A customer of ours recently sent us pictures of his finished Tiny Living house. He did an amazing job! The details and craftsmanship look incredible. Congrats Aaron!
For the past 6 years, I’ve been designing and building tiny homes. In that time, I’ve seen EVERYTHING there is when it comes to people making the decision to go tiny. And I’ve noticed a lot of people making the same few mistakes over and over again, even though they are easily avoidable if you know what to look for. I see these same mistakes in my clients, at my live workshops, and when I consult with people. I want to educate you so that you can avoid this mistakes and be as prepared for your tiny house build and tiny living as possible.
Mistake #1: They think that if they’re having their tiny house built for them, they don’t need to know how it all works behind the scenes.
This is a big one. Many people decide to have someone else (a professional builder like me) build their tiny home because they don’t want to learn how to do it themselves. If this is your situation, you may not have the time, the bandwidth, or the inclination to build your own home. And that’s fine! That’s why we’re here to build tiny homes for you!
But – the entire design and build process is much much smoother when the client knows what the foundations of building a tiny home are. It can save a lot of time and money, when the client comes into the process with a base knowledge of how the tiny house is put together. You don’t have to know exactly how to build your own house, but being INFORMED about how things are built in a basic way can really make your entire experience so much better.
The other thing we see, unfortunately, is people get taken advantage of by dishonest and unqualified builders because they themselves didn’t know what to look for in a quality tiny house build, and by the time they realize what’s happened it’s too late. In order to have the best experience with a tiny house builder, it’s really important to have a basic understanding of how the tiny house works and what goes into building it.
That’s why something like our Virtual Tiny House Workshop is so perfect for future tiny home dwellers, whether they are building it themselves or hiring a builder to work with. You’ll learn all of the building basics, what to look for in plumbing (so that you can make INFORMED decisions about what materials and systems you want to be used in your house), and how to spot any problems.
You don’t want to get into a situation where your builder is using materials or things in your house that aren’t the right solution, but you didn’t know any better so you couldn’t give them your input.
Mistake #2: You approach your builder or a project with no clear design or starting point, making the process more expensive and time consuming.
Here’s another big mistake we see people make when they ask us about building a tiny home. When you approach your builder with no clear design outline, it can make the process more time consuming, and thus more expensive.
People who start the tiny house process without their design mapped out end up getting stalled in the design process – they don’t have a good foundation, so we end up going back and forth about design decisions. On a custom design, this can really add up in both time and money.
Although I have seen people successfully “build without plans”, the most successful tiny house builds have a good design foundation. You don’t have to have a degree in design (like Mariah does) in order to understand the basics – and it can end up saving you down the line.
We teach all of the tiny house design fundamentals in the Virtual Tiny House Workshop, and many people say it’s their favorite part of the whole workshop!
One of the issues we see is someone doesn’t have a good understanding of design principles, so they lay out their tiny home based on “something they saw online”, but not something that fits THEIR lifestyle and THEIR unique habits. Then a few months later, after spending thousands of dollars and many months or years on their tiny house build, they move out after a month or two or try to sell it because they realize the designs that worked for “someone” weren’t going to work for them.
This mistake can be easily avoided. You just need a few lessons and examples about how to design a tiny house FOR YOUR NEEDS and the principles of design as they apply to tiny homes. Again, you don’t need to go to school for it like Mariah, but she can teach you all of the most important things you need to know so that you don’t end up in one of these situations!
Mistake #3: You think that by the time your tiny house is built, you’ll be magically ready to make the transition.
Some people approach tiny living in a backwards way, and I see this again and again. People are ready to get started on their tiny house, they feel excited and gung-ho and ready to go! But they put the cart before the horse and don’t properly prepare for how long it can take to downsize your stuff and make this transition. Of course, we have seen people in extreme situations get rid of all of their stuff in two weeks, but that’s usually out of necessity or timing, not by choice.
In reality, downsizing into a tiny home is a process that takes time. And I wish more people would start the process as soon as possible, so that when the time comes to move in to their tiny home, they are truly ready. If you don’t start this process now, you won’t magically be ready to go tiny when your house is built. If you’re ready to start thinking about your tiny house journey, it’s time to learn the foundations. You should have a basic understanding of building, design, and downsizing – even if your tiny house is in the future and not happening right away. So many of these mistakes can be avoided by a little fundamentals, and that’s why we put together the Virtual Tiny House Workshop.
Whether you’re a few years away, hiring a builder, or ready to get down to business and build your own off-grid home on your own, the Virtual Tiny House Workshop provides lessons and demos on everything from choosing a trailer, to plumbing and electric, to composting toilets and solar power. We also have in-depth lessons on design and downsizing – two really important first steps you need to take!
We hope to see you this weekend at the virtual tiny house workshop!
The workshop takes place December 12th and 13th from 12 pm Eastern to 4 pm Eastern both days, but you can watch it at your leisure as you will have lifetime access :)
Dan (and Mariah)
A collection of a few fun things I’ve been working on:
I’ve been making some improvements to the Tiny House Map (THM) recently. For those who don’t know the THM is a great way to find and contact people, groups, and communities that are close by in your area. I’ve refocused the categories to better help individuals find other likeminded individuals. This included adding ‘groups’ and ‘communities’ (so there isn’t too much up there now for those items quite yet. If you are aware of any groups or communities out there I encourage you mention it to them so they can add themselves to help spread the word!) Right now there are over 800 people from all over the world that are on the map!
Looking for inspiration to help get you motivated to downsize, simplify, and build tiny? I’ve put together a list of 31 things that you can do right now. Check it out at:
I’ve already mentioned this one in a previous post but I thought I would add it to the list anyways because I like it :) I put together a calculator to help you see how long it might take to achieve your financial goals (regardless of what they are). Including steps you can take to shorten that time:
Lastly, I’ve made some improvements to the Tiny House Directory (THD). If you haven’t heard of the directory, it’s a collection of websites, books, and other resources specific to tiny houses. Do you have a favorite book or other resource that has helped you? Add it to the THD!
This is an email from my friend and Virtual Tiny House Workshop co-host Mariah, who wanted to share this with you today
As you probably know, I’ve taught at more than 25 tiny house workshops and events over the past 2 years.
My favorite part is talking with everyone at the workshops, hearing their stories, and helping them start their journey.
Every time we teach a workshop, I end up losing my voice answering so many questions! It’s always fun to stay up late with people who share your values.
One thing I’ve been noticing more and more while teaching and speaking at these workshops, is that people have long timelines for their tiny house journeys.
I definitely think everyone should follow their own path and work within a time frame that suits their unique situation and life story. I’m all about marching to the beat of your unique drum!
That being said, I heard a lot of the same thing at the most recent workshop we spoke and taught at. We asked the group, “When do you plan to move into a tiny home?” and went around the room hearing answers.
“6 years – when my kids are moved out!”
People were at the workshop, getting all hyped up, learning awesome new skills, and gaining knowledge and momentum – but that wouldn’t be put into action for another five to ten years.
Hmm, I thought, that seems like a lot of planning.
But then I thought about me, a few years ago.
See, I had a five year plan. I was 18 and I was going to save up all my money for five years, I was going to purchase the “vintage trailer of my dreams” – which at the time was an Airfloat.
I wanted something in the 25 foot long range (OMG can you imagine? I’m so glad I didn’t go that big haha).
I don’t think I quite understood just how expensive those rare beauties really are! In my mind, I would have my own place to park it, my own land with my own garden, and everything would happen at exactly the right time just the way I’d planned it all out.
Then, my entire five year plan of saving/researching/designing and planning went out the window when the COMET Camper (originally just a scrappy little 1969 Avalon) landed in my proverbial lap.
At 3 AM on a Tuesday morning (I’m not kidding – it was really that early and crazy), my friend from NYC dropped off what would become the COMET Camper and told me to do whatever I wanted to with it. I figured I’d sell it and use the money to put towards my imaginary “dream camper” – you know, stick to the plan.
Turns out, that scrappy little trailer WAS my dream camper, I just had to let the opportunity take shape and realize it’s potential.
Here’s the thing:
I’m really glad that the camper I live in now ended up in my driveway at 3 AM on a Tuesday 5 years ago, instead of 5 years in the future.
I’m glad because even though at the time it wasn’t in my “life plan” and that really freaked me out, I probably would have waited and waited and postponed making my major life change into camper life much longer than I had even planned. And since taking the leap, you know I can tell you it’s the best freaking thing that’s ever happened!
There’s no perfect time, and the sooner you get started, the better. That’s why we’ve put together the Virtual Tiny House Workshop. So you can get started now, take some action steps, and stop waiting.
We made it super affordable so that you don’t have to save up for years to attend, and you can start sooner rather than later.
Planning is good – trust me I believe in good planning. Planning can lead to a lot of good stuff! Planning is smart.
But don’t be afraid of opportunity. Remember that it will NEVER be “the right time”, and there will ALWAYS be reasons (excuses) not to dive head-first into a new lifestyle and new way of living.
Things will never be “perfect” – so roll with it and if something amazing comes your way, allow yourself to say yes and let it work itself out.
If you’re ready to start taking those steps now, Dan Louche and I are excited to be bringing you the first and only Virtual Tiny House Workshop, called “Design/Build/Downsize”. We’ve got 8 trainings and lessons, step by step tutorials, live discussions and Q & A sessions, and more.
We hope to see you there!
We just completed our latest tiny house for a young couple in Gainesville FL. This house was by far our most complicated build with many custom built-in’s and some unique options.
The owner plans to build a deck in the front the length of the house. The large window is an accordion window which fully opens up and will provide a nice opening, joining the inside and the outside areas.
This is the interior view as you enter the house.
This L-shaped shelf under the accordion window is for storage, with the larger portion also acting as a seat for a table (not shown). An extra chair will also be placed at the table so that two can dine.
With the accordion window fully open it feels as though you are outside while standing in the house.
Next is a cabinet that holds the range, oven, and additional pull out shelves for storage.
Each of these shelves fully extend to hold a ton of stuff.
The stairs lead up to the main loft. Under the stairs are open cubbies as well as a pull out pantry.
The pull out pantry extended.
The stairs also hold a drawer and well as a storage pocket.
Across from the oven and the range is the refrigerator, dishwasher, and kitchen sink. There is also additional storage under the sink.
Looking back towards the door, there is a washer/dryer combo unit in a separate closet. The bench seat wraps around the corner of the house to create a huge sitting area (where the owner plans to add custom cushions). The table can also be moved over to this area to create a larger dining area for additional people. The bench seat also opens up on hinges to reveal a very large storage area.
The main loft has 2 windows and a skylight that provides a large amount of natural light. There is also a mini-split air conditioner to ensure the temperature is just right while sleeping. Finally a custom built shelf provides additional storage.
The view from the lounge loft
The view of the lounge loft. Since this loft is above the front door it is a little higher than the sleeping loft, but still comfortable to move around on. There is also an air circulator located on the top right of the back wall which periodically refreshes the air in the house.
The bathroom has a bump-out over the tongue of the trailer that makes room for the bathroom sink. To the left is a toilet and to the right is a walk-in, tiled shower with a glass butterfly shower door.
Under both lofts the owner wanted a more industrial look for their lighting. So we took track lighting that they liked and created this lighting solution.
Are you interested in learning more about tiny houses? We have several workshops coming up, including a new online workshop for those who can’t travel to Georgia. Get the full list of all our upcoming workshops at https://www.tinyhomebuilders.com/tiny-house-workshops
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 I told him that was probably not the best thing to say to get people to meet with him
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.
When you open the side door is when you first notice this isn’t a work van.
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.
Below the seating area is storage as well as batteries and an inverter to supply the van with AC power.
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.
The front seats also rotate if he has extra guests.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
Finally, the entire roof is equipped with a wire system allowing for the storage of additional light items and/or for drying clothes.
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]
Guest Post by Mariah Coz of CometCamper.com
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.
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.
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 are anything like me, having access to the internet is right around as important as having access to water (not really, but you get the idea). So how do you get access to the internet in your tiny house? The answer depends on where you are located/parked.
Since a tiny house isn’t on a foundation, it’s hard to request services that are otherwise easy for a conventional homeowner to get. Installing the service wires cost money, but the providers expect to make it up (plus a lot) over the lifetime of you paying for service. On the other hand, they aren’t so keen to running service to an RV or tiny house. Since it’s not a permanent structure, they have less assurances that you will be a long term subscriber, and thus not as sure you will make it worth their while. So you will likely need to get your service from another source.
Get it from your nearby host
If you are parked in someone’s backyard or in their driveway, there’s a good chance that you can just connect to their wireless router just as you would at your local Starbucks or cafe. The big difference is that they will likely have a password set that you will need to get from them in order to connect. At one time most routers came unsecured so that they were easier to set up. But in the last few years there has been more of a shift to security with many routers coming with security features turned on by default and even some routers NOT performing as well or as fast unless they are secured. As a result, you can’t find nearly as many unsecured routers as you used to. So whichever router you want to connect too, you will likely need to ask its owner for their password. Offering to chip in on the monthly bill might make that conversation a little less awkward. If your host is nearby, the only equipment you will need is your computer/tablet/phone. Do be aware that when you connect to someone else’s router, unless you are connecting through a VPN (Virtual Private Network) or are on a secured site (HTTPS), it is possible, although probably unlikely, that someone else on that network can see your traffic (what you are looking at).
Get it from your not so nearby host
If you house is parked on land that is a little more rural, and perhaps your host is not as close, then you may find that your computer isn’t within range to connect to their router. In this case, assuming you don’t want to run a cable all the way from their house, you’re going to need some additional equipment.
One option is to add a longer range antenna to your computer. While this option works well, it’s not very convenient. First, the antenna takes up a lot of room unless you mount it somewhere. Second, since laptops don’t often come with antenna connectors you will also need an adapter to hook it up. This results in more wires which makes your computer a little more difficult to move. Finally, the biggest downside is that this only provides internet to the computer with the antenna, and you still won’t have internet on any of your other devices. While there are ways to share this internet connection, it can be a pain.
The image above is an example of an external antenna attached to a network adapter that would then get plugged into a computer with a USB cable.
A better option is a setup that includes a device called a bridge. An example of a device that can act as a bridge is the Engenius Enstation 5. This bridge includes a high gain antenna that allows it to pick up your hosts internet signal from much farther away than your other devices can receive. It can also be mounted outside and pointed at your host to extend its range even farther. You then hook up your router to the bridge to create your own network within your house for all of your devices to connect to. The bridge can also act as a firewall keeping people from your host network from connecting to your computers.
Above is an example of a external bridge/antenna
Finally, if you are so far away that even the bridge can’t connect to your host, you can add another Enstation 5 on their end to extend the internet signal so that you can be as far away as 5 miles!
Get it from your phone
If you simply don’t have a host you can get internet from, consider using your phone. Many smart phones can be set up so that they can be used as a hotspot. What this means is that your phone shares its internet connection via WiFi, allowing your computer and other devices to connect. Depending on your signal, the speeds can be great or absolutely make you want to poke your eyes out slow. Be aware that your phones service plan likely has a data cap, meaning that they will only let you transfer a limited amount of data per month. So don’t plan on watching too many movies on Netflix or streaming Pandora. Even if your phones service provider says that you don’t have a data cap and are on an ‘unlimited plan’, they will still probably throttle your speed to painful levels once you exceed some threshold.
Get it from a Satellite
The final option I would consider is getting internet from a satellite service provider. There are two companies that offer this service that I know of, Dish and Hughesnet. I have a somewhat remote piece of land that I needed internet at and so I am a subscriber to Hughesnet. While it is good in that you can use it to get internet where you have no other options, it’s not great in pretty much every other aspect. It’s a little expensive at around $90/month. The speeds and lag are unimpressive. It has a monthly data cap, although not nearly as restrictive as the phone option. And finally, the dish hardware is pretty large. It’s definitely not something you would mount to your house and it can be a little bit of an eyesore. So all in all, if you have another option I would pursue it.
Do you have a unique or different way of connecting to the internet? Share it in the comments!
Are you in Canada or the northeastern US and in the market for a tiny house trailer? In the past we’ve delivered trailers as far north as upstate New York from our Florida location. But as you can image the delivery costs can get pretty expensive when travelling that far. Well we’ve now added a new pickup location in Toronto, Ontario Canada to service the northeast!
We’ve also simplified the process of ordering a trailer with all the available options on our website. Just go to our trailer page and click “Build & Price Your Trailer”