Saruse Family Tiny Home

Welcome to the Saruse Family’s Tiny House! Although tiny, it is filled with a lot of love; Johannah, her husband,Caleb, their four year old daughter,Carli, and two labs.

The Saruse Family

The Saruse Family

I had met Johannah about a year ago,through the “Dreaming of Living In a Tiny Home…” Facebook page, where she would occasionally post her journey of downsizing and the build. If it’s any indication of how appealing Tiny Houses have become; at the time,the Facebook page was under 50 members.Now,it’s already at 7,752! Johannah is one of the first to go from “Dreaming of Living in a Tiny House…” to actually living the dream! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Johannah.

Before the BIG Move

unpacking

unpacking

What was life like before the move?

We had a 3 bedroom, 2100 sq ft house in a nice neighborhood with almost an acre lot. We had lots of upgrades and did lots of remodeling. It was perfect until…see next question :)

 

What inspired you to try living with less?

I came across the book “You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap)” and its all about living with less, minimalism, and downsizing. It mentioned Dee Williams and her tiny house and of course I didn’t believe it was possible to live in something so small so I had to google it. The book was great, I was intrigued by all of the minimalist ideas and in love with tiny houses by the time I was done. I started cleaning out our house and getting rid of the excess immediately, my husband panicked and didn’t want to leave the house for fear of what I would get rid of next! I cleaned out the clutter and organized room by room. Then we decided to see if we could live in less square footage so we sold off the extra furniture emptied the bonus room and closed it off, then the spare bedroom, then the breakfast room. Somewhere in the process we attended a tiny house workshop and decided we would build one. We ordered a trailer thinking we would build a tiny house just as a fun project – either travel in it or sell it for extra income. After lots of begging and pleading and making my case, I finally convinced my husband we could do this, we could really live in a tiny house.

What other tiny homes inspired you?

I’m not sure that any one tiny house inspired me to build one (even though they are just ALL adorable). I built one because the ideals inspired me…Minimalism, Freedom, Flexibility, Being Debt-Free, More Time with my Family, etc

 

What were your fears going into this lifestyle?

Without a doubt my #1 fear was the composting toilet. #2 was have we lost our minds. #3 How do our two large dogs fit into the picture? We really didn’t have many fears, we knew going in that at any time this situation is reversible. We can always sell the tiny house and rent or buy a traditional house if we are miserable.

 

 

Building the Tiny House

What kind of trailer did you use?

We bought two 20 ft trailers from Tiny Home Builders, one for us and one for my dad who is in the process of building his. I don’t remember the exact name for it but we have the lower trailer that gave us the extra few inches in the interior. We also ended up extending it 2 ft making it 22 ft long. Because our original intention was not to live in it ourselves, we thought 20 ft was plenty.

 

 

Tiny Home specs?

We maxed out everything, width and height and weight.
How long did it take to build? We started on Mother’s Day and moved in the first week of December so almost 7 months. We primarily worked only on the weekends.

 
How much did it really cost to build?

We stayed under $20K and there were lots of things we chose to splurge for and spend extra on so a tiny house could easily be built for less.

 
What was DIY and what did you leave to the pros?

We did everything ourselves.

 
Did you salvage materials or use all new? What would you recommend buying new?

We came across the doors at habitat for humanity but really we bought everything new. It was just easier to us.

 
What were your MUST HAVES?

Separate bedrooms with doors (and enough room for our king size bed), mini split heat and air system, full size appliances in the kitchen with plenty of counter space and of course the big screen TV.

 
If you had to do it all over again, what would you change the second time around?

We would have definitely started with the 24ft trailer it was a huge project to extend 2ft and those extra 2ft would have given us a little extra space in the bathroom or living room. We don’t think the sink in the bathroom is necessary you are so close to the kitchen sink so this space could have been used for something else. We didn’t put a fan/vent over the oven and the house is so insulated it holds all of the heat in, even in the middle of winter by the time dinner was on the table (aka tv trays lol) we felt like we were in a sauna. I do miss my disposal, this is such a little thing but I’d love to have this item back.

First wall up!

First wall up!

 

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Tiny House Living

How has life improved for your family?

We have so much more free time because we don’t have a huge house or yard to maintain/repair or clean. We just went on a week long cruise vacation and by day 5 my daughter said “I miss my tiny house.” We are living in close quarters but having so much fun and enjoying it. We spend lots more quality time as a family and do many more family activities. We have really gotten a lot closer the last few months. Especially with the winter behind us we are spending lots more time enjoying the outdoors than we have in the past.

What is the biggest challenge?

Climbing the ladder to the loft after leg day at the gym :P But seriously, while that is a true story the biggest challenge is the dogs. They get in our way and we have to step over them all the time. They don’t have much space so we have to be sure to let them out often and walk them A LOT.

What are you most proud of?

I’m very proud that we did this all ourselves…from design to the finished product. We literally have people betting on how long we will last in the tiny house so I’m very proud to be proving them all wrong. We haven’t been this happy in a long time and we have no plans of moving out anytime in the near future.

Any Advice to future tiny housers?

Spend a lot of time on design and really think through how you use your house. We had to come up with new systems for everything. You really can’t be dirty or unorganized in a tiny house or your house will feel extra tiny. For example, we have to immediately fold laundry and put it away or we can’t sit on the couch. I think people overlook things like where will I put my dirty clothes or fold my dirty clothes, where will I put dishes while they dry since I don’t have a dishwasher. When you think about how much stuff you have did you really think about everything? What about the cleaning supplies or extra toilet paper? You still need those, not in the same quantities but you still need them. We rarely eat out and mostly cook at home, in our original plan we didn’t have a pantry. It was something we just forgot to think about. At the last second during the build, we tweaked our plans and added one. I am so thankful we did, I can’t imagine what we would do without that pantry.

What is in your Tiny house’s future?

Temporarily we are in an RV Park, we are planning to relocate to a new city or even state soon and buy land to park the tiny house. Probably at some point as our daughter gets older, we may build a bigger house 500-800 sq ft and do it debt free while we live in the tiny house but for now, we are loving the tiny life.

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Let there be light!

Let there be light!

Inaugural Trip to the weigh in station!

Inaugural Trip to the weigh in station!

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Check out the inside of this van, It’s amazing!

Recently Logan, who is buying a trailer from us for his upcoming tiny house build, was passing through Atlanta and wanted to hand deliver his deposit to me. When I was talking to him on the phone beforehand he told me that when we meet he was going to show me the inside of his van Disappointed smile I told him that was probably not the best thing to say to get people to meet with him Smile

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When I ended up seeing what he was talking about I was pleasantly surprised. Logan has spent the last couple years remodeling the inside of a used Sprinter van to best meet the needs of his active lifestyle, and he’s done an amazing job.

The first thing you’ll notice is the outside looks like a standard work van. He added the extra side windows, but other than that it looks pretty plain. That’s important since he wants to be able to park, and sleep pretty much anywhere. If you park an RV in a parking lot for the night, there is a good chance someone might hassle you. But a work van just blends into most places.

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When you open the side door is when you first notice this isn’t a work van.

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Directly in front of the door is a seating area with a cool custom RV/marine table that rotates depending on the need. He designed it so that it would perfectly fit his favorite cups so that they wouldn’t move when the vehicle moved.

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Below the seating area is storage as well as batteries and an inverter to supply the van with AC power.

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Above the seating area is a compartment and a book shelf (the book shelf is out of view in the picture) with a really cool cut away design.

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The front seats also rotate if he has extra guests.

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Turning toward the back there is a kitchen countertop with running water on the left, a storage area on the right, and a bed in the rear.

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The countertop was probably the single most thing I was impressed with. It definitely draws the eye as soon as you walk in. It’s actually scrap pieces of plywood all glued together, sanded,  and then covered in an epoxy. The scraps are placed at an angle and looks fantastic!

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Below the counter top is a drawer and refrigerator. Both are orientated such that they can be accessed from either the inside or from the outside without entering the van. This keeps the interior cleaner and saves precious seconds when you need that beer when coming back from an excursion Smile

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Under the other side of the counter top is the fresh water tank, pump, and water heater. The water heater is interesting as it just stores the hot water and the vehicles engine is used to heat it up.

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Across from the countertop is the storage area. I love this idea as the compartments can be easily switched out based on the activities that you’ll be doing on your trip. There is also a ledge on the bottom of each shelf that prevents the compartments from sliding out while driving.

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Moving on to the back he has a bed up top (which folds out of the way if needed), and storage for his bikes and camping gear below.

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When the back doors are open, he’s also devised a system so that he can take a shower in privacy (trust me, he has clothes on here)

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Finally, the entire roof is equipped with a wire system allowing for the storage of additional light items and/or for drying clothes.

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Logan estimates that he has about $50K into this project, but considering the expense of the vehicle itself and that an outfitted Sprinter van from Airstream runs about $150K (and probably wouldn’t meet his needs), that’s not too bad.

Logan has set up a website with additional details that can be found here: [coming soon]

5 Things To Downsize Today

Guest Post by Mariah Coz of CometCamper.com

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Downsizing your stuff to prepare to live in a tiny home or other small space is probably the hardest part of the whole process of going tiny. There are a few reasons why it’s so difficult to downsize: emotional attachment, money or time invested, and the fact that many of our “things” represent an identity we want or used to want.

In the Tiny Transition + Downsizing E-Course, the 8-week e-course that shows you step by step how to downsize, de-clutter, clear your mind and space, we go through this in detail. The practical weekly lessons and private student-only forum allow you to make progress at your own pace within a group of like-minded friends on the same journey. I’ve been told that the group is a catalyst for lifelong change. That’s because we not only go through how to eliminate all sorts of crap from your life and space, but because we fundamentally change your relationship with “stuff”. It has the cascading effect of positively influencing every area of your life. You can learn more about Tiny Transition and Downsizing and register here. Class starts March 1st!

But, as hard as downsizing can be for some of us – I’ve found a few good, easy places to start. And that’s the hardest part – getting started! We call this “low hanging fruit”, and it’s the kind of stuff that is easier to let go of and builds momentum for tackling the tough stuff later on. So here are five things you can purge this weekend to feel awesome about making progress towards a simplified lifestyle.

1. Luggage and Bags
How many pieces of luggage do you have? How many purses? Probably more than you use! I used to have a bag problem. I had ALL different shapes and sizes – one for each occasion. But ultimately, you only need one or two great bags to make most of your luggage collection seem obsolete. If you’re hoarding this kind of item in your attic, time to let it go.

2. Craft supplies
This is a big one for a lot of people. Maybe you started a project or collection of quilting, sewing, or other craft supplies years ago but never found the time to actually use them. You keep telling yourself you’ll use all that yarn someday, when you have more time. Then you look at it and feel guilty – so you stuff it further back into the closet. Sound familiar? Craft supplies often represent a “sunken cost” of either time or money and therefore are difficult to let go of. BUT – once you DO let go of them – you’ll feel so much lighter and more free. You won’t have that guilt hanging over you. So if you haven’t picked up the half-done quilt, the knitting needles, or the yarn in a few years – give it away to someone who WILL use it. You’ll feel so much better!

3. Sample-sized lotions + bathroom stuff
Those tiny tubes and little hotel-sized shampoos and lotions? Get rid of them! That stuff is gunky, funky, and probably past it’s expiration date. You don’t need a drawer full of “just in case” lotions and stuff. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a simplified, relaxing bathroom? This is an easy item to toss. Ask yourself, “why is it so hard for me to let of things that were FREE?” And while you’re doing this, throw away any old makeup or the lotions and products that are more than a few years old. That stuff DOES expire!

4. Your “some day I’m going to get this tailored” pile
I used to have a bag of clothes that were “going to have tailored” – dresses that were a little too big, pants that needed hemming, and other things that just didn’t fit me quite right. If you’re holding on to a pile of things you haven’t made the time to bring to the tailor, ask yourself why. Are you really willing to spend money making those things fit you? Do you have enough clothes in your closet already? Why haven’t you had them tailored yet? This also goes for shoes that you’ve been meaning to have cobbled but haven’t found the time to get them fixed.

5. Quitters
If you have a sock and underwear drawer that you haven’t seen the bottom of in years, it’s time to find and toss the quitters. Quitters are the underwear whose elastic has given out, so they no longer stay up. Quitter socks just droop down on your ankles all sad and uncomfortable. No one likes quitters. So go through your underthings and socks and get rid of all the old ones, stained ones, orphans (one of the pair is lost) and the quitters. This can be a yearly exercise to keep your undergarments in check.

These are just a few things you can downsize this weekend without getting into too much emotional territory. Downsizing is a LONG and sometimes very difficult process. My journey from 1200 square feet (plus storage) into a 100 square foot vintage camper and then into a backpack for extensive travel took me almost 2 years! It doesn’t happen overnight. BUT the good thing about starting now is that every tiny little baby step you make gives you momentum and confidence to keep making progress. Once you’ve tackled the easy stuff, you’ll have the tools you need to start the big bad stuff – heirlooms, paperwork, personal items, clothing and more.

If you want to downsize your stuff, clear out the clutter, create mental and physical space in your life for more joy and happiness, you should join us for the next session of the Tiny Transition and Downsizing E-Course. Class starts on March 1st, and you can register here. You’ll get 8 weeks of practical lessons and challenges, guided step by step help, lifetime access to the private class forum, accountability, support and motivation from me and your classmates, and the tools you need to simplify your home and life.

I hope you’ll join us and I look forward to supporting you on this journey!