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.
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!
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 would’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’t 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 work 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!
Hampton 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 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. It 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 magnetic 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.
**News Flash** Thinking of going tiny? We are offering a Tiny House Workshop AND tour on April 22!
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
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.
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!
Cat Pro Tip: Surprise them when they least expect it!
At least he’s safe and sound now, but would’ve been nice if he cleared the snow off while he was dancing on the roof ^_^ Afterwards I let him nap on the bed… on my beautiful linen duvet. I can’t seem to stop spoiling this little mischief-maker!
In other news the tiny life is great! We entertained more friends last night. Our propane stove has been keeping us toasty, though it needs to be filled once a week when the weather’s this cold. It’s a bit inconvenient when the propane runs out since it doesn’t give much warning. At least the fill station is close to our gym and grocery store. At some point perhaps we’ll get a bigger tank, but the 40lb tank is the largest we can carry around. Hopefully warmer weather is around the corner!
Is it showering? Nope, we have a normal 3′ x 3′ shower. Using a composting toilet? No, got used to it. Changing the sheets? Well yes, that is annoying…but not even scooting around on the floor to make the bed compares to the difficulty of my newest obsession.
I got hooked on a hobby that is pretty much a nightmare for living in a small space. That hobby is QUILTING!
If you sew, you know how much space is required: you need a giant table to spread out your fabric, cutting mat, and sewing machine. You need an ironing board and storage for fabrics. You need a big open space to spread out the quilt layers. I guess all my quilts will be under 5′ wide, which is the widest useable part of the house!
How did I get addicted to quilting?I got this antique sewing machine from my aunt. It’s so old it was made in West Germany! I wanted to make a quilt because we need a nice-looking blanket. Plus, Nate’s mom has tons of fabric that is begging to be used, and I enjoy having a project to keep me busy (and from catching cabin fever again).
Making it work.The sewing supplies tuck away in the 9″ crevice separating the bathroom and living room. No space goes unused! The downside of sewing is that it makes a complete mess: lint and thread pieces EVERYWHERE, so each session is followed by a thorough cleaning.
Quilting in a tiny house is a challenge, but it’s sew fun!
A house becomes a home when filled with great food and warm hearts. Our first dinner party at the tiny house was a success (check out my friend Sarah’s wonderful tiny house)!
Rose Home is great for entertaining because the stairs fold up against the wall to make
extra room. That way more people can fit at the table (the main purpose of the white “bench” is actually to hide our plumbing and the trailer fender!). I hope to make a pretty cushion for it soon.
Speaking of the stairs, we love them! They go up and down in a snap and are sturdy to walk on. A lot of work went into making them thanks to our carpenter friend Colin.
Cooking in a tiny house: cramped chaos or piece of cake? While it’s difficult to change the size of your kitchen, certain cooking methods can make things a whole lot easier.
Most meals are cooked on the grill, in the crock pot, or on the hotplate. Grilling beats crockpot, crockpot beats hotplate. And not cooking obviously beats everything 🙂
I know “hotplate” doesn’t sound very upscale or good for people who cook every day. I was skeptical at first and thought we had to have a “real” stove with multiple burners. But the hotplate is great. It gets hot and cooks pretty evenly, and we never need more than 1 burner at a time. When we’re not using the cooktop, it is stored in our cabinets out of the way. That way we have maximum uninterrupted counter space.
We do have a good-sized toaster/convection oven, but we haven’t used it much. Our electric kettle, on the other hand, gets used daily! In fact I think it’s time for some tea now ^_^