The Top 10 Myths About Tiny House Living

After living in our house for nearly 8 months, we’ve learned that expectations about the tiny life are often not equal to the reality.  Take our first-hand experience: here’s our countdown of Myths & Facts About Tiny House Life!

Myth 10: “A door that is mostly glass basically functions as an extra window, right?”

FACT: Yes, this is true but with one downside: at night the glass attracts moths and bugs, which fly in whenever you open the door!  And since it’s a tiny house…well, once a bug is inside you’ll know it’s there.  With a screened window or opaque door you rarely will have this problem.

Myth 9: “I’m worried about keeping the house warm, so I should splurge on insulation and a powerful heater.”

FACT: Keeping a tiny house warm is easy.  Although many people choose spray foam or SIP panels, unless you’re in climate zones 6 or above you don’t need high-performance insulation.  It might be cheaper, even in the long run, to go with a mid-performance toweldryinginsulation.  I actually recommend slightly undersizing your heater – you don’t want to cook yourself out of your loft every time your oversized heater turns on!  On those rare extra-cold days you can always add supplemental warmth.  Remember that cooking, electronics, solar gain, and even body heat all add up.

Myth 8: “When building your house, it’s ok to move in during construction once it’s livable.”

FACT:  Personally we recommend waiting as long as possible to move in, at least until after everything you deem essential has been completed.  If you wouldn’t live in the house forever without “x”, then don’t move in before “x” is finished.  Because the longer you live in the house, the less and less likely you’ll make progress on it, at least not very quickly.  This leads to the next Myth…

Myth 7: “You can always upgrade/finish it later!”

FACT: Yes you can, but will you?  We learned that the smaller the project (like installing one piece of trim or touching up some paint), the longer it will take to actually do.  Once you move in, finishing the last 10% of the house will probably take as long as the first 90%.  We still have plenty of little improvements left to do.

Myth #6: “In the bathroom, you don’t need a fan as long as you have a window.

FACT: I cannot stress it enough, if you have an indoor shower then you need mechanical ventilation in the bathroom to get rid of the steam.  Even with a window open, air circulation in a tiny bathroom is poor.

Myth 5: “I will change my habits once I ‘go tiny’.”

FACT: You’re the same person no matter where you live.  If you’ve always been messy or had a habit of collecting stuff, chances are a tiny house won’t change that.  If you like to entertain, you’ll still host get-togethers at your tiny house.  If you’re happy in your marriage, you’ll probably stay happy.  On the flip side, remember that a house cannot fix what is wrong with our lives or our relationships.

Myth 4: “I’m going to travel around a lot with my tiny house!”

FACT: While it is possible to tow a tiny house to new locations, moving something that big is difficult, slow, costly, and somewhat risky for the structure and other drivers.  A handful of people do travel frequently with their tiny homes, but usually they have lots of towing experience, a heavy-duty truck, and/or their house is very tiny.  Honestly, an airstream or RV is the best bet if you plan to move regularly.  Even though our house is on wheels, we hope to move it not more than once and will definitely hire a professional.

Myth #3: “Painting trim and wall paneling once it’s inside and nailed up is easiest.”

FACT: Paint and stain things OUTSIDE.  Painting things once they are in place is risky.  Tiny splatters get everywhere no matter how careful you are or how many drop cloths you put down (tried it).  Plan on lots of painters tape and clean up drips immediately.   The benefit of painting inside is that you don’t have to worry about debris or rain messing up the paint while it dries.  We learned that bugs like checking out wet paint so be watchful of this.

Myth #2: “It doesn’t really matter what primer you use.  You only need one coat anyways.”

FACT:  Even though you’ll never see primer in your finished project, it is important.  If painting knotty pine, be sure to apply several coats of BIN shellac primer to seal up the knots.  Especially on light colored paint, the resins from knots will bleed through eventually – even when using 2 coats of high quality paint.  We skimped on the BIN for some boards and had knots bleed through our white paint.  Boy is it ugly.  For regular priming (wood with few knots) we like Kilz or Ben Moore.  We tried a cheap generic primer and the coverage was not good, so you get what you pay for.

….And the #1 Biggest Myth of All….

“A tiny house is so much easier to clean than a regular house!”

FACT:  While it is true that there is less physical area to clean, things get dirty way faster than in a regular house (especially with our new kitten).  Dust and messes get concentrated in a small space instead of diffused around, so you’ll need to clean more often but in shorter bursts.  Bedding also seems to get dirty/gritty faster – maybe because the bed is on the floor or it’s easier to track in stuff?  Due to the tendency for higher humidity, you also have to be vigilant about noticing if mold is forming anywhere.  Living tiny makes you stay on top of picking up.  We can’t delay taking out the trash or leaving dirty dishes because the house will start to smell.

Cleaning a little bit every single day is the key.  For example, we sweep every day, wash bedding once a week, and dust all surfaces about twice a month.  A swiffer or small vaccum is helpful for getting fine dust and hairs that escape regular sweeping.

Hopefully this post gives you some insight about the rewards and realities of living tiny!

 

Our New Kitten!

Meet Zuko!

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He’s a 4 month old Siberian kitten.  Siberians are large semi-longhair cats known for their doglike personalities.  They love being near people and are inquisitive.  Best of all they are low-allergen, which is good for me since living in a tiny house would only exacerbate my cat allergies!
IMG_1278.JPGI was worried that the tiny house might be too cramped for an active kitten, but he seems perfectly happy.  He loves simple toys like paper bags, drinking straws, and feathers.  The litter box fits perfectly between the fridge and the wall so it is unnoticeable.

Zuko is already a pro at navigating the stairs and loves hanging out on the edge of the loft.  When we’re in the kitchen he enjoys watching us from the “catwalk” atop our cabinets.  There are so many things to climb on and toys to chase around that he gets plenty of exercise, and every evening we have a vigorous play session.  He likes hunting moths and mosquitos that get inside, which is good except when it happens at 1 AM!

Zuko is slowly getting to know the resident kitty, Sylvester, who lives with Nate’s momFullSizeRender-1.  Sylvester was unsure about the baby at first but every day seems more comfortable.  The kitten is totally unphased and tries to invite Sylvester to play, so hopefully they will be buddies in no time  🙂

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How to Be That Happy Tiny House Couple

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I recently read an article entitled, “How Do Couples Live in Tiny Homes Without Killing Each Other?”  If you’re going tiny with a significant other, maintaining a happy relationship is an obvious goal.  In truth, it’s easy to survive in a tiny house as a couple – the real challenge is thriving and growing your love.

Instead of focusing on how couples can avoid negative outcomes when living in close proximity, let’s talk about how relationships can flourish!  Early on, it is wise to start preparing your relationship and expectations.  This is especially true if building the house together.

Tiny House Benefits for Couples Include:

  • Getting better at resolving disagreements efficiently.  Door-slamming and quiet-treatments won’t work!
  • Living tiny means being a team player and intuitively sensing your partner’s needs.
  • When working on the house, you will gain a better understanding of yourself and each other when dealing with stressful situations.  It’s good practice for future life IMG_1081challenges.
  • For some people, a smaller house results in less stress about money, reducing this common source of relationship tension.
  • A tiny home is not a death sentence to a couple’s social life!  Our table fits up to 6 people.  Entertaining is totally doable.

In terms of actually living with your partner, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • You can’t be weirded out by seeing them naked around the house.  There simply aren’t doors to shut.  You have to get dressed somewhere and usually the bathroom isn’t convenient or big enough.
  • Be on the same page about cleanliness.  Any messes becomes amplified in a small
    space.  If one person is a neat freak and the other has a high tolerance for dirtiness/clutter, there could be problems.  Our approach is to have the division of
    labor be “fair but not equal.”  This means assigning responsibilities based on each person’s strengths and predilections instead of dividing up every chore 50/50.

    • For example, I am in charge of all laundry and Nate takes the lead on propane fill-ups and fixing stuff.  For daily chores we are both conscientious about pitching in equally.
  • Some people need lots of alone time, which can be hard to come by when you’re never more than ~20 ft away from that person.  Encourage them to set aside time for themselves (read here for our tips about creating psychological distance and specific advice for introvert-extrovert couples).
  • Talking about relationships in a tiny house isn’t complete without bringing up the topic of sex.  It’s unfortunate that this has historically been taboo to discuss, yetFullSizeRender-1
    many people are concerned about how a small bedroom in a low loft might affect this part of their relationship.  Ceiling height does impose some restrictions, but it’s easy to get used to.  A cozy loft is great for cuddling, encourages less clutter, and stays warm in winter.  You can install a wall-to-wall curtain for extra privacy.

Small Homes Are Not A New Trend

Many people have said to me, “I could never live in a tiny house with my boyfriend/husband/etc!”  I agree that sure, a tiny house is not for everyone.  It is a unique way of life and might require some sacrifices, physically and psychologically.  But the belief that it would make your happiness or relationships suffer is only true if you let it be.  There are thousands and thousands of happy couples living in RVs, simple cottages, studio apartments, etc.  For the majority of human history, families have lived and thrived in intimate dwellings.  In the grand scheme of things, what we think of as the “average home” has not been the norm and in fact may have negative consequences like too much debt.  Having a large home with multiple rooms does allow for greater physical space and privacy, which some people feel is necessary to be happy and comfortable.  However, a small house can achieve similar feelings with the right layout, planning,Lovebirds-GettyImages-510427100-58d005853df78c3c4f3b36e3 and a little adaptation.  Then the challenge becomes paring down excessive material stuff!

Conclusion.  Living tiny with someone else means being patient, self-aware, and working through challenges together.  For us the rewards are worth it.  If you have a happy relationship before downsizing, chances are it will stay that way or grow even stronger!

We will have some exciting news next week… Rose Home is about to get a whole lot cuter with a new fluffy addition…

“Where Do You Poop?” Tiny House Toilet Tutorial

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Many tiny houses use composting toilets, which are especially great for off-grid dwellings.  There are many different types: some of the commercial models do the composting inside the actual toilet (and are therefore very large).  Other units separate the liquid waste from the solids, which cuts down on odor and makes it easier to empty.  There are lots of options!

Our toilet is a bucket filled with sawdust that we get at a local lumber mill.  It may seem primitive but this set-up is cheap and saves water.  It’s crazy how much clean water gets wasted in conventional toilets!  The composting method can eventually turn human “waste” into fertilizer for trees and flowers.

How does a sawdust toilet work?

Our toilet is the same size as a conventional one.  Basically you pee into it like normal, but put toilet paper in the trash.   Nate empties the bucket into a compost pile in the woods about twice a week.  Then he rinses out the bucket and refills with shavings.  Yes, this is Nate’s chore!  But he’d take toilet duty over laundry and changing the sheets any day, so it’s a fair trade 🙂

So, what about poop?  The short answer is that we do not poop in the tiny house because we want to go longer between having to clean and empty the toilet.

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Bathroom storage

Because of our self-imposed no-poop rule, there is some timing involved to ensure that #2 happens when we’re out of the house.  Sometimes we use the bathroom in the “big house” nearby.  We occasionally use the “big house” for other things like the oven, laundry, and watching movies on the giant TV.  We’re lucky to have our own little home and privacy, yet still enjoy the comforts of a “regular” house.  We definitely could live totally isolated in the tiny house if we had to, but there’s nothing wrong with sharing some amenities with family and helping them with things in return.  So it’s a win-win!

When we are more settled in our careers, we hope to find our own land for the tiny house.  In the meantime it is in a good place!

 

Two Things I Would’ve Done Differently

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Previously I discussed some of our best tiny house decisions and investments.  While we love everything overall, there are some things I would do differently if I could build it again!

Windows.  Most of our windows had to be ordered new and are from a pricier brand.  They are nice, but we definitely could have saved money in this area if we searched for more windows from bargain building stores and worked those sizes into our design (we were able to do this for 2 windows, so that’s better than nothing!).  Sometimes, local window suppliers (or people on Craigslist) will have perfectly good windows for very cheap that were mis-ordered.  Their loss is your gain!  If we had the time, we IMG_2188_Fotorwould’ve looked for more windows in roughly the sizes & styles we wanted then worked the design/framing plan around them.  Even a small new special-ordered window (like the ones in the photos) can cost over $250!  So I’d recommend looking around for windows before finalizing your construction blueprints.

On the plus side, special-ordering your windows means that you can have them delivered all at once and they are guaranteed to match and be the exact sizes you want.

Choosing your windows first does have downsides: it takes lots of luck and driving around to find the right windows, especially if you want them to be the same color.  And this method won’t work if you don’tIMG_1069 have much flexibility how the structure is framed, such as if you are unable to edit your construction blueprints.  For instance, if you bought building plans online and aren’t familiar with framing best practices (stud & header requirements, etc.), I wouldn’t go messing with the window sizes and placement.  Different window manufacturers offer different sizing increments, so pay attention to this if you use a different brand than is specified in your plans.

Flooring.  Towards the end of our build we needed to save money and therefore chose the cheapest flooring we could find.  You get what you pay for!  Like most bargain laminates, it dents easily and is vulnerable to water damage.  We also made the mistake of choosing a very dark color, which ironically does not hide dirt and dust well at all.  At least we know when the floor needs cleaning, and it does look nice when it’s clean!  If I could do it over, I would spend a little more on a water-resistant, scratch-proof flooring.  Flooring really takes a beating in a tiny house especially in the New England climate so it’s wise to prioritize durability.  Luckily it’s not too much kittycouchwork to upgrade the flooring later if we need to.

The good news is that neither of these “dislikes” are that bad.  Pretty much everything else about the tiny house I would have done the same. Which is amazing considering we had no idea what we were doing!

 

 

Product Reviews: What’s Hot and What’s Not

What we think about our tiny house purchases…

flameHampton H12 Stove.  This is probably my favorite purchase.  It heats the tiny house no problem: in about 20 minutes it can heat up the house by 5 degrees, which is great for when we get up in the morning.  We keep the heat at 56 when we sleep!  I know that sounds chilly but since heat rises and the stove is directly under the bedroom loft, we stay warm.  I would not have chosen a bigger or more powerful unit; this one is just right and so darned cute.  It comes with a remote control thermostat and is not too hot to sit in front of like a wood stove or electric heater might be.

Tankless water heater.  I have mixed feelings about tankless water heaters.  On the plus side, we get unlimited hot water.  And it gets plenty hot.  Our heater is from the brand rinnai-v65ip.jpg;width=400;height=400;bgcolor=White;scale=both;.jpegRinnai and is energy efficient and direct-vented, meaning it draws combustion air from the outside (i.e., better for indoor air quality).  On the downside, the water doesn’t come out hot instantly like it would with a tank heater.  So it’s a bummer if you just want to wash your hands or 1-2 dishes, as  it’s not really worth it to heat up the water for like 20 seconds of use.  On the upside, a tankless water heater can be mounted to the wall instead of resting on the floor.

Roxul insulation.  A winner here!  I know a lot of people go with spray foam for tiny houses to make them super efficient but I think Roxul is the best bang for your buck.  ItFullSizeRender performs better than fiberglass.  It is water-resistant, great at blocking sound, and fireproof.  We even have little shreds of Roxul that came with our gas stove to function as glowing “embers”.  You should wear gloves and a dust mask when handling it but it’s safer than fiberglass and won’t shift or sag.  It is a great compromise between price, energy efficiency, and ease of installation.  Learn about our experience installing it here.

Magic Chef Fridge.  The perfect size.  Not too loud.  Freezer on bottom.  Comes in 3 colors.  Affordable.  You can’t get any better than that!  This fridge doesn’t stick out much beyond the counter which provides a sleek look in any kitchen.  You’ll also notice our wonderful FullSizeRender.jpgmagnetic knife holder (we got ours on Amazon).

In other news we are glad to report that we were able to get insurance for Rose Home!  This is amazing because it is very difficult to insure a self-built tiny house on wheels.  Hopefully nothing will ever happen to Rose Home but it’s nice having the peace of mind.

 

 

How We Fit Our Stuff in 300 Sq Ft

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**News Flash** Thinking of going tiny?  We are offering a Tiny House Workshop AND tour on April 22!   

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Entryway storage

We’ve been working on making storage space for our belongings – not an easy feat!  We spent the last 2 years culling our clutter and slimming down our wardrobes.  Stuff doesn’t accumulate overnight, and it doesn’t go away overnight either.

Here are our tips for maximizing storage potential!

  • Muddy shoes and bulky coats can quickly make a mess.  We have coat hooks and a table near the door to keep outdoor gear from invading the house.
  • Hanging clothes takes up space, so fold when you can. Open shelving is great!
  • Have a mix of lower and upper storage, with your most-used items stored between
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    Loft clothes storage

    waist and eye level.

  • Fold underwear & socks!  I was skeptical about this, but it is so orderly and frees up a lot of space.  Put socks flat on top of each other.  Fold ankle down to the heel and tuck toe inside – makes a perfect bundle.img_0806
  • We have 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 spoons, 4 mugs… you get the idea.  Having fewer kitchen items also ensures we stay on top of doing dishes!
  • Embrace simplicity.  Sometimes one quality item in a given category is all you really need.  Your lifestyle and climate will determine whether the “rule of one” is feasible.  I have 4 winter coats, but since the coats are very different and winter is like half the year here, that’s a good number for me!
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Lofts offer great storage … or a place to curl up with a good book 🙂