Big Thoughts About Tiny Spaces

Last weekend we went to the Tennessee Tiny House Festival in Chattanooga. We didn’t “fall in love” with one single home, which is how I know this recently resurrected idea of ours might actually have some traction this time.

This time? Yes, in 2015, we met Scotty and immediately fell in love. Scotty was a vintage 22-foot travel trailer in need of a little TLC…or so it said in the ad. At the time, we were so caught up in our grand ideas that we didn’t think much about the practical aspects of RV living or the problems one might encounter when dealing with a 30-year-old trailer and quite quickly we came to realize that TLC more aptly meant “Totally Lost Cause”.

For anyone who followed us back then, you know that adventure was sidetracked and we ended up staying put in Tennessee to help my mom. For anyone who wasn’t with us then and is interested in knowing what happened, here’s a good place to start.

What we learned from our flirtation with tiny living back then was that we had the specs right but our method was wrong. In short, we would have been better off with a tiny house in a permanent location than trying to haul a leaky hunk of aluminum all over creation with a mid-size SUV and a super-size cat.

Which brings us to the present…

We constantly toss around the idea of putting a tiny house in my mom’s backyard. Our city recently revised zoning to allow for tiny houses on permanent foundations. While we’re not yet sure what that means for tiny houses as accessory dwellings in a residential area, we’re still pretty excited by the progress and are finding the topic of tiny living coming up much more often.

A good example of a bad ladder.

As we toured the tiny houses at the festival (all of which were on wheels), we oohed and aahed along with everyone else while also having a serious conversation about the practicality of tiny living. We decided some things were just a non-starter…like a loft bedroom that is only accessible by ladder. We’re not old by any stretch of the imagination but we are over 40 and falling headfirst down a ladder during a midnight potty run is not high on our list of fun things to do at night. Besides proper stairs, our other “must haves” include: a combo washer/dryer, a covered porch, and off-grid plumbing and electricity.

We saw several homes that partially met this criteria but none that ticked all the boxes (as they say on HGTV’s House Hunters). So what does this mean for us? I’m not sure yet. We are in our current lease until next summer so we have plenty of time to flesh out a proper plan to go tiny should we decide to move in that direction. In the meantime, we still need to find out if a tiny house in the backyard is even legal here. I’ve also suggested we find a tiny house rental through Airbnb and try that for a week – not during vacation but during a regular work week. A trial run is something we should have considered two years ago. I can’t help but think of the headaches it would have saved!

Could you live in a tiny house? What are your “must haves” to give tiny living a go?

Here are some of our favorite elements from the Tennessee Tiny House Festival.

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Small is the New Big

A certain young couple I know recently received some exciting news. The young man’s parents had decided over the holidays to purchase a house in a nearby town for them to live in. While they will have to pay a nominal monthly rent to cover utilities and taxes, the house is pretty much a gift. And this surprise couldn’t have come at a better time in my opinion.

You see, the couple and their child currently live with a friend. The little family of 3 spends most of their time in one tiny bedroom, since the friend is a bachelor and likes to entertain a lot. I joke sometimes that they are couchsurfing in a frat house. They’ve been living like this for 7 months and I can count on one hand the number of stress-free days they’ve had during that time.

Having lived in such tight quarters, one would think a house would be an exciting upgrade. I was pretty excited and it’s not even my house. So I bet you’ll never guess the the first thing they said…

It’s really small.”

The house is 950 sq. ft. with 2 bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, and a yard.

I don’t think the comment was meant to sound ungrateful. Rather, I think it is simply another indicator of how flawed our way of thinking is here in America. Bigger is always better and status is indicated by where you live and what you drive.

The sad reality is that this young couple is already so clouded by their perceived obligations and societal expectations that they fail to see the real gift in what they’ve been given – opportunity.

Small is the new big when it comes to life-changing opportunities.

  • A small home means cleaning is no big deal.
  • Small homes don’t need big furniture…or the big expense required to buy it.
  • Small payments makes it easy to save big dollars for the future.
  • A small footprint makes a big difference in creating a greener environment.
  • Small homes don’t have big utilities bills.
  • Small obligations mean there’s more time (and more money) for big adventures.
  • Small obligations also give you time to learn and grow as a couple, making a big impact on the quality of your relationship.
  • Small homes don’t have big storage spaces when means less accumulation of junk.
  • Small yards are perfect for planting small gardens, which make a big difference in eating healthy and saving money.

I could probably go on and on.

We know all these things to be true because we’ve been living small for the past 5 years and it has been the best thing we’ve ever done for ourselves. Freedom is really the only status symbol that matters and living small goes a long way in helping achieve that goal.

If I could give this young couple the gift of wisdom, I would, but it takes time and experience to come to the realization that less is more. I hope that they will get there one day and I hope that when they do, they’ll carry with them the many wonderful lessons they’re about to learn by living small.