not, figure out why. Panacea? Not likely.

alice h - August 27, 2014 Reply

Good to hear a voice of sanity now and then. Sometimes when reading of people’s ideas of what living small and simple will do for them I am reminded of the old patent medicines that were supposed to cure just about any ill. It’s a fine balance hoping to inject a hint of practicality without blighting people’s dreams and enthusiasm.

I know that at age 60 living a fairly rustic life in a tiny house isn’t going to be long term but I do know as long as my health and strength last I’m going to enjoy it. When time comes for the next phase I can move along contentedly with more good memories and a good idea of what I really need to sustain life and be happy.

Asa Jota - August 27, 2014 Reply

We are all WIP’s. Life changes, we change. Nothing is forever, but on the bright side, nothing is forever ;). We should never be afraid to move on, to let go of comfort and security and try something new. Our external circumstances’ only value is how they affect our internal self.

Eliza - August 27, 2014 Reply

Don’t underestimate the comfort of having a secure place to sleep, eat and relax at the end of a trying day. 🙂 I volunteer at a homeless community center, and what I often hear from the clients is that they miss having a place they can call home—home being a private room or dwelling where they can go when they’re not feeling well, where they can securely keep their belongings, and maybe most important, just being in a place they can call their own. Many of them suffer from chronic illnesses which I believe were brought or are aggravated from sleeping outdoors on the ground, or from the stress of not knowing from day to day where they’ll be living.

As a Tiny House dweller myself, I count my blessings in knowing I have all of those things and more. It hasn’t always been perfect: there are days where I go crazy not having more space to work on a project or keep things I need. My closet doubles as my pantry; files and important papers had to be placed in a fireproof storage unit, which means having to take a trip out in order to get or file stuff. But when I get off of work after a difficult day, it is so good to see my little cottage and my cat greeting me at the door. I think about the people at the homeless center and feel a huge wave of gratitude.

    Lisa E. - September 3, 2014 Reply

    This is my take on things, too. No home can be the be-all/end-all. I have owned 3 homes in my life and each one had its drawbacks. But there are certain things that come with owning a TH, like if you don’t care for your surroundings, you can move easily; you can come off the grid and stop making utility companies rich and yourself poor; if, later on, you do acquire a foundation house, you instantly have an office or meditation space that’s all yours; if you decide tiny living isn’t for you, you can sell your tiny house; if you live in a foundation house, you can always hit the road and not have to sleep in strange beds, eat in strange eateries, or shower in strange bathrooms. Yes, tiny houses have their drawbacks, but there are a lot more pros than cons to owning a tiny house and the longer the Tiny House Movement goes on, the more problems get addresses (like parking) and the more people join so one day, to pass another tiny house on the road will be a common experience.

Wendy - August 27, 2014 Reply

It amazes me how judgemental some people can be, especially when someone else is doing something they perceive as being “different”. My mother and I were always intrigued by tiny houses when ever we found them. She grew up in a 5 bedroom Queen Anne Victorian with three parlors, and I grew up in the typical California 3 bedroom ranch-style house. For some people the idea of tiny and cozy is just so….appealing! The house I have lived in for the last 25 years is about 1800 square feet- small by many standards but certainly large enough for my husband and myself and any guests we might have. Likely I will not downsize to tiny, because this house is almost paid off. But I am still very, very intrigued by people who DO chose to go tiny, and I love to see the details of their lives and how they work out their space issues. In the meantime- I can tell you that the Tiny House movement has helped me rid myself of extraneous stuff – which makes my own home seem all the more spacious.
Bottom line- do whatever flips your switch! I have friends who, upon retirement and after their child left home, built their 4000 square foot dream house. This is harder for me to understand than someone who decides to live in 200 (or less) square feet. But- like I said, whatever flips your switch.
I love this blog and look forward to it every morning with my (tiny) cup of espresso.

Bev - August 27, 2014 Reply

I think tiny house living is a much more deliberate choice in a home. When you are in an average sized place, you most likely won’t have to examine every nuance of your existence to make that change to move to a same sized home. There is usually room for your extra baggage, material or otherwise. Not so in a tiny home. I agree with Tammy that life happens regardless of where you are. A home is a home and it is a necessity, but it can’t fix your problems. However, perhaps small home livers are more able to recover easier and move on because they don’t have the other baggage to get muddled up into. There isn’t room for it in their space. So life’s issues are in your face, so to speak and I think they dealt with in a more deliberate manner.

    emme - August 27, 2014 Reply

    I’ve found it takes a different type of discipline when I live someplace with a little extra space. Like you wrote, there is no room for extra in a tiny space, so it’s not an option. Now that I live someplace bigger (because it costs quite a bit less) I have the option of having more. So it takes a lot more discipline on my part. I’ve found it’s harder for me to say no now that I have the option of saying yes. It’s definitely been an experience that has helped me grow and be more deliberate. I wasn’t expecting that!

Timaree - August 27, 2014 Reply

With all the wildfires in California, a tiny house on wheels sounds good for a rural spot because it COULD be moved if a fire threatens. This is one of the appealing aspects of a home on wheels to me. Wouldn’t it be nice to come back from a fire with your house in tow rather than find it burned to the ground? I’d sacrifice space for that!

Michelle - August 27, 2014 Reply

See for me, switching to a simpler and smaller life will be easy. I feel that after being a single mother of 3, a homeowner ( I hate mowing lawns and keeping up with the Joneses) that I look forward to getting rid of the harnesses of everyday life that keep me from expressing myself. I want to enjoy the downhill run of my life simply. As for what I’ve accumulated in the last 15 years of living in my home, I’m already slowly selling it off. I honestly want to live out of a backpack- seriously! Thank you for a great thought provoking perspective!

Mal - August 27, 2014 Reply

Good piece. Living small definitely has challenges, sometimes they are serious challenges. I live in a 250 sq ft cabin with an out building for pantry and bath, and small storage building. Its too small for me after several years. I can make it, but its worthwhile for me to add on and have more living space.

For those that can live very small for extended periods, my hat is off to you, but as has been said, it isn’t an answer for all of lifes issues. It can, at times, cause friction for more than one person living in a small space. Relationships can be challenging also.

I do love my little cabin home, and looking out the window at the mountains. After 8 years living in a small space, I will be happy when I get my addition done though.

Meg - August 27, 2014 Reply

I appreciate this article. I lived in a 300 square foot tiny house for three years while my husband went to school. He graduated debt free and I’m grateful for the tiny house for that but honestly it wore on us. We found we were homebodies who love to invite friends and family (and there pets and children) into our homes and that size of space was never comfortable for all of that. Plus I found that while I could make do without most times I didn’t want to have to. I LIKE having that extra pot or salad bowl or sweater for the 10 times a year I use it!

We have since upgraded to a 960 square foot home. While we have two extra rooms that are used 4 to 5 times a week that we might not NEED, It is amazing how much more comfortable our whole existence is.

Wilbour - August 27, 2014 Reply

We are at the tail end of raising 4 kids, two cats, a bunny and a leopard gecko in a 1000 sqft home. Even then my wife and I are in the process of building a 160 sqft cabin for our summers. Having less is liberating.

Michael - August 27, 2014 Reply

I have been in the building industry all my life. Been a licenced builder , of hospitals , schools shops and homes, all this time renovating and doing people maintance of there homes. I have worked for the very rich and very poor, and have witnessed so much happiness and stress people homes can give them. Our lives have become so demanding and stressful most of us do not take time to realy think what do we want out of this life. We are to busy bringing up kids paying crazy mortgages and loans for furniture and new cars .How many of us sit down and think hey I do not need to keep up with the “Jones” My own life has been traumatic been through two divorces. so I just live simple in a tiny home inside a shed , I am not one to worry about extravagance , so it suits me. we all have different wants a needs. so I say take your time , work out a business plan for your future life, and enjoy life as stress free as you can possibly make. The house is that part that keeps you warm and dry, or cool from heat its only a small part of you so big or small , just think about your future needs ,have a great day , and a great future

    Wendy - September 2, 2014 Reply

    One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that no matter how big/fancy/expensive your home is, there will always be someone else with one that is bigger, fancier, and more expensive. Keeping up with the Jones’ is an exercise in futility. I have know incredibly wealthy people living in mansions who have been miserably unhappy, and I have know people living in small, rundown trailers parked off some dirt road in the woods who are completely content. It’s all a matter of perspective. The secret seems to be to figure out what YOU need, not what you think other people think you should have, and accept it and be happy.

Kara - August 28, 2014 Reply

What a great article. Life IS a constant flux of changes. Our family of 6 (2 adults/4 girls) lives in 1,700 sq ft. The girls each share their rooms and husband and I have the 700 sq ft upstairs as our master suite. It’s also our TV area and our children are welcome to join us any time they want. I often wish I could make the upstairs a “dorm” room for all four girls so we could move into one of the smaller bedrooms downstairs. Husband is not so willing. 😉

I have been following the Tiny House movement for years, but know that the reality of a large(r) family excludes us from ever considering building one. Even once our kids are out of the house we’ll most likely have grandchildren.

Also, after helping my mom, who is a widow, downsize from a 1,800 sf ranch to a little two bedroom condo, I realized that my heart may be attracted to the idea of purging my material possessions and moving into a tiny house, but, more accurately, I am being drawn to know that I need to do a better job just being aware of the the intrinsic value of the things I buy and maintain. And understanding what I need vs. what I want. A tiny house may be a great catalyst but I can certainly work on these things without it.

Not related to tiny houses, I just resigned from my job so that I can stay home with my kids and be a foster parent. It’s stressful for my husband to be the sole wage earner, but he too recognizes the value of relationship vs. money. Unlike many in society, I think it’s okay that we have to actually prioritize and sometimes be without the “extras.” I do admire those who do this through living in a tiny house. 🙂

    Wendy - September 2, 2014 Reply

    Funny how when kids get a lot of attention from their parents, they don’t seem to miss all of the “extras”. I also chose to leave a career job to stay home with my children and have never regretted it. It did put a lot of stress on my husband to be the sole wage-earner, but we managed to do everything we needed to. What people don’t address, though, is the perception by the outside world that a women who choses to stay home and be a full-time mom must be an uneducated, ignorant moron who had no other choices. Not a lot of respect in our society for someone (man or woman, because I have known men who chose to stay home full time with the kids while the wife worked) who decides raising their own children is the most important job you can do.

      Kara - September 10, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Wendy. There are people who have looked at me like I’m crazy for giving up my job, and others who look at me and say, “Good for you. It’s awesome you’re willing to take that step for your family.” Everyone has a different situation, and everyone needs to be respected for doing what is right for his or her family.

Kathleen Kalinowski - August 29, 2014 Reply

I lived on a sailboat with my young daughter for five years. About 240 sq ft but only 10 sq ft of standing head room. Also in a VW van for 6 mos traveling and pack backed through Europe for 9 mos. None of these living situation included running water let alone instant hot water. I really like living small but I think the tiny house is too small for most people to be comfortable, especially couples. I think small, not tiny, houses are more workable for a truly livable life. Tiny houses like small sailboat living are taking the concept of simple living to an extreme that most people can’t be comfortable with over the long haul.

Jim - August 29, 2014 Reply

For me I think a tiny home would really create more problems than it solves. In this country (Australia) the local authorities do not permit you to live on your own land in anything less than an “approved dwelling”. What an Approve dwelling consists of can vary from one area to another but generally has to meet national building codes. You can’t even camp on your own land for any length of time without the risk of intervention by local authorities. Some people manage to stall for years by submitting plans for a dwelling but never quite building anything. Depends a bit on how remote you are and weather neighbors complain or not. I think for me a large-ish block of land with a “normal” dwelling would be best, perhaps rent out the house and live quietly up the back somewhere in a small shack, somewhere with non-complaining type neighbors, if any.

Dana - September 1, 2014 Reply

Thank you for your honesty!

Jane Roberts - September 25, 2014 Reply

Where can I look at ‘The Tiny Wheeled Estate homes’? And the ADA plans for people with disabilies Jay?

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