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
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
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!
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.
Let there be light!
Inaugural Trip to the weigh in station!