why a tiny house

a tiny house

A few years back, I decided I wanted to build a tiny house. A few months after I decided, my husband got on board also. ;)

It's easier to tell people today as there's all these TV shows and whatnot, so nearly everyone knows what a tiny house is. I don't have to start by explaining that.

But I still get the question all the time about why not just buy an RV?

My answer is not necessarily applicable to anyone else, but honestly I did consider an RV first.

RV living - I'm a research-aholic

Several years ago, I began thinking about the fact that we were never going to save for land. I've been disabled for a long time and Steve's income doesn't leave a whole lot to spare. His aunt mentioned she was thinking of doing full-time RVing so I looked into it. My thinking was if we could cut living expenses way down, we'd be able to actually save for land again even on one income.

Being me, I spent literally hundreds of hours on forums and reading literature from both traditional and alternative RV manufacturers. I ran across several issues that gave me pause.

First, though there's such a thing as a 4-season RV, not really. Not for living in Ontario (where we want to buy land) without freezing your butt off. You need walls, a floor and a roof with serious insulation for Ontario. Most full-time RVers seem to be snowbirds, they fly south for the winter. Since we want to homestead and I can't haul my chickens and a milk cow to Florida every winter, this didn't seem particularly feasible.

Second, once you have read a very long forum thread in which many people recount the disasters they had involving blackwater tanks, you really, really don't ever want one. In our previous research, when we were saving directly for land and planning to build right on it, we had run across the notion of composting toilets. My thinking for an RV was the first thing I'd do would be rip out the toilet and stick in something that didn't use that stupid tank.

Third is the whole convertible thing. Steve is an early bird; I am a night owl. We cannot sleep in a bed that folds up into our kitchen table or such or each of us is going to spend many hours lying awake each day. Further, I have literally been sitting 4-5 ft from the bed when fatigue struck bad and was barely able to make it to bed; I can't be unfolding or unwinding my bed at a time like that. I also found in the forums the guy who had the interesting conundrum of having his slideouts stuck open at a campground when the mechanism failed - and he was hundreds of miles from a dealer. I want everything I use regularly to BE there all the time whether I'm using it or not!

Finally, I never found a floorplan that was remotely like what I wanted. In our current home, we have both a king-sized and full-sized bed. The full-size is just not big enough with us and all the cats. I don't think the king is necessary, but at least a queen would be. We've previously been truck drivers sometimes sleeping in the same bunk and I know I don't want to crawl over anyone or be crawled over during the night. So the bed had to be accessible from both sides. This will fit in a 7 1/2 ft wide space. And a few RV manufacturers offered it. But every floorplan with that bed setup also had bunks elsewhere. As if there's no chance anyone would want to get in-and-out of a queen-sized bed comfortably without having a passel of children and twice the size of RV as they need.

And Then I Found Tumbleweed

Honestly, I have as many problems with Tumbleweed houses as I do with RVs.

They seem to be designed for urban living, with the assumption that you can grocery shop every day and will never need more than a tiny sink and a burner or two for cooking. Not me, I often use 3 burners at a time. And while I can live without roasting a 30 lb turkey, I cannot live without roasting a 6-lb chicken. I need a real kitchen.

They don't have any facilities for laundry as they assume you're using a laundromat or the facilities in the house you're parked in the backyard of. Given we want to live remotely, this is just not do-able; an hour's drive to do laundry is just not feasible.

Nearly all the models have a loft bedroom, to minimize floorspace while staying under the 13' 6" limit for height. I can't climb a ladder several times a night in the dark to pee. No.

But it wasn't the Tumbleweed models themselves that hooked me. It was the idea. The idea of building an ordinary stick-built house, with real insulation in the floor, walls and roof. And if built ourselves, we're not at the mercy of anyone else's idea of what our floorplan should be. We can build what WE want and need specifically.

I wanted a shed roof, with one wall much higher than the other. I wanted a bunch of windows above the living space on the higher wall to make it seem bigger. I want my bed as discussed and a real, if relatively tiny, kitchen. As time has gone on, we've discovered more things we want as we discuss ideas, discarding some, saving others.

And finally tiny houses, unlike RVs, are often incredibly cute. ;)

Where We Are Now

Our tiny dream got postponed for several years, as hubby needed cataract surgery, which required borrowing a lot of money plus much time off work. But as soon as we were out of debt, we began discussing it again.

The house we rent is rural and we have lots of tools. We've built many projects, a couple coops, a ramp, a lightstand for plants. We helped on the build of a real house once. And we can do this right in our yard.

In PA where we currently live, homemade trailers can be registered once inspected by a third party. And any trailer can have it's title upgraded to an RV with a simple inspection proving it has a kitchen and bathroom. So licensing isn't a problem and since they're taxed as vehicles, not real property, your taxes go down every year instead of up.

Instead of having to save lots of money, move to Ontario, then look for work, once we've got the thing built, we can drive up for a couple days here and there and move immediately when he finds work, landing in an RV park temporarily. We won't have to worry about an apartment or land until after we get there, giving us plenty of time to look. So it greatly simplifies our life plan. (Will an RV park let me have a cow? How about chickens?)

I did the math once and figured even if we stayed here, paying the full rent on this house, but lived in the tiny house instead, we'd save several thousand a year just in utility costs cause this is an old, uninsulated, stone house. So even if we never moved, we could live better here and now in a tiny house.

There are a lot of other advantages. My disability precludes being able to keep this place clean. A tiny house would be a lot easier to keep up with.

When we were truck drivers together, hubby was pretty good about keeping the truck neat. A small space seems to do that for him. In this place, there are multiple piles of laundry about that are not in baskets. So I'm rather thinking living with him will be more pleasant in a tiny house.

My own biggest issue will be food. My chest freezer is still half full, mostly with produce from last year's garden. But there's also a month's worth of beef and pork from one farmer. And 4 whole chickens from another farmer. And in the non-freezer category, we have over 100 jars of canned food, a 15 lb squash, and several boxes of potatoes. Without the ability to put up garden produce and buy in bulk when I have to drive distances to different farmers, food will definitely cost more in a tiny house, especially if we land in an RV park for a time.

We're in the planning stage, but plans can't be finalized until we have the actual trailer. We're saving for that now, with the notion of wanting a gooseneck trailer at the full 102" legal width, between 30-40 ft in length.

Meanwhile, I read build blogs (those which have the entire story beginning-to-end with pictures and long descriptions) and follow some Facebook tiny house sites where discussion occurs. I do love the build blogs especially and read each backwards when I find one, which usually costs me many hours! We intend to document our tiny build here beginning the day we get the trailer so people like me can enjoy reading it.

So that's the "why" for us - because it's a feasible way to get to the life we want and besides the darned things are adorable.

Image credit: Adapted from "Tiny house, Portland" by Tammy - Weekend with Dee. Licensed under CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons