Want to Live Tiny? A Few Thoughts on Preparing….

*Photo taken in Ely, NV, showing our beloved Aluminum Falcon. How we miss her! We are so ready to get back to living tiny.


*If you like my blog posts, consider taking one of my courses, which you can find on my Resources, Courses, and Short Stories page.


If you have been considering living tiny and have yet to take the plunge, let me encourage you to dip your toes in the pool first. Since Michael and I made the choice to live tiny in our Airstream, we both agree we have no desire to ever live large again. Living in the Airstream gave us a little over 200 square feet of space, and neither of us missed the space from our home of about 1600 square feet once we got on the road. Some folks have reasonable trepidation about scaling down a household to fit into a small trailer or RV, but there are ways to try the lifestyle without too much commitment before you go whole hog. Then again, I also appreciate those who are willing to take the risk without knowing the outcome, which is what Michael and I did to some degree. As I have shared in previous posts, we bought our Airstream sight unseen and began living in it the day of purchase, followed shortly by traveling across the country in it immediately. We wasted no time in living the tiny life, though we kept our home in Olean just in case. We did have a back-up plan of sorts, but driving to Nevada from New York really meant we would have to make it work at least for a while. If you’re interested in living tiny, I am going to share some ideas for how you might prepare yourself for such a venture, especially if you plan to travel.

First and foremost, living tiny offers you freedom. Even if you live in a permanent small structure you build with a foundation, you get freedom from having to clean and maintain a massive house, which all by itself is reason enough if you ask me. Since I’ve been back in our Olean house working on it, I have been entirely too overwhelmed by all the housework, the painting, the patching, revitalizing flooring, and especially the STUFF. All the stuff! Holy cow, I didn’t miss it at all, and I can’t wait to get rid of every last bit of stuff I don’t need. Until I lived tiny, I didn’t even realize how much all the stuff weighed me down not just in time, but in my spirit. You worry about keeping things clean and looking nice, not losing them or breaking them, but also you tend to go out and purchase more stuff when you go shopping, which only feeds into the problem. If you walk around your house right now, I imagine you probably have several rooms of stuff full of items you don’t need, don’t use, and wouldn’t miss if you gave it away. For your first foray into living tiny, try this: put a bright sticker on the side of every item you have used in the last week. Every time you use something for the next month, put a sticker on it or next to it, whether clothing or dishes or movies or tables…whatever the item is. After the month is over, you will have a general idea of what things in your house really matter to you, and that you find are necessary.

When you live tiny, you also see space differently. While you might think that living in a small space would mean that you feel confined, annoyed by the other people with whom you live because you are on top of each other all the time, or that you won’t have room to do anything, think again. When Michael and I lived in the Airstream with two dogs on the large side, we were both pleasantly surprised by the fact that our relationship got better in the smaller space. We spent more time doing what we enjoyed, more time outside, and more time having fun. The small space seems to create an atmosphere of intimacy, and I suspect that the close quarters causes one to touch the other occupants in your home more often, and it encourages sharing more conversation, eye contact, and just being closer in general. Even families with several young children who go tiny report that they feel this closeness as a win, not a frustration. It’s the opposite of what you would think, and it really does translate from a sense of intimacy in a relationship to also feeling more intimate with the outdoors. Instead of just having your own backyard, the whole world begins to feel like your playground. Exploring became the norm for us when we went tiny because we could. To test your ability to live in a smaller space, you can start by choosing a room in your house which is close to the size of tiny home you might want to buy or build. Empty the room of everything other than what you believe you need in a tiny house (especially after you did the previous exercise of what you use in a month), and set up the room with only the things you need, including your bed, couch or chairs (pick one or the other), small table, lighting, clothing, shelves, food, dishes and kitchen supplies, and anything else you know you want (but be choosy). Arrange the room so that you have a sort of kitchen if you dare, even going so far as to try cooking on an induction cook top and using a toaster oven if you think that’s how you want to go. If not, use your household kitchen, but tape off all but a small amount of counter space and cupboards. Use only what you believe will fit into a tiny house, and see how it feels to live in that space.

Finally, I suggest deciding whether or not you require mobility. You may want the freedom to roam, which means you will want either an RV or tiny home on a trailer. If you want the freedom to move, know that it comes with some compromise. I do not recommend purchasing an RV new, as the price tag is very high for even small RVs, and they lose value immediately after purchase. Instead, buy one a few years old. One of the biggest challenges of living in an RV has been staying warm when it gets cold, even in warmer areas. No place in the US can avoid some cold weather during the winter months, and it can mean trouble if you aren’t prepared. Knowing how to keep your water supply from freezing is important. You also may require skirting around the base of the RV to keep the underside warmer, and to keep your holding tanks from freezing and potentially cracking (an expensive fix). Having an air exchange is also important when the weather turns colder, as you will run the risk of mold growing from all the condensation created by cooking, breathing, and showering. Heat and air conditioning will be a must for any RV or tiny house, and the insulation must be good enough to keep out both heat and cold, regardless of where you live. I can speak to the worth of having an RV if you plan to move a lot, as our travel trailer is easy to move whenever we want. Tiny homes are certainly mobile if necessary, but a lot of thought needs to go into the build if you plan to travel a lot. Moving once a year is one thing, but moving every couple of weeks or months may be more than a tiny house can handle. It really depends on the build, and whether or not it’s equipped with the same tanks and hook-ups as an RV to allow for ease of travel, especially for long distances.

The other aspect of the mobile lifestyle is whether or not you have a job which allows for this mobility. If you work online, travel might present at least one challenge: internet access. Though this is rarely mentioned in any TV shows or articles, internet has been a huge hassle for us. To date, we have been using a portable WiFi unit which operates using the data from our mobile phone plan. It’s been quite inconvenient. If you want to stream Netflix or Hulu, it uses a lot of bandwidth (even when you set those to low frequency), and then we find ourselves partway through the month with little to no data left because our stupid phone company squelches the line after ten gigs. Though we looked for other options like using a satellite service, that requires a contract, and it was expensive. Relying on the WiFi at RV parks was usually out, since those are public networks which anyone can use, and aren’t safe for banking or making purchases online. Also, there are usually so many people using the WiFi that it gets loaded down and is too slow. Research your internet options and learn what you can do. There’s only so often you can rely on coffee shops or public internet for service, and we found most RV parks don’t have internet access you can link to your RV directly now that so many people use satellite.

Aside from the mobility of your work, be aware of hidden costs of living the RV life. Parking for a night or two seems cheap until you park for a whole month and have to pay the expense of night-to-night parking. Even the less expensive parks will run you over $1,000 in a month if you stay night-to-night, and we found paying for a full month at a time was much cheaper. Each park is different about amenities and whether or not they charge for services, so take that into account, too. The cost of driving gets pricey when you have to tow a trailer, as the gas tank will eat your money much faster when towing. Being mobile can be expensive, so you have to weigh it against how much your monthly bills cost at your large stationary home, and decide whether or not the price is manageable. If you find people who can host you at their property, that would be far more affordable if you can strike up a good deal, especially if they have a septic system you can hook into (a reason why many tiny homes are equipped with composting toilets), and a place for you to hook up your electric and water. With the tiny home community getting bigger every day, there are lots of folks willing to host tiny homes or RVs. On the other hand, if you plan to purchase land and park your tiny home there, you will save yourself loads of cash in a downsize. It all depends on your goals. Even if the expense doesn’t seem to be less, the mobility might make up for that, along with the tiny lifestyle. You will be happier with less, of that I am certain.

While you pare back your wardrobe, kitchen essentials, tool box, and knick-knacks, be mindful of the reasons why you want to live tiny. If you want freedom, mobility, and a simpler life, then living tiny will most likely make you very happy. However, if you are really attached to your collections, your neighborhood, your cars, your massive stereo system, or any other things you own, perhaps you need to find out how much you really can live without. Perhaps you need to get the RV and live on the road for a while, keeping the house and the cars for a while to see how you feel about leaving it all behind you. Michael and I kept our Olean home for over a year while we wandered the country, though we know now that we are dedicated to living tiny. We have no intention of going big again, and can’t wait to unload the weight of all this stuff in all this ungainly space.

Every family is different, but even if you go tiny, it doesn’t have to mean sacrificing everything. If you can build or know someone who can help, you can make your home to suit your needs. Michael and I plan to have a stove with an oven so I can still bake and cook food I love. You don’t have to use a toaster oven if you want a real oven. Just find an apartment-sized oven, and do the same for a fridge. Find a way to incorporate the means for your space to serve double duty (like a couch that doubles as a bed, a table that is also a desk, a bench that serves as storage for shoes, etc.). Arrange the space to serve your family needs (like building in a dog kennel under a side table, finding places to store extra seating for guests to visit, getting creative about how you can have a bathtub if you really need one). All things are possible in the tiny home, even when you purchase an RV you remodel to suit your needs. Sometimes that is a great option, because the RV is already built for travel and you can rearrange the interior to make it your own. So many options are out there with tiny homes now, and if you take the time to look up homes on YouTube or watch HGTV shows for a while, you can find a plethora of choices. The sky’s the limit. Think about going tiny. Even with some of the downsides I mentioned, you may find the lifestyle is totally worth the few annoyances. Few people who go tiny regret the decision, and maybe it’s time you find out why. Get out there and find the beauty in the tiny life!


*If you like my blog posts, consider taking one of my courses, which you can find on my Resources, Courses, and Short Stories page.


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