What is a tiny home? It can be tricky to pin down exactly how many square feet a house must come in under to be considered “tiny.” According to the Small House Society — a cooperative organization founded by tiny-house pioneers Jay Shafer, Shay Salomon, Nigel Valdez and Gregory Paul Johnson to promote smaller housing alternatives — “it’s not a movement about people claiming to be ‘tinier than thou’ but rather people making their own choices toward simpler and smaller living however they feel best fits their life.” Size is relative — so although generally speaking, a tiny house is under 400 square feet or so, the most important thing seems to be the intention to reduce living space to the minimum the occupants feel they need.
1. Consider what you could be giving up by living tiny. There is no avoiding the fact that scaling down a living space requires significant sacrifices — but not all of the things you may need to give up are negative. Look over this list and imagine what it would feel like to cut back on or go without some or all of these things:
Personal space: If you live with a partner or kids, what would it feel like to live in much closer quarters with them?
Bills: A smaller space means less to heat; using solar power could reduce energy bills even further. Going tiny could even mean forgoing a mortgage altogether, or taking out a smaller loan that can be paid off in a shorter amount of time.
Debt: A lower cost of living makes it easier to live within your means or to pay off debts you have, like student loans.
Clutter: Living tiny teaches you to have only what you love, use and need.
Objects you love: Scaling back your living space may force you to make some tough choices, including giving up cherished furniture and objects.
Big gatherings: While you could host larger groups outdoors, it’s unlikely you would be able to host Thanksgiving for the whole clan in your tiny home. (Is that a good or a bad thing? You decide!)
Environmental impact: If reducing your impact on the environment is important to you, living in a tiny home is a great way to reduce waste and energy consumption.
2. Consider what you could gain by living tiny. The tiny-home movement is about making an intentional choice to live in a much smaller house — and what motivates many is not what they have to give up in space, but what they can potentially gain in life. Consider how it would feel to live with more of these things in your life:
Financial (and job) freedom: Lower bills mean more savings for the future, and more freedom to pursue work you love.
Freedom to travel: A tiny house can easily be closed up while you travel and would require little upkeep while you are away.
Simplicity: With less to buy, fix and furnish, life is simpler.
More time outdoors: A smaller interior space makes the outdoors beckon.
Community: Likewise, having less of your own means you’re more likely to tap into your network of friends and neighbors, and the community at large.
Good design: Going tiny means it’s easier to afford better materials and design.
Time: Less surface area means you could clean your entire house in a few minutes.
3. Consider your priorities in a home. In a tiny home, you can’t have it all, so it’s important to be intentional about what you prioritize. You don’t need to sacrifice all luxuries; on the contrary, if you have a pro build your tiny house to fit your needs, you can decide what is important to you. High ceilings, full-size appliances, a washer and dryer, big windows, a sauna, a place to work? Take a few moments to jot down your own personal list of home priorities — try to whittle it down to your top three to five things.
4. Consider your life priorities. Thinking about the bigger picture for a moment, consider what is most important to you in life. Have you always wanted to travel more? Be near your grandchildren? Start your own business?
Now weigh those life goals and dreams against your current lifestyle and home size — would living tiny help you realize a dream you’ve put on hold?